Tag Archive | love of God

There Was A Time When…

red ryderEvery Christmas season, Americans have countless opportunities to view the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. Who can forget the adventures of Ralphie, his family and friends, and his trusty “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle“. Many of Ralphie’s experiences ring true, for those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s (and even the 70’s). The sights and sounds, the camaraderie of friends relegated to playing in the great outdoors… who would be best friends one day, fighting the next, and back to “buddydom” the very next day. Many of us can relate to having friends like Flick or Schwartz…

And many can relate to having a Scut Farkus in our lives as well.

In Ralphie’s life, Scut Farkus (and his “little toadie” Grover Dill) were the community bullies, bullying Ralphie and his friends until one day Ralphie had had enough, and in a moment of pure rage, turns the tables on the bullying Farkus. From that point on, Scut and Dill never pick on Ralphie or his friends again, proving the belief that, for most bullies, all they need to back down is for someone to stand up to them.

While I don’t condone senseless violence, watching that movie reminds me that there was a time when friends stood up for friends, when right and wrong were simple choices, and the world (much like the television of the 60’s) was black-and-white.

I remember that there was a time when…

  • A person’s first reaction to seeing another person in distress was the lend a helping hand. It is maddening these days to see videos posted online and on the news of an individual being taunted, bullied, picked on, or beaten down with no one coming to that person’s aid, but to look and see a dozen people standing by — all with cell phones — videotaping the altercation. Romans 14:7 reminds us that “none of us lives to himself“. In his classic, My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote…

If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer.

And friend, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our culture is suffering.

  • Freedom of speech, good or bad, was a basic right. Freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. The same right that allows a Christian to unashamedly share the love of Jesus also allows people to espouse some pretty offensive things — words of hate, negativity, profanity, etc. It is a simple right, guaranteed by our Constitution. Yet recently, the story came out that a university police department is encouraging students to turn people in for “hateful and/or hurtful speech”. One problem (of many) with such a rule is this: Who defines what constitutes “hateful or hurtful” speech? To a non-believer, the idea that they face an eternity in Hell, devoid of the presence of God might be considered “hurtful speech”. Sometimes the truth — regarding things of faith or not — hurts. The Bible says that, to someone who lives a life of spiritual disobedience, Jesus is considered “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (see 1 Peter 2:1-8). Does a person’s right — under any circumstances — to not having their feelings hurt trump another person’s right to free speech, guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution? Whether we like it or not, starting down that path is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.
  • Police officers were respected in our communities, and supported by our leaders. Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in violence against police as a result of misleading stories and irresponsible reporting in the media, and lack of support of leadership in government. When criminals are afforded the assumption of “innocent until proven guilty” but police are not, we are on a dangerous path to societal rebellion and anarchy. When police have to go into hiding simply because they either did their job or protected themselves (or both), we are in danger of becoming a completely lawless society. In Romans 13:2-3, Paul writes…

Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

  • IMG_1905Men were men, women were women, and society knew the difference. The LGBT agenda has
    permeated every facet of our society. From local gyms where “transgender” individuals are allowed in opposite-sex dressing rooms (and those who object have their memberships revoked), to school systems where “transgender” students are (considered) being allowed into opposite-sex locker rooms… the lines of decency and propriety are rapidly disappearing…When a young girl is subjected to awkwardness and embarrassment in a locker room because a boy is in there who claims to “identify” as a female;

    When a national magazine selects a man who dresses up like a woman to be their “Woman of the Year”;

    When a group of black-robed justices defy the God-ordained institution of marriage —

    Such things bring to mind the warning of the prophet Isaiah…

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

  • The world knew we were Christians by our love. While it is vitally important to stand for what is right, we as Christians have become known more for what we are against than what we are for. Oftentimes, instead of focusing on the Great Commission, we brow-beat a secular world over things that amount to no more than a diversion they don’t understand. We are inconsistent in our priorities, which sends a confusing signal to a culture watching us through a “microscope lens”. Consistency in the message of Christ matters, otherwise we seem disingenuous at best. For instance, IF I am going to boycott a secular organization, it should probably be less over the color of their “holiday” cups and more over their support of abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

CoffeeWith all of the mayhem that is going on in the world, we are seeing an unprecedented assault on Christians in our lifetime. Things may never return to “the good old days”, but there is definitely room and opportunity for improvement. Regardless of how we are accepted in today’s society, one thing is certain: We won’t change the minds of people in our culture until God changes their hearts, and what God will use to change their hearts is a Body of Christ that operates in righteousness, walks in unity, and talks in truth and love.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. ~ 1 Peter 3:15

Love is the language that all people understand, because love is the language of God. He IS love, and as creatures created in His image, love is our native language. For some, it may be deep and buried, but it is there…

And it is our responsibility and opportunity to try to find it.

Drunken Generals and the Spirit of David

GenUSGrantOne of the greatest generals from the North during the Civil War was Ulysses S. Grant. Although a brilliant tactician, he was considered by some to be a drunk. In the face of requests to dismiss him, Abraham Lincoln replied…

I cannot spare this man… He fights.

King David was the greatest king Israel had ever known. A renowned warrior… an extravagant worshiper — David became trapped in a web of deceit and manipulation. What started as an illicit affair ended in murder and cover-up. He was plunged into a place of emotional darkness and despair. Yet in spite of all of his mistakes, God restored David, and referred to him as “a man after My own heart“.

A while back, one of my staff wrote an essay about David. I thought I’d share it with you…

The Spirit of David

“Small, ruddy faced… sings good though…”

In so many words, that was David’s introduction to Samuel and the world. The prophet was sent by Jehovah to the house of Jesse to find and anoint the one who would replace the disobedient Saul as king of Israel. God chose the smallest and most unassuming of many brothers to lead His people, and true to His form, God took “the least of these” and made him the greatest king in Israel’s history.

In modern times we refer to the Spirit of Praise as “The Spirit of David”. There are songs by that title, and it is alluded to in countless others. After all, David was “the sweet singer of Israel”, know probably as well for his harp picking as his rock slinging. At least in certain spear-hurling circles, he was loved and despised for both. But let’s face it… when it came to worship, David knew how. He threw off tradition and trappings, and set out to worship God Almighty, no matter what it cost him. At times in his life, I believe that nothing mattered more to him that knowing he was right with his Creator.

But there is more to the Spirit of David than meets the eye. Afer all, how can you just take the good and forget the rest. There was the dark side of David’s life as well…

There was David the adulterer…

David the murderer…

David the hypocrite…

David the lousy dad…

David the ineffective leader.

Yessir, it is a package deal. His imperfections were obvious. Can good praise and worship overlook a life that had that many and that glaring of sins? Can good harp playing cover a life marked by repeated failure and turmoil?

“…As far as the east is from the west.”

That’s how far God promises to throw the sins of those who turn their hearts to Him. He promises to remember them no more. It was good enough for David. It’s good enough for us. We don’t understand… we don’t have to. It is an unconditional promise of God, a promise rooted in mercy and grace. It is a promise that transcends our thought process. Sure, I don’t understand it… I’m not God. He does, however.

So let’s set the record straight:

David was an adulterer… but he was a man after God’s own heart.

David was a murderer… but his desire was toward God. (Don’t believe me? Read any Psalm he wrote).

David was a lousy dad… but he had a Heavenly Father who never gave up on him.

And as hard as it may be for us to believe, He’ll never give up on us either. Ever.

The Spirit of David is the Spirit of Praise. Praise out of an imperfect heart that understands vertical praise in spite of horizontal failure.

In Search of Rusty Gold

Through the Looking Glass

The television show American Pickers follows Mike and Frank around the country as they pick through the barns, homes, and junk piles of people all over the country, looking for what they call “rusty gold”. What one person considers junk, these guys see as potential for profit. What one person sees as trash with little value, Mike and Frank see as treasure with great value.

Sounds a lot like how Jesus found all of us.

The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were unrepentant and vile, Christ went to the cross.

While we were filthy and falling apart, Jesus took our judgment upon Himself.

While we were buried in the trash heap of human refuse, Jesus dug through the mess, pulled us out, cleaned us up, and placed great value on us.

Regardless of what rust has collected on your soul, Jesus sees you as a treasure with great worth.

Maybe you should start seeing yourself the way He does.

Whys, Lies, & The Mysteries of God

Why?

It is the single word ground into the bloody soil of every battlefield in the world.

It is buried in the rubble of every civilization, state, and neighborhood that has been devastated by a natural disaster.

It lies in the ashes of the burned-up dreams of a family that just lost everything.

It can be heard in quiet, night-time sobbing of a little girl whose mother just succumbed to cancer.

It resonates in the screams of a father as he buries his son.

It is the shortest, most-asked, and

least-answered question in the English language.

Why?

You’ve heard it asked thousands of times, and while there are sometimes physical reasons that events happen in our lives, reasons – even good reasons – don’t answer why.

Or, to be more specific…

Why did God allow this to happen?

Whether you are just wondering, have gone through something that you have come to terms with, or are in the heat of that emotional torture right now, I don’t presume to have an easy answer for you, or have anything to say that is going to make the pain magically disappear. In reality, I believe we have a very skewed, 21st Century perspective of life, pain, and suffering (and I’m as guilty as the next person). We don’t want to believe that “bad things happen to good people”. We cannot conceive a loving God who allows tragedies and atrocities to occur. We stand on the words of Thomas Jefferson and claim “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, while forgetting the words of Jesus that promised, “…In this world, you will have trouble…”.

Quite honestly, it is a mystery… pure and not-so-simple.

Mystery… one word that encapsulates the very nature of God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ~ Isaiah 55:8

The Bible is filled with references pertaining to the mysteries of God. The word mystery, by its very definition, means something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. There is not the time, knowledge, or vocabulary to begin to explain either the mysteries of God or the mystery that is God. However, there is truth that, while it may not give us answers, can give us hope.

All of us are going to see difficult times. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent curse that altered the course of human history from a state of perfection to what we find today, we will all face problems, suffer hardship, and experience death. It all goes back to the verse I mentioned earlier…

… In this world you will have trouble…

But the hope lies in the rest of the verse:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

While suffering in every conceivable way is part of the deal our ancestors signed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus assures us that He has it all in hand because He has overcome the world.

Whatever we are going through, HE has already been there. Bad things do happen to good people. If you don’t believe me, just think of Jesus. While being the sinless Son of God, He was falsely accused, suffered at the hands of sinners, and was killed in a horrific way by sinners.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

The mystery of this verse lies in the first 4 words: For He made Him… When Jesus went through all of the agony of being our sacrifice on the cross, God didn’t just watch it happen, or even allow it to happen… He MADE it happen. He wrote the law that provided our way of escape as a result of the fall, and then executed the plan even though it would cost Him His only Son. He did that for you.

When you are in your darkest night, there will be no shortage of people making inappropriate (and even stupid) comments. Some people truly want to help, but don’t know what to say, so they say the wrong thing. Some people just want to be judgmental, give you your why in the form of condemnation and criticism, and throw gasoline on your emotional fire. If either of these describe what you have gone through, you are in good company… consider Job. Everything that happened to Job was simply because Satan wanted to prove a point, and God took the challenge – at Job’s expense. When the bottom fell out in Job’s life (along with losing his possessions and health, he tragically lost his ten children), his “friends” showed up, and immediately started telling him everything he may have done wrong. His wife even chimed in, telling him to “curse God and die”. However, after all of the criticism, nay-saying, and unsubstantiated accusations from his friends, Job was vindicated. Not only was Job restored and blessed (even more than previously), but the very people who criticized him had to go through Job in order to be forgiven by God (see Job 42:7-10).

Whatever life sends your way, none of it gets by Him.

The fact of the matter is that God has a pretty profound list of whys as well. Why did God have to allow Jesus to go through all of the frustration, humiliation, sorrow, pain, and death? Why did He decide to offer a faithless, ungrateful, and fallen race a second chance with Him? Why did He decide that we were worth loving when He knew we would fail Him over and over again?

It’s a mystery I don’t understand.

But… I’m sure glad He did.

Silent Preaching

Through the Looking GlassSt. Francis of Assisi had this to say about sharing the Gospel…

“Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.”

In the church, we put a lot of emphasis on sharing our faith. However, many times, our actions speak louder than our words. After all… who is our audience???

… The waitress we chewed out for getting our order wrong at a restaurant;

… The clerk we belittled for an honest mistake;

… The guy at work who saw us wasting company time;

… The new next-door neighbor we never had time to welcome to the neighborhood.

Sometimes we may struggle with the right thing to say when discussing our faith. Maybe we should first make sure that our actions reflect the love of God before we open our mouths.

Here’s a challenge for you: Share God’s love with someone in your life today, and, if necessary, use words.