1/18/15

That Loving Feeling

Today in church, our guest speaker shared from Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This is a passage I have come back to again and again over the last few years.  In fact, I share it quite frequently from the pulpit myself.  I have found this passage to be convicting and challenging on one hand yet very encouraging as well.

It is convicting because Jesus lists these 2 commandments as the ones that ALL the Law and Prophets hang on.  He could have listed anything in response to the question.  The first one makes sense to me.  Love the Lord with every part of your being!  I find that to be very convicting.  Do I love the Lord with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind?  I would love to say YES to that.  Sadly, it is not always true.  I know there are times I put other things before the Lord.  In that I am convicted.

It is challenging because the second commandment he lists is to love our neighbors...as we do ourselves!  Honestly, I am often challenged by that. I want to ask who my neighbor is but I already know the answer to that.  It is everyone I meet from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed!  It includes my family, my friends, my co-workers and my enemies.  I find loving my enemies to be the challenging part.  I remember one of our special needs volunteers putting it plainly to me once.  He said if God calls us to love our enemies, that means loving the terrorists as well.  God does not make distinctions when He calls us to love!

It is encouraging because as Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  I am guilty of not always loving others as I should. There are times I need to repent when I fail to apply Matthew 22:36-40 to my life.  God is faithful and forgiving, calling me to something more, something better.  

As the speaker this morning shared, as we love God more it becomes easier to love our neighbor and as we do so, it impacts those around us.  I would say our lives are changed as we embrace that loving feeling! 

1/7/15

More Than A Review, 5 Questions Too!

http://jasonwiedel.com/persecution-complex/

A long time ago (20 years) in a land far, far away (Texas) I first met Jason Wiedel.  Jason, my future wife Sarah and I joined 30+ others at a ministry school deep in the heart of Texas.  We were young, idealistic and had many plans for the future.  Jason's future has invoved his current job with Habitiat for Humanity and now author of the recently released Persecution Complex.

I sat down to read his new book and had trouble putting it down.  I was hooked by the introduction and read two chapeters the next day.  By day three I couldn't stop and devoured the rest of the book in one sitting.  Jason has written a book that is challenging, engaging and much needed for today!

Persecution Complex looks at the problem of the persecution narrative among Evangelical Christians in America. Jason then follows this narrative through history and examines the psychological reasons that we embrace the position of victim. He then lays out the ways that this perspective has been damaging to Christianity, and the ways that we can move forward to become more loving and life-giving people.

You may be challenged when reading this book and that's a good thing.  I believe as believers we should never rest in entrenched positions without examining the basis of why we believe as we do.  This book will open your eyes if you let it.
 
Jason took time to answers some questions  re. Persecution Complex. 

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Jason Wiedel.   

Jason serves the needs of the people in Surry and Sussex Counties. He also works to help people understand God in new ways. Jason works for Habitat for Humanity and blogs at JasonWiedel.com.

OK, let's get started:

1. Your book, Persecution Complex, really tackles the topic of persecution head on.  What made you want to tackle this particular subject matter? 

I have been examining the relationship of American Christians to the broader culture for many years. I have become increasingly concerned by the contentiousness of this relationship. I see certain segments of American Christianity exacerbating this problem rather than being the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be. Encouraging Christians to stop seeing themselves as the victim and to stop categorizing others as enemies is important to me.

2. You mention 1 John 4:18 and how the Scripture calls us to not fear and yet many of our church leaders seem to use fear in addressing moral issues.  Fear is often called a great motivator, yet Jesus calls us to something more.  How do we move from fear to love?

I believe that the words of Jesus regarding the treatment of enemies is key. In what we call the sermon on the mount Jesus instructs his listeners to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, willingly give to those who try to take what we have, and love our enemies. To follow these directives we must stop seeing our enemy as an enemy, and begin seeing them as a person. Jesus is completely aware that putting another person in the position of enemy allows us to remove them from the position of human being.

Fear encourages us to maintain enemies. When we fear secularism, or liberalism, or Islam, or a homosexual agenda, we lose sight of the human beings involved with these issues, and we only see them as enemies. Jesus wants us to stop seeing people as enemies. That is the way we learn to love better.

3. One statement from your book that I loved says, "Jesus had a lot to say about the way His followers treated others. He talked about their care for the hungry and helpless. Never once though did He tell His disciples to fight for religious freedom or to stand up for what they believed."  How did the train go off the rails and how do we get back on the right track?

In Persecution Complex I assert that this has a lot to do with politics. In many cases, politicians have convinced us that we are on a slide toward immorality, or that we are losing our religious freedoms. We then become advocates for a political cause, rather than advocates for Christ. When Christianity becomes the ally of political powers, we can easily lose sight of Jesus' sacrificial identification with the poor, the weak, and the powerless.
 

4. What do you hope people will take away from your book?  Do you think your views on the persecution complex will be a hindrance to a "fair reading" by those feeling among the persecuted?

Ultimately I want Christians to become the self-sacrificing, life-giving people who follow the example of Jesus. I want us to be people who are concerned about bringing the love of the God to the world rather than being distracted by the culture war. I know this book will be a hard pill for some Christians, but perhaps it can be the start of a journey away from the persecution complex afflicting many Christians.

5. Who would you recommend read Persecution Complex?

Everyone! The book is directed at Evangelical Christians who live in a world that is dominated by the persecution narrative. I want to see these Evangelicals read the book, even though many of them will object to my conclusions. I would also encourage the Christian who has become weary of narrow or un-loving forms of Christianity to read Persecution Complex. I think it may offer them hope for a faith that is better than what they have experienced.

 
Thank You Jason!

You can order Persecution Complex here and read Jason's blog here.

1/1/15

Just One Word

A couple years back Compassion sent a challenge out to their bloggers  to seek the Lord for a word for the new year instead of making a New Years Resolution.  I enjoyed the idea so much I have asked God for a new word each year since.

Literally, ONE word.

If the Lord was to give me one word for 2015 what would it be?

In 2013 I felt that word was PRAYER and pray I did.  Lots.  Things happened which forced me to my knees in prayer before the Lord.  In fact I think I only survived that year due to prayer!

Last year that word was TRUST. Looking back over the last year, I have seen areas both personally and professionally where I have had to trust God more than ever.  I have also seen God open amazing doors as I learned to trust Him more.

Now with 2015 upon us, I asked the Lord what word He wanted to give me for this year.  I feel that the word He has for me this year is PEACE.

As I prayed about this year I felt the Lord remind me of two passages from His Word.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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." (Phillipians 4:6-7)

I don't know what 2015 holds.  I am making plans (vacation in Tennesee, book promotions, church, ministry) but I also know God can take things in any number of directions. My ultimate goal is to know Him and His will more. 

I am excited to see how this word applies to the coming year.

So what is God speaking to you for the New Year?

12/19/14

Take Note of the NKJV Note-Takers Bible


I love to take notes in my Bible.  Sadly, deciphering my notes is like studyingy heiroglyphics.  I have scribbled notes with arrows pointing in different directions, tried to squeeze words and thoughts between lines and gone down the side of very thin edges.

What I needed was a Note-Takers Bible.  I was excited to get this Bible and start taking new notes.  I put it to use right away by transcribing notes from my other Bible into this one.  I love the wider columns along the side and bottom of this Bible.  It is wide enough to allow me the freedom to put down thoughts in a clear manner without squeezing my writings in, around and on top of the text.

This is a minimalit Bible in many ways. It features:
  • Deluxe wide margins for note takers
  • Complete NKJV text
  • Double column text for easy reading
  • Words of Christ in red letter
That's pretty much it.  However, it works for the purpose of this Bible.

In actuality, the only problem I have is that there is only room to take notes on one side of the column.  Despite that minor issue, this is a Bible I will use for many years to come.  If you are a note-taker, this is the Bible for you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLookBloggers.com review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

12/17/14

A Charlie Brown Christmas



I love Christmas specials.  My family and I will gather together and watch Christmas classics of days past and it has become somewhat of a tradition in our house.  One of my favorites is called "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  You are probably familiar with this special.

They key scene for me is when Charlie Brown goes out to pick a tree and brings back a sad, little tree that earns him instant mockery from all of his friends.  In the midst of this, Charlie Brown wonders what Christmas is all about. Linus, standing alone on the stage, states that he can tell him, and recites Luke 2:8-14.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

He then says, "...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let's look beyond the tinsel, the trees, the presents and the parties and look to the real reason we should celebrate.  God gave us the best gift of all, a Savior, Christ the Lord.

In the words of Linus, “that’s what Christmas is all about!”

12/7/14

Dancing Without a Care!

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." (1 John 3:1)

Today I went out to eat.  A local hotel has hosted an annual breakfast for the community for the last 15 years.  The event is geared towards families and includes hay rides through the snow, Santa and other characters and music provided by local fiddlers and musical groups.  All you need for entry is a can of food for the food bank.  The community was extremely generous and many, many boxes of food were provided that will help the food bank continue to reach out to those less fortunate.  Many of those receiving the food will be under the age of 13.  

I sat at a table watching another group of kids dance in circles to the music on the stage, holding hands and falling down.  They jumped up and down and laughed without a care.  Some would climb into their parent's laps and snuggle before darting back to play.  One fell down and cried before his parent came to comfort him.  All was better after that.

It was beautiful imagery of how our Heavenly Father cares for us. I believe He delights in seeing us, His children, dance and play with joy.  He loves to see us laugh without a care, snuggle in His lap and dart off again to enjoy the life He has given us.  Occasionaly we get hurt and need His comfort and care.

He also loves those children in need of speacial care.  Those who have no joy, no food, no home and no chance to dance without a care. 

Just as the community came together today to provide food for the local food bank, I believe God calls each of us, as His children, to come together as a community to share that love with kids around the world. 

There are so many ways we can get involved. We can volunteer at a local Salvation Army, at a food bank, church, school or other community programs that reaches out to kids in need. We can also help kids around the world who are in immense need via wonderful organizations like Compassion International

As children of God, we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.  Children of God should reach out to all of God's children, wherever they may be.  Every child should have the chance to dance without a care!

11/18/14

A Good Question

“What does that teach you about God, Daddy?”

This is the question my son has been asking lately.  He likes to sing praise and worship songs.  He also likes to make up new songs about God. Invariably he will end the song and ask what that song has taught me about God. It is a good question and will often cause me to think, what IS the meaning of the song and what DOES it teach me about God?  It is a great exercise.

I also realized, it is something I never used to ask.  I love to sing and will belt out a song anywhere and at any time.  Yes, I am that guy walking down the street singing to himself.  I will sing at work, in the car and yes, in the shower.  Until my son started asking his question, I never put much thought into what the song was teaching me about God.  Now I can’t stop.

I have also begun applying the question to my reading as well.  When I dig into God’s Word, I have asked myself, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?”    According to God’s Word, the Scriptures are a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. (2 Timothy 3:16)

It is all that and so much more.  As I read the Old Testament, I see a God who is long-suffering and filled with patience and loving kindness.  Moving into the New Testament, we see a God who loved us enough to send His Son to earth, to die on a cross for you and me! 

God’s love, mercy and grace are all things that I have been taught through the reading of His Word. 
My son has challenged me to go deeper in worship and in reading the Bible.  Hopefully you will be asking yourself this same question he asked me.  “What does that teach you about God?”