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Archive for August, 2015

Most of us Christians seem to be the same in regard to those with whom we associate. We tend to find others who are like us. I think that is one reason we have so many different denominations in the organized church. We cannot agree on doctrine, interpretation of the Bible and many other subjects, so we tend to congregate together with people who most think the same as we do. And usually, once we find like-minded friends, we get comfortable in those groups and would prefer no new people want to join.

My wife and I had this happen a couple of times with one particular fellowship. Several home groups had been organized over time and when we came along, as new people in the “church”, we thought it would be good to get involved. My wife called the home group leaders of two different groups to get information, and both times she heard a voice on the other end of the phone that very obviously was not thrilled that someone new wanted to come into their group. Needless to say, we did not join either group.

It is sad that we Christians, who should be known for our love for one another, still pick and choose who we want in our group. We only want to be friends with those who feel and think like us.

4corners

Even among organized churches, we see separation. You can have a Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian church on 3 out of 4 corners, and people go in and out of their respective denomination and never smile or wave at someone going into the other. Normally we would not think of merging together as one in Christ because those across the street think differently than we do (and I know there are a few exceptions). For those of us who are outside the walls of the institutional church, we can meet together with a few others at a restaurant on a Wednesday night, and as the Pentecostal people start coming in after service, all we want to do is look at them strange and make sly remarks. Where is the love and acceptance in that? And this is among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not even mentioning how we treat those who do not know God or who do not even believe God exists.

I really think that being more Christ-like may not mean being more holy, or closer to being perfect, it may mean hanging out with people who are a lot less perfect. Jesus was known for associating with people who the religious crowd had no interest. They were the people who never dreamed of being called a friend of God, or attending the local fellowship, or even getting a smile from someone. They were the outcasts, those that religious people did not want to associate with or even have a conversation.

I’ve noticed most people tend to focus more on being like someone else they know and admire, rather than being more like Christ. I think it is easier to be more like a friend because deep down we feel we can measure up, or it is possible to achieve being like another person. We can see the mistakes and shortcomings in others, and we usually feel we are just as good as they are…or better.

That fact is, it is easier being like another person. We feel we are unable to attain being like Jesus. In our own strength, that is so true. The good thing is, Christ does not expect us to live in our own strength. He said it is not good for man (human, both men and women) to be alone. For this reason, he provided a help-mate for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to be our strength, teacher, comforter and guide. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Christ within us, we can be more like Jesus as we learn to love and accept everyone.

So many times, we want to be more like Mike, or Jim or William because they are people we admire and want to be like, mainly because they think a lot like us and do things we would want to do.

Of course being like Jesus would mean we would love and accept people most Christians want to avoid and stay away from, just as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We want to pass by on the other side of the street rather than show love and compassion to one of ‘those’ people.

modernlastsupper1

Jesus said to love our neighbor. We agree with that as long as our neighbor is like Mike, or Jim or William. The bad thing is that if our neighbor is a person we consider an outcast of society, or someone who is involved in things we think are wrong, we do not want anything to do with them. Yet Jesus did not say love your neighbor if they think like you, are pleasant to be around, are Christians of the same denomination. No, our neighbor is everyone we come in contact with throughout our day, no matter who they are, what their lifestyle or belief and no matter what others think of them.

Our job is not to condemn others and point out their sins and mistakes. Our life is to be like Christ, loving others, accepting others and letting them see the love the Father has for them, knowing that we were no different. God loved us, and died for us while we were yet sinners.

Why is it that after accepting God’s love and forgiveness for ourselves, we do not want to offer the same to our fellow human beings?

By the power and love of the Holy Spirit within us, we can hang out with people we never dreamed we would on our own. The love of Christ can work through us, helping us accept others and love them just the way they are. That does not mean we have to participate in everything they do, we do not have to agree with their lifestyle, but we can love them and accept them as they are, knowing that Christ did the same thing, and still does through us.

A good article by Ronnie McBrayer with a different look on this subject can be read here:
http://ronniemcbrayer.net/2015/08/24/tea-and-apple-pies/

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When we hear someone talk about the Kingdom of God, usually our first thought is a place in the distant future. A place we go when we die and leave this earth. It is where God lives somewhere way up in the sky, a place where we will live with Him forever.

Yet, when reading about the Kingdom of God in the bible, it sounds to me it is not some far away, future place. It is right now, and right here. A place where we live daily with our Father. Jesus said in John 14:23 “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. To me, if God has made his home with us, then we are certainly living in the Kingdom of God.

Kingdom of God 3

Jesus mentioned that the Kingdom of God is within us. He said that we were to ask that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

The following excerpt from the article ‘Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God’ found on colsoncenter.org website is a brief explanation of the Kingdom of God:

The Hebrew word for kingdom is malkut and its Greek counterpart is basileia. Both terms primarily mean “rule” or “reign.” Only secondarily do they denote a realm, sphere, or territory over which a rule or reign is exercised. Both terms have a dynamic or active meaning, and refer to the exercise of God’s power, dominion, or sovereignty.

So then, we see that the expression “Kingdom of God” does not refer to heaven or the church or the heart or to moral reform or to a future realm. Rather it refers to the active, dynamic exercise of God’s rule, authority, dominion, and power in the world!

So when John the Baptist announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand, he meant that God’s rule was just about to break into the world through the Messiah. When Jesus Christ Himself preached and proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, He meant that in and by Himself, God was exercising His power and authority in a redemptive way against all the evil in the world!

In short, the Kingdom of God is the rule of God manifested in Christ to bring redemption to the earth. No wonder the Kingdom is the central theme of the New Testament! …

Another good point is made on the web site thegospelcoalition.org, stating: Jesus is the kingdom. Where the king is, there is the kingdom. This is precisely why Jesus says to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21)…

 

Kingdom of God 1

I have come to believe more and more that the Kingdom of God is not necessarily talking about the coming heavenly kingdom, but it is our life with God right here and now. Our old, earthly man was crucified with Christ on the cross and a new man was raised up with Christ. Jesus is our king, and we are living with him in his kingdom every day.

 

Another interesting perspective on the Kingdom of God entitled ‘What is the Kingdom of God about?’ and written by Susanne Schuberth, can be found at the following link:

https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/what-is-the-kingdom-of-god-about/

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I am sure those of you who are parents have noticed how we like to keep our kids under our control? Maybe not necessarily control, but we like for them to depend on us.

For my wife and me, when the kids were in the seven and eight year old range it seemed to be the perfect time. They were old enough to do things on their own, yet they still depended on us and wanted to spend time with us.

kidsparentsAs time went on, they became more independent and wanted to be with their friends. As parents, we kind of dread this time. Even though we want to see our kids grow up and become self-sufficient adults, we always enjoy the thought of those days when they depended on us.

As parents, we want to mentally keep our kids at that age when we felt the love and dependence, and knowing they wanted to be with us. I’ve seen this in my grandmother and the way she talked and treated my mom. I saw my mom treat me the same way and I realize I am feeling the same way about our kids. I know our kids will one day feel the same about their kids. I guess no matter how old we get, we will always see our kids as those seven or eight year olds who depend on us and enjoy our company.

I’m sure our Father is the same way, He likes for us to depend on Him and look to Him for answers, comfort and fellowship. Yet we tend to want our independence, we want to do it our way.

The difference is that in our world it is natural and good for kids to grow up and become independent. In the spiritual world, we can actually stay kids forever. Children of God can look to their Father for love and comfort, someone to listen and is genuinely concerned for us. We can always depend on Him and enjoy his fellowship.

childlike faith

Staying a kid is not to say we should remain childish, but childlike. Being childish, according to answers.yahoo.com, is behaving badly,  produces tantrums, is annoying and merely ignored. Being childlike is a positive. Being childlike is innocent, trusts easily, fearless, powerful, not afraid to fail and inquires with a pure heart.

We are told in Mark 10 that anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Kids are trusting. They look to their parents thinking we know it all and anything we say is true. They do not think about what we say, they just accept it and do it. If we as children of God could be as trusting of our Father as our young kids are of us.

God is always there to listen, comfort, love, teach and enjoy our time together. He has provided all we need to have a relationship with Him and we can enjoy being His children forever.

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As Christians, we have been told that it is our duty to go into the world and preach the gospel.

For my wife and me, that has always meant we were to go to other countries and tell the gospel message to those who have never heard the good news.

We began to feel if we did not go on a mission trip to some other part of the world, we were not fulfilling the command to preach the gospel in all the world.

Yet, we never had a real desire or felt a ‘calling’ to go to another country. At first we felt a little guilty, like we were not doing our part.

After thinking and praying about it, we came to realize that not everyone is called to go to other countries to preach the gospel. Personally, I believe we are all to be ready to give an account of our belief and hope in God to anyone who asks. Yet I do not believe all of us are called to go to other countries, or participate in mission trips.

AllMissionaries

After getting involved with a local ministry at a major college in our town, we came to find a way that felt good to us to help reach the ‘world’ with the gospel. It is called International Friendships. I imagine most major colleges across the United States has this ministry to the international students. It is a Christian based ministry that gets other Christians involved with the international students coming here to attend college. They also provide home groups to learn about faith in God and a Friday night meeting when all groups join together for food and fellowship.

My wife and I got involved and thought it was a great program. International students come here to attend college, get hooked up with Christian friends, they hear the gospel message, then go back to their home countries and tell the gospel message to their own people.

For us this was a more meaningful way than trying to go to a foreign land and talk to people about Christ. We certainly have no problem with those who feel called to go on mission trips and give the gospel message. We also know that not everyone is called to do so.

On my job, I go into homes every day I work and see conditions that could be considered third world living conditions. It is hard to believe, but here in the United States, there are many who have not heard the true gospel message. They may have heard that we should attend a church, give our money, do good things and they have heard we are not do a list of many things. Yet, to hear about and actually see God’s love in action, they really do not know anything about it.

For us, we would actually feel bad if we paid a lot of money and gave our time to go to another country and tell others of the love of God when we know for a fact there are just as many right here in our home town that need to hear the same gospel message.

We are so thankful for people who are called to go to other countries and preach the gospel. Yet for us, we do not have that calling and we are content to stay right here and do the same thing by showing God’s love to all those we meet.

If any of you feel called to go on a mission trip to another part of the country or to a different country all together…..go. If you do not feel the calling to go on a mission trip, please, do not feel guilty. Jesus is building his church out of living stones, us, and each of us has a different calling and purpose to fulfill. Do not feel bad if your calling is different from another’s calling. Each of us are equally important parts of the body of Christ with a job to do. Not a job to earn our way, but a job that Christ will do through us to further his purpose and show the love of God.

YouareHere

Whether your mission field is in some far away land, or if it is your daily routine where you live and work, God lives within us and will touch others with his love. Be ready to give an answer of the hope within you when asked. Show the love of God to everyone you meet during your day, wherever you are at the time.

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