One of the toughest things Jesus told us to do was in Matthew 5:44. He said, “I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them” (TPT). I have to tell you, that goes against everything that I want to do in those situations. The easiest thing to do is to hate the person who hates you, curse the person who curses you, yell at the person who hates you and to fight anyone who comes against you. That’s the way I’m wired anyway. The things Jesus is asking us to do here goes against my nature.
I believe God asks us to act this way because we are to be a reflection of Him and who He is. When we are full of ourselves, and someone does something to us, it’s who we are on the inside that spills out onto them. When we replace who we are with who God is inside us, our reactions change. Everywhere we go, we will be spilling God’s love onto anyone who runs into us. The hardest part of being a Christian, is getting rid of all my selfish desires so that I can be filled with more of who He is, but that is God’s desire for each one of us. It’s a constant battle, but it’s one our spirit must be victorious in.
For many of us, we view God as the person we are when someone cuts us off on the road. He’s angry and out for payback. What Jesus said gives us insight into what God is like. Psalm 145:8 does as well. It says, “You’re kind and tenderhearted to those who don’t deserve it and very patient with people who fail you. Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness.” God isn’t angry and out to get us when we mess up. Like a good father, He’s kind and does everything He can to help us succeed at being more like He is. He’s patient with us in our failures as well. As we get to know Him more, He will become increasingly more evident in our life through our responses to people.
Photo by Maira Gallardo on Unsplash
The heart is known as the seat of our emotions. Our emotions dictate our words and actions. You can tell a lot about what’s in people’s heart simply by listening to them and watching their actions. When I hear people talk down to themselves or beat themselves up, it bothers me because it’s a reflection of how they truly feel about themselves. I went to compliment a kid recently about how well he performed and he replied, “I was terrible. I’m no good. I don’t know why I did it.” My heart broke because he’s already let his self talk destroy his confidence. I tried to speak life into him, but more than anything, he needed a change in his heart to readjust his thinking.
Proverbs 14:26 says, “Confidence and strength flood the hearts of the lovers of God who live in awe of him, and their devotion provides their children with a place of shelter and security” (TPT). It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we have confidence and mental strength. So many of us struggle with an internal picture of who we are. We must remember that we are made in God’s image. The greater picture we have of God, the greater picture we will have of ourselves. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. To love Him with all of our heart, we need to know Him more. The more we know Him, the more we will live in awe of Him. It’s no coincidence that He listed the heart first. Everything stems from there: our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves and our relationship with others. If you need confidence in any of those areas, it starts with knowing God. You get to know Him more through reading the Bible, prayer and sitting quietly in His presence. Learning to do these three things won’t just change you, it’ll have a generational effect as well.
Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash
Waco is a small town in Texas. It has always been a place you would only go to if you had a reason to go. It was showing its age until recently when Chip and Joanna Gaines show “Fixer Upper” became a hit. As this Christian couple began to update houses with their unique style, people began to want to visit Waco. Today, it’s a thriving town with people from all over taking vacation there. The city has been transformed by the influx of money coming into it. Buildings have been updated, businesses have moved in and home prices are on the rise. All of this happened because of one family.
The Bible tells us how cities, nations and even the world were impacted by God’s people. Jerusalem was in ruins until Nehemiah built the walls around the city. Wherever Joseph worked as a slave or prisoner, it prospered. Gideon took Israel from being the nation others picked on to being a strong nation. The list goes on and on of people who followed God and changed the culture around them. When you and I do walk in obedience to God’s voice, we can’t help but make an impact on the people around us.
Proverbs 11:11 says, “The blessing of favor resting upon the righteous influences a city to lift it higher” (TPT)”. When I read this verse, I can’t help but to be challenged to think if I’m making the impact in my city that I need to be. Each one of us as believers have the favor of God resting on us, but what are we doing with that favor? Are we being selfish with it or are we trying to impact the world around us? The Bible is clear that when we invest that favor in the lives of others, it’s multiplied. The blessings of God have been freely given to you so that you can use them to influence your city. When we leave our scarcity mentality and quit hoarding God’s blessings, we’ll change the culture of our communities, cities, states and nations.
Photo by Simon Zhu on Unsplash
In the beginning, after God created the heavens and the earth, the first thing He spoke into existence was light. That light pierced the darkness of the void that was there. It was the first thing because light is necessary for us to see and for life to begin. In fact, the light that is visible to our eyes is only a fraction of the light spectrum. It’s incredible to think that only a portion of what God spoke that day is visible to us. It’s even more incredible that those words are still creating light as the universe expands. When God speaks something into existence, it’s not just temporary and we can’t see the whole thing.
I love how John 1 starts out. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NLT). We know from reading more that the Word was Jesus. But if we keep going, He was more than the Word. Verses 4-5 say, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” As physical light gives light and pierced the darkness, Jesus does the same thing. He was sent here to give us that light and to make us the light of the world.
Psalm 97:11 says, “Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people” (MSG). He has spoken light into your life and planted it deep within you. It’s up to you to cultivate those seeds of light and grow them so that your light is visible to others. It’s our responsibility to use that light to give life wherever we go and to pierce the darkness around us. The first thing that God spoke into existence has been planted in you through Jesus. It’s a great responsibility to have as well. What are you doing with those seeds? Are they laying dormant in you? Have they sprung up to illuminate your life and those around you? Are they reproducing? Are they increasing in their brightness? Let’s not waste the light seeds we’ve been given.
Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash
As we walked through Nazareth Village, the had a shepherd there feeding his small flock. The sheep were just about ready to be trimmed so the village could make yarn. I walked around the side and took this photo of the sheep eating. While I was doing that, our guide said something I had never thought of. He said, “Did you know that goats have ears?” I thought, “Of course they do!” Then he said, “Both sheep and goats can hear, but only sheep listen for their master’s voice and obey it. The goats hear his voice and do their own thing.” That’s why sheep have shepherds and goats have herders.
I believe we all can hear God’s voice, but are we listening for it? Hearing is a passive thing that happens just by having ears. Listening is something that is done intentionally. We’ve all be in conversations where we are barely listening to the other person, then we realize we missed the important part. We have to either pretend that we listened to what they said or we have to ask them to repeat it. When the King of King speaks to us, we should be giving Him our undivided attention. If we are merely passively hearing His voice, it calls to question whether He is shepherding us or is herding us.
In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NLT). The only way to know Jesus and to follow Him is to listen to His voice. He is constantly speaking to us, so we need to be constantly listening to Him. Ive found that the best way to listen is to be quiet. It sounds so simple, yet many of us are afraid of the silence of sitting in His presence. Today practice being still in His presence and listening for His voice. Be obedient to whatever He tells you to do. Don’t just be someone who hears His voice, be a listener of it.