Who Do You Love; Who Loves You?

I have been searching for the answer to this question most of my life, but do we understand what the word “love” really means? Oh sure, we can go to Webster’s or Merriam’s dictionaries and get the canned definition, but what does it mean? Is it the “intense feeling of deep affection” we find in our children? Maybe it’s “a great interest and pleasure in something – like ‘he loves football’.” Perhaps it’s the meaning we (and the world) put so much importance on, “to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.” The more I consider the word, the more I realize how overused it is. I love the smell of baking bread. I love my home. I love my toys. I love my school. I love everyone in the world. We love all of the temporal things in life, but where does that leave us in regard to family, friends, and our mates? Is our love for people as shallow as all that? More and more, love seems to have become a synonym for lust and greediness. Is our mate the right one, or is he or she the one right now? Why do we have such a difficult time choosing the people we love? I found the following very insightful:

Fear, pride, and lust are the root of many problems that crop up in relationships. None of these drivers aim at love.

Fear closes off and withdraws, but love opens up and gives freely. Pride will not tolerate the risk of exposing one’s self to another, but love risks vulnerability for the sake of the other person. Lust tells the other person you only want the parts you can use, but love embraces the whole person—on his or her best days and worst. (Excerpt from the devotional Dating In The Modern Age, by Ben Stuart)

Fear, pride, and lust. I think Mr. Stuart nailed how so many of us look at love. Looking at my relationships, and considering how I view love, I find that using GOD’s definition of love is much more satisfying than mine.

“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. And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7‭, ‬13 NIV

All my life, I’ve looked for and obsessively searched for “love” as defined by the world – possessive “love,” lustful “love,” a trophy kind of “love” that would take care of me and sacrifice for me. The kind of love that GOD offers, whereas the world only offers fear and pride and lust. I have finally “found” the LOVE that does take care of me and sacrificed all for me, the unimaginable, all-encompassing and completely fulfilling LOVE, the Love shown to us by the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, SON of the LIVING GOD.

Have you found Him?

Martin Luther

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther at the Imperial Diet of Worms, 1521.

While researching the life and teachings of Martin Luther, I came across some information on Luther that appalled me. We all know that he was the man who broke from the Catholic church, effectively beginning the Reformation and the beginning of Protestantism. He emphasized that Christianity should be about Redemption and Grace rather than Indulgences and the absolution of sin by clerics. I have a solid respect for his early teachings, but I found that as he matured, he became very antisemitic vocally and in his writings. That stance of antisemitism is not one I take lightly. Since JESUS was born into the Jews, GOD’s Chosen People, how can we possibly justify being anti-Jewish? I say with confidence that we (i.e. Christians, followers of CHRIST JESUS) cannot. If our LORD chose to send disciples to the Jews and the Gentiles, how can we do otherwise?

HOWEVER; I choose his comment from the Diet of Worms as one that I can easily agree with. No man shall have dominion over my faith and my salvation save one: JESUS, the CHRIST, MESSIAH, SAVIOUR of the world. The Apostle Peter wrote:

” ….. for you, who are protected by the power of GOD through Faith for a Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; – 1 Peter 1:4b-‬7 NASB

Today’s world is much like the world of the 1st century A.D. Persecution of Christians was rampant, and like today it was more verbal, mocking and maligning than it was physical torture or persecution – although I believe that that time is coming, soon. In the United States alone, 23% of all Americans, and 34-36% among Milleniums (born after 1980), identify as having no religious affiliation, according to The Scientific American. ( https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-number-of-americans-with-no-religious-affiliation-is-rising )

If you do any research on the number of churches or on church membership in the U.S., let me warn you that there is an abundance of contradictory information available. As CHRIST-followers, should we be concerned? Absolutely! We live in a society that could be labeled “post-Christian”; one that is increasingly resistant and hostile to those of us who stand on the teachings of JESUS. Liberal, socialist, homosexual, transgender, anyone who espouses the view that there many ways to heaven, and every person who rejects JESUS is readily acceptable to our politically correct society. Accept that anything and everything other than the belief that JESUS is the Way, the only way, to heaven, and the world will love you. Stand on the Gospels of JESUS CHRIST and the world will hate you.

There is no room for fundamentalist Christians today.

Many people reject these teachings as too radical, too narrow minded, and too fundamentalist to have any value. The idea that JESUS was simply a teacher like Mohammed or Buddha is easier for most to accept, alongside the assertion that the Creator GOD, the Trinity, the Triune GOD – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, are merely stories made up by human minds. I ask, what human mind could possibly think this up? I think that Christianity, true Christianity as accepting JESUS as LORD, is the only “religion” on earth where we do nothing to gain salvation because GOD does it all for us. In any other religion, we have to work for it, and follow the rules in order to find redemption – and even then it’s not a guarantee. Our pastor, Mark Hitchcock, put it like this: “Our part [in our salvation] is to run away from GOD. His part [GOD] is to run after us until we find Him. A god we can understand is not a god at all. We don’t have to understand, just believe.” For me, the Trinity has secured my Salvation. I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it, but I believe it. I know in my heart and my soul it is true, and I have Peace because I have accepted His Grace and Mercy.

Listen to “Courageous,” sung by Casting Crowns. Powerful.

Image from ( http://www.aheartforgod.org/2013/09/26/a-lion-a-bear-an-uncircumcised-philistine-and-defeating-giants )

Race Wars!

“Race” – an absolutely polarizing issue that is being force-fed to us through media, politicians, and lawyers. Why can’t we have relationships with people based on our commonalities rather than our differences? To be considered politically correct (the All-Powerful “PC”), we – the public, everyday citizens, the “proletariat” – are expected to embrace each other regardless of social or economic status, lifestyle, clothing preferences, age, religion (with the exception of followers of JESUS, whom it is PC to harass, persecute, and prosecute) ….. but we are divided by race? King Solomon of Israel is reputed to have been the wisest man to have ever lived. Even Christians who are told to “love our neighbors as ourselves” (Matt 22:39), allow ourselves to be divided by the color of another’s skin. There is nothing wise in allowing this to happen!

“The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:1‭-‬7 ESV

Let’s go back to the beginning:

“So GOD created man in His own Image, in the Image of GOD He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:27 ESV

Have you ever noticed that GOD repeats the really important stuff? He created us in His Image; in His Image He created us. Period. There weren’t a bunch of different couples created as Anglo, African, Mexican, Asian, or any other “race”. There was one couple; Adam and Eve were created in His Image. So what did they look like? Since they were created to reflect GOD’s Image, we won’t know until we meet them in Heaven. In the meantime, what we view as separate “races” are merely years – thousands of years – of the human race adapting to climate and the environment around them. I believe that “race” is simply an invention of man as a tool for rulers to control their people. You might argue that GOD used His people to wipe out other “races,” but I maintain that this is a word used to simply designate people of other cultures, not of other skin colors.

“For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” ….. “You commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ ” – Ezra 9:2‭, ‬11‭-‬12 ESV

Ezra, one of GOD’s prophets, called GOD’s people the “holy race” as a means to distinguish it from the other cultures and kingdoms, not because they were a separately created race. It was an intentional separation of that culture from all others. I guess we could say there is the “holy race,” GOD’s Chosen People, and then there is everyone else. (So what are we? If we become Christian, a follower of JESUS, then we become a part of GOD’s Holy race.) The prophet Daniel, interpreting the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, talks about people from different cultures and kingdoms but not races:

“As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the GOD of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever …..” – Daniel 2:43‭-‬44 ESV

“Race wars” are absolutely unnecessary and redundant. In CHRIST JESUS, we are all brothers and sisters. We all have the same Father, the Creator GOD and the FATHER joy our LORD JESUS CHRIST. A friend of a profoundly different skin color from mine used to call me his “sister from another mother.” I like it. To all of my brothers and sisters from other mothers, in all of the shades of the rainbow, I love you. “Race” doesn’t enter in.

Image is from Pinterest

Unto Us Is Given – and FORGIVEN – Much

There isn’t much – if anything – that I can add to these Words:

“For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.” – Colossians 1:16 ESV

“And no creature is hidden from His Sight, but all are naked and exposed to the Eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:13 ESV

“How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the SON of GOD, and has profaned the Blood of the Covenant by which He was Sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of Grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.” And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the Hands of the Living GOD.” – Hebrews 10:29‭-‬31 ESV

And finally, this. If every person professing to be a Christian, a follower of The CHRIST, JESUS MESSIAH, were to live according to this one verse out of all the scriptures, how different a world we would be living in!

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the MOST HIGH, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” – Luke 6:35 ESV

“What then shall we say to these things? If GOD is for us, who can be against us? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of GOD in CHRIST JESUS our LORD.” – Romans 8:31‭, ‬38‭-‬39 ESV **NO-THING, NOTHING, can separate us from the Love of GOD….

Sing along with Matt Maher “What A Friend We Have In JESUS!”

Photo of the Milky Way, from cnn.com

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

“When they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours.” #CSLewis – “The Screwtape Letters”

Have you read The Screwtape Letters? It should be on every Christian’s reading list. This quote, in particular, seems to be put into action this time of year. It’s a time when many people become extra generous with their time and their money, and it is very apparent in the organizations and individuals who focus on children. It’s heartwarming to see kids who are disadvantaged in different ways light up when they receive unexpected toys and gifts. I just watched a video clip of our First Lady working with Toys for Tots, handing out gifts and interacting with the children – regardless of your politics, she’s a classy lady. With the media watching and recording so many of these organizations that provide for children and families, it appears that we are putting the commandment of JESUS into effect: “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39 ESV

Sadly, this is a temporary position.

It rarely extends beyond the Christmas season.

Why? Because we humans are selfish and self-centered. We love ourselves over our neighbors. Life has become a race to see who can acquire the most, best, biggest, most expensive “stuff.” Even Christmas has become all about getting attention for us. Selfishness takes over the goodwill. I’m not condemning anyone, and I certainly don’t know why anyone really does what they do. It’s not for me to judge the hearts and motives of anyone. I give everyone kudos who steps out of their comfort zone, physically or financially or both. At least people who need the help are getting it, even if it is just temporarily.

Less selfishness; more selflessness. Isn’t that how we should live our lives? I confess that I may be the chief sinner when it comes to selfishness. I want to be sure I have everything I need (translate: want) before I make any “sacrifice.” Sound familiar to anyone else? The only way to answer is to go back to the reason that this day we call “Christmas” even exists. CHRIST. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus [Immanuel, which means God with us] for He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:18‭, ‬21 ESV

A few years ago, there was a popular saying running through Christian fellowships: WWJD, or What would JESUS do? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking ourselves now. Would He be more concerned with where He was going to sleep that night and where His next meal was coming from, or would He be taking care of someone else’s needs? All we have to do is read the scriptures to know the answer. I can’t think of a single instant where JESUS put His needs over any one else! In fact, the reason He left heaven was because He put our need for salvation over His own LIFE. The Reason for the Season is the SAVIOUR Who put the needs of every human above His own desires. That’s a hard act to follow, but it’s the only way to go.

I have some work to do!

https://churchm.ag/sermon-illustration-love-your-neighbor-as-yourself/

Remember the Sabbath and Keep It Holy

“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” – Luke 23:56 ESV (Exodus 20:8-10)

Keeping it honest: I am not very good at resting on the Sabbath, or Sunday, as we observe it. With jobs and the demands of family, laundry piling up and cleaning needing done; meals to cook or restaurants to go to – requiring others to work; pastors and staff at church, employees at the stores we shop at …. how many of us really are resting? My family has always had busy Sundays for as far back as I can remember, because even before my Dad surrendered to preach, he was very active in the church. My Mom had the task of preparing breakfast for (eventually) six kids, getting us all dressed, herself dressed and ready to go – without any of us getting dirty, and to the church on time for Sunday School and morning service. No drama or stress there! Then “the girls” preparing lunch – which often included unexpected guests, cleaning up, afternoon activities; repeat the morning with supper, Training Union, Sunday evening service … not very restful! Not that I would really change much, except to somehow make it easier on my Mom!

Even now in a household of one (plus animals!) I find myself busy busy busy on the day of rest. It seems to be ingrained into us and it’s difficult to slow down. Working retail for many years, I found myself working more Sunday’s than I was off. Now, more often than not I seem to be at restaurants with family on Sundays after church. Personally, I would love to see more and more businesses follow the examples of Hobby Lobby, Mardels, and Chick-fil-A and close on Sundays, giving their employees the chance to have a day with family. But that’s just me ….. or is it just GOD …..

BLACK Friday…. But Do I NEED “It”?

Didn’t I say that I don’t like shopping? I would rather wear hand-me-down clothes and eat sour lemons* than shop Black Friday or most any other days. (*I have a closet full of ‘gently used’ clothes that I like and wear, but I don’t like sour lemons!)

“I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” – Luke 19:26 NASB

Been there; lived both parts of this verse. I have struggled financially for a large portion of my adult life. As a result, I hold my “things” tightly. I’m very sentimental, so things given to me by friends and family are held even more dear. I’m not a hoarder, but I do collect things. Did you know that when you have more than one of a type of item, it is considered a collection? From frogs in all sizes and shapes and materials to books, kitchenware, Blue Willow pottery, men ….. (but I’ve told that “collecting men” story before). I have had much, too. My late husband and I did very well financially, and we spent it on food and travel around our home in northern New Mexico. We collected lots of great memories, and I enjoyed having cash in my pocket and being able to pay bills without stressing about how we would cover them. We had much, and we shared much. Because of physical issues and injuries, we lost much, and finally illness claimed my husband’s life. I recovered and made changes in my life; I found a job I loved and did well financially, but I drifted from the LORD.

Through a long story, I have again found myself in financial straits, and consequently I am downsizing and letting go of lot’s of that stuff (with more to follow), and moving into a more affordable (I’m praying!) place. Praying and studying GOD’s Word, listening to positive Christian songs on the radio*, starting to attend a church where I can be spiritually fed; working on the whole fellowship part (I am painfully shy; I’ve learned to disguise it somewhat); desiring to do GOD’s Will rather than mine. Learning again how to worship and give thanks, in spite of – or because of – the circumstances. The preacher used Psalm 100 for his sermon a couple of weeks ago, a ‘Psalm of Thanksgiving.’ (*Thanking GOD for K-LOVE radio!)

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that The LORD HIMSELF IS GOD; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His Name. For the LORD is Good; His Lovingkindness is everlasting And His Faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalms 100:1‭-‬5 NASB

When I begin to feel overwhelmed (again!), I need to remember this, repeating especially verse 5 of Psalm 100, along with verses 1, 5-6 from the 23rd Psalm:

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely/Certainly Goodness and Lovingkindness/Mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever. ….. For the LORD is Good; His Lovingkindness is everlasting And His Faithfulness to all generations.”

I don’t need much but I want much. I strive to be content in my circumstances. JESUS set the bar for contentment in any situation, and Paul also touched on it, saying “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” – Philippians 4:11 NASB

If we are to be content with less than our idea of the ideal circumstances and situations, I believe we must be immersed in the Holy Spirit. I can’t say that I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance, but I can say that it is what I reach for through Salvation; the Grace and the Mercy of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. I have enough “stuff,” but I can NEVER have too much JESUS!!!