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Focusing on differences brings conflict; focusing on commonality brings peace. Jesus Christ came living a message of acceptance of differences and living according to God’s standards not mankind’s. Jehovah God sees things completely different than we do. In Him there are no Lutherans or Baptists or any other denomination. These were often born from conflict. There is no traditional or contemporary music. There are no races or genders. Focusing on differences and being judgmental feeds darkness not light. The closer we draw to the light the less effect the darkness has on us. Jesus is the light that unifies.

But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17

“One with him in Spirit”

Think for a moment what that really means. Some of us are lucky enough to have a Soul Mate. Soul Mates aren’t the same as lovers, although soul mates can be your lover as well. You know what it’s like if you have one. It’s the person who starts the sentence you were going to start. They know what’s wrong before you can tell them. Soul mates cry with you, laugh with you, know when to talk, and when you need quiet; hug you when you need a hug and give you space when you need some room.

Soul Mates validate your feelings but will never let you destroy yourself emotionally, physically or spiritually if they can help it. And if you refuse to listen and continue on your slippery slope? When you reach the bottom, very likely, your Soul Mate will be the only one there to greet you. And they will. With hugs.

Here’s the real beauty behind the idea of a Soul Mate. The best Soul Mate you will ever have is the only one who can ultimately guard your soul and that’s Jesus.

The unfortunate thing is that who Jesus is has been clouded by religion. For far too long we’ve been told that Jesus won’t love us if we do this activity or make that choice. He hates those who get divorced. He hates those with sexual orientations outside the mainstream. He hates those who put everything else in front of church, or Bible study, or Prayer, or…(everyone has their list).

One of the most troubling ones I’ve heard is one I believed myself for years. “Jesus gets disappointed with you when you sin. You hurt him by your actions, your words, your thoughts.” The truth of the matter is, there is some truth to that. Anyone who is a Soul Mate knows what it’s like when we see this person whom we love dearly make decisions we know are self-destructive. But a true Soul Mate never condemns and always seeks to build up.

That’s the Jesus that reached out to the woman at the well who’d been married five times and was ‘living in sin’ with man number six. That’s the Jesus that saved the life of the woman caught in adultery. That’s the Jesus that, on a regular basis, sought out the people society rejected. That same Jesus still seeks you out today. Why? Because that’s what Soul Mates do.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I’m not worthy of our friendship. Frankly, I would never trust someone like me. Thank you for loving me, forgiving me, understanding me and waiting for me to see your light. Thank you for being my Soul Mate. In your name, Amen.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”Romans 8:15

Psychology Today says of guilt, “Guilt and its handmaiden, shame, can paralyze––or catalyze one into action. Appropriate guilt can function as social glue, spurring one to make reparations for wrongs. Excessive rumination about one’s failures, however, is a surefire recipe for resentment and depression.”

Guilt almost always focuses on the negative, even though it can have positive outcomes. We’ve all been there. Dealing with feelings of regret, failure and fear over decisions we’ve made and choices from our past that haunt us daily. Those times when we’ve been awakened in the night by worry or come to a point during the day when we look around ourselves and ask the questions. How did I get here? How will I get out?

Guilt has been used for centuries to control behavior and to protect the status quo. “Wait until your father gets home!” too many of us remember hearing.

“If you don’t behave the police will come and take you away!” (I actually heard a young, frustrated mom say to her very two-year-old acting two-year-old. I shudder to think how that child grew up looking at law-enforcement.)

“If you don’t go to church and read your Bible you will go straight to hell!” (Okay, maybe it was never verbalized like that, but the message was clear.)

God hates divorced people and gay people and anyone that does wrong things. (One of my personal ‘UN’-favorites.)

The most unfortunate thing about guilt is that it has been used for centuries as a motivator by organized religion. I use the term ‘organized religion’ to clearly differentiate those systems from what we commonly refer to Christianity. Christianity can be a religion; in fact most people refer to it as a religion. In reality however, True Christianity is more about relationship than it is about rules and religion and…guilt. Every religion known to man speaks of personal responsibility and punishment. Only Christianity speaks of unmerited love and forgiveness.

The Apostle Paul, the Apostle of grace, writes in his letter to the believers in Rome, ‘We have not received a spirit of fear!’ (My paraphrase) That means fear motivated by guilt and remorse has no place in the heart of a repentant believer in Jesus Christ. The church may wield the sword of guilt to chastise us and keep us in line, but grace trumps that sword.

What a blessed truth. Guilt has no more hold on me, just as a child enjoys all the rights of being an heir. We no longer need to live under the oppressive hold of guilt in our lives. We are free. We are children of God and as such can address the creator of the universe as Daddy. What a blessed promise!

PRAYER: Father God, Daddy. I claim the forgiveness you have given me through your son, Jesus Christ. I will no longer allow guilt or shame to have control over me. I’m your child and eternally thankful for that. Amen.

To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. 2 Samuel 22:27 (NLT)

We were built for relationship. Our very heart, our very being revolves around how we perceive others feelings towards us, and how we feel about them. When centered on the emotional, relationships rarely focus on facts. It’s feelings that matter. When centered on facts alone, relationships become works centered. What you do to or for me means everything to the relationship. Motives don’t matter, actions do.

One day Jesus healed a man that was born blind and unable to speak. At the touch of his hand, Jesus restored his speech and gave him sight. The man praised God. The people stood amazed and praised God. The Pharisees however; the religious elite; the men who ‘knew the way to God’ better than anyone else, were not only skeptical, they were critical.

“He’s a tool of Satan”, they said. “This is nothing more than blasphemy”, the challenged. “God doesn’t work like this; God has no part in any of this atrocity!”

The gospel writer states “But Jesus knew their thoughts…” (Matthew 11:25)

It wasn’t the accusations that Jesus took issue with, it was their hearts because he knew that thoughts don’t originate on the external, they originate from the heart, from the soul, from the very being of man.

Why the different reaction between the religious establishment and the man who’d been healed? In a word: relationship. Religion is and always will be built on rules and actions. They saw Jesus as a threat to their power, a reason for concern because he would take away their power and status.

“Do this and that will happen; don’t do this or this will happen.”

Relationship heals. Relationship encourages. Relationship makes one better as they leave than they were when they came. The people, especially the blind man saw a different Jesus, a Jesus based on experience, on touch, on relationship.

The blind man knew his hopelessness and saw relief. The Pharisees never grasped the notion that they were sinners. The blind man saw freedom in his release from the bondage of his blindness. The Pharisees saw the healing as a direct confrontation to their power. The blind man saw hope; the Pharisees saw a menace.

The question each of us must ask ourselves is which Jesus do we see? Do we see a Jesus limited by rules and regulations; a Jesus steeped in liturgy and tradition? Or do we see a Jesus who longs to touch us, to heal us, to soothe the pain within our hearts?

Some have shaken their fists figuratively at Jesus because he didn’t meet their needs. They were looking for someone who would cater to their physical desires rather than the needs of the heart. They’ve tried filling the hole with other gods. The gods of relationship, passion, power or any other god of their own choosing. Others have chosen to fill the hole in their relationship by legislation. The more rules we have, the more restrictions we place on ourselves, the more religious we become, and the better we’ll be.

But only Jesus can fill that hole and he fills it with relationship, not rules. Those who follow after him, whose hearts are pure find in him a refuge. Those who refuse to come into relationship with him see him as a menace to their emptiness; a barrier to true freedom.

PRAYER: Father God, it’s so easy to put other gods in your place. Gods that will give me a false sense of holiness, a false feeling of stability. Purify my heart so that you are all that I see. Amen.

And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 (CEV)

Even though it happened over a half century ago, I remember it like yesterday. I proudly carried the box out of the local clothing store and excitedly climbed in the backseat of our car. Although it was a short drive home, it seemed like an eternity.

The car no sooner stopped and I was in the house and up to my room. Moments later I bounded down the stairs and outside to try out my new prize. Much to my amazement, the commercials were right! With my new ‘Keds®’ I really could jump higher and run faster. I felt like lightning running down that sidewalk!

Do you remember those new sets of clothes? Remember the first time you walked into school, or church or down the street? Remember the pride, the excitement, the feeling way down deep inside that this was going to be the turning point, that life was going to be better from here on out?

The Apostle Paul compares knowing Jesus to putting on a new outfit. This outfit doesn’t make us run faster or jump higher. It may make us look different to others. But that isn’t the real beauty to putting on Christ.

Physical clothing covers our body, but putting on Christ envelops our soul. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they made fig leaves to cover their shame, guilt, embarrassment and fear. The fig leaves were superficial coverings that offered little protection. Their Father made clothing for them that was better. It covered their bodies well, but their souls remained exposed to the elements.

Then Jesus came. Jesus Christ died to offer the same protection of the outer clothing, but the big difference is that Jesus died to protect your heart. When you ask him to forgive you, he will. When you ask him to take away your guilt, he does. When you ask him for peace and comfort when you are scared or hurt, he will.

Like Adam and Eve, people have tried many things to try to cover the pain, the hurt, the anger, the guilt of their past and present. Some try drugs; others try a new relationship, a new church, a different religion or new surroundings. Some have tried to escape the pain by not following any religion, which is really a religion in itself. But there is nothing that will cover the wound in your heart like Jesus.

When you get ready to start the day you dress yourself according to the weather and your daily activities. Don’t forget to dress the most important part of you. Put on Jesus so that your heart will be protected. You’ll notice the difference and so will others.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus thank you for the clothing you provide for my heart. I’ve done many things that have kept me from feeling good about myself and others. Forgive me for my sins. Clothe me with the forgiveness, hope and confidence I can only get through you. May others see the difference in me because my heart is protected by you. Amen.


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