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Posts Tagged ‘vibrant faith’

Traditional institutions like marriage and family are under attack like never before.  The home, the nuclear family, the church, faith in God, even God Himself, are the target of a systemic and focused campaign to undermine their value and rightful revered place in society.  It breaks my heart, because I am intimately aware of the value these have meant in my life and literally thousands of others over the course of my lifetime.  It’s more than just an emotional value.  It is a practical… real… solidify-your-world value that creates emotionally and mentally healthy individuals who are then able to positively impact society.  That, my friends, is the most desperate need in our families, communities, nation, and world today.  There is a solution that then serves as a catalyst for a whole host of “right answers” to what needs to be done.  But we must get that answer right first for the other answers to make sense and fit together.  Jesus was asked what the most important thing was.

‘Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ‘ Mark 12:29-31    https://www.bible.com/bible/59/MRK.12.29-31

Whenever a person enters into a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, they become a child of God, adopted into God’s family in a marvelous and miraculous way.  A transaction takes place where Jesus’ death on the cross is substituted for the just and right punishment for our sins and God accounts the righteousness of Jesus to the repentant, new believer.  We become a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ‘ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21   https://www.bible.com/bible/59/2CO.5.17-21

God has His eye upon us for good and not for evil.  He desires that every single one of us would turn to Him in faith and begin the journey into the rich and abundant life He has for us.  But He also allows us to make choices.  Each choice we make has consequences.  Each choice results in a new set of options with a new set of consequences.

I was raised when maps were all we had to help us get around.  I loved reading maps. Finding and following the shortest route was my goal and I enjoyed a real sense of accomplishment when we successfully completed a trip.  One thing I learned though was that wrong turns sometimes occur.  Once you realized you had taken a wrong turn you needed to take immediate action to get back to the desired path.  Continuing down the road thinking it will eventually get you to your destination was a losing proposition.  I learned the U-turn from observing my father.  As an adult I have pulled a few U-turns myself.  A good church word is “repent” which in essence means “do a U-turn”.  It carries the connotation of recognizing you are on the wrong road, headed in the wrong direction, and you take decisive action to go the other way into the right direction… into the arms of Jesus.  God’s desire for every person is that they enter into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus.

This is the beginning of the most incredible journey, a journey which consists of the rest of this earthly life, continuing on into an eternal life in heaven.

There is another similarity between our road trips and this journey that Jesus calls us to.  The further we have travel down wrong roads, the more backtracking we will have to do.  There are habits that develop heading down wrong roads that are not helpful to our new life.  There are addictions to be broken, lifestyle choices to be turned away from, and relationships that will have to be altered.  We are adopted and become God’s children the moment that holy transaction takes place.  But God’s desire is that we grow  into the whole, healthy, faithful, mature men and women He created us to be.  That transformation takes our active participation and it lasts a lifetime.  He works in us to make us holy.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ‘ NIV  Romans 12:1-2   https://www.bible.com/bible/111/ROM.12.1-2

Our nation is badly divided right now.  It is extremely sad that a rational, thoughtful conversation between people of differing opinions is so hard to achieve.  While I have a political opinion on the many issues of the day, I am dismayed because I know that anything our governing authorities may do will only treat the outward symptoms.  And they often carry unintended negative consequences.  Only when I turn to Jesus do I see hope.  And it is a marvelous hope.  When God’s people get busy doing what we are called to do – pray, seek God’s face, love God, love others, intercede, serve, and obey Him, then we will see the deep work in lives that will result in the transformation of our marriages.  As our marriages are strengthened our families will grow healthier.  Healthy families undergird strong, growing communities – the Church family and local communities.  And healthy communities in turn positively impact our state, nation, and world.

God’s plan is the positive transformation of society through the transformation of the individual through a vibrant, growing relationship with Him.  In my last three posts I spoke of the Kingdom of God being real and current, yet only partially revealed.  God’s kingdom is the picture of what society can be like – people seek to love Him and love others, brokenness is healed, loss is genuinely comforted, the confused and lost are found and given direction, and through it all God is lifted up and glorified.

  • It is a young teenager who gives up her addictions when she finds out she is pregnant.  Or better yet, she decides to wait to experience sexual intimacy until she marries her husband.
  • It is a troubled youth that has a father at home to see and head off the down-ward emotional spiral.  Or better yet the father was there from the moment of his birth to invest into his young son and to head off issues very early.
  • It is a doctor, alert to the needs of every patient, noticing a young man that is slipping deeper into a violent mindset who determines to intervene not just with more drugs but compassion and wisdom and a different course of action.  Or better yet, the doctor is sensitive and compassionate enough that he prays and intercedes for the troubled young man and gets Holy Spirit given direction in bring healing.
  • It is a local community that is close enough and communicates well enough that a troubled and violent youth is identified early enough that they prevent a mass tragedy.  Or better yet, the community is one where faith and love predominate and a sad and troubled youth is loved, embraced, and gets the deep help he needs early.

One of the more difficult things to measure is a problem avoided.  Since it didn’t occur you don’t have something to count.  Yet it is true that if you do the right things, you will get the right results.  This is true in industrial plant maintenance.  It’s true about taking care of your car.  It is true in our families.  It is true in society.  Doing the right thing in our society would be to recognize and support the Judeo-Christian principles that this nation was founded upon.  Latitude was given for persons of other belief systems, but this nation was founded as a nation under God specifically because He gave us the privilege to do something new in the world.  We must not abandon the foundation that made this nation the great nation that is has become.  Faith in God, responsibility to God, family, and community, genuine love for others, clear and compelling laws and a judiciary that rightly interpret the laws, are all cornerstones of the just, fair, and compassionate society our forefathers attempted to establish and that we are responsible to preserve.

Lord Jesus, please move in this land to bring this nation back to it’s founding principles.  Jesus bring an awakening to this nation and cause us to turn back to you.  Stir your body, the Church, to pray, to intercede with fervor, and to minister in the power of your Holy Spirit.  Help us to wage warfare in the spiritual realms and minster in your mighty power in our homes, schools, workplaces, churches, and the hi-ways and bi-ways.  Bring your answer to today’s issues Lord with clarity and emphasis.  Lord God display your power and love in and through your people. Be glorified today Lord.  Make your presence known Holy Lord and be glorified today.  It’s in the name of your glorious Son and our mighty savior, Jesus Christ, we pray.

And all God’s people said – Amen!

 

 

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A thankful heart is a shield, an antidote, and a bridge. Psalm 138 begins, “I give You thanks O God with my whole heart.” It is our right response.  God is the giver of all good gifts and He is worthy of all praise and thanksgiving.  And within this dynamic world He has made, thanksgiving freely offered releases God’s power in marvelous ways.

A thankful heart is a shield.  Bad things happen in life.  Some we can see coming while others we cannot.  Our response to difficulties shapes us more than anything if we let it.  During difficulty it is easy to lose sight of the things most helpful… that God loves us, that He is with us, that God truly cares for us.  These truths, and they are fundamental truths that remain even when all hell breaks loose against us, are a bulwark against fear, doubt, despair, and the host of other negatives that accompany pain and loss.  When we focus our eyes upon Jesus and give Him thanks for what He has provided, a wall against the secondary effects of difficulties is set in place to protect our heart.  Pain, suffering, and grief are not removed.  They are natural and right responses which will eventually diminish.  However despair, hatred, revenge and other attitudes are not God’s best for us.  Thanksgiving sets a barrier against the intentional acts of the enemy to keep us down.

A thankful heart is an antidote.  Giving thanks to God, not only in the midst of a bad thing, but for the bad thing, requires an act of faith.  When we do our faith is enlarged and the load we carry becomes a bit lighter.  But thankfulness should also spring forth when things are going fine.  Complacency is one of the most subtle and effective of satan’s tactics.  When we are complacent and satisfied we are prone to believe that we are fine and we have everything under control.  Thankfulness at this point is essential to propel us toward the vibrant faith and action to which God has called us.  Perhaps the most obvious area where thankfulness serves as an antidote is when things are going great.  At the point of receiving good news it is right to open our hearts and mouth in immediate thanksgiving and praise to God.  Pride is a real challenge for the persons who have much.  True thanksgiving springs from a humble heart.  It is based upon the recognition that there is One greater who has provided the gift and verbalizes this reality.

A thankful heart is a bridge.  One of the most powerful acts a person can give is forgiveness.  Jesus exhorts us to forgive one another as the Father has forgiven us.  Our natural tendency is to hold on to our anger until we achieve justice (or more precisely justice as we see it).  The Lord knows that grudges only do damage.  And they generally do much more damage to the person holding the grudge than to the one who is the focal point of the grudge.  How do you find forgiveness when you have a legitimate complaint against another?  I have found that when I consider God’s legitimate complaint against me for ignoring His standard for living, for breaking His law, for treating His overwhelming love and grace with low regard and yet He died on a cross for me, I am thankful.  And from that place of thankfulness I can extend forgiveness toward another.  In this way a thankful heart begins building the bridge.

We have so much to be thankful for – we can begin with the things of beauty God has placed in our lives.  I saw a beautiful sunset last night that was worthy of a “thank You, Lord”.  The people who God has placed in our lives.  My son-in-law called last night and we had a great chat.  “Thanks for calling Jeff, and thank You Lord for another son in my later years.”  My wife who makes me laugh… a lot.  “Thank you Lisa for the sparkle and spice you bring to my life, and thank You Lord for the blessing of a soul mate whom I love and who loves me.”  Now I am giving examples from the last hour or so of my evening and I could name many more.  Yet just that little bit has me so encouraged and thankful to our Father that I am ready for the day.  That makes me think of one more benefit of a thankful heart – it is a motivator.

Lord give us eyes to see Your hand at work in our lives today.  Then give us thankful hearts to express the gratitude that You most assuredly deserve. 

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