@robertkwendt || lead pastor
As I look out my window, I can see the trees sway.
When I walk outside, I can feel the wind blow.
When I listen during the still of night, I can hear the wind whistle.
Yet, I cannot physically see the wind. I can see the effect it leaves, but the wind itself cannot be seen.
This invisible reality impacts our visible reality all the time. We build bridges, buildings, and structures with the wind in mind. We make sure we're prepared for when it comes with force.
In the same way, there is an invisible spiritual reality that impacts our physical reality.
The key is to know it exists, where it comes from, and how to be prepared for when it stirs up some strength. Here are some things to note as we get started on this topic for the next six weeks.
there is an invisible reality that impacts our visible reality.
In writing to the Colossians, Paul says,
"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Paul refers to God creating two realities. The first is that which is visible—the things we can see. The second is that which is invisible—the things we can't see.
In the visible realm are animals, trees, humans, etc. In the invisible realm exists a spiritual reality that we cannot see with our own eyes or by our own strength; yet it's still a reality to our daily lives. In fact, it impacts us more that we may often realize.
I remember when I was a kid, I would often color pictures of angels in Sunday school class. In fact, one year my dad and I made some giant wooden angels for our church's Christmas Walk.
In each instance, the angels I colored had wings, halos, and were either multi-colored or had lights shine on them in such a way as to portray a special glow.
There's not really any clear evidence that angels look this way, but that's often how we portray them. We do this because we have to try to represent an invisible reality with visible elements.
However, what's critical isn't what angels look like, but how they interact with us and impact our daily lives. What's even more important is how to understand a reality of angels who may seek to deceive and misguide us rather than help us. We call these angels 'demons.'
So how did this all come to be? How do we understand our interaction with angels?
1. in the beginning god created everything, and it was very good.
The very first chapter of the Bible ends with this verse:
"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31 ESV)
A good God doesn't create bad things. He only creates good things.
This includes his creation of animals, humans, and even angels.
Yet, we look out at our world and we don't always see "good" things. We see that Jesus himself interacted with demons who are not "good." So, is there a disconnect with the first chapter in Genesis? Is the message confused, tangled, or full of holes? Did God actually create "not good" things?
These are all valid questions, but they assume something. They assume God is at fault. However, what if angels—the spiritual beings that God created—are the ones who actually made a choice to pursue a life apart from God? If this was the case, that would imply they chose to live opposite of a good God. And a life opposite of good is bad.
2. in god's goodness, he gave angels (and us) a choice.
Every parent dreams of their children growing up to become whatever they choose to become. Of course, parents want to see their children flourish, but they also don't want to put limits on them.
When I look at people who have really thrived in life, it's often in a world where they had to make some pretty big decisions. Sometimes it was even a lot of little decisions that led to a big outcome.
Without choices, life would be quite boring. It would be mundane. There wouldn't be freedom.
Like a parent who doesn't want to limit his or her child, God did not want to limit His creation. He didn't want to limit angels, and He didn't want to limit us as humans. So he gave us a choice.
He gave Adam and Eve a choice: a) to eat of the abundance of food he provided for them and to be okay with that, OR b) they had the option to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—gaining more insight, but facing the consequence of death. (See Genesis 2:15-17.)
He also gave angels a choice. They could either serve Him, or they could rebel and do their own thing. Like with the first humans, they also would have to suffer the consequence for their choice. And since they chose the latter, they were cast out of heaven forever. (See Jude 6.)
Both angels and humans were created to serve God. Both were also given a choice so they may be "free." In both instances, that freedom was used to rebel.
3. a civil war was created.
When a civil war takes place, one nation, team, or group becomes divided into two. The one side, for whatever reason, rebels and tries to claim its own territory or influence.
The details are not crystal clear, but what we do know is that some angels rebelled against God and, in so doing, declared a civil war of sorts. They wanted independence and control of what was God's.
War is a horrible thing. Yet, there is one thing that does come out of war each and every time: it creates unity around a common purpose and a common enemy.
In the spiritual civil war around us, there are two teams.
One team exists to oppose God and serve self.
The other team exists to glorify God and serve Him.
This is portrayed by one of the early followers of Jesus, a man named John. He wrote:
"Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8 ESV)
In this invisible, spiritual realm, there is a civil war taking place—and we are in the middle of it.
The invisible reality impacts our visible reality.
Over the next 5 weeks, we'll dive deeper into our role in the situation. And we'll examine how we can come out victorious.
But here's a preview. It ends well for those who submit to God and His ways knowing He is good.
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I've been hurt a lot.
There've been times when people have questioned my motives, character, and decision making. Times when people have made me feel beaten down and left me discouraged.
In each of these instances, I've had a decision to make. I could stay down and out, or I could pick myself up and love my enemy well.
While I'm the last one to say that I've done everything right, there is one clear lesson I have learned through it all:
Sometimes, all our enemy needs is a friend.
A friend is there when someone is hurting. A friend is there to share his or her heart and perspective. A friend listens, goes for walks, and loves another through tough circumstances. A friend actively blesses when it can be so easy to passively curse another.
This all takes intentional action. It seeks to give rather than to get. Being a friend is hard, but doing the hard thing is what shapes, forms, and molds us into the best person we can be. As we continue to walk in the ways of Jesus, we're empowered to share love, live a life free of enemies, and be victorious in all of life's circumstances.
Here are a few ways in which love actively blesses in various situations.
1. ...when it's difficult.
There have been numerous times when I started a new workout routine full of all the excitement and adrenaline in the world. That first workout is always exciting. The endorphins begin to fire. And by the end of it, I'm so jacked that I make a giant protein shake and post a picture on Instagram. Nothing will get in my way this time, I tell myself...
Then I wake up the next day.
My body aches. My muscles cramp. I convince myself that I need a day to recover. However, even after a day of rest, the pain is still there. I'm still hurting. I try to reason that one more day off would only help me go after it again...
The reality is that when we face pain of various types, we can easily make an excuse for why we need to rest. Why we need to take a break. Why we should go back to doing the very thing that hurt us.
Our relationships are much like a workout. We're excited about them in the very beginning. Nothing will stop us. But then we get hurt.
Our friend lets us down.
We discover that our spouse is not perfect.
We realize our kids aren't the top in their class.
We get hurt.
Words, actions, and even inaction knocks us over. They leave us wounded and hurting.
The easy response is to retreat. To avoid going back for more hurt.
However, like with workout, growth in our relationships doesn't happen unless we work through the pain.
In writing to those in Rome, Paul says:
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Romans 12:14).
2. ...in all circumstances toward all people.
Paul gives us a really big challenge.
He writes, "Live in harmony with one another. Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!"*
This is a big challenge in and of itself. We see how Jesus constantly traveled with, ate with, and associated with the "ordinary people" while the religious elite would comment negatively about it.
In the same way, Paul challenges us to remain humble—to associate with all people. However, he doesn't leave it there. He doesn't tell us to merely enjoy the company of ordinary people. He expands upon that.
"If possible, as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."**
He challenges us to live at peace with all people!
In order to have peace, we cannot have disunity in our relationships. We cannot view others as enemies. We instead need to see our enemies as friends.
In order to do this, we must resolve to live without enemies. Sure, people may have their problems with us. We can't control what someone else is thinking. But we can control how we act, respond, and think.
When we no longer live with enemies, but see everyone as friends—or we at least seek peace with everyone—our life becomes a whole lot more peaceful. Grudges, resentments, and anger no longer hold us back. Then joy, blessing, and encouragement move us forward.
3. ...through doing good to all.
Paul writes, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."***
The way to overcoming the "evil" in our lives is to out love him or her. I remember the day when I was a young boy and my dad was trying to make me more into a man.
He wanted me to stand up for myself. He wanted me to be strong. So he would say, "Son, don't let them bully you. Fight back. Stand your ground. Don't be pushed around."
While I understood his manly advice, I've realized that fighting back only leads to a bigger fight. Instead, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. To bless rather than to curse. To hand out love when we so easily want to bring the fist of justice.
How do we overcome our enemy? We out-love him or her.
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."****
At the root of every bully is a deep need for something. Often, people lash out or hurt us out of their own pains, struggles, and insecurities. They push us down so they can feel bigger, taller, and stronger.
Yet they're still left with an emptiness that needs to be filled. They're still hungry or thirsty. So what are we to do? We're called to feed him or her. We're to offer him or her a drink.
We are called to actively seek to give out a blessing—even when it is hard. Because at the end of the day...
Sometimes, all our enemy needs is a friend.
Who is an "enemy" in your life?
How can you bless him or her this week?
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I remember the day that I celebrated my grandparents' 50 years of marriage. At the time, I didn't even know what it meant to be alive for a quarter of a century or even to have a girlfriend for much longer than a year for that matter. Yet, I looked at their years together—the legacy they had already left and the love in which they shared—with both joy and a hope to also have that type of love one day.
As I've grown older, gotten married, and had kids of my own, I've appreciated their journey all the more. I've come to realize how love is not some feeling of continual ectasy, but a commitment through all of the highs and lows of life. Through the joys and the sorrow.
Love takes commitment. Here are some things to note in how we can love well for the long-haul.
1. check your motivation.
Why we do something is so much more important than what we do. Just recently, we celebrated Valentine's Day. For the longest of time, I rebelled against this special day. I referred to it as the "Hallmark holiday." I even justified why my girlfriend, fiancé, and then wife didn't need me to get her anything. In fact, it was the day that I would say, "Love is an everyday thing, not just a holiday type of love." I really did love her 364 days out of the year— I just rebelled against that one day.
Yet my motivation was not pure. I let my arrogance and pride get in the way of showing my wife a 365-day type of love.
In sharing about what love is, Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
"Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude."*
When it comes to why we love, the questions become: Why do we love? Is it out of obligation? Is it so we can boast? Do we do (or not do) something because of our own arrogant desires?
Loving well for the long haul begins with the right motivation.
2. challenge your focus.
Where we put the focus of our relationship matters.
At first, I always saw having a girlfriend and eventually a wife as a benefit to me. The motives were based on my desires, longings, and wants. However, what I realized is how much I was focused on myself through it all.
I love my wife best when I take the focus off of myself and place it on her. Rather than insisting on my own way or desire, I find it more enjoyable to listen to her ways and desires. It may mean putting that basketball game on record and watching it later so we can enjoy a movie or date night together. It may mean letting work stay at work so I can be fully present at home. When I get overwhelmed and focused on all that I want, I no longer am focused on my wife.
Loving well for the long haul means focusing less on ourselves and more on the other.
"It [love] does not insist on it's own way; it is not irritable or resentful."**
3. converse honestly.
I've heard it be said, "A little white lie never hurt anyone."
This is so far from the truth.
From small to big lies, they all directly impact our relationships. Lies never lead to anything beneficial, and they're always discovered. They always tear down trust and never build it up.
There is a famous proverb that says, "Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed."***
If we are to have healthy relationships, then we should speak openly and honestly. Telling the truth can be hard. In fact, it may leave us feeling like we'll be rejected. However, every time we tell the truth, we continue to build trust rather than tear it down. The sting of what we have to say may hurt, but the truth behind it builds trust and credibility.
We often lie because we want to make ourselves look better. We believe the lie that, if we hold back from sharing the truth, then the other person won't see our flaws. They may even think of us as better than we know we are. Yet, as the proverb reminds us, lies are soon exposed.
A relationship that is built on lies will not last.
"It [love] does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth."****
4. commit to the journey.
Have you ever been traveling somewhere and then suddenly made a wrong turn? Maybe you were in the middle of a new place and suddenly became lost. At that moment, you are committed. You are on the journey, and there is no easy way to just turn around and go back.
In our relationships, our commitment is much the same way. We are committed. We are on the journey, and at times we may get lost. Hardship will come, struggles will happen, arguments will take place.
It is in the hard times that we are able to show our true commitment. We are able to embrace the situation and get through it together. We may need to stop and ask for directions. We may need to reprogram the GPS. We may need to reset our bearings. No matter what we have to do, we must commit to being in it together.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."*****
The ultimate expression of love is Jesus Christ himself. He came and sacrificed everything so that we may have everything. However, he did not come and take away our sickness, pain, and hardship in this life. He did not come to wipe away the agonies of this world—at least not yet. However, he promised to be with us forever.
When we face a terminal diagnosis, Jesus is with us.
When we are struck with anxiety and fear, Jesus is with us.
When we have hardship and pain, Jesus is with us.
He never promises to free us from the pain, but he promises to be with us through it.
Our relationships should reflect that same type of commitment. We cannot take away the pain, sickness, anxiety, or hardship of another person. However, we can journey through it with them.