Worthy Life

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Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. 

“But you don’t know what this person did to me!” “How can I treat them with gentleness and patience when they are the ones clearly in the wrong?” I have heard people say many times, “I wish everyone would just follow the Golden Rule (treat others the way you want to be treated).” As I heard the person say this, I remembered how they bad mouthed another person right before that.

Living in humility, gentleness and patience in this world is not easy. This kind of life is so against how everyone else wants us to live. We walk around wanting to get revenge, or even hold back forgiveness. But, in reality, who is holding back forgiveness and plotting revenge really hurting? See we want to have justice done, but we forget how damaging attitudes like that actually are to our soul. We become calloused and do not see people as God sees them. We’ll focus on the brokenness and become blinded to any amount of goodness in another person. There is no one too far away from God to come close and know God. We can be the people to show others this incredible grace by our words, actions, and even thoughts.

Our attitudes are the most important thing that people will remember about us after we have an encounter with them. This realization struck me several years ago when I found myself not wanting to offer forgiveness to a person who hurt me. Somehow, God brought healing into my heart and I was able to forgive. This doesn’t mean I condone or tolerate what the person did; instead I released the control that negative attitude had on my life.

Though I am far from being a very humble person, I ask God daily to show me the qualities in people He desires me to see. When I look at people, I am in awe at how God is moving in their life, even when they can’t see it for themselves. We are all called to show and teach people about the Kingdom of God and God’s grace. People will be turned away if we have, even the slightest hint of, a feeling we think we’re better than them. Jesus Christ has made it so that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. “There is no slave or free, Jew or Gentile….all are one in Christ Jesus.” This is the spirit we should work with because the Spirit of God is residing in us.

God is working in all people, in some way. He has also called us to a live of serving and loving those around us, even the difficult ones (add your own phrase); but God still desires we live in humility, peace and gentleness with each other. This does not come easily to us; in fact it goes against our basic instincts. But, this means we have the chance to call on God and allow His Spirit to work through us.

God is calling, and has called, you and me to change the world with Him by proclaiming Jesus Christ in all aspects of our lives; and to make us a “city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden.”

#TheGospelChangesUs

Sharing What We’ve Learned

Ephesians 3:1-7 This is why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles. You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right? God showed me his secret plan in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before (when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan about Christ). Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power. 

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At first when I read this, it almost seems that Paul is acting smug, “I know this…and was revealed to ME…” But I think there is something deeper to what Paul is saying. If this were this only passage we read of Paul’s writings, we miss what the entire message is. Paul is overflowing with the grace of God and is held responsible to share this grace with all people he encounters.

Think of a time when you were given knowledge. Were you the only one? Did it make you feel part of the group to know the same things they know? We all like to be “in the know” and to know things other people don’t. This can give us superiority and authority over others. If we’re not careful, we will us that knowledge for ourselves. There is always something more that we can know other people don’t. Secrets and gossip are rampant. I have fun with people when I sing to them, “I know something you don’t know.” This is a fun thing to do.

Now, what if we are given some incredible news, like anything God reveals to us, and we just try to keep it to ourselves and don’t share? Paul is reminding us that he has a responsibility to share the good news that was revealed to him. I believe God still reveals wisdom and truth to us today through His Spirit. What is something you feel God has spoken to you? Paul is saying that the plan of God is to bring ALL people to God through Jesus Christ. This is an awesome plan because that means that God is wanting you and me to come to faith and knowledge in Him. This is something we cannot keep to ourselves. If we are given some insight to what God is doing, that means we are spending time with God and we see the world through His eyes which means we share what we have learned.

This is one of the things I love about the book of Ephesians, about the whole Bible really, that God’s grace and mercy is available for all people. There are stories in the Old Testament through the New Testament that show God speaking to His people and giving them a word or insight the rest of the culture needs to hear. This is what Paul is doing. This is what we are called to do.

Because of Jesus Christ everything is different. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that changes us and transforms us to new creations who go out and make a difference in the lives of those around us and share in the goodness of God in all aspects of our lives.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Level Playing Field

Ephesians 2:14-22 Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God. When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit. 

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How do you feel about other people? What causes divisions between groups of people? Isn’t it interesting how the Gospel of Jesus Christ promotes reconciliation and repentance of sin by God’s grace, and we get it through our heads to “hate” other people because they are not like us. But we can also think, “how are this person, or this group, and I similar?” Doesn’t this change how we might think about others? Thinking we could be like them?

Now, there are people who will disagree with this, but God does not want His people to divide the world. He wants the world to be reconciled to Himself and for all people to come to faith in Him. We are the ones who want to divide. We are the ones who think because someone is different, then they are bad and shouldn’t be “in the group.”

Does this sound like anyone you might know? As I am writing this, I realize I am describing ME. My guess is that description is also you. It seems to be human nature to be around people who are just like us. This makes us more comfortable. But God, wants us to be engaged in, not influenced by, the world around us. I believe the first thing to do is to come to faith in Christ so that we can be filled with His love, His presence, His life and see the world through His eyes.

Jesus broke all kinds of cultural boundaries, but He did it because He loves. We like to ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?” This is a dangerous question to ask because we know what Jesus would do, we just don’t always want to do what He would do. Jesus leveled the playing field. Because of Jesus there is no separation from lepers and society. Samaritans and Jews. Pharisees and citizens. Jews and Gentiles. Black or white. There is no distinction in any group because Christ breaks the veil we use to separate “us” from “them.”

This reconciliation God did through Christ first restores our relationship and standing with God and then frees us to bring reconciliation and healing to those around us who are “different” from us. Having our relationship with God restored means we allow God to change our lives from the inside out and we allow Christ to lead our lives. It begins with a simple communication and belief. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about our relationship with God, but also our relationship with other people. This is why Jesus summed up the Law with two phrases, “love God and love people.” The Gospel changes EVERYTHING because now we can realize we are all on the same playing field with God. Some are coaches, some are players, some are caring for the team, some are in the stage of learning, etc. We are all on the same team. The Gospel changes us.

See you tomorrow in Ephesians 3!

#TheGospelChangesUs

Not By Us

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Ephesians 2:8-10 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. 

This is the message of the gospel, “God freely gives grace to us.” Receiving something for nothing is hard for us to do. We want to have to earn a gift, earn favor, earn respect; but that is not how God works. God freely gives grace, or does he? Grace has come at a cost, the death of Jesus Christ. So giving grace to us may not cost us anything, but it cost God greatly. He lived this life as a human to show how we are supposed to live, and people put Him to death. But that is not the end of the story! Jesus Christ walked out of that tomb three days later because death cannot keep God contained. His life, His presence is too powerful that it cannot be kept silent or locked up. There is so much power, so much grace, so much love from God, that He wants nothing more than to lavish His people with this amazing gift; and we do not have to do anything except accept the gift and allow it to change our life!

I believe God gives us this gift freely, and without and human earning, is because He knows how pride can and does destroy the fabric of how society ought to live. He knows that we cannot handle trying to earn His grace because we would all think we are better than the person next to us; when in reality, we are in the exact same position as them. This levels the playing field so that we do not think, or are not supposed to think, we are better than anyone else.

Living in and accepting in God’s grace means there is some work to be done. Each of us has been gifted with this grace to do works that God has lined out for us. We are all working toward a common goal, to work with Christ to show people the Kingdom of God, but each of us has roles to play and parts to work in. It is through these works that God’s light shines through us and we remember what God has done in us and through us. This makes us God’s accomplishment.

God knows we will mess up and turn away from Him at different parts of our life, but when we are doing what God calls us to do, God is proud and can revel in His masterpiece, His handiwork which is you and me. You may not feel like a masterpiece at times; but remember, it takes time to become the perfect instrument, or to play with perfection. You are an incredible person!

#TheGospelChangesUs

Everyday Prayers

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Ephesians 1:15-19 Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. 

One of the things I love about Paul is how much his life revolves around prayer. Paul prays all the time and for everyone he has encountered. This shows us how serious Paul took praying and how it impacted his life. Something else that stands out to me is not that Paul prayed, but what he prayed for.

What are some things you personally pray for? I hear people pray for healing, for successful surgeries, for health, for safe travels, for blessings on meetings and events. It seems many of us, including me, look at prayer as something to do only when there are health issues or we want God to bless “our” efforts and work.

There are also people who pray for so much more than just physical healing or ailments. They go straight to the human condition, adding in spiritual, emotional, mental, AND physical healing and wholeness for those they love and those they consider to be enemies.

Going back over this passage today, we can see what it was that Paul was praying for. Bottom line is, he prayed for the power of God to be evident in each person so that we remember who we belong to and what it is we truly work for. So Paul begins by saying he thanks God for each person. What a great prayer. A simple “thank you” prayer. Lately I have found myself praying and giving thanks for the challenging people and situations in my life. It has helped me to see them and work with them as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Not everyone or everything will go smoothly, but we can thank God because He is with us and is also with the other people.

He also goes on to say he prays for the spirit of wisdom so that God is made known to the people. We should do this today so that others come to know the joy that is found in Jesus Christ. Who do you know that you can pray for to come to faith? Have you prayed for yourself in this area for your faith to become stronger?

Paul also basically prays for the light of Jesus Christ to be shown through each believer so that the incredible power of God will be made known among those around us. Think about this, Paul has been beaten and has been imprisoned, shipwrecked, thrown out-of-town, mocked, ridiculed, and so much more. Through all of this he ca still praise God and give thanks for the people. Many of his converts were also people who did some of the things to him. Think of the forgiveness Paul had in his heart. He remembered he was no where near perfect, and this helped him to pray for all people, give thanks for them AND for God’s power and presence to be made known in them and through them.

We are challenged daily to go beyond superficial prayers, through we need to continue praying for physical healing and safety; but we should also look toward the spiritual realm, the emotional realm, the mental and relational. God is so incredible and big enough to handle things we may not want to lift up. This is part of the power of the gospel.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Out in the Open

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Ephesians 1:9-14 God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. 10 This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. 11 We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. 12 We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ. 13 You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory. 

So check this out, God’s message is not hidden to us. Many people can go through life trying to “figure out” God and what God wants us to do in this life. So many people get caught up in this that it is easy to miss out on life and see all that God has revealed through creation and through the working of the Spirit within each person all around us.

Not only did God reveal everything to us through Jesus Christ, but we are reminded that each of us was thought of before time began. God has chosen to be in relationship with us even before anyone even dreamed of us. We were thought of by the Creator of the universe and thus each have a purpose to fulfill. We may begin to ask the question, “what does God want to accomplish in my life?”

Asking a question like this helps us realize that God can and does use us; but this questions can also cause us to think that we are not good enough for God to use. So, Paul goes on an explains more about the gospel (good news) message of Jesus Christ. We get to read more about this message as Ephesians goes on. Part of the message is that we get to bring honor to God because God accomplishes much in our lives. Yes, we have been given gifts but it is necessary to thank the One who gave those gifts and talents whenever we have the opportunity to use them and use them well.

There is a spiritual inheritance promised by God and we have received the down payment, the Holy Spirit. This is to remind us we are not alone. Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being a comforter, the Holy Spirit speaks through us, the Holy Spirit gives power. Paul explains the Spirit prays for us, the Spirit gives gifts, etc. The Holy Spirit is an incredible gift we have because it means the Living God is inside us and is working in us and through us. It is God who is accomplishing the works through us because of the Spirit.

How will you live differently knowing the Holy Spirit of God is in you? Have you trusted Christ as Savior and Lord? Trusting and hoping in Christ is the first part of willingly unleashing the power of the Spirit within us. God has much to do in us and through us. All this have been thought of since before time began. We choose to live for ourselves or God. His message is out in the open, ready for ALL people. Do you believe?

#TheGospelChangesUs

Know Who & Who’s You Are

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Ephesians 1:3-8 Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world.God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. 

Ever have a day or days when you do not feel like you have enough? Where does this attitude or mindset come from? We can get too easily wrapped up in trying to get the better or best things in life and we can miss the true best that we have available.

Here’s what I love about the first chapter of Ephesians: Paul is laying out the gospel and reminding the readers, and us, what we have that God has given us. The truth is that we have “every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven.” What does this mean? This may not mean that we are gifted with material items, though it might. But we are blessed with even more important things than anything money can buy. We have received forgiveness which means we are released from the guilt that holds us back. We have received grace which means we can experience, and share, God in our lives and around us. We have been gifted and blessed with love, peace, hope, joy, etc. God has given us every spiritual blessing in heaven. We really do have everything, even if it seems others have more materially.

On top of all of this, each one of us is chosen by God. No matter what has been done in the past, there is redemption through Jesus Christ. We may not be able to forgive ourselves, but God will forgive because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of our sins (past, present and future). There is a way to begin a new life and  allow Christ to make a new creation out of us. Because of Christ, we are open for adoption into the King’s family. This makes you a prince or princess in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul’s letter is not meant to puff up our ego, but rather to remind us who we are. We can easily forget this; we are children of God and made in His image. Believe this and you can experience a freedom in this life and a new confidence that will help you and I be more loving, grace-filled, peaceful, forgiving, etc.

Christ poured out His blood on the cross, and we have been accepted into God’s family. I encourage you to ponder what this means for you and to accept the gift God has given through Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity to continue to explore this gospel, good news, message over the next few days as we continue in Ephesians 1.

Believe in Jesus Christ and live. You are God’s child and you are special and unique. God’s grace is being poured on you today, just trust and accept it.

God chooses you!

New Month, Same Amazing Grace

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Ephesians 1:1-2  From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will. To the holy and faithful people in Christ Jesus in Ephesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

It is hard to believe that we have now entered into February. Time seems to be moving faster and we still have so much to do. We almost seem to have a never ending to do list and feel like everything changes all around us and we have to somehow keep up. This can cause added stress into our lives. One things that doesn’t change is God, His will and His grace.

Paul knows he has been called into his profession by God. He has learned to follow God’s will, even when it wasn’t safe or completely clear for him. Paul has been all over the known world, during his missionary tours, and even after encountering all types of people, he can still begin his letters with “Grace and peace.” Can we do this today? Remember God’s will for us is to love God and love other people.

One thing that stands out to me is how Paul addresses the people he is writing to, “The holy and faithful people.” The amazing thing is that he knew he was writing to imperfect people but he still called them “holy and faithful.” I wonder how people would describe us when we are not around, or are trying to speak to us?

I believe this is a high calling for our lives. One that comes to completion over time. But we can still strive to be “holy and faithful” in our words, our actions, our thoughts, etc. So starting the letter to the Ephesians in this manner should also have us think today.

We have started a new month. Last month we make mistakes (and will continue to make mistakes this month); but God lavishes grace and riches upon us, even though we do not deserve it. This is grace that God can still look at us and call us “holy and faithful.” Life does not have to be perfect or completely in order, but we have new chances to live into the calling God placed on our lives.

#AmazingGrace

Live for the Harvest

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Galatians 6:6-10 Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher. Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. 

What have you learned this week? Is this something you’ll keep to yourself or will you share the information? When we learn something for the good of those around us, even those who teach us, it helps us grow in our faith and can help the other person grow in their faith as well. This is a passage that we can take in many areas of our lives. Today we can think of this to mean the “good works” we do for people, but as I was thinking about this, something else seems to stand out more for me.

Yes we should continue doing good works and help those in need. And we should also remember the fruit of the Spirit at the end of Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If this is fruit we should see in our lives, how does the harvest look for us and for those we encounter daily?

So we can plant kindness, or impatience. Love or hate. Peace or turmoil. The list can go on and on. If we look to benefit ourselves, we will leave a trail of destruction in our path and we will not be able to harvest the “fruits” from those we harm. “But, there are people who need to be taken down and shown they are in the wrong and their actions will not be tolerated!” I can imagine other thoughts people may have along those lines. But if we really take time to think about it, we are really living for ourselves, embracing our own prejudices and not “loving our neighbor as ourselves,” when we put others’ needs after our wants.

Jesus does say, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19 NIV). So the question comes in, what are we “binding up on earth?” If we bind up love and peace we can know the Kingdom of God here and now. If we bind up hatred or any form of prejudice, we miss out on the opportunity to live in grace.

It can be tiring to keep doing “good” to those around us. But we cannot get tired of doing good. We should continue to do what we can, how we can, in the strength and guidance of the Spirit. Anything that degrades value or demeans another person goes against how God desires us to live in community with each other. We can, instead, choose a different path. We have the freedom because of Jesus Christ to love God and love people. How does this play out in your life?

Even when we come across people who make us angry, frustrate us, those we don’t understand or agree with their lifestyle, we can still be the hands and feet of Christ to ALL people because each person is made in the image of God. Jesus Christ was a friend of the sinners (prostitutes, tax collectors, liars, cheats, the stuck up, the loathing, you and me).

Live in the freedom Christ gives by never stopping or tiring of doing good. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. Build up the community and let the light of Jesus Christ shine through so that everyone around us can see and experience the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of God.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Sharing Life

Today, we begin the final chapter in Galatians. This is a great chapter on how we should live in community with others in the faith.

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Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. Each person will have to carry their own load. 

Throughout the letter of Galatians, Paul is speaking of a personal faith in Christ and how Christ gives individuals freedom. Now in chapter 6, the last chapter of this letter, Paul shifts his focus from the individual to the community. This should remind us that Christ is working in us personally, but Christ is also working through the community. I am not going to pretend that living in a community is easy; nor will I say it is peaceful. When we add other people into our lives, life becomes more, not less complicated. But, Paul is reminding us how we should live and encourage each other.

Paul reminds us that we should be gentle. Oftentimes we say that the other person needs to be told just like it is and it doesn’t matter how the words come out. They need to know they are wrong! This is true; but there seems to be a way to correct, but also build up so that the other person can become better. We can affirm the person’s strengths and good qualities, then we can speak of what went wrong. The end of verse one is something we should also keep in mind: Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. This reminds us that we are also susceptible for the same kinds of actions and attitudes as that of the person we are there to correct.

We do not live this life alone so. This statement by Paul reminds us how we should be with each other: Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. I think it is awesome, Paul found another way to say the simple phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the law of Christ. We should be the people who do not allow others to live, or think they live, this life alone; there are always people there for them even when life seems to go down the drain. But he also goes on to say, If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves.” To me, this means we need to be humble and not think highly of ourselves. Many times if we are trying to help someone in need, we want them to get the help they need, our way. It becomes hard to listen to a person who thinks they are more important than they are.

Conversely, we should not compare ourselves with anyone else. We should be the people who do our work to the glory of God, which means we do it as best as we can. Then, when our work is tested, we know for sure we did what we were supposed to do. We have our own work to do, so we must do our job and not add to other people’s work load just because we don’t want to do it.

Our faith in Christ gives us absolute freedom to be there for people, no matter how different they are from us, and to do our work the best we can. When we live in this way, we proclaim Christ with our entire lives, words and actions.

“LiveFreeInChrist

*photo credit: counselingoneanother.com