“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”
Romans 12:14-16 NLT
Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12 “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” NLT.
Paul, by the Holy Spirit, instructs Timothy “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12 NLT.
We, as devout followers of Jesus, are going to be persecuted. Oil and water don't mix. We don't "fit in". We are different. We often don't feel like we belong to the society we are living in. However, we need to remember that this is why we are here. We are the salt and light. We are to represent Jesus to the world. Sure, we are going to be misunderstood, maligned, and even outright attacked for our faith and practice. Remember, it isn't us that the unregenerate world hates. It is our Righteous Lord Jesus! Keep focused. Ask God to help you love even the most antagonistic person you know. Pray for them. Ask God to bless them. I know, this is utterly radical, but it is righteous. It imitates and represents the Lord Jesus!
Also, let's take the time to feel the hurts of others. Galatians 6:2 says “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” NLT. It is our responsibility, as believers, to identify with, and assist, our brothers and sisters of faith. We are even called to help the unbeliever. Galatians 6:10 tells us “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” NLT. Jesus demonstrated this. Romans 5:8 states “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” NLT.
Lastly, simply be a representation of Jesus without partiality. Showing favoritism and being prejudice do not line up with the love of God. If we truly love Jesus, we will love every human being, even if their lifestyle is ungodly. We must present Jesus to the world. The only One who knows everything and "has it all together" is Jesus!!!
“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
Romans 12:11-13 NLT
Our service to the Lord Jesus Christ should be wholehearted, not slothful (lazy, idle, inactive, sluggish, lethargic). We should always remember where we would be without Him. This alone should motivate us to serve with passion. The Lord of Creation lives inside of us who are true believers. How can He abide within and our service without be less than the best?When we get a revelation of who He is and what He has accomplished, we will be spurred on to fervent ministry. Not even the devil or the demons of hell can stop the child of God who is under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in His name and trust fully in Him, we can rest assured that victory is ours.
“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NLT
Be patient (endure things), rejoice in the hope we have. Our hope isn't a "maybe it will happen" kind of hope. Ours is steadfast and sure. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;” Hebrews 6:19 KJV
Continually be in a state of prayer. “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV
The warfare is real but the battle is already won. Remember, you are not fighting for victory, you are fighting with victory. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 KJV
Lastly, let's be eager to step up to the plate when the family of God has a member in need. We don't need to ponder the possibility of helping, we just simply need to do it!!
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Matthew 25:40 NLT
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
Romans 12:9-10 NLT
Acting like I love someone just to appease my conscience isn't Christlike at all. In fact, it is hypocritically devilish. How many church goers ascribe themselves to the principles of scripture yet, in their practice, deny those same truths. It is like Isaiah 29:13 states “And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” NLT. (Rote is defined as a mechanical, habitual, course of action). In other words, they do what they do because it is routine, not heartfelt. Religious individuals are concerned about fulfilling the expectation without the affection. God calls us deeper than observance of a "good deed". He calls us to love. His love, not our "love". His love reaches beyond the surface to the heart. His love thinks of the plight (unfortunate situation) of the other person, not self interest. His love is righteous, not self-righteous. His love is true love. Unconditional. Do I love like this?
Jesus calls me to love others with His kind of love. What does that love look like? It looks like Jesus! It is relational, not superficial (surface only). Here is a radical call:
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
1 John 3:16-18 NLT
“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Romans 12:6-8 NLT
Whatever the gift may be that you have been given by God, use it to benefit His body, the church. Holding back your gift only handicaps the body of Christ. As a pastor I can't tell you how many times the church has suffered because someone didn't utilize their gifts or talents. Perhaps it was a person who could sing and didn't contribute to the choir, perhaps a person who had the available time to serve in other areas but chose not to because it was "inconvenient". In the church we cannot afford to think of self. There is a definite problem in the body of Christ with getting people to grasp the reality of how they are affecting the efficient and effective work of the church because of their lack of understanding their gift(s) or their outright unwillingness to serve. Imagine what the church would be, and could do, if everyone who says they love Jesus simply practiced their professed faith by serving in the body of Christ. I urge you to understand the significance of your contribution to the local church. Your time, talent(s), and treasure can help further the work of God's kingdom. Your withholding only paralyzes the church and renders it incapable of fulfilling its potential. Think of it this way: If everyone in the church served Jesus like you what kind of church would we have? I beg you today, saints, to give your best for the cause of Christ! God spared no expense when He became a man and died in our place for our sins. He has saved our wretched lives from eternal destruction. I ask you one thing. Is He worthy of your best? Is He??? Then why are we living for the here and now rather than the then and there? May God help us to focus. May His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Please pray this simple, yet powerful prayer: "God, please help me to understand what you have given me to do in your church and help me do it for your glory. In Jesus name! Amen. "
“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”
Romans 12:3-5 NLT
We are to look at one another in the family of God as essential and valuable. All of us are adopted children from the orphanage of Satan and sin. None of us are here on our own merit. We all got here by the sheer grace of Almighty God. We have been chosen by the God of all creation to be redeemed and restored as part of His family. To share at His table, and enjoy the benefits of being His child, is nothing less than God's great mercy. Let's be always aware of the simple fact that none of us would be here without His loving kindness.
Galatians 6:3 says “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."NASB.
1 Corinthians 10:12 warns “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” NASB.
Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” NASB.
Brothers and sisters, may we always experience the sense of wonder that comes with being a part of God's great family. We are here because of His love. Let's serve out of that same love. No matter what part you are in the body of Jesus Christ, you are loved and wanted by Him. Let's appreciate our differences rather than compare them. He has placed each of us where He wants us. Together, we can accomplish His will.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:1-2 NLT
As born again believers we are now the children of Almighty God. We are His! We are called by His name! We must recognize the importance of giving ourselves, including our bodies to His service. In doing so, we worship Him as Lord. He reigns Supreme in our lives, not only in profession, but also in possession.
When we are married, we are covenanted with the one we made vows with and gave rings to as a symbol of our commitment. Everything that is ours now becomes theirs, including our bodies. This union of holy matrimony is symbolic of Christ and His church. All that we are, or hope to be is now under his name and belongs to Him as His body. Worship Him by the way you live out your life, not just by attending church or holding a religious office. The evidence of our union with Him isn't the words of our mouth, it is the character of our lives!
What good is what we profess if it does not profoundly alter the way we live our lives.
Actions speak louder than words!!
“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36 NLT
The simple, yet profound reality is that God is infinite and we cannot comprehend Him in His fullness. There is only one God. There is no other. He, and He alone, is Creator, Ruler, Savior and Judge. The Apostle Paul references Isaiah 40:13 and Job 41:11. Consider these two texts of scripture. How marvelous they are!
“Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand.” Isaiah 40:12-15 NLT
“Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine.” Job 41:11 NLT
Today, simply take a moment to contemplate the vastness and greatness of God. He is much greater than we even know.
I am so glad that He made Himself known to us in the person of Jesus Christ! Because of Jesus, we can know this Great God personally. I know Him! His Holy Spirit lives inside of me. How about you? He wants you to know Him too!
I can't wait for the day when I can look on His face!!!
As the old hymn exclaims "just one glimpse of Him in glory will all the toils of life repay."
““Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.””
Psalms 46:10 NLT
Sometimes life can get "out of control" it seems. The fact remains that things aren't "out of control". They may be for us but not for God. When you don't know what to do, just stand still and know that He is God! Trying to "fix" things by making impulsive, spontaneous decisions can make things worse. Just like Moses and the children of Israel were in what seemed to be a death trap as they faced the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian Army behind them.
“But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14 NLT
“Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” Psalms 27:14 NLT
Today, if you are facing challenging circumstances and feel compelled to make a rash decision, let me counsel you to wait.
“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT
“For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.”
Romans 9:9-16 NLT
The sovereignty of Almighty God is something that our finite minds cannot grasp in it's entirety. To understand the reasons God decides to do what he does is beyond our comprehension. We must trust our Heavenly Father. He is Omniscient (all knowing). He is Omnipotent (all powerful). He is Omnipresent (everywhere at all times). We are simply incapable of dissecting the methodology of God. We must trust Him. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He sees things in their fullness and we see things in part. I don't know about you but I certainly prefer someone who knows the whole story verses someone who knows only part of it. Through the centuries men have concocted their own understandings of Gods Sovereign power and how He demonstrates it in the lives of humanity. Arguments have insisted through the years over predestination, foreknowledge, and God's Sovereignty.
Let us simply know this: God is God. We are not. He rules over all of creation. He is immutable (cannot change). God has always been right and always will be. Trusting Him is the best way to live our lives.
“Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.”
Romans 9:6-8 NLT
Just because my children are born into a Pastor's family doesn't make them automatic Christians. I can teach them Bible songs and help them memorize verses but each child must personally come to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Now, of course, there is a distinct advantage that a child like this has. They are exposed to the gospel from birth. There are other factors that affect their understanding as well. Things like hypocrisy. Just because someone is a church goer or even a Pastor doesn't mean that the child is getting a healthy dose of Jesus. The parents must demonstrate genuine love for Jesus and let the life they live evidence their discipleship. Simply being religious can, frankly, drive the child away from Jesus. Religion never saved anyone. Only a relationship with the Almighty can truly convey the power of God!
You can sit on a church pew, sing the songs, be a church member, give in the offering, and even hold a church position, but this doesn't mean you are truly saved from your wretched sin. The only ones who are truly "The Church" are those who are "born again". This means "Born of the Holy Spirit". You see, you can be born into a religious family in the flesh, go through all of the religious motions the rest of your life, and die lost and separated eternally from God,
Those who acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as the very God who became a man to take upon Himself their sin, then repent (change their thinking and direction) of their sin, and invite Jesus into their lives are truly the children of God.
This applies to everyone, regardless of nationality, race, or religion. We all must face the reality that only through Jesus Christ can we be saved. There is no other way. (See John 14:6, Acts 4:12, and I Timothy 2:5). He (Jesus) is the promised seed of Abraham.
“God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children, ” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”—and that, of course, means Christ.” Galatians 3:16 NLT
“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:29 NLT
Rev. Curtis Norris