Love?

For Valentines Day, Here is a look at a great definition of “Love” I like this translation from “The Message”
Corinthians 13:3-7

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

May seem an impossible task, but if you ever want direction on how to improve your relationship with your significant other, start at “Love Never Gives Up”  and work down.
I hope your Valentines Day is Special….

IS BEHAVING LIKE A CHILD THE KEY TO ACCESSING THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

“Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”Luke 18:17 (MSG)

So how does one receive the Kingdom of God like a child? What if we think about receiving the Kingdom of God as something like getting a birthday gift from someone when we were a child. Here is this shiny wrapped up gift. We do not know for sure what is inside. Has any child ever looked a wrapped gift presented to them and said without opening it, sorry I don’t want it, I don’t deserve it, take it back. So a person has heard the Gospel, acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and Saviour yet when offered the wonderful gift of God’s grace they turn their backs and say no thanks. No I am not good enough to serve God. I am too old to serve God now. I am too poor to serve God. I do not have the time to serve God. All these reasons and any other excuse we give, is us handing back that beautiful present,
unopened and without knowing what may be inside once unwrapped. See we have to accept that gift of  grace. That is what helps lead us into doing what God would have us do and becoming who God would have us become. M. Robert Mulholland Jr gives insight;

In the final analysis, there is nothing we can do to transform ourselves into persons who love and serve as Jesus did except make ourselves available for God to do that work of transforming grace in our lives.

So we need to tear the bow and wrapping paper off, open up the free gift of grace that is given to us. That is how we not only gain access to, but become an active participant in Gods Kingdom. See Jesus is standing, holding this great big, beautiful wrapped up gift. He calls everyone no matter what their social, health, or economic status is. “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus at the same time gives a warning “do not hinder them.” The obvious message is for his disciples to allow the children to approach Jesus and receive a blessing. We as followers of Christ should also take care that nothing we do hinders anyone from access to Gods Kingdom. As discussed earlier, no one is unimportant and all have access to Jesus. This open invitation should include all,
without restriction. If we are including all, then certainly we must include ourselves. So each person may need to reflect on the question, is there anything that is hindering my own participation in the Kingdom of God? Are there any preconceived ideas that turn me away from a truth or truths of Gods Kingdom? It should be important that all believers attempt to not allow what they “like” to determine how they worship, praise and serve God. That is a challenge for many, but I believe that it should be related to the “do not hinder” warning Jesus gives us. So in summary what did I discern from the lesson Jesus gave speaking of the children? All are welcomed into the Kingdom of God. The realization that all we have is dependent on God opens up the door to accessing the work of his transforming grace. Once we allow this work to begin we should be on guard for anything that could stop us from being and becoming what God wants us to be.

Coincidence or Godcidence?

Julyvac2012 003 How often do you have something happen that just seems too odd to be accounted for by just blind happenstance? You think of someone you have not seen or thought of in a long time and soon after you see them. Two total strangers meet and discover there is a connection between them that neither knew about. You are short money that is needed urgently for something important, like the rent. Suddenly extra income or a gift is given that is exactly or close to the amount that was needed. Have you had something like this happen to you? Sometimes this run of coincidence is negative. In my local area recently an elderly driver ran a stop sign and hit a car being driven by a young unlicensed driver. Of all the vehicles on the road circumstances put these two people together at a moment of time which resulted in this vehicular accident. So not only good things, but bad things happen that can cause you to pause and think, what are the odds of that happening? Ok, I confess I don’t call these things that happen in my life coincidences anymore. I call them “Godcidcences.” Yes, I am an Evangelical Christian. No, I do not have it all figured out. But I do know who does, God.

 James 4:13-15 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

What I have found in my life is that if give control of my life over to Jesus, things just happen that you can not explain other than God is working his plan out and I am lucky to be a small part of it.

 Phillipians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

No this does not mean my life is without problems or times of trouble. What it means to me is that in all things I want to try to honor God. When things go the way I want and when things go badly I strive to keep God first. What I would like to do now is to just tell the latest Godcidcence that happened to me. Those who know me are aware I have just resigned from a job to relocate with my wife to a new state. (Total honesty we have owned a condo in a beach area for a couple of years and decide to make the move earlier, rather than wait to retire there in three-five years) So as of December 22nd, you could count me among the unemployed. I had an interview for a part-time job that had been rescheduled, at my request, several times. It is a group interview, myself and three other men.

During this process I find somethings out about the younger man next to me;

  • He was brought to the interview by his mother.
  • He is hungry. No time for breakfast and will be happy for the lunch break.
  • He is living about 15 minutes away from where I live.
  • We all get offered a job, he is excited about staying for training that afternoon.

I make an offer to take him home after the training is done.  Hoping to save his mother from having to hang out until we are done.(four-five hours later.) Oh yeah, she lives about an hour and a half away from the interview site. So while commuting to the training site and then on the drive home we share more about our lives.

  • He went to church over the holidays and he asked God for a job. He had mentioned several times during the day what a “blessing” this day turned out to be.
  • He saw my Phillies key chain and asked if I was a Phillies fan. His mother moved with him out of the Philly area so of course he is a fan of all the Philly teams.
  • On the way home (no I did not make a detour!) we went by the church my wife and I attend, and just mentioned it to him. “That’s where we go to church.”
  • His girl works right next door to where I live so I dropped him off there.

Oh yeah, as he got out of my vehicle he asked if I had a card or something with the church phone number on it. I said no, why do you want that, to find out the service times? Yes that was it, so I wrote the times down for him.
(Forgetting that I did have the phone number in my cell phone, in my jacket pocket.)
So what does all this mean? I have not a clue. I know I am not going to be searching for hidden meanings or thinking I get extra points for playing taxi for someone who needed it. All I know is that for that 30-45 minutes I got to know someone a little bit. Someone God put into my path for some reason. In that time God showed me once again that he is in control. Now if I can just keep from getting in the way God will work out his plan for my life.

   “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

What is your Hope this Christmas Season?

So when you hear the word “Hope” what do you think of? To me, hope means looking towards something. “I hope I find a job soon.” “I hope I get everything done I need to get done today.” I hope we’ll have enough money to retire.” “ I hope the pastor is not long-winded today” We all hope for different things, at different times in our lives. So what are you hoping for this Christmas season? When I was a child, I know I was always hoping to get that one special gift at Christmas. How many people, not only children are hoping to get that special present under the tree this year. How many people don’t realize that the most precious gift of all, has been given to us a long time ago, in a manger, in Bethlehem. Now the Jewish people had been hoping for the Messiah to come to their world. Most Jewish people are still “hoping” for the Messiah to come. So are they hoping in vain? Do we ever hope for something that we really don’t think can happen, but we are going to hold out hope for what some would call a miracle. Jesus has already paid the price for us, by going to the cross. When Jesus died on that cross, what kind of hope did his followers have? What kind of hope do you think Peter had, Peter who had declared to Jesus, Jesus yes, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Matthew 16:16 What do you think he was hoping for? Is this all just a bad dream, we’ll wake up and Jesus will still be here with us. What do you think his mother Mary was hoping for as she watched the son she gave birth to, that an angel foretold her would be the son of God, die on the cross. What was she hoping for at that moment. It really can make you think, what would I have done if I was there. What would I have been hoping for?
I think everyone needs hope, if you have ever been around a person who has lost their hope, you know that person can be in serious trouble, mentally and physically….. I pray you haven’t had the experience of being without hope. It is a scary place to be. Yet why do some people lose hope? In my opinion, the main reason people lose hope, is that they have never accepted Jesus into their hearts. Or if they did, then for whatever the reason, somehow living in this broken world, they forgot about that precious gift that came into the world to save them, Jesus. With everything going on around us, if we don’t keep Jesus centered in our life, in our hearts, we start to lose focus on what is important, and when that happens we begin to lose hope, the hope of being who we were created to be, our hope in the Kingdom of God. See that should be our ultimate hope, that some day we will be raised to new life. Yet until that day we need to keep our hope alive doing whatever task God has given us to do, today, in God’s Kingdom. See God is multidimensional he is not confined to our dimension. He Was, He Is, and He Shall Be…….. So while living out our hope in today’s world, we also should place our trust and hope in the day that Jesus comes back to redeem his people. His people, like me and like you. YES YOU!
Jesus was asked by his disciples about how will they know when the end times are coming. This scripture is part of Jesus response to that question. Luke 21:25-29
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

So is that something we hope for? Jesus’s triumphant return. That is the ultimate climax of God’s creation. That is the ultimate destination for creation. It should be our ultimate hope, a new heaven and a new earth when Jesus returns. The necessity of Jesus returning to Earth for the final battle of all creation is a basic premise of our Christian faith. Just as Christ defeated sin and death in his resurrection, he must return to claim the ultimate victory over sin and death in this broken world. Is that something we are hoping for? Why should we, as followers of Jesus, living in today’s reality, even care about the end times, or what theologians call eschatology? After all didn’t Jesus give clear warnings about the futility of anyone knowing, or trying to figure out when he will return. Mark 13:32 “No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The resurrected Jesus gives another warning, Acts 1-7 “It is not for you to know the times or dates, the Father has set by his own authority.” Hope! I think hope is the answer to the question of why we, as Christians should care about eschatology. What happens when Jesus returns, and who is saved are questions that have been debated for almost 2,000 years. The timing of when this happens, I believe, should not be a dominate concern for us as Christians. What should be paramount is taking the hope of this new heaven, out into the broken world of today, “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions,and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:12-13 That hope is has always been a foundation of God’s plan of salvation for the world .” I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isiah 46:10 In his book, Surprised by Hope, NT Wright gives his thoughts on God’s ultimate plan:

God’s design was to rule creation in life-giving wisdom through his image-bearing human creatures. But this was always a promise for the future, a promise that one day the true human being, the image of God himself, God’s incarnate son, would come to lead the human race into their true identity. Meanwhile, the creation was subjected to futility, to transient and decay, until the time when God’s children are glorified, and what happened to Jesus at Easter, happens to all Jesus’s people.

So if we are to rely on God’s infinite love for all his creation to ultimately save our souls, what good does it do us attempting to model our lives after Jesus? Grace is always the answer to our salvation, no matter when it is given. We can do nothing to ensure our salvation. It rest’s entirely in God’s hands. This hope we have, that ultimately a loving God cares enough about each individual to give them eternal life, needs to be expressed daily in the lives we live. “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:21 Even though we are saved by Grace and not works, each person will be judged according to their works. That is the catch twenty-two of Christianity. Let’s listen to the thoughts of  A.W. Tozer on this subject:

Does this mean that the redeemed man has no responsibility to God for his conduct? Does it mean that now that he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ he will never be called to account for his deeds? God forbid! How could the moral governor of that universe release a segment of that universe from the moral law of deeds and consequences and hope to uphold the order of the world?

Clearly it does matter what we as Christian’s do! “You see that a person is justified by what he does, and not by faith alone.” “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Both these verses from the book of James, echo what should be apparent to those seeking to follow Jesus. Christianity in today’s society must include a large dose of doing! These good works, should grow out of the Hope we carry in our hearts, for that glorious day when Christ returns. The good news of the Gospel must be taken out into our world, by our actions and our words. Ultimately we will be judged on what we accomplish.  Romans 2:6 “God will give to each person according to what he has done.”  I pray that when the new heaven and new earth arrives I will have been a beacon of hope for my earthly domain.  Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”
So if this is God’s ultimate plan, and we are Jesus’s people, we need to carry this hope with us at all times. Because it is this Hope, the Hope of the Birth of the Jesus, The Hope of what Jesus did on the Cross, The Hope of the Resurrection on Easter Morning, The Hope of Jesus returning, All this hope, we need to not only carry with us, but with this much Hope it should overflow from our souls, so those who don’t know this hope, this Hope in Jesus will see it in us.
1 John 3:3  

“All who have this hope in him purify themselves,just as he is pure.”

Expectations In Prayer.

So when we pray what are our expectations? Even more important, what is your expectation?

When I say prayer, what comes to your mind? ……. Remember we are all created a little different so there are going to be different answers. And also because there are different types of prayers. For me, what I usually think of is asking God for something….. and a lot of the time it’s me asking God for something for me….. That’s known as supplication prayers. We are asking God for or about something that is personal to us.

I think most everyone can relate to that. Sometimes especially in a church setting, we pray for other people, who are usually in some type of need. Some of us do that in our daily prayers, we not only ask about personal things important to us, but we ask for God to bless or heal or protect other people. I can tell you personally when you know someone is putting you into their personal prayer life it really causes you to appreciate what being a member of the Kingdom of God is. When we prayer for other people God says yes, that is what I want my church, my body to do. So lets look at a short Scripture that gives an example of an intercessory prayer.

Acts 12:5 But while Peter was in prison the church prayed very earnestly for him. 

I just want to give a little back drop of what is going on here with Peter. James the brother of John had recently been killed by King Herod. The Jewish people were pleased with that, so King Herod seized Peter. He is in prison, being guarded by 16 guards. Now this was not a good situation for the believers. One leader James, killed, another in prison Peter, awaiting the same fate. So what did this body of believers do? They knew it was going to be up to God to save Peter so they prayed. How did they pray? Very Earnestly…. What this Scripture says to me is that they knew it was going to be up to God to save Peter. There was little if anything else they could do. Isn’t that what prayer is for? When we don’t have the answers…… When the outcome doesn’t look good….. We pray…. But do we really believe our prayers will be answered? Did this body of believers who were very earnestly praying for God to intervene and save Peter, believe that their prayers would be answered? So God sends an angel who delivers Peter from this prison. Peter heads for where he knows other believers will be gathered and knocks on a door at an outer gate, a servant girl answers sees that it is Peter… gets so excited leaves poor Peter still outside the gate, and runs to the house and announces Peter is outside…… So what do these people who have been praying for Peter do?

Acts 12:15-16 “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “it must be his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him they were amazed.

So the people praying for Peter to be delivered from prison, have their prayers answered and then basically say, na…. it can’t really be Peter, after all he’s in prison with lots of guards.

Do we pray because that’s what we as Christians are suppose to do? It says right here in the bulletin… Prayer so we pray, right? Or do we pray with an expectation that God will answer our prayers. And when God does answer our prayers instead of being amazed what if we just offered up more prayers… this time with Adoration and Thanksgiving….. God you are amazing…. as creator of this wonderful world that is full of your glory, you love me enough to hear and answer the prayer of a sinner like me. Or what if we didn’t wait until God answered our prayer to say thank you. What if we started thanking him for answering our prayer, right after we prayed it? And continued thanking him for answering our prayer until it is answered. What if we got out of bed and said Thank you God for who and what you are…… Sometimes we get the idea that our prayers should be at a special time or need to have a special format. No!!!

God wants to hear from you and me….. When? Always…… Lets look at another Scripture

Ephesians 6:18 (NLT) Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Ephesians 6:18 (The Voice) Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every-way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed.

So here is Paul writing to the church in Ephesus and with these few lines I believe Paul has given us a great lesson on how we should practice our prayer life. First when should we pray?

ALWAYS!! AT ALL TIMES!!

What do we need to do if we want our prayers to have the impact they should have. First Paul tells us what God has given to help guide us. His Holy Spirit….. (pray in the Spirit) So have we activated the Holy Spirit before we begin our prayers? As believers we carry the Holy Spirit/God with us, inside of us, kind of like the systems they have in new cars. On-Star…..

Yes the car has On-star, but you have to activate it before you want it to do something for you. Yes I know if you are in a crash it will call for help on its own…… Kind of like the Holy Spirit if you are faced with an emergency situation. The God who lives inside each one of his believers will act to protect those who need his protection, but I believe in our every day “normal” lives as “stuff” happens we may have to just push that On button so we can be sure the Holy Spirit is activated and ready to go as we begin our prayer…… Some may say, I don’t need to have the Holy Spirit active to pray. I would agree with that statement. Lots of people pray to and for lots of things…. “ Free Dictionary.com definition…. Pray To utter or address a prayer or prayers to God, a god, or another object of worship.” See you don’t have to be a Christian to pray. Anyone can pray for anything! However as a Christian you have access not to a god, but to the one true God. Since we have access to the one true God, don’t we want to make sure that connection is as strong as it can be. See we have God with us in the form of his Spirit, so why not take advantage of it! Ok so how do we activate the Holy Spirit? Just ask for It’s guidance…. that is a reason the Holy Spirit was given to us, to help guide us. So don’t be afraid to ask for something you already have….. Just a short petition at the start of your prayers, “Dear Lord I ask for your Spirit to guide me………. “

Paul exhorts the church at Ephesus and us as believers today, Pray Always, Pray in the Spirit!

So is Paul just trying to make a point by saying “always”, or does he really expect us as believers to go around praying all day, everyday. It is my belief that God wants us to always be praying with Him. Really when you get down to it prayer is really just talking with God. We carry God with us by the Holy Spirit, so God is right there. I mean if you’re walking along with someone, don’t you carry on a conversation? Of course God wants us to pray when we gather as believers in corporate worship. He wants us to say small prayers to him all day long. Just thank him, just ask for his blessing on people that pass by…. That is something I have gotten in the habit of. Walking around as a mailman you see all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. I offer up prayers of blessing or protection for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. Why, because I know that God loves all people, and God’s word tells us to pray just look at the last sentence from the last scripture I read. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed. So be on the lookout, and keep praying feverishly, cause evil has not been stayed yet, and won’t be stayed until Jesus returns to claim God’s Kingdom here on earth!   

Keep Praying…..