Monday, September 26, 2005

In Hot Pursuit

A woman walks away from her family to begin her pursuit of love. Imagine leaving your husband to try to find true love, imaging leaving your children looking to be needed and wanted. This happens every day in America as people search to be loved greater than they currently are.

When Jesus spoke of love, he spoke of it in the highest regard. When asked what the greatest commandment was he responded with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38

Of all the things we could do for God, the greatest is to love Him with all that we are. There is no higher form of human love than loving with all your heart, soul and mind. You are literally loving with all that you have. So what is it about love that makes it the greatest commandment?

First of all you and I were created for a love relationship. We were designed to both give and receive love. Have you ever watched a child love something? It could be a parent a pet or a toy; they are going to love it with all that they have. It’s the only way they know how. Why do abused children cry when their parents are removed from them? Because even in an abusive situation a small child only knows how to love, we are naturally built that way. When we grow older we sometimes lose that ability to give love but we never lose the desire to receive love.

This principle holds true spiritually as well. We have a need to receive love from God. In fact, everything in your Christian life depends on the quality of your love relationship with God. You were created to love and be loved by Him and our relationship is only as deep as our love. When you struggle with a particular sin issue in your life, that struggle becomes even more difficult because we are choosing that sin over God. We do not love God with all that we are in that particular situation. We are not giving real love.

When we look towards the party scene and immoral relationships, or drugs and alcohol for fulfillment, we only wind up living in more guilt and misery because we are only receiving a temporary fix and not real love.

How do we know what real love is? This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. I John 3:16

Real love is sacrifice. It always gives and it never takes. Jesus gave up being God to walk the earth as a human and suffer a brutal death for you. God gave up His only son and watched him suffer on the cross for you. Why? Why would they do that? It was done out of love. God understands the concept of real love. He understands that it is always giving. What about you? In your relationships with other people are you a giver or a taker. How about when it comes to God? Do you give to Him or always seek to take?

Not only were we created for a love relationship, but a love relationship with God. He does love you. It’s your purpose in life to be loved by Him. People actually look for proof of God’s love, but it is only found in a relationship with Him. You actually have to decide to accept His love.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

You can’t serve God and be rich? Sure you can! I know some very wealthy people how are loving Christians and have amazing testimonies of how God changed their lives. There is nothing wrong with having money. This is a reference to choosing God or the ways of the world. Who is your master? Do you say you love God and yet pursue the lifestyles that the world offers? You actually have to make a choice here. You have to choose to be fully in love with God or fully in love with other things. You can’t be both! That is the point that Jesus is making in this verse.

Here is the most amazing thing of all. While we are out there looking for real love, God is actually pursuing us. He is desperately trying to catch you so that he can love you. Jeremiah paints this picture for us in chapter 31.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3
How about that? God is actually wooing us to Him. He is trying to pull us towards Him with loving-kindness. Are you currently in a pursuit of love? Why don’t you choose today to end your pursuit be ending God’s? Turn to Him, open your life and let Him take control. Let Him give to you and then find you purpose and meaning. Make your choice today to love God with all that you are!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trusting in God

Everyday you and I depend on things. We depend on our cars to get us to work, or we depend on others to help us accomplish various tasks. We depend on our civil authorities to keep us safe and provide protection. We depend on the roofs of our homes to keep us dry in the rain. Who or what do you depend on?

David said in Psalm 20:7,
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

We quit trusting in God as a nation a long time ago. The, “In God we trust”, that is written across every dollar bill in our country is a lie. The truth is, we trust in ourselves. As a nation we trust in our money, our people and our military might. We are the “some” that David spoke about.

So, how do we get back to being a nation that trusts in God? We must first become individuals who trust in God. What are we talking about when we say trust in God?

First, we trust in his name. Have you even seen a fake Rolex watch or a fake Armani suit? They are called knock-offs. They look just like the real things, but they are really just cheap imitations. We don’t believe in, or trust an imitation God. We believe in the name of Jesus Christ!

John 1:12
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

In a world full of “knock-off” God’s do you believe in the name of Jesus Christ or have you settled for a cheap imitation?

Second, we trust in his word. It is hard to take people for their word today. It seems as if we can say one thing and then do another without even flinching.

John 17:17
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

God is not like us. He will not break or change his word at all. It is what it is. It always has been and it always will be truth. Science, history and archeology have all proven God’s word to be true.

Third, we trust in his promise. The bible is full of promises. Two of my favorites are Jeremiah 29:11 and John 3:16. I’m sure you have your own as well. We can trust in these promises because they have been proven faithful to believers for centuries.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Isn’t it amazing that God has to wait on us to fulfill his promises? Often people are waiting on God to prove himself before they believe in him. It works the other way around, God has already proven himself and you see that once you have put your trust in him.

Finally, we trust in his power. Chariots and horses were weapons of war. Much like tanks and helicopters today, the warring who possessed theses weapons of their time had an advantage.

You and I are involved in a spiritual war; it’s a war for our very souls. We are not strong enough to fight so we must trust in someone else’s strength if we do not want to be taken captive.

Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Only Christ has the power to change your life. Only in him will you find complete meaning in life. Only in him will you find complete forgiveness. Only in him will you find the power to find abundant eternal life.

Monday, September 12, 2005

God's Will & Your Life

By Matt Hofeld

Perhaps you remember the Rainbow Man? If you are a sports fan like me (I think sports nut is a better term for me) then you remember Rollen Stewart’s rainbow colored wig and his ever-present John 3:16 sign during the mid 80’s. It was the wig that got him the nickname Rainbow Man.

A self-ordained minister, it was Stewart’s mission to advance the Gospel through gaining air time at major sporting events and hoisting his John 3:16 sign. However, as Rainbow man’s popularity grew so did disgust from television producers. "He's a pest, " an NBC executive once snorted. "We try to take him out of a shot whenever we can." "He got to be a terrific distraction," seconded ABC sports producer Chet Forte. "He would station himself behind home plate and our camera would view over the pitcher's shoulder and it was very annoying seeing this guy waving the signs and all."

Stewart began to be ejected from sporting events and TV time was greatly reduced by the early 90’s. Facing failure in his mission Stewart took matters in his own hands and attempted to kidnap two day laborers before holding a maid hostage for almost ten hours in a L.A. high rise hotel.

Rollen Stewart’s Rainbow Man became bigger than his message to him and his fame became so important to him that he became addicted. He is now serving three life sentences in federal prison for the attempted kidnapping and the hostage situation.

At some pointing time your life and God’s will intersect. At that point in time you have to make a choice as to what you will do with God’s will. He does not force His will upon you rather He allows you to make a choice about your life. Many people say that they desire to follow God but fail because they don’t understand the concept of abiding. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 15:5;

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The key word here is “remain”. It means to live or to dwell or to abide. Jesus is the source of life. He has a plan for your life and desires that you follow it. The key is choosing to abide.

When it comes to your relationship with Christ, do you abide in Him? Have you chosen to live in Christ or are you just staying for a while. There is night and day difference between staying for a while and dwelling. That was the problem with Rollen Stewart. I believe he really had a desire to advance the Gospel, but I also believe that he did not dwell or live in a relationship with Christ.

Remember, you will never be more that God’s desire for your life, but you can always be less. The deciding factor is choosing to abide instead of stay for a while. What will you do when your life and God’s will intersect?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Blessed If…

There he stood, by the buffet line, dressed in his best suit, covered in salad dressing. You could see the anger on his face and you could almost hear the blood boiling with in him as he demanded to speak to the manager.

It was shortly after 12:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon when a waitress at the buffet style restaurant paused for a moment after coming out of the kitchen door to let a man pass by. It was during that pause that another worker burst out of the kitchen door hurling the young waitress and her bucket of salad dressing into the man she was politely letting pass by.

There in front of her manager this sharply dressed ban screamed about incompetence, stupidity and demanded that she be fired immediately. He also demanded that the restaurant buy him a new $500.00 suite.

Trying to be a peace maker the manager tried to explain that accidents do happen an offered to pay for the dry-cleaning of the man’s suite. The man wouldn’t hear of it and stuck to his original demands.

Here is the problem with this story. Where do you think a sharply dressed man is coming from on an early Sunday afternoon? Most likely he had been to a church that morning and heard about God’s love, grace and forgiveness. Then he went out and lived just the opposite.

Christians have to understand that God’s way usually contradicts the world’s. God’s desire is that we be very different from those who do not confess Him as Lord. In fact, if you as a Christian are no different than your friends and neighbors who are not believers, then what’s the point?

In Matthew 5:1-11 Jesus gives us in detail how we are to respond and how we are to live with the promise of a blessing with each one.

1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Here is what Jesus is saying. Notice the contradictions.

To become royalty we have to become poor (vs.3). He is not speaking of monetary poverty rather spiritual poverty, being poor in the sight of God, understanding that we have nothing spiritually without Him. When we reach the point where we fully recognize that we are dependent on God and God alone to grow spiritually then we are blessed by entering into God’s heavenly family, thus, becoming royalty.

To be comforted we have to mourn (vs.4). This refers to being broken-hearted because of the sin we have committed towards God. Often sin does not affect us because we just take advantage of God’s grace. Instead, sin should break our hearts because we are hurting God and taking advantage of Jesus’ death on the cross. When we reach a point where we are broken hearted over our sin then we are blessed with the comfort of God.

To inherit we have to be meek (vs. 5). Meekness is not weakness! Meekness is understanding who and what you are in relation to other people. Knowing that you were created equal by God and stand on even ground with the rest of humanity before Him. We are blessed with inheriting God’s creation when we become meek.

To be filled we have to hunger (vs.6). Do you hunger for God the same way you do food? Do you desire to do the right thing the same as you desire to eat? God blesses us by filling us with His presence when we truly hunger for Him.

To receive mercy we have to show mercy (vs. 7). There is a general misconception of what mercy is. We think that mercy is simply feeling sorry for someone. Mercy is a sense of pity (feeling sorry for someone) plus a desire to relive the suffering. When we show true mercy we are blessed by God’s mercy.

To see God we have to be pure (vs. 8). A pure heart is a heart without defilement or contamination. We achieve this by trusting in God for mercy and forgiveness and we maintain this by looking for God’s direction in life and making choices based on what He desire for us instead of what we desire for ourselves. We are blessed by seeing God active in our lives when we commit to purity.

To be a child of God we have to make peace (vs. 9). A peacemaker is a person we pursues peace at all cost. Sometimes conflict is the result of the pursuit of peace. In World War II hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in the pursuit of peace. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we pursuers of peace or ignorers of conflict? There is a huge difference and we are blessed with becoming a child of God when we choose to pursue peace.

To take possession of the kingdom we have to be persecuted (vs. 10). To take possession of something means to have ownership of it. If we desire to have ownership of the kingdom of God then we have to own up to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. That means even in the face of persecution we confess Him as our Lord. When things don’t go right for you is He still Lord? When people question you, make fun of you, reject and doubt you because of your beliefs is He still Lord? We are blessed with the Kingdom of Heaven when we confess Jesus Christ as Lord even in the face of persecution.