Displaying items by tag: God's Kingdom
Ephesians 1:13 (ESV) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
Destiny was born to a drug addicted teen and left at the hospital to be placed in foster care. Her little, puffy body struggled as she, too, craved the drugs she received during her prenatal development.
Cindy and her husband were looking to adopt another child. Cindy heard about little Destiny through a chance meeting, but their lawyer said it was unlikely because the baby was born in a different county and the birth mom had given up custody. They left the courthouse downcast and uncertain of the future of their little family.
Cindy questioned the promise she heard from God; did He indeed have a plan?
Against the odds, they received the call informing them the judge ruled in their favor. They could pick up their baby immediately! Destiny, renamed Victoria, became a permanent member of their family, sealed through the legal action of adoption. Now, 10 years later, she recognizes her own name in Scripture. With great joy she exclaims, “There, that’s me, Victory!”
We, too, can rest assured that God has adopted us into His family. Ephesians 1:11-14 assures that God chose us; Jesus invited us into the family and the Holy Spirit keeps an impenetrable bond. This Holy Spirit’s seal protects us from rejection from God’s family; the adoption is permanent (2 Corinthians 1:19-23). The Trinity guarantees our place in the family. What a delightful assurance for each of us that we have a place within God’s Kingdom — a right to be called God’s child (John 1:12).
Paul knew Roman adoption erased all history of the son when he became a member of their new family. The child did not choose the family, the family chose the child. Often quite wealthy, they chose a child to bear the family name. Forgiven all past debt, the child gained the rights of adopted family. This guaranteed their inheritance and place in Roman society.
The same is true for God's children. God chose us, we accept this adoption through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit inside of us bears witness to this (Romans 8:16). Our debts are forgiven by the promise of the new covenant through the death and resurrection of Jesus (Mark 26-29). Holy Spirit Himself seals us permanently, becoming our guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22).
Paul’s goal in the book of Ephesians is to explain the principles of the gospel. The promise held in place by the Holy Spirit’s seal secures us from Satan. It proves our authentic identity in Christ as we stand before God (John 5:24). It confirms our testimony that we truly belong to God (1 John 4:6), for the Spirit of truth resides in us. This is where our confidence lies, in the deep understanding that nothing breaks this guarantee. This seal is permanent, a mark identifying us as a child of God.
Like Victoria’s name changed, so does ours. We are a symbol of God’s victory over sin and death. My name is Victory!
Prayer: God, we praise You and thank You that You made a way for us to join Your family. Forgive us when we forget that Your adoption is permanent. Thank You for eagerly receiving us when we turn back to You. Thank You for the promise fulfilled by Jesus, and we delight in knowing the seal of the Holy Spirit is on each of us, changing our life course to victory. In the name of Jesus, amen.
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We volunteer at an inner-city community nonprofit on a regular basis. I love the people, and some are becoming like family. As I planted flowers, some of the neighborhood boys asked to help. Carefully, I showed them how to pull the plants out of the plastic pots. I explained how to pull the roots loose as to better spread in the new soil. Finally, I demonstrated the depth of the hole they were to dig. Two of the boys worked together on planting one plant and decided that was enough.
“What else can we do Ms. Leslie?” They asked
“UH…” at a loss I looked around. I noticed large chunks of dirt clods in the new soil. “Break apart the clods!”
And they did. With great glee they hacked away at the chunks. It was fun to see the boy’s exuberance as they went about their task. As the dirt flew around me, their excitement inspired me to complete my job. The joy of children makes any job fun even with dirt raining down on me.
In John 10:10, Jesus promises to give us life “and have it to the full”. Other Scripture versions use the word abundant for full. Abundance means we have more than we need of something. It is an overwhelming supply. A full to the maximum resource. An abundant life, the “Zoe” in the Greek, is one that is full and vibrant. It is a genuine life that is full of gratitude, one that recognizes that God blesses each of us. These blessings are not necessarily financial or even health but rich in relationship - the joy in knowing that Creator God wants to spend time with me.
After a year of uncertainty, it’s harder to live this way. I realized my daily routine brought security that 2020 upended. Returning to the true source, Jesus, I find that inner joy.
Jesus promises this life to all who follow Him. It is not an event. It isn’t found through service or recreation. It is found through trust in Jesus. No matter the circumstance, God stays with us. Our advocate is standing up for us, walking through it with us, and inspiring us on to do whatever each day holds. This is the Zoe life. The life that is full and genuine. A life that is worth facing each day, knowing that the God of the universe invited us into something greater than ourselves. We are to embrace a Zoe attitude in all we do.
WHAT A GIFT to grasp this way of life, each day recognizing that Jesus relishes living this life with us, the Zoe life promised to us.
Are you frustrated with the fractured society that has infiltrated the church? Anger, conflict, and division ripped through our country this last year. People were categorized allowing us to dehumanize them. BUT they are human - created in the image of God. We need to see each person as individuals. Young people look to their elders for example and accuse us of apparent hypocrisy. Jesus calls us to restore others – repairers of the breach in the King James. Isaiah 58:12 NLT Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
As I scroll through social media, my stomach flipflops to see the vitriol written. Brutal critiques of the “other side” continue to flow. Criticism from younger people bring tears to my eyes because they are partially correct. Offensive words put us on the defense, but I implore you to look beyond the acidic words and see the pain behind.
Together we can open an amicable discourse that encourages freedom to respectfully express opinions. We can each be the repairer of the breach we see in our communities. Where do we begin?
- We repent of any offense we are carrying. Ideologies divide our theology and that must stop. Humbly we go before our Lord and admit we do not have all the answers. Young and old in the church disagree about important topics but not the Gospel. If Jesus is Lord, we belong to the same family. We pray and live Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. NLT
- Listen to those that disagree with you. Not online, but in person or on the phone. Listen to the heart behind the opinion, the depth of knowledge behind it may surprise you. Our goal becomes understanding, building relationship and trust. Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. NLT
- Instead of correcting their opinion, tell them why they are important to you and your community. Ask them how you can pray for them. Where are they struggling, how can you be an answer to their needs? Encourage them through Scripture, not to correct but to grow together. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. NLT
- Throughout your discourse, clearly state your mutual faith in Jesus. Our unity rests on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the nonnegotiable center of the relationship; Jesus is the Lord of our life. Centered on Him nothing else matters, let Him teach each of us to be more like Him. Galatians 1:11-12 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. NLT
- Respectfully disagree if you feel it necessary. Make it clear, all opinions can be discussed if they are stated respectfully both by you and your young friend. No opinion should be held so tight that it damages the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 18:2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. NLT
Each generation holds important characteristics to cherish in one another. Combining them together, the Holy Spirit interweaves us in ways beyond our understanding.
- Traditionalists bring wisdom of their experience.
- Baby Boomers get it done with their strong work ethic.
- Generation X join us with their ability to problem solve.
- Millennials strong desire to care for their community empower us to reach out.
- Generation Z’s pragmatic approach to life help us to ease into working in a diverse workforce.
It is true that Jesus said He would bring division (Luke 12:51-53) but the division occurs in recognizing the deity of Christ. We are divided by believers of the Gospel and those that reject it. Within the faith we need each other and we need to initiate the restoration of our church homes.
Thanksgiving 2020 feels like un-holiday. For many of us, extended family will not gather. Full tables with empty chairs make for a bleak celebration. Such an outlook can contribute to our despair instead of filling us with gratitude. We need to tilt this holiday on its side. This year will be different but not bad. Gratitude, the center of this holiday, focuses on what we celebrate the good opposed to focusing on what we’ve lost.
In the book Beautiful Resistance by Jon Tyson, he highlights the importance of celebrating God’s goodness. This reminds us that He provides the blessings in our life. It forces a pause to look for the good in the busyness of life that we often overlook. I don’t want to do that anymore; I want to embrace the good.
There are multiple Hebrew and Greek words used for the word good throughout Scripture. Its complexity becomes apparent when we search it out. Good, such a simple word, how could it be so complex? The difficulty rests in using words to describe our God. His perfect holiness transcends our own understanding and words fail. Good describes one’s nature as pleasant, agreeable, joyful and happy but it also means excellent, distinguished, upright and honorable. It describes the personality as possessing integrity, virtue, and purity. Further we see it described as precious and beautiful, full of kindness with an upright heart. Wrap that all up with gentleness, mildness, and meekness.
Read through those words again. Let the richness of each word envelop you with its strength and comfort.
Studying God’s goodness reminds me of a plentiful feast. After a season in which much was stripped away, we find a rich banquet set before us. We crave refreshment and sustenance as we sit down to God’s rich table. We take a bite, savoring the flavors as they stimulate our neglected taste buds. At the end of the meal we sit satisfied that God’s goodness met every need. When we nourish ourselves on the complexities of the word it revitalizes us, feeding the joy inside of us.
Psalm 23:6 reminds us that God’s goodness pursues us. God sends good, pleasant, agreeable, and beneficial circumstances into our lives for our welfare daily. Our job is to look for it. Even in times of suffering, good will surface. Caught up in what we don’t possess blinds us to the present blessings. We simply need to turn and let the goodness chasing us catch and surround us. No matter what God is good. That is worth celebrating.
Are we living upside down during this time of crisis? This reminds me of a song my kids sang in elementary school. Jumping around the room they whole heartedly sang about God’s upside down kingdom. Our Kid’s Church pulsated with the words reminding our children that the last would be first (Matthew 19:30). My heart warmed as I heard them sing this at home and in the car. Proud to know they learned a complex cornerstone of God’s word from a simple song, I believed they lived it. Putting others first, loving one another, a directive Jesus exemplified for each of us, now feels more complex. As I’ve aged, I realize life is not that black and white.
In our current situation, it may feel difficult to recognize which way is up. As a nation we sacrifice for the physical wellbeing of our neighbors. Do you see we are loving our neighbors in this way? Yet, this isolation still feels sideways. This extroverted woman needs her people. I’m thankful for my husband and daughter who are here with me and for the technology that is connecting me with many of you. It is not enough but it will have to do.
Stretched to the extreme limits, our healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and other essential workers put their life on the line each day. I sit in my living room and feel the imbalance of our situation, should I do more? Doing more may contribute to the problem. Lord, we need Your wisdom in this time.
We don’t know the future but we do know the One who holds it. I believe that this will impact our lives, changing the trajectory if we allow the Lord to lead. Mourning will come to those that experience loss of loved ones, physical difficulties, economic stress and the apparent loss of dreams, especially in the young. We need to be there to help pick up the pieces. I am reminded to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming season.
Now is the time to stand on the foundation of our faith. Recognizing Jesus as this foundation, fully surrendered to His leadership, we will see farther and understand our direction of service. Trust HIM, Jesus is holding you in ways our finite minds cannot comprehend. Remember our Lord’s departing words in John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (NLT) The Holy Spirit comes to us as our advocate and teacher, when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. As new or seasoned believers, remember that Jesus will shepherd us as the Spirit advises and teaches us in each step we are to take. Simply ask to be willing, we follow the lead of our God.
She walked through the door by herself. Strange thoughts ran through her mind.
“Am I dressed ok?
What if it’s weird?
Please, don’t let me say something stupid.
Better yet, please don’t let anyone talk to me!
But please don’t ignore me!
Oh help! Why is this so hard?”
Entering a church for the first time shouldn’t be intimidating but it is. Any unknown place is. We each fight with our past experiences and current fears.
I entered an event two years ago. I was the speaker, so I was a little nervous. I didn’t know a soul. Woman after woman greeted me. Some chatted a bit. They shared a little of their lives and I shared a little of mine. As we talked I realized they didn’t know I was the speaker. What they observed was a woman who arrived alone. A woman who needed to be greeted and received into their community. What a gift! They helped settle my nerves. They helped me through the awkward transition from unknown to welcomed guest.
These women lived Romans 12:13 (NLT) “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” They were so good at it. I would have started attending that church had I not had a home church already. Truly lovely hospitable people.
The word hospitality used in Romans 12:13 means “love to strangers”. Paul was not talking about giving a cup a tea to a dear friend. He was reminding us of the importance of extending love to all we meet. This is a powerful message. It goes against the idea of looking out for self first. The next verse in Scripture (Romans 12:14) tells us to bless those who persecute us. When we show this kind of hospitality it is risky. We have no idea the kind of people we are greeting. We are to do it anyway.
The next time you are at a place you feel comfortable, look around for someone that looks a little lost. Say hello and make a little small talk. Invite them to join you and your friends. Don’t worry about their response. Their acceptance or rejection of your offer is their responsibility not yours. Remember everyone appreciates kind words and gentle welcome.
I asked on my social media pages “Why is your church community important to you?” Over and over I read, “They support, encourage, and pray for me” “They are family.” “They understand and know me.” “They accept me.” On and on went similar comments. The need for relationship is at the center of our beings. We desire community and connection. Someone at the beginning of your journey at your church stepped forward and shared hospitality. What a gift! A God centered precious extension of His Holy Spirit from one person to another.
Simply put we have a choice. We can self-focus. We recognize our own needs, our own limitations and let our insecurities win. Or we can extend a hand, defeating the grip of insecurity on our self and maybe on the one we invite in. The effect of the greeting is immaterial. It is simply the right thing to do.