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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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Beyond the Shadows of Life

Lord, do not let us accept what is temporary in place of what is eternal. Do not let us look in the dim mirror and prefer what we see over what is true. Father, unfold our hearts within this life to long for what is yet to come so strongly that all we see here is what You are pointing to eternally. Let us shake off then, what is temporary and pursue what lasts. Amen.

This morning we continue our meditation on our Great High Priest, Jesus. We have seen His heart as we read through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd parts of His High Priestly Prayer in John 17. And so we return to this place in Hebrews where we get to sit & listen & be reminded of who it is that serves as our mediator. This is mystery to me, wrapped up in grace beyond measuring, that God would be the go-between for us and Himself in this way. We are certainly unworthy, we can see and feel that every day. It’s not hard to see the evidence there. But His grace catches us off guard and reaches down deep within us and offers up this wonderful, expectation-shattering truth. Read through this reality slowly, listening to God’s love song over you. Listen to the words of the prophet Zephaniah and then listen to the author of Hebrews explain how God brought that to pass. Rest and be reassured in the rhythms of grace in the song of God over you.

Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is in your midst,

    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Hebrews 8:1-13
“1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.

Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

Lord, do not let us accept what is temporary in place of what is eternal. Do not let us look in the dim mirror and prefer what we see over what is true. Father, unfold our hearts within this life to long for what is yet to come so strongly that all we see here is what You are pointing to eternally. Let us shake off then, what is temporary and pursue what lasts. Amen.

That Immeasurable Greatness

deep-space-space-6911884-1280-800
Hubble Deep Space View

Lord, grant us this grace, that as servants of Your unending love, as ambassadors of mercy in Your Name, that You would open the eyes of our hearts, that we may better see and express Your immeasurable greatness to our broken and sinful world. Grow our confidence, give us a holy boldness that defies principalities and powers and withstands the onslaught of the enemy. May he break around us (because of Your presence) as water breaks around a rock. All things, especially us, are under Your feet, O Righteous One!

Ephesians 1:15-23
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

If you live in a city, and odds say that you do, if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a handful of stars spread out across the inky, deep blackness of space. If you’ve ever been outside of the city at night, you’ll also know that if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a innumerable panoply of stars and galaxies, gaseous clusters, unblinking planets and a greater whole of the starry host (so far as the human eye can perceive them.)

So foreign are the real night skies to Los Angeles that in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake jostled Angelenos awake at 4:31 a.m., the observatory received many calls asking about “the strange sky they had seen after the earthquake.”

“We finally realized what we were dealing with,” Krupp said. “The quake had knocked out most of the power, and people ran outside and they saw the stars. The stars were in fact so unfamiliar; they called us wondering what happened.”

When we blind ourselves with our own false glory, it becomes difficult to see what God has already done. When we build ourselves up, a la the Tower of Babel, we give ourselves a false view of reality that keeps us from seeing what really matters and from gazing upon the Immeasurable Greatness of God. We exchange cheap, temporary light for the real thing, and we act like what we have created is some big deal. Nominal output from a 60 watt incadescent is 740 lumens. The sun produces 2.12×10^28 lumens (aka 21,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lumens.)

But because of His grace, God has placed our planet almost 93 million miles away from this behemoth of burning gas. (Science Alert) So, if the extraterrestrial solar radiation is 1367 watts per square meter, then the direct sunlight at Earth’s surface when the Sun is at the zenith is about 1050 W/m2, but the total amount (direct and indirect from the atmosphere) hitting the ground is around 1120 W/m2. In terms of energy, sunlight at Earth’s surface is around 52 to 55 percent infrared, 42 to 43 percent visible, and 3 to 5 percent ultraviolet. At the top of the atmosphere, sunlight is about 30% more intense, having about 8% ultraviolet (UV), with most of the extra UV consisting of biologically damaging short-wave ultraviolet.

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. This is higher than the efficacy (of source) of most artificial lighting (including fluorescent), which means using sunlight for illumination heats up a room less than using most forms of artificial lighting.

Again, we will always pale in comparison, and still be impressed by what we produce. That’s the fallen nature of man. So, in His Immeasurable Greatness and love, He has allowed us to experience real light, real life through Jesus Christ, removing all cheap substitutes from our field of options, and granting us a place in His presence every day. What great grace and mercy He has on silly, sinful humanity, that He should love us so well. Read this again, and let it be your prayer today, thanking God:

“17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might,”

Acts 4:32-37 // The Common Good

“32 Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 And the apostles were giving testimony with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.

34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles feet. This was then distributed for each persons basic needs.

36 Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles feet.”

Acts 4:32-37

— 

There are apartments all around the building where my church family gathers. I have this romantic notion of slowly having all of us move into those apartments, selling off our homes and our ‘extras’ and sharing life together more closely. We could all share dinners in the Family Life Center/Gym a few times during the week, help each other’s children with their homework and mimic what we find here in Acts 4: the common life. 

Part of me knows that I am also longing for what we will have together in heaven, and that a community living like this would have to  ‘have much grace’ in everything they did because living in such close proximity to one another would require it. But there is a closeness, a dedication, that I’m longing for that is difficult to maintain when everyone is scattered all over the place. There would be issues to deal with. People are people and don’t always get along. We have bad days. But that’s what grace is for, right? It wouldn’t always be easy. On the positive side, a scattered church is a church with a greater range of opportunity to impact lives and communities. 

Would people whisper about us? Surely. Would they call us crazy or cultists? More than likely. But I cannot deny that desire I have to see the church living like we see here in Acts. People choosing not to spend all their money on themselves, but instead, they live only on what they truly need, giving the rest to see that people are cared for, shown love, mercy and compassion. I long for this community that wants to see justice done, the widow and orphan cared for and the poor lifted up. A community that knows what it means to truly die to self and give of self, rather than be so invested in some customized version of ‘the American Dream.’ 

There is something missing in how we live, and I can’t help but think that it has something to do with this separation we all have during the week. It goes beyond small groups and service projects, it’s more than bible studies and fellowship meals. It may really be that I am simply longing for heaven, and if I am, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, then something on this side of eternity is always going to be missing for me. 

As we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, we are drawing them towards a community that cares for one another, and not in a half-hearted way, but in a sacrificial way. We are agreeing to put the needs of others above our own wants and desires, replacing our perceived entitlements with sacrifices and generosity. We should be a people that sees need and meets the need, a people who truly care about one another. This is the heart of Christ in us. 

  

Mark 13:24-31 // Final Signs

“24 But in those days, after that tribulation:

‘The sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not shed its light;

25 the stars will be falling from the sky,

and the celestial powers will be shaken.’

26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

28 Learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near — at the door! 30 I assure you:

This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

Mark 13:24-31

— 

In Jesus’ promises for the future, there are two distinctly different timelines running. The first links in with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which many of His disciples would be alive to witness. The second is the eventual end of all things, which they obviously would not be alive to witness. There is a temptation to meld the two together, but that simply does not work. 

To say ‘This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.’ and have in mind the apostles as part of the generation is to ignore the actual phrasing of what Jesus says. The events that Jesus is speaking of in verse 14 are directed toward the 70AD timeline, but by this point, we are solidly pointing toward the end of all things. 

Here’s the fun part though, the fig tree as indicator works for both timelines. Jesus was issuing a warning, two in fact, about how things would wrap up. Both would come with their own signs that the generation alive at the time would not be able to avoid seeing. Just like the fig tree indicates the oncoming summer, so these signs indicate the oncoming of destruction and the end of all things. 

As Christians, we shouldn’t be so wrapped up in the world that we are blinded and that we miss sight of what God is doing. Our focus is supposed to be on eternity and the world yet to come. How much of our efforts are spent on the here and now, gathering for ourselves and building up temporary things rather than seeking out the will of God and working toward the end of all things? Our great commission and commandment  to GoLove people in Jesus Name is imperative number one, priority above all else. 

As Christians, we are working toward/for/in purpose for the end of the world. This is our goal, that all nations would be given the gospel and that we would stand firm to usher in the end of all things and the returnof Christ. Because honestly, would we want to say that we spent our lives and efforts on temporary things, building up false comfort for ourselves, or that we spent our days devoted to the things that sat closest to the heart of God?  That is our choice, and no matter what we do, that fig tree is going to come to bear fruit & leaves. We must decide.

Mark 9:33-37 // Side Conversations

“33 Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.”
Mark 9:33-37

Those wondrous moments of conviction, where we realize that our hearts have been occupied with things that do not honor God, and instead honor self…

Here we find the disciples in the middle of one of those moments that we are all so familiar with, moments we aren’t proud of, but moments that stand as a regular occurrence in the human heart. This isn’t the only time the disciples argued about position and status. This isn’t the only time they wondered aloud or asked about who got to be first, or sit in positions of power in the coming Kingdom. The human heart, with it’s sinful pride, is all too familiar with these impulses and drives.

And so Jesus takes a moment to address their side conversation, just as He does with us today through His Holy Spirit, and He corrects their understanding with the upside-down power structure of the Kingdom of God. There is only One who is to be honored and glorified, and He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross for sins He did not commit. So, if we are grasping for power and position and authority, it’s not necessarily against other people, but against God Himself.

If we are building a kingdom for ourselves apart from His Kingdom, then that is sinful pride at work in us. If we are placing our hearts and dreams and desires above His sovereignty, then we are building a sinful, prideful kingdom for ourselves. If we are placing more trust in what we can build and do for ourselves…you get the idea. We cannot contest with God and honor Him at the same time. We cannot place our desire for recognition over our desire to see God’s fame grow and honor Him at the same time.

His example is humility and that is the example that we need to take to heart as we GoLove others. That way, we will be faithful ambassadors for Christ, and not just representatives for our own pride. Serving others as Jesus would if often the best cure for our ego, especially those who can do nothing for us in return.

Mark 9:14-29 // Contesting Demons

“14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. 15 All of a sudden, when the whole crowd saw Him, they were amazed and ran to greet Him. 16 Then He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?”

17 Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”

19 He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.

“From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

23 Then Jesus said to him, “If You can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly coming together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!”

26 Then it came out, shrieking and convulsing him violently. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, Hes dead. 27 But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.

28 After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldnt we drive it out?”

29 And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer [and fasting].””

Mark 9:14-29

We all deal and struggle with different things. We have weaknesses, and temptations that are more common to us. There may be times where we would like to think that an outside influence must be doing this to us, but in reality it is coming from our own flesh. On the other hand, there are those moments and situations where what a person experiences is undoubtedly beyond a simple temptation or personal struggle. 

There is a woman in my part of town who wanders the streets during the day. She has a home, but refuses to stay there. She has a very small frame, and is the definition of disheveled, sometimes wearing at shirt like a turban. She is unkempt and always has a blank stare on her face and a deadness in her eyes. I have spoken with her many times, and have occasionally heard a voice come from her that isn’t hers. The voice is not a manufactured voice, like she is trying to put on a show, but a voice that simply cannot come from her. It really caught me off guard the first time I heard it. I do believe she has a demon that has incapacitated her. 

There is a war going on around us, a struggle by a desperate, flailing army of the unclean. Grasping as time marches them toward their eternal torment, they have authority over nothing, yet contest God at every point. These fallen angels, demons, malevolent spirits, are still at work today, even if the world has given up belief in them. There are those wo attribute too much blame to them for their own actions and mistakes, and there are other times where their presence is plain, but a ‘rational’ world denies them. 

As we GoLove others in Jesus Name, we must realize that we are functioning in two realms at once, the seen and the spiritual. Our efforts are going to be contested by the sinful  hearts of men and by those demonic forces that would hold hearts captive, eat rot innocence and ruin lives. We must acknowledge both and operate against both as we carry the message of the Gospel to a world that is headed toward death & hell. We cannot afford to soften that message, though it is to be salted with grace and love. Demons and hell are for real, just as real as angels and heaven. And we must convey that truth along to those who need so badly to hear it. The prayer of the father in this account should be our own, “I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!”

Psalm 68 // There is a difference

God’s Majestic Power
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm. A song.

“1 God arises. His enemies scatter,
and those who hate Him flee from His presence.
2 As smoke is blown away,
so You blow them away.
As wax melts before the fire,
so the wicked are destroyed before God.
3 But the righteous are glad;
they rejoice before God and celebrate with joy.
4 “Sing to God! Sing praises to His name.
Exalt Him who rides on the clouds —
His name is Yahweh — and rejoice before Him.”
5 God in His holy dwelling is
a father of the fatherless
and a champion of widows.
6 God provides homes for those who are deserted.
He leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a scorched land.”
Psalm 68:1-6

And the psalm goes on beyond verse six, laying out the glory and awesomeness of God and making a very clear distinction between God, along with those He has saved, and those who stand apart from Him. And as much as our culture today doesn’t like to draw hard lines between people, to find equality and claim that separations are injustices, this is one place where sensitivities like those cannot be brought into consideration. Our sensitivities are still at play, but in a different way.

When God finalizes everything, according to His plan and His timing, there will be a final separation between those who claim Him, who rest in the shadow of His wings, from those who do not, who stand alone and apart from Him. Those who have been covered by His grace, who have received His mercy, who have been baptized into Christ and who have received all the goodness that God has freely offered, we are comforted by our place with God. Simply that, and needing no more.

But those who stand apart from Him are facing destruction, melting like wax before His presence, finding only the wrathful end of His justice as their companion in desolation. They cower, quake and cry out, separated from the One who gives life, light and truth. It is an end we cannot imagine, and one that seems to shatter the soul and break the mind. This is a very different end, a horrifying end, for those who stand apart.

No amount of political correctness and human sensitivity can bridge this gap. It simply exists as a truth. Those who stand with God and those who do not will not come to the same end. It will not be a pleasant parting, or a lessened punishment for those who are outside of grace. There is no purgatory, no middle ground to be escaped from. Either heaven or hell awaits us all.

Our sensitivities, then, exist on this side of that final judgment. Our hearts should cry out, as we GoLove in Christ’s Name, for those who still stand separate, but have the opportunity to be joined with Him. Our minds should be occupied with the thoughts of their who do not know Him yet, and who do not even have a way to hear about Him. We should possess a sense of urgency that changes the direction of our lives and compels us forward, sensitive to the needs of others, seeking eternity with God through Christ for those who are currently destined for an eternity separated from Him.

It cannot be a side thought. We cannot concentrate on our selves, our comforts, as a priority. Instead, we live a life of sacrifice, so that others may find Christ. This is our sensitivity, that we help people flee wrath for grace while time still allows. One day it will be too late.

Thankful for His faithful ones // 2 Thessalonians 1

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”
2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1‬:‭2-4‬ ESV

For so many people it seems that church is a competition. We ask ourselves how we can draw more people than that other church down the street or how we can keep people from going to that big church across town. Pastors get together and talk numbers and averages and people judge the fruitfulness of a congregation by the size of its budget.

But read through all of Paul’s greetings to churches and you see what he is concerned about and congratulates them on: love, faithfulness and steadfastness in hard times. He doesn’t reference an attendance report or a volunteer list for the nursery. He simply speaks of their heart and faithfulness. Why?

Because when a church concentrates on being faithful, on adhering to the Word of truth and the Good News of the Gospel, then growth and volunteerism and good ministry and sound teaching will all come as a part of that faithfulness. By encouraging the basic parts of the faith, Paul points out what is important. Yes, the other churches have heard about what you are doing, and about your faithfulness and love, and they aren’t threatened by it. Instead, they are spurred on to greater love than they had shown before.

The faithful churches of Christ are co-laborers, not competitors. There shouldn’t be a hint of jealousy or enmity between churches. What kind of a message does that give to unbelievers when they see infighting, bickering and bad talking about each other? It is one thing if a church has bad doctrine, but it is an entirely different issue if they are just being successful in ministry.

So, all of the bride of Christ, the Church universal, is one. She labors as one. She rejoices and weeps as one. There will not be divisions in heaven based on church building size, pastor salary or number of programs. There will not be a section for each denomination or even each cultural group. There will simply be the bride celebrating the Bridegroom. The Church will worship and serve her Savior. They will be together in glory.

So, where is our perspective today? We work and serve and strive to see souls brought to Christ. We celebrate faithfulness, love and steadfastness. We stand together, we strive for truth and authenticity to the Gospel message. We only keep tabs insomuch as it spurs us on to better things as we celebrate the work being done by our sister churches who stand faithful to our Master, Jesus.

If we are to GoLove, our concern must be for faithfulness first. If we serve and share and witness and someone winds up going to a different church building than the one we go to, we still celebrate as long as faithfulness is what follows. Adherence to the truth, love and authority of Christ…that’s what matters.

‘We will always be with The Lord.’ // 1 Thessalonians 4

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4‬:‭13-18‬ ESV

This is it then, isn’t it? This is what we work for and strive toward, being reunited with Christ! Out of this life, with all its burdens and cares, pains and worries, joys and sorrows and everything else, we are striving toward this perfect end with Christ, the eternal joy and peace of being forever with Him.

Why do we share Christ? Because we want to GoLove others as He has loved us, sharing the good news of grace given on the cross. And why? So that as many as will receive Him, being baptized into His death and raised to new life, may find this happy hope of eternity with Him.

Simple as that, wondrous as that! Eternity in God’s heaven with Jesus. Rejoicing, serving, worshipping, living in love and peace and contentment and perfect joy! Don’t be deceived by the door of death, don’t be worried by the sleep of the soul, but be content in the resurrection and hopeful in the restoration of all things.

This world is thin, frail, like vellum or tissue paper. We are working toward something that is lasting, eternal, and forever satisfying. No strumming harps on clouds, but worshipping the King of kings and The Lord of lords from the depth of our being and rejoicing forever in His love and in the light of His glory. A solid, permanent, forever, our hope in glory.

And like a Special Forces rescue effort, Jesus will return for us all, sleeping and awake, and call us home with Him. Those He has purchased with His blood, and who have been brought to new life, baptized into Him, receiving this fantastic grace, we will spend our forevers loving and being loved by Him. No pain, no provision unmet. Just love, peace and glory for the Father of lights, the Holy Spirit of truth and the Son, the Lamb who was slain yet lives.

We have no fear of death, no sorrow in passing from this world, as we await the return of the One who makes all things new! GoLove in boldness, confidence and joy!

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