Seek HIM First

“This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:23‭-‬24 NASB

I think every part of my body hurts this morning; every muscle, every joint, even my brain. My eyeballs hurt. I am weary. I have to be thankful, though, because it slows me down so that I can see what a beautiful morning God has given us. It’s a very unusual morning for Oklahoma in August. At 7am, the temperature is in the high 60’s, and it is calm. There’s only an occasional breeze that floats by like a whisper. The birds are singing, and other than the birdsong, it is quiet. Since I live in an urban neighborhood, that’s pretty unusual, too!

“Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:30‭-‬31 NASB

Move forward. Remember that God is in control. No matter how bad it gets. Frustration, aches and pains, irritations, aggravations will all pass well. Look for the good in everything. I am alive. I’m not unhealthy (well, mostly!!), I have a home and 2 dogs who think I’m the best thing since sliced bread – especially when I share it with them!

Will life get tough? Oh, yes. Will bad things happen? Without a doubt. Will people disappoint you, betray you, let you down? Absolutely.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 NASB

GOD will never disappoint, He will never betray, He will never let you down. When everything looks black, when everyone has let you down, turn to Jesus.

Listen to Casting Crowns’ song East to West. Here’s part:

I start the day, the war begins
Endless reminding of my sin
And time and time again
Your truth is drowned out by the storm I’m in
Today I feel like I’m just one mistake away
From you leaving me this way

Jesus, can you show me just how far the east is from the west?

‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been
Rising up in me again
In the arms of your mercy I find rest
You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
I know you’ve washed me white
Turned my darkness into light
I need your peace to get me through
To get me through this night
I can’t live by what I feel
But by the truth your word reveals
And I’m not holding onto you
But you’re holding onto me
You’re holding onto me

JESUS is the answer. No one else will get through this life with you without hurting you. He is THE Way. THE Truth, and The Light. He is LIFE.

Can I get an Amen?

What Are You Chasing?

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2 NASB

I’ve spent my life chasing something, or someone. Lots of money and energy expended trying for the perfect partner, job, house, clothes; friends, family. The “perfect” church. Know what I’ve discovered?

They don’t exist.

What? Of course they do! Don’t try to tell me my searching, my life, is futile! ……. And yet, that’s the truth. Most of us spend our lives trying to have the perfect life as we imagine it, when the reality is that all of these things, and all of these people, won’t satisfy us. Sure, we can achieve momentary satisfaction, but it’s fleeting. I think that’s why our world is rife with ruthless people, in business and politics and in their personal lives. Business takeovers. Public lies and shaming. Affairs in the shadows, and affairs in the open, blatantly flaunting themselves. Desperate people everywhere, searching for nirvana.

It doesn’t exist.

We are a created race. Yes, one race, created by a Creator God, and we are created to worship Him. Nothing else can fill that hole. We can search and scrape and fight trying to find anything else to fill it, and that’s what we spend our lives doing. One thing fills that hole in your heart. One thing fulfills your search. ONE thing.

Jesus Christ.

Son of the FATHER GOD. Second, but equal, member of the Trinity, God, Son, Holy Spirit. Saviour of the world. The One; The Way.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16‭-‬18 NASB

In 1670, Blaise Pascal published Pensées, in which he writes:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB

Change your focus. Look for Jesus. He will fill your heart in a way you could never have imagined. Not only your heart, but He will fill your life, your mind, your soul, if you will just let Him. He will give you Life Abundant. Even if you struggle financially, even if you are on your own, without a partner, or out of work, Jesus can bring a contentment that is beyond this earth.

LORD, I pray today for that person who is searching, that he or she will open their heart to You and realize real peace and contentment today, right now. Amen.

LOVE IS / IS NOT:

1 Corinthians 13: What is Love?

Love is not jealousy; a burning desire to have what someone else has, or resentment. Those things are an absence of love. When I have to win, and the other person has to lose, is jealousy. Resentment shows in how we respond to other’s success, just as much as how we handle our own.

Love is not bragging, boasting, or publicizing our own success/accomplishments. When we are full of arrogance and puffed up with self importance, we aren’t able to love others because all of our focus is on ourselves. Have you ever known someone who is truly humble? When someone is humble, you cannot humiliate them.

Love is not acting unbecomingly, it is not rude, or discourteous. It is kind and considerate, it is polite. Love is tactful, saying Please, thank you, excuse me. Do the little things.

Love is not self-seeking; it is not selfish. It is self sacrificing. The root of all problems is selfishness, so love is to be empty of ourselves and to look out for others over ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be provoked (i.e. irritable, sharp, prickly, touchy, grumpy, and quick to take offense), these show our failure to love. They are triggers to anger and a temperamental “blast off”, as opposed to a righteous anger or irritability (remember Jesus running the money changers and those turning His Father’s House into a place of business out of the Temple?) We must be at peace with God to prevent this.

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered. Don’t keep track of grudges and resentments! Love lets the past die, it absorbs the wrong. Good friends are good forgivers. Let it go. Choose to forgive. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.” – Sarah Barton, founder of the American Red Cross Ultimate forgiveness is shown by Jesus and His sacrifice. Knowing we were yet sinners, He left Heaven to die on the cross for our sins. For your sins. For my sins!

Love is not happy with sins or lies. It doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness. Love has boundaries. It is based in God’s Truth. Love doesn’t rejoice in it’s own sins. What of our entertainment choices? Our relationship choices? Are we leading other people into sin through those choices? Love supports the truth, and the TRUTH doesn’t change. It is the same today as it was yesterday or 2000 years ago, and it will be the same tomorrow, and it will still be the same in 20,000 years.

“When love is present, nothing else is needed.” Love is essential to anything I do. Without love, I’m just making noise. Remember this truth – No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. There is no real sacrifice without real love, true love, which is Agape love. This Love is produced ONLY by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, Who the church is based on. LOVE personified, the Cornerstone of the church.

Love rejoices with the truth; Love bears/carries, protects, supports, covers or shelters all. Love is everything both for us AND for others. In Genesis 9, when Noah’s sons realized their father was naked and they covered his nakedness without looking at him, that is Love. Real Love offers shelter and protection for our shortcomings and our faults without focusing on them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NASB

Love believes – not in a gullible way, and not overly suspicious or cynical. Love is encouraging. It takes the best view of people and holds on to it, for as long as it is possible. Love believes in second chances. Love remembers that God isn’t finished with us yet!

Love hopes and doesn’t give up. It has desire with expectancy and it is realistic, but in the dark days it holds hands with Hope. When you get discouraged because life is overwhelming and everything seems to be falling apart, read the end of the Book. I love reading Revelations, because we win!

Love endures and will hold on until there is absolutely no hope left. It is patient and persevering in all circumstances. Love perseveres, it holds on, it endures.

Paul is saying to the Corinthians: “What LOVE is, you are not.” Will we be like the Corinthians, without Love, or will we search Scriptures and study to be more Christ-like and loving outside of ourselves and our own selfishness?

LORD, be with us, Your people during this unprecedented time. Help us all to not just hold on to Your promises, but give us the courage to live your Love and the Truth. Amen.

References: 1 Corinthians 1:26, 29; 4:7, 4:18-19, 8:1; Philippians 2:3, 5-8; Acts 17:16; Romans 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Hebrew 10:17; Matthew 18; Romans 5:8; 1 John 5:9; Proverbs 10:12; James 5:20; 1 Peter 7; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 15:13; John 13:1

What Is Important To You?

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace ….” Romans 8:6 NASB

My thoughts and desires – my “needs” (okay, my WANTS) often consume my thoughts so that nothing else seems to matter. That is death. Lord, help keep my mind on what’s REALLY important, especially when it seems to be impossible.

Pastor Wayne Cordeiro said “I don’t have to tie myself to an imaginary, unrelenting cycle to produce more, make more or try to outdo last week’s numbers. I have just so much time in the day, and I want to do what I can with all my heart involved. When the clock runs out, then I’ll say, “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll have more.”

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NASB

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:15‭-‬19 NASB

And This Is LOVE

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7‭-‬8 NASB

The nature of love:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,” 1Corinthians 13:4 NASB

LOVE is defined by the cross, not by culture; Sacrificial Love, for the best and highest good of others. It is Patient, it is Kind. Read verses 4-7 to understand the SPECTRUM of love, the components of love.

What exactly is Love?

Love is showing patience to people, and it is long suffering. We don’t know what anyone else is dealing with, so how can we judge them? Love is being kind, easy, mellow, and comfortable – easy to receive, difficult to practice.

Those words should describe all Christians, the people who are supposed to be like Jesus. We are to cultivate contentment and gratitude and Love by focusing on God’s Sovereignty.

“The LORD is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 NASB

THIS is Love:

Do Not Fear

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7‭-‬8 NASB

There’s a lot to cause fear and dismay going on. It makes me sick to my stomach, seeing the ugliness and the destruction going on just to satisfy someone’s inner demons. Destroying our heritage? Throwing down statues? What does that solve? In the Middle Ages, books and buildings were destroyed because they didn’t conform to someone’s vision of their world. In Nazi Germany, books and buildings and statues were burned and destroyed, because they did not fit someone’s vision of their world. In Cuba, in Italy, in Iraq, the same thing has happened.

Does destruction make your life better?

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB

We need more dependence on GOD. Less dependence on people. People will always let us down, but the LORD will never stumble or fall with me – or you. Put your trust in the LORD. Read between the lines of whatever the “news” people and the politicians say. Look at their attitudes and their actions. Remember that they are all human and, therefore, imperfect.

Pray for our country. We don’t need to destroy it.

Where Did Love Go?

“31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:1-3 NASB

Do you know GOD’S Love? It is Essential, it is Effectual, and it is Eternal to Life. Not life, but Life. Without God’s Love, there is no Life. Without it, we are just going through the motions; living through emotions. Love and hate. The emotions we base our lives on, the feelings we base everything on. Emotions aren’t bad. God wouldn’t have created us with them if they were. Emotions, like everything good on earth, have been distorted through sin and the enemy’s manipulation of Creation. Love was twisted into envy, despair, jealousy, malice, prejudice, ill will, covetousness, rivalry, resentment….. hate. We are all guilty, and I am guilty above all else.

It is Essential that we who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ give His Love a priority within ourselves. No matter what we do, if we do it without God’s Love, it means nothing. It is all ashes.

There are 4 Greek Words for love: eros, storge, philia, and agape. Most people know that eros is erotic love, the physical. Storge is familial love. It refers to the natural and instinctual love of a parent towards their children and vice versa. Philia is the love we have between good friends. Agape is the most important, because that is God’s Love. It wasn’t a common word for the Greeks to use, but it is the word for love that the Bible uses and it is the essence of Love, the kind of love that Jesus personifies.

“4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. …… 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬8‭, ‬13 NASB

We would do well to focus on these verses, especially in light of what is going on around us today. I’m talking to myself. When I see rioting and destruction, and hear the hate filled rhetoric that is being spewed across all forms of communication, it’s so easy to fall into judgement. Those things aren’t right, but I still need to love those people. Not agree with them, but love them in spite of their actions. People in positions of influence and authority have a huge burden to do the right thing, and they are failing miserably. I think that’s why it’s so important for you and I to do our best to emulate Jesus today.

Remember, “the greatest of these is love.”

Never Alone

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 NASB

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” Romans 8:18‭-‬19 NASB

Not if, but when bad things happen, how do we handle them? “Why me, God! What did I ever do to deserve this horrible thing!” Isn’t a better question, “Why not me, God?” I don’t deserve anything good; I deserve everything bad…. I am a sinner, and the only good thing in me is the Love and forgiveness of my Saviour, Jesus Christ. When we experience the bad, what do we do with it?

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17‭-‬18 NASB

Elizabeth Elliot, missionary, faced many dark times while on the mission field, including losing her husband. After one experience, where a friend was killed, she wrote this:

Now if I had had a faith that was determined God had to give me a particular kind of answer to my particular prayers, that faith would have disintegrated. But my faith had to be founded on the character of God Himself. And so, what looked like a contradiction in terms: God loves me; God lets this awful thing happen to me. What looked like a contradiction in terms, I had to leave in God’s hands and say okay, Lord. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. But I only had two choices. He is either God or He’s not. I am either held in the Everlasting Arms or I’m at the mercy of chance and I have to trust Him or deny Him. Is there any middle ground? I don’t think so.”

What a statement! He is either God or He’s not.Will you stand on the side of the ALMIGHTY, alongside Elizabeth Elliot, Daniel, Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, Paul, Peter, John…… we either stand with Him, or we are against Him. Jesus said “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15‭-‬16 NASB

Where are you? With Him, or against Him?

Now to Him

“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.” John 16:33 NASB

It is so easy to be judgmental based on how a person looks. We can look at someone on a street corner & think “Get a job! Quit begging!” But do you know their circumstances? Personally, I find it difficult to understand how – and why – anyone is homeless with all of the resources available now… And yet, I spent several months living on the street years ago because of my own bad choices. I was too proud to reach out for help, so God used others to help me out of that pit. Not with money, because He knew that wouldn’t help me, but with a place to stay and food to eat until I got my health back, and I could get a job and my own place. We look at the outside, but thank God that He looks at the heart!

“I thank Him who has given me strength, CHRIST JESUS our LORD, because He judged me Faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received Mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief*, and the Grace of our LORD overflowed for me with the Faith and Love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received Mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:12‭-‬17 ESV

*Unlike Paul, I was not ignorant of God, nor was I an unbeliever. Still, in His infinite Mercy and Grace, the LORD of the Universe forgave me and took me back into His arms. How thankful I am for His Mercy and my wholly undeserved forgiveness! I remain convinced that of those people who helped lift me out of the muck, some had to be angels in disguise. Take time today to thank God for what you have, and do something good for someone. We never know when we might be entertaining angels!

“Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 NASB