Over the last few articles I have written quite a number of things that would likely be in the “gloom and doom” category–at least for some readers.  I will continue with more subjects that deal with what we are facing this year, and the years coming–if the LORD doesn’t call us home first; many things happening within this present year of 2013.

I feel the need to slip in some articles having to do with normal Christian living that has been outlined for us in the Bible—especially considering the difficulties that are going to unfold in the immediate future.

During some of my daily Bible reading I was reading in 1 Peter 4 and 5.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read these same chapters but, as is so common with the Living Word, I saw some things I felt a need to at least touch on with this article.  Here is some of what I found.  Please note the things underlined and put in bold print as they are meant to be emphasized.  You may find yourself reading them two or three times, but that’s a good thing!

“…Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.  Above all, love each others deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of GOD. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength GOD provides, so that in all things GOD may be praised through Jesus Christ…” (chapter 4: 7b-10a)

Have you ever wondered why your prayers are not going anywhere?  The answer might be in that first verse.  This is not always the case, but it needs to be considered.  Another question to ask ourselves:  Do we really love others deeply? Do we consider our lives a service to them because we are serving our GOD?  Here’s a real heavy question!  When we deal with others, can we honestly say that our words to them are the very words of God??…especially when we are miffed with them?  One more:  Is GOD praised by others when we are through with them?  Hmmm…

Later in chapter 4, more is said, and it not only pertains to the relationships we have with one another as humans, but it adds a spiritual dimension which is often missed in our society that rebels (even subtly) against any authority—even as GOD has laid it out for the New Testament church.  It says this:

…rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of GOD rests on you…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise GOD that you bear that Name.  For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of GOD; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those that do not obey the gospel of GOD?…So then, those who suffer according to GOD’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (ch. 4: 13-19)

Most of us don’t like the thought of “judgment”; in fact, many don’t think it even applies to this generation of “grace”, but that is contrary to GOD’s Word.  In fact, judgment is in process today within the church because the Messiah is at the door and multitudes are not in the least ready. Many that had had the kind of relationship with their LORD that is described of the Church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3 have walked away from their close walk with God, letting their crowns be stolen as Jesus described in the same passage, and have joined the Church of Laodicea.  What a tragedy.  Yet, we still have time to correct this…but very little time!

More depth is added to the – you– “I appeal to you as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed; Be shepherds of GOD’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as GOD wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘GOD opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Humble yourselves therefore, under GOD’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  (ch. 5:1-9)

Being humble is something that is a struggle for many.  We see how smart we are, how much influence we have, how we can turn the heads of those in authority we hob-nob with, the money we donate, etc. etc.  This is why it is so rare to see a politician who is truly humble.  Unfortunately, there are the same power struggles and undue influence wielded within the inner circles of churches and church organizations.  I can remember how much I detested sitting in on religious organizational business meetings because of the power struggles I saw.  Large wealthy churches always felt it their right to exercise their power because of the money they contributed to the organizational machinery.  Jesus would have turned the money changer’s tables over just as much in our day as He did in the Temple 2,000 years ago.  In fact, Jesus would be crucified today by the Gentile Church just like He was by the Jews and Romans.  Amazing isn’t it?

I typed out more Scripture than I usually do but it is because so very much is said about our relationships, not only with each other as individuals, but also in our church relationships.  It is well known that churches have some of the ugliest conflicts between people.  Church remodeling projects are a prime example because churches have literally split down the middle over the color of carpet picked!  How the world around us has laughed at us and then ridiculed us—and for good  reason!  Then there are all the power struggles between people who feel they have status and feel the need to use it.  I remember a lady custodian who was doing a terrible job (although getting quite well paid), and when politely asked to take care of some of the worst of the grime and disease causing messes both in the kitchen and bathrooms, such a hissy fit was thrown that the poor board of elders could have used a week enjoying the quiet of a high altitude lake cottage to recoup!

I am only going to cover one part of these passages having to do with love and you, the reader, can do some personal studying of your own to apply the rest.  The New Testament Church is still here and functioning, but has lost much of what GOD had in mind when He instructed the Apostles in their teachings.  Take a good look at what was originally said.

I want to touch on another part of our love relationship that is really crucial due to the direction our society is going.  The love that Jesus showed for the human race is something that most feel is unreasonable for GOD to expect of us.

Most of us as humans are reactionary.  In other words, if someone treats us right, we will probably do the same for them.  If they insult us, we will find a way to let them know it was a mistake to do so.  Most of us know the Scripture that says “Vengeance is mine, says the LORD”.  Most of our verbal conflicts with people are not what we would classify as vengeance; so we don’t feel that we have crossed into GOD’s territory.  Is there any possibility that we might be wrong?  Do we sometimes think that we have the right to lash out at someone because they have it coming?  If we don’t set them straight, who else is going to do it?  We doubt that GOD will!  Do you think that we are often guilty of thinking that GOD does not see everything going on?  Does He maybe not see all the ways that people around us do us wrong?  Does He miss the perfect opportunity to “educate” someone else on how things really ought to be?

Do you think that we sometimes are a bit arrogant in our thinking that we have a better handle on things than those around us?  Are we guilty of thinking that we really have it over those around us—maybe even our own mate?  We may feel that we are more learned, more logical in our thinking, better equipped in expressing ourselves, even on a higher spiritual level!  We often are so fooled that we find it easy to put our own mates down in front of others.  I sad GOD must be with our often stupidity!  We may be foolish enough to believe a lot of things—because we have a powerful and very capable enemy who hates us with such a passion that we have no way to comprehend it.

This enemy, Satan / the devil / the evil one / the fallen one / or any of the other titles or names he has been given over the millennia, is quite happy to put us at odds with each other.  He has some of us so ham-strung that we are hardly able to be around others of the family of Jesus without us being able to control our tendency to unload our snide remarks or put-downs on them.

Having been in many positions of “ministry” over the last 40+ years has given me the privilege of meeting some of the most unusual people.  I have lived a very full and unusual life in many ways.  Many of these folks God sent my way were people whom I met when they were at the very bottom of the barrel, as the saying goes.  Some of them were drug addicts, others were gambling addicts, other thieves, others yet some of the most evil and brutal individuals I had ever met.  I shared coffee with murderers, rip-off artists, biker gang members, demon possessed people, Satanists, former altar boys who had been sexually abused, even a biker gang queen who I had the honor of baptizing in a river when she committed herself to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

I was honored to have had the experience of speaking in city rescue missions, one of them for about five years.  I met people who looked like they had nothing whatsoever to offer “normal” society—whatever that really is!  I found many of them to be more in touch with what life was really all about than I was, and I was the pastor doing the teaching!  The LORD took me through a process over the many years of humbling me—and today, I am so very grateful.  I found people at city rescue missions when I joined them for their provided dinner who turned out to be former doctors, attorneys, judges, politicians, and representatives of many other professions including pastors, who had lost it all for one reason or another.  I found that GOD required me to love them as brothers and sisters!  GOD saw them valuable—no matter what condition they happened to be in when I met them.  JESUS LOVED THEM!  He really LOVED them.  I have to love them JUST as He did.  I have to be willing to pay the ultimate price for them as well—as He did!

For those that have followed my posts titled the “JERUSALEM UPDATES”, you will have read how R*, the founder, whom I cannot name on line, has poured his very life out for people like this since 1985.  He has spent a fortune he inherited in order to fund the ministry.  Now he has finally sold his own house because it was all he had left.  In his case he has ministered mostly to Muslim people; some of whom are likely to brutally murder him one of these days.   They certainly have tried.  He has been caught numerous times and suffered unspeakable things for the sake of Christ, but every time, there were those that were reached!

Here in America, about all we have been asked to do is pray for them and help them with finances to provide Bibles and then in the process of distributing them, they are the ones that are shot at, hacked at with machetes, or severely beaten—if they are lucky.

Getting back to this heavenly love the Bible teaches us about, I have learned—and am still learning—that I am required to be a mirror image of the love of Jesus to the people I come in contact with whether it is to my benefit or not.  It means that much of the time GOD expects us to swim upstream against common religious wisdom.   Jesus certainly did!  They accused Him of being out of His mind!  They said He was demon-possessed!  They accused Him of blasphemy and everything else they could think of—even after they saw Him raise the dead!!  Do we really expect that we are going to have it all that much easier?

In America we have been blessed beyond measure, but for the most part most have abused GOD’s grace and His abundant blessings.  We not only spend all of GOD’s given abundance on every whim and want we can think of, but also hardly give Him the time of day.  Most of us hardly recognize His voice.  It’s because we don’t spend quality time with Him.  We spend more time playing video games or watching football, or any number of other things we can use our time up on, rather than communing with the ONE that paid the ultimate price to set us free.  And…He wants to set people on the other side of the world free as well.  Jesus is already on the threshold, preparing to call His faithful ones.  What are we going to do with the moments we may have left??

Our concept of love is lacking.  I just finished a book by Tosca Lee titled “Iscariot”.  It was an in depth novel written about Judas, but it gave a very good picture of what Jesus was like.  A picture I cannot shake is how he loved the leper—a total outcast from society.  The leper was deformed, rotting as he walked the streets, and totally without hope—a total “untouchable”.  Jesus came and took his badly deformed face into his hands, looked into his eyes with a love that is beyond description, and healed him—on the Sabbath no less.

How is your love life?  Do you love with the love that Jesus demonstrated?  Do you see yourself as above the average?  If you do…why?  Did GOD bless you more than others?  Do you judge others because they don’t happen to meet your expectations?  Do you castigate them because they may not agree with how you see things—even the things of GOD?

The example Jesus lived for 3.5 years is well worth examining, and in great detail.  He was all GOD.  He was the Creator and yet thought nothing of butchering sacred cows—nearly every chance He got.  He was so criticized that nearly everyone left Him in John 6.  Maybe we should take a good look at why everyone left Him.  Maybe He was asking more of His followers than they were willing to give.  Maybe He still is!

We live at the most crucial time in history and for those of us that claim to be Christ followers, we need to take stock of where we really stand with Him—not where we may think we stand in our religious arrogance, but where we stand according to His standards.  His standards and requirements are the only ones that matter.

Can we make it a point to walk in the love that God demonstrated for us to mimic.  1 Corinthians says that I can walk in all kinds of special Gifts given by the Spirit of God, but if I don’t have His love being demonstrated in my life, it is all a whole bunch of noise.  No harmony with the ways of His Spirit and totally worthless.  The world around us needs us to be the “real deal”!  I’d probably better stop here!

God Bless You All, and Keep Looking Up!  The KING is coming!

Jake

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