Today my sweet sisters in Christ Jesus I want to explore with you Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi found in Philippians 2:1-11. The church was experiencing many of the same challenges you and I face as believers. Conflict, unforgiveness, pride, selfish ambition, vain conceit, dislike, and false teaching had found it way into the church.
Paul opens his letter in this way… “Therefore, if there is any encouragement and comfort in Christ as there certainly is in abundance, if there is any consolation, comfort, support of love, if there is any fellowship that we share in the Spirit, if there is any great depth of tenderness, affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love toward one another, knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose and living a life that reflects your faith and spreads the gospel—the good news regarding salvation through faith in Christ.” Verses 1-2 personalized Paul is pleading with them to resolve the tension and seek to heal any brokenness found. He says if that can be accomplished it will make his joy complete (verse 2).
Paul further describes the condition of the church with these words “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit through factional motives, or strife, but with an attitude of humility being neither arrogant nor self-righteous, regard others as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”( verses 3-4)
Put simply you cannot claim to love God and dislike, hold bitterness for others. The question arises “Why do people do the things they do?” I believe that we have not fully comprehended the suffering and sacrifice Christ made for us…that day on the cross in which supernatural love was poured out for us…Loving others is so costly only Jesus’s costly love for us can move us to bear the cost. Jesus has a radical love for us! This love is so profound, so expense…it is a mystery so deep we can only know it in our spirit! If we can grab hold of this love, we will be so rich in love we will be forever changed, unable to dislike or hold bitterness. In our humanness…our mind and body cannot ever understand! This love is spiritual and supernatural! When we step into this love it is spiritually supercharged.
I want to try and bridge our lack of understanding by helping you and I to understand exactly what Jesus did that day. Most of us can easily say these words “Jesus suffered and died on the cross for me” however that is so limited. The depth of Jesus’s love for us is revealed on the cross not so much in the physical suffering but in how society looked at this form of death. What does it cost for God to love us? We know He sent His only Son to earth for the purpose of leading us in knowing God and restoring his relationship with us, revealing who we really are and redeeming us through Jesus’s death. Philippians 2:6-8TPT says “He existed in the form of God, yet he gave no thought to seizing equality with God as his supreme prize. Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant to be exploited. He became human! He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man and was obedient. He was a perfect example, even in his death—a criminal’s death by crucifixion!”
The cross was consider to be the most degrading form of death, the people of Jesus time saw crucifixion differently; the Jews saw it as being cursed by God, ultimate insult, shunned; the Romans used it much like the Mexican cartels today who hang their victims in a public place as if to say “don’t mess with us”; the Greeks saw it as humiliating, scandalous, disgraceful, further evidence that God could care less about humanity; to all it was an abomination, degradation, torture fit only for a slave. There is no other death in which the individual’s life could be destroyed that has the same impact and yet Jesus took the weight of the world, the sin and suffered this for you and me. I don’t know about you but just writing these words is making me nauseas and tearful.
What great love…I will never fully comprehend while I walk this earth. This is where love is revealed…we must let this revelation lead us into understanding how much we are loved and redeemed by a risen Lord. And for this reason alone…verse 9-11TPT says “Because of that obedience, God exalted him and multiplied his greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names! The authority of the name of Jesus causes every knee to bow in reverence! Everything and everyone will one day submit to this name—in the heavenly realm, in the earthly realm, and in the demonic realm. And every tongue will proclaim in every language: “Jesus Christ is Lord Yahweh,” bringing glory and honor to God, his Father!”
You see, the Father, the Creator of us all acknowledges what Jesus has done for love! We are rich in love! And so now I leave you with this question can you love as He did? Philippians 2:5 leaves us with these words…”And consider the example that Jesus, the Anointed One, has set before us. Let his mindset become your motivation.”
Blessings, Sister Laurie
This writing came to me after watching a teaching on Real Love by Pastor Akshay Rajkumar the lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in New Delphi, India. It is available on RightNow Media.com
Friendship is a precious part of life. Real joy comes from friendships established with Jesus Christ at the center. Much like marriage God has a plan for true friendship. God put it on Pau’s heart to l write to us in Philippians about the significance of God centered relationships. Our friendships should be a reflection of our relationship with Christ.
Today, social media has changed the face of relationships, instead of personal interaction…sharing a coffee or meal, watching a movie, taking a walk or just quietly sitting together enjoying someone company our relationships have been reduced to how many likes our post, tweet, photo receive. Social media is a platform to create a fantasy, a false you. How many of you have observed someone creating an untrue image, an exaggerated condition, even a totally made-up situation to gain attention. People are using social media to hide what’s really happening, they filter their photos so that people can’t see their true self. Suicide has risen because people have become isolated using social media to express some of what they are feeling yet those responding somehow are unable to decipher their true desperation, their feelings of hopelessness. We answer with an “I Care” emoji, or even “I’m praying for you” these empty responses are so swallow without any true cost. Texting is causing indifference and further isolation. There is a price in godly relationships…time, comfort, even financial at times. What if when that distressing tweet, post, text came to your attention you got in your car and showed up? It is in our nature to gather, have physical contact, true affection, pray together, share our sorrow…this is friendship.
Before we take a look at Paul’s opening words in his letter to the Philippians let me share a little background about this intimate letter of love and friendship. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was in prison, he had visited and established a church in Philippi among the gentiles which within itself is one of God’s miracles, Paul was a Pharisee before coming to Christ and the people in Philippi were gentiles so a relationship between these two was very unlikely in fact gentiles where seen as unclean. Yet God’s love and truth broke the social barrier creating a deep love for these people in Paul. True friendship and love between believers cannot been attached to a worldly perspective.
1-2 Paul and Timothy, both of us committed servants of Christ Jesus, write this letter to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi, pastors and ministers included. We greet you with the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does! Philippians 1:1-8MSG
Paul understands the value of friendship, he recognizes how the relationship he has with God and the tangible friendships…better said love and affection he shares for those dear friends in Philippi have sustained him during his imprisonment and trial. Our love for Jesus should be reflected in our friendships. This is why, it is so important to gather and fellowship with other believers only they can fill the need for friendship as God designed. When we have a friendship with someone which is like minded in their belief in Jesus, it deepens our relationship with God and allows our true beauty and purpose to emerge.
It saddens me greatly when I see bitterness and misunderstanding between believers, how can we possible say we love God and yet hold grudges, offense and jealousy in our hearts. The answer is we cannot. I urge you my sister to seek out broken friendships and mend them. Start praying that God might lead you and if a softening is needed that the Holy Spirit would work in both of you.
Sometimes guilt or shame is holding you back from forgiveness. These are two very different feelings; guilt is focused on something we have done, while shame focuses on the person…self. Shame says something is wrong with me. As women shame is fed by a misconception or confusion tied to our identity. It is a constant feeling that we are not good enough. This is bound to a worldly perspective, a lie of the enemy, an experience. Shame is an epidemic effecting everyone…it is everywhere, every nation, every culture it is related to addiction, depression, violence, homosexuality, bullying, aggression, eating disorders, suicide and more.
The righteousness we find through Jesus Christ is the antidote for shame. Shame is the opposite of righteousness. Look at what shame did for Adam and Eve, filled with shame they, hide from God, covered their bodies, they felt they had to protect themselves from God. This is Satan’s trap, a weapon shrewdly used. Shame has destroyed the beauty God intended for friendship, fellowship, intimacy with God and people. BUT God has given us the fruit of righteousness that is to be “right with God”. Isaiah 32:17-18 says “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful surrounding, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places.” This kind of life and friendship is available to us right now.
Now think of your relationship with God…If your relationship with Him is fractured how can you fully embrace and receive what He did for you on the cross? How can He help you mend and restore broken relationships? How can you love and sustain godly friendships? Right now, go before your Heavenly Father and ask Him to forgive you and reveal hidden shame that is affect your ability to love as He loves you. Speak with confidence and proclaim who you are in Jesus, immerse yourself in godly music, fellowship, study, and prayer. Give the enemy no room to corrupt who God says you are.
Dear Sisters…Paul prayed this prayer for his friends, his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and now I pray it for you my dear sisters in Christ Jesus…”So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11MSG
Blessings, Sister Laurie
This writing came to me after watching a teaching on Real Friendship by Pastor Akshay Rajkumar the lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in New Delphi, India. It is available on RightNow Media.com
“To live like this is all the more urgent, for time is running out and you know it is a strategic hour in human history. It is time for us to wake up! For our full salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns. So, we must once and for all strip away what is done in the shadows of darkness, removing it like filthy clothes. And once and for all we clothe ourselves with the radiance of light as our weapon.” Romans 13:11-12 TPT
Today, I am continuing in Romans 13…there is so much to embrace! I don’t know about you but I don’t want to find my self saying “Oh Crap!” as our King comes to carry me home. How about you? There is no doubt that I will be take home either through my flesh dying or in the twinkling of as eye with others. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead who believed in Christ will be raised imperishable, and we will be completely changed wondrously transformed.” 1 Corinthian 15:52 AMP Will there be a moment when we say “But I…” “Just one more…” That’s where the “Oh Crap” comes in. I don’t know but if there is a possibility of that feeling or emotional I do not want it! I want to be able to say…”I AM READY!”
In Romans 13 it says “Night’s darkness is dissolving away as a new day of destiny dawns.” What is this darkness? The darkness is unbelief…the darkness is lukewarmness…the darkness is persecution. The darkness is every kind of conflict, natural catastrophe, calamity, and war. Jesus speaks of these in Matthew 24, it is the darkness of the present hour. How do you receive these words? Does it put a sense of urgency in your spirit? This is truth…one way or another a new day for you and I is coming, it is about to burst forth…the long night of this earthly existence is almost over. When you think about eternity which you and I are currently living; let me explain…eternity started the moment God placed your spirit within your flesh growing in your mother. Psalm 139:13-14 That spirit…the true you was created by God and it continues now. When you except Christ as your Savior it like an electrical shock to that spirit, a rebirth, like heart surgery repairing your true self so that you might live as God intended. The main truth I want you to grasp here is the earthly life is so incredibly short, it is but a twinkle in the twinkling spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:52. Eternity has no earthly language to define, we try with words; infinite or unending time, endless life, sometimes defined as what exists outside time. We can put a beginning to eternity as spoke in Psalm 139…but we cannot fathom it’s unending.
So, I now get back to my original thought, my devotion to Jesus has been fueled by this truth…I do not want to be ashamed at His appearing if that is possible, no regret, nothing left undone…Today I just can not bear that thought! Heavenly Father…reveal those things that MUST GO in me, let me be fully ready, let me not miss an opportunity to speak life and truth…let me love where love is needed, give me compassion, let me see with your eyes and live with Kingdom values.
God gave us the sunrise to remember that Jesus, the Son has Risen. There is just something life giving and wonderful about a sunrise…clean crisp air…the pure light as it makes it way through the trees, over the mountains. It touches our emotions and now let it touch your spirit with hope and truth…igniting a fire within you that cannot be contained! Jeremiah 20:9 says, “If I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak His name anymore,” Then my heart becomes a burning fire Shut up in my bones. And I am weary of enduring and holding it in; I cannot endure it nor contain it any longer.”
The scripture says…And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new (khawdata) covenant, which is shed for many for the remission(forgiveness) of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28 NKJV, also found in Mark 14 and Luke 22
Bible Gateway footnotes make the significance of these precious words from Jesus’ lips even more intimate…translated from the Aramaic we now see the depth of these words…The word “khawdata” can be translated as “new,” but is even better defined as “renewed” covenant or “repaired” covenant. After each disciple took the cup and drank from it, they passed it to the next one. This was a love covenant between Jesus and each of his disciples, and it sealed the affection they had for one another. This remains today, when you and I take communion with our family, other believers it becomes an expression of our love and affection for them and for our loving Savior Jesus.
I recently read an article about each of the elements and how they not only fulfill prophecy but bring to life the events of the Old and New Testament. We know from scripture that the last supper was celebrated in remembrance of Passover. Passover found in Exodus 12 speaks about a time in history when the Israelites were slaves living in Egypt. God sent Moses to free the Israelites…Pharaoh didn’t listen or pay attention as God’s emissary Moses brought God’s wrath down upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, nine plagues later Pharaoh still would not relent and let God’s people go! The tenth plague would be one which would bring death to the first-born male of every household. God’s people were instructed to cover their doorways with the blood of a sacrificial lamb thus keeping death away from their household.
The shedding of sacrificial blood marked freedom for the Israelites and from that time forward Passover has been celebrated in remembrance of all God had done for His people.
Let us move forward in time…Passover had come, Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples, moments before they were sat down to share the Passover meal, Jesus spoke to His betrayer (let me leave that right there for another time) after which Jesus began by taking a piece of bread, blessing it carefully tearing a piece for each disciple He said, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19 AMP
Jesus was speaking to them about the coming events when He, the prefect Lamb of God, would be tortured, beaten, tormented, crucified, and buried. Jesus told us that His body would be broken for us. A prophecy fulfilled in Isaiah 53:5 that says, “…He was whipped so we could be healed.” This healing power achieved in the act of the One True God, Savior, God’s Only Son…holds the power to heal our physical and mental ailments no matter how severe or life threating. Peter reminds us in I Peter 2:24 “…by whose stripes you were healed.”
As you think and visualize what Christ endured for you…every lash of the whip, flesh torn, blood shed…all done willingly to heal you and me. This is the pure and simple truth of Christ and its power is available to all who believe.
Jesus then took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission(forgiveness) of sins.” Jesus drank along with the disciples; this established the FINAL and NEW COVENANT for all God’s children (believers) once and for all.
The word covenant in English traces its roots back to a Latin word that means “coming together”. The Old Testament Covenants clearly demonstrate that God’s plan of redemption was in motion soon after the fall (Adam and Eve’s sin). In fact, Hosea speaks of a covenant between God and Adam in verse 6:7 saying, “Like Adam, they (the Israelites) have broken the covenant…they were unfaithful to me.” In these covenants there are conditions to be met by the human parties involved. At other times, God declared what He was going to do no matter how the parties responded. Once God made a covenant, it was not to be altered or renegotiated.
I want to briefly establish each of the Old Testament Covenants so that as we look to God’s New and Final covenant marked by Holy Communion we can see how they each relate to God’s promise for His children both you and I as well.
Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 12 God established a covenant with Abram (who later name was changed the Abraham by God) when He said “I will make you into a great nation and will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,…and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Later God spoke more about this covenant saying, “your offspring will be like stars in the sky to numerous to count”. This covenant can be summed up as (1) a promised people, (2) a promised blessing, (3) a promised land.
Mosaic Covenant – Exodus 19-20 God has always had great plans for His people. After freeing the Israelites from Egypt. God shared his plan with Moses and from that encounter we God’s people were given the Ten Commandments. This covenant is conditional “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” Exodus 19:5 NKJV The Mosaic Covenant was based on faithfulness of both God and Israel. Of course, Israel failed, but God is faithful, even when we are not. The Laws (covenant conditions) found in the Ten Commandments were given as an opportunity to show our love for God through obedience, even as they stumbled… God still had blessings for all the peoples of the world. Israel was chosen as a servant to help bring that future “blessing” the gospel and Jesus Christ.
Davidic Covenant –
Is the prefect link between the Old Testament Covenants and the New Testament Covenant. Just as God gave Moses a message to deliver to Israel, God gave Nathan a message, a divine covenant, to deliver to King David found in
(2 Samuel 7:5-16) so important to God’s plan it is repeated twice…”Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Nathan was speaking Of Jesus who’s coming kingdom would be established forever through David’s lineage. There was no condition to this covenant, God would and has fulfilled this covenant through Jesus. Peter tied the two together in his Day of Pentecost Sermon found in
Acts 2:29-31TPT personalized, “Everyone, I can tell you there is no doubt that David has both died and been buried in his tomb, which remains to this day. So, you can see that he was not referring to himself with those words. But as a prophet, he knew God’s faithful promise, made with God’s unbreakable oath, that one of his descendants would take his throne. So, when peering into the future, David prophesied of the Messiah’s resurrection. And God revealed to him that the Messiah would not be abandoned to the realm of death, nor would his body experience decay.”
And so now here we are the New Covenant sealed with the blood of Christ at that first “Holy Communion” shared by Christ, Himself and His disciples. The new covenant is a spiritual relationship with out Creator. But we sisters in Christ need help in maintaining that divine fellowship. The Old Testament is a continuing story of failures of God’s chosen people. Yet God’s plan from the beginning included a solution for this need…Jesus is the mediator in our relationship with the Father see Hebrews 12:24. Jesus overcame the differences and restored a loving relationship between a sinless deity and sinful humans. To overcome required a painful sacrifice. Look again at the words Jesus as He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20 The Old Mosaic Covenant required the blood of a slaughtered animal as a sin offering. These regular offerings did not bring permanent obedience and relationship. The sin offering was a repeated bloody event that took the life of an animal. The animal could never be a mediator. But of Son of God could, and He willingly came to earth to be that needed permanent sacrifice. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.”
I have come a long way so that you might fully understand why the taking and sharing of Holy Communion is an intimate experience between Jesus our Personal Mediator and God our Forever Father. Listen closely to the voice of our Mediator the next time you partake in Holy Communion: “and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
One more scripture found in John 6:53-58 ESV, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. …”
In closing, the words communion, community, communication and common all have similar origin. The church of Jesus Christ is a community of believers that are not divided by denomination by are united by Christ. It also is an opportunity to have communion with God. It is an expression of God’s Glory poured out and into us through Christ’s Body and Blood.
Psalm 23:6 KJV says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Wherever you go, the people you encounter, the physical work you do, the words you speak, even the way you sit, walk, run, or move leaves a mark. In other words, how you live each day leaves a legacy of who you are and what truth you embrace.
The great psalmist, David knew exactly what he was saying when he compared us to sheep and called our wonderful Heavenly Father our Shepherd. Sheep can and will ruin and ravage the land almost beyond remedy. But in bold contrast they can, be the most beneficial of all livestock if properly guided by their shepherd…leaving the land beautiful, rich, and healthy.
In ancient literature sheep were referred to as “those of the golden hooves” simply because they were regarded and esteemed so highly for their beneficial effect on the land.
In the 6th verse of Psalm 23 David says that “goodness and mercy will follow you ALL the days of your life.” However, there is a cavoite to that…ONLY the sheep who follow the Shepherd will leave that legacy behind them.
What does that mean? The sheep who follow their Shepherd, allow Him to speak into their life, listen and move where He directs, surrenders to His will and follows His purpose; they will leave behind them something worthwhile, productive, beautiful and beneficial to both themselves, others and to their Shepherd.
Close your eyes right now and see the land as the Shepherd sees this land and sheep He tends…Where they walk the land is fertile and weed free. It continues to reproduce the work of the Shepherd and is seen as beautiful, rich and abundance…green pastures, clean and clear water in a running stream safe to drink deeply…lush trees to rest under. The new growth gives way to new fruit, delicious and beautiful and all that encounter it hunger and thirst for the abundant goodness available. All are welcomed, valued, and loved here by the Good Shepherd.
Now a question comes to me….there is no room for excuse…I claim to be a daughter of the Most High King and so I must acquest that is other than by inheritance… I have been purchased at a great price…supernatural blood shed so that I can follow my Shepherd, look behind myself and see all that God has done through me.
As I look more questions form, a deeper surrender is needed and so I also ask the same of you…
Do I leave a blessing behind me? Do I leave a trail of sadness or of gladness behind? Is my memory, in other people’s minds, intertwined with mercy and goodness, or would they rather forget me altogether? Do I deposit a blessing behind me or am a nuisance to others? Is my life a pleasure to people or a pain?
In Isaiah 52:7 a picture of one who leaves a godly legacy is revealed, “How beautiful on the mountains, in all the land are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling all the people of the earth, “Your God reigns!” MSG personalized
Sometimes we must ask ourselves tough yet simple questions…
Do I leave behind peace in lives…or turmoil?
Do I leave behind forgiveness…or bitterness?
Do I leave behind contentment…or conflict?
Do I leave behind flowers of joy…or frustration?
Do I leave behind love…or resentment?
Some people leave such a sorry mess behind them wherever they go that they prefer to cover their tracks. When making out a list of people…relatives and friends…do you write their names with joy and excitement looking forward to enjoying their company or is there a hesitation as you recall your last encounter or conversation? How about where you work, do you avoid some people? How do others see you?
For the true child of God, the one under the Shepherd’s care, there should never be any sense of shame or fear as you encounter people from your past or present. Why? Because there you have left a legacy of uplift, encouragement, and inspiration to others. For some of you I know this is tough…harm has been done however no situation is to big for God. He promises to restore what the locust have eaten. (Joel 2:25-27) Patience and waiting on God is key if this applies to you. There can be nothing stopping you now…as you live in the care of the Good Shepherd.
There was an amazing man of God Dr. David Livingstone, who was a missionary in Africa (1813-1873), who’s good and kindly acts were always blended with mercy. So often people he encountered were harsh and vindictive…yet his compassion and tenderness were always evident. He found forgiveness for others despite their behavior and offered God’s mercy.
I must ask myself and you must do the same…is this my attitude to other people? We must ask God to help us; Psalm 19:13 NASB tells us “Also keep your servant back from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; then I will be innocent, and I will be blameless of great wrongdoing.”
Do I sit up on my pedestal of self-pride and look at others in a condescending manner or do I identify myself with them in their dilemma and allow the goodness and mercy God overflow onto them? Are my eyes critical? I know with all my heart that Jesus has and continues to extend goodness and mercy to me! In fact, this overflow is purposed to lead others to Him.
Now that we belong to Jesus and He is our Shepherd we must also consider these words, “So roll up your sleeves, get your head in the game, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Do not lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You did not know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”” 1 Peter 1:13-16 MSG
Finally sweet sisters, Jesus looks upon our lives in tenderness for He loves us deeply. He sees the long years during which His goodness and mercy have followed you and I without slackening. He longs to see some measure of that same goodness and mercy not only passed on to others by us but also passed back to Him with joy.
Our Shepherd longs for our love to be demonstrated by what we leave behind…how we love proof that we love Him and this overflowing love happens because HE LOVED US FIRST!
Blessings, Sister Laurie
This writing comes from my thoughts and insight while reading “A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23”, by Phillip Keller.
I do not know where you are today in your relationship with Jesus, I also do not know what demons are still pulling your strings, what troubles you are experiencing or if you have even surrender to God completely. Maybe you have asked God to help you conquer something in your life however, you are still waiting for your miracle. So today I want to share a truth with you…God is always on time, and He is patiently waiting for you!
John 5:1-8 Healing the man at the sheep gate pool in Jerusalem. Which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, The House of Loving Kindness, having five porticoes, covered porches in which people could wait to enter. Here hundreds of sick, crippled, blind, paralyzed people would gather waiting there to enter the water. These waters were known for their healing qualities, in verse 4 we read “For an angel of God periodically descended into the pool to stir the waters, and the first one who stepped into the pool after the waters swirled would instantly be healed.”
Now in verse 5 we are told there was a man that was ill and crippled for 38 years. A little later on in verse 6, we see Jesus knew he had been like “this” for a long-time.
This healing teaches us several things about Jesus, first, we learn…this healing demonstrates that Jesus is equal with God in nature, power, and authority. You must understand that the healing touch we need where the spiritual and physical meet is all about timing. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Jesus begins a conversation with the man by saying “Do you truly long to be healed?” This man replies to Jesus “Sir, there is no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.” I believe he was not even trying or asking for help at this point. He had allowed bitterness and hatred to grow within his spirit, possibly the devil had repeatedly lied to him reminding him of how no one cared if he was healed, how unloved he was, how unworthy of the chance to be healed. It was easier for the man to sit and complain, blaming those around him for his continued state.
If you notice there were several entrances into the pool yet somehow this man continued to miss his opportunity. Maybe he had become comfortable in his situation, even playing to the crowd around him…you know whining about his circumstance looking for pity.
The devil used this situation to build resentment in him. The “if only” became the man’s excuse for staying just as he was, convinced he would never reach the water. Do you have something in common with this man?
Now, in verse 8 we see a loving Father, Jesus frees this man from his suffering, not only the physical aliment but the spiritually imprisonment, a stronghold of bitterness and self-loathing…Jesus says “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed!
I am confident God is always working in us, even before we know Him, He is there intervening, positioning us so that in His perfect time we will be ready. Many of us call this “coming to the end of oneself.”
That attitude or behavior, say it now out loud, my “sin” that I am stilling holding on to or hiding is keeping me from receiving the full immersion of living water Jesus brings.
Right here I need to point out that nothing is hidden from God, you maybe fooling yourself or others but not God. God’s timing is perfect in every situation, He is patience and His love steadfast. It is different for everyone, there is no exact formula, what I will say, you will reach that point, an end to your wrong thinking, captivity in sin as I said earlier “coming to an end of yourself” and God will call. Respond do not delay…He will call again however why miss out even one more moment of all God has for you.
Remember, Jesus is always on time.
In closing, Jesus meets the man later that day in the temple. Verse 14 says “A short time later, Jesus found the man at the temple and said to him, “Look at you now! You are healed! Walk away from your sin so that nothing worse will happen to you.” Here is a warning for all of us, sweet sisters…have you already received your healing and yet you hold on to your sin, romancing the good old days or maybe you have slipped back into your old self. Jesus issues a powerful warning to all of us…live in your deliverance, the freedom you found when you surrendered to Him completely.
It is God’s desire to give you that miracle…Jesus wants us to grow our relationship with Him so that when temptation comes, trouble comes we are ready to fight telling this fallen world and the devil “Not Today Satan!.” Right now, proclaim your position as the daughter of the Most High King!
God’s Word is ever wasted with that being said…Today, you, my sister in Jesus Christ were meant to read this…it is a divine appointment with the Father. From the moment you and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we became His Disciples. This is an adventure more than a journey! Adventures are exciting, extraordinary, God’s adventure does not ask us to carry uncertainty but certainty, it is a bold undertaking, and we must be a willing participant.
John 15 tells us that you and I have been chosen to do the work of Christ, God also says there will be success in our work …we will bear fruit. As His disciples Jesus gives us everything we need to do His work through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
John 14:12 confirms our position and purpose… “Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father.”
The Great Commission is spoken of in several different scriptures however here we hear our calling clearly from Jesus…“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20NASB
We must embrace who we are, and this word “disciple” is not a title it is a position in God’s Kingdom, it is spoken of more than 250 times in God’s Word. We can try to worm our way out, you might have many excuses, but in the end this is WHO WE ARE…His Disciples.
Right now maybe you are saying…”not me” for a number of reasons so let us just bring God’s Truth to those reasons.
If the answer is “Yes” to these two questions then you are a disciple.
You maybe still saying “but I do not know enough”, or “I am not even sure if I am forgiven” possibly “I am not sure I’m worthy.” All of that as well as any other questions…doubts are not from God; they are the devil holding you captive to lies about yourself. How did you answer questions one and two? If the answer was “yes” then it is time to declare you are who God says you are and not this world, person or circumstance. Your TRUE identity is found in Jesus and Him alone!
Ok now that we have cleared that up let us move on…being a disciple requires you to put God’s agenda first and stop focusing on yourself. There is immediate healing in your mind and spirit when God is truly first in your life, and you receive the love He is offering. There is no wondering involved…so if you are, now is the time to ask yourself “What is the hold up?” If this is where you are at…we have some work to do! Write to me!
As God’s disciples we have a twofold purpose often they overlap however I have broken them apart so that you might be able to receive a deeper understand.
The Mission – Is a Burden we carry for the lost when we love God…He tells us clearly that His desire is that not one should perish and so this should always be in our hearts as well. There should be a sense of urgency for all to know…not just those you love but those you do not know and even those who have hurt you. God’s calling you to step out of your comfort zone pursue His plan to help save the lost. This mission begins with prayer…First, those that have hurt you as well as the family members who you are hesitate to share your relationship with Jesus; make them part of your daily prayer, when and if God wants to use you to speak into their lives He will give you the opportunity and the words. Next those you don’t know or maybe those who are an acquaintance i.e. co-worker, grocery clerk, neighbor, gym this is your mission field. Begin your day asking God for opportunities.
Romans 10:14-15 How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
The word preacher and preach are the same here in the Greek they are not a title or position but a call; to herald and proclaim meaning to speak out without hesitation, this applies to every believer/disciple to proclaim with boldness…the Good News. To be ready and aware of those around you…ask God how you can bring Your Truth and Love to this person. I want to clear something up right here…many believers had been led to believe they need to know all kinds of scripture or have a testimony ready to share. This is not true! We start by loving this person…listening, giving your time, are you getting it? It is the relationship you build that will speak volumes, be conscious of what God is telling you and how He wants you to respond.
God’s Word is Truth inspired by God and 2 Timothy 3:17 it further says “so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.”
Acts 1:8 “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”
You and I are equipped, through faith and God’s Word we have all we need. The Holy Spirit will bring the words to your mouth and your life is a demonstration of God’s love and Truth.
There is a cost you and I must abandon our agenda and pursue God’s agenda. As the daughters of God sharing His Truth with others is a privilege, when we give ourselves completely to God every part we become tools in the Hands of God, to be used by Him for His good purpose. (Romans 6:13 LB)
Ministry – Because God loves us we are compelled to share this love with others this is the heart of discipleship. Discipleship mainly happens within our home church it is an opportunity to love and encourage believers God has put in our lives.
“But instead we will remain strong and always sincere in our love as we express the truth. All our direction and ministries will flow from Christ and lead you and I deeper into Him, the anointed Head of his body, the church. For His “body” yes, you and I have been formed in His image and are closely joined together and constantly connected as one. And each of us has been given divine gifts to contribute to the growth of all; and as these gifts operate effectively throughout the whole body, we are built up and made perfect in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 TPT personalized
James 5:17 TPT says “Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another and then pray for one another to be instantly healed, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!”
Hebrews 10:25 TPT “This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.”
If it was not for two wonderful beautiful women of God, I would not be here right now writing to you…They never gave up…They just kept on loving me without judgement. This is how we now as believers need to love.
“Each of us are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NASB
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” NASB
If you say you love God but harbor offense and bitterness towards others then you are not following God…God’s greatest two commandments to you and I is to love God with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. This solicits a question or two…Do you love yourself? Have you forgiven yourself? Have you experienced God and His love for you? Do you believe that God loves you and because of Jesus you are forgiven completely? If there is a “no” in there then again I urge you to write me and to also find a woman of God to speak God’s Truth into your life.
Blessing, Sister Laurie
If you would like to personally write to me, I welcome you to do so. I would love to share what God is speaking to me and pray for you, pour into you so that you may grow your relationship with our loving Savior Jesus Christ. It is in the sharing and studying of God’s Word that we find the freedom only God, our Forever Father can bring.
Laurie Acuna, Minister JesusTruth/Generations Church 425 Greenvalley Drive Andover, Kansas 67002
Galatians 3:3 says “Are you so foolish? Having embraced God’s truth and received the gift of the Spirit, are you now allowing the flesh to direct your journey? Have you forgotten some or all that God has done and promised?” personalized
Today these are the burning questions on my heart…not just for you my sisters in Christ Jesus but for myself as well. We must take a deeper look at what you and I believe…I am going to let God speak to us through His Living Word…
”But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in us sweet sisters. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 MSG personalized
There is a daily struggle…Paul says it best, “I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.” Romans 7:18-19 TLB
How are we living out our Salvation? Our faith in God? When our faith is built on God’s Truth it can withstand any storm. “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (God’s ways). And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand (man’s ways). And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.” Matthew 7:24-27 NASB
The Rock is God’s Truth…His Living Word…His Son, Jesus who came, suffered, died as your sin offering and then beat the sin death causes through His resurrection but that’s not all…God promises a supernatural helper for each of us the Holy Spirit. Eternal Life, Heaven, a New World…where we are no longer held captive to disease, pain, loss, emotional strive. All of this is the ROCK!
Ok cannot help it…a small aside here…Peter was not the rock, think about it and then read over the scripture…Matthew 16:13-28. Would God entrust His Church to just one man? NO! Jesus is saying “I just revealed to you who I am, the Messiah, Savior to the world and this is the Rock, the Truth I will build my church upon! Verse 23 confirms this when Jesus rebukes Peter for his limited understanding “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s.” We must read all the scriptures surrounding any given scripture in order to fully understand what God is saying to us.
What you believe put your faith in defines who you are…God tells us we are His creation, His personal workmanship…therefore we must have confidence that He would not just leave to our own devices. Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” You see because we have faith and a growing relationship with Jesus we are then compelled to live and do the work of the Kingdom.
Here is the truth, God is working in you and me… this causes a shift in us, a desire grows to do His work because it pleases Him. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 NASB
Now we come to not an end but a beginning…God tells us to be ready, “I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 MSG
You my faithful sisters, there is an urgency in the air…we know the last days are upon us so heed these final words found in Titus 2:11-14 MSG “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.”
Go back to the beginning…Answer the questions, ask God to reveal the areas of your life still clinging to the old you! Be quick to repent and embrace God’s Truth in a fresh and deeper way!
What does it mean in the Bible when scripture talks about God’s Mercy? How does God’s Mercy play a part in the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ?
Mercy defined in Webster’s Dictionary is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”
In the Old Testament, God’s mercy or forgiveness without judgement is displayed over and over again as God pursues a relationship with His children. Like the Shepherd and sheep relationship spoken of in Psalms, you and I are the stubborn, selfish sheep who have no self-control. Without the Good Shepherd they and we find ourselves leaving the protection of the Shepherd for what we think is a greener pasture. This mercy God so freely gives is the deepest demonstration of God’s love. It is God’s patience in action.
The word “mercy’ in Hebrew has several words…
“Racham” means; to love or have compassion, to have a disposition of mercy in Psalm 116:5 NKJV “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful.”
“kaphar” means; forgive, cleanse, pardon or reconcile Deuteronomy 21:8 KJV “Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.”
“Kapporeth” means to cover, it is the cover for the Ark of the Covenant where atonement for sin was demonstrated, Exodus 25:22 KJV “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.”
“Chesed” means goodness, kindness or mercifulness in Psalm 136:1 NKJV “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
From these words we gleam a picture of how God’s mercy was a constant in the Old Testament. This is still true today however God took it up a notch…God laid aside His splendor, His position as the perfect and faultless One. He knew precisely the price that would be paid, the ridicule, accusations, rumors and gossip that would label Him a glutton, drunkard, friend of sinners…those society had cast away and He would even be called an imposter. His mercy demonstrated would involve physical suffering, mental anguish and spiritual agony. Yet He came…
In the New testament this word mercy takes on a deeper meaning…in the Greek there are two words;
“Eleemon” means to have pity on, to show compassion or to be merciful in Matthew 5:7 NKJV “ Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.”
“Oiktirmos” means compassion or pity as well. It is the idea of divine forbearance in showing compassion and passing over sins. Romans 12:1 NKJV “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
His coming to earth as the Christ, as Jesus of Nazareth was a straightforward act of mercy, self-sacrifice that finished in the cross of Calvary for each of His children. He took the weight of sin for all of us and demonstrated His love and mercy…this is our Shepherd. Jesus told us Himself, that He had come that we might have life and have it abundantly. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 NKJV Salvation happens through God’s mercy completed through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Probably the most well-known verse in the Bible defines mercy best “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV
Mercy is God’s patience in action. This patience never wants us to perish, He is calling us to repent, but those who refuse will receive judgment as spoken of in 2 Peter 3:9 ad Proverbs 29:1. God desires today to extend mercy to all His children and that mercy is part of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The mercy seat of old was sprinkled with blood by the high priest but now Jesus Christ is our mercy seat…only through His mercy can we “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”
Today, sweet sister receive the gift of God’s mercy through His Son Jesus Christ…a simple prayer of repentance and acknowledgement of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for you is needed.
If you are anything like me, you do not like tests! I get nervous, palms sweaty, if it’s an oral test or having to answer a difficult question from a teacher or other person in authority I get really nervous. Even when I am confident of the answer, suddenly…I am speechless, and I cannot find the right words. For me, a test is confrontational, and I just do not do well. All that being said, the Bible speaks about God’s testing. As a believer and follower of Jesus…you will be tested…no two ways about it! So let us talk about testing and how in life we all will be tested, ALL meaning even the non-believer, new believer and what you might call the mature believer. I want to stop right there and clarify the new and mature believer…we are all in the same boat, sailing to our eternal destination. I know I have touched on this before and it is extremely important to not put labels on ourselves or others. We are all moving in the same direction, mature believers do not have all the answers. They, just like the new believer must study, look, ask for help, pray, and seek for answers in God’s Word. Once you have been born-again, became a believer…you have total access to your Heavenly Father, and He is the same for every believer. Mature believers struggle, face troubles and testing just as the less experienced believer. Now let us move on…
Tests are designed to demonstrate knowledge and point out areas for improvement. In math or history, a test will show a persons ability and help the student know what areas need further study. God tests His children in the same manner. Here is where many times you might find yourself confused. When ministering, I have heard more than once someone say God did this to me, caused this illness, tragedy, loss, situation, or circumstance. I want to make this perfectly clear…GOD DOES NOT CAUSE ILLNESS, TRAGEDY, LOSS, UNFAVORABLE SITUATIONS OR CIRCUMSTANCES. In His Word, God tells us there will be difficulties. Matthew 6:34 says “ So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Also “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” And then in John 16:33, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.” John 14:27 NASB Throughout the Bible God shares stories about His people and their troubles, always God also shows them the way out.
It is in these times that God reveals what you know and what you have developed within your heart. Every situation is a teaching moment…a process in your life. In fact, without His testing, there is no opportunity to grow and become who He created you to be. It is in those times that you are strengthen so that you might use this strength for His purpose. More is happening than the circumstances you find yourself experiencing, God is working behind the scenes. When you look with the right perspective, you will find God bringing out His character in us or revealing that you have a deeper need of His influence. James 1:13 reminds us, “No one is to say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” The more often you understand and respond to God’s priorities, the closer you will come to the fullness of all He has designed and purposed in your life.
Looking at the three types of tests…
The Test of Servanthood
As a believer you are all called to the life of a servant. You demonstrate your love for God by loving and serving others. This love is expressed when you put your personal desires aside for the benefit of others. Personal sacrifice is part of this servanthood, giving of your time and resources within healthy boundaries…this is not a part-time position but a lifelong pursuit as a believer. You must be ready when God calls on you. The most difficult test of servanthood is when you are treated like a servant, maybe you feel that you should have received recognition or possibly you are mistreated “persecuted” while serving. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 NASB Here you must check your motive…in today’s world you may find yourself having a selfish view, the world is focused on individual rights and rewards, pride clouds your ability to serve…God’s view is you serve without return. Knowing you serve a loving Father is more than enough.
There are many biblical examples; Ezekiel spoke to God’s people many times through embarrassing ways, Noah suffered under years of ridicule as he built the ark and warned people of what was coming, Hosea married and remarried a prostitute despite what those around him must have thought and in spite of her unrepentant heart. These and others demonstrate that the test of servanthood is designed to reveal the level of obedience a believer will offer.
Your servant heart is evidence of a believer willing to go and do as God has asked, leaving your personal comfort and desires to meet the needs of others.
The Test of Sacrificial Love
Love is a concept confused by its multiple uses. For you love might be a flood of emotions, warm feelings or possibly a decision of commitment despite your emotions. Perhaps love has lost all meaning, it seems unattainable or able to satisfy the cravings of your broken or troubled heart. The world may have confused your thoughts concerning love however here you see that the love required of a believer is sacrificial. God will develop this love in your heart if you allow Him through testing. The test of a sacrificial love comes when you are confronted with a command to action from your Savior. Love can mean many things, but love that has a price is clearly sacrificial love. In the life of a believer there will be many choices that oppose the world. There will be a cost in this love…a financial, deep emotional requirement, and hard-fought forgiveness are some of characteristics of sacrificial love. Paul speaks of denying himself, you will be called upon to deprive yourself of things others pursue happily. Other times you will be called to forgive and extend love to those who certainly do not deserve it.
There is a distinctive difference between sacrificial love and unconditional love, but they flow from the same heart. Unconditional love is love without strings attached, love offered freely and not base it on what someone does for you in return. Sacrificial love focuses on the one giving love and the length that person will go to maintain that love.
Abraham’s trip to Mount Moriah with his son Isaac found in Genesis 22 is a significant example of the test of sacrificial love. Abraham had to have been traumatized by the possible outcome of this journey. How could God ask such a thing? Abraham may have been thinking the price is to great or unfair! This raises the question how could he obey, how did he? While the Bible does not give details to his emotional struggle we know it was tremendous. You get a glimpse of how Abraham was able to obey in Genesis 22:12 with an angel’s observation, “now I know that you fear the God”. This fear is the ultimate form of love and trust in God. God was Abraham’s greatest focus and priority, and obedience to God’s commands…even the ones that did not make any sense. Like Abraham many times this test will come without the desired explanation or understanding. You may feel thoughts of overwhelming unfairness, defenses are raised, and rationalizing happens. We know the outcome, God stepped in and stopped Abraham’s act of obedience. Generations to come will and are continuing to be blessed because of it.
Do you remember in the Bible where Jesus asked the rich young man to sell everything he had to follow Jesus? Most likely that will never happen for you. Yet some of you who are reading this right now maybe experiencing that very thing. There maybe consequences that have put you in the position of losing everything and yet I am confident that if you respond with that same “fear” God will restore the loss…His way NOT yours. The truth is that what God has for you is much bigger when you take the step of faith in sacrificial love.
What you are unwilling to part with moves into the place of God and begins to control you. Yes, people, places and material things that become obsessions are idolatry in its clearest expression. Anytime you say no to God and choose something or someone else, you sow seed for future destruction, and you take a clear step away from the God who called you His. The more you cultivate a giving spirit, the more easily you can give what God requires. Now listen, I am not saying to give everything away…but if you have trouble responding with compassion and self-sacrifice in times you are confronted with an opportunity to meet a need, you will not be able to give sacrificially when God calls upon you.
It is important to avoid the attention of others when you give, only then will you shutout the pride that causes you to desire to hold on to what is yours. Be intentional in your giving, not careless. Knowing the price and choosing to give on purpose brings the experience to a place of worship. Remember I am not speaking of finances alone, there are many opportunities to give in serving others.
The Test of Faithfulness
Faithfulness is bound in constancy and dependability. It is the choice to remain steadfast regardless of the changing circumstances. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated in the constancy of His love regardless of your worthiness or actions. Simply…God still loves you and is extending His hand to you when you are right in the thick of sinful choices or behavior. Your faithfulness is demonstrated in the constancy of your obedience regardless of your understanding or comfort. It is remaining faithful despite your circumstance or situation, having the confidence that God is there right with you…the test of faithfulness is in your reaction. Your faithfulness is evident when you look to His promises no matter what the world says, believing God will provide a way. Joseph is an amazing example of faithfulness…more than thirteen years of near-death experiences, suffering and imprisonment and yet his faithfulness never faltered. In the end God restored his family, bought abundant provision for not only Joseph and his family but all of Egypt. Joseph did not know what God was doing yet he remained faithful.
How do you react, were does your mind go and in what does it dwell? How do your emotions and behavior reflect your faith in God? This is the test…where is your trust? Look at Simon Peter, he allowed the confusion and his emotions of Jesus’ arrest to test his faith and he failed three times…however later when he had the opportunity Peter jumped out of the boat to reach Jesus and ask forgiveness, this act was an opportunity for restoration. God uses your circumstances to teach you the hard lessons of faithfulness. The Israelites are a great example of God’s love and faithfulness, over and over again they separated themselves from God by complaining and seeking after selfish desires instead of trusting God. He will let you experience the consequences of your choices to help you discover how completely unsatisfying they are. God never gives up and He will never give up on you!
You will become consistently faithful by using the commonsense God gave you, having a biblical plan for daily living which includes finishing what you start, keeping your promises and giving of your resources when no one else sees. You must have a plan when faced with a challenge, start now by removing anything you sense that could get in your way. In other words, when objects that breed unfaithfulness are eliminated, you have limited your choice to faithfulness in times of crisis. Faithfulness starts with faith. You should aggressively build your faith…understand what it means to fear God and call upon the Holy Spirit to help you walk in a path of obedience. Faithfulness is tied to repentance…you are faithful when you are quick to turn from wrongdoing and ask God to forgive you…seeking His help in resisting sin.
In closing remember…passing the tests of servanthood, sacrificial love, and faithfulness begins by knowing who you are in Christ, committing to follow God and allowing Him to reign over every part of your life. Those who do not live to give God glory will not experience the lasting freedom and peace He is offering. Do not let pride stumble you in serving others…Paul would not allow people to worship him, he reacts strongly, pushing away the moment in no uncertain terms (read Acts 14:8-14). Be careful what you attach your heart to. Do not be afraid to love what you should love, and how you should love, but do not choose to love what is unworthy of eternal attention. When faithfulness is a priority in your life, it will be easier to respond faithfully in times of crisis. Finally, surround yourself with others who are on the same journey, cultivate your faith and relationship with God by surrendering daily to His Ways…from the place of surrender God can and will work in your life.
Romans 8:38-39 AMP tells you “For I am convinced and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt… that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the unlimited love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”