Friday, April 17, 2015

Since God Loved Us So Much

The Spirit Comes
The Pledge of God's Presence


Believe God's Love

1 John 4:7-12 The Message

God Is Love

7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

 
For Reflection
 How can we learn to love unconditionally? To what extent can we accept the risk associated with unconditional love?  How can we avoid expecting a return on our love?  How can we love those who are difficult to love?  How can we build a loving community among the fellowship of believers?  How can we act in love with the steadfast confidence in God's promise to make things right? How can we learn to love ourselves to such an extent that we are confident that we are loved as a child of God?  How do we tell each other that we love them as God has loved us?

Pray
for answers to these questions.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Test the Spirits

The Spirit Comes
The Pledge of God's Presence


Believe God's Love

1 John 4:1-6  The Message

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.
2-3 Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!
4-6 My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.
 
 
For Reflection
 Oh boy!  This is difficult.  When it comes to religion, some hold so tightly to their beliefs, that to alter that belief would be to deny the validity of that belief.  Fear takes over and some would rather fight over an untenable position, even to death, thinking that they are righteous. 

Faith is not a static thing.  Faith grows and matures, changes as we experience life and the spirit.  The only absolute is God and God's love.

Here, John is speaking about those who claimed that Christ could not have been human in any way but only pretended so.  Such a belief makes the life, death and resurrection a lie.  Thus, Jesus becomes a charlatan who faked his humanity.

Beware of false teachers who fear the challenge of growing into grace and strike out against the spiritual growth of God's people.  Beware of those who rationalize the mystery that is God. Beware of those who would have you turn God into a self-serving image and perversion of the truth.  The ultimate test of authentic Godliness is love.  Those who will not listen to calls for compassion, justice, peace and love cannot be of God.

Pray
that one day all will find the truth that is God.  Pray for those who face difficult faith choices.  Pray that they will choose the authentic God.  Pray for the wisdom to recognize and reject false teaching.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nothing Can Separate Us

The Pledge of God's PresenceBelieve God's Love

Romans 8:31-39  The Message

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and

For Reflection"When God is on my side..." 

Anyone can claim God's favor, but few truly have it!  Having God on your side is a blessing more valuable than any other.  It is a blessing that anoints one with unlimited power to do good.

How do you know God is on you side?  God is mysterious and many times you don't have absolute proof of God's endorsement.  If you study scripture, work in fellowship with believers; work for justice, forgiveness and peace, follow Jesus teaching and, above all, be motivated by offering the love of God, you might be in safe territory.

You will not have God's favor if you are malicious, hurtful, bear false witness, manipulate others or do other Godless unrighteous things.  If you do not act in love, you will not have God on your side.

Pray
that you will listen to the God whispers that council you.  Pray that all that you do will be done out of Christian love.  Pray that you will travel humbly in the pursuit of God's will.  Pray that above all, listen and be ready to change direction if God shows you a different path.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Be Steadfast in the Spirit

The Spirit Comes
The Pledge of God's Presence


Believe God's Love

Romans 12:9-19 The Message

9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

For Reflection
 I am firmly convinced that the spirit of God shines in a person in ways that others can see (even if not cognatively) one's competence, fairness and trustworthiness.  Those in the Spirit seem to have an attractive aura.  It is not so much the theology you follow or how learned you are.  It is the way one carries one's self.  It is the way one responds to life circumstances.  It is supreme confidence in the fact that God will make all things right.

Pray
prayers of thanksgiving for the spirit who resides within you.  Pray for steadfast loyalty to the One God.  Pray for the courage to face life knowing that your faith will bring out the opposition to hate you.  Pray for the love that displaces all hate.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Seeking Unity of the Spirit

The Spirit Comes
The Pledge of God's Presence


Believe God's Love

1 Peter 3:8-12  The Message

Suffering for Doing Good

8-12 Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
Whoever wants to embrace life
    and see the day fill up with good,
Here’s what you do:
    Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
    run after peace for all you’re worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
    listening and responding well to what he’s asked;
But he turns his back
    on those who do evil things.

For Reflection
 How you talk makes a difference!  Try this for a day.  Wipe out any reference to good or bad in your conversations with others.  Support the good and ignore the bad.  Find creative ways to guide a conversation toward more compassionate responses.  Try to be provisional rather than absolute. Try not to make statements which evaluate.  Rather, make observations.  Be supportive.

Pray
that you will not be tempted to use the conventional style of conversation.  Pray that you will avoid passing on gossip and hear-say.  Pray that you will say nothing evil or hurtful.  Pray that you will fill up your day with good!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A New Command

The Spirit Comes
The Pledge of God's Presence


Love One Another

John 13:31-35  The Message

A New Command

31-32 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!
33 “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’
34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
 
For Reflection
How many commandments are there?  Ten, you say?  I say eleven.  That's right eleven.  The eleventh commandment is, "Love one another."

In my mind, the eleventh commandment is superordinate, that is, It over-rides or regulates all judgments.  That's what makes this commandment difficult.  It sets itself  against all the other "rules".  It does not cancel them, but rather, this command becomes a guide for implementing them.  A Christians role is to be witness to the love that is God.

Pray
that all Christians will moderate their judgments with compassion and love.  Pray that you will follow the command to love.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Those Who Do Not Love

The Spirit Comes
The Pledge of God's Presence


Love One Another

1 John 3:6-10  The Message

4-6 All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.
7-8 So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways.
9-10 People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.

 
For Reflection
 In my opinion, anything that one does that separates one, or influences others to act in ways that separate them from God is a sin.  If one truly knows Christ, he or she will act out of God's love and do the just, compassionate and forgiving act.  Those who know Christ will choose to live lives that create rather than destroy.

Pray
that you will learn to live your life creatively.  Pray that you will act in compassionate ways.  Pray that you will champion justice and foster peace.