Right or Righteous?

Thursday February 26, 2015

Today’s Topic: Who Will Carry Our Sin?

Today’s Scripture:  Genesis 4: 13-14 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

We have a weight problem. We may be carrying around far too much weight: much more than are supposed to be carrying. You’ve probably not noticed mine, but it is a big problem for me. I’m not talking about my large belly. You’ve seen that, and it is a problem I am addressing in my new fitness program. But I’m talking about another weight problem we have – a much more serious one. I’m talking about the weight of sin and unforgiveness we carry.

This morning in my daily chronological reading of the Bible, the schedule called for reading several chapters in the book of Numbers. I came across an interesting principle based on the holy nature of God.

Moses is being given some of the laws for community life as the chosen people of Israel. He is specifically addressing the requirements of the Nazarite vow, a vow that could be taken to declare oneself completely separated unto God.

One of the requirements of the separation was that the person making the vow was never allowed to be in the presence of a dead person, not even if his wife, children, or parents died. This would make him unclean and the vow would be broken.

Then, in Numbers 6:9 we read an additional requirement concerning the dead. “And if any man dies very suddenly beside him and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. Even if the Nazarite accidentally came in contact with a dead person, he was declared unclean.

Well that seems harsh. It wasn’t the Nazarite’s fault that someone near him died. He couldn’t help it. But the eternal principle at work here isn’t about whether or not we think we are right, but whether or not we highly respect the righteousness of God.

The point is this: God’s holiness is not to be taken lightly. We who claim to be in Christ have been called to be separated unto Christ. Therefore, absolutely anything that we do that is contrary to the righteousness of God is sin and places a huge weight on our lives.

Over the next few days or weeks, I am compelled to update a series a devotionals I wrote in 2007 on the subject of forgiveness. The Hebrew word translated forgive is used some 650 times in its root form in the Old Testament. The word means to lift, to carry, and to take away.  The first time the word is used in the Bible is in Genesis 4:13, where following the murder of his brother Abel, Cain is punished by God and responds to Him by saying, My punishment is more than I can bear.” 

The weight of sin in our lives is more than we can lift or carry. Our attempts to be free from the burden are varied. We may deny that the sin really exists, as Cain did when God rejected his offering and he became angry at God. God gave Cain a chance to do the right thing, but Cain rejected God’s offer of acceptance. We sometimes do the same. We choose to believe that our way is right even when God calls it wrong. We try to convince ourselves and others that what we are doing is not sin. We try to earn our acceptance by making ourselves right, even if it means eliminating from our lives those that make us feel guilty for what we are doing.

Sometimes we lie in an attempt to cover our guilt and personal responsibility for our choices. When God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain responded, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”  He lied about what he had done. Denial is of the Devil. Satan is the father of lies. Lying begins in the heart of a self-centered person who requires approval and acceptance from people. Lying is the product of pride. Lies are designed by a deceived person in an attempt to avoid rejection and protect image. We fail to understand that the lie is yet another sin which adds to the weight of the burden we cannot lift. We quickly fall into the humanly inescapable quicksand of sin. The more we try to struggle against it, the deeper we sink.

Sometimes we seek the comfort of the world to relieve the pain of our sin. When Cain was expelled from the presence of the Lord because of his choice to protect his position rather than repent, he began to build a city. He put all of his energy into finding satisfaction from what the world had to offer. He even named the city after his son. He did not include God in any of his plans. The world became his opiate. The world offers many empty promises of relief from sin: promises we quickly and easily accept as truth. Financial success, social status, sex, alcohol, drugs, and on goes the list. Each promise proves itself addictive to the process of pursuing more promises. The temporary relief we may experience ultimately compounds the burden of our sin because we have failed to realize that each promise is itself another sin.

But in the middle of all of this was a promise from God to Cain that is made to all of us as well – “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” 

There is a solution to our weight problem. God will carry the total weight of our sin if we will release it to Him and do what is right. It is in that moment of repentance that we find forgiveness. In the days ahead we will dig out many nuggets of treasured truth from the mine of forgiveness, but the first and foundational lesson we must learn is this – the weight of our sin is more than we can carry. We cannot take it away by ourselves. We must give it to the One who can carry it, and once we do, we NEVER have to carry it again. That means surrendering our rights, telling the truth, and living according to God’s purpose and not the world’s pursuits.

Isn’t it time to have the weight of sin lifted off of your life? God wants to do it, and He can. Turn to Jesus today and sincerely ask for forgiveness. Then accept His forgiveness as a done deal. Then offer the same forgiveness to others.

Pastor John

 

How Delightful!

LifeLink Today’s Topic: How Delightful!

Today’s Scripture: Psalm 1:1-3  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; 2  but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

As I drove along one of the main avenues through Eau Claire this morning, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of joy. It started with a simple glance at a restaurant. Now before you jump to conclusions about my dysfunctional relationship with food, the joy I was feeling was the product of memories of many experiences with my wife at that restaurant years ago. I haven’t been in that eating establishment for a long time, but the memories of times spent with my wife brought a huge sense of delight to my heart.

Try something right now. Say the word DELIGHT out loud. Now say it again…and again. Great word isn’t it? It just rolls off the tongue and produces a smile as you say it. As you say it you there are memories and feelings being generated in your mind and heart. You are leaning into those thoughts right now, aren’t you? They feel good. They are a breath of fresh air in the midst of a polluted set of circumstances surrounding you. Enjoy them!

The word delight is of Latin origin, and means to charm. In the Bible, as in Psalm 1:2, the Hebrew word means to incline towards. In other words, to take delight in something means to be so charmed by it that you lean into it.

That’s what happened to me this morning. I was so charmed by the memories of time spent with my wife that I leaned into them. I actually called her and thanked her for making my life so delightful.

After my phone conversation ended, I began to wonder why I didn’t experience more delight in my life. The answer was instantly clear. It’s because I am looking for delight in the wrong place. Maybe you are too.

One place we look for delight is in relationships, hoping we can surround ourselves with people who are delightful so it will rub off on us and ease our pain. Trouble is, they tend to only be delightful when they agree with us, so we avoid people who challenge us.

Maybe we look for delight in our work. When think that if we get recognized as successful we can finally have some delight.

It’s possible that we search for delight in possessions. If we can look around at all the stuff we own, and the quality of our home, we can feel delighted.

Or is it the reality that we want the circumstances of our lives to be charming, and if they aren’t, we have no reason lean into them.

All of the above things can produce a sense of delight, albeit short-lived and unsatisfying. But the Psalmist knew the secret to living a delightful life. Blessed is the man who…delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.

Imagine this. Something unexpected happens to you. It’s outside the box of your control. It’s painful. It hurts. Would you dare to think that you could respond with a statement like this?

How delightful is God, who knows my way and what I need. I am a tree planted by streams of water, yielding the fruit of righteousness, and my leaves will not wither in this drought of emotional distress.

If your delight is in what flows* from the heart of God, then you can take delight in Him regardless of what is happening. You can be delightful even when everything around you isn’t. Now that’s good news!

*Flows – this is the root meaning of the Hebrew word for law. The law, or precepts of God (Hebrew is torah), flow from His heart and are pointed at us for our delight.

We Are Being Remodeled

LifeLinkTuesday, February 24, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  What Do You Look Like?

Today’s Text:  2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.

Well the remodeling job on my bathroom is proceeding slowly. It seems I can’t find enough time or energy to put in the work necessary to get it done. Every night, when I go to bed, the closed door to that room stares at me. I know that on the other side of that door is a room that is a mess. I know there’s a plan for that room, and I have all the materials available to complete the room. But unless I actually do the work, it will not get done. I just need to keep my eyes fixed on the finished look, and apply myself every day to making it happen.

For many of us, the remodeling of life proceeds slowly as well. We know there is a plan designed by the Owner of our lives to remodel us into the image of Christ. He has provided all the materials necessary to complete the job through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us. But it is hard and slow work. The demolition of years of previous construction is painful, but it must be torn out. The replacement of all the new material takes time, but it takes even longer when we don’t invest the time to work on it. It’s easier to shut the door to that room and not look at it. If only we would fix our eyes on the finished look the Master has designed.

The question then that must be asked and answered by each of us is this – “What does the Master’s design look like?”

The answer is easy to find, but hard to do; it’s more difficult than we are willing to admit. Over and over the Scriptures teach us one thing and one thing only that sets us apart as having been remodeled by the Master Designer – LOVE.

The fundamental principle of life in the kingdom of God is LOVE. The kingdom is not founded on one’s ability to interpret Scripture, or counsel people, or accomplish great things in the church. It is not founded on the power to heal or cast out demons or take authority over nature or even know and obey the law. The Kingdom of God is founded on the love of God for people who in turn love God and love others. This alone is the foundation of the Kingdom and is to be the focus of our every choice.

When we fail to keep our eyes fixed on the Designer’s intended “look of love”, the remodeling work stops.  That’s when we choose to shut the door to avoid looking at the unfinished mess.

So what do you look like? Is everything about your life reflecting the Designer’s love? Are you being daily remodeled into the image of Jesus Christ?

Here’s a poem I found in one of my devotionals from 10 years ago. It really speaks to the remodeling project of our lives. Make it the prayer of your heart today.

When we marvel at the grace

that has given us a place

where we will see His face,

we will by that grace

remember our place

and reflect His face

and not our own.

Power To Do It ALL

Monday, February 23, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  The Source of True Power

Today’s Text:  Acts 1:6-8 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Yesterday when I got up to share my ten minutes during our church’s Jubilee Celebration, I was suddenly overpowered by the Holy Spirit. I opened my mouth to speak and words came out from a place in my heart that erased and replaced what had been prepared in my mind. It was so overwhelming that I almost broke down in tearful speechlessness.

But the Holy Spirit had a message for me, and chose that moment to also deliver it through me to others. The message could be condensed into one statement – As followers of Christ we are empowered to accomplish every aspect of the commission of Christ.

 As I reflect on my own life and the life of the church I have concluded that we have participated in a disabling dialogue that goes like this – Some are called and gifted to go; some are called and gifted to witness; and others are called and gifted to disciple.

 We have adopted this dialogue as truth, maybe because it’s more comfortable for us. We all prefer to work within the boundaries of our comfort zones. But there’s a problem with that – a HUGE problem. All the power and provisions for working with comfort zones come from within us, according to our own strength and knowledge. Comfort zones are the product of sight. Comfort zones don’t require faith. Comfort zones eliminate the need for the Holy Spirit.

The disciples of Jesus were looking to pad their comfort zones after the resurrection of Jesus when they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” But Jesus refused to give them the knowledge they thought they needed, and instead told them that they were about to receive enough power to live by faith and fulfill an eternal purpose. He told them to live by the Spirit and not according to the knowledge found in the flesh.

Jesus simply tells us “You don’t have a need to know, you only need the power to be my witnesses.”  We don’t need to know what we are naturally good at – we will become great at what God does in us. We don’t need to live within the confines of our conditional comfort zones – we have the Power to go and make disciples and teach them to observe all things that Jesus has taught us. The Power is promised to do it all, not just part of it.

In the REAL church, knowledge does not produce power; the presence of God produces power. As individuals and as a church we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the fullness of God abides in us. We experience the presence of God, and we are equipped with the power of God to accomplish His eternal purpose of being witnesses to the resurrected Christ. We do not know the answer to how long we have to wait for His return, but we do have the power to do His work until He does. By faith, let’s step out boldly to accomplish God’s purpose. Not just part of it – but ALL of it.

Pastor John

Open Carry

Thursday, February 19, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  Open Carry

Today’s Text:  Acts 4:13 (ESV) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

I had only been in my office for a short time when I heard a voice. I recognized the southern style of mornin’ and responded with the northern version of good morning. Pastor JAH entered my office.

He proceeded to tell me about a dream he had last night that made me seriously think about something. I haven’t had a lot of time to process it, but after I tell you about the dream, I will share my initial thought.

In his dream, James Alan said he was the pastor of the church. He laughed lightly as he assured me this was a dream. The dream took place during a morning worship service in which he was off-stage preparing to preach and the worship team was leading the congregation in a song.

Suddenly there was a very loud commotion. So loud in fact that the music was drowned out by the noise. He stepped out of the room he was in and immediately saw two rival gangs engaged in a big fight. He immediately asked the ushers to clear out the room of everyone except the gang members and get them to safety. Then they locked the doors, so he was alone in the room with the combatants.

As pastor he proceeded to the pulpit with his large hard-covered Bible. He raised it over his head and slammed it down on the pulpit so hard that it made the sound of a gunshot and almost broke the pulpit. Silence came over the room as the gang members’ attention was drawn to the stage.

Then the pastor said, “This thing is loaded, and I’m not afraid to aim it at your hearts.”

——————————————————————————————————————–

Immediately after hearing that line in the story, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart with two words: CONCEALED CARRY. Here’s what I’m processing:

Why do so many of us believe that the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is to be carried in concealment when Jesus Christ has given us an open carry permit?

I am going to spend some more time today thinking about that. I will do some reflection on my attitudes when I am out in public to see if I am intentionally trying to conceal Christ. I will evaluate the fears that keep me from openly carrying the character of Christ and openly sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with anyone I meet.

I’m sure the difference between how I live and how the early Apostles lived in boldness and courage and never backed down from any opposition is this – THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS.

Let’s remember that the constitutional right to carry weapons in America is not the most treasured right we have. The most cherished right we have as followers of Christ is to openly carry a Sword, and use it to save people from their sin.

——————————————————————————————————————–

By the way, there was a tagline to the dream. After stating, “This thing is loaded,” Pastor James Alan Hall told the gangs to sit down, and gave them the Gospel that death precedes life, and that until you die in Christ you will never live. At the conclusion of the dream, both gangs got saved.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16) That includes gangs at war.

Pastor John

Try Modeling Love

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  Model Love

Today’s Text:  1 Thessalonians 3:12 (ESV) May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.

I am surrounded with princesses. (Or is it princi. I get confused over the plural spelling of some words.) Either way, I am surrounded with several young girls who all believe they are a princess. One of them is my granddaughter, one has captured my heart as if she were a granddaughter, and one is a friend of theirs from the church.

As often as possible, these three girls dress up in princess dresses. They twirl and leap and parade around with such joy as they put form to their fantasies. But their favorite thing to do is to model their dresses for us. Their little lives are not complete until grandpa or someone else comments on the beauty of their dress and the perfection of their princessness. (I know, I made up another word, but it fits the mental picture)

Prior to last Christmas, my wife spent hours making two dresses for our youngest granddaughter. They were the perfect replicas of the dresses worn in a now-famous movie called Frozen. She opened the first one and immediately had to model it for us.

Ari Dress 2Then she opened the second one, and it had to be modeled as well.

Modeling comes naturally to a princess. Actually, we are all models of something or other whether we are aware of it or not. Moms model what it means to be a woman. Dads model what it means to be a man.  Children are molded by our modeling, and what they see in us is what they will grow up to believe is “normal and right.”

Modeling is God’s preferred method of motivating people to get fit spiritually. Of course there are other things that motivate, like teaching, correction, discipline, encouragement, and even gentle rebuke. But let me draw your attention to one verse that captured my heart on this subject. It happened as I was preparing for a pastoral leadership class I teach.

In our class study we are evaluating the Book of Acts and how the Apostles and the early church were directed by the Holy Spirit to fulfill Christ’s commission to go and make disciples. To see it the principles in practice we are studying the books of First and Second Thessalonians. As the Apostle Paul writes to them, he spends some quality time affirming them and encouraging them. Then he writes this in chapter 3 verse 12 – May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.

I asked the class to list some ways that the Lord makes people increase and abound in love. After some discussion, I directed them to the one answer provided in this verse – as we do for you.

Modeling motivates growth.

Paul said to this local church in Thessalonica, The Lord wants you to increase and abound in love for each other. Use us as the model of how to do that.

Here’s how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Messasge: And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.

Here’s my point – What are you modeling to others?

Are you so thrilled with the gift of God’s grace that you can’t wait to put it on and show it off to everyone around you?

Is God able to use your life right now as a model of His love so that He can accomplish His work of making others increase and abound in love for others?

Think on these things.

Pastor John

PUSH YOURSELF

Monday, February 16, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  Character Evaluation

Today’s Text:  1 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV)  I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you mayu know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.

I really pushed myself this morning. I am determined that I will stretch myself beyond my normal stopping point. I will no longer be done first.

You see, normally, I get done before others do. When I was a student in elementary school, I got my work done faster than anyone. It may not have been the best work, but it was fast. That carried over into my work habits, and my sports participation. Fast was always my goal: endurance never was.

Well, I’m going to work harder than ever to be done with that, and today I started. I could have quit after 7 reps in my third set, but the goal was 10. Everyone in my group would have cheered me if I had stopped at 5. When I hit 7 my legs were burning and shaking and the thought of quitting was powerful. But I took deeper breaths, set my heart on the finish line, and persevered through the pain and made it to 10.

Getting fit isn’t about being comfortable with our current status. We can only be satisfied with our present condition when we have previously decided that we have the right to self-define our fitness level. At some point we must admit there is someone much more qualified to define what fitness is, and it is only when we listen to them that we will start to make progress.

But that progress requires two things:

  1. An honest evaluation of our current status; and
  2. A determination to endure any pain to accomplish the Trainer’s goals.

This morning I stood on a machine that electronically measured my BMI, my muscle mass, and my body fat percentage. It wasn’t terrible, but it was humbling. Now, I have two choices. To be thankful that I am not all that messed up, or to be motivated to make what is messed up better. I choose the latter.

Yesterday I was really pushed as well. The message God gave me really stretched me. If I follow through on it I will go beyond my normal stopping point. But I am determined to face up to an honest evaluation of my personal and spiritual character, and endure whatever pain I may feel to strive for the standard of Godliness set forth in Scripture.

In case you don’t have any context for what I am writing, please take some time and go to www.calvaryeauclaire.org and watch yesterday’s sermon on Exercising God’s Character.

At the end of the sermon I handed out a character evaluation form to everyone. I hope people actually use it. I am going to ask my wife to evaluate me. Married couples should do this together. Single people should choose a trusted spiritual mentor to fill out the evaluation form.

It will be painful. It will make us defensive and self-protective. But if we push ourselves past the normal stopping point, we will grow. It is a necessary step in becoming spiritually fit.

Here is the evaluation form. Character evaluation sheet

Exercise God’s Image

Determining Our Character Fitness

Please ask a spouse or close friend to evaluate your character fitness according to Paul’s training of Timothy and Titus, and then discuss their responses.

Overall Spiritual Fitness

  1. How do you evaluate my overall fitness as a Christian?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Above Reproach

  1. What is my reputation as a Christian both among fellow believers and in the world?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Marriage

  1. What is the status of my marriage?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Sober-minded

  1. How well do I maintain balance in my life?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Self-Controlled

  1. How well do I maintain self-control in my daily habits and my responses to circumstances?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Respectable

  1. How well does my life consistently reflect the image of Jesus Christ to others?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Hospitable

  1. How well do I show compassion and give help to others in need?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Able to Teach

  1. How well am I able to communicate what I believe to others even though they may disagree?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Not a drunkard

  1. How well am I able to control various kinds of compulsions and addictions?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Not a lover of money

  1. How well do I show that I am not materialistic and greedy for material gain but have a generous spirit?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Manages household well

  1. How well do I fulfill my role in my home as defined in the Bible, not by culture?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Dignified

  1. How honorable and under control am I when I deal with difficult situations or people?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Humility

  1. How well do I draw attention to others rather than myself?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Integrity

  1. How well thought of am I by people who are outside the faith?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Faithful

  1. How well do I stay true to the fundamental doctrines of the faith without wavering?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Commendable Speech (not slanderous)

  1. How well does my communication about others build them up rather than tear them down?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Wisdom

  1. How well do I apply Biblical principles when making decisions or dealing with people?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Not Quick-tempered

  1. How well do I handle my anger so that it does not result in sinful behavior or speech?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Lover of good

  1. How do my attitudes show that I consistently look for the good in people and circumstances?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Not Argumentative

  1. How well do I avoid controversies and arguments and consistently speak with grace?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Gentle

  1. How well do I deal with people according to their best interests and not my own?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Upright

  1. How fair and just am I in dealing with other people, upholding God’s righteousness?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Holy

  1. How well do I live a life of no contradictions and double-standards?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

Disciplined

  1. How consistent am I in my service to Christ?

Out of Shape   1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Very Fit

NOW, ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE PUSHED!

More About Love

Friday, February 13, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  True Love

Today’s Text:  Song of Songs 8:6-7   Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

Happy Valentine’s Day. I say that to you to acknowledge the fact of the holiday and to wish you well, but there is only one person in the world to whom I say Happy Valentine’s Day with all the love this heart can muster, and that’s my precious wife. She is God’s gift to me. She has my heart for the rest of my life.

Of all the passages in Scripture about love, there is none more descriptive of the love between a man and a woman than the one above. I have used it as the basis for more wedding ceremonies than any other passage next to the famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. It speaks to my heart about the permanence and public nature of one’s love for their husband or wife.

  • The one you love is to seal your heart for a lifetime from any and all other options
  • Your love is to be displayed publicly as an armband, but also as a seal keeping you from ever touching another person in an attempt to woo them or satisfy some lust of your heart.
  • Your love is to be as permanent as death is
  • You are to never stop fighting to keep your love (jealousy is a Godly attribute – it is the fight to keep what is rightfully yours)
  • Your love should ignite ever other emotion of your life, and burn visibly to all others.
  • Nothing in this world can ever quench true love, not matter how fast and furiously they flow into your life
  • Love cannot be bought or sold. You must never exchange the pure gold of true love for any other option or temporary passion.

True love between a man and a woman in marriage (and might I add that that is the only kind of marriage God honors), is designed by God to last a lifetime if both individual’s hearts are in love with Jesus Christ as their Savior.

If only we could love like God intends us to love. If only we could move from the emotional side of love to the commitment side of love, then maybe more people would stay married. Love is not an emotion. Emotions are the product of love. Love is a decision to sacrifice self for the sake of another, like Jesus did when He loved us even though we were in rebellion against Him because of our sin. Love ceases – it absolutely ceases – in the moment that we consider ourselves better than or more important than anyone else. You cannot love self and seek to serve self at the same time you claim to love someone else.

That’s convicting, but it’s true. Just look at the reminders of that in 1 Corinthians 13 –

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
  • It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
  • Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
  • It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  • Love never fails.

So nail it down – there is only one other person in this world that you can truly love with all your heart while you are loving God with all your heart and that’s your spouse. Be proud of that. It’s not a punishment. It’s to be made public and displayed as a testimony to the world of the love God has for us.

Pastor John

7 UP

Thursday, February 12, 2015

 Today’s Topic:  7 UP

Today’s Text:  1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… 3  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….

What is the heart of God for all people?

A correct answer must be more than just an intellectual response – it must be a transformational truth. For if the heart of God for ALL people is that they be saved from their sin, then as possessors of the heart of God through faith in Jesus Christ for our own salvation, must not our heart for all people be the same?

Please don’t move on from that question until you have deeply and thoroughly contemplated it. Are our hearts moved by the same things that move the heart of God? Are our decisions motivated by the same compassionate love for sinners that motivates the activity of God? Are we joining God on the eternal mission He has already declared to be the singular purpose of His heart?

I have recently reviewed these questions with the Lord, and I have been humbled. I have seen the activity of my life from God’s perspective, and realize that far too many of my pursuits and passions are motivated by my mission, not Christ’s. I have come face to face with the truth that for me and everyone like me who is a born again follower of Jesus Christ there is only one mission – make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Listen, this is very serious business. We have been declared children of God and joint heirs of all things with Jesus Christ. We have been forgiven of our sins by being washed in His blood shed on Calvary’s cross as the full payment for our sin. We have been set apart as His chosen people and as such will never be judged or condemned for our sin. We have been given the Holy Spirit to reside in us – the very eternal Presence of God the Father in His fullness abiding in us. We have been granted access to the powers and provisions of God to meet every need. Yet daily we tend to choose to live by a culturally dictated and personally defined mission, rather than the mission mandated by the Master.

The last truth Jesus declared to His disciples before leaving earth was go and make disciples of all nations. It is called the Great Commission, but for so many of us it is the Great Omission. But the mission of Christ is not optional for the followers of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit who resides in us makes every one of us a witness for Jesus Christ. Embodied in the gift of salvation is the mission to multiply. Witnessing for Christ and making disciples will happen in every one of us unless we consciously choose the only option there that hinders the mission –abstinence. The only way to avoid multiplication is to abstain from the activity that produces life. Do we recognize that the choice to abstain is a direct contradiction to the heart of God and the mission of Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Paul tells us how to get back on track with our mission.

  • First, understand the heart of God for all people.
  • Second, understand Christ’s purpose for coming into the world.
  • Third, join the Holy Spirit in the mission of Christ, and the very first expression of partnership with Christ will be to start praying for people to be saved.

On Sunday I challenged our congregation to begin praying for people’s salvation. Everyone was asked to create a list of seven people for whom they will pray to be saved. They were also asked to pray for themselves, that they would be available to God to be the one to share the message of Jesus Christ’s love and forgiveness with those people. It’s called 7-UP. United Prayer for 7 people to be saved.

7up-logo

Have you made your list yet?

Pastor John

 

 

Be Prepared

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

 Today’s Topic: For the Forgetful

 Today’s Text:  Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NIV)  

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

See if you can figure out who wrote this memoir of his first Valentine’s Day as a married man.

“That February 14 [the first of our marriage] I went to the USC library and spent eight or ten hours studying. At home, my wife cooked a wonderful dinner, baked a pink, heart-shaped cake with “Happy Valentine’s Day” written on top, and placed red candles, a small gift, and a love note on the table.

About 8 p.m., I got hungry and ordered a hamburger at the University Grill. Then, heading toward home, I stopped by to see my parents. Mom served up a great slice of apple pie. When I put my key in the lock about 10 p.m., the apartment was almost dark and deathly quiet.

On the table a coagulated dinner still sat in our best dishes. Half-burned candles stood cold and dark in their silver-plated holders. Then I noticed the red-and-white decorations. “Oh no!” I thought. I felt like a creep. I didn’t even have a Valentine for her, much less a thoughtful gift. I couldn’t even pretend to want the dried-out food before me.

After a brief flurry of words, and a few tears, she went to bed and pulled the covers up around her ears. Fortunately, she is not only romantic but forgiving. And I determined never to forget Valentine’s Day again!”

That story of a Valentine’s Day disaster happened to none other than Dr. James Dobson. I hope that doesn’t happen to any of you this weekend. It won’t if you use today to be prepared.

As you plan your gifts and events that will reflect the true love of your heart to your spouse or fiancé, do a little heart check. Review what Solomon wrote about his lover in the Scripture above and see how much is an accurate description of what you call love.

  • Can your lover trust your love? Has your heart been sealed forever, never to be tempted again by attraction to another?
  • Can your lover trust your actions, so that anywhere you go and anything you do the seal of their love on your arm is visible at all times for all to see?
  • Is your love until death parts you?
  • Does your love for your lover hang on no matter how bad the circumstances of the relationship seem to be?
  • Does your love still burn like a blazing fire?
  • Is your love for your lover the most precious thing on earth to you?

Now, go plan the best Valentine’s Day ever, and then make sure the love that you show tomorrow is shown every day from now on! And as you make your plans, remember the ultimate Valentine hand-made by God.

To make a valentine God took two shafts of wood

And on that wood in love and anguish placed his Son,

Who gave his heart that mine might

Be made new.

(Eleanor Whitesides)

Pastor John