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Us, Not They

As I was praying this morning, I noticed I was praying as if I was somehow separate from the people I was praying for. I had built a mental fence between them and me. I was praying “they” when the Holy Spirit wanted me to pray “us.”

My thinking was wrong because I recognized them as generic believers in Christ Jesus. I understood a small part of their struggle, so I carried their need to our Father. And I was confident that the Holy Spirit had led me to pray for them in the name of Jesus. That was proper and good, but I saw their problem incorrectly; my thinking was wrong. Now I understand that “us” is an object pronoun while “they” is a generic third-person pronoun, so why was I praying for generic Christians?

God stopped me and corrected me. He does that for those He loves (Hebrews 12:5–7). Within the Body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. We are blood relatives by Jesus’ shed blood. Like our bodies, there are many members in Christ’s Body, and they aren’t all the same. We have many parts: eyes, ears, heart, liver, and so forth.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.1 Corinthians 12:12

Shaquille O’Neal is 7’ 1″, so his nose is a long way from his toes, yet both are members of the same body. All believers in Christ Jesus are blood relatives; only distance separates us. When we consider Christ’s Body, it’s a long way from Indiana to Hunan Province in China, yet Christ’s Body is in that province and Indiana.

If I talk with someone about a family member, I say “we” or us,“ not ”them“ or ”they.“ If asked if there are other Christians on my dad’s side of the family, my answer would be, ”In my family, we have many believers in Christ. God has blessed us with many who are pastors or missionaries.“ Our hearts and minds need to say ”us,“ not ”they.”

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Who Did You Say Jesus Is?

Years ago, I worked with a software architect that made a trip to the headquarters of Microsoft® in Redmond, Washington. While there, he emailed our development team, giving us a first-hand account of a fictitious encounter with Bill Gates at a local Wendy’s® restaurant. His story was entertaining but insightful and pointedly honed to speak to some bad thinking in our group. His email was masterfully written.

A Different Jesus

When we look at the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, we find a similar but far more adept message to those Christians and us. At one place in his letter, he wrote:

You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

2 Corinthians 11:4 NLT

The apostle Paul was writing to Christians. There are now, and always have been, people trying to lead believers away from the solid truth of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Let’s not become weary or confused or abandon God’s work in us for the “next amazing thing.” Let’s cling to these words:

3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.

Ephesians 4:3-6

We shouldn’t search to find what God has already given us: our place, purpose, and life in the true Jesus. If someone is preaching a new “Jesus,” they have been tricked by the enemy. As firm believers in Jesus, our Savior, we must remain like military guards, keeping out enticements that misrepresent Jesus. You know Jesus; rest in Him. You can search the world and never find more than the Christ who found you where you were. Who did you say Jesus is? For those that are His, He is our Savior, Shepherd, Redeemer, Ransom, Resurrection, Brother, and Friend.

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1: “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues.” – Matthew 10:15-17 NLT

Audience Soccer Stadium Soccer Stadium

Back of the Bleachers

If you’ve ever attended a major sporting event or musical concert, it’s likely that you ended up in the “nose-bleed” section. That is the place that is so far away and so high up in the bleachers that the athletes or musicians look like tiny ants.

I think it was the first real date I took my girlfriend (wife) on. We went to a concert by the Christian group, “2nd Chapter of Acts.” The band was marvelous, but being so far away, I was distracted by the hundreds of people that sat in my line of sight. The talking and moving about diminished the experience. Well, I might have been distracted by the beautiful, intelligent, and fascinating girl sitting next to me. 😉

Anyway, today in church, I had a flashback to that first date. I realized that the further away I sat, the more there was to distract me. If I want to be the Christian that Jesus wants me to be, I need to get as close as I can to Him. If I hang back, I miss some of what He wants me to hear, some of who He wants me to be. 

If I want all of Jesus, then I must be more passionate than a Green Bay Packers fan. I must press in, and squeeze through all the distractions. That’s what the woman with the “issue of blood” did (Luke 8:43–48). If a weakened woman can get past the crowd, I should be able to. And I am going to. I hope you do, also.

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Faith Is Expressed in Love

When I was a young Christian, more than once, I’d hear someone in our local church, complain that so-and-so was so heavenly-minded that they were no earthly good. In those early years, I learned to identify people that had ignored the admonition from James,

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

James 2:18

Expressed Faith

Something didn’t feel right when I heard those comments. Well, that was because I was ignoring 1 John 4:20-21 NLT, “if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see.”

This leads me to today’s thought, found in Galatians 5:6b NLT, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” The answer to thousands of questions about faith is found in those few words.

When asked the question, “What should you be doing with your life?” most people think of occupations, some think of recreation, and a few think of some sort of ministry.” I’ll hazard a guess that only a handful would reply, “I want to allow the faith God has given me to be expressed in my love.” But faith expressed through love is the right answer and the most difficult answer.

Good News

Because we were born in sin, people are wired to harshly judge people and live faithless lives. But we left this way of life behind when, in Christ Jesus, we entered God’s kingdom. I pray that we all remember that if we can’t love someone we see, how can we expect to love God, whom we’ve never seen? And what greater good can come from our faith than to allow our faith to express itself in love? My prayer for all of us is that we are so heavenly-minded that we are of immense earthly good.

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Felt Needs

I studied “felt needs” in college. The college definition of “felt needs” is, “Felt needs are those that are self-defined by each individual as being important [1].” Malcolm Knowles, the father of Adult Education, devised his list to include: physical needs, growth needs, security needs, need for new experience, affection needs, and recognition.

We Must Add Spiritual Needs to Felt Needs

Being a secular academic, Malcolm Knowles’ list excluded spiritual needs. My purpose for pointing out these are basic needs is that every person feels them. These needs compel us to pursue them. If we add the need we feel for spiritual life, then his list is helpful.

Suppose you accept the idea of felt needs. Then why, oh why, do so many churches work so diligently to suppress anything that serves our emotions? Why invalidate any work of the Church that displays the emotional health of their congregation?

It’s Okay to Include Felt Needs for God

It’s justifiable to tell people that you felt the Holy Spirit leading you. You felt God lay a burden on your heart for my neighbor’s salvation. It’s okay to feel the Holy Spirit, talk with Jesus, and hear His side of the conversation in our hearts.

Blessed are you when people hate…on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy…

Luke 6:22-23 ESV

Jesus didn’t preach stoicism.

Our Life in Jesus Should Surpass Those in All Other Religions

People are should not be antiseptically sterile. “And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment.” (2 Samuel 6:14) God does not ignore our felt needs. All of these needs can prosper within the Church, especially our spiritual needs. God desires us to live life to the full within His kingdom. We should be so joyful, content, and optimistic that it is sickening to the unsaved around us! 😀

Abundant Life

Remember, Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

Jesus, our Lord, and Savior, wants us to live life to the full. Let’s not disappoint Him! Let’s not be timid Christians, constantly trying to “read the room” so we can blend in.

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Between My Ears

Scientists, generally, and archeologists, specifically, as well as anti-Israeli nations, have argued for decades that the nation of Israel doesn’t deserve the land it possesses because there is no evidence that the Jews ever actually possessed this land. But the time for that conjecture has passed.

In 2015, a ten-year-old boy discovered an “unprecedented” find. He found a rare 3,000-year-old seal, from the time of King David. And now, a clay document, written by the Moabites, containing explicit references to King David has been confirmed. From a scientific perspective, the veracity of a real Jewish man, named David, who was a king in Jerusalem, has been undeniably confirmed. If we trust science, then we must trust that the land that the nation of Israel possesses has belonged to them for millennia. And, once again, the trustworthiness of the Bible has been confirmed.


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Yes You Can

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:15-16 NLT

I read this familiar verse this morning and paused to meditate on it. I usually jump to the end where God’s Word states, “be holy because I am holy.” However, the first thing that struck me today was that this is a command, not some ethereal statement. The apostle Peter, by the Holy Spirit, wrote to tell us, “you must be holy in everything you do.” That’s a command.

Holy?

What does “holy” mean? The Hebrew word for holy is “kodesh,” which comes from the root word “Kadash.” It means to be set apart for a specific purposei. For us to be “holy,” God’s will is for us to be set apart for a specific purpose, just as God, Himself, is set apart for a particular purpose. Our purpose comes from His purpose.

Our Holiness is a Command from God

As Christians, this passage of Scripture is not an item on a buffet; it’s not something we can take or pass by. Yet, few commands from God are more intimidating. In the two verses before this command, we gain an understanding of how we should prepare for such a demanding command.

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.

1 Peter 1:13-14

We Must Prepare to be Holy

For us to be holy, we must first prepare our minds. Our world is flooded with corrosive ideas, images, and intellectual fraud. We have no hope for holiness unless we get that stuff out of our thinking and exercise self-control. Christianity is a full-contact sport. If we stay on the bench, we will allow the world back into our thoughts. Only by actively living for Jesus can we build a wall to keep the world from entering our thoughts and actions.

To live for Jesus means that we recognize the world offers a pretty facade behind which is death itself. What we must do is embrace deferred gratification. A savings account is deferred gratification, earning a college degree is deferred gratification, and avoiding sex before marriage is deferred gratification.

To obey God’s command to be holy, we must embrace deferred gratification. We must release the treasures that the world offer and trust Jesus to provide better treasures1 and the salvation of our souls when He is revealed to the world.

The Process for Holiness

If we follow the process that Peter tells us. If we prepare our minds for action, exercise self-control, and trust Jesus by laying up our treasures in heaven instead of grasping things that have no eternal value, then we will be prepared to be holy, to be set apart for a purpose.

We know, from the Old Testament, that Jeremiah2 and Sampson3 were “set apart for a purpose,” and in the opening pages of the New Testament, we find that John the Baptist4 was set apart for a purpose. Also, we find that each of the children of God is set apart for a purpose5.

Questions

But how can we be holy? Why should we care?

How?

Holiness is a component of God’s nature. He is God, and there are none like Him6. Since He is unique, He is, therefore, “set apart.” When we are reborn, God the Holy Spirit comes into us7 to be with us forever8. Before salvation, we were dead in our trespasses and sin9. The Holy Spirit provides the spiritual DNA that we never possessed before. We become alive. Just like the dry bones that sprang to life in the Old Testament10.

As we prepare our minds, exercise our self-control, and exchange our worldly desires for treasures laid up for us in heaven, we come into alignment with God’s will. God is like a spiritual chiropractor, adjusting our thoughts, actions, and desires11 so we align with His “set apart” purpose for us.

Why?

Only when our being is properly aligned can we begin our journey to holiness. But why should we care? I can give you two reasons, though I’m sure there are many more.

First, to accomplish the work God places in our hands to do, we need God. He never gives us anything that we can achieve ourselves. If we could do it ourselves, then He would be sharing His glory with us; He doesn’t do that. Secondly, if we desire to lay up treasures in heaven (deferred gratification), we need to be useful to God; that means we need Him “to set us apart for a specific purpose.” He did that before Creation, but we can’t enter that purpose until we can receive God’s call upon our lives12.

Yes, We Can

If we circle to the start of this post, we find God’s command, “be holy because I am holy.” Without the context surrounding this verse, it seems unreasonable and impossible. But as we have seen, we can be holy (set apart for a purpose) if we are willing to make the changes in our lives that prepare the Holy Spirit to align us to enter into the purpose God envisioned for us before He created the world.

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1

Let’s not allow this truth to roll off us like water on a duck’s back. I’m convinced that one of the questions Jesus will ask many of us when we stand before Him is, “Why weren’t you holy?”

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i: Hebrew Meaning of Holy – Set Apart For A Purpose — FIRM Israel. Firmisrael. Hebrew Meaning of Holy

1: Matthew 6:19-20
2: Jeremiah 1:4-5
3: Judges 13:5
4: Luke 1:13-17
5: Ephesians 2:10
6: Jeremiah 10:6
7: Ephesians 1:13
8: John 14:16
9: Ephesians 2:1
10: Ezekiel 37:1-10
11: Romans 12:2
12: 2 Timothy 2:21

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Avarice

Twice in my life, I’ve witnessed an inheritance from a parent to their children significantly damage family relationships. It astonished me how hidden greed stepped from behind the curtains of flesh and, taking center stage, completely threw family sorrow into ugly avarice. It’s not funny like the “unbridled avarice” in the movie “A Christmas Story.”

Now, we may not be aware that greed or envy is one of our weaknesses until wealth stands close to us. And envy, being that sly cousin of desire, can do the same damage as greed without money ever coming near us. 

What a loss we suffer when we love money. To love money testifies to our lack of faith in Jesus, for we are told in Philippians 4:6 (ESV), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

To protect us from the love of money, Godliness includes practicing self-restraint or habitual moderation, also known as temperance (2 Peter 1:3-8). It’s okay if God prospers the work of our hands; that’s a blessing that can also bless many people. Ah, but if you or I start to feel like Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings,” grasping for that golden ring no matter who gets hurt, then watch out! Don’t walk but run from the source of that temptation! 

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Help in Unexpected Ways

Even when we think we’ve dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s, trouble can still fall upon us. Most of the time, our prayer list is filled with other people’s needs. But there are times when we urgently need God to make a way where there is no way. When we are in need, we should remember one of the many names of God, Jehovah Jireh, meaning “the Lord will provide.”

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Divine Help

You may remember the account in the Old Testament when the servant of Elisha walked outside and saw that a large army had surrounded the city they were in. He rushed to Elisha and shouted, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” Elisha didn’t even break a sweat. Instead, Elisha probably put his arm around him and said, “Don’t be afraid. Let’s take another look.” Then Elisha prayed, and his servant’s eyes were opened, and he saw, “the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15–20)

If we could see as Elisha saw, we would see a world not only filled with tangible objects – people, pets, buildings, and roads – but we would also see God’s celestial beings as well as the devil’s fallen angels. My guess is that we would often find God’s angels in unexpected places, and the same for fallen angels. We know from God’s Word that sometimes the enemy interferes with the angels of God (Daniel 10:12–14). 

Angels Watching Over Me

The idea of angels at work in our lives may seem surprising but we need to remember Hebrews 1:14. Angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Many years ago, the Christian singer/songwriter Amy Grant recorded a song called Angels Watching Over Me. I know that at least once in my life, God sent an angel to deliver me from serious trouble. I had an immediate need, and God provided help in an unexpected way. You may not believe that spiritual warfare still takes place in our modern world, but having experienced God’s hand of deliverance by an angel, I can tell you that it does.

So, when you experience real trouble, crushing heartache, or a total sense of being overwhelmed, take your problem to Jesus and leave it with Him. I’m not just writing some pablum to soothe your mind. I am testifying to you that God still changes times and circumstances when a child of His prays in faith.

If you’re unsure how to pray, I recommend this passage of Scripture. Pray it to God. Believe Him.

I love you, Lord;
you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.

Psalms 18:1–3 NLT

Good News

There is no problem so big that God cannot solve it.

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Let Me See Your Face

My wife and I have three small Amazon Alexa (Echo Dot®) devices. Since my office is separate from our home, using it like an intercom is handy. When she wants to tell me something or ask a question, my wife says, “Alexa, drop in on Office Dot,” and “Bob’s your uncle!” we’re having a quick chat.

I would have loved to be in the meeting when Amazon engineers chose “drop in” as Alexa’s alert phrase to start the intercom feature. I remember when friends and families used to “drop in.” Depending on how close you were to those friends or family, you could drop in without prior notice! Occasionally, these drop-ins precipitated some awkward situations, but often that was part of the fun.

A marvelous wonder came over the visitors and visited when we came face-to-face. Gone were our attempts at imagining grins and wagging heads and old men scratching their bald heads. There was palpable healing for most (not all) friends and families when they gathered in our home or we in their home.

We have rediscovered the value of faces through our use of Zoom, Facebook, and Microsoft Teams. Still, these technologies fall short of physically being together.

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he wrote to tell them:

“But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.”

2 Corinthians 7:6

We can see that even a weathered, old missionary like Paul can suffer from discouragement. He needed a friend to drop in on him, and God provided for Paul’s needs.

How often have you and I “felt” a tug at our hearts to drop in on someone, but we shrugged it off, using one of a hundred reasons why that tug was just foolish? Perhaps it was, but then it might have been a prompt by the Holy Spirit. Which is better, to feel the tug but ignore it or feel the tug and, by faith, go ahead and drop in?

God may not have revealed my discouragement, but don’t mistakenly leave me to languish. Go ahead and drop in; let me see your face.

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