Reflecting Him in our love for others…

What are the things that you value most highly?  For me and many others I am sure, it is the things I love most. One example of this would be a bracelet that I wear all the time.  I have no idea what the monetary value is, probably in the $100 range, but to me it is immeasurable value. It was given to me by someone I loved dearly a few months before she passed away. Wearing it lets me feel like I have a piece of her with me. This idea applies to across the board. we see value in the things we love, and toss away things we don’t.  Sadly, it often applies to people.

I have seen people treated poorly, because they didn’t live up to some unwritten standard of what society calls valuable, but each one of those people have someone who loves them and calls them priceless. They are loved by those who know them well, the cute way they wrinkle there nose when they think, the way the root for the underdog, or any of the little things that only the people who know you best know about you. It is hear in the train of thought that I realized the best news ever. God knows all this and more about each one of us!  The Bible tells us He knows even the smallest, most negligible details about us, down to how many hairs we have on our head. The God of the universe loves us with a great and powerful love that exceeds even my ability to imagine. We don’t need to meet some worldly standard of what is lovable; we need only to be His creation. “Behold what manner of the love the father has given unto us. That we should be called the sons of God”

The problem is that as people, we have a hard time loving what we can not understand and often we don’t understand things, or people, that are new or different. There are some things that we all have in common, as I have mentioned before. We can understand that we are all sinners; we all have similar basic needs (despite choosing different means to fulfill them), and in the end – we are all family.

We must begin to invest our time and money around in the people in our circle of influence.  We must ask God to help us see past what is different to what is the same. Most of all we need to see them as people who are held captive by the enemy who need Jesus. All life is valuable and loved dearly by God, as the children of God we should love people too.  It can be hard, I know, being an imperfect person myself.  I can be very hard to love at times and I am thankful to be blessed with people who love me. I am beyond grateful to have a savior who loves me enough to die for me.  Are you willing to die for your fellow man? at least metaphorically…

Reflecting Him in our attitudes toward others

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  Declaration of independence

In this great country, our forefathers realized an amazing truth, that we are all created equal. They viewed this truth to be “self evident”, or simply stated, inherently true.  This statement offers many implications, including that we were created, not evolved on accident. The Bible tells us that we were created in the image of God. This is why understanding who He is will assist us in better understanding who we should be. This is where my title name comes from, to reflect Him means that we are to be a reflection of Him; this is what we were created to be. Now, when you look in the mirror your reflection is not you, it is only an image of you, how clear the image is will be is  highly dependant on the quality of a mirror you are looking into.  When God looks into you how much of himself does He see?

God is dignified.  This fact is evidenced in a few places in scripture.  First and foremost, He has told us both in the old and new testament that we are to love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds, that we are not to have other Gods before Him, and Jesus told us to sell all that we have to come follow Him.  This means that God wants all that we are; He will not lower His standards to come and beg us to accept the amazing gift he has given us. I say this not to diminish God’s incredible love for us, but to prevent us from diminishing who He is.  Also, we need to understand this fact in our own lives.  God is dignified, and we need to be as well.  Too many people will lower their standards to fit in with people who would ask them to compromise who they are and what they believe.

This would mean that understanding the dignity that God has and reflects in us has a twofold implication. First, that we must be wise about who our closest relationships are with, never allow someone close to you who asks you to compromise your morals; however,  we must remember that all men are created in God’s image and treat all mankind with respect and dignity. The basis for this dignity is inherent in being equally created in the image of God. As far as the people not within the guidelines of the church, they can not be judged by us in the same way.  We can not hold them to our standards.  This can be difficult, because first we can not compromise; however, we can not expect people of the world to have the same standards.  When they practice the use of foul language, sexual immorality, and the like we can not expect any different, but we can stand in contrast in that environment and be the light God called us to be. Jesus Himself said that a physician is needed for those who are sick, not those who are well. While our closest relationships are reserved for those who are like minded and born again of the spirit we can not pull ourselves out of the world. How can we shine our light to a world we do not participate in.

These are the cases where we need to love them where they are, we are not to judge them as we are no better except by the grace of God. Romans 3;23 tells us that we ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This sin which as both by choice and through being born in the line of Adam creates equality for us that shows where the terrible things that we as mankind are capable of come from. This means, that both the greatness and wickedness in man can be explained by our creation and fall. 2 Cor 4:4 tells us that the God of this world, the devil, has blinded the minds of those who do not believe.  They are captives. They do not see, because they can not see and when we treat them with the love of God and respect while we pray for them, God can open their eyes.  We are the workers but God gives harvest.  The price the Jesus paid on the cross is far too high, for us to have any say in who is welcome to the cross. We need to love world, not condemn them.

What else can we expect that sinners will sin?  Despite the fact that I am born of the spirit, I too will fall short of His glory, but if you see me behaving in an unholy manner, you should call me out on it, if you are my brother or sister in Christ.  We are called in 1 cor. 5 to separate from those who call themselves born again who commit atrocities, but we admonish them in love and not in judgment with the goal being that the relationship between them and Christ be restored. Having the discernment to know what to say when is no easy task. We must remain in the spirit and view all of our relationships prayerfully.

The bottom line is this: We are all equal; we are all deserving of love and respect. Pray for those around you and give them space to grow into what God would have them be. Be poor in spirit knowing that what is in you is of the Lord and with out his great grace each one of us would be lost and captives to the lies of our enemy.

Reflecting Him in our Thoughts

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; We are destroying speculations and every loftything raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

2 Cor 10:3-5

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Col 2:8

The battle for personal holiness begins in our minds and don’t believe for a moment that there is not a battle. The battle for our minds rages all around us.  There are a few basic things that we battle with everyday; our selves, our culture or the society around us, and the devil are all components of this battle. It is important that we understand what we are fighting against and how to win that battle.

The battle with our selves has to do to with our sin nature. We are all sinners both by birth and by choice.  Even Paul questioned his ability to the things he did not wish to do and inevitably end up not doing the things that he wanted to. It is a battle we all fight with our sin.  Being Crucified with Christ means that daily we chose to engulf our selves in the fire of his Spirit and renew our minds with His word (Romans 12:2).  Our mind works like a complex computer what goes in, is what comes out.  The children’s song that tells us to “be careful little eyes what see” is actually really good advice.  Be careful what you are exposing yourself to, and be prayerful, requesting God to give you wisdom and discernment. True discernment is the ability to tell the difference between what is true from what is almost true. Nearly anyone can figure out the difference between what is true and what is false.

This is why society is often our enemy.  Popular music, movies, and television will often fill your head with thoughts and ideas that are contrary to the truth of God.  His truth is reality and should be the paradigm through which we view everything around us. We must not be afraid to turn off things that are contrary to His truth.  The more falsehoods we let into our minds, the greater of a foothold these lies will take. The empty and useless philosophies of this world creep into our minds as we fill our heads with the garbage that is available to us at every turn, on television, billboards, movies, ect… At the end of the day, we act on what the beliefs that we most deeply hold.  When we look at our actions, they should align with the truth of God.  If they do not, we may be holding on to a lie. Every lie we hold onto, gives the devil a foothold in our lives.

Although, the Devil is a real entity, it is important to have a balanced belief about the him.  One that sees the devil lurking in every corner gives him far too much credit; however, a view that he does not exist, that he is irrelevant or powerless can be equally dangerous.  Our greatest fight against the devil is to simply resist him and draw near to God.

Holiness is something that we are called to.  It sounds like a big religious word, but it simply means that we are to be set apart. We must not be like the general society around us.  I was startled to read of many Barna Group statistics that reveal that the church lives, acts, and believes almost the same as those who state that they are not born again. This is a sad fact.  It would seem from the statistics that are out there, that we are not acting as though we believe any differently. Our actions should be speaking loudly about our belief system, and that begins with a pure thought life.

I do not believe we are accountable for that first inappropriate thought, but we are accountable for the choice to dwell on it. We are also accountable for the things we choose to put into our minds.  “Finally brethren, what ever true, what ever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, anything worthy praise, think on these things” phil 4:8  This is how we take our thoughts captive, if what we are thinking about does not fit into these categories, maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about it.

Jesus did not come to this earth God incarnate, so that we could go on living exactly the same as everyone else.  Sitting at Darien Lake, NY listening to Justin Lookadoo it hit me that he was right. We should not ask is it ok? We should ask is it holy? Let’s really give this movement momentum! Whatever you are doing, watching, listening to, ask yourself “is this holy” if not, then changes need to be made.

Reflecting Him in our Finances

Jesus told us to live and love like Him, but in reality it is hard to know exactly what that means. He loved us unconditionally, while we were yet sinners He died for us. It is in this context that I have struggled to understand how to reflect him. In our lives, because we have fallen so short of His great glory, we can never truly be the perfect reflection, but through the power of His grace we can be what he intended us to be. The first area of concern for me was charity. The question of who should provide for the poor is one that hotly debated nation and maybe world wide. I have strongly come to the conclusion that this is the job of every one of us as individuals, not the job of the government to tax and then use that money to provide programs.

There is not one topic that God has covered more than that of money. Wise use of our money will leave more for us to use for to help our extended family and others. I think we can all agree on a few things that the Word shows us in this area. One clear area in the area of our money is in the area of debt. Proverbs 22:7 tells us that the borrower will become like a slave to a lender. This is a pretty clear indication that purchasing things on credit is not something that God would have us do, or at least that it is not something that we should undertake lightly. My own personal opinion on this is that we should relegate borrowing to include only large ticket items like our house and our car. Most other items should be purchased only as we can pay cash for them. This is an opinion that it held by many top financial advisers.

Keynesian economists would have you believe that this is true on a personal level, but not on a large scale governmental scale. I come from a classic point of view that says other wise. I think that when you apply the idea of spending your way out of debt on a larger scale, what you get is a larger hole to build the people out of. The word build is used here with great specificity, because on no level or scale can a hole be dug out of. Continuing to dig will only make the hole bigger. This seems to me to be simple common sense.

The problem is that we have at some point given in to the idea that our government should be the savior for the heavy laden and down trodden. Some of our current programs started with excellent intentions, but they have spiraled way our of control. Going into debt to feed the hungry seems a lofty idea, but in the end as the debt increases we will find our selves with  too many to feed and too few to feed them.

All of that to say this: Use your money wisely. Spend less than what you have, live within your means. I was told by my pastor once to live on a 10/10/80 plan. This makes so much sense. With this plan, the first ten percent goes to God in the form of tithes and offerings, the second ten percent will go to savings, and then you live on the other 80 percent. When we live below our means and commit our selves to being charitable we will have money to give to help those around us. If we are faithful with the little God will bless us with more, if as many as can will do this those who are in need of help will decline.

When it comes to the poor, the hungry, the widowed we are clearly called as the body of Christ to go to them and care for them. These people are right here in your backyard and this economy I mean that rather literally. It is the job of the church to help the needy; any need for governmental involvement here is due to our failure to be the hands of feet of Christ.

The church should stand for something, but what the world sees when they look at today’s church is everything that we stand against. Jesus called us to love our enemies, pray for those that persecute us and this had nothing to do with whether or not our enemy was a sinner. By definition we all are sinners, but by the grace of God we would be as bad as or worse than those around us. I know full well what I am capable of and with out Him let us suffice to say, that it isn’t pretty. Jesus said feed the hungry, rescue the perishing, give water to those who thirst. He did not say to do this only of the perishing was a certain color, ethnicity, race, creed, or if they are sexually pure. He did not say come to me all who are good enough, he said to come in our filthy rags and he would make us clean. When Jesus was here in the flesh he spent time with thieves, and sluts, and liars. Why is it that the body of the Christ, the church, is too holy to do the same? Jesus loved the sinners and called them to be better. It was the church that Jesus was harsh with, they should have known better.

We need to keep ourselves constantly before Him and make sure that we are indeed holy as he is holy, but as far as the holiness of our brothers that is for us to pray for them and let God be God. Our role is to serve and to keep our own thoughts captive before the Lord. Our role is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, love our fellow man just as they are and trust the Lord our God to do His part. Charity is the place of the church; it is by our love that we are to be known, not by our judgments. What will one’s heart love with greater fervency than the people we have invested our time and finances in?

Reflecting Him in Christian Politics

It seems that the more I contemplate who I should vote for; I begin to really wonder what the Lord would have me to do. What is the role of the individual Christian in Government?  For some of us, God may be calling us to an active role in our government, but that is not likely the case for the vast majority. There are a few things that I am certain are the responsibilities of everyone who calls themselves a servant of the Lord in the world of government and politics.

The first among these would be to pray for our leaders. In order to pray for them, we must know who they are.  This means doing some research.  Find out who the local leaders are, what district you live in, who your assembly men, and congressmen are and then pray for them.  Pray for them by name.  The greatest need of someone who is in a place of power is wisdom.  Since all truth and wisdom come from God only God can provide a solid source of wisdom.  In James God tells us that if any lack for wisdom we need only to ask for it.  The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, therefore; the war is fought (and won) on our knees.

The second greatest need would be courage.  It takes great courage to not only know what is right, but to do it. Often, the right thing is not the popular thing; going against the flow is hard. How many times in the Bible does God tell us to “take courage” or “be of good courage”? God does not waste words, if the idea is stated more than once, it is for emphasis.   To stand your ground in the spotlight of the public arena can be difficult. Especially, when everything you do in your private life is scrutinized for even the slightest contradiction.

One of my favorite quotes is “If you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change, you do”, being in the political arena is dancing with the devil.  There are so many corruptions and special interest groups to entice the average Politian. There are so many opportunities to compromise who you are for what may even seem to be for the greater good.  It becomes so easy to say “if I compromise now, I will be in a better position later”, though it is likely untrue.  So pray, pray hard, pray often.

We also have a responsibility to vote at every election. Jesus said to give unto Caesar what is Caesars’.  We live in a democratic-Republic, a government for and by the people. We owe it to ourselves and our government to participate.   If you are praying for your representative by name then most of the research is done. Sometimes, it feels like the choices are bad or worse, but we must step up and make that choice. It can be tedious, but participation is the right thing to do, because it is supposed to be our views, our votes, our ideas that form our government.  A great place to get started if you are not sure who your elected officials are is at congress.org, this site allows you to put your zip code in and gives specifics about the officials in each area. Including what issues they had the opportunity to vote on, and how (or if) they voted

Finally, know what you believe and why. Where does God stand on the issues?  Is it holy? Christians are not nearly familiar enough with what the word of God says. We need to study the word and align our world view with what the truth of God says. When we seek the absolute truths of the Lord as our foundation, vote for the people who most closely represent those beliefs and then pray for God to give them wisdom and courage, it just may be the recipe for real change.

Chick fil A and freedom of speech

I feel pretty strongly that we all have the right to our opinions. With the recent hubbub over chick-fil-A’s CEO comments, I must say that he has the right to his thoughts.  It seems to me that everyone out there that is shouting for us all to get along and for open mindedness simply means that the all of those who have differing view points should change.  Freedom of speech demands a freedom of thought and opinion, Free commerce demand that the pubic decide which businesses fail or succeed. Not that the government decide who gets to open a business in a given area based on religious thoughts of the CEO. 

That being said, it is Biblical  to state that homosexuality is a sin. All of us who accept the truth of the Bible must accept that;however, homosexuality is NOT more of a sin than adultery, fornication, lying, cheating, stealing…  We ALL fall short of the glory of God. I am as guilty off sin as any other man and therefor have no right to point out the sins of others.

 

Maybe the church should first focus on our own sins instead of being so vocal about this one sin. How many among us are fornicators and adulterers? or liars, cheats, or display covetousness, how many among us live a life that looks just like everyone else? Our we seeking holiness first for ourselves?   Does not Mathew tell us to get the log out of our own eye before we try to get the speck out of the eyes of others?  

Maybe, the church should focus on being the body of Christ. Tending the sick, feeding the hungry, encouraging the depressed. There is so much hurt and heartache around us, should we not focus on being the change we wish to see?  We need to view the world as our mission field right here with our neighbors and coworkers. Being the light does not mean hitting people over the head with it. They will know us by our love. 

Maybe, if we would LOVE those around us and pray for them we could change the world. Just as we can not walk into a mortuary and call out to the dead and cause them to live, only God can do that, we must appeal to Him to speak His love to the world.  The greatest gift a man can receive is to know that God is real, alive, and wants to know us. Our goal should be to introduce the world to a real, personal, loving God.