Sunday, March 16, 2014

Love is an action word.

1 Corinthians 13

King James Version (KJV)
13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

The word, charity, here- that most of us understand as "love", actually means: affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love, a love feast.

We live in a society that has flip-flopped things around to make them mean something they do not. They have changed the word "Gay" from meaning "happy", to mean, "homosexual." As if changing that definition somehow makes that ungodly life style somehow godly and acceptable. Now, they call "hate" disagreeing with their sin and "love" agreeing with their sin.

Many of them will point to this very chapter when we disagree with their lifestyles and say, "Aren't you supposed to love me if you're a Christian? Why you hatin on me then?"

What they ignore is first of all, true love "rejoiceth NOT in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." If I love you, I cannot lie to you and say your sin is ok. I am constrained by my "brotherly love" for you, to warn you against your sin and the eternal consequences that it can bring you.

However, I want to bring this to a more personal level. When we truly love our friends, and especially, our spouses and children, we are constrained to act on their behalf- regardless of whether or not we "feel like" doing it. 

To bring the point home a little more, scripture says: "God so loved the world that he gave..." God loved us so much, than when he looked and saw our sin and our need of salvation, he acted! HE became a son, put on human flesh for us, suffered at our hand, and died for us- all so that he could "reconcile the world unto himself."

Did his flesh want to do this? No. A quick look at the prayers in the garden of Gethsemane will show you that the flesh didn't want to suffer. But, he did it anyway. Why? LOVE! He knew it had to be done and he knew he was the only one who could do it. So, he took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and endured the suffering of the cross. All because he loved us.

There are times, in our walk with Christ, that he allows us things that please us. But, our whole life is not to be about our own pleasure. Love "seeketh not her own." Life is not about "me." Life is about serving others. If we husbands truly love our spouses, we won't mind serving them. We are the heads of our homes, but Jesus said "He that will be greatest among you will be the least." 
Another verse says that we are to "esteem others as better than ourselves."

In other words, serving our spouses is what qualifies us to be the heads of our homes. If we sit around and expect our wives and families to serve us, then we are esteeming ourselves as better and higher than them. Why do we fuss and grumble about taking out the trash, cleaning up after ourselves, and cleaning the car? Our flesh may not enjoy those activities, but if we love our families, we will do things that please and show them they are loved by us. 

We gripe and complain when our families don't respect us as the head of our homes. But, if we will do for them, then they won't mind doing for us. When we love our families, we don't look at doing what they like (and we don't like doing) as a chore. Rather, we think about the smile on their faces and the joy they will feel when we are willing to do what pleases them. 

We don't spend time with them in front of a TV or computer. They need face to face time. We don't dominate the conversation with only what interests us, we listen to what interests them, even when we aren't interested. 

Scripture commands us to love our wives EVEN AS CHRIST LOVE THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT. We must learn to die to our own wants in favor of our wives and children's needs. If I love my family, I am willing to work as hard as is necessary to take care of their needs. 

I'm thankful that the Lord has let me see my own lack of love towards my family. If this has helped you see yours, why don't you join me in turning over a new leaf. Let our actions, and not just our words, speak love to our families. No more being lazy around the house. No more hour upon hour of fleshly entertainment- at their expense. No more grumbling about chores. Let's just smile, love them, and do what is needed to prove it. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Are we wishing upon a star? Or hoping in God?

Romans 8:24-25

King James Version (KJV)
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Hebrews 11:1-3

King James Version (KJV)

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

James 2:20-26

King James Version (KJV)

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Ever notice that most people use the words, "wish", and "hope," interchangeably? In fact, ask someone the definitions sometime and you'll find that, most of the time, there's no real difference between the two words in their minds. Is there a difference? 

When Paul says that we are "saved by hope," is he saying we are saved by a wish? If not, what's the difference in the two?

The two words are similar. Both are expressions of unfulfilled desires. Both are expressions of wants and (sometimes) needs. Both words mean that there is something "out there" that we don't have and want to have. But, what's the difference in the two?

I can say I sure wish I had a new car, for instance. But, unless I get up and work- unless I make the necessary preparations that will enable me to get that new car- it will remain an unfulfilled desire.  

Peter was faced with a choice between a wish and a hope one day. It was a rainy, stormy night. He and the rest of the Apostles were scared stiff inside of a fishing boat. All their knowledge of the seas told them that they were all about to drown.

Then Jesus came walking into the situation.

At first, they were all terrified. They just knew that a spirit from the realm they were all about to go to had come to escort them there. However, Jesus spoke to them and said, "Fear not, it is I."

Peter asked, "Lord, if it be you, then bid me to come to you on the waters."

Jesus said simply, "COME."

Here's where Peter had a choice. If Peter's request were merely a wish, then what he had really asked Jesus to do was, "Lord, through no effort of my own, cause me to get up, step out of the boat, and walk on the waters to you."

Indeed, when most people ask Jesus to be their savior, that's really what they're asking. They're really saying, "Lord, I know I need a savior. But, I don't want to change. I want you to just wash me and make me clean with no requirements on my part."

In other words, "Jesus, I want a savior. But, I have no interest in having a Lord."

The word, "Lord," means "supreme controller." We want to be in control. We want God to save us, but we want him to answer to OUR desires, not the other way around.

That's why most peoples "faithful hope" is really a "faithful wish." We want to be saved, Lord, but how dare you require me to give up anything I want. How dare you ask me to not have all this world has to offer. I want to talk how I want, dress how I want, act how I want, see who I want, read and watch what I want, but STILL be saved.

These folks do go to church (most of them). They do know some scripture. But, their desires are to BE conformed to the image of this world, rather than be conformed to the image of Jesus. And they can find large crowds at large churches to tell them what they want to hear.

All the while, Jesus cries out to them to be like David- "a man AFTER God's own heart." He wants us to pursue HIM every bit as hard as he pursues US. He wants our walk to be like Peter's, who heard Jesus say, "Come," and knew that he must leave his comfort zone and follow the call of his "supreme controller."

Hope requires us to enter into partnership with Jesus. Indeed, the word "grace" (by which we are saved) actually is a relational partnership with Jesus. The definition of the Greek word includes, "the divine influence on the heart AND it's reflection IN THE LIFE- including gratitude."

So, when we are saved by grace, we are saved by God influencing us and we CHOOSING to reflect that influence in our actions, thoughts, and deeds. It effects every area of our lives.

Like Peter, we must willingly respond to the call of Jesus and step out of our safe comfort zones, out onto the turbulent and uncertain waves. We must leave behind the laws of this world and obey the laws of God.

When Peter stepped out of the boat, he was ignoring the laws of gravity and physics that screamed that he would sink into the rolling seas and drown. He was responding to his master's call and trusting his master to protect him from what he was sure was a deadly situation.

When he stepped out, Jesus responded by suspending the physical laws and allowing him to walk on top of the deadly waves. THAT is faith in action.

When God's word says for us to step away from this world and it's sinful ways, it is for our benefit. For those things will lead us to eternal torment in hell. Yet, in repenting of those sins and leaving behind the world's ways, we are stepping away from what comes natural to us. BUT, we are acting on the call of God and trusting him to do his part. HE says he will lead and guide us into all truth.

Indeed, salvation is not simply a one time event. Rather, it is a lifelong process of seeking, hearing, and obeying Jesus. Every step we take away from this world, is a step closer to joining Jesus in HIS world.

Be sure that this world will fight us every step of the way, but in this case, the end will more than justify the means.

And just as Peter barely made it to his master, so the Bible says that "the righteous SCARCELY be saved..." We won't make it without him, but we also won't make it unless we give it our all.

We are saved by HOPE, not by a wish. Hope requires an obedient action in response. A wish requires nothing but empty desires.

Which one do you want? Will you have a wish for heaven, or a fervent hope?
If hope, then make Jesus your supreme controller and begin to follow him.