Living In The Present

Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV): So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

How much time do you spend worrying about the past or the future? Most of us would likely admit that we spend too much time agonizing over the past or worrying about the future. I struggle greatly at times, worrying about what has happened in the past or what is going to occur in the future. The point is – we will worry at times – but we cannot let that prevent us from living in the present moment. Why then is living in the present so important? I’m not suggesting that we should not learn from our past mistakes, but instead we must learn from them and grown into a better human being. I’m also not implying that we should not look to or plan for the future. That type of planning is something that we all must do. The problem occurs when we become too focused on the future that we stop living in the present moment. It is in the present that we encounter God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit. It is in the present that we encounter and minister to each other. I believe that it is in the present, ordinary moments of life that God speaks to us and reaches out to us, calling us to join The Almighty in ordinary and holy work.

I wonder how many ministry opportunities in my own life that I have overlooked because I failed to live in the present moment. I think about the lives that I could have touched and I also think about how many times I could have allowed other people to touch my own life and to minister to me. Often times, we allow the world that we live in to dictate to us our thoughts and our worries. The Gospels reveal to us that Jesus was out in the world, meeting people in their daily lives where their needs were the greatest. He showed compassion, mercy, and love to all that he encountered. He was not afraid to point out sin but he was quick to offer forgiveness and mercy to those who saw the need for repentance. It is when you “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) that you begin to experience present moment living. You are better equipped to do more for others because of your awareness of what God, through the Son, Jesus Christ, has done for you.

I encourage you, in the days ahead, to try living in the present moment. If you are like me, it will take some effort on your part to do so but you will be blessed and encouraged when you do. I will end this devotional with these words from the Apostle Paul from Philippians 2:1-4: Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 

Church Of The Way: Forgivenss and Mercy

Colossians 1:15-18a (NIV)
The Supremacy of the Son of God

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church;

In my continuing effort to write about the type of church that I would like to establish, I have been met with some obstacles. Numerous hindrances and barriers have been placed in my path in order to prevent me from trying to understand and follow God’s will for my life. I have been overwhelmed with many challenging life situations and they have taken my focus away from writing about my desires to establish a church. So as I continue to battle spiritual warfare, I want to attempt to describe the type of church that I hope to one day begin.

The following are beliefs that I have written about thus far:
• These words from Jesus will form the core belief for our church: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)
• My calling is to establish a church where people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicity come together to worship God the Father, Christ our Savior and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit, who powerfully guides the church
• We will be a church that prays constantly for the Holy Spirit to lead and inspire the church
• We will be open and accepting of anyone but we will not compromise and give in to the “world” when it comes to preaching the Gospel message
• Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life – that truth from Holy Scripture will be a foundational belief for our church
• Our church will be non-denominational so that we can attract people from different faith backgrounds who recognize Christ as head of the church

Today, I want to write about forgiveness and mercy. There is a quote that you may have heard that goes like this: “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” Too often in the church today, we pretend that everything is ok in our lives. We don’t like to admit that we are struggling spiritually, emotionally, or financially. We put on a mask or a brave face when we enter church because we want others to think that we have it all together. What a terrible mistake we make when we do this. The church should be a safe place where we can confide in others our fears, struggles, and weaknesses. As we are able to extend mercy and forgiveness to others, and to ourselves, we are in the beginning stages of learning how to achieve spiritual growth and maturity in Christ.

Morton Kelsey writes, “Christianity is the only major religion that promises free forgiveness and mercy to anyone who genuinely asks for it.” Kelsey goes on to write: “I get so discouraged with Christian ministers who preach judgment, and more judgment, when the essential message of Christianity is loving mercy and forgiveness. Preaching judgment or acting it out only walls people off from us and shuts them up with their problems. Judging is very close to the essential idea of karma, which says that individuals must pay for every sin and error they have committed. Reflecting on my own life, I hope and pray that this is not so. I am very sure that judgment and punishment seldom, very seldom, redeem anyone.” ( Morton Kelsey, What is Heaven Like? The Kingdom As Seen in the Beatitudes, p. 34).

I believe this in my own life as a believer and in my ministry as well. Seldom do people remain or grow in their faith when they have been pressured or made to feel guilty in accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. Over the years, I have been witness to the fact that a growing and lasting faith in Christ comes about only when the individual realizes their complete inadequacy as a fallen human being and joyfully accepts the forgiveness and mercy of our risen Lord and Savior. If you are like me, you probably beat yourself up way too much already as you try to lead a good Christian life. Jesus tells us that, while we will never attain perfection on this earth, He will forgive us and heal us if we will only place our faith and trust in Christ alone.

I want to establish a church where we help individual believers to repent of sin in their life and then to accept forgiveness and mercy from God, so that they can lead the kind of life that leads others to Christ. If you share in this belief, I ask that you pray for God’s will to be done, so that a church can be started where people feel safe in confiding to others their sin, knowing they won’t be judged or criticized for their honest admission. Then, and only then, can we begin to grow in Christ and start the process of spiritual maturity as we seek God’s will for our own individual lives and God’s will for the Church Of The Way.

The Church Of The Way:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6(NIV)

Angels as Ministering Spirits

Hebrews 1:14: Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 13:2: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

We tackled a very interesting topic in our Sunday school class this morning on the subject of angels and the role they play in our daily, ordinary lives. Angels are messengers sent from God and they basically help us to understand and follow God’s plan for the world and for our individual lives. We are certainly fascinated with angels and how they possibly intersect with our lives but we should not worship angels. Our lesson this morning from Hebrews reminded us that Christ alone is worthy of our worship because he is greater than all the prophets, Moses, the Aaronic priesthood and even angels.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, reminded the early church that only God the Son is worthy of worship; the angels are not. Colossians 2:18: Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. There were some in the early church that apparently did worship angels. It’s possible they could have believed that God was too holy to worship or approach and so they made angels the focus of their worship.

Another passage from Revelation 22:8-9 reveals to us that we should not worship angels: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!'”

Morton Kelsey in his excellent book, What is Heaven Like? The Kingdom As Seen in the Beatitudes, writes about angels as ministering spirits of departed loved one. “The deceased, particularly the gentle-spirited deceased, are the very ones who are given permission to exert a gentle and hardly perceptible influence upon those on earth who are open to such influence. Raymond Moody and Karlis Osis in their research and Billy Graham in his book on angels have described the experience of being met at the point of death by a deceased friend or loved one. The other person is there to help us make the transition, and apparently has been keeping watch over us all the time. I have personally felt this guidance after the death of my mother and then after the death of my son” (P.28).

Kelsey goes on to write, “The deceased who are kindly spirits and have inherited the earth, influence us in many ways, even though we hardly know it. Those in the heaven beyond the earth are not so separated from us as we sometimes think. By becoming more conscious of the spiritual realm, we can often become more aware of the presence and the influence the deceased in heaven have upon us” (p. 29).

I have always thought that my loved ones that have departed and are in heaven are watching over me and my family in ways that we can’t quite discern. The Bible doesn’t necessarily teach a doctrine of individual guardian angels but there are many scriptures that point to angels offering protection to God’s people in various ways. While we should worship Christ alone, as the Bible teaches us, we can and should draw some comfort from the angels who are sent to us as ministering spirits.

The Light Of The World

John 1:9-13(NIV): The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus came into a world that was filled with darkness. Christ came to give hope to those who had lost all hope. The Roman Empire had crushed the hopes of the people living in Palestine; they did not have a future it would seem, until the light of Christ appeared. The prophet Isaiah foretold this coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Today, we know Christ to be the light and the hope of the world. As believers, we acknowledge that Christ has already defeated the dark and powerful forces of evil. We have the light of Christ to guide us through this dark, perilous world.

As I walked today in the gloom and fog of a December afternoon, I thought about these words from Isaiah, which Matthews repeats in his gospel account of Jesus. Often, we become so accustomed to the darkness and despair around us, that we live out our lives in hopelessness and fear. It’s so easy to focus on the bad things that we see and encounter on a daily basis. We turn on the news and we are bombarded with current events that are filled with evil and darkness. Christians are especially under attack around the globe for their refusal to deny the name of Christ, whom the world does not recognize.

Those of us who believe in Christ and are not afraid to profess his name are also coming under attack from those who would prohibit us from public prayer and the mention of Christ during the season of Christmas. We are told to be considerate of others, to not offend anyone who does not believe in Christ, as the only way to God. And yes, there are times when the Bible teaches us to answer others in a kind way that will lead them to belief in Christ, instead of alienating them further from the truth that is Christ. The time has come for those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ to stand firm and acknowledge Christ as the true light of the world. This December, remember the real reason behind the Christian celebration of Christmas. Remember the true light of the world – Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Do Not Be Afraid

What are you most afraid of? Does fear rule your life or at least weaken you in some way? There are many who fear the loss of a job or a decline in health. There are also those who fear what will happen in the future as evil seems to be increasing throughout the earth. We all have a certain amount of apprehension of what the world will be like for our children and our grandchildren. Fear of the unknown or uncertain can also incapacitate many good, well-intentioned Christians, because they are afraid of what could happen if they venture out into unfamiliar territory. The Bible reminds us many times to not be afraid, or to fear not.

An angel of the Lord told Zechariah, “Do not be afraid”, when announcing the future birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13). The Bible tells us that poor old Zechariah was “startled and gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12), which was an understandable reaction. The angel Gabriel, told a young woman by the name of Mary, “Do not be afraid…” as he told her that she would give birth to a son who would be called Jesus (Luke 1:31). An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks at night, telling them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people” (Luke 2:8-9).

The Lord Jesus spoke to the Apostle Paul in a vision telling him, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you” (Acts 18:9-10). The writer of Hebrews encourages us to trust in God when he writes, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6). And in John’s vision of Christ in Revelation, Christ says, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! (Revelation 1:17-18).

I constantly need to be reminded of the words of the angel of the Lord, “Fear not, do not be afraid.” If our trust and faith is firmly placed in God then we should not be fearful of anything that comes our way. When we allow fear to enter into or control our lives, we forget God’s promise that He is always with us, even as we journey through dark places and difficult times. Fear then becomes a lack of trust and faith in God. I need to be frequently reminded of the words of Jesus from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Prayer: God, help me to not be afraid or worried about things that are out of my control. Grant me the peace of Christ in my heart and in my life and help me to share that peace with others. Help me to be an example to others of the saving grace and abundant peace that Christ longs to offer to those who believe and call upon His holy name. Amen.