5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor This Christmas

mister-rogersI came across this article the other day and found it a great reminder of where our focus should be during the Christmas season.  For most people, Christmas is a joyous time with family and friends…but for some people it can be a very lonely time of the year.  Who do you know that might need a little love this Christmas?  Who might you run into that you have never met and may never see again that could use a little love this Christmas?  Take a couple minutes and READ THIS ARTICLE from the Resurgence network.

Love your neighbor, and have a Merry Christmas!

From the Pastors at The Mount

Jesus Creates…Truth & Accountability (Part 2 of 2)

Truth Test“…we can do what we want to.”

These are the words immortalized by Miley Cyrus on Top 40 radio today.  For a generation this is a rally cry for individuality and a shaking off of the rules and regulations of those who have gone before us.  Don’t get me wrong; every generation has had this ideology at some level.  The Woodstock generation of the 60’s and 70’s was known for it’s anti-establishment sentiments; but a new generation has taken this “you can’t tell me what to do, I am accountable to no one” attitude to new heights.  The thought of submitting to someone’s authority flies in the face of today’s culture that believes that a person’s personal life and decisions are nobody else’s business.

It is no wonder then, that when the Church speaks out against these societal norms the backlash is often instant and visceral.  But the fact is, as Christ followers we fall under the commands of scripture to walk in one accord under the banner of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That banner calls for our complete and total submission to something greater then ourselves.

That is a tough pill to swallow until we come to terms with the fact that our natural tendency is to rebel against God.  I love the Apostle Paul’s honesty in Romans 7:15 where he says:  “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  In spite of our natural tendency for rebellion, the command is for believers to be like Jesus.  Here are a few examples:

  • 1 Peter 2:21 – follow in his steps
  • Ephesians 5:1-2 – be imitators of God
  • John 13:13-17 – I have given you an example
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 – put off your old self…put on your new self
  • Romans 8:2-8 – walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit

So, if our natural bent is rebellion…yet the command is to be like Jesus…how do we accomplish this monumental task?  A study of the Bible quickly shows us that as believers we should not only submit to accountability in our lives but seek with joy after those who will consistently inspect and examine our lives with a critical eye.  Ephesians 5 is full of guidelines for our Christian walk and in verse 21 we see a clear command to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

We find a great picture of this in Acts 5:1-11.  A husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira; made a commitment to sell a piece of land and give the proceeds to the church.  They conspired together and in the end retained a portion of the profits for themselves instead of honoring their commitment to give the full amount of the proceeds to the apostles.  To compound the problem, they still presented the gift as if it was the full amount earned from the sale of the land.  Peter calls them out on in verse 4 saying “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”  The story ends with them “breathing their last”.

We should never try this journey alone.  It’s just too easy lie to ourselves that we are better then we are.  The very nature of Jesus is perfection and in Him we are progressively sanctified until we are perfected in His presence one day.

  • Do you have people who will speak truth into your life when needed?
  • Do you listen when they sharpen you?
  • Who holds you accountable?
  • Do you willingly submit to that accountability?

This may fly in the face of the world around us; but Jesus creates…even commands truth and accountability.  Our very souls depend on it.

Jesus Creates…A Commonality (Part 1 of 2)

CommonalityThe world is much smaller then it used to be.  As air travel became more affordable in the 60’s, people had the ability to travel to new places that prior to that time was only something read about in magazines.  Now, 50 plus years later, you can travel to the other side of the country or even the world and experience cultures and people very different from ourselves.

No other book demonstrates this better then the book of Acts.  As you read through the book of Acts and begin looking at how the early church laid a foundation for the spread of the gospel all over the world you will see this theme of being set apart or different.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ sparked such massive changes in the religious systems in place at that time that followers of “the Way” (Acts 9:2) stood out like a sore thumb as a Christ initiated conversion of the heart led to some radical changes in the lives of early Christians.

In Acts 2:42-47 we see the fellowshipping of believers and specifically in verse 44 that “all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  Now this doesn’t mean that they lost their unique identity, or walked around in matching garb trying to clone each other; rather, they found a commonality in a Savior that chose to save them and change them and ignite in them a passion only found in the atonement of the cross.  In chapter 16, we see God use Paul to reach a rich upper class woman, a demon possessed slave girl, and a blue-collar soldier.  These three were from very different backgrounds and living very different lifestyles; but the Gospel message showed no partiality to status or upbringing as the Spirit of God wooed them to new life found only in Christ.

Now you might not have thought of this, but they ALWAYS had a commonality…

Lostness.

Sin is no respecter of status or upbringing.  We are born into this world bearing the imputed sin of Adam and we find commonality in separation from our Creator.  However, as we see in Acts, a new commonality is found as Followers of Christ.  We are bearers of a Gospel message that saves from death and brings us from lostness to life!  Only Jesus creates that kind of commonality.

Coming Soon, Part 2:  Jesus Creates Truth & Accountability.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

bloom where plantedI walked through our parking lot recently.  Heat waves were rippled from the concrete.  Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and succumbed to the pull of gravity within seconds.  I thought of how wonderful it would feel to have the steady ocean breeze to circulate the oppressively humid air.

I was in such a hurry to get to the air-conditioning in my vehicle that I almost missed this little guy.  I was two steps past it when my mind processed what I had seen.  This little sprig of grass was growing in the middle of an enormous sea of hot asphalt in a tiny bit of sand that pooled during a rain storm.  I was amazed.  I took the picture to remind me of the phrase I heard from a ministry mentor, “Bloom where you’re planted.” (I Googled to see where he heard it.  There are many sources it’s attributed to, and even a song written with the title but nothing definitive.  So for now, he still gets the credit).

I started thinking about my life and how often I might be missing opportunities to bear fruit of the Gospel, in my life, and for the Gospel, through my life because I’m always waiting or looking forward to or wanting a different set of – “right/better/perfect” – so I can give my all.

  • When this Committee finishes this task/project I can focus on other, more important things.
  • When the kids finish this season/play we’ll set better schedules, activities, and devotional times with them.
  • As soon as we pay off this debt we’ll start saving or giving.
  • Fill in your own:  “When I/we _____, then ____.”

Didn’t take you long to come up with something did it?  You live where I live don’t you.

This sprig of grass reminded me that I’ll never have perfect circumstances.  When my kids finish one sport, another starts.  Crazy how that happens, huh?!?  As soon as that Committee finishes their project another will start or we’ll 3 others projects to implement the first one!  We did however pay off the bill.  Then we had a car wreck.  Guess what?  Now we have a new bill.  See how it works…?

Now I see the importance of a single word in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”  Notice that Paul says he “learned” to be content.  It doesn’t happen naturally, but it can be learned if we persevere, walk with Christ, and trust him to help us grow, mature, and bear fruit for the Gospel.

Stop longing to get out of the parking lot, out of the heat, away from dry, barren land around you, and ask God to provide everything you need (which he’s already done) so you can “bloom where you’re planted.”

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