Just Peachy

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 ESV

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV

As we walked through the produce department the other day, my son asked for a peach.  When we went over to the peaches, however, they were hard as rocks. While I don’t typically eat peaches, I do know too hard or too soft is not the way to go. Too hard indicates they are not ripe yet, and thus not very tasty nor juicy.  Too soft means they are overripe, and thus losing flavor and becoming mealy. Good peaches, on the other hand, are just right: firm, with a little give.

Since all the peaches were hard that day, we walked away without a peach, but I did not walk away without a life lesson, for as I was later reflecting on the events of the day, God reminded me of how those peaches relate to my life.

As a ripe peach is firm with a little give, so too I must live my life in obedience to God yet with grace for those around me. I must be firm in what I believe. I must not give in to every little temptation. Nevertheless, I should not be legalistic either. I must remember no one is perfect, including myself. I must cling to what is good while forgiving as I have been forgiven. I must do all things decently and in order while understanding not every situation will fit perfectly into the established order.

When it comes to being a parent and a teacher, I again must be firm with a little give. Raising a child with no standards produces a rotten peach–mushy, mealy, and not good for much, if anything. Yet raising a child without grace produces a peach too hard to penetrate. As a parent and a teacher, I cannot be afraid to teach my children to live righteously–I cannot be afraid to give them consequences for their actions—yet I also must remember that no one is perfect; sometimes a little grace goes a long way.

Living life as God intended requires balance. Therefore, I encourage you today to join me in asking God to help us be similar to a perfect peach: firm, with a little give. Join me in choosing to follow Christ’s lead and Christ’s command. Let us together commit to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind (be firm).  And let’s love our neighbor as ourselves (with a little give). For “on these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:‬37-40 ESV).

 

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The Answer

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword [of division between belief and unbelief]. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his [own] household [when one believes and another does not]. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me] is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].
Matthew 10:34-39 AMP

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…”  At first, one may think upon reading this, “Wow.  Jesus is the problem.  He brought division, arguments, riots, and suffering into this world. His presence pitts family members against one another.” But this is not the message of the above passage.  Not the message at all.

Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).  Isaiah foretold Him as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6-7a). John declared, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  Hebrews 13:8 reminds us Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

So knowing all this, here’s the point I see in the above passage:  Jesus is not the problem; He’s the answer.  How we receive Him is the problem.

Jesus is the answer to our sin, yet some of us choose to remain within sin’s grip.

Jesus came as a Light in the darkness, yet while some welcome the light, others cower in the darkness.

Jesus came as the Way, yet some insist on taking the broad path to destruction instead of the narrow road to life.

Jesus came as the Truth, yet while some rejoice in the truth, others reject it.

Jesus came as Life, yet while some embrace the eternal life, others only want to celebrate the here and now.

Jesus came as the Good Shepherd.  Some hear His voice and follow, yet others hear and walk away.

Same Jesus.  Same message.  Yet opposing reactions.  Division brought about by the Savior of the World. Not because Jesus is the problem.  But because Jesus is the answer.  I repeat:  JESUS IS THE ANSWER.

Unfortunately, though, not everyone wants the answer.  Not everyone likes the answer.  So they reject it.  They reject the very One who has the power to save them.

Which brings division. Which sets a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and creates enemies within households. Enemies by choice–the choice to choose death instead of life.

Therefore, today I would like to encourage you in two ways. First, please do not reject Jesus. Choose to follow Him the rest of your life. Choose to trust in the only one with the power to save. No, life won’t always be easy. Trials will come, and life won’t always go the way you want it to go. But you will have hope–a hope for eternity in heaven–a hope that will not disappoint.

Second, don’t take rejection personally. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, but not everyone will choose Him.  When someone comes against you for your faith, remind yourself they are not rejecting you; they are rejecting the one who saved you. They are rejecting Jesus. Remember the encouragement Jesus gave His disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:18-19 ESV).

As a believer, you are not of this world. Therefore, the world will not always understand. So take heart. Keep walking forward in faith. Keep pressing onward and upward knowing this: God will never leave you nor forsake you. Never. Though your own family turn away–though the world seem against you–the Lord will take you in, and the Lord will give you peace. For behold, God is with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Don’t Stop

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

“You’ll never make it.” Sounds weird, but this was an encouragement God spoke to my heart yesterday as I asked Him to help me understand why seemingly devoted Christians turn their backs on God–why people who know God’s Word could one day choose to ignore God’s Word.

He gave me a couple of possibilities at first, like having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5), or like knowing the name of Jesus but not actually knowing Jesus (Matthew 7:21-23). Both of these indicate a heart never transformed—a heart affected by the power but not changed by it. Both indicate a head knowledge not accompanied by a heart change.

Then God gave me another reason, the one I suggested at first: the slow fade. As we grow little by little so also we often fall away one choice at a time. Not many people walk to the edge of a cliff and think, “Well, that’s the fastest way to the bottom,” and then jump. Most people get off the mountain gradually. They find a sloping path and follow it. Step by step and little by little they walk down. And before they know it they’ve reached the bottom. Not as fast as jumping off a cliff, but still effective (and definitely less painful).

It is this idea of little by little God impressed upon me yesterday regarding those who fall away. Not many believers stand at the edge of faith mountain and choose to jump to the valley of unbelief; rather, they take a path that gradually leads to the bottom. It’s a slow fade. It’s a little choice here and a little choice there, and before long they’ve reached the bottom.

Now I personally do not believe Christians consciously choose this downward slope.  I tend to believe the slope begins when they start believing they’ve “made it.”  They begin to believe that Christianity is something one can achieve–that once they’ve reached a certain point they can sit back and enjoy the view.  Wrong! So very wrong!  There is no stopping in our walk with God; if we are not moving forward, then we are going backward.

Therefore, let me encourage you today in this paradoxical way:  YOU WILL NEVER MAKE IT.  You will never get to a point in your walk with Jesus where you can cease to pray, cease to read, and cease to fellowship.  Stopping–or even simply scaling back–on any of these will bring you down the mountain.  No, it will not be a steep descent; but it will still be a descent. And the more you scale back, the faster you will reach the bottom.

We as Christians must be careful–we must diligently take heed lest we fall.  Believing we have read enough of God’s Word or prayed enough prayers or been to church enough times is dangerous.  Neglecting communion with God is never a good idea.  If you take an ice cube out of the freezer and place it on the counter, it may not turn into a puddle right away, but little by little it will melt. So too, if we begin thinking we have “arrived” as a Christian and subsequently stop pressing into our Lord, we will slowly lose what we once had.  Our hearts will grow cold.  Our light will grow dim.  And before long, we will be as far away from God as those who never knew Him to begin with.

Therefore, I implore you today: stay the course. Read, meditate on, and memorize God’s Word.  Pray without ceasing. Do not forsake fellowship.  Keep on keeping on.  Don’t scale back in the least. Continually press in to God and His Word.  Please, please never believe the lie that you have “arrived” in your Christian walk.  You will never arrive until the Lord returns.

Now if reading these words has made you realize you are no longer climbing the mountain–if they have made you see that you’ve been slowly descending–or if they have helped you notice you are almost at the bottom–let me encourage you in this: it’s not too late to turn around. All you need to do is start the journey back up. First, turn around by repenting of your sins. Then take those initial steps forward. Get back in the Word. Begin again to pray. Fellowship again with those who love Jesus and allow them to encourage you up the mountain.

Climbing a mountain isn’t easy–it takes focus, hard work, and diligence–but it is achievable when we take it one step at a time–when we commit to stay the course. So join me today in choosing to stay the course–in choosing to keep moving onward and upward with joy knowing, “… the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrew 10:23).

 

 

 

 

 

Choose Life

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Deuteronomy 30:15‭-‬20 ESV

Did you notice what’s missing in the above passage? Feelings. Nowhere does it say that we are to choose life because we feel like it. We are to choose life because God requires it.  I must say, though, the words “It doesn’t feel like…” come across my ears and out of my lips quite often. On a 70 degree winter day, it doesn’t feel like winter. On a cold summer day, it doesn’t feel like summer. I hear it at Christmas especially, for Christmas has come to mean many things: snow, family, presents, time off work, lights, and decorations. So if one of those is missing, we don’t think it feels like Christmas.

Now why do we say such things?  I believe it is because a momentary feeling or experience goes against what we have accepted as truth. Winter is supposed to be cold, so a warm day doesn’t feel like winter. Summer is supposed to be warm, so a cold day doesn’t feel like summer.

Yet we must remember feelings are temporary; they are not truth. They are indicators. They can indicate our excitement that what we wanted to happen actually happened, or they can indicate our frustration that what just happened was not what we planned for.

Nevertheless, feelings are not truth. I bet it didn’t feel like Christmas the night Jesus was born. Traveling 9 months pregnant. Going into labor while far away from home, far away from family. No room because of everyone else returning for the census. Giving birth in a stable. Placing the promised one in a manger. I doubt Christmas was felt in the way we feel it now… the way want to feel it… with peace, with promise, with hope…on this side of the cross.

As we walk through life, we will experience many feelings—sadness, joy, elation, worry, confusion, anger, frustration, peace. The list goes on. Yet the key to victorious living is not found in our feelings. It’s found in our faith. It’s found in our obedience. It’s found in our willingness to do what must be done or say what must be said apart from how we feel. A victorious life isn’t a momentary feeling; it’s a series of wise choices. Choosing to be kind when you don’t feel like it. Choosing to keep going when you’re tired. Choosing to love the one who keeps hurting you. Choosing to stay the course even though it’s difficult and frustrating. Choosing right even when wrong feels better.

Victorious living is a choice. Therefore, I encourage you today to choose life. No, do not ignore your feelings. Do not negate your feelings. It is unhealthy to do such things. Rather recognize how you feel as you choose to do what’s right. Follow God’s command in Deuteronomy: choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…” 

No, choosing life may not always feel good, but it will be good. Because God is good. Yes, all the time, God is good.

You Are Loved

Webster defines value in part as “relative worth, utility, or importance.” This means we give value to something when we recognize it has something to offer, something worth keeping, or something not easily found elsewhere. Time has value. Rare coins have value. Family heirlooms have value. And most importantly, people have value.

All people.

Let me say that again: all people.

I believe on this day–a day set aside to celebrate love–we must remember everyone has value. God doesn’t want us to value just those people who bless us in some way; He wants us to value everyone.

How do we do this?

We love.

How do we love?

We value others. We treat everyone with the knowledge that Jesus did for them what He did for us. Read with me a passage from 1 John:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7‭-‬21 ESV).

Fact: God created each of us. Knowing that the God of the universe made me gives me value. Knowing the God of the universe made everyone gives everyone value. No one is a mistake. Everyone has value.

Fact: Jesus died on the cross for our sins–not just some of our sins–all of our sins. And He died on the cross for everyone’s sins–not just the sins of some. By dying for everyone’s sins, Jesus gave everyone value, for God would not choose to die for someone without worth.

Conclusion: Everyone has value.

Therefore, knowing today that everyone has value, let’s choose to love everyone. No, we do not need to give everyone we meet some mushy Valentine’s card or a bouquet of flowers or take them on a date. But we can recognize their value and let them know they are precious in God’s sight. We can speak nicely to them and treat them with respect. We can build them up, not tear them down. We can smile at the one who looks like she she needs encouragement. We can put our arm around the one walking the road of adversity to let him know he is not alone. We can befriend the one on the outskirts of the social scene. In short, we can love others as God has loved us.

Now, I am not sure where you stand today in relation to how you view yourself, but if you have not heard this spoken to you recently, let me be the one to remind you today that you are valuable. You are! You are not a mistake, you are here for a purpose, and you have a worth beyond compare. God loves you, and so do I. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Always With You

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b ESV

“Lord, please be with him.” This prayer left my lips yesterday as I was praying for someone.  I actually pray this prayer a lot for people.  Lord, be with her as she experiences this.  Lord, be with him as he goes through that.  It is my go to prayer for those who need comfort, encouragement, wisdom, strength, healing, and well,  just about anything.

Yet yesterday as I prayed for this one young man, I felt God saying, “I am with him. I have always been with him, and I always will be. I AM.”

Well, duh, I thought to myself as God spoke this to my spirit. How could I have overlooked such an essential truth?! God will never leave us nor forsake us.  Let me repeat that:  God will never leave us nor forsake us.  Do you get it?  I’ve quoted this truth numerous times throughout my life, but I didn’t truly grasp its depth until yesterday–when God spoke it to my heart in a new way–a way that immediately transformed how I prayed for the young man and will pray for others in the future. Here’s the deeper view: God is always with us.  I don’t need to pray for something God is already doing!  Praying that God will be with someone is like asking for the ice cream cone you are already holding, or for some of us absent minded ones, it’s like asking where your glasses are when they have never left your face!  I don’t need to pray for God to be with someone; He already is, and He always will be!

Therefore,  instead of praying, “Lord, be with him,” or “Lord, be with her,” I need to pray differently.  I need to pray, “Lord, let them see You in the midst of this.  Lord, let them feel Your Presence.  Lord, let them see Your hand.”  Do you see the difference? God will never leave us; He is with us all the time.   But sometimes we need the reminder that He is always there.  Sometimes we need to see Him there next to us.

So I encourage you in two ways this morning.  First, if you are traveling through muddy waters this morning–if the road you are on is uncertain and unstable–well, God is with you.  You don’t need to pray this; you can know it! God is with you.  Right now–right where you are.  He is with you.  He always has been, and He always will be.  Second, if you or someone you know is traveling on the journey of adversity, then pray for eyes to see the One who never leaves our side.  Pray that you and those around you will recognize God’s sovereignty and God’s presence in all circumstances.

God is with you this morning.  God will be with you this afternoon.  God will be with you this evening. God will never leave you nor forsake you.  So today, I pray you will see Him. I pray you will see His hand, hear His voice, and feel His presence wherever you are.  I pray that in all circumstances you may know that you know that you know you are never alone. I pray that wherever you are and in whatever you do you hear God’s voice speak to your heart and whisper in your ear:  I will never leave you nor forsake you. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Real

So this morning I asked myself the question “What does it mean to be real?” Does it mean sharing everything with everyone? No. Does it mean allowing my life to be an open book for anyone and everyone I meet? No. I believe being real is a balance. It’s a balance between knowing what is yet desiring something more.

For example, I’m not perfect. No one is. If I go through life expecting perfection from myself and others, I’m not being real. If I go around pretending to be perfect, I’m not being real.  No, I shouldn’t embrace sin, but I shouldn’t deny it either. A real person acknowledges her sin and then confesses it.  She cries out like David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).  On the flip side, a real person does not deny the sins of others; but she does forgive them.  She forgives as the Lord God has forgiven her (Colossians 3:13).

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I started thinking about some wants I would consider unhealthy–unhealthy because they tear me down instead of build me up.  Here is the list:

  1. I want to be perfect.
  2. I want to appear perfect.
  3. I want to please everyone.
  4. I want to be everyone’s favorite.
  5. I want to always be on the right side of the favor spectrum.

If we evaluate the list, however, we will see that each one guides me away from real and into fake.

  1. No one is perfect.  If I spend my life trying to be perfect, I will never be happy; I will always fail.  Being perfect is an unrealistic expectation.  Instead, I must pray for a heart like His–a heart that is quick to acknowledge, confess, and move forward.
  2. Perfect does not build relationships.  No one wants a friend who always wants to be right–or at least appear to be right.   Acting perfect is a mask that prevents others from knowing who we really are.
  3. Following Jesus will not make everyone happy with me.  Jesus was the perfect Son of God–and many hated Him. If Jesus had aimed to please everyone, He would not have followed through with what God had sent Him to do.  Being real is understanding that obedience to God sometimes makes people angry.  Being real is understanding that with so many people in this world, not everyone is going to get along.
  4. Each of us has different likes and dislikes; it is how God made us.  What appeals to one person may not appeal to another.  This means I can’t be everyone’s favorite.  If I try to be everything to everyone, I won’t be anyone.  Real goes about as God designed her and is okay if not everyone likes that.
  5. Sometimes being on the right side of God’s commandments is to be on the wrong side of the world.  If I try to always be on the winning side, I will ultimately lose.  Winners play well, even if they lose a game.  Being real requires an understanding that not everyone will pick me for her team.  And that’s okay.

To sum things up, I believe real is not an action; it’s a state of being. A state of being who we are, not who we think we should be.  A state of being okay if things are not okay.  A state of being wiling to walk through life as an imperfect vessel.

None of us is perfect.  And we need to stop pretending to be.  We need to stop looking at those Facebook perfect lives and thinking we are missing something.  We need to stop looking at life through a screen and look into the eyes of those we know.  We need to be real. So join me today in choosing real–real life, real hurt, real joy, real everything. No, don’t go around bearing all to everyone you meet, but don’t go around hiding either.  Be who you are–be who God designed you to be–be real.

 

Abhor and Cleave

Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Romans 12:9 KJV

Abhor.  Cleave. These two words intrigued me when God brought this passage to mind this morning. What does abhor really imply? What does it really mean to cleave?

Read with me the definitions found in the Merriam Webster online dictionary.

Abhor: to regard with extreme repugnance to feel hatred or loathing for: loathe

Cleave:  to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly

Both words indicate an extreme. We are not to merely dislike evil. We are to abhor it. Evil should horrify us; it should make us sick.  To get a deeper understanding, read with me the origin of this word (also from Merriam Webster):

Abhor means “to loathe” or “to hate,” and while loathe and hate have roots in Old English, abhor derives from Latin. The roots of abhor can give us a deeper understanding of both the strength of the dislike expressed by the word and its relationship to other words in English. It came from the Latin word abhorrēre, which meant “to recoil from” or “to be repugnant to,” and was formed by combining ab-, meaning “from” and horrēre, meaning “to bristle,” “to tremble,” or “to shudder.” This word for trembling or shuddering in reaction to something scary or awful is related to the word that names of the cause of those reactions—the Latin word horror, which was later borrowed into English. The -hor of abhor is also the hor- of horror.

Wow.  When God calls us to ahbor what is evil, He is saying that the presence of evil should be so repugnant to us it makes us tremble. I know this convicts me. Sure, I don’t like evil, yet I have also become desensitized to it. This world in general has become too lackadaisical when it comes to evil.  We see it, but we don’t always run from it.

Now, what I love about God and His Word is He does not just tell us what we should avoid; He tells us what we should welcome. Romans 12:9 states it is not enough just to run from and to detest evil; we are also to cleave to good.

Let me give you two pictures God brought to mind with this word cleave. We have two kittens–cute, frisky kittens with sharp claws. If you have a kitten or cat, you know that if they do not want to move or do not want to go somewhere, then they will dig those claws into whatever or whoever they do not want to leave. They will cleave to that shirt, cleave to that blanket, cleave to that couch. And if you want to move them, then you will have to physically pry them off, claw by claw, which is not an easy task. It often seems by the time you finish prying off one paw, the other paw is back clinging again.

The other picture God gave me was that of a young child cleaving to his mother. You may have one of those children who has no qualms about going into any kind of child care. Bless you. Or you could have one like mine… As soon as we would get close to the entrance of the Sunday school class or preschool, my child would cling to me like a cat clinging to a blanket. I and the person trying to take him would have to work together to physically pry him off me. He did not want to go, and so he did not let go of his own accord. He clung to me as if his life depended on it. We would all be exhausted by the time we were able to unhitch him from me.

And so too the devil should be exhausted trying to get us to let go of what is good. Not only should we hate evil to the point that it makes us sick, makes us tremble, and makes us run away, but also we should cling so tightly to good, that no one and nothing could pry us away from it.

I wish I could sit here today and write to you that this is me–that day by day and moment by moment I abhor what is evil and cling to what is good–but that would be a lie. No, I do not like evil, but I also confess that I do not always abhor it like I should. And yes, I like good, but I do not always cling to it the way I should. Instead of holding tightly to it, I hold lightly to it.

So today I encourage and exhort both you and myself to abhor what is evil and to cling to what is good. In a world where it seems as if Good and Evil have no dividing line, let us determine today to make the distinction clear. Let us not only run away from and abhor evil, but let us cleave to what is good. Let us “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 KJV).

 

Go.

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord , is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
Jonah 4:2 ESV

Today’s post begins with an assignment. You will need paper, a pencil, and either an eraser or a dark marker. Go ahead and get it; I’ll wait. 😉

Now divide your paper into two sections. Label one section “Sins I’ve Committed”; label the other section “Sins Others Have Committed.” Now fill in each side with several examples. Be honest. No one will see this but you and God, and God already knows anyway. When you are done, come back here.

So which column was easier to complete? For me, it was sins I committed. This is because I am often harder on myself than others. I recognize my own frailty much more than I recognize the frailty of others.  I forgive others easier than I forgive myself, too. If you had an easier time filling out the sins of others, you may have the tendency to judge others or to recognize the sins of others more than you recognize your own faults. Regardless, I pray you see “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are all as full of sin as our neighbors.

Now get out that eraser or marker. If you have an eraser, erase everything you just wrote under each column. Yes, everything under each column. If you have a marker, color over everything–yes, everything under each column.

Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, here’s the point: Jesus died for all. He paid the price for your sins; He paid the price for the sins of everyone around you. Even if you don’t get along with someone, Jesus died for him. Even if someone hurt you or someone you know, Jesus died for her.

Jonah tried to choose who was worthy of God’s love. He ran away from preaching to Nineveh because he knew God was merciful. Jonah knew that if he preached to Nineveh and Nineveh repented, that God would relent. And Jonah did not want that to happen. Jonah wanted Nineveh to perish.

But God didn’t.  For God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

None of us is God. None of us is perfect. Therefore, none of us has the right to choose who deserves the Gospel and who doesn’t. Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16 that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And I hate to burst your bubble, but everyone means, well, everyone. Yup, even that person who plucks your every last nerve.

With this truth in mind, I encourage you today not to allow personal differences and past sins to keep you from sharing Jesus with those around you. Jesus did not command us to go to those who we like and preach the gospel. He commanded us to go into all the world. And as one of my professors used to say, all means all and that’s all all means.

Therefore, go into all the world and preach the gospel today. Go to your family. Go to your friends. Go to your enemies. Go to the one who makes your skin crawl. Go. Join me in not allowing human perceptions and human preferences to determine someone’s Eternity. Join me in understanding it’s not just the likeable in the lovely who deserve to hear the salvation message. It’s everyone.

Today, let’s not run from others because we know God is compassionate and merciful; let us run to them. Let’s go into all the world and preach that Gospel and make those disciples knowing God doesn’t call the righteous to repentance; He calls the sinner.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I Timothy 1:15‭-‬17 NKJV.

In Step with Him

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5: ‬25‭-‬26 ESV

Throughout high school and part of college, I was in the marching band. As a band, we were supposed to march in step together. We did not always go the same direction, but our steps–their length and their timing–were always the same, for our steps were based on the beat of the music and the direction of the drum major. Keeping in step with the drum major and the beat enabled us to remain in the correct form and ultimately perform our best. If we had based our steps on those around us, then our steps could have gotten off. And if everyone was in step except for a couple of people, the audience would notice, and the performance would suffer.

Similarly, in step with the Spirit does not mean we will be going in the same direction with the ones next to us. It doesn’t even mean we’ll be playing the same instrument as our neighbor. Being in step with Spirit means we follow the beat of the Spirit. And as long as each of us remains in step with the Spirit, our unique qualities will work together for God’s ultimate glory.

I’m not sure what God is calling you to do or to say today (or to not do or say), but I encourage you to follow His lead. Do not worry about what others may think or what others are doing. You stay in step with the Spirit. For if you stay in step with the Spirit, and every follower of Christ chooses to stay in step, we will not all go the same way or or make the same sound, but we will together produce a glorious display–a display that not only gives God the glory He deserves but draws the world to Jesus as well. And that, my friend, would be awesome.