Do unto others . . . ?

Today as I read from Genesis 20, I kept thinking back to Pastor Carter’s teaching during Boot Camp when he said “when you read the Bible, try to interpret the Big Picture.”

Most people know the story of Abraham when he came into Gerar, and told the foreigners that Sarah, his wife, was really his sister. Abimelech, king of Gerar, then sent for Sarah.

During the night, God came to Abimelech and warned him not to take Sarah, “for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3 ESV). At this point in the story (because he was unaware of his sin against Abraham and Sarah), Abimelech first begs for mercy from God,

In the morning, as Abimelech told his servants the truth of Sarah, the men became afraid.

Abimelech called for Abraham, returned Sarah to him, then questioned Abraham’s motives for giving her away.

At this point in the story, I get caught up in the variety of emotions that befell the king.  Abimelech found favor in Sarah, pleads with God for mercy, fears his looming sin, then probes Abraham for answers.

What follows this, I declare to be the big picture.

Even though Abimelech has gone through a night of misfortune, distress, or whatever you call it, he calls Abraham and says “My land is before you; live wherever you like” and he gives Abraham sheep, cattle, slaves, and 1,000 shekels of silver.

Wow – a man (Abimelech) that almost sinned, due to no clear fault of his own, goes back to the man (Abraham) who honestly created the environment for the king to stumble, and offers him a fortune.

What can we learn from this?  Forgiveness….  Love….  Obedience….

How much does God love us, really?

We have all heard it:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

Yesterday during our sermon on witnessing and loving the lost, it occurred to me just how much God loves us. While we all know that God does in fact love us, I don’t think I ever realized just how much.

Sure, I understand that He created us, (in His image, no less), and that He wants us to be His children. I even get that He sent His son to die for us – a love that seems unsurpassable.

But what really hit me yesterday occurred during Pastor Carter’s message. He was referring to the lost people of this world and how they are living lives that can be filled with sin, generally because they don’t know how bad it really is.

That’s when it hit me. God knows! God knows how sinful the lost are. He knows how sinful I was, how sinful I am, and how sinful I will still be. He knows I am going to fail him, yet He still loves me.

His love is truly unconditional; similar to the love a father has for a son (which I know, because I love my son more than anyone does – except God, of course). Still, God loves us more!

Despite what we have done, are doing, or will do, God loves us and has provided a way for every one of us to have eternal life.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Love is

Love – a word we overuse.

I know what you’re thinking – overuse?

That’s right! But you may say, there is not enough love in this world!?! And you are CORRECT!   …wait…what?

My loving Mother-in-law says I’m a “literal” thinker – so let’s analyze this….

  1. We overuse the word love – check!
  2. We don’t have enough love – check!

Therefore, we are only using the word “love” too much, and not “loving” enough.

For example, how many of us say that we “love” pizza (or any other food, electronic, service, etc….).

That is not love – it is merely something we “enjoy.”

The Bible says that

  • God is love
  • Love is patient
  • We should love one another
  • …. and on and on!

These are all true.

I’m sure we have all heard sermons on love: loving God, loving one another, agape love, and on. So what is different about this?

Today I came across this pic, which reminded me of childhood love. Not the puppy love that an older child has for another girl or boy, but the kind of unconditional love that a child has for God and for each other as human beings.

Young children don’t have prejudices like we do. And most children can become instant friends, with mere nothing in common but a desire to have fun around each other. They don’t hold back their love.

Childhood hearts are so innocent that they can freely express their love without fear of any response. As we prepare for the weekend (which I know we are all anticipating), let’s remember that when it comes to God, He wants us to freely love Him. Don’t fear what others will say, do, or how they will react.

God loved us so much that He gave us His Son. Jesus loved us enough to give Himself, 100% for you and me.

Let’s not just say we love Him, but actually love God freely, without holding back.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Most people don’t realize that Valentine’s Day began as a religious celebration of one or more saints known as “Valentinus.”

Legend has it that one saint was imprisoned in the 3rd century for ministering to and helping to illegally marry persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire. It has been recorded that this saint wrote a love letter to the jailer’s daughter that initiated the tradition, signed “From your Valentine.”

Over the years, various religious denominations picked up the holiday and still celebrate the love it represents in churches across the world.  Although not considered a holiday in many countries, it is still celebrated worldwide under secular influences, with hearts, chocolates, and flowers (with cupid now playing the lead role).

Today, while we celebrate the love we have for each other, I want us to remember the love that God first showed us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

19 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:7-11, 19 ESV)

Drones: Rated PG-14

Drones – The Movie, Rated: PG-14 – for “Pushy Government in 2014”

The government has been using drones for years, but mostly in military applications and border operations.  In the past few years the cost of drones has dropped, and law enforcement agencies have begun to use unmanned aircraft to spy over properties in an effort to better police the public in certain circumstances.

Recently, the use of drones without warrants has become a matter of public debate and outrage.  Similar to the manner in which the NSA collects data from telephones and the internet, the privacy of the American citizen continues to be challenged more and more as technology evolves.

The debate has reached the U.S. courts, and while some courts have ruled this “spying” as unconstitutional, others have held up the actions and allowed the use of drones without a warrant.

  • What do you think?
  • If it’s ok to spy in your backyard from the air, is it ok to spy in your windows?

 

That may be the next step.  Why do I bring this up? Your life is NOT private anymore!

As Americans, we believe we have a right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of privacy.  However, these are only laws written by man. The truth is that:

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of [God] to whom we must give account.”  (Hebrews 4:13 NIV)

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth – He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Psalm 33: 13-15 NIV)

While we do have some unalienable rights as Americans, written into our constitution, we also have a right and duty to live as God would have us to live. Sure, I’m not any happier about how the government continues to insist they have more power than the citizens, but at the same time, I have a contractual right with God to behave (and obey) Him as His child. Maybe we should put as much effort into being His child and following His Commands and Great Commission that some people put into fighting the government.

 

Political Note: I do not believe the Government has half of the rights they have insisted to proclaim in the past few years, but WE the people elected those in office whether we like it or not.  If we don’t like it, then every one of us better vote next time.  In the meantime, remember what the Bible says about authorities: “1Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2 NIV)

TGIF

TGIF – Thank God It’s Friday! That’s a common phrase heard at businesses all over the US, and probably even abroad. We get so beat down at work each day that by Friday, we are really thankful that the weekend is upon us.

Is this how God intended life? I would suggest the answer is NO.  In Genesis, Adam is given the host of the ground and all the animals for food and life.

But, by chapter 3, we discover that man has already fallen into the temptation of sin, and now God must punish man for his sinful nature.  In Genesis 3:17-19, we find that the ground is now cursed “because of [sin]….  It will produce thorns and thistles for [us]….  By the sweat of [our] brow….”

So, what should we do now?  I think the answer can be found in Psalms.  Throughout this book, we find David and others pleading to the Lord for answers.  And what I find is that throughout the book, we also find unending praises to the Lord.  

We shouldn’t let “the world” get to us.  When we are down on life, we need to remember that God loves us and He created us for a purpose.  We have a decision to make: will we let the world (and our bosses or jobs) get to us? Or will we praise the Lord for what He has done, what He IS doing, and what He has promised for our future?

Psalm 144:1-2 “Praise be to the LORD my Rock…. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”

Psalm 145:1-2 “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.”

Psalm 146:1-2 “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

On priorities

Dating: for singles, the concept is normal. However, for married couples, the concept may be a little unfamiliar.  In fact, I don’t remember the last time my wife and I dated. We tried, unsuccessfully, last fall. However, after much coaxing, my wife has convinced me to go out with her again. Now that’s the wrong way for things to work!

Actually, we have been so busy with moving, homeschool, church, fixing up the house . . . you name it!

Wait, those are just excuses! We are all adults here, right? That means WE have the choice where we set our priorities and what we do with our time. We just CHOOSE to “say” that we must do something else. In reality, all of us have to make decisions about what we spend our time doing.

Unfortunately that’s the way church is sometimes. We don’t have “time” to teach Sunday School, go on mission trips, or minister in the local community. In reality, these are choices we consciously make.

Hey, I’m not trying to step on toes – I am guilty of not prioritizing very well also. Sure there are things that must be done (like paying bills), but other items not done around the house won’t cause us to wind up in jail if we take a few moments to spend with our children playing, with our wives on a date, or at church serving a need.

Jesus said that:

“…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:7-9 ESV)

Note, it does not say that busyness is an exception for allowing a man and wife to separate. It does not say that kids’ sports or activities, house clutter, work, or other time consuming task is an acceptable excuse.  It says that the two are one; and if two are one, then they better spend time becoming ONE, not TWO again.

And for us men out there, a reminder about Jesus’ teaching on how to love:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

Now, if we think about HOW Christ loved the church, He gave His life for it.  Thus, we are to give our lives for that of our wives.

That being said, it is time to do just that! The best way I have learned to give my life to my wife is spending time with her.  Therefore, date night is upon us!

Kimberly, will you go out with me tomorrow night? (I hope she says YES, this is posted in a public domain!)

ThanksGIVING or ThanksPUSHING?

Picture1I believe that all of us enjoy Thanksgiving. We take a break, normally with family, and sit and really do give thanks to God for everything that we have: our health, our family, our friends, our house, our “stuff,” ….

Unfortunately, with the upcoming Christmas rush, and ESPECIALLY Black Friday, we seem to forget all of that.  We RUSH to the mall, pushing past the slow people, trampling others, in order to save a buck. How is it that we go from thankFUL to thankLESS and disrespect fellow man?

I know it would have been more appropriate to post this yesterday prior to Black Friday starting at 6PM on Thursday, but this is more evidence that the world is winning over Christianity.  It’s now more acceptable to get STUFF than spend time with family and the important things in life (Hey, I’m guilty too, so I’m not condemning anybody – I went out at 8 PM last night).

But let’s all try to remember today, that just yesterday we were THANKING God, because He IS GREAT and should be thanked for all things.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17 NASB)

[Source of photo: cannot be attributed to actual source but found on Google.com]

1 Corinthians 13

Very simply today, I want to remind us of LOVE.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV)

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

If you enjoy modern Christian music, here is a link to King & Country’s The Proof of Your Love that interprets this passage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-2dKOfbC9c

What if….

What if….  A common phrase we use almost everyday when analyzing problems and situations.

However, if we take a look at this use of “What if,” we’ll discover a whole new outlook:

What if you knew that Jesus was coming back tomorrow?

A song by Kris Allen found here ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbfeSImDntw ) serves to remind us 1) live each day for its fullest, 2) love your family before it’s too late, and 3) you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

While these are all good points, I think if we apply Scripture to the same “What if we knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow,” then we come back with a similar, but more broad application of all 3 points.

1)  Mark 8:36 (KJV) “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Living each day to it’s fullest means looking towards Heaven and the return of Jesus, to help us to live a more satisfying and fruitful life. Living only for the world will result in a futile and timely passing of all things, including our soul.

2) 2 Tim 4:1-2 (KJV) “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” Along with the Great Commission, I believe this verse points us to constantly love others through the sharing of Christ with them. We should not limit our love to just our family, but also loving others . . . Loving others enough to overcome our fear of rejection or shame, and telling them about Christ’s love and sacrifice for all people.

3) Matthew 24:36 (KJV) – “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” When we lose something, we sometimes realize it didn’t mean much until we actually lose it. In this life, we have a limited time. God has established a day for each of us. Whether it be end of life, or the return of Jesus, the clock is ticking. We need to realize the value of time and the shortness of breath that we have. Each of us have loved ones that don’t know Christ. How much do you value their life?

Taking the position of “What if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow,” what would you change in your life?  So . . . . what are you waiting for? Live like you’re dying, or in this case, Live like you know time is of the essence, and help save the Lost – tell them about Jesus.