Posts Tagged ‘Love’

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MALADY OF THE EXPERT – May 16

May 16, 2014

“Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” John 8:49

Hello my name is Expert
We live in a land of experts.

If we have a disease, we go to the hospital’s experts.
If we want knowledge, we go to the University’s experts.
If our car maintenance light glows, we go to the car dealership’s experts.

Tax issues – specialist in accounting.
Court issues – specialist in law.
Building issues – specialist in engineering.

We expect our specialists to have answers. We pay them for answers. Often, specialists are cast aside until we find the one who agrees with what we want to do. Even if we can get the answer we want, a bad response is often better than the uncertainty of  “I don’t know.”

We want to know.

This expectation of answers has probably always been at the bedrock of religion. We want answers for our questions of the physical world and we want answers to our questions of the spiritual world.  I recognize the expert’s attitude exerted against Jesus by the Pharisees in chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of John. That similar attitude seems to echo through the theological debates of our time. They provided reason and rationale as to why Jesus was not the Christ.

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” (John 7:20)

But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. (John 7: 27)

…But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:41)

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (John 7:52)

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13)

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? (John 8:52-53)

Yet, these proclamations of experts proved to be false and misguided. Their expertise in the Law failed them because it was not based on complete understanding. They were applying flawed, sinful understanding to a manifestation that was without precedent. They rejected the Christ because He did not fit the model in which they were so convinced He would appear. Jesus did not come as they expected, therefore, he could not have been the Christ. Their expertise did not adequately provide the understanding to inform them of the events that were transpiring around them.

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)

I read the Pharisees’ objections to Christ and can uncomfortably relate to their self-assured theological knowledge. They were the experts of theology for their day and based on their knowledge they had answers. It just happened to be horribly wrong answers based on a lack of understanding.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Infant Baptism vs. Adult Baptism
Charismatic Gifting vs Cessationism
Sunday Worship vs. Saturday Worship
King James Only vs. ESV Only vs. NASB Only
Traditional Service vs. Contemporary Service vs. SOMA Service
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism

How much of the rhetoric from these debates is honoring to our Father?

I have studied these issues and I have my opinions. However, I also know that those who do not share my opinions can advocate their position from scripture. I don’t know of a better illustration of this fact than the debate moderated by John Piper between Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson, and Sam Storms. (An Evening of Eschatology – Piper, Hamilton, Wilson, Storms)

Three capable theologians, who love and follow Jesus, came to three different conclusions based on their understanding of scripture. The fact is that two or maybe all three are wrong. Someone has made a wrong decision based on flawed understanding. Yet, churches have split over these issues in ways that I view as dishonoring our Father. It is the malady of the experts.

Since we are all subjected to the same malady, the only cure is grace.

crossChrist was perfectly clear in His teaching to the Pharisees about who He is.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, “I am”. (John 8:58)

The further away we get from that central teaching – Jesus Christ and him crucified – the more grace we need to show our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As we mature in our faith, we should delve into the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6) However, we must resist the arrogance of the experts.

We must show grace in our theological assertions for our more immature brothers and sisters so that their faith “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

We must show humility in our debates, understanding our inherently flawed understanding of the mysteries of God.

Imagine how glorifying God’s church would be, if our debates were dominated by experts of humble grace rather than experts of flawed understanding.

PRAYER: Father, you know that I am inclined toward the attitude of the expert.  Forgive me for caring more about winning a theological argument than showing grace to a fellow heir in Christ.  Forgive me of the dishonor that has been wrought when love was not my foremost objective.  Lord, make me into an expert of humble grace.  Give me wisdom in delving into your wonderful mysteries.  Remind me of my continuing lack of understanding to keep me humble.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
~ Alexander Pope

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QUOTE (Amy Carmichael) – Mar.6

March 6, 2014

Amy Carmichael with children

“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that’ll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God”
~ Amy Carmichael

In honor of Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India, who sheltered her first temple runaway on this day in 1901.  The runaways from the temples were young girls dedicated to the Hindu gods and forced into prostitution to earn money for the priests.

Resources:
Today in Christian History – March 6
Amy Carmichael>Quotes

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QUOTE (John Newton) – Feb 1

February 1, 2014

English: John Newton (1725-1807)

“When I indulge myself with a particular thought of you, it usually carries me on farther, and brings me upon my knees to bless the Lord, for giving me such a treasure, and to pray for your peace and welfare . . . when I take up my pen, and begin to consider what I shall say, I am led to think of the goodness of God, who has made you mine, and given me a heart to value you. Thus my love to you, and my gratitude to him, cannot be separated. . . . All other love, that is not connected with a dependence on God, must be precarious. To this want, I attribute many unhappy marriages.”
~ John Newton, from a letter to his wife Mary

In honor of John Newton, Pastor and hymn writer, who was married to Mary Catlett on this day in 1750.  They were married for 40 years.

Resources:
Today in Christian History – February 1
John Newton on Marriage by Review of Letters to His Wife

 

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QUOTE (Martin Luther King Jr.) – Jan 15

January 15, 2014

MLKJ“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., a Pastor and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, who was born on this day in 1929.

RESOURCES:
Today in History – January 6 
Martin Luther King Jr. > Quotes

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“THE LAW IS THE LAW” – April 4

April 4, 2013

“Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!  Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Acts 23:3

Scales of Justice Brisbane Courts-1=A week ago, I participated in a mediation process on behalf of my company to try and settle a dispute.  Mediation is a strange process.  The adversaries are isolated in separate rooms and the mediator moves back and forth between the rooms in an attempt to resolve the dispute.  However, there is no real resolution.  The core of mediation is an attempt by the mediator to find a compromise at which both parties are willing to let go of the dispute.  There is no determination of right or wrong.  There is no judgment rendered.  There are a variety of issues that come into play; the strength of the case, what can be proven, the cost of litigation, the provable damages, the duration of litigation, etc.  There comes a point in the mediation when you are no longer talking about the issues of the dispute.  You are merely talking about money.  Mediation is the calculation of tangible and intangible costs measured against risk.

Mediation is not justice.

I am not an attorney and I have never pondered very deeply about the law.  However, I have always correlated the law with justice.  I have held that somehow the laws passed by representative governments ensure justice for its citizens.  My latest experience with injustice (from my perspective) and the law has caused me to take a slightly more jaded view of the law.  One of my attorneys told me, after a particularly eloquent rant about the injustice of my whole situation, that I was trying to get the law to be something that it is not.  The law is not justice.

The law is the law.

The law is a tool.  There are some things that the law can be used for.  There are some things that it cannot be used for.  The law can be used with good intentions and it can be used with bad intentions.  The law can be a shield and it can be a sword.

I think that many people have a similar misconception about God’s law.

They think that their justification is in keeping the law.  The law is not justification.

They think that their sanctification is in keeping the law.  The law is not sanctification.

The law is the law.

God’s law is a tool.

“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” (Galatians 3:19)

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  (Galatians 3:24-25)

God’s law was given to us as a guardian to train us, pointing out sin and punishing it.  The condemnation that the law was pointing out is now removed from those who are in Christ Jesus.  There is no punishment from the law for those in Christ.  We still have God’s law to help train us.  It still points out sin.  However, the law is the law.  The law does not save.  The law does not remove our condemnation.

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

We get into trouble when we start to expect the law to be something that it is not.  We get into more trouble when we use the law in ways that it was never intended.  Paul was struck by a man who was wielding the law like a sword.  Yet, he violated the very same law in his zealous effort to protect the law.  The “whitewashed wall,” as Paul called him, believed that the law was something that it was not.

Obey the Law of God and State

Obey the Law of God and State (Photo credit: Frank DeFreitas)

I wonder how often we are similar whitewashed walls when we live in accordance to our stringent list of “do’s and don’ts.”  Are we living as if our pious performance is achieving something that it can never do?  Many people believe that they will make it to heaven because they hope that their “good deeds” will out-weigh their “bad deeds” on the grand scale of God’s law.  That is a false hope because it is expecting the law to be something that it is not. The law is the law.  It is a tool to point us to the true source of salvation, Christ Jesus.

We need to examine why we are living in obedience to God’s commandments.  Is your obedience coming from a heart that wholly loves your Lord and Savior as a gift or is it coming as an obligation from an unwilling mind that is doing what it must?

Obedience from a grateful heart is an expression of love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  Obedience is an expression of love.

Obedience as a duty has an expectation of the law that it can never be.  That sort of obedience leads only to other sins – pride, not loving our neighbor, gossip, hate, coveting, etc.

The law is the law. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law.  Our hope is in Him and Him alone.

What are your expectations of your adherence to the law?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for freeing us from the law.  Thank you for using it as a tool to show me my sin and my need for a Savior.  Lord, may my obedience be a pleasing fragrance to You.  Examine my heart and my motivation for all that I do.  May my keeping of your commandments be a demonstration of my love for You.  Keep me from sinning in my obedience.  Grant me a heart that is undivided and a willing mind that serves You in gratitude and love.  Amen

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WHO IS YOUR COUNSELOR? – Feb. 16

February 16, 2013

“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsel. Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalm 81:11-13

When I was young, I could not wait to grow up.  I remember day dreaming about the time when I could have my own things and make my own decisions.  I felt very constrained as a child.  My parents decided when and where we would go.  They decided what I would eat and what I would wear.  They decided what activities that I was allowed to be involved in.  They made my work schedule.  They treated me as a child when I wanted to be treated as an adult.  I could not wait to be an adult and to experience the associated freedoms.

I realize now that I had a wonderful childhood.  I would not want to change any of it.  My parents loved me and nurtured me.  I am deeply grateful for the childhood that they gave me.  Yet, I still wanted to grow-up even though I had a wonderful childhood.

Adulthood was my escape.  In adulthood, I would be allowed to make my own decisions.  It was not that my parents were poor decision makers.  They made very good decisions.  I just wanted to make my own decisions.  However, it was never about decisions.  My desire for adulthood was rooted in control.  I wanted to be free to do what I wanted to do.

Adulthood has not turned out to be as magical as I had thought.  The freedom of making my own decisions is not as liberating as I thought it would be.  Escaping the shackles of my parents has only revealed the heavier yoke of adulthood.

I never realized the weight of adult uncertainty until I became an adult.  I had always thought that adults just did whatever they wanted to do.  I now know that is not true.  Adults have to do a lot of things that they don’t particularly care to do.

I had always thought that adults just knew the right thing to do.  I think that is one of the greatest ruses that adults play on children.  I always thought my parents knew what they were doing.   They did not.  They were figuring it out as they went along.  I have come to realize that clarity does not accompany adulthood.  We all are doing the best we can with the information and resources that we have available to us.

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

Just as my childish view of adulthood revealed my desire for control, how you view the Bible reveals your attitude about God.

There are many people who view the Bible as a book of “don’ts”.  They view it like a child views his parent.  It is a book that is removing their freedom. It is a book that tells them what they can’t do and what they have to do.  It is a book that treats them like children when all they want to be is an adult.  That sort of attitude can lead to day-dreaming about activities and a life free from those oppressive constraints.  Many have felt that if they were just free to follow their own counsel then they would be happy and satisfied.

The refusal to walk in the ways of the Lord is not about decisions it is about a heart battling for control.  We want to do what we want to do.

How do we know what is the right thing to do?  We all have a choice.  We can either follow our own counsel or the counsel of God to decide what the right thing is.

My counsel comes from me.  I don’t know anything beyond my experience.  Therefore, my counsel is an undulating wave of feelings and convictions evolving from my attempt to figure this world out as I am passing through it.  My counsel involves trial and error.  It requires me to make to decisions on how the universe works that I can’t know.  My counsel speculates what the future holds with multiple layers of assumptions and inferences.

My counsel is a guess,  biased by a stubborn heart.

God’s counsel is from the One who created this world.  He is the One who knows the purposes and meanings of this world.  He is the author of this world’s purposes and meaning.  God knows all that happens. He is in control of all creation; taking it along His divine plan.  God’s counsel entails the most complete and deepest understanding of the past, present, and future.

God’s counsel is the most reliable source of guidance available to us because He has a perfect understanding and knowledge of all things.

Why would anyone choose their own counsel?

A stubborn heart has a deleterious effect on our decision-making.   A stubborn heart will elevate our own counsel because that will get it what it ultimately wants.  A stubborn heart demands the freedom of selfish pursuits just like a child can long for adulthood.  The achievement that perceived control is merely a life of eternal insecurity because it is inevitably based on a heart that is trying to figure it out.  Clarity and certainty is impossible. There will come a day for all people when they realize that they are still subject to the requirements of this world.  Just like adults don’t get to do whatever they want to do, this world has consequences for the actions of every person.  It doesn’t matter what we day-dream the world to be like.  Reality has a way of waking us up.

When it comes to the knowledge of this spiritual universe, I am a child.  I can’t figure out how it works on my own.  I don’t want to rely on my day-dreams of what I hope it will be like.  I need a trustworthy Counselor.  I have a Father in heaven who loves me and knows how to give me good things.  He has given me His counsel.  Why would I reject His counsel?  Why would I think that I could know better than Him?

We need to cling to the good counsel of our God even when we really don’t like what it might be saying.  Don’t trust your feelings.  The discomfort that we may feel from God’s counsel is merely the abrasion of a stubborn heart; a stubborn heart that needs to be daily worn down by the Gospel.  It is the Gospel that softens our stubborn hearts and creates a desire for God’s word and a disdain for the contrary counsel of this world and our own mind.

Whose counsel will you seek this day?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for not leaving us on our own.  Thank you for providing us with your Word and giving us your Counsel.  Forgive me for acting like I know better.  Forgive me for not following your Word like I know that I should.  You have given it to me for my good.  It is a wonderful gift.  Father, I delight in you Word; write it upon my heart.  Weave your counsel into every part of my life.     Amen

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LOVE OF YOUR LIFE – Feb. 14

February 14, 2013

“So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.” I Kings 11:6

Education is the answer to our society’s problems.

That statement is often explicitly made or it is implied without question when leaders wrestle with the difficult blemishes of human communities.  Our communities are awash in violence, unkindness, hurt, heart-ache, lost dreams, and crushed hopes.  Education is the remedy in which many will place their confidence.

If people are informed, then they will be able to restrain themselves.

If people have better decision-making skills, then they will make better decisions.

If people know the consequences of their actions, then they will make right choices.

If people know the help that is available to them, then they will choose not to participate in destructive activities.

 I am not opposed to education.  I do believe that we should inform and educate individuals on the ramifications of their actions.  However, I think that we should be realistic about how effective education can ever be.  Our society’s problems are not due to social-economic conditions nor are they due to a lack of information.  Our society’s problems are due to a heart problem.

Education cannot solve a heart problem. 

Solomon was the smartest man ever.  People came from around the world to listen to his wisdom.  God educated Solomon on the cause-effect of his actions:

“And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish you royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your Father, saying, “You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.”  But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all people.” (1 Kings 9:4-7)

That lesson seems pretty clear.  I don’t think that it is possible to misunderstand God’s lesson to Solomon.  Solomon was a smart man and he had a clear and concise lesson.  If education was the answer then Solomon would have made the right decision.   Solomon did not make the right decision.  “So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.  Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.” (1 Kings 11:6-7)

The man who was responsible for building the magnificent temple to Yahweh is at the end of his life building places of worship for false gods.  How can that be?  He is a person who knows better.  He is informed.  He knows simple cause-effect logic.  He wrote books on wisdom.  Yet, he makes these horrible decisions.

Education is always trumped by a rebellious heart.  Solomon proves that.

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Humans will always do what they love most.  Solomon loved women.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  That is a man who loves women.  That is a man with a serious problem.  We are told that Solomon clung to these women in love.  He loved these women more than he loved God.  He was more concerned about pleasing these women than being obedient and pleasing to God.  He was willing to sacrifice his throne and the entire kingdom of Israel to have his appetite for women satisfied.  He gave up everything for what he loved the most.

Solomon’s rebellious heart trumped all his intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge.

We should not be foolish enough to think that we cannot go down the same road as Solomon.  Jesus told us that the greatest of all commandments, “you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)  We must be careful of what we allow our hearts to love.

We should not miss what Jesus is teaching.  The most important thing that any follower of Christ should be doing is making sure that they are obedient to the most important commandment; the great commandment in the law.  If you are going to get any of the commandments right, then get this one.  It is the great one and it has to do with what you love the most.

I would imagine that Solomon, while he was building the temple in Jerusalem, never thought that he would do what he did on the high places.  He did not guard what he allowed his heart to love.  This is why we are told to examine ourselves.

We do what we love the most.  That is why the great commandment is to love God with all that we are.  When you love God more than anything else then following Christ is merely doing what you love.  We do what we love the most.

What do you love?  What do you love the most?

Is there someone who you love more than God?

Is there someone who you would compromise your faith to keep?

Is there someone who you want to please more than God?

Where are your affections?   Your heart will always trump your mind. 

Be careful of where you allow your heart to wander.

PRAYER: Lord, I know my heart and I know that it is prone to wander.  Father, keep me bound to you.  Lord, show me what I am allowing into my life that is drawing my affections away from you.  You are my all in all.  Lord, soften my heart so that I will seek you first in all that I do.     Amen

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