Matthew 5: 46 ” If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”

I have to make a conscious decision to love one another, for it’s far too easy to be antisocial in this day and age. With my nose buried in my cell phone I can effortlessly avoid people and conversations. And as I become more and more detached and remote, I then sadly reduce people around me to those who either help or hinder my selfish desires, comfort, and contentment. Yes, it’s me that has to determine to love…and not just those who love me back, but those who are unlovable, have hurt me, and even hate me. Jesus said we must love our enemies and do good to them, and it’s only by His love that saved me from my myopic, self-seeking love that I can find it within me to love others and become more like Him…merciful, full of grace, and with a self-sacrificial love like His.

Hebrews 10:25 ” Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another.”

It’s a duty of the Christian life to assemble with other Believers in the public worship of God on the Lord’s Day. But with the global Pandemic, mandated isolation, and Churches being forced to move to a Online Service format the last 2 years, it’s been difficult to now draw people back to Church. And with this all has risen the attitude of privatism… the mental position of being noncommittal to or uninvolved with anything other than one’s own immediate interests and lifestyle. Now if you ask a Believer about this attitude of privatism you might get the old adage, “Well, it’s just Jesus and me.” But our personal relationship with the Lord has everything to do about living in Community with our fellow Believers and not forsaking the Body… for “We are all members of one Body.” (Ephesians 4:25) The other thing that’s happened is, if you’ve been attending any Church for 6 months and are not plugged in somewhere serving or volunteering…what are you waiting for? Every Church I know needs more people to step up and help with the day to day running of the Church, special events, out reach, Children’s programs, Ladies Ministry, etc. etc. etc.

Philippians 4:13 ” I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength.”

We live within and observe this broken world on a daily basis, and it’s very easy to become apathetic, insensitive, and just plain indifferent. It’s far to easy to look at a problem and quip, “I can’t do anything about that!” or “This is way too big for me to make a difference.” or my favorite, “Not my monkeys…not my circus!” But the Lord wants us to become involved. Moses used every excuse in the book of why he shouldn’t lead Israel out of Egypt…but God prevailed, showing Him how He had not only prepared the way, but would go before him. When faced with feeding the huge crowds, the disciples failed, but Jesus then showed them that they could make a difference if they trusted in Him. And when we callously don’t want to become involved, we’re reminded in Micah 6:8 that what the Lord requires of us is to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly. Which brings us to this Scripture in Philippians that squashes all our excuses. We can rely on Christ’s power in any and all circumstances He brings our way…for we’re going forth in His strength not ours. And in His strength we can endure, sustain and effectively handle anything.

James 1:20 ” Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life.”

Our anger is never neutral…it’s either sinful or righteous. In fact in Ephesians 4:26 it warns us, “In your anger do not sin.” Thus we need to look to God’s righteous anger as an example to follow. Godly anger is one of grace… not violent, unbridled fury, full of verbal abuse and disruptive behaviors. God’s anger is always working to right wrongs…it’s full of justice and mercy. Righteous anger can motivate us to right wrongs, to speak out against injustice, oppression, or when God’s Name is blasphemed. While sinful anger is destructive, judgmental, always makes things worse, and is ruled by the selfish desires of our heart. When you become angry, ask yourself this question? “Would this make God angry? If the answer is no, your anger is distracting you from God’s work. If yes, then respond in the right manner…fighting evil in a way that would glorify God.

Psalm 27:14 ” Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I wish I could wait well, but I don’t. I wish I was patient in the midst of You working in me Lord, but I’m not. I wish I could rest in Your grace as I wait, but in my selfish eagerness to obtain what I desire, I tend to want to “help” You…pushing my will over Your Will for my life. Waiting is probably one of the hardest disciplines we’re called to do. We want to be in control of our lives…every detail of it. And waiting on the Lord’s timing takes that control out of our hands and places it into His. But the good news is that our hope and faith can be actively exercised while we wait, not to mention growing closer to God and learning more about ourselves. Waiting well is so much more than finally getting what we want…for it’s more about who we’ve become in the process.

Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we don’t yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

There’s a big difference between worldly hope and Christian hope. Worldly hope is hinged on wishing, luck, fate, and karma. But Hope in Jesus is the firm conviction that the future promises of God will be fulfilled. But even within this enduring hope in faith, we can at times lose hope…especially in very difficult times. So how do we find it again? Well, as the old Hymn goes, We stand on the promises of God…patiently enduring to the end…”Fixing our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:18) Or as Hebrews 6:19 tells us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

I John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they didn’t really belong to us.”

We’ve all witnessed things in our Church that leaves us dumbfounded. People who we think are some of the “Super Saints” of the Church suddenly reveal their true colors and the scandal that follows rocks the congregation to the core. Visible membership in the Church doesn’t guarantee salvation, just as spirituality doesn’t mean there’s not something evil dwelling within the heart. Inward apathy or even hostility towards the Gospel can be easily masked by a super spiritual persona and doing “religious things”. But true Christianity is all about serving others all the time…it’s not about us. For where there is ministry there is also our life…co-existing and happening together.

Colossians 2:6-8 ” So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

Paul is warning the people of watered down, feel good preaching that seems more like theater or a concert than of Church…and his warning continues for us today. Truth and wisdom comes from God and His Word, not from man’s “interpretation” of it for you. And if human “wisdom” cannot be aligned seamlessly to God’s Word…it’s not really wisdom at all but just man’s sentiments. Our dependence on God mandates that we then be willing listeners and humble receivers of His Word, not foolish, senseless, and deceptive opinions of men. Charles Spurgeon put it well when he wrote, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet. We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light giving Word, lest we slip with our feet.”

I Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

So let’s just admit it to ourselves…there’s vast amounts of information that we’ll never know, and when it comes to mental strength, we’re just as deficient. Human beings have very finite limitations on gaining wisdom…and what little wisdom we do obtained is tainted and colored by sin and the views of this broken world. Whereas God has no limits to His knowledge and understanding…His discernment and insightfulness far above anything we could ever achieve. But the admission of these facts isn’t meant to be degrading but rather an affirmation of who God is and who we aren’t…a simple way to remember it being, “God is God, and I am not!”

Psalm 103:19 ” The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.”

Ever since mankind got kicked out of the garden, we’ve been battling God’s sovereignty with our lust for self-rule. We struggle to accept God’s reign over our life…bristling with the desire for self-sufficiency and autonomy. But if you really think about it, autonomy is totally delusional! Oh yes, we have free will…but the minuscule power we exert is so tiny to God’s mighty sovereign providence that stands over and above any of our our actions. We are designed to live in worshipful dependence with God and in community with others…and anything other than that is not in God’s Will. Sure, there’s many times we won’t understand what God is doing, and it’s no sin to want to understand. But real trust and resting hope can only come by accepting His Will in our lives… knowing that His Will is perfect. Or as Psalm 33:20-21 tells us, “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy Name.”

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