The Spirit’s Fruit of Peace

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another.
This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)

The common mantra is peace is found within us. Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” Peace is a state of being word, but is it something we can actualize within ourselves through meditation, positive thinking, philanthropy, or any other self- produced action or thought we may engage in? What is the source of the fruit of peace and how do we develop it?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5: 22-23

What is Peace?

Peace, we all want it.

There is no peace in some homes. A wife, subject to domestic violence, longs for peace in her home, peace where her husband doesn’t beat her anymore. A child aches for peace where mother and father don’t fight. A mother wishes her toddlers would give her some peace and quiet. Could she just have the house to herself for a day, or go out with girlfriends for coffee? All of us want peace.

Humankind clamours for world peace. We yearn for “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.” The UN is our biggest global peace agency. Organizations and committees are formed to develop peace talks and strategies so hopefully, someday we will have peace. Recently, world leaders brokered a peaceful economic normalization agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but is that peace?

Peace begins at home, in the heart. The Hebrew word “Shalom” means peace. Derivatives of “Shalom” are “Salaam”, used by Christians in East Asia and “As salaam u-alaikum” used by Muslims throughout the world. Paul started his letters with words of “Grace and Peace”. What did Paul’s greetings of peace mean?

Reconciliation between man and God is the ultimate peace we can have. Without reconciliation with God, there can be no peace. We might have a peaceful world, a peaceful family, a peaceful life, but whether we have peace, or no peace, is determined by the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.

Where Does Peace Come From?

Jesus said, 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. (John 14:27) So, not only is Jesus the real Joy-giver, he is also our Peace-giver. Without the Prince of Peace, there is no peace.  Jesus made peace for us between God and mankind through his blood. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20)

First, we need to be reconciled to God, then we will have inner peace. That folks is the beginning place for peace.

What Peace Isn’t

Some of us try to work out our salvation through good deeds. We bypass Jesus and believe our good works are going to get us to heaven. I live in a country where this belief is dominate in the religion. And all I see is strife. When we strive for a foot into heaven, we open the door to competitiveness, comparison, to jealousy, to strife, contention, and religious self-righteousness. Better that we simply rest in the finished work of Christ. It puts all men on equal ground, therefore, there is no striving because he completed it for us. In Christ we don’t have to fight anymore because we rest in him for our salvation.

What Does Peace Look Like?

At Peace with Troubles: People who have inner peace because of the finished work of Christ, are not troubled or afraid. That doesn’t mean we don’t have troubles, or we don’t ever worry or are afraid. We are human, but the general direction of our heart is at peace because we trust God for his protection and provisions for now and all eternity. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the word. (John 16:23)

All Are Respected and Equal: There is no enmity since Jesus “has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” So we don’t have to divide ourselves into male vs. female, blacks vs. whites, Catholics vs. Protestants, etc. We are all equal in Christ Jesus. That doesn’t say we don’t recognize difference, but those differences do not divide us. We are united in Christ.

Live Peacefully With All Men: Because we have inner peace, we “love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us” (Luke 6: 27-28). We stand as peacemakers, seeking justice for those who are oppressed, downtrodden and rejected in society.

Inner peace doesn’t say that wars will end, in fact they will increase as we near the end of the age. But we can remain calm amid the storm. That is the peace that passes all understanding, a peace that the world doesn’t have.

What does peace look to you?

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The Fruit of Joy

“I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine tonight.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

What is joy? One definition says it is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”, and that may be true, but perhaps this definition more closely defines happiness. Happiness and joy are both feelings and are often confused for each other. But they are two quite different feelings. To define joy and happiness, it is best to look at what causes them. Happiness is the result of externals, circumstances, events, people, places, and things. These things make us happy. But what causes joy? The source of joy is also external, but it resides deep within us. When we have joy, it springs from the core of our being, our soul.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

What is the Source of Joy?

Theopedia states joy is “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment and confidence and hope.” This sounds more like a spiritual quality rather than something we acquire from external entities or situations. It also sounds like it is long-lasting if not eternal. It is not a happy marriage, the birth of a child, a good job – those things make us happy, not necessarily joyful. There are people who have all these things and have no joy.

So where does joy come from? Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The source of joy is rooted in the vine. Joy is abiding in the vine. When we are rooted to the vine, we are confident that life will be fine regardless of circumstances. We can even have joy amid struggles and troubles because we know that God is in control, everything about our lives is derived from the vine. Jesus is the “the real joy-giver”.

How Do I Get Joy?

How do we get to know someone? We spend time with them, talk to them. Communication is so important in building relationships, getting to know the other person. So, if joy comes from knowing Jesus who is the joy-giver, then we need to spend time getting to know him. That means reading the Bible, pouring over the Gospels. It means praying to the Father and it means meditating, spending quiet times with God.

Joy comes from a right relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. It is Jesus that gives us the right to be called children of God. Joy comes from believing that Jesus came to this earth to live and die and rise again for the forgiveness of sins. If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us and that is what makes for a close relationship with the Father and living in joy.

What Does the Fruit of Joy Look Like?

Love is an action word. I can say I love you, but I can’t say I joy you. Joy is a state of being. It is something we have or don’t have. But joy has its expression in how we live our lives before God and before men.

Rick Warren described joy thus, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright and the determined choice to praise God in ever situation.”

Have you ever met one of these joyful people? This is that someone who can look into the face of adversity and say, “I know God is in control and whatever happens, he cares for me.” That’s what joy looks like.

The joyful person isn’t always happy, they might even have moments of despair and depression. David certainly had his moments, but he often rebounded from the depths with an “I praise God” ending to his Psalm.

Joy finds its expression in love – to live for others rather than self. Joy says, “I will do my best under ever circumstance.” Joy gives occasion for generosity.

Joy can look like thankfulness, confidence, assurance, generosity, love for others and doing the best we know how.

How does the Fruit of Joy look to you?

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The Fruit of Love by Helen Khan

man and woman pose on a cross monument

The love I want to talk about today isn’t the 1955 film Love is a Many Splendored Thing kind, although it is needed in every relationship. And pure love is certainly multi-splendored. Jesus said that we will know a tree by its fruit. But to pull this analogy further, a tree can only produce a certain kind of fruit. The fruit doesn’t determine the tree, but the tree determines the fruit it bears.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

If that be true, the tree determines the fruit, what tree produces love?

Love is From God

We cannot love outside of God’s realm. We can only love because he first loved us. If he hadn’t shown us his love, we would be incapable of love. So for those outside of Christ, true agape love is impossible. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

There we have it folks, unless we are rooted in Christ, we cannot bear fruit. We can’t bear the fruit of love. If you are fruitless, then maybe you want to anchor your branches in the vine who is Christ Jesus.

Now, none of us are perfect and we do have our bad days when not much fruit is falling from our branches. And bearing fruit takes time. A small tree (even one anchored in Christ) takes time to mature, blossom and produce fruit. Weak, immature branches cannot bear the weight of heavy fruit. It is the desire to bear fruit for God that is important. I am not saying because I don’t see love in your life today, you are not in Christ. I leave this for your self-examination.

Love, especially agape love is indeed a many splendored thing. There are so many facets to love that flows from God and channels through us. So what does the fruit of love look like?

Love for God

I heard a lady on a Christian program say that the fruit of love was what we directed towards other people. Somehow she missed saying that this fruit is also directed to God, maybe foremostly directed towards him. I believe that you can’t love without loving God first.

To love God is to know him. Without knowing him, how can you love him? To love God is to put him first. He is top priority above all else. We are commanded to love him with all our soul, mind and strength. Of course our love for him is seen in how we love others, but he is first. To love God is to praise him, thank him, fall down and worship him. And to love him is to desire him as the “deer pants for the waters, so our soul pants after him, our souls thirst for Him”, to paraphrase the Psalmist. We will spend time with him in prayer, reading His Word, communing with him. And we will obey him.

Love for Self

Proverbs 19: 8 tells us those who acquire wisdom love themselves. Where does wisdom come from? From God. The Psalmist in Psalm 139: 14 calls us to give thanks to God because we are wonderfully made, and for those who know God’s love, who love God have learned from him that we are beautiful, and our soul is aware of it. There is a love for self that is humble and rooted in God and that love is needed for a believer to bear much fruit.

Why did I put love for self before other loves? I believe that we can’t love others without loving ourselves first. When we are caught up in low-self-esteem and negative thoughts, turning our thoughts inward to the self, it is difficult to bear the fruit of love.

Love for the Church

A love relationship with the Father means we love our siblings, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might not always agree, we might not always like them, but we are to love them. Constantly throughout scriptures, we are admonished to love one another. This is a direct commandment to love those in the church.

Love for Non-believers

Nor are we to neglect love for outsiders. Some believers withhold their friendship and love for non-believers, but in God’s kingdom there is no place for that. I believe a good summary of how we should treat non-believers is found in Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

So how are we to treat non-believers? With love, do good to them, lend to them, show kindness and mercy. It is okay to be friends with non-believers, just don’t conform to them – be in the world but not part of the world.

How splendid is this love that God calls us to bear! It is multi-splendored. This is the first fruit that is mentioned in Galatians 5: 22-23 and if we bear this fruit, the others will follow. I encourage you to love, first the Father and then yourself and others.

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What Is Most Important To Me?

What's Most Important?

What’s Most Important?

If you could have or accomplish one thing in your life, what would it be?

We need some purpose in our lives beyond just breathing and eating and sleeping.  What are your dreams and goals?  Maybe it has to do with your career, or starting a business or ministry, or buying a beautiful home. Or as life moves on, perhaps working on your bucket list of things you want to do before it is too late.

Now, what if we ask the question – how does our relationship with God fit in?  Is it competing with these other things?

Or should God be so much more? Something that is above all other purposes and goals and missions?

To truly connect with Christ as he intends, our connection with him must be number one: Our prime directive, our supreme mission, our ultimate purpose. 

This sounds awfully demanding, doesn’t it?  How do we know God asks so much from us?

The Psalmist tells us “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25 ESV).  In another instance in scripture, Jesus makes it so clear in his parable of the valuable pearl.  His kingdom, by which we connect with him, is “like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it”  (Matthew 13:45-46).  Note how the merchant had to sell and lose everything else to gain the magnificent pearl. 

Why does he ask for so much?  Because he wants us to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).  By being conformed, we are empowered to understand him deeply, share his thoughts and feelings, and connect intimately in divine love.  Though we may not be aware of it, we are designed for this purpose. 

What Is The Nature Of This Divine Connection? 

It is something that goes above and beyond all else:

  • The forgiveness for sins.
  • The theological beliefs.
  • The knowledge. 
  • The human capability and activities.

It is instead about transformation – deep and profound change. 

These days there is a lot of talk about transformation. But the question to ask is – what is being transformed? And how?

God’s transformation plan is not primarily about the way we feel and perform and act on the outside.  Or even attitudes and sentiments and possessing a positive outlook.  He is more concerned about what lies even deeper inside of us.  At the very center of our heart and soul and spirit.

How are we transformed?  By connecting with God at a very deep level, and there, surrendering our self to him. 

Where does this take us?  By becoming like him even while we continuously seek and pursue him, we are united with him. In sweet intimacy.  God’s Word talks about us being united with Christ (Philippians 2:1, Romans 6:5, 1 Corinthians 6:17).  God’s Word similarly talks about us being in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, Acts 17:28, John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 1:30, John 14:20).

Just to show how powerful this connection and relationship is designed to be, God’s glorious plan is that we first spiritually enter and dwell in heaven in Christ, even before our physical death!  God tells us in Ephesians 2:6, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” This is what we are designed for!  It brings perfect completion and satisfaction and contentment.  It is beyond what we can ask for or imagine.  Hearts joined in beautiful unison.

How Do We Build This Connection To Our Spiritual Journey? 

God informs us that it is not by doing a bunch of good things in our own strength while we live as free and independent agents.  Nor is it by passively sitting back and waiting for God to do everything while we busy ourselves with the affairs of this world.

Rather, it is an active receiving from God. 

Jesus tells us of the vine and the branches in the book of John chapter 15.  The job of the vine is to feed the branches, and the job of the branches is to open and receive the life-giving flow from the vine.  Jesus tells us “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

It all happens through a connection and intimacy with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our souls grow as we are fed through the opening of a channel between God and our inner being.

What Is Our Part To Make This Happen?

First:

  • We need to resolve in our hearts and minds to pursue our relationship with Christ, this inner connection, far above all else.  And remember that he told us “apart from me you can do nothing”.  We must resolve to do this whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice, whatever it takes.  It is like in the Mission Impossible movies, God is presenting a mission, should we choose to accept it.  And like in the movies, the hero drops everything else in his life to pursue the mission.

Second:

  • We must constantly and continuously invest in connecting with God.  While countless messages have been preached and books written for this very purpose, we will simply mention three things briefly. 

The first is what we call connecting moments.  This can happen during our normal prayer and scripture reading and worship time.  But just as importantly, it can happen during moments throughout our day.

Connecting moments can take many forms.  One way is like this. Stop, shut your eyes, and set aside all your normal thoughts. Breath slowly and deeply, and “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Adopt a mental and heart position of openness and receptivity.  Picture yourself as dry ground receiving living rain waters; or a flower blossom opening to the sunlight.  In your heart and mind, surrender all of yourself to the Lord.  Offer yourself up to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).  Wait upon Him in silence and expectation. 

While connecting, speak words of love and devotion.  Feel him touch you.  Ask Him to come and fill you.  Then gently proclaim and tell God, “I am yours and you are mine” (Song of Solomon 2:16), “I am your property and possession” (Numbers 18:20), and “You bought me for a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).  All this while simply maintaining a position and condition of openness and surrender and receiving.

These practices fit perfectly with God’s Word. 

  • He tells us that we should be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)
  • “focusing on the things that are above, where the Messiah is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
  • “focus on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1). 
  • We are setting our minds on “things above, not on earthly things” as God has instructed (Colossians 3:2). 

Perhaps the most perfect example of connecting was when Jesus visited his friends in Bethany.  His dear friend, Mary, “sat at the Lord’s feet” as she listened with rapt attention, absorbed in Jesus  (Luke 10:39).  When Mary’s sister Martha complained that she wasn’t busy helping prepare the meal, Jesus said of Mary, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

As you practice these connecting moments, God’s presence may seem somewhat vague at first.  But just like our physical senses become keener and sharper with use, we will perceive the Lord and his love more and more, and become ever more like Him.  God tells us that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Connecting moments can happen just about anywhere and anytime.  For example, when you are driving or pumping gas or riding the bus, drop your phone and look up and connect.  Connecting can be done in so many moments throughout your day.  Even when you are super busy you can steal moments to get away with Jesus.

Third:

We can let God know how much we want to connect and unite with him.  Make it our central request to Him, far more important than asking him for help with any of our problems, or to make us successful or wealthy.  Ask him this each day.  Plead with him, beg him. 

Fourth:

  • We can picture and envision and imagine what it would be like to be perfectly connected, perfectly intimate with Jesus.  Liberated and set free from the bondage of our attachments to all the passing, silly concerns of this life.  Permeated and saturated and infused fully in His love, His greatness, His glory.  Purified and cleansed in Him.  Knowing His thoughts, His feelings, His power, His nature.  Tearing down every wall and obstruction that cuts us off from him and keeps us distant.  Ask God to make this vision and picture more real each day. 

Fifth:

View everything, absolutely everything, from the prism of how your connection with Christ will be impacted.  When you read scripture, make it about how God is wanting to connect.  When you think about sin, view it not so much as something to make us feel ashamed and guilty, but rather as anything that blocks and obstructs our connection with Him.  Dedicate yourself to removing every obstacle.

I hope and pray that these thoughts will help you progress on your spiritual journey.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you that you have lovingly designed such an amazing and glorious destiny for me.  How incredible to think and know by faith that you desire us to be together.  Connected in intimacy and love and affection.  I know that in this oneness and unity with you is found perfect fulfillment, perfect completion, perfect wholeness.  In you all of my brokenness and frustration and lostness and darkness is washed away.  In you all things are made good and right and lovely.  In you I am finally at true peace and rest.  In you all my fears and dread and doubt evaporate. 

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Living in the Light


Like you, I have been experiencing the whole spectrum of grief, horror, shock, and even shame as I read the news. I read what my friends have shared, watch the news clips, and pray.  

I have kept asking God what one person can do?

How can one person, how can I bring God’s grace? Jesus’ healing love and transforming power into such a broken and hurting nation?

Will my vote help? Does my heart aching help?

Will my wishing things could be better help?

Will my prayer help?

And the Lord has been giving answers—giving wisdom through unexpected conversations. God’s giving practical advice through a midweek sermon, and giving God’s own word in scripture.

Today’s short talk—originally given at New Hope Chapel—is a lot of scripture, a little Tony Evans, and some thoughts on Jesus.

It is from my heart to yours.

Grace and Peace, Joanne

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Is Righteous Hatred an Oxymoron? by Helen Khan

“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loath those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try mean and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 19-24

I have spent the last number of months moving through Psalm 139, sharing how precious we are to God; how he loves us and created us, a wonderous creation. I have shared the precious thoughts God holds for those he has made. Then, I come up against Psalm 139: 19-24. What happened here? We have moved from pure love to hate, or so it seems. Is this some sort of contradiction?

Protective Love

We have a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. With us he is warm, friendly, funny, and just a loving dog. We have had him since a pup, and he thinks I am his mommy. We have a loving relationship. But his loyalty also means he is a very protective guard dog. In contrast, if anyone who is not a member of our household comes too close to his mommy, he is upset; ferociously upset. Maybe he even hates.

The first eighteen verses of the Psalm are a major love affair between God and his creation. By now the Psalmist has fallen helplessly in love with God who loves him and thinks about him intimately, all the time. Up to this point it has been just God and him. He now turns his eyes off God and onto the world around him. There he sees evil men who hate God. Therefore, furious indignation ignites David. He uses strong words to these godless evildoers as he stands up to defend the God who loves him.

Is it Okay to Hate?

And he hates what God hates. The intimate relationship between him and God has been intense. He has come to know God, personally. He knows God hates evil and so he too hates it, with righteous hatred.

We have become averse to the word hate. We perceive it is always bad to hate. But sometimes it is okay to hate, it is even the righteous thing to do. We are to hate evil, passionately hate it. When we see evil we ought to pray that God will help those under its evil clutches escape. When we see human trafficking, racism, murder of the innocent, misogyny, child slavery, oppression – the list goes on; it is okay to hate. It is called a righteous hatred. We hate the evil and stand against it and side with the victim and fallen. This hatred is far different than when we lash out at the closest person to us because we had a bad day at the office. It is different that the indication we feel when we are slighted or suffer a minor offence. That is plain old hatred and maybe we need to learn tolerance and forgiveness.

So self-hate towards ourselves, hate towards others for unrighteous reasons is not hate that is acceptable, either by God or in society. It is unrighteous hate. We need to develop a hatred that parallels God’s hatred.

When we think of God’s hatred, we must remember that although God hates evil and evildoers, he still sent Jesus Christ to this world to reconcile us back to Him. “For God demonstrated his love to us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Are we capable of that kind of righteous hatred while loving ultimately?

Fearful Self-Reflection

The Psalmist is not just some self-righteous snob. He is not arrogant for he recognises that he could also succumb to adopting an evil mindset or acting against God and his creation. Thus, he calls out to God and says, (my words); Lord God, I could fall prey to that too. I pray that you, God, will search my heart and if I have any hint of evil in me, lead me away from it, lead me to the way everlasting.

The Psalmist had a realistic expectation of what his body and mind can do. He knows that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. He knows he needs help from God lest he too become a godless hater.

All scripture is written for our benefit. Our takeaway today is that we, like God, should hate sin, love righteousness, and love the God who loves us.

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Things To Do In Heaven

For those who are checking out this blog for the first time, this is a sequel post to Scared of Eternity? In the previous post, I discussed a fear of Heaven I had as a teenager due to the measurements given in Revelation 21. I also shared hope that was given through the water of life recorded in Revelation 22 among other quoted verses regarding God’s creation.

Today’s blog post will share other details that I believe can cause quite a concern for those suffering with anxiety like me. I encourage you to read the Scared of Eternity? post highlighted above.

Work?

I don’t know why the idea of “work” is such a distasteful word these days. Everyone seems to want to make as much money with doing the least amount of work possible. I had a pastor call me co-dependent because I was offering to work for no money. But, I didn’t want to work because I’m co-dependent, I wanted to work because I enjoy it.

Now, on topic, in the New Heavens and New Earth, we will work. In the original design, God made man work.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it
and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15)

Now, God’s original design, after He created all things, was for man and woman (Gen. 2:18) to work. As we know, the man and woman start talking to a snake, eat a fruit, and are guilty of sin. Let’s relook at this ‘work’:

To Adam [God] said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food…” (Gen: 3:17-19a)

This is the first thing that I want to illustrate is that “Work” is not a necessary evil. We are designed with capabilities to think, create and work. So for those who think of Heaven as sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, eating Philadelphia Crème Cheese, think again.

This brings up step two.

Worship?

This topic needs to be discussed, not just about Heavenly worship, but also on earth. But for now, I’ll focus on the New Heavenly worship. While there are various texts to point to an inactive worship, I’ll share one:

Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.” (Rev. 4:8b& 10b-11)

Now, the hard part with interpreting prophecies, I believe, is that they can be in allegory. Whereas Jeremiah 29:10, for example, gives a specific time of 70 years of captivity, others are left with more of an interpretation. So, I think, it’s best to interpret godly worship.

In the previous blog post, I share how God is bigger than the highest Heavens. King Solomon says this when he is dedicating the temple to God. So we must talk about godly worship.

New Covenant of Worship

First verse is when Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman. Culturally, Samaritans and Jews were not allowed to associate with each other. This is part of the conversation:

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24)

This woman believes that the only place to worship is in Jerusalem, the temple Solomon built. Arguably rebuilt since the siege of the Babylonians. But Jesus said that a time has come where it won’t be about the place. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Our second verse comes from Apostle Paul. Like Jesus, Paul is sharing the message with non-Jewish people. He tells them:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

The Image Of God?

I had a professor in college who believed that in the New Heavens and New Earth we will create like God. We will speak planets into creation as God did in Genesis 1. I’m sorry, but I strongly disagree. If our only understanding of God is his ability to create, we are greatly lacking in understanding God’s holiness. Allow me to share some verses:

And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Cor. 15:49)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil. 3:20-21)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

Creativity?

God created us as an eternal being and calls on us to be holy. And, I believe, in the New Heavens and New Earth we will design and create. Proverbs 9:16 says,

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

I believe that we will create and design, space ships and submarines, to seek more of the creation that God has done. We will land on distant planets and examine things we have never seen.

This Day

This day, I encourage you to seek after God. God’s love for you so much that he paid to cover your sins. In the Garden of Eden, God sacrifices an animal to hide the shame of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 3:21). Now, God has sacrificed his Son, Jesus Christ, to cover our sins.

Let us seek holiness above all things. And when you find yourself unholy, that God for Jesus Christ who cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

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Take a Break and Laugh a Little

Taking a Break and Laughing

Break Principle 1:  Realizing that a “happy heart does good like a medicine,” made a conscious choice to enjoy the moment. Partaking of the wonderful things provided by a Loving God and in the joy of Jesus Christ.

Much of the following stories and jokes were borrowed, but sadly I have forgotten the sources.

There is no doubt in my mind that recovery is serious, but I also know that God has a plan for each of us to enjoy recovery through our relationship with Him and our relationships here on earth.  We have covered some very serious topics in past weeks, but tonight we are going to take a break and discover some of the joy that God has planned for each of us.  I am convinced that God enjoys a good joke, after all, He made a donkey talk in order to advise a prophet and He chose me to lead a recovery group.  God must have a sense of humor.

Join me, if you will, to laugh and lighten the burdens of life a little bit.

The Last Laugh

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God.  So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

“God,” the scientist said, “We’ve decided that we no longer need you.  We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done, God said, “Very well, how about this, let’s say we have a man-making contest.”  To which the scientist readily agreed.

“There’s one stipulation,” God said, “We’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

The scientist agreed and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no.  You go get your own dirt.”  

God often allows us to exercise our own will and arrogance until we prove that we are not God and we are truly powerless, that our lives are out of control.  At that point God grants us awareness of our condition, we just need to accept that fact and admit our powerlessness.   

Some times God works in the most unusual and unexpected ways. 

I hope this is a true story if it isn’t true it should be true because God works in His own way.

An atheist college professor told his class that he was going to prove that there was not a God.  He said, “God if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform.  I’ll give you 15 minutes!”

Ten minutes went by.  He kept taunting God, saying, “Here I am God, I’m still waiting.”  He got down to the last couple of minutes when a BIG 240-pound football player happened to walk by the door and heard what the professor said.  The football player walked in the classroom and at the last minute, he walked up, hit the professor full force, and sent him flying off the platform.  The professor got up, obviously shaken, and said, “Where did you come from, and why did you do that?”  The football player replied, “God was busy; He sent me!”

I have heard a true story very similar to this.  A college professor challenged anyone in his class to pray that the glass beaker he was about to drop would not break.  One student took the challenge and when the professor dropped the glass beaker, it landed on his foot and rolled to the floor unbroken.  God shows that He exists in some very unusual ways, we need to be aware that it’s God demonstrating His existence.  

He also shows us that we matter to Him; after all, He created the 3 major food groups; white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.  

Will Rogers once said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  He also stated, “There are three kinds of people:  The ones that learn by reading.  The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to touch the electric fence.”

I can not argue with these sentiments, so instead of learning by suffering the consequences of our poor decisions, why not choose to turn all of our life and will over to Christ’s care and control?  We can go through life touching the electric fence or we can allow Jesus to steer us away to the green pastures.

You can believe that those pastures are green indeed.  When a four-year-old boy was asked what he looked forward to most when he entered Heaven, he replied, “You never throw-up and you get to jump on the couch.”  Can I have a big amen for that one?

Just remember, “There is no fear in submitting to a love that would die for you.”  “The Lord won’t take you where His grace can’t keep you.”  There is nothing to fear in letting Jesus take control.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” However, Carl Woody said, “The unlived life is not worth examining.”  All due respect to Mr. Woody, we are living life at this very moment so we find ourselves in need of examining our faults.  “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurs to God?”  He already knows everything about you so your only worry is to be totally honest with yourself, with someone you trust, and with God.  Honesty includes accuracy.

So remember Sara’s experience at the dentist’s office.

Sara noticed the dentist’s certificate with his full name hanging on the waiting room wall.  She suddenly remembered that a tall, handsome boy with the same name had been in her high school class about 40 years ago. 

When she finally saw the dentist she quickly dismissed the thought because he was a balding, gray-haired man with a deeply lined face.  She thought, “He’s too old to have been in my class.”

After the examination, she couldn’t resist asking what high school he attended and what year he graduated.  He answered, “In 1958.”  “Why you were in my class!” she exclaimed.  He looked at her closely and asked, “What did you teach?”

Yes, honesty means accuracy so don’t let your self-image be out-of-touch with reality.  All too often we want to hang on to our pain, hurts, and hang-ups because we fear change, we fear the future without the life we have always known.  Please note that trying to hang on to what we have will leave you with nothing.

There was a man that loved his money so much that while on his death bed he made his wife promise to bury all of his money with him.  At the funeral, the obedient widow placed a large shoebox in the casket.  The shoe box had a large $ sign on the outside.

Her best friend, knowing about the promise, whispered to the widow, “You didn’t keep that ridiculous promise to that old penny-pincher, did you?”

“Absolutely,” the widow replied.  “I cashed in all of his assets; I wrote him a check and put it in the shoebox.” 

What we desire is an attitude of gratitude.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   (Melody Beattie)  

Peace and serenity is God’s plan for each of us.  Please commit the Serenity Prayer to memory:

God,
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change;
The courage to change the things can and
The wisdom to know the difference.

If you can’t remember this prayer then perhaps this is the prayer for you.

God, please grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones that I do like and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Amen

Laughter is truly good medicine.  I’ll close with this quote from Og Mandino.  “Laugh at yourself and at life.  Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression and help you to put in perspective that seemingly-terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come.” 

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Facebook And Don Lemon (Non-Political)

Note that this video is not about politics. On Facebook, I saw a video of Don Lemon laughing about Donald Trump and his supporters. While I do not care to discuss politics, what burdened me greatly was the added hate upon hate in the comment section.

During the famed Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)

If you fight fire with fire. You’re going to get a really big fire.

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Coronavirus and Job by Michael Furlonger

One good thing about this isolation is that more people are attending church services than ever before, albeit online. And today I want to share how about my wife’s service from Sunday, which lead me to think of the coronavirus and Job.

Now, one of the things that I have commonly heard is that this virus is not from God. So many people are saying that, because we know about the background of viruses as well as other life affecting catastrophes, they aren’t from God.

Now, I’m not going to say this is or is not from God, but I will say that God is sovereign. Nothing happens without his knowing about it.

Blessed Be Your Name

We started the service by singing some songs and one of these songs is called “Blessed Be Your (God’s) Name”. Not just the Name of God, but the entire being of God, the characteristics of God.

The chorus, or bridge, of the song goes, “He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Blessed be Your name’.” I’ve heard pastors say that this song is about God giving good and taking bad away. But that’s not what it’s about.

First off, ‘Blessed be Your name,’ comes from a reference from the book of Job (pronounced Jobe). In the book of Job, this man of God loses everything aside from his wife. A wife, by the way, can’t even stand the smell of him, according to Job 19:17. To stay on topic, the song comes from Job 1;

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

As you can see, Job is saying, may the name of the Lord still be praised despite circumstances. Now, in the song, one verse reads;

“Blessed be Your Name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there is pain in the offering
Blessed be Your Name”

Supernatural Catastrophy And Coronavirus

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:6-19)

Cause & Effect

As you just read, Job’s calamity didn’t come from a supernatural travesty. The supernatural God allowed a supernatural angel to cause damage to a natural man through natural means.

  • 1. Sabeans attacked and stole the livestock and killed the servants.
  • 2. Fire from heaven (arguably supernatural) fell and killed the sheep and servants.
  • 3. Chaldeans stole the camels and put servants to death.
  • 4. Wind swept in from a known position and knocked over Job’s children’s house, killing them.

The Lesson To Be Learned

A lot of churches teach on how God will bless them if they come to church and give a offering. Job’s story completely disagrees with that. And so much of scripture will disagree with the common prosperity message.

What we need to learn from this story is that God is God. He is our only Hope and our only source of Righteousness. To live absent of God’s righteousness is to live absent of God.

I can’t absolutely say, “The coronavirus is an absolute judgment from God.” What I can say, as Jesus said, “… When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

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