To The Unknown GOD

“For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The GOD who made the world and everything in it — He is LORD of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek GOD, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being GOD’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination. Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, GOD now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the MAN He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:23‭-‬31 HCSB

I found this on eBible.com, written by S. Michael Houdmann (http://www.gotquestions.org/normative-ethics.html).

CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Unlike the other normative ethical schools, Christian ethics answers the questions. It identifies truth (God), outlines the basis of ethics (principles found in the Bible), and even lists some universal laws that apply directly to the unchanging truth.The problem with manmade ethics is that they start with a false assumption of truth and try to build from there. Deontology says ethics are based on obligation, without basing that obligation on God’s truth. Consequentialism says that “good” is truth, but then can’t define what “good” is. Relativism says we cannot know the truth. And virtue ethics claims that we can work to embody truth ourselves. Only Christian ethics says that truth exists (Psalm 51:6), truth is knowable (Proverbs 3:3), and we will need help from the Creator of truth to find it (John 14:16-17). It is foolish to base a standard of behavior on our feeble notions of the truth of the cosmos when the Truth Himself is willing to guide us (John 14:6).

I love research!

Our LORD GOD is Absolute, the Alpha and the Omega, and He will sit as the Final Judgement on all of His creation. Are you prepared to stand before Him? I know I have been forgiven and redeemed by the MAN our GOD has appointed, and I know that this MAN, JESUS CHRIST, will be my Advocate and show me as Righteous in front of the ALMIGHTY at the Great White Throne Judgement. NO ONE is Righteous without the Covering of the Blood of JESUS, and the Saving Grace and Mercy this MAN JESUS CHRIST has provided us. I ask again, are you ready? Remember, only HIS Judgement matters!

Jesus Christ, My Living Hope

Sung by Phil Wickham, this song is a beautiful anthem, a praise hymn, and a glorious tribute to the HOPE that is only found in JESUS CHRIST.

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my Living Hope

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” {JESUS} said to {the Pharisee}, “Love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the Greatest and most important Command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” – Matthew 22:36‭-‬40 HCSB

How can we not love and worship the LORD? He left heaven and His Throne to live a life of hardships here on earth; to be tortured for nothing more than being Himself, and to die a horrific death on the cross for each and every human who will ever live. He came as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins; to give us unlimited Love and Forgiveness and Mercy and Grace. There is the beauty of it all! Would you be willing; would you volunteer, to be tortured, mocked and spit on, and then nailed to a cross until you died, in physical agony the whole time, for the neighbor you barely know? The coworkers who gossip behind your back? JESUS did that and more, and He did it willingly, even knowing that He would be rejected by millions. I don’t have that kind of mercy or grace! I have a difficult time just being civil to some people, and to die for them? I don’t think so.

What tender Mercies our LORD pours over us! Jesus Christ, my Living Hope, Sustainer of my life, SAVIOUR and Redeemer. Amen!

Yes, I know it’s a shameless plug for Phil Wickham! But….. just listen to that song!!!

Everything Lost???

Paul is such an eloquent writer. He has the ability to lift us up and then put us firmly in our place, all while praising the LORD. He has a firm grasp on humility, too. Consider these verses:

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the LORD. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing CHRIST JESUS my LORD. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain CHRIST and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in CHRIST — the righteousness from GOD based on faith. I pursue as my goal the prize promised by GOD’S heavenly call in CHRIST JESUS.” – Philippians 3:1‭, ‬8‭-‬9‭, ‬14 HCSB

(*the term ‘brothers’, in this context, is usd to encompass the entire congregation at Philippi, including both the men and the women.)

In spite of many hardships and difficult circumstances, and even through imprisonment, Paul’s faith in the LORD was never shaken. He held tight to the promise of spending eternity with JESUS. Can we say the same? As hard as I try, I struggle to achieve that peace. In my losses, anger and bitterness were (are) much easier to focus on than forgiveness and joy. Looking out at all the ugliness that appears to be consuming our world, there isn’t much to see that shows the way of peace, so I know I’m not alone in my discomfort/pain. I think it’s that sinful human nature that pushes the negative to the front of our thoughts, because the last thing that Satan wants to see is content, peaceful Christians in the middle of his chaotic world.

The verses mesh right into today’s verse from the YouVersion Bible app (https://bible.com/bible)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7 HCSB

Without the reverence (the ‘fear’) we need to have for the LORD, even the fear of His Judgement, we can never find true peace in this world. What do you have? A healthy reverence, fear, peace with the LORD, or are you stuck in the bitterness and chaos of the world? It’s a choice we face constantly….

What Is LOVE?

Seems like “love” to the world means sex, money, position, and prestige. We are constantly on the prowl for this elusive feeling. Once you have experienced even a tiny taste, it is something that is an instant, instantaneous, addiction. Love is more addictive than heroin or cigarettes or alcohol, and it is so much more than just a feeling. We spend our lives chasing “love” and in most cases, missing it entirely. A mother’s love is both fierce and protective, and it is gentle and nurturing ….. at least, it should be. Satan has screwed it up, just as he has perverted every single thing, every single place, every single molecule on this earth.

Should I find out that anybody is messing with any of my kids*, I transform into a mama grizzly! (*My kids consist of any person who is vulnerable or fragile, my nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, even my Mom. It also applies to my 4-legged buddies.) I’ll never know just how fathers love (since I’m not one 😁 ), but the men whom I admire most are providers and protectors, and they will go to almost any length to care for their loved ones.

The Bible, the Words of our Creator, speak on love in a number of verses and contexts. The Songs of Solomon are beautifully written, telling about the sweet love between two people. (Men, pay attention to those verses! They are dynamite for the love of your life. You can melt her heart, using it as an example.) Paul wrote to the followers of CHRIST in Corinth and Colossae about love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬8a NIV

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13 NIV

That last sentence of verse 13 is such a critical part of true love. Without forgiveness, how we possibly be patient or kind to that person? Being unforgiving is so harsh. It ruins relationships at work, between friends, within families, with our children and parents, and our spouses. Whatever was done to you (real or perceived) is nothing to what we have done to JESUS – and yet, He FORGIVES us, 100%, no grudges or plots for revenge. I would lay down my life in a heartbeat, putting myself in harms way to protect my loved ones. The BIG question is this: would I lay down my life for my enemies, for the men who have hurt me? JESUS did.

“This is how we know what LOVE is: JESUS CHRIST laid down His LIFE for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16 NIV

No Matter What (sung by Ryan Stevenson and Bart Miller)

No matter what the end is
My life began with you
I can’t deny what I believe
I can’t be what I’m not
I know, I know
I know this love’s forever
That’s all that matters now
No matter what

(Photo credit Love Dare – WordPress.com )

You Shall….. And You Shall Not

I think GOD was pretty clear when He gave Moses and the Israelites the Ten Commandments. Sometimes, though, we need a little nudge or reminder….
* You shall put the LORD GOD above all else. You shall have no other gods before Me. Focus. Read your Bible. Study GOD’s Word. Pray. Share your faith, even when it is scary. Live it.
* You shall put all these things behind the LORD: sports teams, kids, spouse, job, food, drugs, toys (y’all know what I’m talkin’ about here!) You shall not make for yourself an idol.
* You shall watch your language. Be creative with your language rather than cursing the LORD. (Leapin’ lizards! Oh, SNAP! Ah, Snickerdoodle!) You shall not take the Name of the LORD your GOD in vain.
* You shall set aside a day for rest and worship. Remember the Sabbath day. (Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday. Just pick one!)
* You shall Honor your father and mother. Respect!
* You shall forgive (He doesn’t say forget, He says forgive.) You shall not murder (no matter how much the person might deserve it!) Leave it to the courts – whether earthly or divine.
* You shall be faithful to your spouse, in heart, mind, and body. You shall not commit adultery. If you are considering it, just stop it now.
* You shall be honest, whether at work or play, and respect other people’s belongings. You shall not steal.
* You shall refuse to listen to or spread gossip, and always be truthful. You shall not bear false witness. That includes lies and half-truths.
* You shall respect the belongings, and the bodies, of each individual. You shall not covet.You shall not covet.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy [generous], your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy [stingy], your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both GOD and money.” – Matthew 6:22‭-‬24a NIV

Not just money, either. You can’t serve the LORD by being immersed in other things. Back to the second commandment, anything we put in front of GOD, whatever it is, is what you are serving. A football / sports team, your career, money, addition, food, family can all be idols we stumble over (mea culpa; I’m guilty of it, also) when we should be focused on our LORD. It all boils back to the basics. JESUS summed it up in these 4 sentences:

“ ‘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.” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬40 NIV

Guilt Is An UGLY Thing

Guilt is built into us from the moment we begin life. From a two-celled zygote (I remember my high school science!), to a fully-formed baby, to a 100+ year old person, we are guilty of sin. It’s in our DNA, thanks to the decision made millenia ago by the first man and first woman, and it is furthered by our upbringing. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself!’ ‘I can’t believe you would do such a thing.’ Even, ‘You’ll never amount to anything.’ There are hundreds of variations on this theme. Even David, the great and renowned king of Israel, had guilt about his actions. Only one man has ever lived a guilt-free life on this earth, and that man is called Jesus.

“Have Mercy on me, O GOD, because of Your Unfailing Love. Because of Your Great Compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against You, and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in Your sight. You will be proved right in what You say, and Your Judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But You desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; You have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O GOD. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your Presence, and don’t take Your HOLY SPIRIT from me.” – Psalms 51:1‭-‬11 NLT

There is a release from guilt that can only come when we surrender it to the LORD. It’s an incredible release to be free from that burden! My prayer today is that whatever guilt you are hanging on to, no matter what it is, you will let it go. It’s never easy, because we are taught guilt from an early age – but it can be done! Sometimes, too, guilt is caught up in unforgiveness, which makes it doubly difficult to shed. We need to remember that forgivess, or asking for forgiveness, is what we have to do in order to gain freedom ftom guilt. Read David’s song as your prayer today.

Listen to Natalie Grant sing “More Than Anything.”

Tolerance, Diversity, Forgiving

What a wild, wacky world we inhabit. Tolerance and diversity seem to be the catch phrases in the U.S. today, but what I see most is in-tolerance and un-forgivess. By definition, ‘tolerance’ means “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

‘Diversity’ is defined as “the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion. … the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.” (Dictionary.com)

Finally, forgiveness. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. … Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. (Greater Good magazine)

And this is how Paul explains it to the church in Ephesus:

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as GOD through CHRIST has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32 NLT

Being intolerant and unforgiving became a part of the human experience all the way back to the first man and the first woman and their children – our ancestors; the father and mother of the entire human race. Look at Cain and Abel in Genesis, chapter 4. Jealousy, anger, intolerance and unforgivess…. just because Able was different from his brother, Cain killed him. If we stick to the dictionary for answers, whenever we announce that we are tolerant, or liberal-minded, then we should be living the these things: Acceptance, open-mindedness, broad-mindedness; forbearance, patience, charity, indulgence, understanding.

Instead, we have redefined liberalty to mean tolerance of all views except our own. We offer charity and indulgence to people who agree with us, and woe to anyone who opposes us! Christians and non-Christians alike, man and woman, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, old or young; Baptist, Catholic, atheist….. it doesn’t matter what group or demographic you look at, you will find plenty of intolerance and unforgivess.

All of this begs the question, what can we – what can I do to break the chain of ugliness? I don’t know that we can anything, but each of us, individually, can stop it within ourselves. By proclaiming that I am a follower of CHRIST and that I was raised a Baptist (AND a Preacher’s kid!), many people assume that I am a goody-two-shoes, with a holier-than-thou judgemental attitude. People who really know me and my family would scoff at that label! I’ve done my judging, but it’s been aimed more at the ‘church’ than the world. I’m a hypocrite. I’ve done my share of causing pain to others. I am so far from perfect, I’m not sure it could even be measured.

No matter who you are, you are not perfect. The most liberal-minded liberal is intolerant and unforgiving. We all have the same opportunity to rid ourselves of all the negativity and ugliness in our lives, and that opportunity comes through our LORD and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. He doesn’t care about anything that defines you; He only cares about the state of your heart. Listen to the hymn Amazing Grace. No matter what we are dealing with in this life, or what we will go through in the future, JESUS has our backs.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace will lead me home.

“For this is how GOD Loved the world: He gave His One and Only SON, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. GOD sent His SON into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:16‭-‬17 NLT

Are you a liberal in GOD’s eyes, saved by Grace and following His Son, or are you a Liberal in the eyes of the world, intolerant and unwilling to include Christians in your diversity?