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I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. Hosea 2:19 (NLT)

Every good love story has the same basic plot when you think about it. Boy meets girl and a friendship begins. It grows to love. It endures struggles along the way. Somewhere in the life cycle of the relationship something happens to threaten the very life blood of their love.

Let’s say, for the purpose of this story that the boy thoughtlessly hurts the girl. He does everything he can to make it up to her. But the wound is too great. Time and again he pleads with her to give him another chance. Time and again he is rejected. He showers her with gifts. He takes her to all her favorite places. He listens (something that he should have done before) and learns what things make her the happiest.

Finally, the final rejection comes. He realizes that the love he cherished so much will never be had. Painfully, he turns his back and walks towards the gate where his flight is waiting. His heart is heavy with remorse. His mind replays all the good times he had with her. He longs to hear her voice once more but he can’t hear it. He wishes just once more he could feel her soft and gentle touch on his arm the way she always used to as they walked the beaches together.

As he makes his way to the gate, he feels it. For a nano second he thinks it’s his imagination. Then the voice comes. “I love you. I forgive you. I can live without you but I don’t want too. Come home.”

He turns with tear-filled eyes to see her before him. He takes her to himself and holds her in his arms. The world goes on around them and they don’t notice. The gatekeeper comes up to ask him if he is ready to board but thinks twice and closes the gate in front of him.

After a tremendously long embrace and without a word they leave with her hand softly on his arm. And of course, they live happily ever after.

That, in a sense, is how our passionate father feels about us. He seeks us out. He longs for our love. He does whatever he can to draw us close in his arms. He’s not concerned about our faults. He’s not concerned about what we can do for him. He loves us and that is all that matters to him.

But like the young woman in the story, we hold the trump card. We are the ones that choose to accept his love or reject his advances towards us. The one huge difference in this story of course is that our Fathers love is pure and unconditional. Even though he may allow difficulties in our lives they are never intended to harm us but, rather, to make us grow stronger and draw us closer to him.

Your heavenly Father is passionate in his love for you. It’s not important where you are, what you have done in the past or what you bring to the table. He only wants to feel your touch on his arm and to hear your voice say “I love you. I choose you. I want to be with you forever.”

PRAYER: AH! Father God. Such love you have for me. Such passion I hear in your voice. I bring so little. You give so much. I stray from you but you are always there when I need you. Thank you for your love. Thank you for this most remarkable love story you have allowed me to be a part of. In Jesus name, Amen.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)

When a witness takes the stand in a court of law they really have only one job to do. Restate the facts of the case as they saw it. They aren’t asked for opinions. They aren’t asked to guess what the person was thinking or why they did what they did. They are only asked for what they saw.

When Jesus left earth to ascend into the presence of his Heavenly Father he left us with one charge; to be his witnesses. Witnesses aren’t flippantly chosen. They hold, in their hands, the success for or against the person being charged. You most likely wouldn’t want someone who seeks your demise to take the stand in your favor. You want someone who will stand up for you, who will refute any false accusations leveled against you.

That’s what Jesus wants from us. We aren’t asked to take a stand for our church or our denominational affiliation. We aren’t asked to look at others around us and determine if their actions are noble or not. We are only asked to tell what Jesus has done for us. I don’t need to explain or defend God and his ways. I only need to tell what Jesus has done for me.

Every day we come in contact with people who are beaten up, frustrated, scared, worried or wounded. They don’t need to hear how they need to change. They know that. They don’t need to hear how much they are hurting themselves. They know that too. What people really need to hear is about Jesus and what he has done in your life.

When he left us with the challenge to be his witnesses he didn’t leave us without power. The early disciples were told to ‘wait for God’s power to come on them’ before they began to testify of Christ. In the same way we need to be certain that as we take the stand to testify for Christ we are empowered by his Spirit.

You have everything you need to make a difference in the lives of people around you. Your family needs to know what Jesus has done for you on a daily basis. You don’t need to be a Biblical Scholar to tell others the truth of what God has done in your life. You don’t need to be a pastor or a missionary to share the love of Jesus. You don’t need a sermon outline or a list of Bible verses. All you need is to be willing and open to God’s leading. Be a witness. Tell your story. Jesus brought you to the place you are in so others could hear what he means to you.

PRAYER: Father God, I am so thankful for what you have done in my life. Thank you for grace. Thank you for mercy. Thank you for forgiving my sins. I’m so unworthy of your love. Help me to be a witness for you to those I come in contact with whether that means a smile, a kind word or the opportunity to share verbally what you mean to me. In Jesus name, Amen.

He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Philippians 3:21(NLT)

When I was in third grade we had a big jar on a table in the corner. Every day when we first came to class we’d all go back to the jar to see if anything had changed. We waited excitedly to see what would happen to the small, grayish looking cocoon hanging from a twig in the jar. I don’t remember how long we watched for a change, but it seemed like a year.

Finally, one of my classmates called across the room for the teacher to come look! We as a class scurried back to the jar as well. The cocoon was breaking! “Official class work” was delayed as we all gathered around the small table. Where once hung a small, rather ugly chrysalis, now hung a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Nothing at all like the small, crawling insect it once was.

In Philippians, the Apostle Paul promises each of us that one day this shell of a body we wear on a daily basis will undergo a wonderful transformation. This weak shell of a body will be changed from the inside out! God’s word doesn’t tell us much about this new body but here are some things we know.

We’ll never grow tired or hungry; we’ll never be sad or disappointed; we’ll never be sick; never hurt; there will be no handicapped parking or hospitals or cancer centers or rehab centers of funeral homes. We catch a slight glimpse of what that will be like with Jesus. Someday our bodies will be like his. He could walk through doors; he could eat; he could move instantly from one place to another and then disappear.

That may sound pretty good for you today. You may be tired. You may be struggling with wounds from abuse, war, relational distress or economic disaster. You may wonder if you can make it through one more day without completely falling apart. Your body hurts, your heart aches and your brain seems to be saturated with things to worry about. You may feel just plain ugly and useless.

Listen to the words of Paul. You are in the process of being transformed. The process takes time. The process often includes pain. The process may seem never ending. But the process isn’t in your control. It’s not determined by religion or politics or the enemy (Satan). The process, every step of the way, is guided by Jesus. He loves you more than life itself. His intention is to someday make you a beautiful butterfly, to change your body from what it is into a glorious, perfect, beautiful being. The Bible says each of us will be completely healed by his wounds so that we will be weak no more!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling sick. I’m tired of being in physical pain. I’m tired of having my heart hurt so badly. I feel more like a crawling insect than a beautiful butterfly. I realize life will be a struggle until I see you in all your beauty. For now, I ask for strength to get through the day. Thank you that my transformation is powered by your grace and out of my control. I can’t wait to see you and to experience the joy of my spiritual Matamoras’s. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. Romans 5:4-5 (NCV)

Disappointment comes into our lives in a variety of ways. Our disappointments can be minor and only affect our lives for a few moments, or major disappointment can change the course of our lives forever.

How we handle disappointment depends on many factors such as our emotional well-being, the size of the disappointment and any physical or financial impact it can have on our lives.

The size of our disappointment and how we handle it is largely dependent on hope. Hope is based on expectations and desire. The more we cherish something the more we ‘hope’ to have it come true, last longer, or be a part of us. The size and effect of our disappointment is dependent on what we have our hope based on.

We can put our hope on a relationship, but relationships are made of people and people are human and humans fail.

We can place our hope on special interests or politics, but politics are as fickle as the people who make them up.

We can place our hope on money, but as many have found out lately, you can work your whole life to amass a nice retirement account and see it flitter away in the winds of health, economic disaster or divorce.

Some place their hope in religion, but religion is nothing more than a set of rules based on false hopes and expectations. Some have even placed their hope on God and been disappointed because he didn’t deliver as they ‘hoped’ he would.

Disappointment is a fact of life and no matter how you live you will encounter disappointment. How disappointment affects you isn’t dependent on what happened to cause the disappointment but on what you have your hopes based on. Base your hopes on anything other than the promises of God given through his son Jesus Christ and disappointment will be harsh and perhaps even fatal. Hope placed on God is hope based on someone who has never ever failed and knows what is best for us.

I don’t always understand why God does what he does. I’ve been disappointed countless times. Disappointed in myself, in others and in life’s circumstances. But when measured up against God’s promises those disappointments are easier to bear.

One other thing that makes disappointment easier to bear is patience. The Apostle Paul writes, “Patience produces character which produces in us a hope that will never leave us disappointed.” I am learning that if I patiently wait for God to do his work my hopes will be realized and my disappointments will be less severe. I can be patient when I hope in God because the outcome is no longer in my hands or the hands of others, but in a God of mercy, grace and power who is passionately in love with me.

PRAYER: Father God. Life seems to be on disappointment after another. Unanswered prayer, relational disaster, financial calamity, political and natural disasters seem rampant. Empower me with your Spirit to put my hope in you and patiently wait for you to do what needs to be done. Help me to trust you as my only hope and salvation. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:28-29 (NLT)

Somewhere along the line we have bought into the idea that there is a disconnect between being a Christ-follower and being intelligent. The media often portrays ‘religious’ people as being some sort of anomaly that is out of touch with society, reality and in some cases just plain dumb!

Here’s a news flash for you. It’s not true. Being a follower of Jesus Christ does not mean you are less intelligent, less in touch with reality or stupid. Don’t let the enemy tell you any differently. We don’t follow a bunch of empty, unsubstantiated rules and stories that religion dreams up. We don’t place our faith on empty tradition, fancy dishes, or ‘new revelations’ that came from some mountaintop experience.

Perhaps one of the reasons we are maligned as being out of touch with reality and disconnected from ‘true science’ is the fact that ‘wisdom’ and ‘intellect’ are often misunderstood. Someone can be very intelligent, but not very wise. I had a college professor once who was perhaps the most intelligent and interesting person I’ve ever met. But he couldn’t figure out an overhead projector! (Those of you under 30 may want to Google overhead projector to understand that last statement!)

I also know some people who, by the world’s standards, aren’t very intelligent at all but are extremely wise. People who have never finished high school but are making six figure salaries because they didn’t let the fact that they didn’t have a fancy piece of paper on their wall keep them from being successful.

In the spiritual realm it’s our wisdom, not our knowledge of spiritual things, that will enable us to help others (and ourselves) grow strong in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The wise follower of Christ will be able to discern what those around them need in order to begin or grow in a relationship with Christ. Learn how to use the tools we have to build strong godly lives. Learn to listen more than preach; to love more and criticize less; to accept differences without demanding our own way.

The Apostle Paul was an extremely intelligent, highly trained teacher in his day. But he writes to the Colossians and reminds them that it isn’t his intellect that brings others to maturity in Christ. Others grew in their relationship because Paul’s teaching was based on God’s wisdom and Paul’s tenacity and refusal to give up.

Grace says, “I know the right way. I know you are on the wrong path. But I will love you and rely on Godly wisdom to gently show you a better, more joyful way. Show your wisdom by showing others God’s grace.

PRAYER: Father God, I get angry when I see people I love and have concern for going down the wrong path. Help me in my frustration to remember that they will not change because of my knowledge. They will not grow because of my preaching. Like plants in the garden they will only become fruitful by my tender loving care and a refusal to give up on them. Empower me with your Spirit of wisdom to help others grow in you. Amen.

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August 2011
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