Archive for » June, 2014 «

June 24 – Psalm 119

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loveWhat is love, what does it have to do with it?

Love is a difficult word for us as English speakers. Other languages, Greek for example, have multiple words for love. So, if you “love” soccer, if you “love” your pizza, if you “love” your wife, there’s no confusion about which you want to snuggle with and which you want covered in pepperoni’s. At least let’s hope not.

Love is a theme that runs throughout the whole Bible, almost more than any other theme (almost). The question is, what does the Bible mean when it talks about love? God loves us, we love God, Isaac loved Rebekah, the early Church loved each other. Clearly these are not all the same, but they are all the same words in English. So, since we can’t read them all in one day (that’s just craziness), let’s look at one; how do we love God?


What does it mean to love God? Is it to think about God a lot, to keep him in the front of your mind, the way you might for your significant other? Is it to prefer him over other gods, the way you might love football more than baseball? Is it to think of God the first thing in the morning, like a cappuccino or a hot tea?

Fortunately, in this case, God is nice enough to clarify for us what loving Him looks like: “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words…You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” In Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible, so you know it must be awesome) we are reminded constantly that the truth of love is found in God’s law. To love God, we must obey His commandments.


Oh, here it comes now: “We are no longer under the law, because of Jesus.” How we love to throw this out; it’s so freeing. I can do what I want, because Jesus loves me. So what does Jesus say about love? “Let’s just hang out and love each other; forget that law stuff.” Fraid not, my friends. In fact, Jesus sounds an awful lot like that mean ole God in the Old Testament: “If you love me, keep My commands…anyone who loves Me will obey.” (John 14) and “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” (I John 5)

There’s no getting around it; if you want to love Jesus, you have to obey his commands. Yes Jesus forgives, yes God is love and has made a way for us, yes the old things have passed away. But let’s not forget that Jesus didn’t just come to be our buddy, he is also our Lord.  Let’s not ignore what Jesus says fairly plainly; if we don’t obey his commands, if we do what we want and rely on his love to forgive us, then we really aren’t loving Him at all. We are only loving ourselves, and using Him.

Is that the kind of love you would want?

June 23, 2014 – Matthew 3

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johnbaptistJohn the Baptist is one of the most intriguing characters in the whole Bible. From his conception, he had a special place in God’s plans.  One can even argue he was the first to recognize Jesus for who He was – the Lamb of God. And yet John’s life could have been radically different.

Contrary to what you might think, John had other options. His dad, Zechariah, was a priest who had actually spent time in the very presence of God to offer incense (it was like the Publisher’s Clearing House for a priest). It would be very natural that John himself would be a priest (it was hereditary in those days), and could probably expect to be a fairly important one.  John may have grown up to be the High Priest when Jesus was preaching.  Imagine how different the Bible might have been then.


And John gave it all up. He gave up living near (or in) the temple; he gave up the respect of his people; he gave up the middle-class life in the suburbs of Jerusalem. And for what? To live out in the wilderness, wearing a scratchy shirt, eating bugs, and running the bee gauntlet for honey once in a while. Even you outdoorsy kind of guys gotta hate bees.  Everyone hates bees.  They’re jerks.

John gave up any comfort and respect he had a “right” to. And Jesus said there was no one greater. That’s a pretty strong compliment, especially from Jesus, who probably knows a thing or two about giving up awesomeness to serve God’s will. John got the privilege of participating in one of the crucial events of Jesus’ life – his baptism – because he had given up what seemed to be the “blessings” that were rightfully his.  He spent thirty years of his life living out in the boonies, and Jesus pointed to him (John) as the example of what we should all be.


And notice that following God does not mean that everything will go peachy for you.  John spent years in prison, and finally was separated from his noggin by a vengeful woman and her immoral daughter.  Does that seem fair?  Of course not; but God’s will was done.  John was doing what God had in mind, no matter what.  Later on Paul, who spent most his life following God closely, talked of his beatings, shipwrecks, starvation, and other goodness.  Being in God’s will does not mean that you will be comfortable.

What are you willing to give up to truly follow God? Would you give up your job? Would you wear thrift-store clothes and drive a rusted-out Oldsmobile? Will you give up your rights to your guns, or your free speech, or your happiness? Will you eat macaroni and cheese every other day? Will you give up 20% of your paycheck to charity? What about another 10% just for missionaries? Will you stand up and be laughed at for living your life according to book of “myths”? Will you give up your home to work overseas? Will you give up that relationship that has priority over God?

How far are you willing to go to be what God has in mind for you?

June 20, 2014 – Revelation 22

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cartWhat defines you? Is it what you believe or what you do? If I say “a heatlhy lifestyle is very important to me” yet I have a subscription to Oreo Weekly – including the annual double stuff issue – who am I really? If I believe that the best defense is a good offense, but I spend all my rupees on a bigger shield and armor, what do I really believe?

The book of James is famous in Biblical criticism circles for the number of times it has almost been removed from the Bible. No less a celebrity than Martin Luther himself called it an “epistle of straw” and wanted it removed from the canon of Scripture. Why? Because in Luther’s view (and many Protestants today) the emphasis on actions in the book of James is in contradiction to Paul’s continued emphasis on simple belief. However, what is the indicator of what you really believe? Is it what you say you believe? Or what you do?


Let’s look at today’s reading, specifically Revelation 22:11 – “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy. “ Some commentators argue that this is meant as an ironic prophetic statement (those crazy prophets, what with the irony and all). But let’s look at it a little differently. The one who does wrong is a wrong-doer; the one who does vile things is vile; the one who does right is righteous; the one who does holy things is holy.  In other words, what you do not only defines who you are, it can affect who you are.

Psychology tells us that it is just as common for our actions to influence our personality as the other way around. For example, many marriage counselors will advocate “acting” like you’re in love with your spouse, even if you don’t “feel” in love with your spouse. What happens over time? Eventually your feelings, your personality, your viewpoint, who you are changes to become the person you have been acting.  If you act like you’re in love with someone, eventually you are.


It works in reverse too. If you dwell on negative things, if you are consistently tearing others down (or yourself), you will become a miserable, unhappy person because you are doing what miserable people do. Even though you may not have been “that kind of person,” if you continue to let your thoughts and actions go down a certain road, sooner or later you become that person. If you act like a jerk on a consistent basis, you’ll become a jerk to the core of your jerktastic jerk-core.

So here’s the challenge for today: you want to be a spiritual, holy person? Then start acting like it. Even if you don’t “feel” holy; even if your past says you are more monster than monk. You can change who you “are” by changing what you do. Read your Bible; be generous; be patient; don’t watch that show; let others go first; let people walk all over you; spend ten minutes in prayer. You will find that if you behave as if you really trust God, sooner or later you will. If you behave as if God is the most important thing in your life, you may be surprised to find that He actually is.

Let he who is being holy, be holy.