Friday, March 27, 2009

What Does Christianity Look Like?

by Guest Contributer Dawn Miller, of Kingshighway Family Worship Center

This Week’s Verse: John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

Listening to the radio on my way to work this morning I heard the question, “what does Christianity look like?” Immediately I started to really think about the answers to such a profound question. What does it look like? Does it look the same for all? Do I look like a Christian?

As I pondered these things, scriptures began to flood my mind: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:35, NIV); and Mark 12:29-31 tells us that there is no greater commandment than to first love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; second love your neighbor as yourself. (KJV)

Could it be? Love is the face of Christianity. That’s what it looks like. We have so often confused dress code and such as the thing that defines Christianity, but we could not be more wrong. You see, I can wear scrubs and a stethoscope around my neck but that does not make me a nurse. There is so much more to it than that. Please don’t misunderstand my point, I still believe in modesty and an appearance of excellence. However, what we wear does not define who we are. We do not wear Christianity. It is the heart of who we are.

To be a Christian means to be Christ-like. It means to follow Him and portray His characteristics. The Bible clearly gives us the essence of who God is. “God is Love;” (I John 4:16, KJV). Therefore, love defines Christianity. As I stated earlier, Jesus said that they will know that you are His if you have love one for another. We must first and foremost love God, but secondly we must love others.

So yes, Christianity may be “dressed” differently from one individual to another, but it must always look like LOVE.

Father, first I thank you for your amazing love and how you made and continue to make the ultimate expression to each of us. I ask that you fill us with your love so it may flow through us allowing others to know that we are Yours. Help each of us be a reflection of You so others will come to know You through a demonstration of Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Christianity is not something that we wear but is the essence of who we are--or might I say--whose we are. Our lives must reflect the LOVE of Jesus Christ because that is what defines us. As you reflect on whether or not you "look" like a Christian, see past the surface and ask God to help you examine your heart. LOVE is the required uniform.

Power Verses:
Mark 12:29-31
, “'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.'” (NIV)
I John 3:10, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (NIV)
I John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (NIV)
I John 4:12, “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (KJV)

Friday, March 20, 2009

How God Works

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Isaiah 55:8 & 12, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD...You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (NIV)

I took my daughter to school one day this week and when I came back, I got my Bible out of the car. I brought it in the house, intending to read up on a little Isaiah 55-- a verse I got from a very dear friend--and see where that led me. But I didn't do it. I couldn’t find my copy of the Message, there was a pile of laundry on the floor, and other things occupied my mind and my time. (Forgive me Lord.)

So in the midst of doing other things (I had to take a signed “exit paper” back to TRW--not high on my list of "want to's" but pretty high on my list of "have to's"), I get a call from a brother in Christ telling me that a "little birdie" told him that I was down and needed a spiritual boost. I'm not down. The sun is shining, and the birds are singing. I feel pretty good, I thought.

Well, come to find out that even if you aren't 'down' that doesn't mean you can't be lifted higher! Praise God for this man's obedience and his "little bird"!! He told me to get in The Word and read and wrap myself up in God's love letter to me. Yeah, yeah... I will... when I have time is what I was thinking. I have every intention of doing that... when I find my Message, when I get this load of laundry done, when I get back from TRW... He also told me to take a drive or a walk and just be in God's creation, to enjoy the sun and all He's created for us. Okay, I will... when I have time. Being unemployed, I'm a lot busier than you would think!

I went to TRW and when I left I had a choice to either turn left and go home and get that laundry done, Oh! and get busy on Isaiah... Or turn right and go to Lincoln Trail and do some of that basking in God's creation we were just talking about. I went ahead and turned right. (Yes, I see the irony in taking the "right turn"!) I realized on the way down to the park that I had taken my Bible out of the car! Aw… man! I'd hoped to kill two birds with one stone: Creation and The Word!

There was, however, another Bible in the car, my daughter's. Score!! I was set. I found a lovely bench in the sun, out of the wind... Perfect! And then I read my Isaiah 55. Good stuff. Then I saw something: a side note. Her Bible has a lot of 'extra' goodies in there that make you think! I was looking up 2 Cor. 5-7 and missed it by a chapter or two and ended up in Galatians. She has "Love Notes" in her Bible. They are written in letter form, to the reader and are ‘signed’ by God. The Love Note on this page says: "Child, you are my daughter, adopted into my eternal family. There is nothing within my power and my possession that I will withhold from you. All my resources--power, forgiveness, grace and love--belong to you. Abba, Daddy."

Anyone who knows me very well knows the issues I have had with this particular name for God. You can imagine how I felt reading His 'love note' to me and it being signed 'Daddy'. It's based on the scripture from Gal. 4:4-7.

I'm not done. That was beautiful, yes. But then I remembered Jer. 29:11 and wondered if there were any 'love notes' for me there. Plus, I happen to love that verse and wanted to read it in this version. Well, in Jeremiah I find THIS 'love note'... "Beloved, Never doubt this: I want only the best for you. I will do whatever it takes to get your attention, to draw you closer to me and to wrap you in my everlasting love. You are my child, my chosen one. Your Loving Father" (Based on Jer. 31:3)

Okay, God. I don't have a job, the laundry can wait... You have my full attention! We had just talked about letting God “wrap” me up in His word!

Then comes the breath of God, the wind, which blew the pages to THIS 'love note' also in Jeremiah. It says: "Dear daughter, Don't set your expectations too low for me. Don't just give me easy, surface-level questions. Bring me your biggest problems, your toughest challenges, your deepest questions. I'll answer you and blow your mind in the process. Your all-powerful Father." (Based on Jer. 33:3)

I had just posted on Facebook that very morning this quote: "Not having a job is hard... Waiting on God is harder." Waiting on Him is, to date, one of the toughest challenges I've faced. But I know that He is with me while I wait!

Father God, Thank you! Thank you for using the people in my life to lift me up, even when I’m not sure I’m down. Thank you for leading me to the very words you want me hear. Thank you for your love letter to me and my brothers and sisters. Sometimes I call it irony, but in my heart I know it’s You, loving me, in just the way I need at just the right time. Thank you for knowing me and providing for my spiritual and physical needs. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God is always working and moving in our lives. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don't. Look back over the past month, or year, or even five or ten years. Do you see God's fingerprints all over your life?! People, places, jobs, children... all brought into your life to serve a certain purpose. If you can look back and see yourself in God's hands, then you know that He is, has been, and will forever be in control, always wanting what's best for you!

Power Verses:
Galatians 4:6, "And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.'"(NLT)
Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself." (NLT)
Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own."(MSG)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gotta Have the Light

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”(NLT)

Several weeks ago I’d noticed it wasn’t as hard to wake up when my alarm clock went off. It was no longer pitch black outside at 5:45! As the days passed, my wake up time grew even brighter and I found it increasingly easier to be up and at ‘em.

And then--due to daylight savings time--it ended abruptly. So now we’re back to pitch black awakenings, replete with groggy notions of calling in sick or half-asleep fantasies of being my own boss from home. I guess you could say I’m one of those people who needs the light function properly.

It’s been documented that the Vitamin D we get from the sun helps boost levels of melatonin and serotonin, hormones that help regulate sleep and contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. Literally then, wallowing around a little in the light and letting it wash over us is good for us mentally, physically, and I’d even argue spiritually.

From a scriptural standpoint, to be in the light is living a righteous life in relationship with the Lord. Spending time in the Son is a spiritual boost of vitamin D and our spirit is lifted as it interacts with His. Oh yeah, life is good in the light.

And then, Bam! Who turned off the light switch? We’re blindsided as the enemy somehow gains a stronghold and we find ourselves in darkness.

When we’ve been warmed by the Light and then are suddenly thrown into cold darkness, it can send us reeling. We might despair. Be depressed. Shrivel and wilt like a plant that has given up searching for the brightness of day.

But, Praise God, darkness is always followed by light. For God's people, there’s not a single dark spell recorded in scripture that’s not followed by light. In fact, for the faithful, the end of the story includes basking in the brightest, purest Light for all eternity.

Whatever dark corner you’re in right now, rest assured—your Light is making His way toward you. Pray with the same hope of the Psalmist as he says, “but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139:12, NLT).

Father, even as many of us are experiencing darkness in these uncertain times, pour out Your peace as we trust that You even use darkness for good. Dark is light to You. Sustain us until we once again humbly rejoice in Your light, giving You the Glory.

If you’re stumbling around in the dark, consider the little points of light that may be piercing through the black. What can you be grateful for even in times of trial? Spend some quiet time Son-bathing.

Power Verses:
Genesis 1:3-5
, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness ‘night.’ And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.” (NLT)
Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (NLT)
Psalm 97:11,”Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.” (NIV)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Exchanging Dreams

by Missy Milbourn

This Week’s Verse: Galations 6:14, “…Because of the cross, my interest in this world died long ago…”

I can relate to the above scripture. The closer I’ve gotten to Christ, the less interested I’ve become in the things of this world, primarily speaking of my former passions regarding this world. I used to have a direction that I felt I wanted to go, a visual picture of what I thought success would look like for me. However the struggle and striving to get there often left me exhausted, discouraged, and not knowing what to do.

I still remember the moment when I surrendered my dreams to Christ. The moment when I said, “this is not going well, Lord. Help.” In the next days and months after that, He began to show me His vision for my life, His direction—which, interesting enough, still lined up with the desires of my heart. There now is a direction for my life which has been established by Him, and revealed to me by Him, through prayer and the reading of His Word.

One of the benefits of obeying His direction is that we no longer have to strive and struggle trying to “get” there. Whenever we begin to strive and struggle, we have to recognize that and immediately surrender the “strive and struggle” to “trust and obey”, walking step by step with God, trusting that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Father God, I will cry to out to You, for You are God Most High! You perform on my behalf and reward me. You bring to pass Your purposes for me and surely complete them! (Prayed from Psalm 57:2, Amp.)

Are you currently striving and struggling to obtain something, or to “arrive” somewhere? Surrender to the One who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than all you ask or imagine!

Power Verses:
Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
Psalm 37:4, “ Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)
Psalm 37:23-24, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. (NLT)