The Deep Divide | Problematic Politics

2020 has been a bit much. I don’t think any of us expected this year to bring all the challenges, chaos, and craziness that we are all experiencing every single day. Everything that is thrown at us seems to deepen the political divide in our nation. Add to that it’s an election year and it’s difficult to see any ending to the ceaseless arguments anytime soon.

We all have differing opinions and we are all right to have whatever opinion we hold. I’ve struggled this year because, while I do hold some opinions that differ from the popular ones in my circle, mostly I don’t see anyone seeking to understand each other. In fact, what I see most is pretty toxic.

Now, most of my social media friends hold a republican perspective, with only a few holding an opposing view. So, what I am seeing is probably not balanced, but what I see from much of the far right is presenting their viewpoint in an angry posture, attacking those who don’t agree. I would go as far as to say that much of the republican party comes across as bullies, in the past week I have seen my friends calling people, sheep, nazis, and libtards. Not just one or two people either. This display of aggression has left me grieved. I definitely struggle to see the love of Jesus in the midst of our political landscape.

Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT) A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

Proverbs 18:2 (NLT) Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

I just want to remind us of these scriptures today. Sometimes the more we talk the more damage we cause. I do believe we have a big problem in our culture today of airing our opinions, but not taking any time to understand the perspective of others. We absolutely are guilty of assuming what they believe and arguing against our own assumptions rather than their actual opinion. Perhaps that’s what makes it an argument rather than a discussion?

Here is what I know, foolish people think they have all the answers and proceed recklessly, while the wise seek to understand. I can’t help to think of what I often refer to in my own head as “new guitar player syndrome.” Many times when asking a young musician about their skill level they will broadcast that they are SO GOOD, hyping up their own abilities. Then during the audition, it becomes clear that they are actually pretty terrible. They don’t yet know enough to realize how much they still have to learn.

Here is the bottom line. When you think you are the expert, you stop learning— when really you should work the hardest to continue learning. Information is constantly changing, or flat out wrong. Our culture is constantly shifting. Forming a balanced opinion takes a lot of work. It takes genuinely listening to opposing views. It takes getting information from more than one source. Honestly, many times news networks aren’t even reporting on the same stories, and when they do it’s so different. How can anyone form a balanced belief by only listening to one side of an argument? Ask any parent with multiples kids

One final thought, and this is just something I can’t help but wonder. There is a clear divide between the younger generations and older generations. It’s only getting wider. What if it is partly because the younger is still listening and seeking to learn, while the older are more prone to filtering their information through preferred beliefs and bias? I don’t have any studies or evidence to back up my theory, just something I’m thinking about.

I hope that we can all take the path of wisdom, seek to genuinely listen and learn. I would love to see a united nation, where it’s okay to have different opinions. I would love to see discussions rather than arguments. But most of all I would love to see people of love and understanding, even in the midst of disagreement.

Heart In Action

I grew up in an environment that placed emphasis on being right with God, but little emphasis on what that looked like interacting within our world. The extent of impact from my point of view was, “tell people about Jesus.” Should we tell people about Jesus? Yes! Unequivocally, yes. However, I believe that is not the full extent of how the gospel affects our actions. 

My understanding as a kid lacked balance, what I saw demonstrated was that your prayer life was more important than the way you treated people. How you lived was only important in that you did not sin. In fact, abstaining from sin was far more important than anything else going on in the world. I was told Jesus is the solution to all the problems of the world, but never taught to get involved or to help be the solution, only to pray.

So, when you think of living the Christian life what do you think of? Do you have images of church services, singing worship songs, prayer meetings, bible studies, Christian fellowship? Those are certainly a part of the Chrisitan life, but is that the extent of the images you have? Is your mind also drawn to images of meeting needs, helping the poor, standing up for the oppressed, fighting against injustice?

I confess, too often my mind has failed to connect the second part to my faith and I fear I am not alone. Your prayer life is important. Living a holy life, free from sin is important. However, what good are your prayers and righteousness if it doesn’t drive you to take action? Is your faith only about YOU avoiding hell with no thought of the state of the world?

In the book of James he is incredibly clear that faith without works is dead, yet the message I was drawn to is that it doesn’t matter how much good you do if you don’t have a relationship with God. Now don’t get me wrong. That statement is true, but it’s unbalanced and incomplete. Out of our relationship with God, our lives should produce many good works.

Too often the world doesn’t know we are Christians by our love and the works that love produces, but by our political stances, our boycotts– honestly I’m pretty sure the church invented cancel culture– our condemnation of sins and our fight to protect our rights and religious liberties. Again, I’m not suggesting all those things are unimportant, but is it building God’s Kingdom?

We often uphold “truth in love” and “wounds of a friend” to attack those we disagree with, but the reality is we do not love them and they are not our friends. Is it possible we have a reputation for being bigoted and hateful because… we are? Do you really show love to all people? Or rather could all people feel that love from you? I can certainly remember a time in my life when I would have said, I love gay people, but they would have felt no love from our conversation. I was too afraid of affirming sin to truly demonstrate love for a gay person.

We live in a world full of political causes and stances. As a church, we tend to pick one or two and ignore the rest. I’ve seen people shamed for supporting causes other than pro-life, as if supporting something else means you don’t support life. I believe God gave us a voice and we have a responsibility to use that voice. To actively show love to our world and stand up against injustice, whatever form it takes. To reach out to the poor, the downhearted, the outcast. To actively meet the needs in our community. To live wholeheartedly for Jesus. To demonstrate to the world the love that God has for them.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of scriptures to think about.

Psalm 78:34-38 (NLT) When God began killing them, they finally sought him. They repented and took God seriously. 35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,  that God Most High was their redeemer. 36 But all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues. 37 Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.

Amos 5:23-24 ( NLT) Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.

God isn’t looking for lip service. God isn’t looking for a good church service. He is looking for people to stand up for righteousness. To truly represent Him in every corner of the earth. To have a heart for God means to have a heart in action. Let’s pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Let us spend time in His presence and may we take His presence with us everywhere we go. May the world come to know Jesus because of how we live our lives. May we actively demonstrate His love to the world, heart in action.

Life Changing Moments

We are drawn to the sensational. We love memories of significant moments and to be sure there are key moments that define our lives, or at least have the potential to. Most of us who have grown up in church have fond memories of summer camps or conferences that we look back on. The moments that challenge us, where we encountered God and left never the same.

Yet, we are also aware that most of the time those moments weren’t as life-changing as we thought. They ignited a passion inside of us for change, that within a few weeks or even days of returning to our normal routines had completely dissipated. That’s because true life-changing moments are not the big memorable moments. It’s the small moments, the small choices made consistently that mark our character.

Anyone can have an “altar experience” a moment when confronted with the truth of God’s Word, where the Father draws us and compels us to surrender ourselves to His ways, leaving our old life behind. Yet, that moment does not change you. Rather, it gives you the opportunity to change. It’s what you do when you leave the altar that truly is life transformative.

There is a story in 2 Kings chapter 5 that I love. Naaman has leprosy and travels to see the prophet Elisha in hopes of a cure. Naaman was considered an important man, yet Elisha doesn’t come to meet him, instead, sending a messenger instructing him to bathe seven times in a dirty river. Naaman is incensed.

2 Kings 5:13 (NLT) But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’”

Naaman was prepared to do something big and worthy of his station, but he was initially unwilling to do something so small and seemingly insignificant. How many times are we the same way? We have a great need from God and we pray for a miraculous moment. We need direction so we pray for divine revelation. We don’t know where to turn so we pray for divine intervention. We are often looking for big moments from our great God.

Could it be that more often God is looking for us to do something seemingly insignificant? I believe the insignificant done consistently will transform your life more than any big moment ever could. Consistent prayer and time studying God’s Word will change your life. the reason we struggle to be consistent is that we want instant results. We want to have some huge emotional experience. We want to suddenly have that lightning bolt of revelation. Those moments may come, but rarely do they come right away. True passion of pursuit is displayed over time.

This principle is the same reason many give up on their new year’s resolution to get in shape. We expect a few hard workouts at the beginning of the year to have unreal results and after a few weeks of being sore, seeing no results, we lose motivation. Physical growth and spiritual growth are not so different. It’s the consistent who see results.

I challenge you today the same way I challenge myself. Where have I become inconsistent in my daily pursuit? How often have I prayed this past week? How often did I engage in God’s Word? I believe “How often” is more important than “how long”. Start small and consistent. You can increase the length as you become more consistent.

I don’t know what you are looking for in your walk with God, what you great need is, but I am confident God can and will meet that need. Just don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep investing in your relationship with God. Keep studying His Word. Life change is not found in the big memorable moment, but rather the small everyday decision to pursue Jesus.


 

Hey, thanks for reading today’s post! I briefly talk about this concept in my latest youtube video breaking down the lyrics to my favorite song, “One” by sleeping at last. This video is also the first I’ve posted that really hits the tone and vibe I’m hoping to create on my channel. If you have a few minutes, check it out. If you find value in the video then like, comment, and subscribe- every little bit counts. Thank you guys!

Living What We Learn

If I believe what Jesus did then I will certainly do what He says. That was the thought process behind a series I recently did with our students on the teachings of Jesus. There is something so powerful and fundamental about really focusing on His teachings with the intention of applying it to our lives. Not just hearing His words, but living them.

After all, that is the difference between the wise man and the foolish man in Matthew chapter 7. (I actually recorded a sermon on this at home last month, I’ll post at the end if you want to watch it.) Both men heard the teachings of Jesus, both men built houses- or if we drop the metaphor built their lives with ever decision they made. We’re no different. We hear God’s instruction through preaching, our devotions, podcasts, blogs (thanks for reading), and more. We make decisions every day about how we will spend our time, who we will spend it with, what thoughts we will dwell upon and those decisions determine the strength of or foundation.

I’m sure, like the two men in Jesus’ story, our houses all look great. Then the storm comes and it always reveals how strong our foundation is. If we, like the wise man, have intentionally applied and lived the teachings of Jesus then our foundation is strong and the storm does not have power over us. If we are more like the foolish man and neglected to let the teachings of Jesus transform the way we live, talk and love then we find ourselves with a crumbling foundation and begin scrambling, calling out to God trying to repair it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be scrambling trying to fix my roof in the middle of a hurricane or a blizzard. I’d much rather make repairs before the storm hits. Ok, I would hire someone to make those repairs, but I can’t hire someone to fix my life. That responsibility lies with myself. Except I’m no more capable to fix my life than my roof, so I must surrender to Jesus and follow His path instead of my own.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about knowledge in the church. In my denomination, there has been a history of biblical illiteracy, valuing spiritual experience over scriptural understanding, but that is starting to change. I hope that we all continue to pursue greater knowledge of God’s great Word. However, let us be careful not to chase knowledge for the sake of knowledge. As we spend time daily in God’s Word, I pray our goal is not just to learn about God, but to let that knowledge empower us to live for God.

Psalm 86:11-13 (NLT)Teach me your ways, O Lordthat I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. 12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, 13 for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death

I love that it says, “teach me…that I may live.” If our knowledge doesn’t inform the way we live then it is completely useless, and it shows we are fools. The wise receive knowledge and live better because of it. My prayer today is that we would grow in the wisdom of God. Live by the instructions Jesus gave to us and truly be people who build the Kingdom of God.


 

If you enjoyed this blog post, then you might enjoy the message I preached last month, check it out on my youtube channel Chris E Lewis.

A Friendly Warning | New Devotions Coming Soon

I’m excited to let you know that on Sunday I will begin posting devotions again. I recently added writing back to my morning routine, because I realized it’s good for me. Devotions will be published on Sundays and Thursdays at 5:00 pm, and I’ve already written the ten posts that you’ll read during the month of August, so it’s only fair that I give you an idea of what you can expect.

Well, perhaps it’s more of a warning. Most of my content will be devotional content similar to what I’ve posted in the past. However, some of it will contain tint of challenge and underlying frustration. The reason is, well, I’ve been frustrated. A lot has happened in our world recent times and it hasn’t exactly brought out the best in everyone. Apart from that I’ve been shaken, challenged, and grown a lot in the past few years. I have a lot of thoughts that I feel like I haven’t been able to freely express.

Why? Well, honestly because as I’ve grown and challenged my thinking it’s clear that I have some beliefs that challenge the conservative Christian narrative. Now let me be clear, I am a conservative Christian. None of what I am talking about violates scripture or the core principles I’ve held most of my life. However, it definitely has challenged my approach to listening and learning. I’m at a place where I want to be challenged, because without resistance there can’t be growth. As a result of striving to really understand all sides of issues, I definitely think differently about things than many others in my circle. I’m ok with that, but it’s I don’t expect everyone in my circle to be.

Still, there are some things that I have to say. I will make my best effort to say it with grace and be as balanced and clear as I can. For a long time, I have felt like I’m only allowed to talk about political perspectives that the majority of Christian churches agree with even though I’m not convinced scripture does. The one thing I am most frustrated with is that we (and this isn’t exclusive to Christians, it might just be a natural human trait) have an incredible ability to judge differing opinions without understanding what is being said.

Romans 12:16-18 (NLT) Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

A friend of mine was having a theological debate not too long ago, but they couldn’t get anywhere. She was telling me about the theological her friend was trying to discredit and I was super confused. The idea he was fighting against wasn’t something the she nor anyone I know actually believes. My response was simply this. “So, they’re making up what you believe and arguing against it?”

“Yep.”

This is something I have seen in many disagreements in differing political and theological stances. We make assumptions about what they believe and we fight against it with all we have, never really knowing or understanding what they really believe. The conversations goes nowhere, but offenses have been created.

We also have a nasty habit of only paying attention to information, facts, and data that line up with the narrative we believe. When something goes against our belief, then we either dismiss, discredit, or distort it. We ignore it, call it false, or twist it to fit our narrative instead. It’s ok to disagree and have differing opinions, but until we learn to have honest discourse, where we can recognize opposing views as legitimate, we will only continue to create division in not only our country but our churches as well.

My heart is to see a unified body of Christ building His Kingdom. In a lot of ways, the church is becoming more unified than it has been in recent years. Some denominational boundaries are becoming less important. People are recognizing that we can learn from each other. However, as some things improve it makes the areas where things are stuck, or even moving backward, that much clearer.

Again, most of my content will still be devotional in nature. My primary objective is still to challenge us all to daily pursue Jesus, developing a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him. However, out of that relationship with Jesus, the way we interact with the world will change. It is my hope that we can show the world the love of God and maybe that starts with the way we talk to each other. If the world looks at the church and can only see our divisions, our crazy, our hatred (perceived or not) then it serves to show we have some work to do.

Honestly, at the end of the day maybe what I have to say isn’t even that controversial. What I do know is that I needed to write and it has been incredibly freeing for me to do so. If you feel inclined to read, thank you for doing so. All I ask is that you are patient with me. If I post something that you disagree with, disagree well. Respond respectfully and make every effort to respond to what I say, rather than assumptions about what I said. I’ll do the same.


Thanks so much for reading! I also just launched my youtube account TODAY where I will discuss movies, music, and life. I am hoping to create a community of hope and positivity as I discuss things I’m interested in. If you’d like to support it and check it out the link is youtube.com/chriselewis. I’ll also drop my channel trailer below. Every like, view, comment, and subscribe is a huge help.

In Case of Emergency Break Glass

We as a church are often inside a Christian bubble made of glass. We don’t realize how many very real needs there are in our communities, or sometimes even inside our church buildings. We pray as if everyone has perfect lives. This is partly because we don’t know and partly because we don’t want to know.

In times of national crisis or tragedy, you see a unifying effect. The south has recently been hit by incredible storms that have left destruction in their wake. Suddenly the whole world can see great needs and spring into action. Churches, Christians, and many great people and organizations have responded to the call for help, but why does it take such great tragedy for us to recognize needs people have?

Church, what about the spiritual need that is so desperate in our communities? Too often we become a silo Christian community and focus only on our Christian needs. Meanwhile, the world around us finds it harder and harder to believe in God. We have our church services, but what are we doing to reach our community and show them God’s love?

This is an excerpt from the prayer Jesus prayed with His disciples right before His death.

John 17:15-20 (NLT) I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.

I understand we are supposed to be separate, but it’s almost like we’re trying so hard to not be “of the world” that we’re not even in the world anymore. We are content inside our glass dome of safety. We at least we do have that sign, “In case of emergency break glass.

I am always inspired when I hear stories of how churches have helped and met needs during the difficult times these past few weeks as well as historically. However, I fear it won’t be long until we soon retreat once again into the safety of our glass bubble as things return to normal.

It is a known fact that you cannot impact people from a distance. You have to be a part of their lives. As long as we are divided they will not hear our message and we will be blinded to their great need. Yes, the spiritual climate of our nation is in a state of emergency, but because of our glass bubble we do not see it and so we remain content behind the unbroken glass.

We must break the glass. There is a high possibility that someone you talked to this week is going through something major, but you didn’t realize it. We must listen, really listen. People often understate what’s going on. They’ll casually mention something as if it is no big deal and we can just dismiss it. Or we can really hear what they said, take the time to pray with them. We must try and put ourselves in their shoes. People in our communities are broken and in desperate need of healing, but we don’t feel their pain.

In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells of a Jewish man who was beaten up and robbed. Several religious leaders walked right by him because they were too busy to help, but a man who would have been rejected by Jews stopped and helped the man in need.

Luke 10:33 (NLT)  “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.

He had compassion. We must stop turning a blind eye to the need within our cities. There are great physical, emotional and spiritual needs that we are uniquely qualified to meet. We are the only ones who can lead people to Jesus. If we remain silent, locked away in a glass bubble of separation, we rob the world of hope.

This is not a drill!

Eternity hangs in the balance. This is life and death, heaven and hell.

Together let’s rise up and break the glass.

Unfinished

Do you remember all the times you started something only to not finish? Books? TV Shows? Writing assignments? Building projects? Cleaning? There are many reasons why we might not finish something. We’re busy people! We have lives and the when unexpected comes up we have to give up other things to accommodate. Let’s be honest though, most of the time we don’t finish because we lose interest, it’s challenging or just plain old fashioned neglect.

I’ve started writing several devotions this week, only to end up putting them in the trash, forever unfinished. They either weren’t good, or they just weren’t coming together. The inspiration for the idea never fully hit. Is there anything more unsatisfying than leaving something undone?

I was finding myself completely frustrated since I like to have 10 devotions written in advance. And I was watching the number dwindle 8…7…6 scheduled posts. Even today’s devotion I started it, only to come back a week later to try and finish it. At one point I cried out, “Lord, why can’t I finish anything? I’m so glad You’re not like me” That was an encouraging thought, God never leaves anything unfinished!

Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

At various points in my life, I have been discouraged. I’ve felt like I’m not making as much progress in my spiritual life as I should be. Admittedly, at times that feeling could be contributed to my own personal neglect of my spiritual life. Other times though I’ve felt like I’m doing everything I should be doing, but still not going anywhere! It’s hard at times not to feel like God’s forgotten us.

Then I remember His Word. God will complete the work. It sometimes takes longer than we expected. A few months ago I was crying out to the Lord about this exact thing and I felt Him speak to me, “I will lead you. I will guide you, but right now I want you to enjoy My presence.” Sometimes in our urgency to feel useful we forget to just enjoy time with our Heavenly Father.

I believe it is when we simply trust in Him, rest in Him and abide in Him that He truly begins to work in our lives, shaping us into the person He created us to be. Preparing us for the Work He has given to us.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

1 John 2:27 (NKJV) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Don’t lose heart. Continue to pray for opportunities to do His will. You are not forgotten. You are a valued child of the King. God won’t leave you unfinished! You are created in His image and as we continue to abide in Him, He continues to make us reflect His image more and more.

Maybe you’ve been feeling as if you aren’t fulfilling your purpose lately. Can I encourage you? It’s ok! We all have seasons of restlessness. Continue to abide in His presence. Enjoy time with God and He will continue to teach you what you need in order to do the work He’s called you to do.

Afraid of the Dark

Remember as a child being afraid of the dark? It was always worse when my closet was left half way open. I could kind of see in, but I couldn’t see clearly. Just shadows and shapes combined with my imagination and I was certain there was a beast ready to devour my soul. In those times I would go wake up my Mom, not my Dad, so I could sleep on the floor next to their bed. I knew I was safe next to my parents. If I woke up my Dad he would take me back to my room, pray with me and leave me to the darkness. I liked Mom’s way more, but his solution was probably the better one.

I think there are times in our Christian faith where we need to retreat into the shadow of our Mighty God and there are other times where we need to recognize the light He’s placed within us and face the surrounding darkness!

Ephesians 5:8-13 (NLT) For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

I love that it says we should carefully determine what pleases the Lord. What a marvelous thing to consider. Our decisions are not our own to simply make as we please, but to prayerfully consider if He is pleased. Light does not join with the darkness, rather it exposes what lies in the darkness. It’s a scary thing when the lines between the churchgoer and the nonbeliever are blurred.

What’s so great about light is that you absolutely cannot hide it. Light always stands out in the darkness and that makes people uncomfortable. Ever been in a room and suddenly a bright light appears? You instinctively squint.

I remember being in a really nice room that had great soft lighting. One day someone turned on the big lights instead of the atmospheric lights and the room changed. The floors were dingy and the walls were pretty scratched up. None of that was noticeable before.

We are sometimes afraid to go into the dark for those very reasons. When people are exposed to your light they may give you some funny looks. They may also see aspects of their lives in a less satisfying way, but that doesn’t mean you dim your brightness. Light absolutely exposes flaws, but until things are seen they can’t be challenged. We must shine so they can see Jesus all the more clearly.

Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT) So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The question then becomes how visible is your light? Is it blinding or is it dimming? The scripture clearly instructs us to make the most of every opportunity. Rather than acting thoughtlessly, we are to operate in wisdom and understanding of the Lord’s plans. That only comes from carefully studying His Word and choosing to invest your time in the presence of the Lord. Do you fill your life up with worldly things or with the Holy Spirit?

There are many things that can dim our light. Participating in sinful deeds clearly diminishes our light to the point of being barley visible, but there are other things that can make our light less attractive. Negative attitudes and complaining will quickly turn people away from whatever truth you have to offer. Constantly being consumed with worry and fear will make people wonder why they should trust God when you clearly don’t.

So often the solution for some of these things is exactly what is prescribed in the Scripture. Singing songs and giving thanks to the Lord. Remembering all we have to be thankful for diminishes our focus on negativity and complaining. Reminding ourselves of all the Lord has done reestablishes our trust in Him that He will continue to be faithful.

We are not called to hide from the dark, but to courageously charge in sharing the light of Jesus with the world. This is a call to all Christians to stop hiding from the darkness, but to boldly shine bright so the world can see the fullness and beauty of Jesus.

A God Kind of Love

When you were young did you ever find yourself imitating your parents? It’s funny sometimes how kids will want to be just like their parents. Sometimes they admit it, other times they don’t realize it, or if they do they try to hide it. I remember once I was with my Dad at a friends house watching the Seminole/Gator game, yea it’s a big deal cause he’s a HUGE Noles fan. I was just casually sitting there with my hands behind my head and I looked over and saw my Dad sitting the exact same way! Naturally, I changed positions. I’m pretty sure my Dad called me out on that, “Caught yourself sitting like your Dad huh?”

We all have someone we look up to and want to be like. Hopefully, the One you most greatly want to imitate is God!

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT) Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

This scripture instructs us to imitate our Heavenly Father! It then immediately tells us to live a life of love. Why is the Bible so insistent that we love one another? Have you ever noticed how often it mentions that we are to love each other?

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There are plenty of other examples, but it is clear God wants us to love each other! It actually says in the last verse that our LOVE will by how the world knows we belong to Jesus. I think a non-believer would be offended by that because let’s be honest, there are a lot of great communities of people out there that show love. Truthfully, there are some groups that are better at loving and more accepting than many churches. We don’t have a reputation for love, we have a reputation for rejection.

I’ve never been one to care about reputation. What I care about is obeying scripture and I’m called to love people. Not only that but Jesus said to love each other “Just as I have loved you”. Ephesians 5:1 told us not only to live a life filled with love, but a love that follows the example of Christ who loved us and gave His life as a sacrifice.

The love of the Christian should stand out because it isn’t just a warm feeling, but a love that will drive us to a lifestyle of self-sacrifice. Within the church, that might mean laying down your opinion or preferences for the sake of being unified in mission. I assure you when the world looks at a church divided and full of conflict they want no part.

Outside of the church, it means reaching out and demonstrating love to all people, even when it is inconvenient. We can’t just live our lives in tiny boxes and say that this time is for evangelism and this time is just for me. We must be open at all times because we never know when divine opportunity will strike.

It is wrong to say we love sinners if we never do anything to demonstrate our love for them. Love not acted upon is just words and words alone have never changed the world. It’s time we rise up with a God kind of love. The kind of love that boldly and unashamedly laid down His very life for the sake of humanity. I’m not suggesting we should make ourselves martyrs, only that we think a little less of ourselves and our own satisfaction and consider the needs of our community. Those we sit across from at Starbucks. What needs might our coworkers have that they’ve kept to themselves because you weren’t interested enough to ask?

Love is the very thing that identifies us as Christ follower.

Today I encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I do to demonstrate Christ’s love to the world?”

More Than a Moment

Moments are powerful. At any given moment we are full of emotions, our mind consumed with events, people, concerns, fights, worry, conflict, pain. In the heat of these moments, we often make decisions that satisfy our emotions. Turns out they’re not always the best decisions. Though they feel good for a moment, many times they don’t help our situation. In fact, they can sometimes prolong conflict.

Maturing is learning that life is more than this moment. The choices we make NOW actually affect far beyond what we think. Every decision we make has a consequence in tomorrow. Often we think one small choice won’t affect that much, but those same small choices made over and over again are what determine who we are, our character and who we will become.

It is imperative we learn to look beyond the now. How will our choices affect our friendships 3 months from now? How will the way we are talking to our family affect things 3 years from now? As Christians, we even have to think about the eternal consequences. Our choices could impact someone’s eternal decision to live for Jesus.

Brian thought Johnny was annoying. He went out of his way to avoid Johnny whenever he could, but somehow Johnny always tracked him down to tell him about the most minute development in his life. They had gone to school together for 5 years and other than being in the same class, much of the time they never really hung out. Johnny was quirky and often the brunt of jokes from other kids. Brian saw him as an inconvenience. He was too nice to just brush Johnny off, but he didn’t make any great effort to befriend him. He never asked Johnny any questions or invited him to church. Brian just tolerated him.

Johnny had a hard life. He knew he was different and that people didn’t want to be around him, even his own family seemed to hate him. Johnny felt as though he only had one friend, Brian. One day Johnny gave Brian a note that changed everything. It wasn’t a big moment, just a simple comment. The simply note read,

“Thanks for being my friend. I don’t have many. Your friendship probably saved my life.”

Brian had only ever seen Johnny as someone he tolerated. It never occurred to him that Johnny really saw him as a friend.  Brian began to realize that what he saw as an inconvenience was actually an opportunity for influence. As his perspective began to change Brian invited Johnny to church where he quickly became a faithful lover of Jesus.  Johnny eventually became a Pastor with a big heart to reach those who feel unloved.

Many times our greatest opportunities come disguised as an inconvenience. It wasn’t in our plans to help that person. We had other things we would rather be doing. Spending time with that person might damage our reputation. Too often we pray for opportunities to impact people for Jesus and when they come we miss them because it meant changing our plans. We aren’t always prepared to accommodate God’s plans.

Philippians 3:18-20 (NLT)  For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

Today I encourage you to look beyond how things will affect you in the moment and look to eternity. We should be much more consumed with the eternal consequences of each moment for those the Lord brings into our path than we should our lunch plans. We are citizens of Heaven, everything we do represents Jesus.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT) Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

I’ve heard many times growing up that the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity. We need to always be ready let go of our plans and embrace divine opportunities.