LOVE IS . . .

LOVE is defined in the act of SELFLESSNESS.

God SO LOVED the world, He GAVE . . .

We must also SO LOVE GOD, that we GIVE our . . .

FEARS.

TALENTS.

BLESSINGS.

WORRIES.

FINANCES.

RELATIONSHIPS.

DREAMS. . .                           . . . and everything else

to Him  who also gave to us.

(know HIM. know LOVE. Surrender.)

[John 3:16 , Matthew 22:37-38,  1 John 4:8,  Matthew 10:39,  John 15:13]

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ABIDE AND LET IT BE!

“Look at the birds of the air . . .consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.”      – Matthew 6:26, 28

. . . They simply are!

So often we fret about our usefulness to God, yet in this passage (among others) He simply reminds us of our usefulness in the areas we don’t recognize. Our focus can not be on doing things for Christ, but rather being in Him! For when our focus is on doing for Christ, it is on the action rather than the reason. When our focus is on the reason rather than the action, we can have an influence for Him which is greater than we will ever recognize, and the reason we’ll fail to recognize it is because our focus will not turn away from Him long enough for us to look around at the rest of our lives.

We were created to be focused on God to the point of tunnel vision – unable to recognize ourselves and our lives outside of His purpose and direction.

“Let love be genuine.”   – Romans 12:9

Notice the simplicity again in this passage. We are not to “make” our love be genuine, or “force” it to be, but to simply “let” it be! WE were created to love, and through the recapturing of the Holy Spirit in us, we are to simply let love happen. With the transforming of our hearts comes the transforming of our very natures, and we no longer need to try to be godly, we simply need to abide in Him, and let His qualities shine through!

Have you recognized His transformation and let Him overcome our old nature and make His nature our own? Abide in Him, and let it happen!

GOD IS WITH US! (. . . and deserves introduction)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . .” – Matthew 11:29

“Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” – Psalm 55:22

“. . . To those who have no might He increases strength.” – Isaiah 40:24

“. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

God is with us always! One of the many phrases I live by is ‘Head Up, Pride Down,’ which I use to remind me to keep my eyes ahead, focused on God and away from myself, and to always remember that my success is not my own. But there’s a part of this that’s missing. It doesn’t recognize the fact that our God is not only a god of guidance, but also a god of counsel.

Basically, I’ve added onto my life-phrase. I’ve recognized that God is with us always – not only ahead, but also beside! I have recognized that no struggle will be overcome in solitude. I’ve recognized He is forever beside us, and one end of our burden can be placed on His shoulder. Not only does our God lead us into battle, He fights with us in the trenches!

Look ahead as He leads, and beside as He loves.

With Him beside, our entire life should be affected – including our interaction with others. We must get to the point where we can feel the presence of God so strongly in our lives that our natural instinct becomes to introduce Him to those who may not feel His presence in the same way. I haven’t gotten to that point yet – or I haven’t yet fully realized God’s presence at all times. We, including myself, need to always remember that not only is God ahead of us leading the way, but is also beside us, showing His love. Realize that God is beside you in everything you do, and as your realization of this improves, the need to introduce Him to those around you will become second nature.

God, I pray that You let us feel Your presence in all we do, and constantly give us an awareness of Your presence, so our natural instinct is to introduce you to those who don’t know you.

This post was inspired in part by Oswald Chambers and his book, “My Utmost for His Highest. I’d like to share what I read.

“Jesus asks us to get beside Him and take one end of the yoke, so that we can pull together. The only way to know the strength of God is to take the yoke of Jesus upon us, and to learn from Him.”

“Where do the saints get their joy? If we did not know some Christians well, we might think they have no burdens at all to bear. But we must see! The fact that God is in them is proof that a burden is there as well. The burden that God places on us squeezes the grapes in our lies, and produces the wine, but most of us see only the wine, and not the burden.

No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of god living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.” – Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, April 14)

(THE OTHER SIDE OF) ETERNAL LIFE: A THEORY

*This is a theory I have on the simplified Christian view of Hell – not the biblical view, but rather how we as humans have muddied that view. In my own life, I believe I fall victim to this view in order to justify my actions, so I’m simply writing this to throw it out there and see what other people think. If you feel the need, please criticize me.

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  – John 17:3

All throughout scripture, Eternal Life is mentioned. As John 17:3 states, this Eternal Life is found only through knowing god, and recognizing Jesus Christ as your savior. This is a pretty standard, commonplace teaching in Christianity. We grow up being taught that the gift of God is eternal life, and constantly thank God for this gift.

But what about the other side of the statement? What about those that never accept the Gospel? Why do we never hear of their fate in the same manner?

The truth is, we do. Matthew 25:46 describes hell as “eternal punishment,” and heaven as “eternal life.” So I suppose my question is why do we tend to overlook this view of Hell? I have a theory, and it involves a new perspective. We often see hell as death, which in our human minds triggers an end, or the end. We picture Hell as a sort of ‘end of chances,’ and basically end up discussing it as “not heaven” rather than what it really is. In doing so, we completely discredit hell for what the Bible tells us it really is.  We, as Christians, can easily end up picturing the afterlife as either never-ending joy with Christ, or a black room. Basically, we try to look away from the eternal reality of hell in order to brush aside the urgency of sharing the gospel. I believe we live in a denial of the reality of hell because of our great desire to live in an ideal world where God rescues all from hell, whether they recognize Him for doing so or not.

The truth, however, isn’t ideal. And it is urgent.

The truth is, everyone gets eternal life, but others see a different side of it. While some will experience eternal joy and peace with Christ, others will experience, as Matthew 25:46 says, “eternal punishment.” This eternal punishment is more than a black room, or an end to it all. It is never-ending, and it is punishment. There’s no mediocre, in-between area for the non-believers we really like, no matter how much we all wish there was one. It is eternal either way, and it’s the job of Christians to show the people we love which way to choose. Until we see hell as the other side of eternal life, and live with that in mind, I’m not sure we really have the ability to empathize and truly anguish as Paul did over the fate of the unsaved.

Do you realize we’re all headed to an eternity with two options? And do you realize that you have the ability to help people decide which option to choose? There is no middle ground. There is no mediocre punishment. There is no ideal world where those that reject God receive heaven. Live as a warning to this fact out of love for all of those who are just as unrighteous as you and I. No one deserves heaven, and everyone deserves hell, but everyone deserves to hear their options as well. Not everyone will accept them, and not everyone will believe them. But everyone does have the right to know what their options are.

Do you see both sides of eternity? Or do you only see eternal heaven, while blocking the reality that is eternal hell? Realize there are only two options in eternity – and you have the power to tell what those are and how to choose the better.

WORDS FROM HOME*

*This is an entry written between Day 2 and Day 3 in Terence’s journal. It serves as a way of showing you the support Terence received from his church family, and his thoughts as this whole experience continued to sink in.

Patrick, the children of God have responded. Your brothers and sisters are praying for you and eagerly expect your arrival.

Allie was the first. She’s praying for me and for Jesus to work through me in your life. She found some verses in the Bible on color – I never thought about it that way – perhaps the colors you don’t see are symbolic? We’re praying for you to see blue – the symbol of the deity (God and The Trinity). The Father loves to see you laugh and smile, Patrick, and Allie will make that happen. She is such a joyful person, filled with life in the Spirit.

Kevin was the next brother to be moved. HE is excited for you and will pray for you Patrick. I met Kevin at FRESH camp, and he’s an amazing guy – very gentle and honest.

Nathan prophesies Isaiah 33:5-6* over your life Patrick. He’s encouraged and excited for what God is doing. You can speak to him and talk about the words from God he has for your life. I owe a lot of my courage and boldness in Christ to this man. The first of our peers to be fearless in the marketplace, I’m honored to fight alongside Nathan.

Pik proclaims Matthew 5:3-10* over your life Patrick. Blessings are yours in abundance. I laugh to myself as I think of this woman of God. I can feel her excitement and anticipation bursting at the seams of her heart. Similar to how I feel really.

Lizzie would like to partner in prayer for you Patrick. She’s praying till the day you come home. Lizzie is out there on the battlefield on the front lines. Amazing things are happening in her life! She prayed for a man named Jimmy the other day. He’s depressed and stressed. Maybe you two will meet one day Patrick.

I can’t wait for you to meet these saints, Patrick! There will be more in this journal as the days go by – you can be sure of that!

Terence

_______________________________

Notes:

*Isaiah 33:5-6

5 Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven,
he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
6 In that day he will be your sure foundation,
providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.

*Matthew 5:3-10 : The Beatitudes

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

____________________________________________

This is a bit of an aside, and I have no idea how it will sound in the morning, but after reflecting on it all day I actually think it fits well with Terence’s story, especially since this post basically shows us the hearts of the community Terence is involved in in Adelaide.

As I went through my quiet time today, I found myself reading the book of Jude, and was especially struck by verses 22 and 23, which say

22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others,but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

As I reflected and prayed on this verse, I found myself asking how we go about showing mercy to others, while simultaneously “hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” Basically, I found myself reflecting on how we can go about living the oft-used Christian mantra “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

I’m sure I’ll write about this idea later, but for now I just want to point out the love that the people Terence mentions in this post show towards a man they haven’t met. When I reflect on this entry, I can relate to this experience. I’ve prayed for people I haven’t met often, unaware of why, but simply because someone asked me to. I’ve actually prayed for Terence and Patrick in this way, before I knew what this story entailed. It’s quite easy, really, to feel  a sense of love towards someone you haven’t met – someone whose sins haven’t been made aware to you. Basically, it’s easy to pray for strangers without judgement.

Yet I find myself asking one question: If I did know the strangers I prayed for – all of the sins that ‘contaminate their lives’ – how would my prayer for them, and my heart towards them, change?

Ask yourself this question. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself, and maybe you won’t. For now, it’s just something to think about.

Forever being taught,

Joel