jesus_helping

God: Nice Thought or More?

Back in April, I was thinking about how people think and act about God. Later, I saw a commercial of a show that Morgan Freeman was narrating about who God is across cultures. Watching the promo, I noticed a pattern emerge. To many of them, God was a concept, an abstraction that made them feel good.

Is that the reason many professing Christians aren’t standing out that well in a broken world? Like the rocky soil in Mark 4:16-17, they accept the thought with joy. Did you accept Jesus with a good feeling but no real life change?

A good feeling is temporary, an intangible thought doesn’t trigger change unless it’s accepted wholeheartedly. A term going around for it is practical atheism–where someone believes in God, but behaves like there is no God. He’s just a concept to them, like charity is something that is nice.

Do you fit God into your life when you find the time?

May I be so bold as to say it should be flipped?

God isn’t a concept. He’s the sovereign creator of the universe. A nice thought doesn’t get you through life’s struggles, the emptiness, none of it. That requires something bigger than you. I was told to have faith in my darkest time. Faith is having a trust in something. A nice thought that requires something or someone.

When God arrives, what I call a Godquake happens, everything is shaken up. An overwhelming feeling occurs, your heart breaks as it feels like everything is being pulled out. Then the dirt is scraped off, the gunk poured out, and it’s put back as good as new.

God is so big that when he comes in, things get knocked over.

It can happen at church during altar calls for prayer. It can happen in your home during a really good time in prayer and praise. I don’t cry, for me to shed a tear is rare. I was raised that it wasn’t manly, a foolish thought that was conditioned in me. But I cried so hard in my office at home that I couldn’t see while singing At The Cross (Love Ran Red).

Why?

Because it’s personal, more than a nice thought. Look at the chorus:

🎶At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You
I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You
I owe all to You Jesus🎶

My life was surrendered to Jesus, I had done a great job at screwing it up. The fact that he put me back together is awesome because of why he did it. It wasn’t anything I deserved, yet he took the hit for me. Everything I had done wrong doesn’t weigh on me. Now it’s a cautionary reminder of where I came from. I truly owe all to him, he saved my life.

Yes, it’s a gift I can’t repay, and I follow him in gratitude for what was done and is being done now. It’s not like a codependent parent bailing you out again and again that you can call when needed. He picks us up, knocks off the dirt, and says follow me. 

You do follow then. Life is shaken up and you fit in his agenda rather than Jesus fitting in yours. God is the priority, so everything else is seen as a loss in comparison.

An idea cannot do that for long. Like a new toy, it’s forgotten after a while. It requires grabbing onto someone, not something. Life changes when we embrace two people, and is never the same.

Your spouse.

Your child.

With both, your dreams and priorities change. It includes them now, their needs come before yours. That’s what it’s like with a relationship with Jesus, things change.

He’s the perfect spouse, selflessly giving you what you need. Because of that, you listen and go with him wherever you go. Like it’s obvious you’re married, it should be obvious by how your life is now that Jesus is a part of it.

To see what the self-sacrificial love of God is like, look at a parent’s relationship to their kids. What would you do for your kids? What would you do to protect them?

Anything. And instruct them to stay away from things that can hurt them.

It’s the same with God. Do you know Him like that?

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Does Your God Reflect You or Do You Reflect Your God?

It’s been said that on the seventh day, man created God, or something to that effect. I’ve seen posts on Facebook where people were talking about God’s that fit their preferences. While driving to work I had this thought, ‘does your god(s) reflect you, or do you reflect your god(s)?

How do you determine that?

  • Imagine a deity that matches your expectations. What would you want from it?

12136345784_c71e040216_zI spent hours in thought on what I would want from ‘god’. For starters, he would be one, no pantheon like the Greeks. All-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present, along with being a teacher. Admittedly, I would like there to be a double standard for me, but if you’re a really bad person…KAPOW…lightning bolt. The sick would be healed as soon as they were prayed for. If you were good then you go to heaven. If not, then annihilation of the soul, no Hell.

  • How well does your ‘god’ compare to what you actually worship?

That answers the question from the first paragraph. I sat and did a comparison. Of the seven things I wanted, only two were present in God.

God is three-in-one, three personalities of the same essence, where mine is just one personality. Both have the all-everything traits, and God is a teacher, plus more. I don’t get a free pass on the virtue of being me, either I’m facing condemnation or Christ is in my place.

Sometimes that healing I wanted him to do means you go to Heaven in the presence of God. He’s more like a Judge and Warden rather than the executioner I came up with. Fortunately for us all, salvation is faith-based by trusting in Jesus. How cruel would it be to run on a hamster wheel on the road to heaven, not realizing you’ll never get there?

  • How well does your ‘ideal god’ fit into reality?

Use the worldview questions to see how your new religion answers them.

  1. How did we get here?
  2. What is the meaning of life?
  3. What is wrong with the world?
  4. How can it be fixed?

So I answered them based on the characteristics of my ‘god’. First, everything was created from nothing (ex nihilio). The meaning of life is to be good. Then I found a problem.

What’s wrong with the world? There couldn’t be a transcendent standard since my ‘god’ isn’t of good character. The double standard means he’s flawed, there isn’t justice. It would depend on his mood.

How do we fix it? By being really good, sticking with these rules he teaches, and hoping he’s in a good mood.

He’s fairly incoherent. I wondered what kind of god I created according to J.B Phillips’ book, Your God Is Too Small. I found it on page 53 under “Projected Image”. If that’s a reflection of me as all-powerful, then I probably shouldn’t be trusted with massive amounts of power. That’s a scary God.

It also makes me think of how people construct God based on a few verses or from excluding some they don’t like. Usually saying, “I don’t believe God would…” for example. Both are tailor made and not reality.

It reminded me of a C.S Lewis quote from God In The Dock. In the essay “Answers to Questions On Christianity”, Lewis answered this question; “Which of the religions of the world gives its followers the greatest happiness?”

His answer, after repeating the question, was this:

“While it lasts, the religion of oneself is the best. I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty who has lived a life full of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it’s very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian, I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can’t give you any advice on it.”

Not exactly cheerful news. Consider this, why did the Pharisees (self-righteous people) and leaders (powerful and wealthy) have a hard time following Jesus?

They thought they had made the cut; it was about what they could get. The Pharisees built up thousands of rules apart from Scripture, adhering to them, rather than God’s word. Jesus even called them “sons of the devil”.

Yet, those who saw something greater than them came to Jesus in their inadequacy and brokenness. He saves those that do come to him like that, and doesn’t leave them like that. He makes them greater, what they could be, and the fact they’re saved and the chains of the past are undone brings joy.

Would a god you could fit in a box, that is up to your standards, be worthy of being worshipped or called God? Would an all powerful version of yourself be a good thing?

Think through these questions and see if you surprise yourself on who you truly follow.

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Why Should I Forgive?

Has anyone ever hurt you? A harsh word, action, intentional or not, we’ve all been hurt. My trust was betrayed once by someone close to me in a manipulation to get money. It was the who that hurt, not the amount of money. Why should I forgive them?

Why should you forgive whoever hurt you?

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-22

Why should you forgive someone that many times? Years ago, a study was done by the National Comorbidity Study where they asked thousands of people about holding grudges. 6,500 answered back and they checked the medical history of those people. There were higher rates of heart problems, high blood pressure, ulcers, headaches, and more in comparison with those who did not tend to hold grudges. On top of that, they were happier than those who did.

I’ve held grudges and it’s something I watch for in me. Have you met a bitter person? So hardened and negative that if you tell them good morning they retort, ‘what’s so good about it?’ Chronically miserable, they live in the past. If someone mentions the name of a person you hate, does bitterness or anger well up inside? It can really affect our relationships. No one wants to be around bitter people besides other bitter people.

That is just the physical and emotional side effects. There are eternal ones as well. In Matthew 18: 23-35, Jesus tells a parable about an unforgiving debtor. In contemporary terms, it’s like this: you spend too much and rack up massive amounts of credit card debt on top of loans from the bank. Now it is all due and you are going to lose everything.

The car you drive.

The house you live in.

In fact, you are going to be homeless; your entire family will not have a place to stay.

Let that sink in.

Last minute, a letter comes in the mail from the bank. Your hands are shaking as you nervously open it. Slowly unfolding the pages, you start to read. The letter falls to floor as shock hits you like a punch to the gut. Picking it up you read again…”the debt is hereby cancelled.”

You’re not losing everything! Overjoyed, you take your spouse out to eat to celebrate. When you arrive at the restaurant, you see someone who owes you money eating there.

How can they be eating out when they owe you money!?

You stomp over to their table and let them have it. How dare they go out when they owe you! You demand the 50$ from them right now.

You don’t realize the bank president is in the same restaurant. The outburst has caught her attention and she is watching you. She had heard of your plight, seeing you in the bank and showed you mercy. Now she is reconsidering it.

As you get louder, she quietly makes up her mind.

Two days later, you’re handed an eviction notice. You stare as a tow truck takes your car away. Why!? What did you do to deserve this?

35 This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Forgiving a loan is like forgiving a wrong or a sin against you. A debt is owed and you decided not to collect. It isn’t like accepting an apology from your little sister because mom said you had to.

Still don’t want to forgive? Remember every wrong thing you ever did in your life. Every time you hurt someone. In the scope of all that, how does that one wrong stack up against the weight of all your wrongs.

That full weight bearing on you is all against one person, God. Whatever wrong done in and to his creation is a sin against him. Wouldn’t you want forgiveness? Ask him for it. If you have, look at this verse:

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7: 47

The weight that you were bearing is gone now. How should you feel? You were this and now you are that.

One Sunday morning, Pastor Rod closed the service with people from Celebrate Recovery walking across the platform holding signs. On the screens, it showed what they were: sex addict, alcoholic, criminal, dysfunctional family, etc. The cards they had now showed what they were now; loving husband, sober, pardoned, happy family, and so on. They were forgiven and were overjoyed and gracious.

I thought back, considering the weight of it all that I had to carry before. I had stolen, manipulated, hated, had been unmercifully cruel and arrogant just for starters. I had been selfish and put no one else before me, not even my wife.

 

And I was upset over a lie?

Why should I forgive?

Because I had been forgiven.

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Do We Have Free Will?

One of my friends posted a quote by Epicurus on the problem of evil. I watched a couple of other friends respond. I had nothing to add, but in the comments the question arose about “the gods’ plans and free will.” Summed up, it is about determinism.

I sat and thought through that all day, through service, class, last service, and at the restaurant with my friends afterwards. They did not talk to me much. They could see I had my “thinking face” on and a bit of smoke coming out of my ears. How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty and human free will?

It took a while until I remembered the exact term for it. Molinism. Got Questions.org has a nice summary of it →here. I sat in Five Guys trying to build an analogy to explain it as simply as I could.

Imagine a play where every character in it can write their own script and ad-lib. The director and producer set the overall plot and some characters heed the direction and work towards the story’s conclusion. Others refuse to listen to the director when he speaks. In both cases, their free will is still intact.

However, sometimes the director steps into the play in a big way. He could clear out most of the cast like in the case of Noah’s Flood. Intervene through various events to get the characters attention like with miracles. He could step into the play as a character himself (Jesus) and move it along towards the final act.

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Flicker.com

I hope this helps you understand a complicated system of thought. If not, then leave a question and I will try to answer any serious questions. I also suggest searching Dr. William Lane Craig’s website, Reasonable Faith, for the answers.

Mixed Messages, Does The Facebook You Match The Real You?

conscience-conscience-motivational-1321584887Over the past few months, I noticed a crisis of conscience surfacing, particularly over watching what I promote or post. I asked my closest friends, dropping a lot on their heads at once. One assured me my integrity was intact and that I’m not being a hypocrite.

I have been writing about how we need to represent Jesus, have been breaking down a book into potential Sunday School lessons, writing about discipleship, etc. I promote this so I have to be cautious I don’t promote something contrary to it. My personal failings look hypocritical enough without me intentionally adding to it. So what should be off limits?

What Is Good?

I spent hours one Friday looking through 1 John, Galatians, Colossians, and 2nd Corinthians looking for answers. I started with a search for ‘worldly’, went into the Fruits of the Spirit, and then into application in the last two books listed. What can I promote that does not run contrary to my life as a follower of Jesus?

Love, the agape kind that is a verb —the kind found in 1st Corinthians 13; joy; peace, a content tranquility; patience; kindness; good; faithfulness; gentleness; and self-control. A rare person or law would honestly disagree with these. They are the same traits Jesus has and believers have when they walk in the spirit, in biblical terms these are the fruits of the spirit.

Then there is forgiveness, where you give up the right to get even; repentance, turning away from the destructive choices in life; reconciliation; humility, which is thinking of others before you think of yourself, which leads to acts of service for the needy. I found these in Galatians 4 and Colossians 3. The reason I do them is the natural outpouring of gratitude and the Holy Spirit working through me.

What Is Opposed to Good?

quote-do-not-follow-vain-desires-for-verily-he-who-prospers-is-preserved-from-lust-greed-and-anger-abu-bakr-10478Great, now what opposes these, simply, so I do not have to consult a list? One of Jesus’s disciples, the Apostle John, summed it up in his letter 1 John from 85AD. The three attitudes he listed are just as prevalent today as it they were then. Most actions have the underlying attitudes of self-gratification, materialism, and power.

How many are preoccupied with self-gratification? What about ‘keeping up with the Jonses’ to gain bragging rights? Here is the one I am guilty of —obsessing over where I rank, how important I am; wanting power and achievement.

These attitudes when taken to extremes become people’s gods or idols in Bible terms. It swings both ways, too; therein is the danger. The opposite of self-gratification – lust – is self-control; the former makes you a slave to your desires while the latter can lead to pride in how controlled you are – asceticism. The line to walk is enjoying the good in moderation without making it something you live for. I should probably apply this to the sausage and biscuits from the church’s kitchen…

The danger of generosity is becoming so generous that you become a burden for others by neglecting your own necessities. The line to walk is not to be overly attached or greedy. There is a quote attributed to Wayne Gerard Trotman that sums up the two attitudes well: “Instead of loving people and using money, people often love money and use people.

Even altruism has an extreme, where a chosen issue becomes your god or you put your faith in your good works to get you to Heaven. The good works come from the gratitude for what Jesus did for us on the cross; his traits grow as we serve out of love, loyalty, and to show Him to the world. That line I keep bringing up is moderation, instead of excess.

Why Should Christians Be Careful of What They Applaud?

Fifth GospelI cannot appeal to lust, materialism, or ego-centrism, and the vices that flow from them. I don’t represent just myself anymore. Colossians 3: 17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Then I discovered 2nd Corinthians 5: 10 – 7:1, the same letter I referenced last week. In it, Paul gives us the model and reason to follow it. I encourage you to read the entire passage. For the sake of space, I will only highlight certain verses.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.”

The Great Commission, our everyday walk with God, it is a big responsibility in reaching and teaching about Jesus. While we still get to Heaven because of Jesus’s work on the cross, we still have to answer for what we do.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Bobby Conway phrased it this way in the Fifth Gospel: He died for us, is it too much to live for him?

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:”

Instead, use the filter that I wrote about in Looking through God’s Eyes based on John Easter’s sermon. Using John 3:16 and personalizing it with other’s names.

“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I think Paul was off-handedly referencing the command, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.There are different and creative ways we can do this personally, working with others, or both. What stuck out to me was ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors’. Like the ambassador of a foreign country and its government, we represent the Kingdom and Jesus here on earth.

“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses…in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors… sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

The Sad Reality of First Impressions

I rediscovered where I got the phrase “stumbling block” when I wrote Represent. People find many faults in Christians and use it as a reason not to come to Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit to help us display Jesus, yet we also have to be careful in how others perceive us.

We may not like the idea of first impressions but they exist and matter. The more we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 4), the easier it is. Some will celebrate, some will understand, some will not understand, and others may even work against us, yet we persist.

The Danger of Mixed Messages

“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

This goes back to what I listed from 1 John, the attitudes are like big “I” idols. Modern idols these days are the many things people live their lives for. I cannot compromise and keep my integrity intact by willfully working towards self-gratification, greed, or power.

Former detective J. Warner Wallace in his book Cold-Case Christianity wrote that all the crimes he investigated had at least one of these three motives: sexual lust, greed, and power. Does this look familiar?

The Answer Isn’t Isolation or Limp-Wristed Christianity

When Jesus was here, he did not condemn the seekers and the open sinners, but he did not condone their behavior either. He often told them after he forgave them to ‘go and sin no more.’ He sure did not enable them to continue the direction they were going either.

I noticed two things in my studies that made Jesus angry or frustrated: self-righteousness–see Matthew 23 if you want to know how he feels about hypocrites—and getting between people and God. He literally flipped tables over that one, called Peter the devil, and told the disciples that it would be better to drown in a lake than keep the children from him – kids were treated differently then. I think enabling others to continue their line of thinking because a Christian is doing it would qualify.

Second Corinthians 6:18 leads into 2nd Corinthians 7:1:

“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

It is a process; I fail in my attempts and being like Christ is a life long journey. I just have to make sure I do not willfully decide to do anything that is sketchy. To make sure my own pet sin of self-righteousness is in check by remembering where I was, who brought me out of it, and not to condemn others personally, nor support their actions. Being salt and light won’t allow that.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I’m to work for the good of others, to love them as people; following the golden rule of doing for others as I would like done for me.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

cs-lewis-quotes-inspirational-7At the start of the year, I wrote about simplifying your life by taking anything that does not help the goal and discarding it. Also a teaching of Jesus in the teaching style of hyperbole when he spoke of cutting off an offending hand, actually. The number one goal was “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” and sometimes it means a reevaluation on what works against that, is neutral, and works towards it. It is a lot to think about.

Looking Through God’s Eyes

The next time you are out in public, look at the people around you, preferably without staring like a creeper. That gets awkward quick. What do you see? Truly, what do you see about them, in them? The guy in ratty clothes standing on a street corner with a sign, the girl sitting alone at a table, the guy constantly twitching while he shops for groceries or the weird dude that wants to help but is hard to communicate with? What about the guy with money to burn, the woman wearing the latest fashions, or whoever the top news story is about now?

We had a missionary from Africa, John Easter, who came and spoke about “God’s View and My Lens.” I expected to hear stories, not to be furiously typing notes as he spoke. He spoke of how everyone has value because they are made in the image of God. It is the attributes that set us apart from other creatures. We are rational, with a will to choose, and we can see it in our inventions, writing, enjoying art, and thinking. Our conscience is a shadow of the higher morality; we see it when we are disgusted by evil, praise what is good, and feel guilty. Socially, we are designed to get together and love with the kind of love that does not expect anything, just loving you for who you are.

That gives everyone their intrinsic value, despite origin and background. Everyone is unique, as I wrote in Walking, Talking Miracles we are made. Because the Creator crafts us individually and lovingly because He values us, so we should also value people.

We all have the capacity to respond to the good news of Jesus from a meaningful witness. John 3:16 sums it up very well, “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.” There are not any exceptions in this verse; everyone is free to say yes and no one should keep you from it.

You have value, there are no insignificant people, everyone wants to matter, and we want our lives to mean something. I just finished a series on purpose outlining how we all have meaning. Most Saturdays I serve the poor and homeless, though most of the time I do not engage in conversation. Then one Saturday, I was handing out flyers at the door and had to engage-this opened my eyes to more of their value, capacity for redemption, and significance. I saw individuals I help because it is needed; my heart does not burn with the compassion my wife’s does, and I just see a need and do it. I am getting my eyes opened as I process this; it was all about me for so long it is a bar that will take a while to reach.

I learned that the quiet custodian who picks up the trash and cares for the place is a bigger bookworm than I am. We had common ground to work off, and the next time I see him, I can ask if he has read any good books lately. Another who comes in is consistently negative; he is a lesson in patience for a few, yet he has value even though he may not see it yet. One other is called “Preacher”, a bundle of joyous energy that infects everyone who has value. One particular person I have a soft spot for is a deaf man who comes; I can identify with the loneliness of the deaf culture. We look for him so we can engage him. Imagine if no one around you knew your language and you could not hear theirs; wouldn’t you be more isolated than ever since it is hard to communicate your needs, thoughts, or desires? He is also valuable.

John closed after speaking on significance. I summed it up with an equation in my notes; however, I think there is a better way to break it down.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” means everyone has value.
  • “that whoever believes in Him” means everyone can choose.
  • “shall not perish, but have eternal life” means that we are significant because God wants us with Him in eternity.

No matter a person’s background, God wants them because they mean something to Him. We can introduce others to Him. How can we not when the Creator sees worth in them? We just need to fix our lenses.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you are reading this, think about what he did means to you. Then take John 3:16 look at someone and say, “For God so loved (insert their name) that he gave his one and only Son, that (if their name) believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In doing so, you take on God’s view of people. I know I need to; it is why I took so many notes.

If you are not a Christian, I would like you to say it a little differently.

“For God so loved me that he gave his one and only Son, that if I believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

You have value, significance, and can choose to believe. Romans 10:9-10 lays it out, declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved. It is with your heart that you’re justified before God. Then you will be a new person; the past does not have a hold on you anymore.

Will you make that decision?

Red Letter Application

A while back, I was in a conflict with those I considered friends. It hurt, and I was a little angry, and was tempted to do anonymous internet sniping. Except now, I do not operate by solely what I want. So I investigated, made peace, and said as much in a private group.

This led to the necessary conversation to clear the air. No one was blameless; both of us were wounded by the other. At the same time, we had a new person start who had just moved here, and he needed help. I say this because it parallels my studies of Jesus’s teaching in Luke 6, among other verses, so much.

First, looking at the conflict that bubbled up to the surface with my friends and I. At the outset, Proverbs 15:18 counsels for a cool head (A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute), and Luke 6:31 (Treat others the same way you want them to treat you) reminded me of what I would want, which is to be understood. Luke 6: 41-42 (Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye) teaches me to see what responsibility I bore, if any, which I did after all. Even before we had the heart-to-heart, in Luke 6:36-38 (Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return) Jesus told me the proper outcome. The relationship is not the same as before, but it is patched up.

In the second situation, the new person arrived at work not knowing what to expect, so he did not bring any food. He was worried he would not have a place to put it. I told him to pick out whatever he wanted from the machine at work (Matthew 24:34-40) so he would not be hungry. After some conversation, I learned he lived in the same city I do. He asked if I could give him a ride back and forth until he was paid (Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back). It was not inconvenient, I thought, while applying in the affirmative. He offered to pay for the food and gas money, which I turned down (If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?).

It was summed up nicely when Dr. Alton Garrison spoke one Sunday night at church about how people cannot really tell the difference between believers and nonbelievers. How, until recently, he realized there is more than knowing Christianity’s doctrines and using the Bible as a guidebook for living. However, there is one more area, dealing with people like Jesus did. He did not condone wrongdoing; however, he still treated people like they matter, from the adulterous woman to hated tax collectors. It reminded me of the Ragamuffin Gospel. It also brings these verses to mind:

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. Luke 6:46-48

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22

I have tried it my way; His way has been working out better.

 

Ode To a Redhead

Last week, I wrote that my wife on her worst day is me on my best day. I am ever amazed at the ripples my wife makes wherever she goes. In fact, most know of me through her. She is a very lovable person, who hugs and cares about everyone despite the hardships she has faced.

I started helping another ministry in church, and on my first day, they asked me where she was and how she was doing. They wanted her there, too. A few months back, at church, Jennifer noted that I pick up the sanctuary faster than Casey does. Jaime said it is because she stops and hugs everyone. It is true, she does as much as I do and enriches more lives. Truly lives out the spirit of 1 Corinthians 16:4 every day.

Last example I will give: It was cold and drizzly, so I went to get the truck so I could pick her up at the front of the church. A deaf friend with a dead battery flagged me down; unfortunately, our cables were in the car at home. A woman from third service walked up, told them someone was on the way, and that she will wait with them. I interpreted it for them, telling her thanks, to her surprise. She did not know I could hear, since I am so quiet. She sure did know Casey, though.

Everyone should have a human ray of sunshine in his or her life, someone to show the good in everything. My wife is my ray of sunshine, and she blesses me every day, as well as those who come into contact with her.