Getting Real About Life, about Love, and about God

Thursday, March 31, 2011

That's what Love does

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” - Isaiah 53:5-6

Love is an action. Love does. Isaiah 53:5-6 tells us what the love of Jesus does. Do we want to know how much God loves? Read these two verses and we can see what love does for us. Do we want to know if God loves us unconditionally? The answers is in these two verses and it is a resounding yes! Want to know if God's love is "fair"? Isaiah will tell us that it is not by our standards of fairness. But, God's love is unfair by our standards.

Pierced for our transgressions-- not his--that is what love does.
Crushed for our iniquities-- not his-- that is what love does.
He gets punishment and it brings us peace--that is what love does.
He is wounded so that we can be healed-- that is what love does.
We run away from him and he runs to us-- that is what love does.
He does nothing wrong but takes the punishment for all the wrongs--that is what love does.

God loves you and he puts that love in action everyday. How about you?

Love today. Not out of obligation or out duty, but because you love and you cant help but do the things that love does.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pain and Suffering

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” - Isaiah 53:3-4

Are you suffering? Feeling rejected? Are you in pain? You have a God who loves you and understands your situation. God is not unfamiliar with what we are going through and he certainly does not hide himself from our pain and suffering. God takes it on. He takes on the pain that you and I are feeling. When we suffer he suffers with us.

We often think when we are going through something that no one has ever experienced and knows what it is like. God does. Your God does. God is going through it with you. You are not alone. The God that is with you is the God that took the heat out of the flames when three boys entered into a fiery furnace. He is the God that took on the pain and suffering of the world and nailed it to the cross. He is the God that defeats death and takes away its sting. He is the one who is with you right now. He is the light that shines in darkness and darkness cannot consume it. He is not a stranger to you or what you are going through. He is walking in the midst of the storm and can and will quite the storm as only he can do.

Surely he has taken up our pain and bore our suffering. God understands.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Becoming

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Saved for...
Saved so that...

Often times I think we look at the idea of a Savior as saving us from something. I am a sinner and I need saved from my sins. This is true. Yet, it is not the whole story. Jesus dies on the cross to not only save us from our sin but to save us so that we might become something else. We are saved for Christ sake. We are saved so that we might become the righteousness of God.

You and I are saved for a purpose.
You and I are saved so that we can become something new.
New Creations. New Lives. New people.
So that the world might be transformed by the righteousness of God that we are becoming.

We have been saved from sin for a purpose so that we might become the righteousness of God.

What are you becoming since you have given your life to Christ?

We are saved for not just from.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 28, 2011

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.” - 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Mediator. That is an interesting understanding of the what Christ does. Mediators are kinda neutral third parties that help work out disputer or differences. Mediators help resolve conflict. In fact in law when they try to work things out, out side of court before it goes to a suit, it is called mediation and a mediator works with the parties in involved to resolve the conflict and come to a settlement. When Paul writes to Timothy he describes Christ as the mediator between God and mankind.

Conflict resolver. Christ resolves the conflict between us and God. Christ helps us to open up the dialogue and to talk to God. Christ makes it possible for our relationship with the God who creates us and loves us to be restored.

It is important that we not miss the three letter word "all." Christ gave himself as a ransom for all. He did not just die for the good people, or for Christians, or for a certain race or economical status. He did not pay the ransom and mediate for a certain country or origin, or a particular gender. He "gave himself as a ransom for all people." Christ is your mediator. Christ is my mediator. Christ is every one's mediator. He did for all so that all can be restored into right relationship with God.

The part I am wrestling with in the description of Christ as mediator is the "neutral third party" understanding of a mediator. In mediation as we understand it in our world the mediator is to be unbiased and neutral about the situation. I don't see Christ as either neutral or unbiased.
Jesus is God. Christ is the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Jesus says, "I and the Father are one. If you have seen me you have seen the Father." Jesus is resolving a conflict that we have with him. He is restoring a relationship with him. He is paying the ransom that is owed to him for what we have done to him. That doesn't sound neutral. Maybe he leans in the favor of God?

But wait.

Jesus is in love with you. Jesus is in love with the whole world. He says, "No greater love has anyone than this that they lay down their life for their friends." Jesus gives his greatest love to all of us. Jesus isn't mad at you he is made about you. He loves you. You are the apple of his eye and you are precious to him. He loves you and me so much that he mediates for us by giving himself as a ransom for all people. Neutral? No way! He is very much connected to the outcome of the resolution. The deepest desire of his heart is that all of us would love him in return. He wont force us to-- because that wouldn't be real love. He loves us too much to make us love him. He wants you and I, he wants the whole world, to know what true love is. So, he opens up the dialogue with the words "I love you." He shows that he love us when does what is necessary in order for the reconnected us to God and he says come to me. The choice is now ours. We have to enter into the mediation with the mediator. We have to love him in return. Fall in love with him. Live in love with him.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 25, 2011

You are forgiven

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9

Guilt is a heavy bag to carry. Shame is just as heavy.

Do you know that we don't have to carry that load. God does not want you and me to be weighed down with guilt, shame and regret.

So, Why?

Why do we hang on to our guilt? Why do continue to weigh ourselves down with past mistakes and regrets. Why don't we just ask for God's forgiveness? Why don't we accept that He forgives us? Why do we continue to drag the baggage around?

Stop!
Let go!
Don't allow the baggage to weigh you down!

Ask God to forgive you for what you have done and let it go.

In the name of Jesus you are forgiven!

Today, lighten your load. God is not holding it against you and neither should you. Let go.

Love today as a forgiven child of God.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grace

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23

Grace is the unearned, undeserved, unmerited free gift of God's favor. We have not earned, deserved or merited God's favor but he gives it to us anyway. We find favor with God because is a God of mercy. God loves you and me. God cares about us. Even though we can never and will never earn, deserve or merit his love he loves us anyway. God gives us what we don't deserve. This is grace. "The gift of God is eternal live in Christ Jesus our Lord." God's gift to those who give themselves and make Jesus Lord of their life is eternal life. It is a gift-- not something we can earn, or deserve, or merit. It is ours if we will just accept it.

Grace is also that we don't get what we do deserve. All of us have earned, merited and deserve death. Physical death and spiritual death. The wages of sin is death. What sin earns us is death. What sin deserves is death. What sin merits is death. This is what everyone has earned. This is what is deserved for every person in the world. This is what I merit. But, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believed in him should not perish but have ever lasting life." (John 3:16)

God is also a God of justice. The price still had to be paid. What sin had earned was still required. Sin still merited death. But, God loves us. So, He does for us what we cant do for ourselves. We don't pay the price. We don' get what we deserve. He does. He didn't earn it or deserve it. We did. But he is the God of grace and mercy and justice. He dies our death on the cross. Paying the price for my sin. For your sin. For all the sin of the world. It is paid in full. And he offers us a gift.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23

The gift is not ours until we open it. It is not ours until we receive it. The gift is our in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we give our lives to Jesus he gives himself to us. He doesn't give us what we deserve. He gives us what we don't deserve. Life in him forever and ever.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

James 1:12

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” - James 1:12

God turns our test into testimonies. Persevere because God is working. Keep leaning on Jesus. Don't turn away or lose faith. God is going to transform the situation and when it is over you will have a story to tell of what God has done. Persevere and let God turn your test into a testimony.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stand

“[The Armor of God] Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” -Ephesians 6:10-11

When God is at God's best that is when the devil works the hardest. The devil is not like God. The devil is not all powerful or all knowing. The devil is not capable of being in all places at all times. The devil is limited.

We sometimes give the devil too much credit. We also sometimes do the devils work for him. This being said, the devil is still real and the devil is still working in our world and working against God. But, because of the devils limits the devil can only do so much. It has been my experience that when we are running from God and being disobedient, the devil is not working on us because there is no reason to. We are doing just fine on our own ignoring God and living by our own plans. Since the devil cant be everywhere he is not going to work on people when they are far from God. It is the people close to God that the devil is going to work on. When God is as his best that is when the devil works his hardest. It is in these moment that we must be prepared to take our stand against the devil. We prepare ourselves to stand against the evil one by "putting on the full armor of God."

What jumps out at me in this passage is that it is not by our power and might that we are able to stand up to the devil's schemes. It is by God's. It is by leaning on and trusting in God. In God's word. In God's salvation. In God's protection. In God's strength.

Don't give in to the devils schemes. Don't do the devils work for him. Do give the devil more power or credit that he deserves. Say, "Satan get out of my way." Take your stand in the power of Christ.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug


Monday, March 21, 2011

When the Heat is on

““But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”” - Jeremiah 17:7-8

What we really trust and have confidence in is revealed when the heat is on. When life's storms hit us is when we reveal what is our hope and our strength. It is not what we say when things are fine but how we live when the drought comes that speaks to what our confidence is in.

This being said, I wish that we never had to go through hard times. I wish we would not have to have those moments when the heat is on or that all things dry up. I wish we could learn the truth that Jesus is all we need before the moment when Jesus is all that we have.

Jeremiah tells us that the secret is to plant ourselves by the water (the living water, Jesus) and to send our roots out. Plant ourselves deeply in our relationship with Jesus. Connect deeply to God. Grow deeply in love with Him. Grow deeply in our trust of Him. Grow deeply in the the good times so that when the bad times come, and sadly they will come, you will be blessed when the heat is on. When the drought comes you will continue to bear fruit. There will be no need to worry because our confidence and our trust is not in the situation or circumstance it is in the Lord. And the Lord promises to bless us, to work for our good, no matter the situation or circumstance.

Dig in deep.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 18, 2011

Joy and Peace

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” - Romans 15:13

Joy and peace. This is my wish for you. I pray that God will bless your life with joy and peace. I pray that your life and my life with overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God fills our lives with joy and peace so that they might overflow from our lives and other might experience the power of the Holy Spirit and hope in their lives.

May we all live in the overflow today and everyday.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Take a New Look

“A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” -Psalm 23:1-3

The 23rd Psalm could possibly be the most well known psalm in the Bible. In fact, people who never read their bibles are familiar with the words. Even people who don't believe in the bible are probably aware of David's words.

For many, it is the King James version that we are most familiar with. "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

One problem that comes with familiar passages is that we get in a rut of thinking that we have already heard the word that God has for us in this passage, we know what it says so we fail to hear it with new ears or read it with new eyes. This is what is great about different translations. Sometimes a new word helps us to understand more deeply the Spiritual truth of God's word.

For those who know this psalm as "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want," the NIV throws us a curve ball. It says that if the Lord is our Shepherd is means we will "lack nothing."

Not want.

Lack nothing.

Do you want. I want this. I want that. It is not need it is want. I want more. I want bigger. I want better. The problem with want is that wants tend to only lead to more wants. Wants tend to never be satisfied. What the NIV helps us to understand is that to not want means we lack nothing.

When we allow the Lord to be our shepherd we lack nothing. The Lord provides everything. Nothing is lacking. That is what want is-- it is this feeling that something is lacking. Maybe, if I get more of this than I want be lacking? Maybe, if I get more of that I won't be lacking? What we are missing is a shepherd. What is lacking is the Lord. As long as I make anything else my shepherd, as long as I allow anything or anyone else to lead me in my life it will be lacking. I will always be in want.

Freedom from the wants come when we allow Jesus to lead us and shepherd us in our lives and then we lack nothing. Contentment comes. The Message translation puts it this way when God is our shepherd we "don't need a thing." God is all you and I need. God is the only one that can and will fill all of our needs and desires. Everything else will leave us lacking.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Clothes We Wear

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” - Colossians 3:12

Did you put any thought into what you are wearing today? Some days, I look in the closet and try to pick out the perfect thing to wear to match my mood or match what I am going to be doing to be doing that day. Some days I just grab the first I see and put it on. Some people put a lot of thought into what they wear each day-- they have to have the latest fashion or the hottest designer name. Some people could care less they are just cloths. But, as I was thinking about the passage from Colossians I realized that no matter what the day or what type of people we are, we dress to fit the occasion. For the most part, we don't wear suits to work out or dig in the garden and we don't wear our "nice" clothes to play in the dirt. We dress to fit what we are doing. We understand that we need to clothe ourselves properly each day. Or at least, most of us, understand that we need to clothe ourselves each day.

The writer of Colossians tells us that there are also characteristics, virtues, and attitudes that we need to put on each day. Interestingly, the writer tells us we are to clothes ourselves in these qualities. What we wear should fit whose we are. That is not a typo. Whose we are. God's people should clothe themselves with the qualities of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The other thing that interest me about the use of the word clothe is that it suggest that this is not something these are not just internal qualities. Our kindness, gentleness, compassion, humility and patience should be visible to others. They should be noticeable to everyone as much as the other stuff that we wear.

I just had a vision of the Emperor in "The Emperors New Clothes" The story of the Emperor running around naked but he thinks he has on the best clothes. He is convinced that he is wearing clothes but he is not. What everyone sees is that he has not clothed himself in anything.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” - Colossians 3:12

What are you wearing? Does it fit whose you are?

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

“then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”” - Acts 4:10,12

If I didn't know any better, I would think that I was the man that Peter was talking about in the scripture passage from Acts 4. I have been healed and transformed by Jesus. I am able to stand before you today (at least figuratively as I write this) as one who has been cured of disease, freed from imprisonment, released from bondage and given new sight by the power of Jesus.

Peter is speaking in defense of healing a man who had been crippled from birth and had spent his life begging at the temple gate called Beautiful. The religious leaders of the day had brought Peter and John in to question them about this healing and Peter speaking boldly in the Spirit gives the credit to whom the credit is due. This has happen in and by the name of Jesus Christ.

We can't heal ourselves and we can't save ourselves. So, why is that so many of us try so hard to do both of these things on our own? Healing, true healing, God's healing is done by God. It is by God's power that we are healed. It is in and through Jesus that our lives are made beautiful, whole, well. It is in the name of Jesus that we freed and released from those things that imprison us and hold us captive. Not by our doing but by the power of God.

I know this not because I read it in a book but because I have experienced it first hand. I spent many years trying to "heal" myself. Trying to "fix" myself. Trying to safe myself. I discovered that I could not do it. It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who was crucified and God raised from the dead that I am able to stand today. God alone gets the credit because it is what God did. I am so very grateful for what God has done in my life and through my life. The credit is all his. I am saved by Jesus I can not save myself. There is no other name by which we must be saved. Did you notice that Peter used the word must. I must be saved. We are all in need of a savior and there is only one that is capable of being able to save us. It is not us. It is Jesus.

Give God credit today for what he has done and who he is. Don't try to do what you are not capable of doing. let God do what only God can do. Are you in need of healing? Turn to the one who heals. Are you in need of a savior (Peter said we must)? Turn to the Savior.

Love today.

In Christ Love and mine,
Doug

Monday, March 14, 2011

Always Growing and Climbing Higher

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - 2 Peter 1:5-8

It is said that the alternative to growing is dying. As soon as we stop growing we begin the process of dying. The same is true in our relationship with God. We are to always be growing. We are to always be "adding to" Peter says.

I sometimes visualize it as a mountain climbing experience where we are alway climbing higher. We don't want to go back or down, we always reach for the mountain top. It is sometimes easier to think of this way than growing and dying. Our relationship with God is one that take us higher and higher up a mountain, the peak or apex, is a constant and deep relationship with Christ. We are called to reach different "base camps" or "spiritual summits" as we climb toward the mountain top. Faith is the first step and all other things we add to our faith as we continue to live in and live out our faith.

Faith is not where we stop. It is where we start. We add to our faith as we continue to grow in our relationship with God. This is what I hear Peter saying in this passage. Don't stop at faith keep going! Don't stop at goodness keep going! There is more to be added. There is a higher calling. We have not got to the final destination. Keep going! Don't stop at knowledge, add to it! Don't stop at self control add too it!

All of these qualities, as we grow in our relationship with Christ, should be constantly increasing. Peter says, "process these qualities in increasing measure." Always be growing in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Keep climbing! Keep Growing!

What are you striving for? What are you adding to? Are you growing? Are you climbing?
Don't look back. Press on. Keep growing. Keep going. God will add to your faith these qualities in increasing measure. Just don't stop reaching up and out to him.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Friday, March 11, 2011

God is faithful

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” - Deuteronomy 7:9

God is faithful. God never has to say, "I promise" because God is always faithful. When God says he will do it he will do it. When God makes a commitment he keeps it. God is faithful. He will never fail you or forsake you.

People fail. People break covenants and don't keep there promises.

The Lord your God. Did you hear that? Your God. Yours. Mine. Is faithful. He will never break his covenant of love with you and me.

Covenants are two way streets. We enter into this commitment and relationship by loving God and doing what he wants us to do in our lives. He will always be faithful to us. We are called to be faithful to him.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hope That You Have

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” - 1 Peter 3:15

I have always liked this passage. I have often said to people, "always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who ask you the reason for the hope that you have."
This quote is actually the middle of verse. It is important that we be prepared to give an answer but we need to really understand the context of that statement. Peter says it begins in our hearts.

In our hearts we are to revere Christ as Lord. This is where the hope is for us. It is not about knowing about Jesus and being able to tell people four spiritual laws or walk them through the Romans road. Peter says first thing we need is to have hope in us. Revere Christ in our hearts. When we do this we have hope. A relationship with Christ is our hope. Loving Christ and experiencing his transforming love is our hope. In a nutshell, I think Peter is saying that if we give our hearts to Christ, hope will be evident. People will see those who revere Christ in their hearts as hopeful people and will be asking, "Why are you so hopeful?" So, be ready to tell them.

Peter then ends the verse by taking us back to a matter of the heart. I think he must have been given some foreknowledge about how people would beat people up with the Gospel. How people in telling others about the "hope" that they have would use the gospel as a hammer to beat them down or to say I am right you are wrong. Peter says, "but, do this with gentleness and respect."

When our hearts are transformed by Christ we cant help but be hopeful. We are compelled to tell others so that they too can have the hope that we have. Also, we are moved to love others like Christ loves them and treat them with gentleness and respect.

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Today is the beginning of Lent. It is Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time for us to focus. It is a time to concentrate on our relationship with God. It is a time to be intentional about working on and growing the most important and life changing relationship we can have.

Throughout Lent we might be encouraged to fast from something or take on new things but whatever we do it should be done to help us grow in our relationship with Christ. That is what this time is about. Me and God. You and God. Do we have the relationship with God that we desire? It is time to focus in that relationship.

Ash Wednesday calls us to understand and recognize that we need God. We can't live without God. Our lives our empty without him. I need Jesus. He doesn't need me I need him. He wants us. He desires a relationship with us but he doesn't need us. He loves us We need Him. Lent is a time to focus on loving him. Lent is about moving from need - to want - t0 desire of Christ.

Today, I recognize that I need Jesus. I need him to save me. I need him to lead me. I need him to live now and forever.

Have a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Love today.

In Christ's love and mine,
Doug