The Choice of Unity

As we think about this month’s topic of help and of all that is going on around the US and the world, today I want to take a minute to talk about the topic of unity. It’s where people come together over something that essentially erases barriers. It’s when people who are rich and poor are both affected by a flood. It’s when people who are of multiple spiritual practices come together to say a prayer for healing in a city after a violent attack. It’s even when kids of various cultures, races, and sexes come together to play on a playground before school. Unity doesn’t mean that the differences don’t exist, it means that they’re ignored for a reason and/or for a time.

The Bible is interesting because there were some pretty clear divisions in the early books, but after the birth and death of Jesus some things changed. Take a look at these passages from Ephesians and Galatians:

“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Ephesians 2:19

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

What became clear after Jesus death, and what Jesus emphasized through His ministry, is that faith is more important than your heritage, your race, your political beliefs, your economic status or where you call home. Being different is the way God made us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t focus more on the things that bring us together, and the things that God has called us to, than the things that would separate us.

This week I encourage you to look for and encourage opportunities of unity, opportunities to work together and help each other. If we want to see more unity and more teamwork in the world, that has to be our focus instead of our differences.


Dimensions of Love

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day the topic that most people are talking about is love.  It’s true that many people take this whole month to really focus on love and romance and I think that can be a very good thing.  It’s not a good thing when this month or these 14 days are the only time that you focus on your relationships, but sometimes it’s good to really dedicate extra time and effort to something that should be very important to you.

In thinking about the topic of love and romance it got me thinking about one of the biggest topics around love for people of faith, God’s love.  There’s a lot we can learn from His love and how He loves, so as I was working on my devotion this week I ran across a few verses that I wanted to share with you here today because they share a really important reminder about love. Take a look:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19a

The interesting thing about all of these verses is that they talk about love in multiple dimensions, using multiple senses and in experiencing it beyond the obvious.  The challenge many of us face in experiencing or living love is that it’s not instant.  It’s not something we can throw a bunch of money at and get what we want.  Love takes work.  It’s something that is best experienced when you fully immerse yourself in it.  It’s like many wines that it often gets better with time, but unlike wine you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to get better.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as a child loving their pet, or loving how your partner holds your hand.  But in other ways it is complicated because many of the best loves do have multiple layers and depth to them.

So this week as you think about your Valentine plans or you think about the person that God has planned for you in the future, I encourage you to try to see love outside of the box that you may have stuck it in.  What have you missed about love?

The Protection to Fulfill Your Purpose

It’s not easy to live your purpose some times. Some of us are called to do dangerous things, go dangerous places or work with dangerous people. And even if we’re not, we usually face obstacles to fulfilling them and people who don’t want us to succeed. It can be discouraging to be in these situations and be trying to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives. The good news is that not only do we not go through our lives alone, we’re not without tools to overcome the challenges we face.

Who goes with us? First and foremost God goes with us. He has promised to never leave us alone, and while we may not see or feel Him working in our lives and supporting us, He is always there! God also sends people into our lives to support us. Some people will support us physically or in person, other people will support us through prayer. Both types of people are valuable, and we do need both to be fully supported and be able to make it through the challenges we face.

Second, we have personal gifts, tools, and abilities that God has blessed us with to use while learning, exploring and fulfilling our purposes. God would not give us a purpose to live without providing us with the tools we need to do it, or at the very least the ability to get the knowledge we need to make it happen.

Finally, God knows that we will face opposition, pain, hurt and hatred throughout our life journey. The good news is that He also sends protection in the form of His angels, special people on earth and The Armor of God to protect us and help us in our times of need. If you’re feeling resistance to fulfilling your purpose or in your life in general, take time this week to reequip your armor if necessary and reconnect with God and the people of protection He’s put in your life for such a time as this. Don’t give up yet, the best is yet to come.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11

Love and Forgiveness

We’ve reached a new month and this month one of the big things we’ll be talking about is the topic of love. Love is one of the most used words and concepts in the Bible, used over 700 times depending on what version you prefer. It’s an important concept, one that Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry on Earth and one that He encouraged us to rely on and share in our lives too. Love isn’t a spiritual concept like “being saved” is, it’s not something that has religious boundaries like Vedic prayers, bar/bat mitzvahs, or the cross and tomb, it’s something that crosses all boundaries that we run into in our lives from issues of language, race, color, gender, location, age and faith.

To start off the month I wanted to talk about a verse that shares about an interesting aspect of love, Ephesians 4:2: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each others faults because of your love.”

Forgiveness is one of those really scary topics that we tend to avoid because it can be overwhelming and usually involves an amount of pain for several people, whether bad memories or other forms of mistreatment, failure or hurt. But here in Ephesians it says that we need to incorporate forgiveness and the understanding that no one is perfect into our minds and lives because of love. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?

But in a way it makes sense because love is the great overcomer, as it says in Ephesians 3:18: “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” As true people of faith we should live our lives reflecting and following the love that God showed throughout the Bible and Jesus showed during His ministry.  Will you choose to live a life of love not just this month but all year long?

Armor Against Fears

As I shared last week this month’s topic is fear.  It’s one that everyone is talking about with Halloween at the end of the month.  Companies are taking advantage of scaring up some extra customers (pun intended) and getting started on the last 3 months of the year. But fear is a topic that affects our lives all year round, not just during this month and on Halloween.  We experience fears about our jobs, our partners, our kids, our world, our health and tons of other little things throughout our days.  I don’t expect to totally conquer our fears this month, but hopefully shed some light on them so we can better understand them.

The Bible talks about two kinds of fear: the kind we’ll focus on mostly this month, being afraid of something, and the fear of God.  We’ll be talking about the fear of God in the next couple of weeks, but today I wanted to talk about one of the phrases that gets repeated throughout the Bible: “don’t be afraid.”  We hear it said by a host of Heavenly beings and said to just about every major character in the Bible.  Why?  Part of it has to do with the usual unexpected appearance of the Heavenly being: it’s not normal for people or beings to just appear, so it startles us at the very least, if not scares us.  The other part has to do with us having developed fears from our life experiences, or those we’ve heard about.  God, and whomever He sends, knows that we have those fears, rational or not, and is considerate enough to try to calm them and reassure us.

So as I was thinking about the phrase “don’t be afraid” another passage in the Bible came to mind, that of the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).  In it we’re called to tap into the power of God and suit up in all the protections He offers us, rather than try to deal with things unprotected and unprepared.  I believe that we can conquer any fear we have in our lives if we so choose, with the power God has given us.  We may not get over our fears instantly, and we will probably develop new fears, but the good news is that we don’t have to face them without support and help.

What areas of your life do you need to surround with the protection and defense of the Armor of God?  Take advantage of it today.

Choosing Health

Health begins when you choose to get rid of the bad in your life and welcome the good. The spiritual walk is a lot like that too because it’s about choosing the ways of living that honor God and not those that are against His laws, would be harmful to yourself or to others. With sin in our world until the second coming we’re forced to deal with the bad stuff in the world. While we do have some ability to choose not to sin, it’s not something we can ever fully avoid until then. We’ll be faced with death and destruction for as long as things remain as they are.

But we can make a conscious choice to choose better things rather than things that would hurt ourselves or others. As tempting or alluring as some of the bad stuff in the world is it’s really not worth the consequences that could result if you do it. Not to mention how guilty you feel or how miserable you feel after being nasty or doing something wrong. And I’ve found that after a while of making good choices the bad choices don’t look so interesting and don’t look so tempting or taste so good anymore, and how much  better your life is because you’re making different choices.

One of the most important good things you can change in your life is to choose better thoughts. I’ve heard many stories of how people’s negative thoughts (including anger, bitterness, hatred and lies) have caused physical illnesses of many kinds from simple colds to cancers.  Your mind is one of the most powerful tools God has given you, one that He frequently reminds us to guard because the thoughts you think are not only a reflection of your relationships and conversations, but also what influences them and may be what poisons them or causes them to thrive.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” Ephesians 4:31-5:1

Working with God

Today I’ve got a couple verses to share with you, verses of encouragement and challenge.

Encouragement: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20
God has big plans for each of us: He doesn’t create us without ability or purpose, He’s always got plans for us.   But more than just having plans for us, they’re big plans, plans bigger than we could come up with, which is kind of both awesome and intimidating at the same time.

Encouragement: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
God doesn’t give up on people, He always has hope that they’ll turn things around, get back on track or be able to pull things through and finish what He has called them to.  He will keep working with us, guiding us, and providing for us until our mission is complete, and then He may have another one for us!

Encouragement: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17
It’s a serious question: does God hear us when we talk to Him or is it more like talking to someone on our phone without actually dialing the number (which means we don’t talk to them)?  Throughout the Bible God strives to answer this question because lots of people question whether He’s there or not.  After all, He doesn’t always take out a billboard or even send us a simple text or email confirmation to let us know that our prayers were heard or how our prayers will be addressed.  But over and over God tells us that He does indeed hear our prayers.  We just don’t always see how they’re answered, understand the answer or like the answer.

Challenge: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” Luke 6:46
We’ve established that God has a point for each and every one of our lives, He’ll be with us every step of the way as we work on completing them and He really truly does hear us when we pray to Him.  But what we don’t always get is that we have work to do.  God doesn’t complete the tasks for us, make us get out of bed each day, or make us say our prayers, that’s up to us.  We have to take the initiative to follow through on what He has called us to do.

So this week I challenge you to look at what God has called you to and what you’ve been ignoring or slacking on.  God is after a partnership with each of us, not a one sided speech or lesson.  We’ve got work to do, are you doing it?