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Love and Restoration

1 John 4:19-21: “We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

(Observation): We are commanded to love our brother. One cannot love God and hate his brother.

(Interpretation): I suggest to you that the word brother in the passage means a fellow adoptee into the family of God, by faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, a fellow Christian. Therefore, the conclusion is that hatred for someone who has the Spirit of God in them precludes the possibility that the hater could love God. Further, it is by God’s love that He sacrificed Jesus to pay for our sins.

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Willing to Be Foolish

Evangelism comes naturally to some. They count it as a spiritual gift. For the rest of us it can feel like a challenge or even a grind as we flop around like a fish out of water, not knowing what to do or how to do it. We may not recognize the opportunities in front of us to be undertaken, regretfully seeing many of these opportunities in the rear-view mirror.

Jesus commands us to “go make disciples” prior to his accession into the heavenlies (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, it is the responsibility of all men to be involved in evangelism, sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ– regardless of spiritual giftedness.

The obedient man of God is involved in evangelism. To say otherwise runs counter to Biblical teaching. It would suggest that a man does not need to be merciful, does not need to serve, has no need to be generous–simply because he does not identify any of these as his spiritual gift. Certainly, a lack of giftedness in a particular arena is not an adequate justification in neglecting obedience to those things to which God has commanded.

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Most Gladly!

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Life is a journey! It’s often a series of walks through valleys, climbing peaks, descending back into the valley and then repeating. It’s been said that life is a marathon, not a race. There are several significant life events (this list not exhaustive) that illustrate the challenge of the marathon…here are four:

Death of a loved one
Major illness or injury
Job loss

Have you experienced one of these “life events” recently? Perhaps a series of them within a short period of time? Are you at a point in your life where it seems to be one “hit” after another? Well, don’t feel like you own the exclusive rights. None are exempt!

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The Prayer of a Righteous Man

Lately, I have been spending time in Daniel chapter 9. This chapter has Daniel offering one of the great prayers in the Bible. And as an example to us, here we see how a man of God prayed to the Lord.

We are told in this chapter that Daniel realizes that the 70 years of Babylonian captivity are about up, and the Jews would be returning to Jerusalem soon. Daniel decides to pray to God about this. It is interesting that instead of praying for God to send them back to Jerusalem, out from under their pain of their circumstances and into freedom, this is a prayer of repentance!

As I reflect on the life of Daniel, he seems to be one of the few Old Testament characters that lives a consistently righteous life with no major screw ups. Many great men of the Bible had great flaws, which can be comforting for us that have flaws, but Daniel operated with wisdom and an unwavering desire to follow God throughout his life. Under great pressure and persecution, he never seemed to waver in his commitment to God no matter what the circumstance.

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The Importance of Obedience

It seems to me that obedience has become a four letter word, both outside and inside the church. Outside the church, every person is free to decide what they should obey. “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Without a normative absolute truth for all, obedience looks different for each person. Inside the church, where the Bible gives us absolute truth for all, obedience has become synonymous with legalism. When (or if) we hear someone speak on obedience, it is common to declare that a works-based righteousness is being taught, rather than a doctrine of grace. As I consider what the Bible has to say about obedience, a few thoughts come to mind.

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Fear Of Loss

Matthew 10: 26“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31“So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

(Observation): The disciples are told not to fear those who hate them, but to fear God, to whom His disciples are valuable.

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The Weight of Anxiety

The topic of mental health is a hot one in today’s world. As a result, institutions are focused on offering support to those who need it. Individuals are admired for talking openly about it, and organizations are popping up in many places to address it. Often, at the center of the mental health challenge is anxiety. Our society is increasingly more anxious about what is happening around us. Whether it is the uncertainty of the future or the overwhelming pressure of the present, people seem captured by a sense of anxiousness.

As a college professor, I see this with students. When I started teaching several years ago, the common reason for someone missing class or having an issue with an assignment was a physical illness. Today, it’s more often a mental illness issue. It’s always a challenge discerning what’s real and what’s a smokescreen because a student doesn’t do the things required of them; however, one thing is true; anxiety is weighing people down.

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Psalms 77:11-15

11 I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

12 I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.

13 Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God?

14 You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.

15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. NASU

(Observation) In verses 11 through 15, the Psalmist turns from lament over his present circumstances in the previous 10 verses, to remembering “Your wonders of old.” As the psalmist remembers, he turns from questioning God to praising Him.

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God’s Unknown Paths

“Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known.” Psalm 77:19

The way God works is a mystery most of the time. Jesus promises that He will build His church (Matthew 16:18).

He does not need us, but He gives us the opportunity to participate with Him in what He is doing in the lives of people.

My mom was a tough nut to crack. When my father came to the Lord she was not interested, and neither was I. Then ten years later I came to faith and a few years after that my two brothers came to know the Lord as well. My mom continued in her unbelief for many years until she was stricken with lung cancer.

Prior to her cancer, our family had shared the gospel with my mom through the years with no response. When she was informed she had cancer, my brothers and I planned on taking her to lunch to share the Gospel with her again, hoping she would be more open to it.

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Striving for Obscurity

One of the early teachings that I was exposed to as a young man who was beginning to take his faith seriously was the benefit, and the need, for the man of God to “strive for obscurity.” After hearing this a few times, I felt compelled to dig into what I was being challenged to do. What does “obscurity” mean? How do I Strive for it? When can I know that I am successful or have failed in this endeavor?

First, I needed to get my arms around what it means to be “obscure.” A summary research of definitions yielded the following: “the state of being unknown, inconspicuous, unimportant,” another definition reads “relatively unknown,” and yet another reads “the state in which somebody/something is not well known or has been forgotten.” These definitions certainly were a help to me in my understanding; however, this was not something that I was certain I wanted to pursue, let alone “strive” to be.

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