The Point of Love

  Many people are looking for a formula to their problems. If I pray the right prayers, do the right things, don’t do the wrong things, then life will be peachy keen.   We look for excellence in our lives and while seeking a spiritual life helps us do that, helps us to know how to line up our works with God’s will…we sometimes miss the point. We inadvertently keep the focus on us instead of focusing on Jesus. 
The point of it all is Jesus. God’s love is pointed to us through Jesus.  The point of it all is understanding our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What habits or routines do you have in place that keep the focus on your relationship with God? What habits and routines keeps you distracted?  

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16

 We are all different. What practices that keep me close to God may not work for you. I love going on hikes. The fresh air and beauty of creation, the birds, the sounds, the feel of rough terrain, they all remind me of God. To others though, these things may be a big fat distraction. Bugs buzzing, over stimulation of senses due to leaves and trees and rustling of branches. I liken it to camping. Some people love to camp. There are others, though, that would rather be staked through the heart than have to eat a cheap hot dog on a stick and poop over a log out in the woods! 
Some people feel close to God worshipping in a church, others feel close when they can give to others in generosity, still others feel connected to Jesus when they are serving others or when they are studying or learning new things.  Whatever the spiritual pathway, the key to a personal relationship with Jesus is to seek out what disciplines make you feel connected and practice taking a risk in faith.  

 When we have relationship, we can have trust and faith.  God wants us to put our trust in him not the money in the bank account. Not the relationship with the guy or girl, but in Him! To trust in the knowledge that the all powerful, all knowing everlasting God loves us and desires an abundant life rich with peace and serenity and goodness.  We get the promises of God when we remember to focus on Jesus and on His love for us.

 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10 NLT)

It isn’t so much about how hard we work or how spiritual we seem.  It isn’t even about how much we love God.  It is all about His love for us, His sacrifice to us and how He desires a relationship with us. When we can tap into believing God’s love for us, love will overflow, abundance will overflow, our life will be overflowing.

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT)  

What do you need to do to spend some time in relationship with God today?

Free[duh]m

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭31-36‬ NLT)

I understand being set free. Only because I understand sin. By the grace of God, I am free of many things that used to hold me bondage. Oh I knew sin alright. I could somehow take anything of this world and turn it into an idol; food, money, selfishness, smoking, drinking, approval-seeking, you name it, I was chained to it. And I made decisions based on fear. I was not free in any sense of the word. It wasn’t until I admitted powerlessness over my life, that I could begin to accept that, as petty as I felt, or as silly as my idols seemed, I had issues that needed working out. It isn’t until we are willing to admit complete defeat that we create space for God and allow the power of the spirit to replace our fear.  

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭25‬ NLT)

As Christ followers, we can hold tight the truth that the spirit’s leading is pure and strong and wonderful and will lead us to the freedom we so crave.  

Is there any freedom from bondage you need today? Pray for it and let faith replace fear. 

  

This Little Light of Mine

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3

People who can’t or won’t be honest with each other are people who will never experience the kind of nurturing fellowship God desires among His people. Repentance isn’t a shampoo commercial, we are not supposed to wash, rinse and repeat. We can repent all we want, but if we keep doing the behavior and then repent, and then do it again, and then repent…guys, that isnt repenting, we are taking advantage of gods grace when we simply repent then repeat. Repentance of sin, letting go of that which takes you from the kingdom perspective of Gods purpose, Gods process and Gods promise for your life, means changing behaviors, not just recognizing right from wrong.  To have a spiritual awakening means to have the willingness to be courageous and change.  To change takes honesty. To be honest means to be marked by truth.

Honesty is a process from God.   When God’s around, the lights are on! Walking in the darkness means we will probably bump into each other, but that doesn’t equate true fellowship, with God or with each other. 

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:6-9 NLT)

When we see ourselves and one another clearly under God’s clarifying and purifying light, there are three ways in which we can see with the kindgom perspective:

  1. We can appreciate one another.  
  2. We recognize God working in someone’s life, rather than being jealous of what they have. 
  3. We can experience the common ground that creates fellowship rather than seeing our differences in one another.

Authenticity requires honesty—not putting on a mask; not showing up and pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It is weeping with those who weep; rejoicing with those who rejoice; bearing one another’s burdens, and in so doing, fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. This is the happiness that comes with honesty. Will you let the light shine in you?
  

The Zombie in You

Zombies. In the bible. Yes, you read correctly.
I am an uber geek. I love zombie movies. Movies about zombies lets me have at least two hours to really detach from reality. Cause I’m sorry, no matter how good the script is, no matter how well the actors portray their characters, no matter how well the scene was shot or the make-up was put on, reanimated humans will not ever happen, I don’t buy it.

And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. [Exod. 26:31-35.] The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son! (Matthew 27:50-54 AMP)

I know what you’re thinking. I must be watching too much ‘Walking Dead.’ But could it be that our drift toward the undead is simply our subconscious searching for the truth that the son of God truly is miraculous? Is our human nature and desire is to be at peace with the thought that there really has been dead that have risen? And if so, wouldn’t it be safe to say that a God that could raise the dead is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing and desires us to know Him more and that is why we want to believe? Perhaps it is human nature to believe in zombies.
Thinking about zombies also makes me think of chainsaws. Or axes. Or a two-handed Japanese sword. I suppose cause something that could cut heads off would be my weapon of choice in a zombie attack. Which of course makes me think of something Jesus said in Matthew:

And if your hand—even your stronger hand —causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:30 NLT)

Perhaps the issue of whether or not Jesus was crucified and rose again isn’t disbelief, it is detachment. Maybe not as drastic as detaching a limb so you escape a zombie virus or a walker coming up on you to attack, but a look at letting go. Letting go and restoring the true self. Look at step three of A.A., we made a decision to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God. The message version says it this way:

And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump. (Matthew 5: 30 MSG)

Jesus is telling us to detach from the habits that hold us back from our true selves. When we lose our temper, revert back to the behavior that is not healthy, feed the addiction that is not beneficial to our lives, it is those behaviors we must detach from. Until you learn to let go, it is kinda like mixing clean spring water and sewer water and expect to be able to drink it without getting sick.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”-Romans 12:1

This living sacrifice is often misinterpreted as us losing something. If I sacrifice then I will be without. But when we turn our will over to the care of God and our lives, we are abundantly free.
Step three is about discipline, but the discipline that held us back for so long was the thinking that, we needed MORE self will. “oh if I had more will power I wouldn’t get mad and hit my kids or I wouldn’t mouth off to my boss and get fired or if I had more will power I could quit drinking, smoking ,eating, spending, lusting, whatever have you. It is not about having not enough will power, it is actually about having too much. When we cut the arm off that is sinning so to speak, we aren’t out an arm. We gain more strength because we are working in God’s strength. God gave us free will. This is a gift.
Detachment is about separating ourselves from idols that are not God. Self serving goals and agendas just end up poisoning the fruit He wants us to produce with our lives. Letting go of the notions of money and power and position is what makes you who you are. Circumstances do not make you. Trusting God with the outcomes rather than yourself so you do not have to feel like a failure every other minute. A life in which you can honor others without feeling like you have to manipulate or control them, that is freedom!
When we practice the 12 steps and we learn to let go, when we decide to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God, we have freedom from our jobs, from society, from addictions; we are free to live as our true selves, we learn to live with acceptance even when things go into descent, loss or death. And because we live in a way that finds God amidst these things, learning to let go prepares us for the final let go- death.

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Mark 8:34-37 MSG)

Jesus died to change the truth about you. What thinking do you need to change?

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Keeping it Real

People are looking for a formula to their problems, pray the right prayers, do the right things, don’t do the wrong things, we are looking for excellence in our lives and while the 12 steps of recovery helps us do that, helps us to know how to line up our works with God’s will…we sometimes miss the point…in becoming more self aware, which is totally a good thing, the focus stays on us and not up.

So how do we move from inward to upward so we can share outward?

Once we are [re]born of the spirit, that is our life’s breath. We must try to never doubt and worry, but follow where the life of the spirit leads. The point of it all is Jesus. The point of it all is understanding the relationship between father and son and our role in that. Our relationship with the father son and Holy Spirit. What habits or routines do you have in place that keep the focus on your relationship with God? What habits and routines keeps you distracted?

step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16

There are all kinds of different in the world. What practices that keep me close to God may not work for you. I love going on hikes. The fresh air and beauty of creation, the birds, the sounds, the feel of walking rough terrain, they all remind me of God. To others though, these things may be a big fat distraction. Bugs buzzing, over stimulation of leaves and trees and rustling of branches. Taking a walk in the woods may be hell on earth for you.

For a few years in my childhood, my parents and I lived in the woods of northern Minnesota. We spent a brief season in a tiny log cabin that had no insulation (you could see it snowing through the cracks in the logs), no running water and no toilet. We did not even have an outhouse.

I was getting potty trained at the time, it is amazing how quick you learn how to squat over a log when you are scared a skunk is gonna come and spray you. It is worse in the summer when mosquitoes are biting you…or when you find a nice, secluded, lush, green spot to do your business, perhaps you find some great leaves to clean up with. And then you find yourself in a field of poison ivy. Yes, take it from me, there are fields of poison ivy. I even once squatted over a tick nest (unbeknownst to me) and had woodticks everywhere…I’m talking EVERYWHERE!!!

I think we take for granted running water. I think we take for granted flushing toilets. I think we take for granted being able to wipe our butts with toilet paper, even when we have to buy the cheap scratchy thin kind; we get so caught up in our circumstances, we keep our focus in and when we are so focused inward there is no room for the sunlight of the spirit to shine outward.

Keep in mind that regardless if we feel blessed or punished in our circumstances, we often are not rooted in truth. Stay focused up. Practice being in relationship with God, not the things he gives you.

The feeling of safety, of all things being right in the world, when you are at peace and contentment when you feel safe and warm and loved, God wants us to feel that way about him. He wants us to put our trust in him. Not the money in the bank account. Not the relationship with the guy or girl, just him. To trust in the knowledge that the all powerful, all knowing, everlasting God loves us and desires an abundant life rich with peace and serenity and goodness! It is these truths we can meditate on.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10 NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9 NLT)

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT)

Heavenly Father, thank you so much that you have created us to rule over earth. You are such a gracious God, you give us rest, you give us peace, you are our comforter and our strength and guidance. I pray that whatever we each are going through in life, that we can lift that to you Lord, please bless us today with wisdom and discernment for our circumstances. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, AMEN!

As you pray, keep it real and focus up. Your circumstances will change because your heart will change. Even if your only quiet time is in the bathroom (or out in the woods)…use that time and connect with God!

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Migration

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Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Eagles are considered spiritual messengers between gods and humans by some cultures. There is an eagle that has taken roost near my home. I get to see him on my daily hike and I don’t know if I am conditioned because the eagle is the national symbol of freedom or if it is sheer size or their predatory nature, but they are fascinating creatures to me. Seeing them soar down river or upstream, I always feel a sense of God’s presence and peace. An eagle’s majestic nature stops me in my tracks and I am able to stop, stare and revel in the present moment. Whatever worries or challenges or stress of the day melt away when the eagle flies my way.

When we stop our busy lives for even just a moment, we are open to hearing from God, from gaining clarity over a situation, peace around a problem, hope for our future.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:26, 27, 34 NLT)

What causes you to stop and pause?

Lightning Bugs

To be a witness to life change means you can see the awakening in a person’s eyes. You see individuals dress better, take care of themselves better physically, and there is a light that awakens inside them that is real and true and hopeful. It is that light that draws other people to you. People who are growing in Christ are like lightning bugs on a warm, dark summer night. And who doesn’t love a good lightning bug?!

“And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. (John 5:25 NLT)

You have an opportunity to witness life change this Sunday at Evergreen for their 10am service. And don’t forget that mason jar for the lightning bugs…who knows what you might catch!