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Surrounded by Love

When an enemy decided to capture a city, they would surround it. That way they could cut off supplies and trade going in or out of the city. They could control the food and water and essentially just wait for the city to become too weak to exist. By simply cutting off contact with other people and what they supply they could defeat any enemy. This is why it is important we do not find ourselves surround by an enemy but by friends.
 
The positive side is when we are surrounded by friends and good things we grow. It is not just survival, but we experience the love and joy that comes from so many others around us. We would all like to think of ourselves as being able to stand on our own and we may even expect that from ourselves. But the truth is we don’t do well when it is the lowest expectations of survival. What could we do if we had the love of God surrounding us?  He fills our life with joy and peace as he gives us a different view of ourselves than we usually have.
 
Surrounded by love is more an understanding and spiritual reality than it is a physical one. When there are many people who care about us and love us, we feel close to them. We focus on the good things God brings and how those things are expressed through others. The redemption we find in Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit so that love, joy and peace are produced in our life is an indication of God’s great power at work.
 
We can choose to be surrounded by our past and allow one situation to override all the goodness around us. We remember one fault or failure and that becomes our focus. We cannot believe the love of God, but we focus on the sin or fault we see in ourselves. When we focus on God and his love, we see ourselves with the grace and love that God supplies rather than our past performance. This is why God’s emphasis is we live by faith and not by sight. We live by faith in what God makes of us through Jesus and being filled with his Spirit. (2Cor. 5:7) When we see God working we should see him working in us most of all.
 
Terry
Friday, August 23, 2019

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Something Always Happens

Being with other people is fun. We enjoy the interaction and the shared interests. We can talk about a lot of things we enjoy doing together. Spending time together is one of our favorite things to do. We like it when it is fun and isn’t too hard to do. If it involves a lot of planning, that cuts some of us out. We don’t like all the getting ready.
 
When there is something to be done that has a lot of moving parts and takes planning, we can tell who is dependable. The people who will be there when there is actual work to do seem small compared to the ones who want to have fun. Jesus didn’t call the disciples to just come over and hang out. They understood from the very beginning they were to be, “fishers of men” and at the least they would be helping with the crowd and sometimes being the one who taught. Jesus did not ask them if they felt like passing out fish and bread or cleaning up after. They knew that came with being a disciple of Jesus. They would need to do whatever he needed.
 
The together time in the New Testament is usually a time of either work or worship. They came to the apostles teaching but that would also mean they were learning, not just watching. They spread the word because they had learned the story and were excited to share it. Most of what we see recorded is the working together. When Acts talks about the time they were just together, it says they were, “Devoted to fellowship.” (Acts 2:42) That seems a lot more intense than lemonade on the patio.
 
There is a time when Christians come together. We come together for worship but that is not to be a spectator of worship. That is to be involved in singing the songs and learning from the other people around. There is a time of service to other people when we do what they need. We are lifting people up and encouraging them in the struggle they are having this week. Prayer is more than just a list and saying, “God bless them.” When we come together it is powerful because we came follow Jesus and do what he wants done.
 
Terry
Friday, August 16, 2019

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Some One At the Other End

It is hard to get away from people. Roads are designed to connect people and places where people want to live and travel. We don’t usually build a road that goes nowhere. It may be that whatever was at the end of the road is gone. It may be the road just ended because there was no reason for it to go further. When I was growing up, I lived in a town where the road just ended. A favorite Sunday afternoon drive was to drive out to the end of the road. Not for any purpose, but just because there was a place of nowhere and then you could come back.
 
People are everywhere. We have more accessibility to each other with more connections than ever before, but it has not developed better relationships. We have handheld devices that travel with us that not only call but also text, face-time, tweet, and post. We sit next to other people with their devices texting people or just posting but not speaking to each other. Sometimes we are all in the same family.
 
We end up being alone with others and it has become perfectly normal. We can go to an event and experience it individually and personally but with out any connection to each other. It is like the road that goes nowhere. The text that is unanswered. The call that goes to voicemail. The post that may not get any likes. Maybe we are alone. We are here and we think we are talking, but the other end of the conversation is missing.
 
Sometimes with prayer we are not sure anyone is there because we can’t see God or hear his answer. We can’t see the person in a call, a text, a tweet or a post. We can see the like or the return text. We just need to see God’s answer with prayer. We need to know he is there and loving and leading us. We must pay attention to the little things that work out from prayer. They are generally bigger than a “thumbs up” symbol but our response is, “What a coincidence.”  It isn’t a coincidence at all. God answers much better than our ways of communicating. He is always there on the other side of the conversation.
 
Terry
Friday, August 9, 2019
 

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Being Alone

Being lonely can be one of the hardest things we face. We don’t feel like people care and we wonder if we even matter. When we move or there is a change in life it can seem like we are starting all over again. We are alone and that can feel lonely. But being alone does not always mean we are lonely. Lonely is when we don’t feel a connection with other people. We don’t feel like anyone cares about us and we feel invisible. We feel like it doesn’t matter if we do anything or not.
 
Being alone is not lonely. Being alone is the absence of people around us right now but we may have every confidence that people love us and care about us. We know that what we do matters but we are not doing anything with someone else at the moment. Alone is when all nine kids are gone, and we have the house to ourselves. Lonely is when all nine kids are running crazy and we feel like we have no help and no one cares.
 
Alone time is when we see how we like ourselves. If we don’t like ourselves, we will hate to be alone with just us. We will want others to distract us from what we think about ourselves. When we are alone, we can think about important things. We can plan and believe what God has for us. When we are alone is when God speaks. We can know God loves us when we are alone with him. God is always there so we are never lonely. God also lets us be alone and realize things about our self.
 
It is in those alone times that can evaluate who we are. We can look at all our relationships and see more clearly. We can especially examine our relationship with God and what he wants for us. Sometimes we are alone, and he surrounds us. Sometimes we are alone so we can be tested and learn. Alone time should make us better. When we are alone, we can have our closest connection with God.
 
Terry
Friday, August 2, 2019

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Getting a Break

At some point all of us feel like running away. Maybe not for the same reason but we wish we could get a break in the demands, the work and the people. Not that we don’t want any of those but sometimes it can just be too much to do. We don’t usually want to be gone forever but just for a little while would be nice. We call it vacation.
 
Jesus is head of his church and he calls us to follow him. Church is a collection of people and not a building or set of activities. When we gather to worship Jesus, we call it church. When we are following Jesus in everyday life, we call it discipleship. Sometimes we are really involved, and we need a break from the constant demands, but it isn’t really Jesus we are running from. It is the stress of activity and constant demands. It is like some moms or dads need a break from the two-year-old they have been taking care of all week. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to be parents or don’t love their child, but the demands are unending.
 
When it gets really bad, we run away from God. We think that will get us out of all the rules and expectations. We could forget ourselves and not be responsible for anyone or anything including ourselves, but it doesn’t really happen. It isn’t God that makes the bad situation. When we want to blame someone, he is an easy target. We will show him by not believing in him or doing things harmful to ourselves. That doesn’t really mean we get away with anything. God doesn’t make consequences; they just naturally occur from the choices we make. If we do well things go well. If we do horrible actions or attitude it will have an affect on what happens in our relationships. We want to claim it isn’t fair but the problem is, it is absolutely fair.
 
The only one who gives us a break from the consequences of what we have done is God. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, when we are horrible people, we can find forgiveness and grace with God. It is easier to find grace with God than it is with other or even ourselves. God is ready and wanting us to do well. We think we can run away, and God lets us run sometimes. Until we realize our efforts are futile and we are actually running from the very person we need the most. Someone who will forgive us, understand everything we are going through, and still love us.
 
Terry
Friday July 12, 2019

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Authority and Scripture

Who has authority over us and tells us what to do? We get told what to do all the time by many different people. If we have a two-year-old, we get told what to do all the time. Can our life really be controlled by a two-year-old? Most of the time it is not that we recognize the authority of the one telling us what to do but it is most expedient. If we don’t want a screaming child, we will do most of what they want. If we don’t want our spouse mad at us, we will do what they want. If we don’t want to be fired, we will do what the boss wants. We seldom recognize the authority of someone over us, but we can understand that it will not be good if we ignore them.
 
Some people want to approach others with the authority of God and that means they have to do what he says. While that may have been true in the past most people today don’t even think that way. We can’t scare someone into obedience or even get them to change their behavior today. However, if they have a screaming two-year-old that may make them do something about the situation. God doesn’t scream or throw a tantrum. God is very involved in his world and in our lives. He is the proverbial elephant in the room that we try to ignore. Eventually we must recognize he is everywhere and in everything.
 
God does speak. He speaks through his word that was written and yet is still alive and relevant today. He may speak through other people. The whole process of being a disciple is recognizing that we need to follow other people and do what they tell us. They can lead us to a deeper relationship with Jesus and a greater understanding. It is the whole basis for development in the church. Jesus commission was to make disciples, meaning that they would follow someone else telling and showing them something better.
 
Do we listen to God speak in our life? Sometimes the answer is we read our Bible but that is not the same as letting God speak to you. We can read the words on a page and not understand anything about our life or what God wants. It is always better when we consider what God wants and please him. Scripture is not there to ruin our fun but to reveal God. When we understand what God has said, we can understand ourselves more clearly.
 
Terry
Friday July 3, 2019

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Why Do We Need the Holy Spirit?

We understand God as creator and the beginning of love, truth and justice. We accept that God is invisible, is the force in this world, but he is not from this world. He is so much bigger than this world and yet knows all the details about every person and thing that is here. We struggle with the Holy Spirit because we don’t really understand how an invisible Spirit can have influence in our life. With God it is a faith question. We believe God is there and created everything. When we talk about the Holy Spirit, we turn it into a logic problem rather than a faith question. How would he indwell us and what is his connection to the word of God? We understand Jesus because he came and lived on earth as our example. We can read stories of what he did. We can see what God created. But the Holy Spirit isn’t visible and doesn’t do things we can immediately see and that confuses us.
 
Why would we need someone who is invisible and who doesn’t do things we can see? If we can’t see it, is it even practical? Doesn’t God judge us on what we do or don’t do? Even when we know the rules, we don’t follow them. We understand what was said and what God wants, and we ignore him.
 
God wants us to worship him. But we run in late thinking of everything but God and wish it would be over soon. That is not a sincere deep allegiance from our heart to God in gratitude and appreciation of who God is and what he has done.
 
God wants us to forgive as we have been forgiven. It is so difficult to get past the feelings when we have been slandered or wronged and have a good relationship when they never recognized they did anything to us. In fact, we are sure they will do it again.
 
God wants us to love people who are rude and arrogant and the only way to describe them is an enemy. Even if it is not about a warm fuzzy feeling it is hard to even be nice to people like that. They go out of their way to make life difficult for us.
 
On top of that we are to show the love of God and find joy and peace in the middle of those situations? Yes, there is this intangible power and strength of God that we need just in order to get through the day. Most of our struggle is not practical action. It is in dealing with attitude, temper, character, lifestyle, and other people who will not act the way they should. It is hard to be Jesus to the world. Maybe that is why Jesus had the Holy Spirit when he lived here on earth.
 
Terry
Friday June 21, 2019

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God as Father

The concept of God as father is hinted at throughout scripture but it is not seen as much in the Old Testament. God is the father of Israel because he has adopted Israel as his child. He is trying to raise his child even though the child is rebellious at times. Jesus is not called son of God until the New Testament because he is born on earth at the time. He calls God his father. We think of God as our father more from how Jesus relates to God rather the Old Testament. The gospel of John seems to especially use this concept of God as father and John pushes the idea that we are children of God. Children who act like their father. It is the best way to describe a relationship that goes deeper than obedience to law.
 
This special relationship with God as father is amazing when we think of the Creator of the universe being our father. The term has such a warm intimate feel that we are reluctant to think of God that way. We tend to remove him from us as someone to obey with a reason to fear. We focus on Old Testament punishment to enforce obedience rather than how Jesus talks about God as a loving father. If we took away the Old Testament stories how would our teaching about God be different?
 
Why did Jesus describe his relationship with God as a father? Father is the one who fixes things. He is the one who sees the mess you are in and helps you find a way out. He doesn’t always do it all for you. He leaves you room to learn and work so that you can figure it out. He praises you for doing it on your own. But we know we would not have been able to do it without his direction. But somehow, we feel a sense of accomplishment. God works in us through his Holy Spirit to do some amazing things.
 
The father sets the tone for the family. Jesus talks about doing the will of the father and acting on his initiative. Whatever he sees the father doing he is involved with also. The point is he sees the father doing things and he responds with his work also. We need to see what God is doing around us and be involved in that work. In that way we glorify God.
 
Terry
Friday June 11, 2019

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A Story with a Happy Ending

Who would believe they are not open to Jesus? Everyone would imagine they are open to Jesus and he is their friend. Who would believe that Jesus doesn’t want to be their friend? We imagine that Jesus likes everyone. He is kind to the worst of the worst. He is kind to lepers and those with horrible disease. He is kind to the blind and lame. He takes the sinful and forgives their sin. Even when they are caught in the middle of committing sin Jesus finds a way to forgive them. He also tells them to not do it anymore. Does that mean he would not be as friendly the next time? What about if it was 167 times of doing the exact same sin would he still be as nice? The Bible only talks about that first-time encounter. From there people change their ways and they do what Jesus says or they are not part of his story.
 
Maybe that would be the nice way to say it today. Jesus calls disciples to follow. He meets people in their sin but then expects them to change that behavior and follow him. If they don’t, they are no longer part of his story. They go on a different path and live their own story. Jesus does encounter all kinds of different people in his life and all of them are sinners. It is not sin that separates them from Jesus. Jesus came to save sinners. But when sinners walk away from Jesus to live their own story, they separate themselves from Jesus. It isn’t that Jesus left them, but they left Jesus. Whether it was intentional or just curiosity driven, they took a different path and they are no longer in the story of Jesus.
 
We do know the ending of the story of Jesus. After he forgave many be also lived out the reason why he could forgive them. He laid down his life by dying on a cross for the sins of the people he healed. He also did it for us and for all people who become part of his story. We follow him living it out with him even though there has been a lot of years since his death on a cross and assertion to heaven. His story does end with him in heaven and all those who are part of his story will be there with him. That means all those who live out his story now as part of their life know the end of their story. They will be with Jesus in the same place where Jesus is… heaven.
 
Most of us don’t know where our story will end. We see the conclusion of the story of many people and wonder if that is what they wanted. The good thing about the story of Jesus is we can come back at any time. We can decide we want to be in his story and live as one of his followers. That way we can be sure of the end of our story. We also have the best story to tell. It may include some times of sin and separation but it also includes our healing and the power of God at work in our life. It is always best to have a happy ending.
 
Terry

Friday June 7, 2019


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Acceptance and Shame

We want to be accepted by everyone and for them to think what we are cool. I’ll just call it that because some want to be thought of as intelligent, some want to be compassionate and some want to be feared. We don’t ever want to be disrespected by anyone. However, with the culture of criticism we have, we find people are rejected socially all the time. We hardly ever find someone that can set trends on a neighborhood scale much less a worldwide scale. That is because acceptance is not usually based on right or wrong. It is often the rebellious that are accepted and the ones who do right are not.
 
Jesus was accepted by many people because of his teaching and healing. His observations from the word of God were fresh and different than anything they had heard before. Jesus didn’t come to be rebellious, but the traditions had been taken and enforced as law. People were now guilty and wrong for the way they washed hands, for chewing on a stalk of wheat as they walked, or for not fasting with no reason. Jesus challenged the traditions, not the law of God. It didn’t matter whether he was accepted or not he stood for what was right and good. And that made him popular because he also stood against the imposed traditions that were not from God.
 
When we do wrong, we feel guilt. When we do wrong long enough it becomes a habit and part of our personality. It is who we are and then we feel shame. Shame does have a place when we realize who we have become. We can become something by else by just doing it enough to change our motives and thinking. It is not the first time we take drugs or drink that makes us an addict. If we continually do those things, they take over our thinking and our motivation. We develop addictive behavior and it controls our life. Then we feel both guilt and shame for what we have become.
 
Jesus can forgive us of both guilt and shame. Paul was completely wrapped up in the anger he felt against Christians. He wanted to destroy them all. He couldn’t listen to the message of grace. That was until Jesus confronted him about his behavior. It changed him. He was no longer angry about Christianity. He listened and understood for the first time. He had been a monster putting Christians in prison and even to death. He also believed the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. He changed so he was no longer ashamed of who he had become. Sometimes other people rejected him and tried to make him feel shame for who he had become. He rejected their shame and said it was the grace of God that made him who he was. That grace can do the same thing for us also.
 
Terry
Friday, May 31, 2019

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I Know What You Did

A scary movie came out in 1997 and the title was “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Why would that be a scary movie? Since then, there have been a number of movies that start with, “I Know What You Did…”. Of course, those are connected to an accident or a situation where the person was not at their best. The knowing what you did soon leads to revenge and therefore the development of the horror. (No I didn’t see the Movie) Maybe that is why we are so reluctant for anyone to know any mistake we ever made. We assume there will be retribution and some form of punishment that comes from people knowing. It isn’t the fact that did something, it is that people would know. Our assumption is if no one knows, then there is no retribution.
 
Is there anything that God doesn’t know? Sometimes we want to treat him the same way. We assume if we didn’t tell him then he doesn’t know. If he doesn’t know he won’t punish us. Quite the opposite is true. The Bible talks about repentance and confession as a way to stop any retribution. It is the people who come to God and confess the wrong they have done that find forgiveness. God knows and finds a way to forgive. Our forgiveness comes from the sacrifice of Jesus who took our place by dying on a cross for sin. When we believe in Jesus and this sacrifice for us it can be personal about our sin. Jesus died a long time ago and it was for all people. However, unless we connect our faith, our sin and our repentance with that sacrifice it just remains a historical fact.
 
The problem becomes that we don’t want to have forgiveness, we want to have anonymity. We think that no one knowing would be better than being forgiven. We would still equate forgiveness with the possibility of retribution. We may have been “officially forgiven”, but we imagine they are still mad and withhold privilege. We imagine it would be better if they just didn’t know. That just isn’t true. When forgiveness is able to happen, both people move past the issue. We must not act like we are still guilty because forgiveness takes away and retribution and bad feeling or it isn’t forgiveness. Repentance is people coming back together and building a stronger bond than they had in the past. God blesses those who turn to him. God does not bless the anonymous. God has no relationship with the anonymous. Jesus sacrifice does not apply to the anonymous.
 
Christianity works much different than our fears. It is by letting God know that we are not perfect, and we have sinned that we can start the real relationship. That is true with each other as well. We would never believe the person who acts like they have never done anything wrong. We know better. We may not know what you did, but we are very sure there is something. That is why when Jesus comes preaching, his first message is that people should repent. He knows that if there is going to be a relationship, it starts there.
 
  Terry
Friday, May 24, 2019

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Further Development

There are times in life when everything changes. We can try to hold on to the past, but we usually recognize that we are better making progress from one thing to the next. We don’t want to still be in the same room we had when were a child. At some point we get through school, move out and go on to a bigger place. We won’t just have the same room but own our own house. All of these are important changes in our development. We leave what is behind us and we reach for something better.
 
For this to be beneficial we must believe that there is something better. There are better opportunities ahead and we are not planning to stay where we are. We may see our future and our development as providing more opportunities for us. We get through school and we can find better jobs than we could have had before. We get paid more and so we are able to afford more things. We can live in a new place that allow more activities for our involvement. As long as we believe there is something more and better we will look forward to further development.
 
Sometimes we can be short sighted when it comes to our spiritual development. We want to stay in the same place where we grew up and do the same things we did when we were a child. We pick a favorite pew, we pick favorite friends, we are involved about the same level we were when we were in fifth grade. In fact we may have been much more involved in fifth grade than we are currently. We can see opportunities in employment, economics and freedom. There is also room for development in our spiritual relationship with God.
 
There are gifts of grace that allow us to work with people. We become leaders and take on an area where God empowers us. Being filled with the Holy Spirit changes our relationship with God. We have an understanding of the love and depth of God because his Spirit is inside us. We can make different relationships and work with people as we share this spiritual bond in Christ. We find places to work for God as he opens new doors for our development. Ultimately it is not the person who stays the same and waits for life to accept give him new beginnings but the one who finds opportunities in school, jobs, career and family that moves ahead in his development. It is also the person who pursues God in faith and work of ministry that is able to realize the fullness of God in his life.
 
Terry
Friday, May 24, 2019

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