Tough Words!

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5.44

These words of Jesus to His disciples must have come as difficult words to hear. They were facing opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducees. And Jesus was telling them to love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. I don’t know about you, but that would seem pretty difficult to do. While we may not face similar enemies like the Lord’s disciples, we will have those in our lives who do not like who we are in Christ, what we stand for, and the way we live our lives.

So let’s take a closer look at the words of Jesus and what they mean to us. “Love your enemies … ” You say, “I can’t do that. You don’t know what they did to me.” Stay with me here … love them for who they are, not for what they did. What they did is an action. Who they are identifies them as a person. Jesus said to love THEM. Next He says to “bless them … ” Do something for them they would never expect. What does that accomplish? It shows the presence of God at work in your heart. “do good to them” goes hand in hand with “bless them”. When God is at work in us and through us, the result is one that is totally the opposite of what the ungodly world would expect.

The final thing Jesus says is to “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” This is perhaps the most difficult thing to do of everything that Jesus has said. How so? In order to pray for someone, we must hold no anger in our hearts toward them. In order to pray for someone who is persecuting us, we must look beyond the pain they are causing and see the eternal need that exists. These words of Jesus call all of us to a lifestyle that is impossible unless He is living through us. Just my thoughts …

Advertisements

Watch the Salt!

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. (6) Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4.5-6

How do we walk in wisdom and how do we redeem the time? And who are “them that are without”? Walking in wisdom indicates that we think about where we walk, how we walk, and why we walk there. You’ve probably heard the expression, “He walks like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” You can be sure that cat knows where his tail is all the time in relationship to the rocking chairs. Since we know others are watching, it makes good sense to walk in a way that does not do damage to the kingdom of God. We need to make good use of the time God gives us. Whatever time we waste can never be reclaimed. Parents often challenge their children with the command, “Don’t waste your time”, but do we fall into the trap of wasting precious time because we do not allow the Holy Spirit to direct our every step?

This next verse may be more powerful than we realize. Our speech needs two things: (1) to be always be spoken with grace, and (2) to be seasoned with salt. When we speak with grace, we guard the character of our words, realizing the value they may have to others. This phrase “seasoned with salt” takes our speech to a different level. When you put salt on something, it changes everything. When I realize that my speech has the potential to change everything, I certainly want what I say to be glorifying to God. How ought we to respond to every man? In a Christ-honoring, God-glorifying way. That will keep us busy today. Just my thoughts …

That Covers It All!

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3.17

When I think of a life-consuming verse, this one is the perfect one. “ … whatsoever ye do … ” Nothing is left out. “ … in word or deed … ” We are only capable of two things in life – speaking and doing. In a hypothetical sense, the next time we want to give ourselves permission to sin (and we don’t like to admit this but we do it more than we want to say) we need to say to the Lord, “I give you thanks for letting me partake in this sin.” Some of you are chuckling right now and some of you are on the verse of anger at the thought of doing such a thing. BUT that is what the verse says. I don’t think any of us ever consciously sin in Jesus’ name but we still sin, nonetheless. Can you see here how Paul is calling the Colossians and us to a life that has a higher standard that we may set for ourselves? WHAT IF our purpose for the remainder of this day became doing everything (whatsoever) in word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus? How would that change our interaction with people? How would that change the dynamics in our family? How would that change the conditions in my workplace?

This last phrase is critical for our thinking: “ … giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” WHAT IF we would consciously give thanks to God through Christ for whatsoever we do? I suspect we would re-think some of the things we choose to do. We would re-think some of the words we say BEFORE we say them. This verse became a part of my spiritual make-up when I was working with teen-agers and God has never let it leave my thinking. I challenge you today to process what God is saying here and let it change your life too. Just my thoughts …

Love Him How Much?

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (6) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. (7) And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6.5-7

I think most of us would agree that we are just one generation away from losing sight of who God is, and what He wants to do in the lives of His children and in the world. And why is that the case? Because for far too long far too many of God’s children have failed to pay heed to the words written above. I know these verses are written to Israel, but I also know that they are applicable to us in the 21st century. So, what is the answer ro this dilemma?

Children learn by what they see modeled more than what they hear said. Since that is the case, look at the opening words of v. 5: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” I would say that is a rather life-consuming statement. Every element of my life should demonstrate to anyone watching that I love God – no questions asked. That requires focus and commitment.

In order for us not to miss the next generation, we must follow the instructions in vs. 6 and 7: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.” (v. 6) If they are in my heart, I must believe them in order for them to be there. Then there must be a total commitment of effort to transmit that which is in our hearts to our children. When we are sitting, walking, lying down and rising up – that is pretty much all the time. Let’s embrace the task and do it well and do it with joy. Just my thoughts …

Do You Have a Grace-filled Heart?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3.16

What does life look like when one allows the “word of Christ (to) dwell in (them) richly in all wisdom”? Can I suggest that some things in life will change? For example, when the “word of Christ” becomes a controlling truth in life, the way one thinks will change. We will no longer be obsessed with our own thoughts, but will rather have “the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2.5), which is certainly different than our own.

Once our thinking changes, then our behavior changes. Why? Because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. People cannot see our thoughts. But they can see our behavior and when that behavior glorifies God, they see it. When that behavior does not glorify God, they see that as well. In addition to thinking and behavior, what else can be affected by “having the mind of Christ”? I submit to you that our attitude will change – toward life in general, toward other people, toward the circumstances that occur each day … the list could go on an on.

The remainder of the verse teaches us what the fruit of the word of Christ welling in us looks like. I know that some people say they don’t have a good voice for singing. It is not the voice that is all-important here but the attitude of joy that others can see. If my heart is filled with grace, that will be reflected in every other area of my life. What happens in my heart is up to me. I must either give God total control, partial control, or no control. Once “the word of Christ dwell(s) in you richly in all wisdom”, it is easy to give God total control. Just my thoughts …

How’s the Giving Going?

I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20.35

In a world whose motto seems to be, “Get all you can and can all you get”, it is refreshing to be reminded of a more powerful truth. When Paul says, “support the weak … ” there are varying kinds of weakness. All weakness is not physical. There is emotional weakness, relational weakness, and spiritual weakness, just to name a few. In Galatians 6.1-2 Paul tells us: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are piritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” When we remember that we are members of the family of God, then we must also remember that family helps family. Perhaps you did not come from a family like that, but it is our responsibility to “support the weak”.

These are the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Obviously our children disagree with that at Christmas time (lol), but most of us know the joy that comes when we are on the giving end rather than the receiving end. Giving to others and giving to the Lord through our local churches is a matter of the heart. God owns everything. It is up to us to realize that and then do what He tells us to do with what He has given us. Others will be blessed and so will we when we obey God’s instructions in giving. Let’s embrace this truth: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Just my thoughts …

He IS Awesome!

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27.4

In this verse we get a glimpse into the heart of the psalmist David. What was it that David was longing for? I don’t believe he wanted to sit in some building 24/7 just to say he had been with God. We must remember that the Holy Spirit had not yet come to indwell believers. That didn’t occur until the Day of Pentecost. So David’s heart cry was to spend as much time with the Lord as possible.

If God gave you a 3×5 card right now and said, “Write on this card your heart cry”, what would you write? Is it your “one thing” to live your life in the knowledge that God IS with you and IS watching you and DOES want to lead you in every next step? My wife and I read a devotional this morning that talked about “doing the next right thing.” The concept is certainly not new, but it was refreshing to be reminded of this truth found in Psalm 119.105: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path.” Sometimes we become so obsessed with where the path is leading that we stand paralyzed, begging God to show us everything. We don’t NEED to know everything. We just need to know the next right thing – the next step God has for us.

David was so enamored with who God is that His only desire was to take the next step with God. Look at this phrase: “to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” Are you enamored with who God is and will you simply do the next right step with Him? That is my prayer for you today. Just my thoughts …

Tell What You Know!

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; (4) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Corinthians 1.3-4

I think everyone reading these words could say that we have been through a time of tribulation or trial and God has brought us through in a way that only He could. So the words of this verse could be addressed to each one of us. I believe they are. Paul speaks of God as “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort … ” Think about those two words mercy and comfort. How many times have we desperately needed mercy and comfort? And EVERY TIME we had the need, God was there and provided exactly what we needed. He comforted us is all our tribulation.

So what are WE to do? Paul told the Corinthians and us this profound truth: “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble … ” Every day we encounter people who are in … trouble and they are in desperate need of someone to guide them. And then God puts you in their path. That is no mistake … that is divine providence. So what is it that we are supposed to do? We are to provide comfort to them with the “comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Who else is better qualified to tell a prospective open heart surgery patient what he is about to go through other than one who has already gone through that surgery? That person speaks from experience. Who else is better equipped to tell a fellow believer that God is faithful and He will bring them through their tribulation, than one who has already experienced the faithfulness of God in a similar situation? Let us be faithful to the task of comforting others as God brings them across our paths. Just my thoughts …

Job or Joy?

For, brethren ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Galatians 5.13

Unfortunately there are some believers who have the idea that since they have eternal security, it doesn’t matter how they live. Nothing they may do will keep them out of heaven. Can I say that such an attitude may be true but is presumptuous? God’s grace in salvation has saved us from a life of sin, not saved us so we can go on living in sin.

Paul’s words here are powerful. “ … brethren ye have been called unto liberty … ” God saved us to live a life of liberty in Christ. But we must not confuse liberty for license. Our liberty is not a license to sin. Our liberty gives us the freedom to not live under the law because Christ fulfilled the law in our place. This is the age of grace.

“ … only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh … ” There are times when our flesh seems to have such a powerful hold over us in our decision making process. When the flesh demands to have its own way, we are headed down the wrong path when we give in.

The last phrase gives us the motivation for our service with our brothers and sisters in Christ. “by love serve one another.” Everything that you and I do out of a sense of duty in service to others is simply a spiritual job. There is no joy in doing it. When we serve each other with love, it is not a duty and it is not a job. It is a joy for God to allow us to serve in such a manner. Let me encourage you to deny the flesh and serve one another with love. Just my thoughts …

Commit … Trust … Great Words!

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37.5

Commit thy way unto the LORD … ” Good advice, but how hard is that to do? We get up each morning with a mind full of things that WE want to get done, and off we go. “Look out, God, I have a lot to do today!” I admit that I have been guilty of that far too many days in my life. But the psalmist had a reason for this phrase. He had learned the wisdom of it over the course of his days of walking with God. In fact, the entire 37th Psalm is a marvelous treatise of how you and I should walk with God. (If you haven’t read it recently, take time to do so.) so what does it mean to commit our way to the Lord? Doesn’t it mean that WE stop planning our path and ask God for His direction for the next step? That requires that we move the focus of our lives from what WE want to what HE wants. And that is a big step for most of us.

Believing this second phrase is paramount to doing the first phrase: “trust also in him … ” When my trust in God is without question, then the decision to commit my way to Him should be without question. When I begin to question the wisdom of the path God has chosen for me, I am not trust Him completely. I am thinking that He may have made a mistake. After all, I am not happy with His choice. But that betrays the idea of absolute trust.

he shall bring it to pass.” What is “it”? He shall take the way that you have committed to Him and cause to happen what He knows is best for you. Notice the English construction here: “he shall … ” When shall is used in the third person, it is a demonstrative statement meaning that it will surely happen. And, my friend, it will surely happen. Just my thoughts …