Clothe Yourselves As Chosen People – The YouTruth in Colossians 3:12

col 3-12 image“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

I’m sure you’ve faced your share of mean, insensitive, hurtful stuff in your life. Harsh, condemning words can pierce you like a knife and the wounds they leave can cause pain for long periods of time as they heal. Some of these wounds can cause permanent injuries that leave you limping for the rest of your life.

If only we had some kind of protective covering! How about a bullet-proof vest to stop the incoming bullets and sharp objects aimed at you? Well, God has it. His protective clothing is made of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. What is amazing about God’s protective clothing is that it defends you against more than just the attacks you face from others. It guards against those attacks you might inflict upon others as well.

Here’s how God’s protective vest works. Direct attacks of insensitivity and harm, are deflected by compassion and kindness, freeing you from the desire to respond in kind. If you are clothed in humility, the pride of others does not require a prideful rebuttal, but allows you to be gentle and patient in return. Remember, treating someone harshly hurts both the deliverer and the receiver. God, in his infinite wisdom, has created this garment with this glorious twofold purpose—to protect each of us from the harm of both outgoing and incoming nastiness.

So dress up today! Put on the protective clothing of His compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Love, Perseverance, Direction – The YouTruth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5

2Thess3-5 imageThe YouTruth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

The old Beatles song told us, “Love, love, love, all you need is love.” Well, they got it wrong. It takes much more than that. You see, love without perseverance will wither quickly in the face of an unloving world, not matter how love-love-loving it is. That’s not to say that love is not needed, it certainly is. Perseverance without love always results in horrible outcomes. The work of [enter evil dictator’s name here] is resounding testimony to this fact. Love and perseverance must work together in order to be effective.

But that’s not all. Love, is an action. Actions take motion. Motion requires direction. For you, as a lover of Christ, direction requires that two things come together—God and your heart. While your hands and feet may set you in motion, your heart provides the direction. Allowing God to point your heart to the loving work He has for you is the final piece to the puzzle. Now, and only now, will you have all the necessary ingredients to love, love, love God’s way.

Your heart—provides the direction.

God’s direction—points your heart into God’s love.

God’s love—draw upon it. It is the love so deep that He sent His Son to the cross to save you.

Christ’s perseverance—for when the going gets tough. Tap into the perseverance of Christ, the very same perseverance that carried Him all the way through the pain and suffering at Golgotha.

Now you’ve got “all you need.” Go out into the world, and get after it!

Grace – This is Not From Yourselves

a-Eph 2-8 imageThe YouTruth in Ephesians 2: 8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

There are so many areas of life that are tied to performance. Your job or career is certainly that way. If you perform well, you are compensated well. If you don’t, you may not be compensated at all. If you have children, you can face a lot of performance-related feedback as a parent. If your kids behave well, you may get praises. If they don’t, you may face judgment. Just about every area of life in the world can be pressure-packed by the need to perform well. Much of the stress you may face in life can flow from this phenomenon.

There is great news. Your relationship with God is in no way based on your performance. Let me restate that: You do not have to perform for God in order to secure a personal, eternal relationship with Him. The measure of God’s love that flows to you through your relationship Him is always turned on full strength. If you make mistakes, it still flows full strength.  If you fail Him at times, it still flows full strength. Even in moments when you are acting purely in His will, it flows just the same. Nothing you can do can affect His love for you. It is a gift. All you have to do is receive it through faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Nothing else is required.

There is more great news. You can carry this gift into every corner of your life in the world. This gift has great power to dissolve away the performance-related stresses you will face. If you have a bad day at work, God is still pouring out His love, full strength. If you lose your temper with someone close to you, God is still pouring. If your child acts out at the grocery store, you guessed it, God’s gift is unaffected.

Blessing, Keeping and Face Turning – The Lord’s Grace and Peace

a-Numbers imageThe YouTruth in Numbers 6:24-26

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

What a powerful prayer this is! It is filled with so many good things, it’s hard to know where to begin!

You may recognize this as a benediction prayer used in many worship services to send the congregation forth after worship. It has been used in this way for thousands of years!

The imagery of God’s face in this prayer is powerful and is key to understanding how you can harness the stated blessings of grace and peace. In Old Testament times, the quality of your relationship with God was illustrated by whether God’s face was turned toward you or away from you. “Why have You turned Your face from me?” is a common cry in the Psalms. It is important to understand God’s perfect, unchanging nature in order to properly understand what was really happening. God would be right to  respond to such a psalmist’s lament with the same question, “No, why have you turned away from Me?”

This illustration can work for you today, too. When you seek after a closeness with God, He promises that you will find yourself in His light, face-to-face with Him. And when you do, you will be in prime position to receive the grace and peace He so longs to give you.

Seek His face today and receive the grace and peace He promises for doing so. (Don’t forget to pass on His bright-shining grace and peace to others, too!)

Yes, You Heard That Right – Love Your Enemies

a-Matt 5-43 imageThe YouTruth in Matthew 5:43

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Loving enemies. Now that’s a hard one. Don’t you wish Jesus would quit teaching us to do all this hard stuff? And yet, here it is, plain and simple. So let’s see how we can pull this off.

Two shifts in perspective will be helpful:

Who is the enemy, really?

When we are dealing with enemies, it is important to understand that enemies are not who they seem to be. The Apostle Paul taught powerfully on this subject when he wrote in Ephesians 6:12:

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.

If we focus on people we may consider enemies, it is virtually impossible to love them. But if we understand that the true enemy is Satan, who has lured a person into the behavior of an enemy, then it is much easier.  This doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in harm’s way, or that you have to consider the person a close friend. It just means that you pray for the person, extend kindness when there is a safe opportunity to do so.

What makes an enemy?

Conflict makes enemies of people. Without conflict, people cannot truly be enemies.  If your response to an “enemy’s” unkindness, is more unkindness, then you’ve made an enemy indeed. But if your response to an enemy’s mean-spirited action is forgiveness and love, the condition of conflict vaporizes. Just like it takes two to fight, it takes two to be enemies. If only one “enemy” is participating, then love can find its way into the situation, and perhaps, head off the whole enemy thing at the pass.

The Birthright – Seeing the Kingdom

a-John 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in John 3:3

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'”

Nicodemus, a wise religious man, saw that Jesus was someone special, even if the ruling council, of which Nicodemus was a part, didn’t think much of Him. So Nicodemus came to Jesus alone, at night, to talk to Him. Before Nicodemus could even ask his first question, Jesus issued the statement above. Nicodemus was understandably confused. None of Nicodemus’ extensive religious training had prepared him to deal with such a profound paradox. We can only assume that Nicodemus left his conversation with Jesus with much to think about, paradigms to change, and new ways of understanding God’s Kingdom to process. Later in the book of John, we find out that Nicodemus, despite the ruling council’s severe objections to Jesus’ message, became a believer and follower.

We are all “Nicodemuses” in some way. And we can find great hope in Nicodemus’ story.

We live in a world that doesn’t entirely agree with Jesus’ message of grace and hope. It can beat us down at times. But we can know that we can come to Jesus, in the night if we have to, and ask Him about the Kingdom. And He will tell us profound, sometimes confusing, but always amazing things about eternal life.

We are all wise in our own way, and some of that wisdom will be off-target from the eternal perspective. But we can know that we can come to Jesus and ask Him which parts of our wisdom work, and which parts don’t. And He will tell us.

We may come away from these encounters confused or uncertain. But, as with Nicodemus, if we come to Him, with a yearning to understand, Jesus will leave that yearning intact and active, exactly what is needed to become deeper believers and truer followers of Him.

Oh, and by the way, Jesus wrapped up His explanation of the whole “born again” thing to Nicodemus in this way:

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

When You Give a Banquet – Your Invitation List

a-Luke 14-13-14 imageThe YouTruth in Luke 14: 13-14

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Not many of us are in the regular business of giving banquets. Huge lavish gatherings with hundreds of high-profile invitees and five-course meals don’t fill up the typical daily planner. Nevertheless, this passage has much to say to us. Whether we know it or not, we are all capable of throwing banquets on an incredible scale. We just have to understand banquets from the Kingdom’s perspective.

A man stands on a street corner with “Hungry, please help” scrawled on a piece of cardboard torn from an old box. You respond by buying an extra sandwich at the shop down the street and hand it to him. At that moment, that man has received his invitation to sit at Jesus’ banquet table.  You have ushered him into the banquet hall and shown him to his seat near the head of the table.

A women’s car is broken down on the side of the road. She has a crying toddler on her hip and a distraught look on her face. You respond by arranging for a tow truck, paying the towing fee, and providing some extra money to help with the repairs. That woman and her child have received their invitation to sit at Jesus’ banquet table. You have ushered them into the banquet hall and shown them to their seats near the head of the table.

You see, in God’s Kingdom, we can build our banquets one person at a time. And over time, the size of the banquet you give in Jesus’ name, can be far bigger than any lavish, celebrity event the richest of the rich could throw in this world. So have at it! Get your banquet invitations ready to deliver! God will put those in your path that He intends for you to invite.

The Guarding Peace – Do Not Be Anxious About Anything

a-Phil 4-6-7 image

 The YouTruth in Philippians 4: 6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So many things can cause anxiety. I’m sure you can recount situations or circumstances that created anxiety for you. You may even experience anxiety today. God has a prescription for the ailment of anxiety that has three equally important ingredients—prayer, petition, and thanksgiving.

It starts with thanksgiving. This can be the hardest part when you’re feeling anxious! But this is what makes the rest of it work. The one thing you can know for certain is that God loves you immensely. He sent His Son to die for you after all. In this grand love for you, God is always working to bring about what is best for you. It’s always good to remember that God exists eternally outside of the confines of time. Therefore, in every case of anxiety you face, He has already worked out what is best for you in your current situation (and for every future situation you will ever face)! It’s already done!

Armed with a state of thanksgiving all that is left to do is to talk to God about what is happening. Don’t hold anything back! He can handle it! Ask Him for things. Ask Him to take the anxiety away. Ask, ask, ask, all the while thanking Him for already having it all worked out.

When using these three ingredients together, not only does God take away the anxiety, He does you one better. He replaces it with a piece of Himself—the  peace  of Himself. You will recognize it right away because, though you will experience it, you won’t be able to understand it. It will come directly from eternity and will deliver you to an eternal peace that is out of this world.

Are you feeling anxious today? Try God’s remedy right away!

Binding and Writing – Let Love and Faithfulness Never Leave You

a-Prov 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in Proverbs 3:3

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As Christians, we are commanded to make love and faithfulness an ever-present part of our character and witness. This is not news to most of us. We hear this throughout the Scriptures. There is also something implicit in the passage that must not miss. If we don’t do something to prevent it, love and faithfulness will escape from us. It is our job to recognize this and to know what to do to prevent it.

Thankfully, the verse immediately follows with the preventive measures. The instruction to bind them and write them on tablets seem a little obscure, but what they really are telling us is, start from the inside out.

Writing love and faithfulness on the tablet of your heart is, to Christian believers, turning areas of our heart over to the power and leading of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. It is surrendering our attitudes or actions that are not loving or faithful to God and asking Him to transform us into His likeness in these areas. This is the cool thing about writing upon the tablet of a believer’s heart—we don’t have to do the writing ourselves! We can turn over the writing to God who is (let’s face it) far more qualified to do the writing than we are anyway.

Binding love and faithfulness around your neck is taking what God has written on the inside and moving it out in the open where all can see it. It is translating the loving, faithful desires of the heart into loving and faithful actions that bless those around you in His name. It is not just wearing a cross necklace around your neck, which would seem to meet the literal expectation. It is the outward demonstration of love and faithfulness that allows those around you to understand who Jesus is and how much He loves each of those you interact with every day.

Standing Firm with Abe and Paul

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Abe & Paul

Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

The Apostle Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Paul and Abe have something pretty cool to say here. Follow this two-step plan:

Find the right place. Stay there.

Seems pretty simple, yet I’d dare say many of us may find it hard to do. One of the reasons for this might be that we tend to presume that where we are now is the right place. Once we open our hearts to the possibility that we might not be at the right place, we can actually get started with step one…

Finding The Right Place 

How do we find where the right place is? How do we evaluate the place we are to determine whether we should keep on walking or dig our heels in? Wouldn’t it be great if a large “Right City Exit Ahead” sign appeared along the highway or a “Right Blvd.” sign was posted at the correct intersection?  Well if we search Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians for this signage, lo and behold, I think we find it! Here’s the kicker. Paul’s road sign tells us that the right place is not a place at all, but an attitude. The right place is devotion to the work of the Lord and faith that His glorious purposes will be done through it. Giving ourselves fully to the Lord’s work puts our feet in the right place—on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ. Once there, it’s on to step two…

Standing Firm

The Rock upon which we are stand, is not a fixed location but an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus as our Savior and Lord. This Jesus, is not a passive, stay-put Lord, but one that is always at work in the world, always directing us to those He intends for us to reach in His name. So we must set our feet on the Rock of Jesus and be ready to rock ‘n’ roll with Jesus! Standing firm is not standing still. It is resolving to keep close to Him and the work He has for us, no matter where it takes us.

Lincoln did it. While battle plans changed, political coalitions changed, world affairs changed, He stood firm on the work He felt the Lord calling him to do—unite our nation.

Paul did it. When the Spirit said, “Don’t go there,” he didn’t. When the Spirit said, “Help us over here,”  he went. When he was with Jews, he remembered their customs. When he was with Gentiles, he tailored his witness to their culture. But he stood firm on the truth he preached and the fervency with which he preached it.

We must do it too – We must never refuse to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to follow Jesus where He leads us, to love those He loves (that’s everybody), and to proclaim Him always. We must never stand firm in the place of our choosing if it is not the place of His choosing. We must never stand in firm inaction when loving action is called for.