The Apostle John said…

love one another 2There’s an ancient tradition in the Church about the Apostle John. The story says that when John was an old man, he had to be carried to the congregational gatherings by brothers in Christ.

At these meetings, he apparently spoke the same idea time after time: “Little children, love one another!” So, after hearing this over and over, the others got tired of John always saying the same words. They asked John, “Why do you always say this?”

John responded, “It is the Lord’s command, and if this alone be done, it is enough!” I think that’s profound.

Now, we don’t know for sure that this happened, but reading the letter that we refer to as 1 John – it sure seems possible.

1 John 3:11 tells us, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

From there, John goes on to talk about how God manifested His love toward us by sending Jesus to redeem us. And then he carries that thought farther by adding, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

And then, several verses further along, comes these words: “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21)

Over and over John hammers that idea home. Love one another. Love one another. Love one another.

Maybe we should pay attention to that.

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Generosity

generosityIn last week’s post, I talked about how we can easily have a bent toward wanting more and more stuff. Earthly possessions seem to have some sort of magnetic pull.

So, what’s the antidote? I think one of the primary antidotes is generosity.

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to give generously toward a project they had apparently agreed to support a year before.

He tells them about the Macedonian church who gave out of “extreme poverty,” and “beyond their means.” He says that their giving is an “act of grace” and that they should excel in it. (2 Corinthians 8)

Then, in the next chapter, he says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

I think it’s safe to say that God wants us to be generous.

But why? Why does He want us to be generous?

Now, I’m not actually asking you to answer that question. Because, based on those last two verses, you might say that we should be generous because, if we are, God will give us more. Sowing and reaping, right? And that is true. But that shouldn’t be our primary motivation for being generous. No, we should be generous because being generous reflects the character of God.

Think about it. When Adam and Eve sinned – and the rest of mankind followed – God didn’t throw out mankind. He didn’t say, “Forget you, you bunch of no good rebels!”

He certainly could have done that, but that’s not what happened, is it? Instead, we read that famous verse, “For God so loved the world that…” what?

He gave.

God generously gave us a Savior. We were dead and lost. We had no hope. We were rebellious. In many cases, we didn’t even want to be rescued. We were content to wallow in our sin.

If God hadn’t stepped in, we were doomed. But He did step in. He gave.

He gave us life and forgiveness and peace and health and comfort and reconciliation and joy and grace and mercy.

He gave. Out of the generosity of His heart, He gave.

Why?

Because it’s a part of who God is. And since we’re made in His image – it should be a part of who we are.

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want More Stuff?

always wanting moreOur society pushes us toward hedonism. Want more stuff. Desire to have more things. Get all you can here and now.

And, too frequently, even we as Christians buy in to the desire to acquire more. And if you think you’re immune, you’re probably wrong.

Not convinced? Let me do it this way. Practically any Christian will tell you that pornography is bad. It’s wrong. It’s harmful. Even those caught in its grip will admit that it is ungodly and sinful.

Yet, turn on the television to any game show. People are lusting for that new car or exotic vacation or that electronic gizmo or that huge wad of cash. The audience is in a frenzy, screaming about how to get it. And we think nothing of that.

I’m more and more convinced that it’s just as ugly and evil and vile as pornography.

Or look at the advertising for the lottery.

  • Win big!
  • It doesn’t cost much.
  • You could be a millionaire.

It is playing on our sinful nature’s desire to always want more. We’re being sold an idea that is just as deadly as pornography, just as lust-filled as pornography, and we all smile and nod our heads in affirmation of it. There is something upside and backward – something wrong about that.

If you remember back to the Old Testament when the Israelites were going into the promised land. Everyone got property except the Levites.

I wouldn’t make a hard and fast teaching out of this, but I can’t help but wonder whether that was because of the seemingly magnetic pull that earthly possessions have on us as human beings. Were those who were to be the most devoted to God intentionally kept away from such things? I don’t know for sure, but my experience says it’s possible.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “There are two ways to get enough: One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

Maybe, rather than stuff, it’s time to make God more the source of our contentment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Are You Acting Like a Steward … or an Owner?

stewardshipThere was man named Alonso who was a steward. He took care of the assets of someone else. Money and property alike were entrusted to him. Every piece of personal property owned by his boss – and that was a lot – was under Alonso’s care.

He was hired for the position because he had a reputation for careful management. Alonso was meticulous. He was highly educated, a whiz with numbers, had a keen mind – a quick learner. What he didn’t already know, he knew how to figure out. He was a perfect fit for the position of steward.

In the first three years, Alonso had doubled his boss’s fortune. It was a monumental feat that the best market fund managers would have been proud of. His boss, who was already wealthy beyond comprehension, now had twice as much.

But Alonso’s boss was not altogether pleased. He noticed that Alonso was overly protective of certain assets. When his boss wanted to use his favorite car, for example, Alonso urged him toward a different one. If the boss wanted to spend money – or especially if he wanted to give some away – Alonso was quick to offer reasons why he shouldn’t. In fact, it eventually got to the point where, if the dollar amount the boss wanted was too high, Alonso simply refused to cooperate.

The boss realized that Alonso was acting more like he owned the assets, instead of like he was a steward of them.

Uh oh. I hope that story – especially the end – wasn’t about you.

As Christians, what we have doesn’t actually belong to us. We are stewards.

Our money, our possessions, the gifts and talents we have been given, even our time, all belong to God. Those things are not really ours. They have been entrusted to us for a time. But, ultimately, they are His.

Yet, in recognizing this, it is essential to remember that we are stewards to a generous Master. God is not a harsh taskmaster. He is not like Ebenezer Scrooge. He is kind and gracious and caring and benevolent. And how we handle the things He has entrusted to our stewardship should reflect those qualities.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” (1 Peter 4:10)

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Are You Planning?

planningOver the years, my family and I have gone on some wonderful family vacations. Whitewater rafting in Colorado. Frolicking in the ocean off the coast of Maine. Sea World and Epcot Center in Florida, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and more have been exciting destinations and made lots of fun memories.

When our family decides to take a vacation, we typically do hours of research to be sure to take advantage of every opportunity. Lots of forethought goes into exactly where we’re going and what we will do once we’re there. We study the attractions in the area, overnight accommodations, restaurants, and entertainment possibilities. We find out about nearby churches. In short, we try to make informed choices so that our vacation is a positive experience for each of us. We plan and prepare as much as possible beforehand.

In light of this, I have to wonder how many Christians actually take the time to consider their ultimate destination. What will Heaven be like? What will our worship be like there? Is what we’re doing here preparing us for that experience? And if not, why not?

(Excerpted from Worship In Heaven … and Why On Earth It Matters, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2014 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://WorshipInHeaven.com)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

God Isn’t Like Santa Claus

Jesus mangerAren’t you glad that God isn’t like Santa Claus? The Lord doesn’t make a list of those who are naughty and nice. It’s a good thing, too. If He did, there wouldn’t be anyone on the “nice” list. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Fortunately for us, God is loving and forgiving. “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…” (Psalm 130:3‑4).

Because Jesus came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life and then took our punishment on the cross, you and I can live forgiven. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4‑9).

Rejoice this Christmas season! Your sins are forgiven because of Christ Jesus!

The gifts He gives last more than a lifetime. They last for eternity!

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Stop the Hype

hypeIt’s becoming increasingly challenging to describe God, or even heavenly things, in our culture. Let me explain why I believe that, but I’m going to take a circuitous route to get there.

I love my wife’s apple pie. It’s a Dutch apple pie with a crumb topping. Her mom was born in Holland, so maybe the making of Dutch apple pie is inherited. I don’t know for sure. I do know that the pie is out of this world. It is unquestionably the best apple pie I have ever tasted. Now don’t get the idea that you can just pop by our house and have some. She doesn’t make it very often. It’s a special treat. If you ever have the opportunity to try it, though, you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about. Did I mention that I love my wife’s apple pie?

Now let me ask you a question. If, after that whole apple pie story, I said, “And I also love my wife,” wouldn’t that seem a bit strange? It could easily sound as though I am putting my “love” for apple pie on the same level as my love for my wife. In reality, there is no comparison between the two. (Just to be clear, I love my wife far more than her apple pie.)

Hyperbole. We all use it.

A guy sitting next to me on a plane recently told about a man on his last flight who was snoring raucously. “There’s nothing worse,” he declared. In my mind I wondered, Nothing worse? So, someone nearby snoring loudly – maybe even extremely loudly – is worse than all the people that ISIS has killed? Worse than the mom in our area who shot her three daughters and then turned the gun on herself? Worse than millions of Jews dying at the hands of a political leader gone mad?

I really don’t think so. In fact, it’s not even a close comparison. Yet we hear it regularly.

The movie was epic. The experience was the absolute best thing that has ever happened. It was the funniest thing ever. The meal was glorious.

We use grandiose terms in trivial ways. In doing so, such words and phrases become devoid of meaning. They lose all sense of relativity. Each experience, event, or even trinket is somehow greater and more wonderful than the last.

And then we try to describe God using the same words.

It won’t work.

Here’s my recommendation. Dial back the hype. When you notice yourself overstating something, change the phrasing. Save the heavenly descriptions for heavenly things, not earthly ones. No food – even the best chocolate or the best bacon on the planet – won’t compare to what we’ll enjoy there. No experience here will be quite the same as what’s waiting for us. No human being is even close to what God is like.

So, let’s save the superlative phraseology for the things that deserve such descriptions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments