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I have been away for the past week enjoying time with my family. After a very enjoyable and relaxing week at the beach, it feels like a fresh start now that we are back to reality. Even though it was hard to come back and get started again, we all know vacations never last forever.

Our family has always enjoyed the beach. We get up in the morning and sit on the front deck of the beach house enjoying the ocean and drinking coffee. Then we head to the beach and sit out watching for dolphins or stingrays, we read, swim and nap. Then it is out to dinner and we finish off the night by sitting on the deck again listening to the ocean. It was oh so peaceful and relaxing.

BeachHouseatNight We also know that if we did this every day of our lives it would ruin the enjoyment. It would not be long before we were bored with the beach and we would lose the uniqueness of the ocean. It would become like many of the fishermen we saw each day, out doing their daily chores and working hard trying to earn a living not even noticing the joys of the ocean and beach. It seems strange in a way, they are out doing their daily work at the same place we were relaxing and enjoying being away from work.

Yet for a week, what a time we had being away from the daily routine, watching birds dive-bombing for food (click link) and watching passing boats. It was an enjoyable time just taking it easy. Actually, sitting on the beach doing nothing can be quite tiring, but it was a good kind of tired. A relaxing kind of tired.

I think we all need breaks like this from time to time. A chance to get away from the everyday chores and responsibilities just to relax and enjoy life. Even Jesus needed time to get away. A time to relax, reflect and refresh.

In our busy world it is common to just keep going. Many choose not to get away and relax. They feel guilty just sitting and taking it easy. That have to be busy and working all the time trying to get more money to get more stuff. I feel there are enough hours taken up by work and the normal chores of life. Working for stuff can be a never-ending job. And the stuff we buy never completely satisfies anyway. I would rather forget the stuff and take some time to relax, enjoy family, refresh and do nothing. It recharges us and renews our strength.

I think God wants us to take time to get away and enjoy some peace and quiet. It is calming to the soul and refreshing to the spirit. Never feel guilty for taking time to relax and enjoy life. There is plenty of time to work hard and do what needs to be done. The Spirit lives within us and he can use this time to refresh us, build us up and prepare us for a fresh walk with him.

Many times, we can hear the Spirit better when we are sitting and relaxing, listening for that still, small voice that is missed sometimes in all the hustle and bustle of life. So next chance you get, take a break and go relax, whether it is at the beach or in the mountains. Let the Spirit refresh you and build you up as you enjoy some time away. You will be glad you did.

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Colossians 3:14 — And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

With all the different thoughts, ideas, interpretations, denominations and versions of the Bible, how is it possible for us to get along and have unity among the brethren?

It is by love. To put on love is to put on God. God is love and love lives within us. Even in all the differences we can be united in the love of God. Our common focus is Jesus. We can be one in Christ and still have different views and opinions. Because of the love of Christ, we can respect one another’s views and opinions and accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

UnityinChrist

Love will bind us together and allow us to live in peace with one another. Many times, love is pushed out of the way for our own selfish desires. That is when disrespect, arguing, judging and condemning takes over, and it is not a pretty sight for those who profess to follow God, who is love.

Unity comes only in Christ. It is not through religion, doctrines, denominations or bible versions but through Christ alone. Unity through Christ looks beyond religion, doctrines, denominations, race, sexual orientation and nationality.

God is love and he lives within us. By allowing his love to flow out of us we can look beyond our differences and accept one another even when we disagree.

Only by loving God and loving one another through the power of the Spirit will others see a difference in those of us who are followers of Christ.

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Sunday after Sunday for many years my wife and I have ‘gone to church’. We sat in a pre-planned service, being entertained, listening to one person tell us what God was saying and looking at the back of the head of the person sitting quietly in front of us.

Each week we sat there, not having the opportunity to say what was on our minds, no chance to talk and get to know our brothers and sisters sitting all around us. We were told this was good fellowship, meaningful worship, and that we would be learning more about God each week. More like learning more about that particular doctrine and belief about God from the perspective of the pastor.

Truthfully, we were getting so tired of this religious social club environment. We were not getting anything out of this experience and we certainly were not putting anything into it…..other than our money when the offering basket went past. We have become tired of the religious enterprise with its pre-planned services, the CEO and board of directors, along with the gimmicks and programs designed to ‘bring the people in’ especially when we were told to go out into the world.

church-people-or-building

We are finding that true community is believers living their daily lives with one another by caring, loving, assisting, encouraging and building one another up. This is what is known as the Church. It is fellow believers living daily for Christ, not a once a week trip to a building and sitting there for an hour.

We are followers of Christ going about our normal daily business living with Christ as our head rather than a pastor. We live as one with Christ, letting his life and love touch others each and every day. We assemble with our brothers and sisters in Christ any day, anywhere. Sunday is not the Lord’s day but every day is the day the Lord has made. God’s house is not a building where we gather with people of similar beliefs. God’s house is us, His people, those of us who have accepted His grace. We are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, not just those who believe like we do.

It has been good for us to stop being part of the Sunday morning crowd at the building of our choosing. It has us looking to God more, listening for His voice and allowing the Spirit to teach us rather than one man. It has us loving and accepting people as they are, not just those who believe like us. The Church is meant to be a community, living, loving and caring for one another each and every day.

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Grace. It is not something we say before a meal. It is a life-changing event that was provided for us by a loving God. We are saved by grace. A one-time event of Christ dying on the cross provided all we needed to be restored to fellowship and right standing with our Father.

But grace itself is an ongoing, daily event. We are not saved and then just sit around and do nothing. Jesus told us to follow Him. Love others, do good to others and follow his example.

growingrace

By grace our sinful nature is crucified, dead and buried. By grace we are resurrected in the power of Christ and it is His spirit that now lives within us. By grace we are now hidden in Christ and seated at the right hand of God (Colossian 3:1-3). We do not just wait until we die our natural life to enter His Kingdom, we now live in the Kingdom of God.

When we realize that only by dying (spiritually speaking) and allowing the life of Christ to dwell within us is when we can truly follow Him. It has been said that a dead man has no worries. When we are dead to self and alive to Christ, it is His life that is within us by the power of the Spirit. His desires become our desires. His thoughts become our thoughts.

We are saved by grace, we cannot buy it, cannot earn it, cannot do anything to pay God back for it. Each day we can commit ourselves to God, acknowledge that the Spirit of Christ lives within us and daily deny the human nature and selfish desires that separate us from true fellowship with the Father.

Grace is an ongoing, daily lifestyle. It is our choice to commit to Him. When we do, we will continue to grow in grace and knowledge of Him, and we will enjoy fellowship with our Father every day.

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As I was reading over a few articles recently, I came across one that was about the eight most controversial topics in the church today.

I read through the article and had to agree, these are eight things that can be very controversial. And as we all know we can basically take verses from the bible and show why we believe the way we do in regard to each topic.

I am not going to go into my views on these topics, but just for information here are the topics the article listed as most controversial: gay marriage; abortion; women in leadership; type of worship music; spiritual gifts; baptism; politics from the pulpit; and alcohol.

Obviously, there are many more topics in the church today that can be very controversial. We as Christians are never going to agree on any of the listed topics yet we are entitled to our views and interpretations.

The problem comes in when we decide to stand and defend our view by judging others, condemning others and fighting amongst ourselves to prove our point.

John1721

What bothers me is the way we divide up the body of Christ based on our personal views on various issues. I personally do not believe that the body of Christ was meant to be divided. Jesus prayed in John 17:21 that they may all be one, even as You, Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Yet today we seem to be divided against one another according to denomination, doctrine and various other topics in our world. We divide over LGBT issues, race, gender identity, equality for women, inerrancy of the bible, politics, universal salvation or eternal hell. Come up with a topic and we will find a way to disagree over it.

The bible mentions in Galatians 3:28 that there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is the way it should be today. We are all one in Christ Jesus no matter what our personal beliefs and interpretations.

Jesus said, by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. He was talking about a godly love for fellow believers. Jesus also said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and love your neighbor as yourself. Sounds to me like he is saying to love all people.

We are not going to agree on everything. We are not going to be in complete harmony on all issues, yet we can love, respect and treat each other with a godly love that comes from the Spirit that lives within us. Rather than judging and condemning others who see things differently, accept them with their differences and let of love of God flow out to touch those around you.

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Have you ever sat down and asked yourself the question who am I? Not necessarily the who am I, why am I here question, but who is the real me.

A couple friends and I were talking about this and we were asking each other who truly knows us, the real us. Most of us are not known by those whom we have a casual relationship, and really, most of us are not deeply and truly known by the few people we consider close, intimate friends.

WhoAreYou

We are good at putting on the proper mask to hide the real us when we are around others. I do it, you do it, pretty much all of us do it. There is something down within us that makes us feel if people knew the real us, they would not like us or accept us.

Fortunately, our Father is not like that. He truly loves us. Even if we are not completely open with Him, He knows more about us than we know ourselves and He still loves us.

If we could get to where we did not worry about what everyone else thinks about us, and accept that we are loved by God, I think our relationships with each other would actually improve. We could be ourselves, open and honest, and not store up all the frustrations, questions, lonely feelings and some of the junk we all have.

If we could follow the example of Jesus and love and accept each other no matter what, our fellowship with one another would be real and meaningful. No more putting on masks, no more trying to be someone we are not.

Now truthfully, if that will ever happen this side of heaven I do not know but it certainly is a goal to shoot for. I am so thankful we have a Father who loves us no matter what. He knows us and loves us just as we are. Now, if we could just do the same for each other.

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Growing up in church we have always been told that God was a god of love. In fact, it is stated in the bible that God IS love. Yet so often we have seen more of a judgmental and condemning God by the actions of many christian people over the years.

Take for instance a popular song I remember singing while growing up in the church. Onward christian soldiers, marching as to war. Now I know the intent was to show we are in a battle, but the battle is a spiritual one. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but so often we fight people rather than spiritual forces and principalities. We turn people into enemies rather than the spiritual forces of evil.

SpiritualWarfare

To often these days we seem to live in a spirit of war rather than love. We spend more time arguing over doctrine and interpretation with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We argue so much over sin that we become judgmental and condemning toward those who see things differently or are not of faith or belief in God.

Over the years many churches have taught that although God is a god of love, he was also judgmental, mean and condemning. We are told that we better do our best to please him or we will be in danger of judgment.

Yet Jesus came to show us what the Father was really like. He showed love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness to everyone, especially to those most of the religious world would have no contact.

Even though Jesus showed us that God loves us, we still turn the cross of Jesus into a weapon for our personal cause or belief rather than a symbol of love and good news.

If we are going to be christian soldiers let it be against spiritual forces and not against our fellow human beings. Rather than fight and argue, let the love of God touch everyone you meet throughout each day.

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