Sharing Who We Have Become, Because of God’s Love for Us

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By Jim DeAngelo

I had the opportunity a few days ago to share Jesus, but it was a bit different. An acquaintance talked to me about how they had difficulty with their neighbor and wished a large wooden screen could be erected to block their view of the neighbor whose front yard joined theirs. As I knew that both proclaimed their relationship with Jesus, I asked the person, “How this could be?” They both professed Jesus, and they were joined in that relationship. Jesus states in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ESV). This person shared how they didn’t know why it was so, and they gave a few examples that demonstrated the other person’s anger with them. They appreciated the discussion and recognized it wasn’t how they were to live, that they needed to address the unforgiveness.

The conversation continued for more than an hour on additional subjects that focused on Scripture and our personal walk and beliefs. The most pronounced of these was on the authenticity of Scripture. They felt that the Bible was written by men and subject to interpretation through culture, the culture during the time the Scriptures were written and the different culture of now. They felt that this filtering was the best approach to understanding God and defining how we are to live our lives.

I admit this was challenging. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (NKJV). If a person believed the Bible was stories written by man instead of God breathed, then the culture defined our walk instead of God. A decision to filter Scripture based on a cultural view results in the ability to justify any position a person wants to take and to indulge in any sin or practice we feel is culturally okay instead of what is presented in God’s Word. This decision removes the safeguards that God has lovingly given us for our own good and protection.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (NKJV)

Martin preached on this subject July 20, 2014, in his sermon titled, “The Bible: Is the Bible Historically Reliable?” You can hear that onlne here.

This is where I was given the opportunity to lovingly share my position and to encourage the other person to see our relationship with God through the love of Christ and each other. I shared with this person that God gave us His word to direct our lives and that it is authentic, and that I was discussing this to share my love for Jesus and how He had changed my heart and my life to be different from whom I had been and whom the culture would define me as. This is the testimony, that love does define who we are. To share means we share out of our love instead of our rightness.

I know that we will have opportunities to share and discuss the living God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to sharing whom I have become because of God’s love for me.

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Father

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By Jim DeAngelo

This last Sunday was Father’s Day, and I found myself reflecting on my relationship with my father and also with my children. My father passed away from cancer when I was eleven, and I have fond memories of my time with him. My mother remarried, and my step-father proved to be abusive and controlling. My memories of those times are not pleasant, and the pain and suffering that came out of that for the entire family was broad and deep.

I thought about my relationship with Abba Father, about how profoundly He has changed my life over the last fifteen years after accepting Christ as Lord and Savior and, consequently, how He has changed the lives of my children. When my children were growing up, I worked hard to do a good job at being a parent, but found I fell very short. I provided, but didn’t spend the time nurturing them and growing my relationship as I should. My job often took me away for extended periods of time, and my relationships suffered. Yet the impact that Jesus had on my life and the relationship I now have with my Father in heaven through Christ has changed me. My heart was changed, and I became a relational father instead of a provider father. My children grew up and left home many years ago, but my relationship with them has continued to grow. This isn’t because my efforts made the difference, but it’s because my heart was changed and the effort was part of who I had become.

I couldn’t help spending time meditating on the profound impact my relationship with Jesus has changed my life and how my thoughts and understanding about Abba Father has changed, grown, and deepened. I was thankful, awed, and lifted. I praised Him for that change because of who I had become and the resulting impact on my family. Our Father in Heaven deserves our reverence, praise, and thanks.

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Life Can Be Messy

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By Jim DeAngelo

We were at Long Beach this last week and had a great time. I will always enjoy this memory of taking Sandra on the beach in my Jeep and driving in the sand. I asked Sandra if she wanted to try it — usually she said no, but this time she said YES. She had a great time laughing while doing donuts and spins. Yet we were not the only thing on the beach. During the last few weeks, 100 million jellyfish had died and washed ashore, and the smell was quite overpowering. Well, Sandra went spinning into these jellyfish, slipping and sliding. The Jeep’s undercarriage was coated from the splashes of these rotting creatures. It was quite overpowering.

Well, we dealt with it with smiles. We called the incident “Sandra’s follies.” It was quite an effort to clean up the mess, and there is still a good amount of residue — including the smell! — left. But it will clear sometime in the future (I trust this to be true).

When the events of life are hard and the future looks bleak, we have the choice to trust God and our relationship as His sons and daughters, knowing that it will work out. Because of who we are through Christ, we can put our trust in Him and know that He is truly in charge. We can take comfort and acknowledge that, through the relationship with our Heavenly Father, we look forward to the situation coming to a close. We can take joy in this. If we don’t choose to trust God, however, we can choose to be overcome by the events and the impacts.

So what does the Jeep, smell, and hard events have in common? Life has messy parts, it smells, and it’s hard to clean and get through it. Yet, like our relationship with our Father in heaven, it does work out, and the smell and difficultly goes away. We can take our rest, joy, and comfort from this along the way.

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What’s Wrong with Now? Living in the Present

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By Jim DeAngelo

When I think about a future event and go beyond planning, I tend to worry about what might happen. When I think about the past, I tend to focus on how I messed up and could have done it better. This leads me to feelings of condemnation or shame.

What does God say about these conditions? In Matthew 6:34 Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” With anxiety comes fear, which is the opposite of faith. Fear drives us towards despair as we wonder what might happen that will harm us. Fear is the belief we will be harmed. Faith, on the other hand, is belief in God’s promises and His deliverance and blessing in our life. Faith brings us closer to God. Keeping our minds focused on today and letting God have tomorrow is necessary to staying away from the worry about tomorrow. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:7 that I have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. When I find myself worrying, I know there is something I have not given over to Christ, and I exercise self-discipline.

On dwelling in the past, the enemy of our souls wants us to feel condemnation. Condemnation is a feeling of unworthiness, failure, defeat, disapproval, censure, or criticism. This is the opposite of what Christ says about us. Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” When confronted with our feelings of failure and what God says about us, we decide what we want to believe. For a complete list of who we are in Christ, follow this link.

I have found that when I fear or feel like a failure, I have lost sight of who I am in Christ. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 2:12, which says that I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God. When I am thinking and living in the present, thinking about now, not preoccupied about the future, at peace and not anxious, I am at peace and truly enjoy what I am experiencing now.

So, once I hit the send button on my computer, to get this published, I won’t think about what I could have or should have written — I will simply be glad I am done!

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Those Trials and Tribulations

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By Jim DeAngelo

James 1:2-4 says to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I have found this Scripture difficult to reconcile with my experiences and feelings as I’ve been through these events in my life. We all go through them, and it isn’t usually much fun. I understand it does change us, but I have found it is the rest of the Scripture that requires more understanding.

First, why should we count it all joy? As I have grown to understand these difficulties and subsequent challenges in my life, I realize I wasn’t seeing the situation correctly, from a Jesus perspective. In Hebrews 12:2 it says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus saw the fulfillment of His ministry and the redemption of us, His children, and through that joy endured the cross.

When I see the benefit of the trial and the testing of my faith as the growing experience it is, I have a different expectation and view of the results. I see it as the benefit it is. I then find it easier to choose to take joy in the experience and to see the trial as a process that leads to perfected faith. I get to see how God uses them to bring me face-to-face with my issues, wrong thinking, problematic relationships, lack of faith, etc., as well as how the Holy Spirit works with me to bring it to conclusion. My faith grows and I find myself better equipped to rest in Jesus. As a friend of mine said the other day, we graduate to the next lesson.

How do I know if I am in a trial that is designed to produce steadfastness? All I have to do is check my emotions. If I am not in a place of peace and joy, but am experiencing anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, frustration — you get the picture — I am in the process of experiencing a trial. Sometimes they are short and sometimes they impact every aspect of our lives. God sees it through the prism of our transition to the image of His son Jesus and with eternity as the horizon. My challenge has been to broaden my view and attempt to see it His way instead of my way, which tends to focus on my comfort.

So, when the next trial comes, I ask you to join me and attempt to look at it through Jesus’s eyes and see it for what it is, a situation to grow me and promote me in my journey to a life of faith, lacking nothing, and, at the end of this life, to begin eternity with Jesus, the perfecter of my faith.

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Surrendering

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By Jim DeAngelo

I am profoundly blessed to regularly have the opportunity to share Jesus with friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus. I often think of these opportunities as having a meal with them, to taste and see how good the Lord is. I often receive more than I give. I’ve come to realize how I receive what is being said has significant impact on how receptive I am to the Holy Spirit’s direction of me through the conversation. I ask myself, “When I share, am I saying what the Holy Spirit wants me to share?”

These conversations about God in our lives are important. It is how we feed our spiritual selves and encourage each other toward the truths of God and His character. Like with a meal, God many times sets the table (agenda), prepares the meal (opens the heart and mind), and facilitates understanding (lets them digest the morsels). Given this, what part do we play in this important sharing experience?

Pause and think about this. None of this can occur without our participation with God. To be successful, God has to lead us.

I’ve found the biggest challenge is in learning to let God have the lead. I call this surrendering. Surrendering should be easy, right? Let God have His way, and I’m only along for the ride. I’ve found this to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I practice this every day, sometimes getting better at it and sometimes not.

What does this surrender look like? Jesus gave us many examples of surrendering, being obedient to the Father’s will, the most important being when Jesus surrendered to His Father in Matthew 26:42. “Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.’” Jesus surrendered to the Father, going willingly to the cross so that we could all receive redemption from sin through Christ.

I found surrendering to God requires my active participation (agreement with and permission to lead me) in being transformed by the Holy Spirit. This includes:

  • Loving Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength,
  • Loving my neighbor as myself,
  • Being obedient to His commandments,
  • And recognizing that I am His ambassador.

I need to daily ask the Holy Spirit to show me where I err. I need to repent and turn away from those old behaviors, looking again at being spiritually minded and empowered through Him. I need to see my daily tasks, attitudes, and behaviors as acts of worship (doing what is right because I am in love with Christ). I need to recognize and appreciate my deep, abiding joy that I receive through doing what I know Jesus would have me do. I need to see “a joyous life” as the profound reward it is. I need to love my wife as Christ loves the church, to serve others as I am serving Christ, to receive truth in my life, and to always be receptive. I need to be willing to listen, to judge myself from another’s point of reference.

I find it necessary to check my feelings. If there is resentment, anger, frustration, a critical spirit, or defensiveness, then I know that I have a problem. The other person may or may not be correct in their assessment or point of view, but that doesn’t matter. I immediately know that I have wrong thinking and a bad heart condition when these negative emotions surface. My heart has hardened, I have judged myself better than the other person. I failed to understand that we all fall short, especially me.

When speaking into someone’s life, it is important to start from the right perspective. Truth being spoken in love, scripturally sound, consistent with God’s character, and Holy Spirit empowered. It is important to speak without criticism, judgment, condemnation, or manipulation. If I start by ensuring that I am in the right spirit, surrendered to God, then speaking truth into another’s life becomes what God intends and not what I might direct. In my experience, the other person seems to always know the difference between the two approaches. The difference starts with me being on right terms with God first and surrendered to His will. My speaking in love and with truth is not dependent on the other person. This is God’s way.

This is profoundly different and in contrast with the world. The worldly point of view would have us start with our judgment of another by seeing their faults through our eyes and perspective, then find fault with them and provide suggestions, etc. This approach produces resentment and broken relationships. It puts us first and surely destroys the godly joy of life.

We decide at these times which approach we are going to use by our attitude and perspective, God’s or the world’s. Which one of these approaches is our default? What will our choice be the next time the opportunity arises?

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