WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER—PLAIN, NOT NECESSARILY SIMPLE

Each day should be a demonstration of what Gods’ love does for us and through us. Let others see His light shine through you. After all, we have been charged with the responsibility to do so.

~ Lisa Blair
@YouVersion

What is agape love, and why are Christians responsible for sharing it with others?

AGAPE LOVE

Agape love is the highest expression of love, it is selfless, pure, and unconditional. We are the recipients of God’s love, and as recipients of His love, we are freed through it. His agape love indwells in us in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our light that shines through us into the outside world. This love is demonstrated daily through our words, thoughts and actions. We can either interact using our carnal character, our attitude, as our guide, or display the virtues of Christ, that inform our behavior.

Jesus speaks about our attitude towards one another and how love is unconditional and expresses the nature of God, 1 John 4:8m NIV.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

VEIL LIFTED

The main reason unbelievers don’t see Jesus is because a veil is covering their hearts and their “spiritual eyes.” They cannot see Jesus through the veil. Their hearts are covered and their minds are blinded. Says who? Says God. He tells us in His Word, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4)  [Christian Post, Dan Delzell, Contributor. Turning To The Lord Lifts The Veil. July 2013]

We are charged with and commanded to love. We can longer view the world, our family, friends, and associates through carnal (human) eyes. The veil has been lifted from our eyes. We are commanded to love unconditionally. We can no longer focus on situations, or circumstances;we can no longer hate others, lie (little lies are often more deadly than pronounced lies because they are more difficult to discern), cheat, or steal. Stealing can include stealing someone’s happiness with foul words discrediting them, or frowning at them to unsettle their continence.

LIFE BY THE SPIRIT

Galatians 5 explains why we can no longer rely on our old behavior to govern our lives. My last Post was about being freed, we are free of our sins, because Christ died on the Cross for us and is now sitting at the right hand of God. Freedom comes at a cost, we must shed our old selves for our new selves. We are children of Christ, and we belong to a new family. This means we have to exchange our old behaviors for our new virtues. Paul wrote in Galatians,

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

ACTS OF THE FLESH, OUR CARNAL SELF

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our carnal nature ensnares us to follow the world, we are bound to it. We are either God’s’ children, continually fighting against the carnal pull, or we are the evil one’s children embracing our own demise.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

As Christians, we can strive to overcome our carnal nature, crucify our flesh and live by the spirit. This is accomplished by changing our attitude, our behavior, to align with the Fruit of the Spirit. As we do so, we mature and become more Christ-like through our walk.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

THE CLOSING POINT

God so loved us He gave us His only Son, who suffered for us in human form to experience trials, temptations and failures to free us of sin. Our suffering will never equal or come close to His, nor will our love for others, nonetheless, when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior we are bound to spread the Good News that is based on agape love. Our veil has been removed and we shed the shackles of sin. It is time that we love our neighbors and those of this earth as God does. My mother once told me, ” never hate, love everyone as God does, it is not the person but the behavior that keeps them bound to the flesh.”

Every person has the birth right of redemption if they received Christ as their Lord and Savior. As Christians, we continually receive God’s love, despite our sins. As Christians, we have been commanded to love one another unconditionally. No excuses. The world has been in turmoil throughout history. We are but a vapor that appears for awhile and then vanishes away, 1 John 4:14, paraphrased. Our Lord is the High Priest. He is eternal, and so is His Word. Again, we are commanded to love one another as He loves us.

References – Biblegateway.com; GotQuestions.org; The Christian Post; BibleHub.com

Scriptures: Biblegateway.com

Image – YouVersion, Bible.com; LAB PHOTOS

Only God Knows the Real You!

Christ renamed several of His disciples to give them a new identity, demonstrating their new creature in Christ. While our names may not have changed, we, like Peter, battle the old man-the natural man, while maturing into the new man. The process is worth examining.

Lisa Blair

Christians, as with the case of most people today, question who we are. We know we are new creatures in Christ, but that does not magically eliminate our carnal or natural being. This is only the beginning of our evolution. Before being saved, our values are variables that change depending upon conditions and circumstances. We are comparable to chameleons.

7D6A8482-FD5F-40B2-AF3B-A5E4B549A5DB

This Post is a short study on the evolutionary growth of Peter, who was born Simon Peter, the natural man, and transformed into Peter, the new man. It highlights his struggles, weaknesses, strengths, as well as his growth. Examining Peter’s life should give any believer hope. Simon Peter evolved into Peter over time, it was not miraculous, or immediate, it was an expansive timeline. Our evolutionary process may take as long or longer than Peters took. The important things to note are: have hope, stay in prayer, and allow God to direct your path, always examining if it is the old man operating or the new man of God moving forward.

The Evolution of Simon Peter

Peter’s birth name was Simon Peter. He was outspoken, strong-willed, and impulsive. He was a husband, father of two, and a partner in a thriving fishery; he was a fisherman. It could be said, his life was full. He knew himself as Simon Peter, the man, was a practicing Jew and followed the Law of Moses. Was he content with his natural self? We do not know. Was he seeking his real self? Who knows. Did he innately know he would one day leave everything, to follow Christ, and become his real self, Simon Peter, probably not? Do we know who we really are in God’s eyes, or the plans He has for us, probably not?

34609FA3-F1C2-484A-ADCE-4F5944E7DBA5

Simon Peter didn’t stand out. He was an uneducated Jew, Acts 3:13. He was a Hebrew, a follower of The Mosaic Law, like most. However, despite his failings and his strengths, the Lord chose to mold Simon Peter into whom He created him to become – Peter, a member of Christ’s inner circle of disciples. As time progressed and Peter accepted Christ as His Lord, Peter walked, learned, and loved Christ. He was a witness to miracles and wonders. But, despite his first-hand knowledge and witness to these events, Simon Peter continued to resurface. The transformed Peter, (Christ, gave him the new name indicating he was a follower and believer), became a new man but remained brash and impulsive. He was the person that stepped out of the boat and onto the surface of the sea to walk to Jesus.

~It was Simon Peter, not Peter, who looked down as he was walking on water (a sign and wonder), lost faith, and began to sink, Matthew 14:28-30.

~It was Simon Peter who calls us to serve but stayed seated and did not join Christ when he washed the disciples’ feet, 1 Peter 5:2.

~It was Simon Peter that told the believers to stay clear-minded and have self-control at all times to pray, 1 Peter 4:7.

~It was Simon Peter who rebuked Christ for speaking of his death, Matthew 16:22.

~It was Simon Peter who fell asleep while Jesus was praying and sweating blood, 1 Peter 2:13.

~It was Simon Peter who slipped back into the Law and suggested they erect three tabernacles, one for each—Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, clustering Jesus with the Old Testament prophets, Matthew 17:4.

~It was Simon Peter who grew angry drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest, John 18:10.

~It was Simon Peter who swore that he would never forsake the Lord, even if everyone else did, and you know the story, he denied Christ three times when he was arrested, Matthew 26:70-74.

~It was Simon Peter who fled when Christ was hung on the cross and hid in fear, 1 Peter 5:1.

How often do we capitulate under challenging times and employ our old values and behavior like Peter? Usually, the conversion is so indistinct we are there before we were aware of slipping. At that moment, we become blind to who we are in Christ, we regress to our old man. Thank God for redemption because we can repent and once again take on the behaviors of Christ who knows our true selves and is molding us to become more like Him.

DE6FF65E-1AEE-4D00-96CD-E5B2532589C2

Despite Peter’s shortcomings, Jesus continued to affirm Peter as the “Rock,” Matthew 16:18-19 and promised him that he, Peter, would become instrumental in establishing Jesus’ Church. After Christs’  resurrection, he named Peter as the one who needed to hear the good news, Matthew 16:7. Jesus made a point of forgiving and restoring Simon Peter to accept and regain his new name, Peter, and recommissioned him as Christ’s’ Apostle, and high priest, John 21,6, 15-17; Hebrews 3:1.

Even after being restored, Peter, who preached on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, was present when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit, Acts 8, and was summoned to the home of Roman centurion Cornelius, Acts 10, initially resisted following the instructions to go to Cornelius’ home. Simon Peter struggled with the transformation of his old man to the new man – Peter. We are no different, there is a raging battle between our old man and new.

Peter, the new man, who was not wrought with doubt and fear, ultimately obeyed and went to Cornelius’ home. If Peter had not gone to his home, we might not have witnessed Cornelius receiving the Holy Spirit, Acts 10. Only God knows why he is directing our path. Seemingly at this point, the new man, Peter, should be steadfast. However, that is not the case.

When Peter, the new man, went to Antioch to fellowship with the Gentiles, all was good until the Jews appeared. However, when the legalistic Jews, of which he was as Simon Peter, arrived, he sought to appease them and separated himself from the believing Gentiles, Galatians 2:11-14. Paul admonished him for being a hypocrite. None of us can merge our old man and the new man. We are either one or the other. The battle will continue through this life, but when the old man surfaces, we must repent and pick up our cross in the new man.

Jesus forgives our unfaithfulness. He sees us as He intends us to be, not who we may currently be or were in our pre-redemptive life. Jesus knows our birth/carnal name and receives us as his own, the new man. In today’s times, He may not actually rename us, but he does give us a new life.

Jesus was patient with Peter through his disobedience, arrogance, fear, and denial. Peter was a fisherman and became a fisher of men, who matured into one of the Lord’s most dedicated apostles. He is known as one of the most well-known disciples and was instrumental in establishing the church in Samaria, Act 8. He brought the gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10-11. He preached the sermon at Pentecost, where three thousand believers received the Holy Spirit, Acts 3.

The point is, God is patient and will wait until he can change you. If He does not give up on us, neither should we give up on ourselves. He created us to do His work. To paraphrase the scripture, God has plans for us that will prosper us and not destroy us. God, is patient and monitors us as we evolve into the person He envisioned. God knows our challenges, our setbacks, and our victories.

As we mature in the Word and obey God, our story will unfold just as Peters did. Was Peter perfect? No, absolutely not. Were there moments when the natural man won out? Yes. We were born into sin, we all fall short of the glory of God. None of us is perfect; only Jesus is perfect. God could have created us as automatons. He chose to create us in His likeness and instilled us with his own will and desires. Why, because God wants a relationship with us. He sacrificed His only Son to save us from sin. He knows we are a work in progress, He created us to desire His will and not our own, and that is all God requires that we surrender, depend on Him and be obedient to the Word. He wants us to evolve from our natural man to our new man.

B67F0847-A954-4382-BD81-2D5BC3E9B2A3

The Bible is replete with sinners who received salvation after leading destructive lives. I also find it interesting that these examples clearly exemplify God’s expectations for all believers. No excuses, God laid the foundation demonstrated in Peter’s character study. Now it is time to become who we really are; we are His workmanship, ever-changing in His likeness. This leads back to – only God knows the real you and through prayer and obedience we will learn who we are in Christ.

Images – Google Images. LAB Photos

Resources – Who is Peter in the Bible? GotQuestions.org; Bible.com; Peter: A Case Study in Character, KenBoa.org; Peter, studyandobey.com

God’s Footprint

The earth is ours, a gift from God. Are we good caretakers?The responsibility is ours to accept. God’s footprint is our carbon footprint.

~ Lisa Blair

Your Footprint Leads To You

Many years ago I read a story about a teenager that burglarized a store very early in the morning and while he was rummaging through this small town store a snow storm began to drop thick snow on the ground. When the teenager left the store he walked home. The police followed his footprints, in the snow, directly to his home.

We are in the midst of a snow storm. Our disregard for earths environment has resulted in catastrophic changes to the earth. Some debate that climate change is a natural event and there is truth to that statement, however, industry created a byproduct, pollution. Pollution is equivalent to the snow storm, and the footprint is the decay it causes, leading directly back to us.

As Christians, we must examine these climatic chances through two lenses, the natural and the spiritual. Our natural lens focuses on the need to produce low cost goods, at low overhead production. Our spiritual lens focuses on the responsibility God gave us eons ago in the Garden of Eden.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” ~ Genesis 2:15 NIV

Many hikers feel that leaving footprints behind them causes damage to the trails. In an effort to leave the earth as they found it, for others to benefit from its pristine view, they sweep directly behind them to eliminate their footprint. We can take a lesson from the hikers. It is time to correct how we impact the earth individually by recycling what we can, eliminating the use of plastics, and sweeping behind us wherever we can.

We Are Caretakers 

This morning during prayer, climate and the disregard for God’s earth entered my thoughts in prayer. My conversation with God resulted in an understanding of our responsibility for God’s footprint, leading back to Adam and Eve. God created the earth for us, with the expectation that we would care for the planet.

To put it bluntly, we fell short and mankind was expelled from Eden. [This is not the full reason, but pertinent to this post.] The short story is – we failed. But God is a God of second chances.

The battle between good and evil has prevailed throughout time, carnality vs spirituality. One seeking to get the most for the least, the other attempting to preserve the garden. 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ~ John 3:17 ESV

As children of God, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. It is through this relationship that we know and feel the responsibility to protect the earth. It is time to wake up and receive His daily mercies leading us to protect the earth God gave us.

My new mantra 

God’s Footprint is my carbon footprint.”

If each of us go into prayer to seek guidance, we can change our footprint. God uses us to instruct and direct needed changes. There is an old saying, ‘it is never over until God says it is over.’ Our actions will either exacerbate current conditions, or begin to reverse them. Plastic islands are a byproduct we can eliminate, which will help revive the oceans. Air pollution, caused by particulates from industry and individual use can be exchanged for less destructive products, allowing us to better protect our ozone layer, or throwing things away with reckless abandon, litter can be mitigated, or better yet eradicated. We can become earths caretakers as God planned.

Little and Much

God is teaching us the meaning of life, and of all that we have.

~ MacLaren’s Expositions, Biblehub.com

God is our Heavenly Father. When we are young, our parents did not heap up riches and gold on us but rather increased our possessions and trust as we matured. It is a developmental process. God, our Father, often does the same, if we can be trusted with little and use it responsibly, then we can be trusted with much.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. ~ Luke 16:10 NIV

The NKJV uses the terms faithful and unjust. Benson wrote- “If you make that use of your riches which I have been recommending, you shall be received into those everlasting habitations, where all the friends of goodness dwell, because, by your fidelity in managing the smallest trust of temporal advantages committed to your care, you show that you are capable of the much greater trust of spiritual and heavenly employments and enjoyments, things of a much higher nature. And he that is unjust in the least — He that useth these lowest gifts unfaithfully; is unjust also in much — Is likewise unfaithful in spiritual things.

In other words, if you do not use your riches, and power, and other temporal advantages, for the glory of God, and the good of your fellow- creatures, you shall be excluded from the abodes of the blessed, because, by behaving unfaithfully in the small trust committed to you now, you render yourselves both unworthy and incapable of a share in the everlasting inheritance.”

Whether we have more or less, we must be faithful with what we have, as wise stewards. Our witness is the love we bestow on others, how we illustrate the Fruit of The Spirit, care for those unable to care for themselves (especially the young, widows, and elderly), and how we forgive others.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. ~ Hebrews 6:10

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. ~ James 1:17,18

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:16

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. ~ 1 John 4:19-20

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~ James 2:14-17

Matthew 25 d4fe32d4f053e9b8082524d100e5b9ff--scripture-quotes-bible-scriptures.jpg

Images – Bible.com @Church Motion Graphics Inc; Google Pinterest.com

Scriptures – Biblegateway.com/Luke 16:10, NKJV; Biblestudytools.com/NIV

Resource – Biblehub.com/ MacLean Expositions; Benson Commentary