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Archive for October, 2009

All or Nothing

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’…   Matthew 22:36-37 (NKJV)

God brought this verse to my mind one morning last week.  I don’t know how many dozens of times I have heard and read these verses before, but they hit me with a different angle this time.

Get this, I am supposed to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength.  He doesn’t want me to love Him with half of my heart – or even most of it – but ALL.

Thinking about this, the church at Laodicea came to mind, from Revelation 3:14-19.

“ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (vv. 15-16)

I see this as an example of what God thinks of half-hearted love for Him.  He would rather me be able to love Him either with all of my heart or with none of it, than for me to be somewhere in the middle.  This is so, so, so hard for me!!  It is so easy to say, “God, I give you all of everything!  …except can’t I keep this and this and this?” 

Most of the time, the things I want to hold onto are little things that give me temporary pleasure, but really have no lasting value, and in fact hinder my progress, whether spiritual growth or everyday tasks.  Things that take my focus off of God and what He wants me to do with my time.  But like we talked about a few days ago, if God commanded me to love Him more than anything in this world, He will give me the strength to do it! 

So how do we know whether we are loving God above all else?  Ask yourself, “Is there anything in my life that I love more than I love God?”  Anything.  This could include people, hobbies, books, video games, good grades, music, internet surfing…   Whatever it is, we must confess them to God and ask Him to help us learn to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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His Strength, not mine

In the Word of Life quiet time books, we started Joshua this week.  Today’s reading was Joshua 4:1-14.  You’ve probably heard this story a dozen times in Sunday school, but please join me in reading it again today.   http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua%204:1-14&version=NKJV

The main thrust of this story is the memorial, right?  We need to set up memorials in our own lives so that we will remember what God has done for us in the past, and trust Him in the future.  This is a very important concept to realize… but that is not what caught my attention today.

So what did catch my attention?  The priests.  Very little is mentioned of them in this passage other than “get the stones from where the priests are standing.”  But have you ever thought about how long the priests had to stand there holding the Ark of the Covenant?  Verse 10 says, “So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people…”  Then verse 13 says, “…About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho.”  I’m inclined to think that this 40,000 is only counting the men who had come to fight from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.  What makes me think that?  Check out Exodus 12:37 – there were about 600,000 Israelite men that were brought out of Egypt.  (Do you realize that’s almost the entire population of the state of Vermont?)  These at the Jordan River in Joshua 4 were the children and grandchildren of those 600,000 men, so it is very likely that there were over a million people!  And the priests stood in the middle of the riverbed, holding up the Ark of the Covenant while hundreds of thousands of people walked by.

I don’t know about you, but I would not be able to hold up something that heavy for that long!  So what’s my point?  If God requires us to do something, He will give us the strength to do it!  God commanded the priests to stand in the Jordan River holding the Ark of the Covenant while all of Israel passed over.  God also empowered the priests with strength to do this.

It’s when we finally acknowledge that we have no strength on our own, that God can use us.  I personally struggle with this a lot.  I slip into these phases where I try to “be good” on my own.  Let me tell you, it doesn’t work!  I always end up feeling like the worst hypocrite ever.

I know the context isn’t exactly correct, but I think these verses apply today.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So whether it’s going to a foreign mission field, or just loving someone you don’t get along with, whatever God has called us to do, if we acknowledge we need His help, He will give us just the right amount of strength for the task.

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Love Is…Enduring

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. -1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (ESV)

Love bears all things.- Love bears each others burdens and troubles.

Love believes all things- Love gives you the benefit of the doubt

Love hopes all things- Love wants what is best for you

Love endures all things- Love will stick with you through the tough times, n matter what.

Love never ends- Everything else does, but love is always there.

Love is enduring, that’s what I have titled this post. Why? because it seemed to encompase all the ideas covered in these two verses. While the previous three verses cover characteristics of love. These last two cover the nature of love so to speak. These two verses proove that love is more than emotions. After all, emotions fade away don;t they. but love, love stay. It bears, belives, hopes, endures. It never passes away. Love is timeless. Christ’s love is everlasting. If you take anything away from this series, let it be that.

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Love Is…Encouraging

it [love]  does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. -1 Corinthians 13:6 (ESV)

I think it’s kind of neat that I get to this one today. In our family we have a weekly memory verse. This weeks is 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV), Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. So we were talking about being an encouragement this mourning. You may wonder why I am talking about encouragement since the verse covered in this post says nothing about encouragement. But I think that 1 Corinthians 13:6 has everything to do with encouragement. How encouraging is it when someone rejoices at wrongdoing, yours or someone elses toward you? It is one of the most dishearening things to hear someone laugh at you when you mess up. However, when you do something right and someone rejoices with you, that lifts your spirits. Encouragement is huge. Often all it takes is a smile, a kind word, just a friendly action. So often something so simple as a smile can turn into something a huge encouragement.

Encouragemnt was very important to the early church.The believers were constantly encourging each other and helping each other through difficult times.

After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” -Acts 13:15 (ESV)

And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. -Acts 15:31 (ESV)

And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. -Acts 15:32 (ESV)

So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed. -Acts 16:40 (ESV)

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, -Acts 18:27 (ESV)

When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. -Acts 20:2 (ESV)

This is an example we to should follow. We should strive to be an encouragement. It is really easy too. Let me share something with you. A few weeks ago I was at Key Club when one of the moms came up to me. She told me that a week or so before that I had encouraged her. Her daughter was just starting the Ballroom Dance Class I go to. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for class to start. All I was doing was talking to some of the other dancers. This simple act was an encouragement to the mom though. She said it was because she got to watch a young person who was so happy just to be there. This encounter surprised me a little bit. (Even more so since I was actually talking to some people I don’t know as well, something I don’t do easily.) I never realized just having a conversation could be such an encouragement. Especially to someone who was only observing the conversation! Here’s something else. It encouraged ME to know that I had been an encouragement to someone else.

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it [love] is not irritable or resentful; -1 Corinthians 13:5b (ESV)

One may think these two ideas, love is not irritable and love is not resentful, should be covered in two separate posts. However, these two ideas are so closely linked that it is necessary to combine them. If we are irritable, we tend to be at least a little bit resentful. I have, at least, found this to be true in my own life.

Resentfulness is deadly. in Genesis 4, Cain resented his brother Abel because Abel’s sacrifice was chosen by God. Verse 8 (ESV) says Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.Cain killed his brother because he resented him. Verses 9-16 go on to tell how God punished Cain.

Irritableness is also deadly. In Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Man, reading that, I am guilty of countless murder charges. i could not tell you how many times I have lashed out at my brothers or sister, be angry at them, whatever. Every time that happens, I commit murder in my heart. And that’s just with my siblings, that doesn’t even include other people. Just because I started out irritable, for whatever reason, or no reason at all (which does happen), that does not give me the right to be angry at anyone. Much less my siblings.

So think about that. Irritableness and Resentfulness can both lead to sin. (The story of Cain and Abel can be used as  an example for both.) Love is not either of those things. Christ was neither irritable or resentful. Isiah 53:7 (ESV) says, He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

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Love Is…Not Selfish

It [love] does not insist on its own way; -1 Corinthians 13:5a

Okay, so you may have noticed by now that um, I have changing the wording a little bit for the titles. This is so that I could stick with the “Love Is…” format. And so that the titles wouldn’t get to long. In this case I have used selfish to equal insisting on its own way. Is this true? Well think about it, when we instist on having our own way, what are we doing? We are being selfish. We want the world to revolve around us. Whenever I think of selfishness I always think of this poem by Tracie Hogg and Melinda Blau:

Eight Rules of Toddler Play

1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little time ago, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way, shape or form.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.

If that doesn’t speak to human depravity, thn nothing does. Even at a very young age wwe are selfish. As babies the whole world revolves around us. As we grow up we have to learn that this isn’t true. Yet we still insist on having our own way. I can’t tell you haw many times over the years that me brother and I (and this is only with one of my brothers) have argued over what we were going to play, what movie we were going to watch, who got the front seat, which episode of Stargate we watched, who’s turn on the computer it was, who got to decide which show we watched, who’s turn it was to pick up this, etc., etc., etc.. Let me tell you something, what we argue about may have changed from whether we play Star Wars of pioneers to whether we watch 18 Kids and Counting or, well ANYTHING else (he does NOT like that show) but the motive behind the arguements has not changed. We are selfish. And we are sinful. We have not shown each other Christ’s loe. Yes, I realize you could argue that we are siblings and that gives us a right, it does NOT. If I cannot show my own flesh and blood brother Christ’s love, how can I expect to show that love to a stranger? I struggle with this every day. I need God’s help to get around it. Love is not selfish. Wow, I think we should be reminded of that more often.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. -James 3:13-18 (ESV)

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Love Is…Not Rude

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. -1 Corinthinas 13:4-5a

I have a question. How often a day are you rude to someone? How about at least once a day. Does that sound reasonable? Whether we talk back to an adult, shove past someone without a care, or simply forget to use thank you or please, we are probably rude to someone every single day. You know what, God says that love is not rude. So then when we are rude to a parent or sibling or friend or stranger we are not shoeing God’s love. How about that. I must confess that personally I would never have thought of that. After all, we humans tend to hide our rudeness behind a lot of excuses. “Oh, well, I was just having a bad day.” or “It just wasn’t a good time for me.” or “I was really tired at the time.” We brush of our rudeness like its a minor offense. But guess what, anything that impedes our ability to show Christ’s love to the world is a major offense. And guess what, god punishes rude people. Through out most of the Bible the are called scoffers, and they are punished. So don’t brush of rudeness. Take it seriously and avoid showing it to the world. Instead let Christ’s love shine in you.

Beware lest wrath entice you into scoffing, and let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside. -Job 36:18 (ESV)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; -Psalm 1:1 (ESV)

Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools. -Proverbs 19:29 (ESV)

Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord God of hosts against the whole land. -Isiah 28:22 (ESV)

“‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’” -Acts 13:41 (ESV)

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