Work of Faith, Labor of Love, Patience of Hope

1 Thessalonians 1:3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.

Morning greets with wafting noise and odors of coffee and sausage.  Before me is a grand day of training and planning and prayer.

What will you do today, Father?

While I am working and busy, will You be changing lives and bringing success to my door?  Of course You will.  It is Your nature.

While I am praying and listening, will You be speaking kind words to those from whom I need favor and action?  Of course You will.  It is Your nature.

While I am planning and consulting, will you be dispatching angels to pave and protect the path of provision?  Of course You will.  It is Your nature.

Father, guard the work of faith.  Honor my actions.  Enable them and anoint them to accomplish ten times what I can do.

Father, embrace the labor of love.  Let it touch hearts with Your heart.  Expose Yourself through me and let others see You.

Father, honor the patience of hope.  Open the eyes of my understanding.  Cause vision to congeal and give substance to faith’s grasp.

Este dia en tus manos, Padre Dios.

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Meet Jesus : Light of the World Matthew 5:13

Matthew 5: 13: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

What does it mean to be the light of the world?  Connection to Jesus means we become the light of the world.  Connection to Jesus means we are a part of a city on a hill that cannot be hid.  It is not us individually to whom He speaks.  It is us, the City of God, the people of God, to whom He speaks.  Together in Him, we are the light of the world.  Our world is dark.  Our world is pained.  Our world is putrid.  Get it straight.  This world is full of shadows.  It is wrong because it is disconnected from the light.  Jesus came and spoke to the world to change to a different way of thinking.  He spoke for this world to think light not dark.  When we connect with Him we connect with a message of light.  Together, the body of Christ, is meant to shine a light on problems.  It is meant to shine solutions for our metro.  This city to which we are attached is full of solutions for others to see and grasp and join.

Of course, you may pay a high price.  Businesses and government and education are afraid of Christianity.  They have been put in fearful positions by those opposed, who have sought limitation in the name of liberation.  Choices have to be made.  Promotions will be lost.  Contracts will not close.  There are costs to being affiliated with Christ.  Do it.  Pay the price.  Carry your cross.  Better to shine a light in a dark world knowing some will be blessed and released from pain than to hide it under fear and intimidation and leave others to suffer knowingly.

ACT! Shine a light.  It is so easy to not be like Christ.  It is so easy to skip praying over a meal in public.  It is so easy to just not mention your friends and relationships in Christ.  When conversation at lunch turns to others talking about movies and shows and new homes and kids in school, how do you talk?  Are you free to mention your friends in Christ?  Are you open to talk about a great sermon you heard or a meaningful worship service that stirred your soul? Can you mention the peace you have in personal relationship?  Do you have the courage?  Are you willing to be seen connected to the city on the hill?

PRAY! Padre Precioso, Precious Father, I am committed to join the city and be known as joined to the city.  It is risky.  It is risky to be known.  Even according to Your word, it can bring persecution.  It can bring misunderstanding.  It can bring dissension.  But, Father, I am committed to be known by Your name.  Let me not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ that calls us to live as light in a dark world.  Let me not be ashamed of the name of Jesus.  Let me not be ashamed.  Let not my enemies of my world, my flesh, and the devil triumph over me.

Meet Jesus: Ill Will Matthew 5:11

9385_554298617946432_1309700350_n (2)Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, … 11: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

 Reviled, persecuted, falsely accused, and discussed with cussedness is the condition of a follower of Jesus.  Now, that was His condition.  And, now, that is our condition.  It is a strange communion with Christ that we desire.  We want to be like Him in every way except this one.  Sure, we would like to be gracious and kind and merciful and full of miracles.  But, do we want the accompaniment?   Jesus was conditioned to being treated this way every place He went.  Are we?

During the televangelist season of failure in the 1980s, a co-worker approached me on break.  This had been a hard time as many personal failures of Christian leaders were in the media and being talked about in congregations.  Jimmy Swaggart was one of those in the news regularly.  This co-worker made a crude comment about the minister and the accusations in the papers.  True or not, I had no idea.  My retort was to encourage them to find truth before repeating the news lest they find themselves against God.  Even if it was true, why would they wish ill will to the man?  Over years, he had been used of God to bless many.  Now there was a reported failure.  Wouldn’t we want him to be restored?  Wouldn’t we want him to enjoy family for the remaining years of life?  Wouldn’t we want repentance and continued good works?  The co-worker really wasn’t attacking Jimmy Swaggart.  They were attacking the cause of Christ and possible hypocrisy.  That is a dangerous game to play.  Who wants to be one to accuse Christ of inconsistency?

ACT!  Have you ever verbally wished ill will to another Christian?  Did you do it out of envy?  Have you ever heard someone else do this?  Did you participate by listening?  The next time you hear an accusation against a brother or sister in Christ, rise to their defense.  Bless them in your prayers and bless them in the hearing of others.  Don’t entertain the ill will.

PRAY!   Father, this kingdom of heaven is a strange life.  We find ourselves continually beset with accusations when we do good and needing to bless others in the same.  In the kingdom, we are joined in Christ to the same body.  In the kingdom, what affects one affects the other.  Teach us to be blessors, especially when others in Christ are attacked.  Teach us to turn what the enemy means for ill will into something of blessing.  Teach us to walk in the kingdom.

If we can pray for you regarding anything in your life, please let us know.  Our greatest blessing is to bless others in prayer. .  www.prayermetro.com   Phil@shepherdok.com

Meet Jesus: Pure In Heart Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ….. 8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Jesus truly is pure in heart. His heart has always been to build us. His heart has always been to redeem us. His heart has always been to receive us. And certainly He saw God regularly.

What does it mean to see God? To see Him in that same pure heart is a great privilege. In the book of Genesis, it is common for men to get direct communication from God about circumstance and decisions. Today, that seems uncommon. Many will say, “God told me”, and have no concept of what they are saying. It can be interpreted, “I want to hear this so I did”. Others really did “hear from God” as evidenced in real results consistent with His way and voice.

The pure in heart see God. They have clarity to receive when He speaks. They have a consistency unfiltered by their own desires. Seek purity that thinks of God’s ways not yours.

One study class in a morning gives questions about life and church. They reflect purity of heart. There are a few funny questions meant to make me laugh. Most were direct to the heart. One asked the question, “Why do we interpret the scriptures in different ways and always think we have the correct and only answer?” That one cut to heart. How many times have I been guilty of the answer to that question? This week one of my sons questioned a doctrine I hold dear. Why did it hurt? It isn’t an important doctrine. It is just something special to me. Purity of heart would not be hurt. In a recent sermon picked up over the internet, the minister of a large congregation preached as truth strongly questionable interpretation of unclear verses against another denomination. Maybe he has a little inferiority. I don’t know. But why do we do it? Purity of heart would not want to be right on small matters to the point of being hurt and hurting others.

In the parking lot of a church I was visiting, I met Lillian. This cute, bright girl was about eight. She was part of a group of adults and kids walking from their home to go shopping. The group of four looked inviting so I walked over and introduced myself. The group I was teaching was not ready yet, so I just wandered in the parking lot with a little figgetyness. Lillian bounced and bounced. She figeted, too. She locked on to two of my fingers. Her longing for an adult male figure was evident. She asked if she had to get new cloths to go to a church. Would she have to wear a dress? We laughed and played a little as I told her she only needed to wash her face. Her face was dirty but her heart was hungry. She has a pure motive to come not to a church but to a Jesus living in the members. She just wants love. That is pure. As they walked away Lillian proclaimed loudly, “I have a dress. I’ll wear my dress.” Pure heart.

ACT! Question yourself. Where have you declared “truth” that really was questionable and needed to be questioned and polished before spoken? Is there a way to clear up with those who heard? Do you want to see God? Would you be able to drop all pretense like Lillian and ask simple questions?

PRAY! Father, it is my soul that is wounded when I reach for impurities. Create in me a clean heart. Cause your Holy Spirit to breathe in my soul freshness. Give us clean hands. Give us pure hearts. Let us not lift our souls to another. We bow our hearts. We bend our knees. Make us vessels of honor and love. We cast down the idols that are impure. We cast down ideas that stand against freedom and peace within the kingdom. Let us be a generation that seeks Your face and Your face alone. Let us put down our ways and wants. Humble us, we humble ourselves. Then we will see You. Let us see You in others. Let us see You in the Lillians in the parking lot.

Meet Jesus In The Morning On The Mountain Matthew 5

teachingtwoMatthew 5:1-2 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed….

Life has had some tough turns in the journey of the last 13 months.  They are violent.  They are hard. They are just not nice.  Life can be like that.

Life has had some great moments in the journey of the last 13 months. They are beautiful.  They are fulfilling.  They are comforting.  Life can be like that.

In the hardness and in the beauty, life is meant to be lived.  Life is not a spectator sport.  Engage.

This morning is a calm spot.  Not that there is not an hundred items and more waiting to be tended.  Water seeped up into the vents of the house the other day in a downpour.  It is gone, but repairs need completed and insurance company contacted.  A major weekend seminar went well and now I need to write many thank you notes and get ready for the next thrust into another community.  Business contracts are calling for attention for project plans and content curation.  But it is the morning and I refuse to address any of this right now.

With all of the multitude of people, Jesus took the time to “set” himself.  The transcription of Matthew tells us “when he was set his disciples came to him”.  Then and only then did he “open his mouth and begin to teach them.”

Imagine this moment.  Thousands of people are crying out for prayer, food, and healing.  Emotions are high as the more pushy folks demand front row seats.  The politicians are getting their entourage in position for high crowd visibility. Jesus is moving and hasn’t settled into a spot.  The dignitaries are miffed because they don’t know where to sit or who to push out of position.  Some are purposefully hanging to the rear not wanting to be seen but wanting to be close enough to hear.  They are hopeful and fearful.  On any Sunday morning in a large group this is repeated.  In those cases, everyone knows where the speaker will be and just moves to their moment and place of prominence or hiding.  Jesus is in motion.  He is unpredictable.

Sometimes in my prayer in the morning I feel like one or all of these people.  There are days I am positioning myself to be seen and heard by the Father.  Other days I am quiet and contemplative and want to lurk unseen in prayer.  Always I want to be close enough to hear some message of hope from my Dad that will give me a boost for this day.  I want to meet Jesus on the mountain in the morning.  I want to be blessed.  I want to be close when He opens His mouth to pour out blessing.

Prayer: Father of Jesus, You are also Father of me.  This morning, I really want to meet with You.  Life is tough and life is secure and life is frightening and life is momentary and life is stable.  It is a mishmash of emotions that bring me to Your mountainside.  Out here where life is lived, please meet me.  Meet me on my mountain.  It is a tough climb this morning.  Bring me to a settled spot to listen.  Meet me on the mountain this morning and speak blessing over my angst and anger and hopes and dreams and goodness and evils.  Meet me on the mountain in the morning.

Meet Jesus: Poor in Spirit Matthew 5:1

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

 Poor by Choice: For Jesus, there is a route to blessing that is markedly different than our thoughts.  The poor in spirit are those who purposefully humble themselves in relation to God.  These are those that rightly discern their poverty in relation to a great God over all the earth.  They do not pursue arguing with God, because they acknowledge Him as above and themselves as below.  Jesus is that way.  He confirmed that He only said what His Father told Him and only did what His Father instructed in the gospel of John.  He was one that did not consider it something to grab hold and keep to be equal with God, but humbled Himself in relation to the Father and became a man.  He exampled poor in spirit for us to see.

 One Family’s Test:  A situation comes to mind as I ponder this scripture.  One family came to me rocked with enigmas. Questions about life and death and healing and answers to prayer were coming with forcefulness.  Like all of us they faced a reality they did not want to face. The person had died.  This mother of four had her life cut short.  How could God allow such a thing?   Why did He not do as we imagined and simply grant a request for healing here on earth?  Did the scripture not say we could have whatever we willed?  Surely God must do what we ask?

These are all valid questions that seem to have no answers.

 The second question posed stronger.  What did God want us to do today?  Regardless of our understanding or lack of understanding of the situation at hand, what did He want us to do now?  Now that this mother and grandmother was gone, what was to be our walk in the kingdom of heaven this day?   Do we quit praying and believing?  Do we continue in prayer?  If He did not heal here and now would He hear our prayers for peace of mind and acceptance of a life without our lifelong friend? On the flip side of the coin, could we experience more of His kingdom by giving Him the benefit of our doubt or by doubting His benefit?

 Answers: It is tough stuff, but the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. Life requires us to relinquish our rights and demands and allow the wisdom and the hand of God to play out.  A heart of Jesus leads us to absorb the pains and confusions and admit we just don’t know all the answers, yet we will trust Him.  In the beginning of the new life with a loved one gone, this family chose to continue in trust with questions unanswered.  Sometimes that is all we can do.  It requires making a choice to be poor in spirit and large in faith.

 ACT!  Can you lay down your understanding and demands to find the newer will of God for your walk in the kingdom?  What does it take to become one poor in spirit and committed to His will being done on earth as it is in heaven, unquestioningly?  Test Him out.  Volunteer your ideas for His.

PRAY! God, You are God.  Me, I’m just me.  You are the greatest God of life and living.  The answers I don’t understand, You create.  Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  When I just about figure out life, You are bigger and greater than my wisdoms.   Teach me to obey.  Teach me to walk close to Your breathing.  Teach me to walk in Your ways even when I do not understand.  Then You will open new wisdoms for me.  Then You will open the windows of understanding on the other side of obedience.

Meet Jesus : Fisher of Men Matthew 4:18

meetjesusfisherman

Matthew 4: 18: And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19: And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Peter and Andrew were never the same after meeting Jesus.   His nature as a gatherer of men for His Father’s family became their nature.    He took a part of them and changed it to work for the kingdom. They gathered fish.  He needed men gatherers.  Meeting Jesus will change you to gather men and women and children to Him and His Father’s family.  No matter what you gather now, He will add gathering men to His family.

My son and I were at the quick gas spot the other evening.  A furtive man jumped from behind the car.  Assuring us he only wanted to beg some money, he approached.  I signaled to him to stay at a distance.  This was not the time and place.

The next day, a half a block a way, we went to lunch with my wife.  The man slipped from behind a car.  I engaged him in conversation as my wife and son went into the restaurant.  On the streets over time, I have talked to many such men.  Some are harmless.  Some are dangerous.  Some are unpredictable.  This one seemed the latter.  He was desperate, either on drugs or suffering from having none, and persistent.  Eye to eye, we talked.  He began to give me a string of problems and diseases.  Mid course, I stopped him and asked him what he was doing with what he was given.  He told me he worked painting and then quit in the last seven days.  He had already spent the money.  It would have been enough for several days in his lifestyle.

He was quick witted.  He was strong.  He was trapped in somebody done me wrong songs.  It would be pitiful to give him a dollar and say the inevitable Jesus loves you stuff.   I gave him a few dollars, and I gave him straight advice.  Sure, Jesus is my motivation.  Do something with what you have.  Take your mind and body and put it to work.  Quit dwelling on the problems and get focused on the solution.  People are helping.  Use their help to get up and out.  Let Jesus pull you from the sea of problems through His fishermen.  Don’t just jump back in the water.

ACT!  Think of one person around you that needs to be gathered to Jesus’ family.

What do you need to do to invite them to be a part?

PRAY!  Father, help me to be a fisher of men.  Jesus has come to my life.  He’s met with me and called me to be a fisherman with Him.  Help me to see those around me that He wants in the family.  Help me to know how to draw them to Him and Your family.