Thursday, April 27, 2017

Creating God Into Our Image



      In 2009 Israeli President Shimon Peres was addressing an audience at a global faith conference in Israel. He was discussing the issue of religious violence when he asked this question: Did God create us in His own image, or has humanity created a God to fit it's own image? It is a very powerful and note worthy question and one that should be considered deeply. Could it be, that from the very beginning, man has been more focused on creating a God to fit our image and our need instead of trying to understand how we were created in God's image?

      Just like the writers of scripture, we as people are trying to make sense of the experiences we have from a relationship with God. And, like the Israelites, our idea of God comes from our fears and affections. the result, unfortunately, is that we see God in the image that we have made Him into, instead of seeing ourselves in God's image. We see God as a judge, because we judge. We see God as an angry God, because we are angry. We see God as a controlling God, because we need to be in control. We see God as a jealous God, because we are jealous. We see God as a vengeful God, because we seek vengeance. This list can go on and on because it's true, we make God into our own image. In doing so we lose sight of what it means for us to be created in God's image.

      We are living in a time when people of all religions are attributing all kinds of craziness in this world to God. People of so called "faith" fly planes into buildings, killing thousands of people, because that's the image they need God to be. Other people of "faith" start what they call just wars, because they created God the way they needed Him to be. Still, other people of "faith" deny others their worth as children of God, all in the name of a God they created into their own image. We all do this, We take our projections and we layer them on God 1 by 1 until we no longer see God as God is. We put God in a box and make Him so small so we can manage what we can't comprehend or imagine. The truth is God is greater and bigger than anything beyond all understanding, and that scares most of us to death.

      When I see the way some people of "faith" treat women, I think your God is too small. When I see people of "faith" say you can't be faithful and dance, or drink wine, or enjoy physical pleasure for the sake of pleasure, or even love whom you choose, I think your God is too small. How much more would we reflect our likeness to God if we chose forgiveness over anger, instead of persistence, we choose silence, instead of remorse we chose gratitude and acceptance. I wonder how much more our world would reflect God's peace and justice if we stopped creating God into our own image and risked living as people created in the image of God?

      You see? God is love, not hate. God is merciful, not vengeful. God is forgiveness, not anger. God is our freedom, not our fears. The more we believe this about God and ourselves, the less we will create God into our image and live more like people created in God's image....... Amen !!

   

   

   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's Never Too Late

                                                                   Isaiah 40:31
                                                     Those who hope in the lord
                                                     will renew their strength.
                                                     They will soar on wings like eagles,
                                                     they will run and not grow weary,
                                                     they will walk and not be faint

       I opened up my bible to a random page and this is the verse that I immediately went to. This verse told me that I need to try and tell you something that I hope you hear and heed. I wish I could give you advice so you could avoid all of life's pitfalls and mistakes. Mistakes that a lot of people have made. Mistakes I have made, and mistakes made by the Apostle Paul. There are a lot of different mistakes that people make, we all make them because we are not perfect. Some mistakes are bigger than others and we are going to make them, but I am here to tell you that no matter how bad you mess things up, it's never too late, and there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

      I found myself at the age of 12 or 13 addicted to drugs, I was robbing and stealing to get money for my drugs. I started working for the drug dealers, selling their drugs and hurting those who owed money and couldn't pay. I was stuck in this dark place with no way out that I could see. But, remember what I said. It's never too late, There is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. I know some people who have lost everything because they were addicted to gambling. I hear stories of girls getting pregnant at very early ages. I have known people who got married and cheated on their spouses, or even hit them.  But remember what I said. It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

      Everything I am telling you is true. We all are going to make mistakes, we all have and we all will. Some of us might make very bad choices that will result into very bad consequences. But I want you to know that what it says in Isaiah was true.....
                                                         ...those who hope in the Lord 
                                                            will renew their strength. 
                                                            They will soar on wings like eagles
                                                            they will run and not grow weary, 
                                                            they will walk and not be faint 

      It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. The sad fact of it is that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we are willing to turn to Him. Some may not make any serious mistakes and live a blessed life, but I want the rest of you to know that it's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. 

      The Apostle Paul had endorsed the murder of Christians, and was on his way to arrest or kill more when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was probably about 50 when he saw his mistakes forgiven by Jesus. He ended up writing 13 books in the new testament from the age of 50 up until he died. It's never to late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. 

      You see, I serve a God of 2nd and 3rd chances. I serve a God who forgives. I serve a God who redeems and restores. So when you make mistakes, or if you hit rock bottom, remember these words. It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. It's never too late to ask God for forgiveness, and to see Him put your life back on the right track. 
                                                  ...those who hope in the Lord
                                                     will renew their strength
                                                     They will soar on wings like eagles
                                                      they will run and not grow weary
                                                      they will walk and not be faint...... Amen

Friday, April 21, 2017

Let God use you

     As the sun rises in the morning, the sky turned from black, to purple, to pink, and then blue. The men in their boats were accustomed to seeing the sun rise, they were fishermen. Their job requires them to fish at night when it was cooler so they could get the fish while they were active and eating. After a long night of fishing they were cleaning their fish so they could sell them to those who would take them and sell them in the market. For some of these fishermen it was a very lucrative business, their fish was salted down and sent all the way to Rome. As they were finishing their days work so they could go home and sleep to get up and do it all again that night, a man they all know walks up to the shore and speaks just a few words to them, but those words would change the course of their lives.

     That may have been exactly what it looked like that morning on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked by those boats where Peter, John, Andrew, and James were working. When He called out to these four men it forever changed their lives. The public ministry of Christ was just getting started, and one of His first acts was to choose these men to assist Him in His work. He was calling ordinary men to do God's work. Even today Jesus is busy calling people. He is calling us to come to Him for salvation. He is calling us to come to Him for service. Friends, Jesus is calling. I wonder if He is calling you for something right at this very moment.

     I am not sure about you, but if I were going to start a kingdom, I would probably look for some very specific kind of people to help run it. I would probably get some very skilled politicians, and maybe some great military leaders to help me lead my kingdom. I would probably recruit some great minds so I could have the most forward thinking kingdom. Maybe talk to celebrities and cultural elites to get them to participate in my kingdom, so it would be considered the hip and in place to be. Jesus called fishermen. Not the most likely candidates to call on when starting a kingdom. But, it is not unusual for God to call these kind of people. He called David, a Sheppard. He used Shipharah and Puah, two midwives who defied Pharaoh. He used Shamgar, who was only mentioned once in scripture, to kill 600 philistines and save Israel. These were people who the world might call nobodies, but these people were nobodies of whom the world was not worthy. You see, the truth is God chooses ordinary people far more than not. Maybe that is because He has so many to choose from.

     None of the 12 disciples brought high credentials into their roles. They came from modest backgrounds with little to no distinction what so ever. They were an eclectic group of ordinary, run of the mill people. None of them were educated in Theology, or fit the mold of "Super Christian" or a "Religious Super Star." Yet, they were chosen to carry the timeless message of Jesus Christ. For Jesus to leave His ministry to these 12 men was a huge gamble. What if they couldn't do it? what if they didn't do it? Was there a backup plan?

     Twenty one centuries later, Jesus is still leaving His work to ordinary people. What are our credentials? Super Heroes? Mega stars? No, just people who find themselves on our knees, Acknowledging that we are inadequate and utterly dependent. Sound a bit overwhelming? Guess what? It's not. That's because Jesus gives us a recipe that blends in with our ordinariness. You take a big bowl, add 1 serving of our weakness, and add His strength, stir and serve. Is it good you may ask? I say not just good, but perfect.....Amen
    

    

    

Monday, April 17, 2017

If You Don't Have Love

      How can we be Christians without the character of love? How can we claim to be Christians and not show love? It is a fruit of the Spirit, it is a sign that we have truly been empowered by the Spirit of God.

      If you listen to Paul you will see that love is so much more than a feeling that makes your heart flutter. Love is so much more an action. if you rely on just the small feeling part then it can be lost. But the love I am talking about is the agapao or agape love, a love that is unconditional, that can't be lost or fallen away from, because it is unconditional, it is an active love. In John 21 Jesus tells Peter if you love me, feed my lambs, tend to my sheep. Paul tells the church, If you have everything, but you don't have love, then what do you have?

      If you have that new car, but you can't forgive someone, then what do you have? If you have that corner office job, but can't show love to your neighbor, it's like a loud gong or clanging cymbal. What do you have if you don't have love? Love should be our character as Christians. Paul even tells us, if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. He even goes a step further to tell us what is and what isn't love.

      Love is patient: Let's think about how patient Jesus was with His disciples and with the throngs of people coming to be healed. We must be patient in the church, we must be patient at home, we must be patient in our communities.

      Love is Kind: Kindness is free, it doesn't cost any money to give or receive. It's just as easy to go around with a smile on your face as it is a frown. Kindness is a big step towards the Christian aim in overcoming evil with good. To give someone a smile, or a cheerful handshake. To say a kind word of comfort, or cheer. How about paying someone a visit? Love does not criticize the work of others, how others worship, even if you don't like it. That isn't the character of love, and it is not the character of a Christian.

      Love is not jealous: Love is the complete opposite of jealousy, it is impossible for it to covet. If God bestows a blessing on someone, we rejoice with them, we do not show sorrow or discontent over the blessings of others.

      Love is not boastful, love is not proud or rude. Love does not demand it's own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. You see where this is going? If you are keeping score, that is not love. Love is gentle, it is not self seeking.

      Love never rejoices over injustices, but celebrates when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, it never loses faith, it is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever. Do you realize that?

       Love is not beaten or down trodden, Love is never defeated or dejected. Love is in the forgiveness of a brother or sister, not seven times, but seven times seventy times. No one is beyond the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. No one, whom the world sees as worthless, is worthless through the eyes of Christians.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Be There

                                     Luke 15:11-32

      The parable of the prodigal son is one we have all heard throughout the years. The message that comes out of this story most times is that the prodigal son realizes his mistake and is repented of his sin, and therefore was restored in his relationship with his father. But, did you ever wonder what would happen if his father wasn't waiting for him as he made those last steps home? Since I don't think fathers get enough credit sometimes, I thought I would talk about a father that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention in the Bible. We don't know much about this father, but it is the father's joy at the return of his son that I would like to think about.
     
       I read through this parable a number of times, and I got a strong and definite feeling that even though this father loved his son enough to let go, he never stopped praying for his sons return. He could have said, "That spoiled brat took my money and left, now he is on his own."  But that is not what we see. Instead, we see a father waiting and preparing for his son's return as he waits for the Holy Spirit to work in his son's life. I think as fathers, the first lesson we can get from this parable is we need to "be there." This father never gave up, he used patience, he was able and willing to wait on the Lord. This can only happen if this father has a relationship with God. You need to have that relationship with Christ that enables you to trust Him, not only eternally, but daily as well.

      Another thing that I got from this parable was how filled the father was with compassion, his mercy was like the mercy God has shown to us. Can you imagine having your temper and need for payback in such control that all you show is mercy and compassion? There are so many people in the world that have never heard the words I love you or you are forgiven. How will your children remember you the most? It seems to me that as a compassionate and caring father is a good start.

      Finally, this text shows me that not only did the father forgive the son, but he showed that with a response. He put his arms around him and kissed him. Wow !!! Do you think the son knew he was forgiven? I bet he did, and the party that came next made it complete. This father left no question about the love and forgiveness he had for his son. I would like to think that a hug given at the right time is better than a new I-Pad or Kendall every time. I see many fathers today try and buy their children's affection, when all that is needed is a little verbal or even physical affirmation such as a hug. Think about the significance that puts on the fact that one of the last things Jesus did before going to the cross was to wash His disciple's feet. I think this was one of Jesus' ways of showing the disciples that they were forgiven, His hug. His example to us on how we should forgive others. I don't know about you, but as a father, beyond getting a new tie, or just being seen by my child as a provider, I would like to think that I was as Godly a father as the prodigal father. I want my child to love me, and to know that I will always "Be there"........Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What will we do?

                            People shall praise You forever and ever. Psalms 45:17 (NKJV)
One of the most common questions asked by believers about Heaven is, “What are we going to do?” After all, eternity is…eternal. It’s not even what we can consider a long time. It’s infinitely more than any amount of anything we’ve ever experienced or measured. And so it’s only natural to stop and wonder what we’re going to do.
Scripture doesn’t leave this question unanswered. When it comes to our eternal occupation, we will worship the Lord forever and ever.
For many of us, there’s a hitch in our heart when we hear this. “I enjoy singing songs about God, but I can’t imagine doing it forever!” That’s because we often fail to understand what true worship is, the kind of worship we’ll be engaged in.
Think back to a time when you loved someone so much that you spontaneously responded to him or her. Maybe it was when you were a little kid and drew your parents a picture expressing how much you love them. Or perhaps it was when you hugged a grandparent.
Hold that moment in your heart and mind…because that’s a faint foreshadowing of true worship. It’s when we respond to someone with all we have in us. We don’t hold back, and we take great joy in expressing our heart to that person.
When we see God in Heaven, every earthly shroud that separates our heart from Him—our sin and our limited understanding—will be removed. Our adoration of Him will be unlike anything we’ve ever known. We will respond to all that He is with all that we are, and it will last for all eternity.
“What are we going to do in Heaven?” Our eternal occupation will be an expression of love that will never end!
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 NKJV Bible

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Not Good Enough

                                                                  Isaiah 6: 1-8


   I know my last post was about feeling as if we are not good enough, but I felt I left something unsaid. I am not sure exactly what that is, but I am going to blog about it once more. I will attempt to bring it from another angle, maybe a more personal angle. anyway, I hope that it will touch someone that needs it.
 
   As a young kid, 11,12,13, I remember times when so called Christians, either through their actions, words, or even silence, told me that I was not good enough, that I didn't measure up. I played baseball through the YMCA and the coaches were volunteers from the local church. I used to hang out with the coach's son at school, and one day he came with his dad to practice. It turned out that it was his birthday and he asked his dad if I could come to the party. His dad turned and said loud enough for everyone around to hear, "You can't hang around him, his parents are divorced." I was told that maybe my mother did something wrong, and that we were being punished, that we were not good enough. But, 30 years later when I became a Christian, I found out that wasn't true.

   Humans can be so cruel to each other. Maybe you have been told this in your lifetime, or maybe you still feel this way today. I know I have to keep reminding myself in my daily actions that I am good enough. For some of us, the scars from our younger years still haunt us and affect our individual achievements throughout our lives. We may turn to alcohol, or drugs. We may feel that we are not good enough to ask that girl or boy to the prom. We may feel that we are good enough to finish high school, or go after that job we really want. We don't feel good enough to reach our full potential, and it can even affect our relationship with God.

   In Isaiah 6, we find Isaiah struggling with that problem of not being good enough. Like some of us, Isaiah feels that low self esteem. We might think, "who am I that God might want to use me?" "I am not good enough to share God's message of hope with others." Or, "I am bound to sin and I can't get free." The guilt, the addiction, the shame, or I tried already and failed, whatever it might be separates us from God and prevents that intimate relationship with Him...

   In the first 8 verses of Isaiah chptr. 6, it describes the prophetic vision of Isaiah. He is called to the throne of God, and he is feeling awe and terror. Isaiah is struck with that feeling and realization of unworthiness, and he cries out, "Woe to me, I am ruined, I am a man with unclean lips and live among people with unclean lips. Yet, I have seen the King, the Lord of Heavenly Forces." How many of us would feel terrified to be in the same situation? Would you feel "ruined" if you stood by the throne of God?
 
   A friend of mine came to me to talk about some things he had done, he was afraid of not being good enough and losing his salvation. I reminded him of all the stories of people coming to Jesus, people who had mad mistakes, people who have done things they regretted and wished they had never done. They had sinned and felt guilt. I reminded him that if they were truly sorry and confessed and asked Jesus to forgive them, that He didn't turn anyone away. I said, if you are truly sorry and asked for forgiveness, Jesus says to you as He did to them, "My child your sins are forgiven, go in peace."

   There is no doubt, we all make mistakes. We all do things we wished we hadn't done. We hurt others, sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose. When Jesus walked this earth, time after time, He talked to people and invited them into a relationship with Him. Sometimes in these relationships Jesus disturbed the comfortable, and sometimes He comforted the disturbed. But, He related to each one. Then and now, Jesus is the embodiment of Grace.

   God's grace is a weird concept in our world today, where strings are always attached and nothing is free. We as Christians need to realize that one of the greatest gifts we can share in this world today is our belief in salvation by grace, through faith. At the cost of His life, Jesus died to save and redeem you and me. He did all of this so we could be free, free to live, free to love, and free to serve. You know, everyone of us must be very, very important for Jesus to shed His blood for us, and grabbing a hold of that radically changes the way we look at ourselves, and the way we look at our lives.

   Isaiah's vision was meant for people like you and me. God desires a relationship with us. Yes, we are sinners who live among sinners, and we live in sinful times, but God comes to where we are, makes us clean and calls us to serve. Isaiah realizes that he is a sinner in the presence of the Holy God, and the realization hits with overwhelming force. Yet, it is this realization that opens up Isaiah to forgiveness.

   verse 6 says to us that as soon as Isaiah was aware of his sinfulness and confessed to it that one of the winged creatures flew to him with a glowing coal from the alter, held with tongs. Isaiah writes, "he touched my mouth and said, See this has touched you, and your sin is removed." Then, I heard the Lords voice saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" I said, "I am here, send me."
May we respond as Isaiah did...... Amen