Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 31 Thought for the to have peace

One thing that escapes many people is peace. (Can you see yourself sitting at this peaceful lake?)The problem is their misery often spills over to everyone else. So is there a key to have peace in any relationship at any time? Peter thinks so!

For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:10,11

If you want to have peace if you want to really love life because without peace life can be miserable, follow Peter's wisdom. First, "refrain your tongue from evil!" When Peter says "refrain" he is saying, stop, take a pause, take a break. Often when we are about to go on a rampage, there is a point where we could stop and bring our "evil" under control. The Holy Spirit is telling us, do that! "Evil" is something vile, foul, destructive, ugly words than when spoken bring destruction rather than a blessing! If we are willing to take a breath, think before we speak, I often ask people to ask themselves, "what is the outcome I am looking for here?" We can change our thoughts and actions to acquire the outcome we want.

When Peter is talking about "deceit" the word means manipulation. If your goal is to terrorize someone, to tear them down to make yourself look better, to control the way a person thinks about someone else, or to just blow up in anger to push someone away or control the situation you are moving in manipulation which is as witchcraft according to the Bible. People learn to do this as children. They stomp their feet, whine and cry, and if Mommy and Daddy run to their aide, they have learned to control their parents. Uncorrected immature adults will do the same thing. You know some of them, they throw temper tantrums even in the name of God! It is witchcraft, manipulation according to scripture and has no place in any Christian relationship. It is dishonest in any relationship.

Peter tells us the next key to a peaceful life and relationships is to decide to do everything in your power to turn away from evil and in fact to make it a constant habit to choose to perform "good" for each other.

Last, the way to gain a peaceful life and relationships is to "pursue it." I described this word, one other day but it means to chase after peace like a hunter pursues his pray. We must strategize peace, plan for it, choose it, and go after it until it is fully in your hands.

If you will notice what the Holy Spirit is telling us here through Peter. Peace and peaceful relationship are all about our choices. Yes, peace is part of the fruit of the Spirit, but the fruit of the Spirit is about character development, and that too is about choice. You can have peace always. It doesn't really depend on others. We would hope they would want to walk in peace but peace is our choice for us and we hope others will want to live there too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October 30 Thought for today....dress for God

Halloween, little kids and big kids dress up from the macabre to the genteel or heroic. I'm not going to get into the Halloween thing here, but is it right to dress up at all? To wear makeup, jewelry, and to adorn yourself with all kinds of things? Here is what the Bible says...

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3,4, 

Some denominations have taken this to mean, dress plainly and simply. No makeup, no jewelry, no adornment of any kind, it is all vanity. I have seen this in a few Pentecostal Holiness churches and some Russian churches, and it seems somewhat awkward. Is Peter telling us that we should heed this type of thinking?

The word meaning adornment, the root of the word is where we get the word cosmetics. In the Greek and Roman cultures, the women would spend quite a bit of time working on their faces, doing their make-up. The "arranging" of their hair, would take hours. If you look at any statues of first-century women, in this region, you will see hair designed with multiple curls on top of curls. The process took hours. Also, it was common for a woman to change clothing numerous times a day, not like going from jeans to a nice dress, but going from high-end dress to high-end dress. Is Peter condemning all the care and time someone would use to make themselves look more becoming for others? No, would be that answer. He is not concerned about hair, make-up, dresses, or jewelry.

So what is he talking about then? He is encouraging all of us, both men and women, to make sure we are spending enough time ensuring our hearts are right, our attitudes are good, and our spirits are healthy. He is saying it is OK to look nice for each other and to be a blessing in that manner, don't allow that to be the main thing. Make sure our beauty is from the inside out. What good does it do to look good on the outside if inside we are cynical, bitter, unforgiving, angry, or spiteful?

It is a blessing and a joy to everyone when people take care of their outward appearance. Someone who is healthy and clean looking can impact the surface of anyone. A healthy, fresh appearance can be a reflection of the condition of the heart. However, if your heart is beautiful, that is a beauty that goes beyond the skin to something that can impact people very profoundly and for eternity! Dress up for God first, even though it is nice to dress up for man. Allow your priority to be for God!

Monday, October 29, 2018

October 29 Thought for the day...relationship is the key to wisdom

Last time we talked about having a lack of wisdom. God wants us to come to Him and ask for it. There is, however, something else that we must understand for us to gain the wisdom we need. Let's dig a little deeper here today.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

God has no desire for us to live in a state of lack. He desires for you to have all the wisdom you need but is wisdom indeed wisdom if the relationship with the Lord is lacking or weak? The phrase, "of God" means that we can ask as we have come alongside God, we are by His side, we have an intimate relationship with Him. James is saying if there is no real intimacy with God the right to ask is not given. How can someone be expected to use godly wisdom if their relationship with the author of all wisdom is broken, weak, or nonexistent? If you have been asking for wisdom and it hasn't been coming your way, stop and check your relationship with Him.

God's heart's desire is always for a relationship with us. He is big on relationship that is why Jesus lived and died! He wants us to win, be successful however we will fail miserably if we are not by His side. How can we have his heart, know His heartbeat if we are not by His side? So James says "ask," yes be sure to ask, but making sure you are asking from someone with whom you have a real, true, loving relationship. If so, this wisdom will take you far, keep you steady, and give you strength in time of need.

In God's presence is where we gain wisdom, peace, joy, and love. As well as all the other things necessary to change our world and be successful in all we do! God wants us to overflow in this wisdom as well. "Liberally" means as super-abundance, more than enough and constantly. See as you need it when you need it, however much you need because of your intimacy with Him you will never be in lack.

"Without reproach," simply is telling us you will find God open-hearted and handed in giving, constantly and generously all that you need. He loves to love His children and make sure they always have all that they need because of a relationship with Him.

I hope this helps you understand a little better, how the Lord sees you. He longs for relationship with His people and desires for them to know how much they are loved. Relationship is the key to wisdom and the fruitfulness and success you desire. This is not a relationship based on what you do, but on whose you are!

Friday, October 26, 2018

October 26 Thought for the day...wisdom is the key

I enjoy listening to people who are far better educated than I am. Their insights can often inspire me to do things better, to challenge me in thought. However, education has its limits. It generally comes from man, but wisdom, true wisdom, comes from God. It is the key to impact our world and have great success. Failures typically occur because of broken focus and broken focus is generally caused by a lack of wisdom. James gives us the key to keeping our focus.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Have you ever had a lack of something? I remember the gas lines in the late 70's. I remember my luggage being lost in Russia when the wall first came down and being three weeks without any clothes. There have been other times when financially we had some severe struggles. Lack is not a fun thing. The word literally means a shortfall, a deficiency, or a shortage. A lack of wisdom can create a fear of failure, which can paralyze us, so we are unable to make decisions. Bills don't get paid, essential choices are placed on hold, appointments are not kept, relationships fall apart, or jobs are lost all because of a lack of wisdom.

James encourages us that God will freely give as much wisdom as we need if we ask. Why is wisdom such a key? Education will provide us with all the information and facts we can handle. Wisdom is important because it gives us principles, insight, and solutions. Information and facts will fail us because they are limited to man's understanding but the principles that wisdom gives us can carry us through anything because they are from the Lord.

When James in writing "ask," he is saying to be tenacious, adamant, but respectful. Pursue asking the Lord for the wisdom you need until you receive it. God's wisdom is far greater than anything man can produce. The "word of wisdom" is one of the most disrespected gifts of the Holy Spirit, too many take it for granted when in reality, not prophecy, reading of scripture, understanding of teaching or preaching can be as effective without it. Here is one passage from Proverbs that will help you understand the importance of wisdom,

"Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” Proverbs 4:5-9

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October 25 Thought for the day...getting to the root!

Have you ever been hurt by someone? Of course, you have. People are people and life is life, hurts rejections, wounds, are all part of life. People are hurting, wounded, and rejected themselves and because of that, they will respond to people in like manner. Knowing this, it is not so much if we will have this happen to us but instead how we react when it does! Here is what the Bible says...

"looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" Hebrews 12:15

Bitterness is a nasty thing. Some have said arthritis, certain types of dementia, some other physical problems have their root in bitterness. I would never say all people suffering from the things have bitterness, but certainly, some do. Bitterness can begin very subtlely. It can be a slight offense here or there, rather than moving in forgiveness or blessing, we take it to heart. Rather than pushing it away from us, we take ownership of the anger, unforgiveness, and resentment that comes with an offense and before long we have a "root of bitterness."

The word used for "root" means something that goes deep, is deeply embedded. As time goes, this "root" can become firmly fixed in our souls. When we see the person who offended us, hear their name mentioned, we feel a pain inside and even can go as far as to hurt the person's reputation or attack their integrity, looking for ways to bring them down. The fruit it produces is sour, vengeful, cynical, sarcastic, and unkind. The "root" can have such a bitter hold inside that it can cause your outward appearance to change, replacing a joyous look with a scowl.

When bitterness takes hold, you will have nothing good to say about the person or situation. Your constant outlook will be negative. Bitterness can poison everything it touches.

So what do you do if you notice this happening in your life? Remember that Jesus had so much more done to Him and His response was only love and forgiveness. We must keep in mind, bitterness and unforgiveness rarely hurt the people we want to hurt, but it always hurts us and can hurt those closest to us. Always walk in forgiveness, and you will always walk in freedom. Don't "fall short of the grace of God." Allow His grace to overwhelm you so you can learn to forgive and kill the root before it sets in on your soul!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

October 24 Thought for the day...pursue the call

I know what the call of God is on my life. My passion is that every person becomes who God has called them to be. If they are not a Christian that they become one. If they are a Christian that they know and fulfill their calling. We must change our world, and if every person doesn't fulfill their calling, it will take so much longer. Ultimately my call is to change our communities, state, nation, and the world! Paul challenges us about our calling in Philippians.

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Philippians 3:12

Paul knew his calling. He could see the big picture the Lord had for him, and he was not giving up. Even in prison, he knew his calling had not been fulfilled, so he had the confidence to keep pressing on and pushing forward. One of the many benefits I have found from knowing my calling is that I can be completely confident that the devil can't stop me and I won't die until I have fulfilled his call on my life as I keep walking with Him.

When Paul is saying "perfect" that word means ripe, mature, complete. Paul is saying, with confidence, I have so much more to do. He had traveled the Mediterranean, shared the Gospel thousands of times, written most of our New Testament, spoken to Kings and the poor, yet he knew he had more to do. There are a joy and a confidence that comes with knowing your assignment.

Then Paul says "I press on." Here is the meaning behind that statement, guys in my region will especially get this. It means to aggressively pursue, to hunt prey, not to give up until the trophy is attained. Just like when people are hunting they strategize as to the best way to pursue and capture their prey when Paul says I press on this is what he means!

How do you find your call? Here is a quick way to understand it

1) What are your gifts, talents, and desires these are generally things the Lord has blessed you with that are signs of your calling
2) What drives you crazy? Part of our call is to fix a problem. Generally what drives you crazy is also part of your call to bring healing, repair, or solve some problem
3) Ask others what they see in you that may be your call. Your spouse, friends, pastor all may see things in you that are obvious to them that is your call!

This is not a perfect way to understand your call, but it will definitely begin you on a journey to understanding. Once you know it, pursue it, run your race to win!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October 23 Thought for the day...the art of listening

I am a fixer by nature, don't bore me with the minutia when I can quickly size up the problem and fix it. That gift has served me well...until I ran into some roadblocks. See if you don't wait to get all the facts, you can end up solving problems that are not really there, solving the wrong problem or even creating a problem because we have not learned to listen. Listening is critical for a Christian as Luke shares with us here regarding one of Paul's journeys.

"After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them." Acts 16:7

One of the most powerful keys to successful Christian living is learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. There are dozens if not hundreds of voices speaking at us all, all day long. Learning to drowned out these voices, no matter how well-meaning or caustic is a powerful gift we must all develop. My friend Myles Munroe used to say, "if you have two visions you have di-vision!" To be successful in the kingdom, there is only one voice that is critical, and that is the Holy Spirit!

When Luke is telling us that they "tried" to go to Bithynia, that word means they were determined with every means to fight to get there. They sincerely wanted, even felt compelled by their flesh to go. There is no end to the good things we can do. There is also no end to the trouble we can get into. Knowing what to do, when and how to do it takes practice and patience. We must learn to be still, to be quiet, to understand God's word, the word of the leadership He has placed in our lives, but especially learn to listen to that still, gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. Too often we trade our wants and desires for what the Holy Spirit wants to do because we don't choose to wait!

Paul and his team really wanted to go but the Holy Spirit "did not permit them." This phrase can actually be translated, the Holy Spirit said a loud and adamant, "No!" It can be embarrassing at times to hear "No" after you thought for sure you were hearing yes. There have been a couple of times in my life where I believed for a yes, assuming for a yes, but the Holy Spirit kept getting louder and louder until I heard the "No!" It is not easy to stop something you had planned, but if we trust the Holy Spirit, we realize His ways are always right, perfect, loving and sincere. He has our best interest at heart.

All of the things the Holy Spirit has said "No" to for me have been perfectly good things. One protected my life, another protected me from getting dragged down by an issue a brother was having. The two others, I may never know why. By learning to listen, I keep moving forward, I am growing in wisdom, grace, and an understanding of the Lord's heart every day. The enemy of best is not bad instead it is "good." settling for something that seems like God's idea for me but isn't. Learning to listen will save you from good and give you the nest!

Monday, October 22, 2018

October 22 Thought for the day....handling regrets

Have you ever acted in a way or have done something you deeply regretted? Of course, you have, all of us have at one time or another. Most things are minor and are quickly forgotten. In our walk with Christ, things we think are small can hinder our blessings in big ways. James shares with us a way to avoid the regrets and the damage that can be done to our faith.

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." James 5:16

How does this help us avoid regrets? Simple! Most of the foolish things we do. Most of the sin we commit begins as a thought! Most of our sin develops, our negative mindsets have a beginning, bad attitudes start as a spark in our minds. These dark thoughts can begin to rot us from the inside out. If it is hidden, it has power. We try to battle it on our own, sometimes with success but many more times we got lost in the struggle.

The word "confess" means, to say out loud, to declare, to blurt out. As long as the sin-thoughts, dark-thoughts are hidden they will frustrate and control you. If you can get them out into the open all of a sudden that which controlled you is now broken over you. You can begin to walk in freedom.

What is James asking you to do? When the darkness begins to create a battle in your mind, don't hide from it. Don't deceive yourself into thinking you can handle it. Perhaps you can, but you will waste entirely too much time in the battle. Find someone you can completely trust. Someone that loves you believes in you, and only wants the best for you and share your battle with them. You will feel a weight lift once this sin no longer has its hidden hold over you.

You may not think the sin has a hold over you, but once the thought is there, It doesn't take long for actions to follow. Relationships are critical in the Kingdom and to have a friend, mentor, or pastor you can completely trust is a blessing that will keep you free.

The devil knows what games to play in our heads. He knows how to make us feel insecure, broken, fearful, useless, overwrought with sin and many other ways. These are all tactics he uses to keep us from walking in freedom and power. We all battle stuff as long as we are living in this flesh war will be raged in our minds. If we have plans of action in place, we will always live in victory and be free of regrets!

Friday, October 19, 2018

October 19 Thought for the day...not impressed

Have you ever been around people that want to impress you? Politicians do it, salespersons do it! If you have ever held any position of authority, people have wanted to impress you. Usually, it is all good, they want to help, be a blessing, get your vote, convince you their product is the best. However, there are times when certain individuals are so full of themselves that they talk, largely about what they are going to do, how you need them, how they are so important to you, but they never follow through. Paul wrote to the Philippian church about that...

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Philippians 2:3

We have all experienced someone, while in a meeting, dominating the session with their verbiage, ideas, or opinions at the expense of everyone else. Sometimes all they want is attention or to hear themselves speak. This happens more than I would hope. So what do we do about it? First, we must be aware that we are not the culprit. Open discussion is great, but Paul brings wisdom to our conduct, no matter how convinced we are that our ideas are the best.

Selfish ambition means to jockey for position, someone who is trying to make themselves seem significant and vital in the eyes of others. The funny thing is that the word translated conceit means a hollow or empty boasting. Paul is saying don't waste your time or energy on either trying to jockey for position through boasting and self-promotion because it is hollow and empty.

The scripture tells us promotion comes from the Lord (Psalm 75:6,7). Scripture also challenges those that would boast with empty chatter that "a man keeps his word even to his own hurt" (Psalm 15:4). We are to be people of integrity. We are to be people who trust the Lord for everything, including our promotion. If we are going to talk, we need to always follow through with commitment.

If someone you know is continuously full of empty chatter, love them enough to call them on it. Remind them that others opinions are just as valued and the ideas of others may even be better. We are to value each other, remembering that we are all sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. Keep in mind respect, if the person you believe is full of empty chatter is an elder, leader, or someone you should respect. Speak to them, one on one, in private. Regardless, always be gentle and loving knowing that confrontation can be the most loving thing you can do at times to help someone grow.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

October 18 Thought for the day...don't be a jerk

Have you ever gotten offended by someone treating you rudely or being upset with you for no apparent reason? Have you ever had someone act entirely contrary to their personality? Of course, you have, we all have had treatment like this at one time or another. Typically, people prefer to be kind rather than rude, but when it happens Paul reminds us of this....

Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Romans 15:7

Have you ever been misunderstood? You believe you are communicating in a specific way and that you are coming across with the correct attitude only to find people are entirely misconstruing your attitude, heart, and words. In this age of mega-communication that is very easy to do. Text, e-mails, and facebook post do not contain "tone" because of that an inside joke or comment, a perfectly peaceful thought, even a compliment can be taken the wrong way. What a surreal surprise it is to find you have been misunderstood entirely or someone has been offended deeply. It can happen to any of us.

We know misunderstood communication can all too easy to happen in our everyday lives. It is because of this; when others offend us, they are rude, they act contrary to what we know of them, we need to give grace. Grace is something we can easily share with each other, knowing that sometime we will need it also.

The word choice Paul uses is guiding for our communication. The word "received" means to welcome with open arms. Paul is saying, be gracious toward one another, knowing that you too can be a jerk. Christ has received each one of us in our "jerky" state and we ought to sow grace toward one another so we too might receive grace when needed.

Next time someone treats you like a jerk, pour out grace. Be merciful to each other as we all can have a bad attitude or a bad day and share that with others. Don't be a jerk, "welcome everyone with open arms" expecting when you do that you will reap grace when you need it too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

October 17 Thought for the day...don't let finances wear you out

One of the most significant challenges people face is with their finances. The economy goes up and down in cycles. Wars, rumors of wars, mergers rumors of mergers are changes that impact jobs, investments, interest rates and payments. The good news for Christians is God is constant and so are His principles, and that is what I am writing about today. ****Warning don't freak out we are going to talk about money today!

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Galatians 6:9

Paul is talking about sowing and reaping here. God's economy is about sowing and reaping, giving of your time, talent, and treasure. As you do, you are placing your trust not in your job, the economy, or your wisdom but in the promises of God. Money is not evil, we need money to do the exchange of goods and services. It is when money becomes more important to you than God, it becomes evil.

God always honors our placing our trust in Him when we give our tithes (10 percent of our income) to our church we are saying to the Lord, "I trust that I can live better on 90% of my income with your blessing than 100% without!" However, even with being faithful in giving, there are times where our finances can seem to be under attack, and we need to push through, not grow weary.

In those times it is good to ask a few questions. Am I harboring any unforgiveness that would block me from receiving God’s blessings in my life? Am I walking in holiness before the Lord, or am I allowing any sinful thoughts or actions to have a place in me that would block me from receiving from the Lord? Am I doing what God has told me to do with my life, or am I disregarding His instructions and going my own way instead? Am I faithful to sow my tithes into my church and offerings into my church's outreach and ministries that are feeding me? Have I gotten behind in my giving or forgotten to sow a seed that the Spirit of God told me to sow? Am I under attack because the devil is against my dream or my mission and is, therefore, trying to turn off the valve of blessing, so I become drained of what I need to fulfill the assignment God gave me?

It is easy to respond to the first few questions and correct those difficulties. Sometimes it takes a stretching of our faith to respond to the last question. When Paul mentioned weariness, in this context it means to "not allow evil to overcome you, don't surrender or give in to bad circumstances."  Paul is encouraging us when the devil is attacking our finances do not surrender instead to do the opposite, put up your spiritual dukes and prepare to fight. I have learned if I am going through a difficult place and feel unloved, to pour love into others. If I am in need of time, I spend more time helping others and in prayer. If I am in a financial bind, I have learned to give more away. I look for ministries that are sowing good seed themselves, giving my church my tithe then missionaries I know well and other ministries I know I can trust, offerings or alms. Sowing good seed into good soil brings a great harvest and defeats the devil's purpose for your finances every time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

October 16 Thought for the day....handling the worst criticism

As a Pastor and having worked in Christian Television for over 30 years I am used to criticism. People, even Christians, can say the vilest and most vicious things when part of their lives are not yet sanctified. However, that is nothing compared to where I come under the harshest criticism. No one can criticize me as severely as I can do to myself! Paul recognized that in many believers and the Holy Spirit spoke this through him.

"the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus." Philemon 1:6 

I used to be extremely critical of myself, never being satisfied with anything I had accomplished or the quality of my gifts and talents. As I matured and my attentiveness to the Holy Spirit increased I began to understand I was grieving the Holy Spirit by my actions. He began to reveal to me that my criticism of myself was actually criticizing the Holy Spirit's gift and work in me.

Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is saying, we become more effective when we acknowledge every good thing. What does that have to do with what I just said about being critical? Our faith becomes "active", "alive", "energized" by us. God has already given us faith, but until we decide we are going to begin to acknowledge that every good thing we have came from God, our faith doesn't have life breathed into it. I may have the best computer in the world, I own it (of course it is an Apple product) but until I turn it on it is useless to me. My computer has all kinds of potential but until it is turned on none of that potential can be realized.

You and I have been given every good thing, salvation, relationship with Jesus, and for many of us, the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. Yet rather than being thankful for what we have been given, we complain, put our gifts on the shelf as being somewhat common or ordinary and don't acknowledge them for what they are, fabulous gifts to impact our world.

You might be saying, "I don't feel like any of that is true in my life." Feelings have nothing to do with it. It takes faith activated to begin to believe that you have been given wonderful gifts, talents, abilities, the perfect personality to accomplish God's plan for your life and everything else you need to fulfill your destiny. Stop thinking what you have been given is common or ordinary. Stop being critical of who you are and what you have learned and understand that will fulfill your destiny. Activate your faith! Bring life to it by looking at who you are as a gift from God. Stop being so critical of yourself, begin to be thankful for all the "good things!" Walk in freedom today!

Want to do double duty? Help others to realize how valuable they are. Encourage them in their blessings of the gifts, talent, personality, and all those "good things" we have been given. They have been given so we can help to change our world.

Monday, October 15, 2018

October 15 Thought for the day...intimacy, the key to overcoming worry

Today is one of those days because of the date people are especially worrisome. They are afraid something bad is going to happen only because of the date. Is humorous as it may be to me, it is subtly fearful to others. It is not real nor is it logical on any level to be afraid of Friday the 13th. However, that is the way many Christians feel about other things as well. Christians have battled worry from the beginning. Paul gives us this comfort.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" Philippians 4:6

Paul is instructing a church that is under persecution to not fret, worry, be troubled or to be anxious about anything. If you really think about it much that we worry about never comes about.

Mothers fear dreaded sicknesses, diseases, and disasters for their children most of the time they do not happen. Business people, even with prosperous businesses fear failure, most of the time it does not occur. Many kids have a fear of failing exams and blowing projects at school, yet it rarely happens. Can any of these things happen? Of course, they can. Paul instruction is, don't be afraid only believe.

Often in small group prayer or large prayer meetings, I listen and hear many fret-filled prayers and few faith-filled prayers. Paul is challenging us through prayer to stand on God's Word and believe it. We are to have full confidence in the promises and character of God. God is not moved by our worry, anxiety or fear. We indeed are to bring those things to Him, but we must stand by faith with expectation and thanksgiving knowing He is going to carry our load, lift our burden, and meet our needs.

God has already promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has already promised to supply all that we have need of. He has already promised to lead and guide us and deliver us from our enemies. However, He has shown us we will go through the fire, flood, battles, struggles. He is always there leading us through them.

Paul is challenging us with intimacy. The better we know the Lord, His ways, and character the more at peace we can be. Paul is writing this in a way to suggest that we are bringing our concerns, fears, battles to someone we really know and love, and we are acutely aware that He loves us too! We should know Him so well that He is not only our Lord and God but our friend. Giving thanks ridding our selves of fear and concerns all the things that come naturally with intimate friends.

Friday, October 12, 2018

October 12 Thought for the day...consistency the key to rewards

Every Christian that is growing and maturing will go through times of doubt. A faith walk purposely stretches us and many times we doubt the call, the plan, or whether we are hearing God's voice. Believe it or not, that is still walking by faith. Let's take a look.

"But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

When people share this verse, they tend to believe that doubt is the antithesis of faith. As I mentioned earlier we all struggle with doubts from time to time, but if we keep moving forward we do not lose faith, in fact, I have seen doubt push people right into faith. The real problem comes with consistency.

The word translated "without" means to be outside of something. Faith is a place a state of being and to be without faith is to be outside of that state of being. Being in a state of faith is based on whether or not you are acting in obedience to your assignment. In our assignment, we can struggle with doubts at different levels, but we remain in our assignment being obedient to the Lord's call. It is when we begin to do things contrary to God's call, contrary to obedience to the Lord, or contrary to being examples of Jesus that we have left "faith."

How do I know I am "in" faith? Ask yourself these questions: Am I doing what God told me to do? Am I fulfilling the assignment He gave for my life? Am I living in obedience to His Word and to the revelation He has given me? Am I sticking with the plan Jesus asked me to execute? If you are, then you are living in faith and pleasing the Lord!

We are only able to keep "in" faith by keeping our eyes on Jesus. The enemy wants us to become inconsistent. He wants us getting angry, being fearful, frustrated, prideful, or worrisome and stepping out of faith to the flesh.

"Rewarder" is that the Lord will cause those who remain consistent to see the full manifestation of what they believe for, in every way, in every instance. In other words, if you stay in faith, you will without a doubt receive all you expect.

"Diligently" is what trips us up! It means that we are focused, concentrating on the end. It is our unwavering commitment to God and His assignment, you will not allow anything to push you "out" of faith, but you will remain connected to God's call. Your commitment is unbendable, unmovable you stand firm on God's Word, call, and living His standard.

This is how real faith works. It is not as easy to lose it as by doubt as maybe you previously considered, but our inconsistency will cause us to fail every time on our journey of fulfilling God's plan for our lives...Just be consistent!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

October 11 Thought for the day....don't miss your promised land

In my church, we often say the phrase, "God is good!" We then add "all the time," with a repeat that says "all the time," "God is good!" It is a beautiful sentiment, but I believe we forget how often God is good to us. This hurts us because if we don't honor the way God is good to us, the blessings of God are limited to an ungrateful people, and we naturally miss out on the way He blesses us every day! He may supply, but we may miss our promised land!

"Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years." Hebrews 3:9

The nation of Israel had been blessed beyond belief. Even in the wilderness, in their discipline for disobedience, God still blessed, and it came so common-place to them that they missed it entirely.

The writer is saying they tested God. The meaning here is as if they wanted to see if God would live up to His reputation. The nation, through their sin, put God in a position to demonstrate to them that He really is a faithful God who will never fail His children, This gave God the opportunity to show them that He is indeed everything He said He was.

We can do this as well. You are facing a health, financial, relationship or any other type of crisis you can come to God knowing that He is always faithful and will meet you at your point of need, just because of who He is! When you have to see the deliverance and blessing of the Lord, you will look for it, and God will always be

When it says "tried Me." The writer is telling us that there were many times that Israel would have not survived, they would not have made it. Three million people would have died in the wilderness. Instead, every time God proved He had them in the palm of His hand. This is what the writer meant when He said, "tried Me."

As we keep a grateful heart for all the Lord is doing in our lives it becomes easy to trust that He will "prove" to be our God in every situation. When we don't recognize and honor Him, it is easy to become fearful in our times of crisis rather than trust God will come through.

Can you imagine seeing 40 years of daily miracles? Can you imagine feeding 3 million people with enough quail for meals every day? Can you believe how much manna it took to daily, feed three million people? How many gallons of water needed to come out of the mountain to give water in a desert place to all the livestock and three million people. Those of you that live in South Western Pennsylvania that is roughly our entire population. Yet the nation of Israel grumbled and complained. There was a bad attitude in them as they forgot to be grateful. So they died in the wilderness.

Are you grateful to the Lord for all His blessings? Do you properly honor all the things He has given you and the people He has placed in your life? If not, God may supply, protect and be with you but you will never enter into your promised land. If that is you, don't wallow in self-pity, or get angry because I pushed on a nerve, stepped on your toes, get about the business of an attitude of gratitude and also begin to honor the men and women of God He has placed in your life to bring you to freedom!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October 10 Thought for the is essential

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. On the one hand, I love the freedom of expression it warrants everyone. I see many encouraging thoughts. I see the request for prayer. The honest and truthful hearts expressing the various sentiments. I also see the arrogant, thoughtless, narcissistic, prejudiced expressions. Those points encourage me to pray for people but what ultimately drives me crazy is when I see Christians using language or having attitudes that are anti-Christ. Paul talks about that in 1 Timothy 3:8

"Likewise, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money."

I know, you are saying this is the requirement for deacons and I am not a leader in the church. The challenge; while you may not be a leader in the church, you carry the name of Christ which automatically makes you a leader in the world.

Have you ever known anyone that will completely agree with you about some topic then they are talking with someone else about the same topic, even though they have a differing opinion, this person now agrees with them? Have you ever known someone to claim faith in Christ, speak holy and righteous in the church and with Christians and when they are with, not-yet Christians, they are talking and acting just like them? This is an example of a double-tongued person.

It is nearly impossible to build trust with someone who is like that. Trust is essential to intimacy in any relationship. Recent research has shown that part of the reason many children leave the faith is precisely that. They see their parents talking and acting one way in church and around church people and then next they hear them back-biting, lying, swearing, getting drunk or high or generally living a life that is anti-Christ

Paul uses the word that literally means "two-worded" meaning, a person who says or does one thing to express or show one attitude toward one person and then turns and says or does exactly the opposite to someone else. Jesus challenges us to be salt and light. We must realize to our friends, family, and the world we are always on! If we are not consistent in our walk, then we are "double-tongued!"

If you express your opinion then later change your mind, that's OK! Just go back to the person and be honest. The truth can be hard but the more you use it, the easier it is! I would much rather have people being honest with me, even if it is not comfortable than have you inconsistent with your opinions.

We can always share the truth with each other with grace, patience, and love. Real relationships with a strong bond of intimacy only happen when we speak the truth to each other.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

October 9 Thought for the day....this is real love

Since September 24 we have been defining love based on 1 Corinthians 13, here is the summary of what kind of love God has for us. This is also the type of love we need to ask the Lord to show us with which to love all people. The top line is the verse and the line in quotes the Greek meaning

Love suffers long

"Love patiently and passionately bears with others for as long as patience is needed;

Love is kind

"Love doesn't demand others to be like itself; rather, it is so focused on the needs of others that it bends over backward to become what others need it to be."

Love does not envy

"Love is not ambitious, self-centered, or so consumed with itself that it never thinks of the needs or desires that others possess."

Love is not puffed up. 

"Love doesn't go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others."

Love does not behave rudely. 

"Love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner; Love is not rude and discourteous. It is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others."

Love does not seek its own

"Love does not manipulate situations or scheme and devise methods that will twist situations to its advantage."

 Love is not provoked.

"Love does not deliberately engage in actions or speak words that are so sharp; they cause an ugly or violent response."

Love thinks no evil

"Love does not deliberately keep records of wrongs or past mistakes."

Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth.

"Love does not feel overjoyed when it sees an injustice done to someone else but is elated, thrilled, ecstatic, and overjoyed with the truth."

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

"Love protects, shields, guards, covers, conceals, and safeguards people from exposure Love strains forward with all its might to believe the very best in every situation; Love always expects and anticipates the best in others and the best for others; Love never quits, never surrenders, and never gives up."

Love never fails 

"Love never disappoints, never fails, and never lets anyone down."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Let this be a mirror in your life and a reminder. A mirror to always check how we love others and a reminder as to how God loves us!

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 8 Thought for the day...never fails

We are almost done with our time talking about God's love for us and the love we should have toward each other. This is a mirror that we should be looking at to see how much of God's love is pouring through us. Paul wraps it up with this statement, simple and concise.

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

The word used for fail means to disappoint, come to ruin, fall into some misfortune or destruction. God's love will never ever do this. Humans do though!

At some point in your life, someone who says they love you is going to disappoint you. They may fail in a very big way or simply just let you down. Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is saying don't allow your love for them to fail. Choose to have the Holy Spirit strengthen you with His love.

We always need to be careful because the enemy is seeking ways to bring division between brothers and sisters in Christ, families, workplaces, churches, anywhere that he can place a wedge he will do it. When that occurs the first thing to fail is our love for them. The Holy Spirit understands the accusors ways better than anyone, and if we choose, He will come to us and strengthen our love for each other, because His love never fails.

God's love is unbendable, unchanging; it is constant. It is a love that you can depend on to be reliable and dependable always.

God wants us to learn to function at this higher level of love. Paul shares this with us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because God has made a way for us to be this love to others. He has created His love as a mirror of our lives, don't allow your failures in love to beat you up instead, allow it to show you the potential God has for your life. He wants to show you His love for you so you can show it to others.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Heaven and Suicide

Heaven and suicide

I have had to answer this question more times than I like, "Can a person make it to heaven if they commit suicide?"

In many traditional churches including two of the denominations I was raised both Baptist and Pentecostal, I was taught, if you committed suicide, you immediately went to hell.

Most suicides and suicide attempts are the results of severe depression and despair. I have been taught a man or woman of God ought never to suffer from such things, but the truth of God's word is a little different than that! Moses,(Numbers 11:10-15), Elijah, (1 Kings 19:1-5), and Jonah, (Jonah 4:9), went through periods of extreme depression and, yes, suicidal thoughts.

Two suicides in the Bible are quite famous Judas' and that of Samson Judges 16:30 Then Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life."  Samson is listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11:32.

Please don't get me wrong suicide is wrong. Murdering of yourself or another person is wrong, and the murder of yourself through suicide is extraordinarily selfish*. It robs us of God's great plan for our lives. It leaves a wake of heartache for families to deal with all of the "what ifs." However, it is NOT the unpardonable sin.

Let me ask this question, "Did Jesus death on the cross take all of the sins of those who would believe on Him or just some of them?"

Here are a few verses to look at in answering this question

Hebrews 9:28 "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many."

Romans 5:8,9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we have accepted His sacrifice and have fellowship with him, Jesus’ blood on the cross obliterates all of our sins.

Here is a scripture that shares that exact idea Colossians 2:12-15

“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled (obliterated) out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”

This is what Jesus did on the cross for all of us, who accept Him and enter into a relationship with Him

But how can someone who has a relationship with Jesus commit suicide? Allow me to answer that with another question, how can someone who has a relationship with Jesus lie, steal, gossip, be fearful, feel insecure, these too are all sins. Sin is merely missing God's perfect plan, and Jesus died on the cross for all of them. Our sins hurt any relationship whether human or with God but they never are able to stop God's love for us (Romans 8:35,38,39)

Once again, suicide is selfish, it shows a general lack of understanding of God's great love for us and trust in His plan for our future. However, the blood of Jesus has covered all of our sins, if we have a relationship with Him.

One more pertinent question, how do we gain entrance into heaven? Is it by our works? Is it by our being good enough? Let's look at what the Bible says. God saved you by His grace when you believed. You can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

 Ephesians 2:8-9  

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast."

We obtain heaven only by our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior and the grace He pours out on us, not by our goodness or perfection. We go to hell only by our rejection of Jesus Christ as our Savior Hebrews 6:4-6

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame."

Our entrance into heaven isn't made because we are "good enough" but instead because we have a relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Once again no Christian should become so discouraged that they would even consider ending their own life, but we have seen that some big names in the Bible considered it. It does happen.

If you or someone you know is so anxious, depressed, fearful, overwhelmed that you or they would consider suicide, please don't go there. God's plans for you, despite how overwhelmed you may feel, are for your good and not your destruction. God is a God of hope, love, joy, freedom and He will liberally give all of this to you if you will but come to Him, give Him your pain, hurt, woundedness, your brokenness and allow Him to heal you, set your free, and give you a renewed hope. There is always someone who cares about you and your future, please talk to a friend, pastor, counselor and allow them to point you to a place of hope!

His love for you will overwhelm all of the hopelessness you can throw at Him, if you will only allow Him to do so, for you! He is the one who loves you the most, and it is for forever!

* a couple of people have gotten upset over my calling suicide selfish. I fully understand some suicide is induced through chemical imbalance and other things that seem beyond the control of the individual but does that make it any less selfish? If someone says an unkind word to you but they do not feel it is unkind does it make it any less unkind? I am addressing Christians in this article and as such, if you are a Christ follower that means your life is not your own and therefore to take your own life is selfish because of the effect it has on others and it is not your life to take.

Friday, October 5, 2018

October 5 Thought for the day...hope endures

Our culture tends to be very negative. The news takes the attitude if it bleeds it leads, that is the way we generally think. Our culture can be cynical, snarky, and pessimistic the Lord wants to bring hope, love, joy, and peace in the middle of it all. The best way to make this happen is by love.

Love..." bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7

When Paul is talking about love "hopes all things" the phrase he uses means, that love is always expecting the best. Rather than expecting failure or a bad result about someone love believes that eventually, the best outcome will happen. It is a 180-degree difference from pessimism. Our hope isn't necessarily in the people making the right decisions and wise choices but in our believing the Lord will be able to work in and through a person,  creating an anticipation that the best about to happen. Do you feel that way? Are you always hoping for the best in every situation? God believes for the best in you!

Endurance is exhausting just to think about. Paul is telling us that when we love the way God loves it is as if a person who is under a heavy load but they refuse to give up, surrender or give in because they know they are doing exactly what they need to be doing where they need to be doing it! It means deciding rather than giving up they will stay put refusing to surrender. This is why when we blow it God is always there to rescue, encourage, and take us to the next level. Discipline is not something we want to think about, but too many give up trying to train their children, younger Christians, grow on their job or in life because it is hard to do. Love looks for the end result; the outcome of greater peace, love, joy, and perfect fulfillment. It takes real love to make that happen.

God is already pouring this type love on and into your life...let him pour it through you. You may not always get it back from the people you would expect to receive from, but as you pour out, He makes sure you are loved this way in return.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

October 4 Thought for the that covers and believes

I love the truth of what love is and how it works. I love understanding learning about the way God loves us and the way we should love one another. As Paul begins to wrap up his thoughts on love, he tells us how it functions in very real ways

Love..." bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7

You may be surprised what each of these phrases mean. The word for "bears" actually has more to do with a covering and more with the implication of shielding, protecting, the way a roof covers a house. The heat, cold, rain and other harsh conditions can't penetrate this covering. Many times in our lives we battle through all kinds of storms. God's love is there to shield, to guard us, against the storms of life. If we don't have God's shield against these spiritual battles we face, then it becomes very difficult to survive these attacks.

Paul is letting us know that a friend who moves in this type of love is the best kind of friend. They will stand with you in times of trouble covering you, protecting you. Rather than exposing you in a time of trouble that will cover you, protect you to help you through your storm. A little more than what you may have thought "bears all things means?" We all need people in our lives that will do this for us!

"Believes all things,"The word means to put your faith and trust in someone or something. The tense of the verb is such that it means to not just do it once but to continuously put your faith and trust in someone having a "never give up" attitude. You believe for the best in every situation. God's type of love isn't stupid or blind; it sees the good, the bad, and the ugly. God's love doesn't ignore problems or challenges but chooses to push past them to see the potential in people.

God's love always believes things will turn around. It continually presses forward believing for the healing, deliverance, freedom, restoration, salvation, and anything else necessary to keep the person you are believing for, right in the middle of God's will!

We all need people like this in our lives, and I hope that you are a person like this to others. If you are struggling with this type of love, remember this is love from God. He will pour it in and through your life if you allow Him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October 3 Thought for the day...been jerked around? Respond with love!

All of us have been jerked around by someone at one time or another. It hurts to be treated that way and then to see them seemingly get away with it. It is a tough place to be in, but we have all been there, and Paul challenges us to overcome by love.

Love..." does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;" 1 Corinthians 13:6

I have been in situations where I have been very severely wronged. For a season it seems like the person gets away with it but a seed of corruption in a person does eventually catch up with them. It always happens. Bad seed always brings a harvest of bad crops. The human nature side of me always wants to at least, in a private way, to rejoice when they get their "come-up-ins!" Paul is challenging that human nature side of us to become more Christ-like.

Paul is saying real, genuine; love does not get happy, rejoice, or even snarkily say "Yes!" when someone has treated us poorly. We are to remember that God still loves them and wants the best for them including their repentance. When justice does come to them, the Father's heart, like it was for Israel, is always compassionate and believing for the best. It is easy for unforgiveness to set in if we don't work to keep our hearts pure. People will be jerks at times. I can be a jerk at times. Real love looks past the jerk in us to see our potential.

Paul ties all this in together when he says that real "love rejoices in truth." Truth sets people free. We become jerks because we don't fully love at the moment, we don't feel His love pouring into us, we are short-sighted about God's plan, or we become jealous of the blessings others have been given. When we walk in the truth, understanding God's plan for our lives, we can walk in freedom. We can rejoice when others are blessed because we recognize that blessing was perfect for them and God isn't limited in His ability to bless. Our blessings will be just perfect for us.

If you rejoice when others get their "come-up-ins" or if you struggle when others are blessed, perhaps the Lord is lifting a mirror to you to see the things He desires to work on in your life. God truly loves you and only wants the best for you. Don't shortchange yourself from God's blessings by not loving His way. Permit His love to pour in you and through you, today!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

October 2 Thought for the lets go

One of the saddest parts of my job is standing at a funeral and seeing what could have been, So many relationships wasted because of offenses that as I am standing there mean nothing now. While they were alive, it seemed important to them to hold a grudge. The missed what could have been.

Love...." keeps no record of being wronged." 1 Corinthians 13:5b

I am only writing about this one phrase today because I see the damage done by this nearly every day. When Paul is writing here the word which is translated by this phrase is the idea of an account keeping records. In this case, the account has a list of every time they were offended, every wound they suffered, and every rejection they felt. Everything is accurately accounted for, and the offense and grudge are strongly in place.

God doesn't expect us to be a doormat for people to walk all over but He does expect us to walk in the freedom and forgiveness He has sacrificed to give us. Psalm 103 he tells us (verse 3) that we are forgiven of all of our sins. He shares with us that while he could punish us for those sins, he chooses not to (verse 10). When we ask for forgiveness, we completely remove our sin, so it is no more (verse 12). This is God's kind of love for us. This is what we should receive and live every day. He has every right to hold a grudge, to not forgive as we continue to sin against Him. Instead, e chooses to forgive and keep loving.

Most people who hold grudges and are easily offended don't understand God loves them this way. We need to walk in this love so they can see it. Many times people have taken offense to things I say or do because they don't understand. Some have gotten angry at me, some left the church, other stew n silence but to each one, I must choose to keep loving because of what Jesus has done for me and because my heart breaks for their pain.

It is dangerous to hold a grudge or an offense. You can think you are a good Christian in every other way, but if you don't learn to forgive, the Lord will not forgive you (Matthew 6:15;18:34,35).

When we learn to love by walking in forgiveness, we walk in freedom. I know there are many offenses out there. I could be offended every day by things people do or say. I want to have the Lord's heart, and I want to live in freedom and purity of heart. I choose to see people through His eyes and choose to lay down my "right" to be offended, to let go and to be free!

Monday, October 1, 2018

October 1 Thought for the has no agenda and is always sweet

I have seen what people have called love really be some twisted version of control and manipulation. It is not healthy, but for some, it is the best that they have known. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is telling us that kind of love is not love at all. God's love never...

"seeks its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;" 1 Corinthians 13:5

The word translated "seeks its own" refers to a person who is so bent on getting what they want. They will look for any loophole, twist any facts, put words into someone else mouth, try to force others to keep promises they have never made, corrupt numbers or administration to make this look positive in their direction regardless of the truth. In other words, Paul is saying God's love is never ever manipulative.

Scheming, manipulating, using half truths to get what you want is never real love. Anything done dishonestly, untruthfully, with a secret agenda is not the way God loves us. His love is pure and honest. This kind of love always speaks the truth in gentle ways. It does not need to scheme or manipulate it always shares what is the real agenda with nothing hidden and with grace.

Love is not provoked! How often does that happen between people? Often in marriage counseling, I have to remind people to stay focused on resolving the problem rather than tearing each other down. The idea here is someone who comes alongside another and begins to poke them, as in stabbing them with a sharp stick. It is a continuously picking at and on someone, always pushing just to goad them into a fight. The word also means "sour, bitter, acidy." God's love for us and our love for others should be sweet and refreshing.

Can you see why God's type of love is absolutely necessary for our ability to flow in the power of the Spirit and the gifts that God pours into us? If we become manipulative or bitter, then we are not an accurate reflection of who God is and how He loves us.

I know I am challenging many with what real love is all about. I want to remind you that none of us can love this way apart from our knowing that God really does love each of us this way. We can only love by the way we understand love!