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For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fool.  Romans 1:21-22

Relationship is an interesting thing. The more one puts into it, the more they get out of it. First of all, we need to define ‘relationship.’ In a relationship, both parties benefit from being together. If only one person’s needs are being met it’s not a relationship. It’s an arrangement.

It’s sad to say, but many marriages never get to the ‘relationship’ stage. As a result one person feels like they give and give and give with nothing in return. Eventually the stress is too much and divorce (either emotional or physical) happens.

The same is true in our spiritual lives with God. Many people believe in God or a god of some sort. But knowing God or about God and being in relationship with God are completely different. Compare it to a physical love relationship.

What does a perfect love relationship look like to you? Don’t you think constantly about the other person? You go to work. You go about the mundane tasks of life. You hang with friends, deliver the kids to soccer practice and fold the laundry. But in the back of your mind there is always that thought of the person you love.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. The God of the universe earnestly desires a passionate love relationship with you. But relationship with God, like any relationship is a two-way street. Our Father God has given everything for us, even his only Son, Jesus. What does he want in return? Our love. Love shown through obedience to the things we know we should do. Love that is shown through avoiding the things we know are wrong.

When love is given and not returned we call it being ungrateful. When we are ungrateful to God for his blessings it makes our hearts insensitive to his desire to draw us to himself. We show ingratitude by compartmentalizing our lives. God is good on Sundays. God is looked to in the face of adversity or severe trial. As one pundit remarked, “When a jetliner is going down, there are no atheists on board!”

The longer we live lives that are ungrateful to God, the more our hearts grow insensitive to God and his leading. Will God still bless us? Sometimes, but those blessings may not satisfy. We can receive outward blessing and still harbor inner turmoil. Turmoil that we seek to fill with other gods like financial security, new ‘relationships’, social action, or religion.

Your Father God in heaven is real. He earnestly desires to have a relationship, not an arrangement with you. Part of that process is showing him living gratitude in your thoughts, words and actions.

PRAYER: Father God. I don’t want to be one of those who never shows my gratitude for all you’ve done for me. Forgive me for following my own way and expecting your blessing when I’m really being ungrateful.  Empower me with your Spirit to enter into a passionate love relationship with you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13-15

In his novel, Roots, Alex Haley traces the story of his family through several generations to find where he came from. Although the book’s validity was later questioned, it began a huge movement by people to search their ancestry to gain a picture of where they came from and, in a sense, what some of the things were that made them what and who they were ‘today’.

While revisiting our ancestors can be interesting and help us to gain insight into what went into making us what we are today, it’s far more important to realize who we were in the spiritual realm.

Read Colossians 2:13-15 on more time carefully and thoughtfully. “You were dead.” There isn’t a lot of good about dead people. Dead people don’t accomplish much. They don’t hold much value. Dead people are…well…dead. Dead athletes and dead politicians and dead homeless people are all pretty much the same…dead. The playing field is pretty level among dead people.

Read on. “God made you alive.” Mull that over in your mind. You were dead. God made you alive. Notice there are no qualifiers here. Nothing that says “Some of you helped God make you alive.” No hints that God made some of us ‘more alive’ than others. You were dead and God made you alive. Period.

What would your world be like if you treated everyone around you with the attitude that says “You were dead. I was dead. God made us alive. Therefore we are completely equal.” How would you respond to the person with a different political agenda or a different family background or different worship preferences or different sexual orientations?

Would people be more likely to listen to you if they knew that you accepted them as equals? Would you be more patient, more forgiving, more accepting of others if you kept in mind that they are no better or no worse than you are in God’s eyes?

When your path crosses the life of a person who is struggling with life remember your roots. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a nice, safe, respected ‘Christian family’ or if you were the victim of abuse and dysfunction. In God’s eyes we all have the same past. Dead. Dead but made alive by Him through Jesus Christ.

The best news of all is, that even though you were dead, not only are you alive now, but your spiritual enemies have be completely disarmed! They are helpless and powerless beings whose only hope is that you will forget that you have the power, through Jesus, to defeat them.

Remember where you came from. Live in the power you have now because of Jesus!

PRAYER: Father God. I thank you for your great love and forgiveness. I ask that as I rub shoulders with the people in my world I would remember that I am no better or no worse that they are. I have all I have and am all I am because of Jesus alone. Empower me to live with that in mind. In Jesus name. Amen.

 


Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. Proverbs 22:2

Try as we might to avoid it, we put labels on people. We judge them by the way they dress; the work they do; the church they go to; whether they go to church; their sexual orientation; their marital status and a whole list of other things. We don’t even realize it half the time!

I wonder how much anger would be removed from the world if we could just grasp the truth of Proverbs 22:2.

“The Lord is maker of us all.” It’s not our education that makes us. It’s not the government or unions or social status that makes us what we are. It’s the Lord God of heaven that determines the important things about us. I don’t buy into the idea that we are ‘all God’s children’ in the spiritual sense. Spiritually speaking there are plenty of passages in the Bible that tell us that a child of God is one who has accepted Christ as Savior and repented of their sin and called Jesus Lord.

But the Bible also says we are all made in God’s image, male and female, rich and poor, Christian or non-Christian. We don’t always understand the big ‘why’ questions. For example, why are some people rich and some poor? Is it because rich people are smarter? No. Is it because they try harder? Sometimes, but certainly not always. Is it because they were born into a situation that gave them their wealth? Again, sometimes but there are many people who have risen from poverty to wealth.

What is it then that makes us rich? The answer is really two-fold. First of all we need to re-define wealth. Wealth isn’t determined by what you have in your bank account, the size of your pension plan or your social standing. True wealth comes from within. It’s an attitude. So, in one sense we can all be wealthy in the things of the heart.

Secondly, anything we consider of value: money, talents, spiritual gifts, etc. comes directly from God. True wealth is not a government option. True wealth is not a result of unions or political action. God determines, for whatever reason, who is wealthy. Period.

Seek to grow wealthy in the important areas of your life. Seek to show mercy. Sow love. Cultivate compassion. Grow in the riches of Godliness through reading God’s Word, prayer and fellowshipping with others. Stop looking at what other people make or do or have. Focus on what God has given you. He is the true source of all wealth and His wealth lasts for eternity.

PRAYER: Another day Father where your word has cut me to the bone. So much of my anger, frustration and anxiety comes from what I have physically or what I want. I so often forget that anything I have or others have is directly a result of you. Forgive me for judging what others have as though it’s unfair or greedy. Empower me to seek True Wealth through you. In Jesus name, Amen.

 


“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:46

By today’s standards it was nothing more than a wide spot in the road. It wouldn’t even have merited a “Speed Reduced Ahead” sign. No tourist attractions or antique malls here. Most likely, were you to drive through at night, you wouldn’t even have realized you just drove through a town! That was Nazareth.

It’s no wonder then that Nathanael asked if there were anything good that could come from that place. It was barely a blimp on a GPS! But don’t be too hard on Nathanael. We do the same thing today. We ask, and sometimes not so graciously,

  • Can anything good come from him/her? He/she is divorced you know.
  • He’s a [insert your least liked political party here] you know. And you know what ‘they’ are like!
  • They go to that church down the street. They can’t be good Christians and go there. Everyone knows that.
  • Why, he can’t even speak the language. What good can he be?
  • Humph. Don’t tell me they are Christians. They are living together you know.
  • They teach at that ‘liberal’ school. They can’t be good Christians and teach there? Can they?
  • Once an addict, always an addict. You can’t trust them. Can you?
  • You know they did [insert the sin you think is most horrific here]. They can’t be used in any spiritual leadership position now. Can they?

And the list goes on and on. You know it does. You’ve heard the lines yourself. Maybe you’ve even said them on occasion. But Jesus has an answer for each question and the answer is yes. Yes the person struggling with sin, tainted by divorce, victims of abuse or addictions, haunted by the past can be used mightily by God. Good can come from anything and anyone if Jesus has come into their lives. He can forgive the ugliest of sins, repair the most damaged heart, and cleanse the dirtiest conscience. All you have to do to answer the questions above is to look at the nail pierced hand and the scar in his side to know that.

Philip didn’t bother to argue with Nathanael. He simply said ‘come and see’. And so it is with each of us. Before we make judgments about if or how or when Jesus can use damaged people we need only come and see! There is nothing we can do in our lives to be disqualified from Jesus’ forgiveness.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that far too often I judge others on external things and not the heart. I label people by race, religion or political persuasion. I question how you can use people who have done such horrific things to others. Then I look at me and realize that it’s only by your grace I am where I am. Forgive me for not accepting others as you do. Empower me to be more patient and accepting of those who are different than me. In Jesus name, Amen.

 


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

A storm moves through in the middle of the night. The windows shake from the wind. The yard is as light as mid-day from frequent lightning. On one particular crash of thunder small feet are heard running down the hall. As if with one motion she snuggles in securely between her mom and dad. ‘Safe from the storm’ she soon falls back asleep completely oblivious to the raging storm outside.

What was it that drove the little one to the arms of her father and mother? Were they able to save her from the storm? Should a tornado have wiped out the neighborhood would she have been spared because she was in their arms? The storm certainly didn’t let up. It wasn’t any quieter in their room.

What drove her to the arms of her parents was the calm assurance in her mind that safety rested there. In the arms of her father the lightning became a nothing more than a light show. The sounds of the wind, rain and thunder became music to lull her to sleep. The storm could be weathered just fine when she was in the arms of her father.

When we rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father there is calmness in the storm. He is God. He is holy. The word ‘Holy’ is a word that means set a part. One notch above the rest of the world. Unaffected by circumstances.

Because he is a holy God, the things that frighten me have no effect on him. The things that pull me down won’t contain him or change his focus or actions.

When I fail it affects how I view myself. It affects how I react to other people. It changes my outlook on life. Small problems seem bigger. Mole hills become mountains. But when I fail it doesn’t affect how God views me. Not with Jesus by my side.

When I struggle with sin I feel hopeless and defeated. But with God there is no such thing as hopeless. Defeat isn’t in his vocabulary. When life takes different turns for me and I don’t understand how I got in the situation I’m in, I get confused and discouraged. God never gets discouraged, never gets sidetracked, never gets distracted by simple, mortal earthly things. He is on a higher plain which is unaffected by humans.

I can’t control everything that comes my way. I can’t change decisions that I’ve made in the past that haunt me now. I can’t see the future so that my choices today will guarantee my comfort or safety. I can’t control everything that comes my way…but my God can.

PRAYER: Holy Father. As the storms of life swirl around me today there will be times when fear grips me like an iron fist. Times when confusion clouds my ability to choose wisely. Times when I want to lash out rather than listen. Empower me by your Spirit during these times to be still. Even though life may be loud around me, help me to be still in your arms of safety and love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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