Christianity 201

January 20, 2014

If We Love the Father…

In addition to running different kinds of content here, sometimes we’ll run something with a different style. In today’s post, a writer simply blogs out of the overflow of her pastor’s weekend sermon. Have you ever been so filled with a message you heard that it just overflows from you?

The writer’s name is Dacia Wilkinson. As far as I know, we’re not related! She’s a mother and an author and either an Aspie or a parent of one. The blog has the curious title, It All Started With Heathcliff and the blog piece is titled The Only Thing That Matters.


“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts if faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Love is what counts. And love that expresses itself through … vs. 22 … “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such thing there is no law.”

Today, Pastor Don Sharp said these are not attributes to strive for … that these are given to you by Christ when you choose to trust Him as your Savior.  I believe my head tilted to the side at his words – kind of a “Huh” in Tim Taylor tone. And I listened harder.  And yes, after a straightening of the head and the settling of the words into my soul, I understood.

Daily, we allow selfishness, pride, anger, judgment, these things to stand in the way of the perfect gift of love we’ve been given. Daily, yes … WE do.  We allow our joy to be stolen. We allow worry to enslave peace.  We allow immediacy and frustration to overtake patience.  We allow hurry and self to shove over kindness.  We allow picking and choosing to overshadow faithfulness.  We allow anger and division to distort gentleness.  We ignore self-control.  WE do these things and by our fruit we are known. We show, sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (vs 19-21).  These are allowed.  These we celebrate and portray on television.  We say, “Go girl!” to disrespect. And then, we go to church, raise our hands, and pretend to love God.

I said Pretend.  Yes, I did.

Harsh. True. Sad. Man. So many in our churches live this way. So many. Me. Man.

The truth stands …

If we loved the Father, we would obey the Father. 

Vs 16 states, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Vs 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

I John 2:6 …” Whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus did.”    And what is that?

Micah 6:8 … “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Jesus tells us how in Matthew … Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  All the Law and Prophets hang on these.

Love.

Mercy.

Grace.

This love of God’s that he so freely offers to us all – unconditional and beautiful – it covers sin and brings those who follow Him to grace and mercy, which he bestows freely.

Free.  Freely.  Freedom.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  Ah ….  Galatians 5:1.  “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

It is not of God that we walk in anger, range, jealousy. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of sound mind,” says I Timothy 1:7.  God has given to those who love him — power, love and a sound mind. Within our hands, our minds, our hearts is the capacity to love like He does. To show grace and mercy. To move self out of the way. To choose life. To choose to love in sacrifice. To choose sacrifice.

This love given freely produces joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Not you. You cannot produce those things – not on your own. Everyday, choose to sacrifice fleshly feelings and open the Word as a reminder of the gift of freedom to love. And remember ….

The ONLY thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  Not church attendance. Not good deeds.  Not the man-made rules of the church – lots of churches with their doctrine and their by-laws, their catechisms and their classes.  None of these.

You cannot manufacture it. It’s given to you by God himself and never of your own accord.

Fall in love with God, meditate on his word. Pursue the words of Christ.  Love God. Love your neighbor. Boom.

Faith expressing itself through love.

June 24, 2013

Treasure and Trust

Today’s post is a double-header from a new devotional blog at Faith Bloggers, Scripture4You. The author writes under the name Faith Twins.  The title of the two posts below is also a link to read at source, which is strongly encouraged, as is looking up the complete scripture references.

Where is Your Treasure?

~~~ 2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30 ~~~ Psalm 34 ~~~ Matthew 6:19-23 ~~~
 
‘…store up treasures in heaven…
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.’
 
What do you truly treasure?
Is it your friends and family? Is it your faith in God?
Is it your material possessions? Is it your social status? Is it your acquired wealth?
Is it your reputation? Is it your health?
Perhaps your answer is a combination of all of the above.
Our heart leads us to live with passion.
You cannot treasure something without having space for it in your heart.
 
A treasure holds specific value.
Something treasured is protected from damage.
 
After a natural disaster we often see people carefully
 combing through the remains of their life.
They are compelled to salvage whatever they can…
What they find now becomes their treasure.
Many come to treasure life itself a little more…just having survived.
 
Jesus wants us to look beyond our earthly treasures.
They will all pass away.
The treasures that matter most are not visible with the naked eye.
The treasures that matter most have one thing in common;
love is always part of the equation.
Only those treasures inspired by love can be stored in heaven.
We can only withdraw from our treasure chest of love.
Whatever else we think we have stored up will not survive…
only love will remain.
Love is more precious than gold, silver, or jewels.  
 
  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.
 
 I find this verse to be particularly disturbing.
If the only ‘light’ in your heart is darkness then you have no light.
If you have no light how then are you to see anything?
Physically our eyes need a light source to function properly.
 
Jesus is the light of the world without him we are truly ‘in the dark’.
We are children of the light.
Treasure this light.
Let this light of Christ shine forth from your heart.
 
If you treasure his light it will be reflected out toward others.
If you have light in your heart it will seep out.
You cannot keep it contained. 
 
Blessings are in what you treasure within your heart.
Can you see them?

Worry Versus Trust

~~~ 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 ~~~ Psalm 34 ~~~ Matthew 6:24-34 ~~~
 
…do not worry about your life…
 
…Are not you more important…
 
….will he not much more provide for you…
 
…So do not worry…
 
…Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself…
 
No matter how many times in the same passage
we hear about having faith and trust,
we still worry.
 
Worry robs you of the present moment in time.
When we worry we are in effect saying we do not believe
God will take care of us or our loved ones.
 
We do see how all of nature is provided for by God,
but we see our state as different.
We pretend to take all the credit for our well being.
The truth is we only work in concert with God.

Ask God to remove the plague of worry from your life.
Instead entrust your would be worries to God.
He is always there listening. 
 
I recently received this in an email.
It has a beautiful message about embracing the present…
living in the present.
 
I AM
 
I was regretting the past
and fearing the future
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
My name is I AM.
When you live in the past,
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Was.
When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Will Be.
When you live in this moment,
it is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM.
(Helen Mallicoat)
 
Does your worrying remove any of your fears?
I admit I am guilty at times of worrying about things that never come to pass.
Being prepared for the unforeseen event is not the same
as worrying about what could happen.
The time we spend worrying will never make a difference in the future.
The real blessings lie in trusting in the present.

 

November 9, 2012

“You Go First” “No, You Go First”

Ever stood at a doorway with someone who insists you enter first, while you are insisting that they go first? Today’s story is more like two people insisting on paying the tab at a restaurant.

II Samuel 24 (NLT) : 18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

David wants to buy the land where he will erect an altar to atone for his disobedience in doing something God had told him not to do. (The reason God didn’t want him to take a census at that time is the subject for another study, suffice it to say he was disobedient.)  But Araunah is making an overly generous generous gesture to simply give the king the land. But then it really won’t be as much of a sacrifice on David’s part will it? Talk about substitutionary atonement. (No, not really; though we could go in that direction, too; but like other analogies, it doesn’t fit perfectly.)

So David voices the well known statement, “for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” (v. 24b, NASB)

I thought about that today as I prepared today’s reading. In selecting material for this devotional, I peruse many websites before finding things I’m comfortable using here. You may notice lately I’ve been writing more of the devotionals myself. It’s not that I’m entering a phase of super-spirituality — definitely not! — or that I feel what I have to say is somehow superior to the writings of other bloggers.

Rather, I find a lot of what passes for devotional writing online is simply too short. I don’t think God is impressed by the length of our writing or the volume of our words, but if I were relying on some of these websites/blogs for my daily start or my end-of-day meditation, I would be on and off the page probably in under 60 seconds.

There is no sacrifice there, at least where time is concerned. I truly hope that people use those sites as supplements do other reading and studying they are doing.

All of which reminded me of David’s line. Araunah’s generosity is making the process too easy. Yes, it’s true, David would still have to obtain and prepare the burnt offerings and peace offerings (v. 25), but he felt something would be wrong; that his sacrifice would be a little less sacrificial. And yes, while I knew the line that was part of today’s thoughts, I found myself taking the time to study the passage.

Today’s question: Do we sometimes use shortcuts in spiritual disciplines?

Related post: Re-read “Giving Your Best to God” from last Saturday.