I have really struggled with some relationships. I am taken off guard when someone inflicts emotional pain. I scratch my head over cold hearts. Tend to wounds over hurt feelings. Imagine the worst of someone as if they are the embodiment of evil: plotting, unkind, cruel.
I have asked aloud and of others, “Who is my neighbor? Who is my enemy?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell when an attack comes from a coworker, a stranger, or an old “friend” on Facebook. When callous conflict comes from a relative, a confidant, even a sister in Christ, I wonder are you friend or foe?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Today when I wondered about neighbors and enemies, I thought of the faces on each “team” and realized, as I have before, that God loves every one of them. Today, when I considered my list of grievances, I also thought of the list someone may be holding against me. Today, what was different about this inner dialog was that I discovered my enemy is not flesh and blood.
Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” not because his disciple had morphed into the devil. The next time I try to put a face on my opponent, I need to stop and put on the armor of God. The enemy will use anyone to further his cause. Even a Christ follower.
25″Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …” (ESV)
What an interesting verse. Husbands are to take on the role of Christ in the marriage relationship. In fact it’s a role with which many of us don’t identify. The husband serving the wife to the point of dying for her! What an unbelievable concept. Conventional wisdom in many circles is that if the husband is the head of the family, it’s the other family members that serve and sacrifice for him, not the other way around. Us husbands are compared to Christ, who loved the church and gave himself up for her. Christ serves the church and wants the best for her. He doesn’t enslave the church, but protects her and works for her best. That’s the role the husband plays in the marriage relationship. Elsewhere in this passage it reads that the wife is to submit to the husband. Well, if the husband’s foremost aim is to serve the wife, what woman would not want to submit to that? Submission, then, needs to take on another definition. It becomes sharing with the husband what her dreams and ideas are for the future and letting the husband help her fulfill them. That’s submission!
This has been a verse I’ve worked on for 39 years now. It’s hard to realize you are the servant in the home. I have spent time on my drives home asking God to give me an attitude and heart that serves my family when I walk in the door. I realize I need to put their needs and desires first, not my own. That doesn’t mean I’ve been perfect or even good at it, but I’ve tried. God has given me a love and desire for my family that has made it easy to serve them. We have had some good times just being together as a family and enjoying one another. It’s a journey and something that all us married men need to work on. Hopefully today when I arrive home, I’ll be the servant to my family God is calling me to be.
Father God thank you for my family. Help me today to be the servant to them you have called me to be. Thank you for Christ’s infinite example of serving his church to the point where he died for her. Help us to follow strong after his example. I pray these things in the strong name of Jesus, Amen.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:5-6
It couldn’t be any clearer than that. In our culture, it isn’t cool to make absolute, exclusive statements about religion. But Jesus does not mince words. All paths DO NOT lead to God. If you wish to find God, you need to go through Jesus.
I’ve had both good and bad experiences boldly claiming this narrow truth. The good experiences have invariably come when speaking to those who share my belief in Jesus. On the other hand, when I have spoken to those who do not believe Jesus’ claims about himself, the results have frequently been disastrous. Nonbelievers have often seen me as naïve, narrow-minded, and intolerant. Many are not the least bit persuaded by my words, no matter the eloquence or conviction attached to them. I have learned that there is a better way to proclaim the Gospel to a lost world. And it can be teased out of Jesus’ very next line. John 14:7 says:
“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Aha! The disciples saw God the Father because they saw Jesus. They walked with Him, ate with Him, lived with Him. They could know God because they could observe him in the flesh. Our neighbors don’t have the same luxury – unless WE show them Jesus. If we have a heart for the lost, then we need to BE Jesus to our neighbors. That’s the ONLY way others will get to know the Father. This puts a whole new spin on that narrow path that leads to God. I used to read John 14:6 and only see acceptance of those who choose the path and condemnation for all those who fail to find the path. But as I read through the rest of this passage, I am both convicted and motivated by the fact that I am being called to be that path. When I do this well (which admittedly is more rare than I would like), I find that it then opens up opportunities to speak clearly about who Jesus is.
Lord Jesus, live through me. Help me to be a light in a dark world. It is my sincerest desire to show people the way to our Heavenly Father.
I don’t get it.
Freedom is all I’ve ever know; slavery is so foreign. And I don’t think the gentiles in Ephesus to whom Paul was speaking got it either when he said, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
Paul was coming from a place of rigid ritual and law. In Galatians he claimed to be “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (1:14) He was the Jew of Jews in his day. No one would have understand the limitations of law better than Paul. On the same token, no one would have better understood the liberating freedom of direct access through Christ, in spite of the law.
The end of Exodus 34 recounts Moses’ transformational experience with God and his intermediary role between the people. Moses was detached, unapproachable, and inaccessible. Moses was so lit from his encounter with God that the people literally feared him.
What a striking contrast to the intermediary figure in John 13 who actively draws near to the people. Who lives as one of them. Who washes their feet. A figure who feels all their pain, unjustly takes it upon himself, and dies to free them.
Thanks for what You have accomplished for me,
though I daily take for granted the direct access to You that I have gained.
May I take full advantage of this freedom.
Thank You for seeing me worth purchasing, redeeming, and using.
Holy Spirit, remind me of my value and open my eyes to see ways that I can take hold of my freedom today.
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33:15, NIV
Moses had walked with God long enough to make bold requests (“Now show me your glory”), and to speak with God openly (“…as a man speaks with his friend”). Along the way, Moses had also learned what he needed most of all: God’s presence.
Moses was saying, “God, I need You! Don’t send me where You won’t be. Don’t give me an instruction that You’re not behind. More than anything else, let me have Your Presence.”
Such faith, and such desperation. I’ve “served” God on my own before–apart from His presence. Whether I did things in my own strength, or only for the benefit of my own ego, God was not in it. On the other hand, I’ve also experienced the joy of God’s presence.–Of accomplishing the tasks He assigned by the strength He provided. His presence makes all the difference. It brings joy and life. In His presence, I’m at once completely aware of my own shortcomings, and completely confident in His ability. His presence is an awesome place to be.
God, I’ve tasted the difference that Your Presence makes, but I want to live there. Don’t let me waste another day trying to serve You on my own. If Your Presence won’t go with me, then don’t send me, Lord. I need You. More than anything else, let me have Your Presence. Amen.