Galatians 5:13-15
13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Beware of the Pack Mentality

One of the things that I have often observed in the work place or social gatherings where people are in frequent association is what I will call a pack mentality. It is so subtle that often we don’t even realize that we have been caught up in it. I know I have at times and probably most of us have and perhaps still are.
It often goes something like this, someone, especially someone outside our circle or click, has a weakness or makes a mistake. Some one of our peers begins to make jokes either to the person or about the person to others. Before, long others are chiming in with their wise crack, comments and jesting. Suddenly we find ourselves adding to that dialogue as we all laugh at that person’s expense. The person may seem to take it in stride and may even laugh along with you, but what is going on inside of the person who is under attack? That person is being demoralized, made to feel less of a person and has become a victim to a group of people who are delighting in biting and devouring the person’s dignity and worth. This can be very demoralizing to a person and many of us have been on the side of the victim so we may well know or remember what that feels like. What may have started out in light ribbing or jest can become a blood bath for the victim. The more blood that is drawn the more the “pack” moves into devour and tear apart. Gossip works that same way.
This kind of behavior not only takes place in the work place and social gatherings; it can and does often take place in our churches and among our assembly. While this may afford some of us great entertainment it usually doesn’t come without a price, but as long as we are not the one paying it, who cares, is often our attitude.
Our scripture today reminds us that walking in love is to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are a part of doing something to someone that we wouldn’t want done to us, then we are not walking in love. Our jesting and faultfinding can sometimes turn very ugly and hateful as one party may try and out insult the other. What started out in fun can become very personal and hurtful. The Spirit of Christ is seen in Philippians 4:8, which should be our guiding, light. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.” We have the Spirit of the life of Christ in us and by His very nature we are to be life-givers and not life-takers. Speak those things, which edify and build up. In the pack mentality that will make you like a wet blanket in a blazing fire, but we were not called to be a part of the world and their thinking.
Each day, make it your objective and desire to see how many people that you can build up, edify and speak good things about. Be quick to praise others and very slow to find fault. There is a need for life-givers in a cruel and negative world. Let us fit the description of Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Blessings,
#Kent

Romans 5:6-8
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

God Loves Us Even when We are Ugly

Isn’t it wonderful that God didn’t just limit His love and grace to the few us humans that are cute and cuddly? He didn’t just love us when we loved Him and didn’t withhold His greatest expression of love toward us even when we least deserved or merited it.
Have you ever been around someone that was hard to love and get along with? On in any given day that could probably apply to any one of us. We can all have our ugly times and our ugly ways. Then there are some with which it has become a way of life. You know the ironic thing is that it is usually with the people that we love the most that we are often the most ugly. We can be ripping our spouse or children up all-day and then come to a stranger and be perfectly nice and polite.
Why is that? Perhaps it is because we feel safe venting our anger, frustration and anxieties upon the ones that we love because we feel we are safe doing it with them. Maybe it is because the ones we “love” aren’t meeting our expectations or living up to our standards. Perhaps we feel those loved ones will still love me even when my raw side is showing. Unfortunately, what was maybe a once-in-a-while bad hair day, can become a habitual bad hair life. We can become abusive on a continual basis to the ones we should love and respect the most. It may be our husband, our wife, our children, parents, family or friends.
There is a great lesson here as we look at God’s love. We see His love is unconditional and that He did love us in spite of our inward ugliness. He teaches us to be the same in our love for others. We see it coming through in the attributes of His Holy Spirit, love, joy, longsuffering, self-control, kindness, goodness, peace, meekness, faith and gentleness. As His people these attributes should be an ever-increasing part of our lives. When others are ugly toward us we have to look with the eyes of the Spirit into their hearts and ask why is this person hurting so bad that they treat others this way? Is there anything I can do in Christ to minister and help to heal those inner hurts, wounds and scars?
In our closer personal relationships perhaps we may be reaping in our loved one seeds of discontent and strife that we have sown by our own actions or insensitivity. Perhaps we have played a big part in why this loved one has become that not so lovely person. What do we need to do out of the love of Christ and the love we have for them to change our dynamics toward them to relieve these angry and resentful feelings that they may be expressing? So often anger and emotion keep us from coming to a resolution of our issues. Sometimes the expression of our anger and emotion only serve to drive those we love further away from us and cause them to withdrawal. You will never bring the head of a turtle out of his shell when he knows he is going to get clubbed as soon as He shows it. We need a truce, a cease-fire and to lay our emotions aside. We need to reconcile ourselves through the love of God to really hear and respond to the issues of the heart. Most all of us are creatures of habits and it may be those habits that are a constant source of irritation and dysfunction. Let us love one another enough to change those habits and behaviors for their sake and to help them become that lovely person again that we once knew.
What is love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Let us love one another as God in Christ has so loved us.

Blessings,
#kent

Love Your self

October 27, 2014

Galatians 5:14
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love Your self

It is interesting sometimes as a photographer to see how people view themselves. Often, when viewing family or individual photographs people can be very critical of themselves. Most often it is the women. They can see and magnify weaknesses or faults that most everyone else considers normal and a part of them. It is not uncommon that great family portraits will fail because mom doesn’t like the way she looks.
In today’s age of technology we have the skills and abilities to actually go in and alter the way someone looks. We can lift and tuck some of the sagging parts, hide the blemishes and soften the wrinkles, but the real issue may not be how we look to ourselves outwardly, but how we perceive ourselves inwardly.
On the other hand I have photographed attractive ladies who may have had a scar that could have easily been removed. I find it is often best to ask people what they do and do not want taken away, because assumptions can get you into trouble. These women that I refer too wanted their scars to remain, because to them they were a reminder of what they had been through and the gift of life that they still had. In today’s world many of us feel the pressure to live this façade of a perfect life, have a perfect body, beautiful looks, a perfect home, children and husband or wife. The truth is that that is not the real world. We all have scars, wrinkles, handicaps and weaknesses whether they are outwardly evident or not. Brushing or photoshoping over them isn’t going to take the reality of them away, nor should it. These blemishes upon our lives are the evidence that we have lived and experienced what life had to offer and that it wasn’t always nice or kind.
The Lord tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, but some of us don’t really love ourselves, so how can we love our neighbor properly? Understand that all real people have weaknesses, faults and frailties. That is a trait of our humanity. Don’t be ashamed of yourself and don’t boast in yourself, but rather see the completeness of yourself in Christ. Christ is not a crutch; He is the fulfillment and the completion of our humanity. The scars, the wrinkles and experiences that we share all testify that by the grace of God we survived them and we are still taking hold of life. The wonderful thing about our relationship with Christ is that where we end, He begins and where we are weak, He is strong.
Don’t be so harsh and judgmental of yourself. I know that sometimes I think, “God, why am I stuck with being me?” It is because in my weakness He is made strong and His grace is sufficient for all of my needs, my infirmities and my weaknesses. If you are down on yourself today it is because you don’t have your eyes on Jesus. Take courage, take heart and know that you can do all things through Christ that strengthens you. Love yourself as Christ loves you.

Blessings,
#kent

Strongholds

April 24, 2014

Mark 3:23-27a
So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

Strongholds

There are strongholds that each one of us deals with in our lives. Some may be stronger than others, but all of us have dealt with areas of our flesh where we are weak and more prone to failure and sin. Most all of us tend to want to keep these in the secret places of our closets so others won’t see, but often very ugly things reside behind the closed doors of our home and our hearts. These strongholds have fettered us and kept us in a state of bondage even as Christians for far too long. It is most often a love-hate relationship. We hate our sin and yet we love it too much to let go of it. As a result we struggle with our hypocrisy, often justifying it or rationalizing it so we can live with this bondage that is crippling our wholeness in Christ. Many of us live with much guilt and condemnation because we truly love the Lord and yet in these areas that may differ with each one of us, we are weak and seem unable to break free.
The enemy knows our areas of weakness and vulnerability. These are his inroads to our soul to hinder us and cripple us in walking in obedience in these areas. No amount of rules or laws are going to deliver us from these sensual or fleshly indulgences.
Paul says this in Colossians 2:19-13, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The truth is that Jesus Christ has bound the strong man, disarming his powers and authority. We now possess in Christ a greater power and authority than that which has bound us. Verse 10 says ‘you have been given fullness in Christ who is the head over every power and authority.’
So why are we still enslaved by these strongholds of sin and flesh? God has placed the Spirit of Christ in us to overcome the flesh. It is easy when someone does everything for you, but it doesn’t help you to grow or to find the strength you need to live in victory. God has called us to overcome in Christ Jesus.
We plead, “But I have tried and I still fail. I can’t do it.”
That is exactly right, we can’t do it, but we have a power resident within us by which we can. Romans 8:12-14 tells us, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” The key words here for us are “By the Spirit”. We have an identity in Christ that we must put on in every area of our lives. We are no longer identified with the weakness, fearfulness and the lust of our flesh. We are identified with what we possess which Colossians 2:10 says is the ‘fullness in Christ’.
Colossians 3:1-11 exhorts us, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” We must know who we are and where we now reside in the Spirit. We are not an earthly people any longer, we are a kingdom people with the King of Kings setting upon the throne our hearts and souls.
Some of us cry out in our souls and say, “I want to be free, but I can’t.” Can’t is not a statement of faith, but of fear and unbelief. “We can do all things through Christ that strengthens us.” Our greatest enemy is the deceptiveness of sin. We hide our sin in the closet because of our shame. We don’t want people to think of us less than spiritual; when in truth we are all struggling with the same garbage. It doesn’t matter how wicked or perverse the thing is that you struggle with, God sees it and He knows. It is not His will that this stronghold possesses you and rules over you. The greatest tactic of the enemy is to get you alone with your sin, like you are the only one going through this. You are not alone. We all struggle in areas of our life. Our greatest strength and victory is going to come when we bring our sin and struggles into the light and we allow the body of Christ to stand with us, pray with us and offer accountability to us. James 3:16 tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” The reason we confess our sins to one another is to bring them into the light, which renders the devil powerless. He can only work in darkness. In the light we unite with the strength and support of fellow believers who can pray with us, stand with us and help us to be accountable in those areas where we are so prone to temptation.
It is time for all of us to come out of our dysfunctional state of sin and failure. Let us help one another in coming into the full freedom and deliverance from these strongholds that have so long crippled and hindered us in our walk and full devotion to Christ. You are not alone in your struggle. Surround yourself with other solid believers that you can trust and confide in. You may find that you are able to help them as much as they can help you. Let us walk in the light as He is in the light. No more strongholds!

Blessings,
#kent

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