Love/give

You’ve probably heard this scripture. It’s kind of a big deal.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Because God is love (1 John 4:8) it makes sense that we should learn about love from Him. Let’s take another look at this key verse from John’s Gospel.

For God so loved the world that he gave

How did God demonstrate His love for us? God loved, so He gave. What did He give? He gave that which was most precious to Him. He gave that which would cost Him the most.

How should we love? I think we should model God’s love for us. We should give and we should give what we cherish the most. Perhaps it is our time. Perhaps it is our attention. I’m going to offer an option from my own experience.

I think we should give our will. I’m suggesting that your will is what stands between you and daily, selfless love. Your will is what insists “me first” and “what I want”. I think that will is at the heart of pride. Let look at Isaiah 14:12-15. It describes the fall of Satan.

12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.

He states “I will” five times in his heart. His “will for self” separated him from God and got the former worship leader thrown down from Heaven. To grow closer to God, to love God, therefore, must mean giving up your will and embracing obedience.

What about loving those around us? I think love works the same way with your spouse, your children, your friend, your co-worker… When I set aside my will with my wife and seek to hear and serve her, I love her the best. When I set aside my will with my children and seek to hear and serve them, I love them the best.

Give it a try. Because you love, give…

 

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MacGyver faith

MacGyver was a popular television series that aired between 1985 and 1992. In each episode Angus MacGyver used his broad knowledge of the physical sciences to overcome impossible odds. Each show included the same three ingredients.

  1. MacGyver helped someone who had no one else to rescue them.
  2. He used whatever was available to solve the problem at hand. He was never defeated by seemingly inadequate resources.
  3. He put himself in harm’s way to protect those in danger.

MacGyver was a weekly hero who loved science and routinely ignited explosions using household products. What more could I want?

Here’s the real story, though…

You can put your faith in One much more heroic than MacGyver. God is there to rescue you as soon as you call on Him. He uses the small and insignificant to overcome the powerful. He will give you everything you need to carry out His salvation work. He sent His son to die in your place. He will never leave you and will always love you.

My prayer for us is that we exercise MacGyver faith. I pray that we persist beyond all odds in believing, that we place unreasonable trust in our Creator and Deliverer. Put your life in God’s hands and watch the explosions! Amen.

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Help!

If you’re human, you’ve found yourself in a position where you needed help. Sometimes it is practical (my car battery is dead and I need a jump). Other times it is immediate (my daughter is exhibiting meningitis symptoms). In some cases, it is less concrete. It is fear that grips you in the dark of night, it is regret over a wrong you cannot right, it is frustration rooted in a missed opportunity. It is raw, overwhelming grief over the loss of a loved one. It is hopelessness.

Allow me to offer you this.

Elohim Ozer Li = God My Helper

Say it out loud. El-oh-heem Oh-zeer Lie. God My Helper.

David understood God’s nature as Elohim Ozer Li. He called to God when he needed help. Read Psalm 54:4.

Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Though your situation may seem bleak, rescue is certain. Turn to Elohim Ozer Li. He is your help. My prayer for us today is a posture of worship that enables us to exercise big faith in the one true God. This faith will acknowledge God’s sovereignty over every situation. I pray that we turn to God, and nothing else, for our help in these times of despair. Amen.

 

 

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A spatial dilemma: Who goes first?

The Bible offers many examples of “God going before” His people, including you and me.

Deuteronomy 31:8
“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Isaiah 45:2
“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.”

Exodus 13:21
The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

Deuteronomy 1:30
‘The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,”

As I study these verses, it seems to me that:

  1. God is encouraging us to see Him this way (going before us)
  2. there is special significance in this spatial relationship.

Think about this… if God goes before you, then who is leading? Is it you or God who is going first? I think that God is teaching us that we can trust in His faithfulness, His goodness, but that we must assume the correct position. We must follow Him if we are to remain safely in His care.

The logical question, then, is how do I remain in a “following” posture? The answer is, simply, obedience. God gave us His word to show us how to follow Him; the word lights our way (Psalm 119:105). Read Matthew 5-7 to see what Jesus has to say about the practical aspects of daily following God.

One name used to describe this “going before” characteristic of God is Jehovah Jireh: the Lord will provide. David called on God to go before Him when he was pursued by Saul (Psalm 59:10). He knew that God would deliver him from this unjust enemy.

Like David, though, I often look to my own desires and strength to guide me. This mindset has preceded the greatest failures in my life. Just as David pursued Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), I have chased idols that I thought would satisfy and protect me. Spoiler alert: they fail you every time.

My prayer for us today is that we maintain a “God goes before” life. I pray that we live in obedience, that we find perfect congruence between God’s word and our desires, which enables us to conquer fear and uncertainty through complete faith in our loving Father. Amen!

 

 

 

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Choosing light

In John 12:46 (NIV), Jesus says:

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Jesus often used the contrast between light and darkness to demonstrate the difference between choosing to follow Him or self. In reading this passage this morning, though, one word stood out to me: should.

Here’s the same verse in the Message version of the Bible.

I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

Instead of should, we see won’t have to. My takeaway is that, even if we’ve made the choice to accept salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, our disobedience can leave us in the dark.

The alternative to this self-worshiping darkness is Jesus-choosing light. The “ing” is very important. We must daily “ing”. Keep choosing light!

 

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Reflecting pool

imageIsaiah gives us simultaneous pictures of the parallel journeys of the Israelites and us. Yes, God’s chosen people and his adopted children, separated by thousands of years. The picture pair is a reflecting pool with generations between the two images.

Here’s the setting for Isaiah: the Israelites have turned their backs on God after he delivered them from slavery, they have put their trust in Egypt for their protection, they have worshiped other gods.

God is not happy.

Here’s our setting: we chase after money, possessions, and relationships for our satisfaction and security, we focus on instant gratification rather than the long term effects of our actions, we ignore or reject salvation available only through Jesus.

God is not happy.

But… God loves his children. He paved the road back to him through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Read Isaiah 35 and see how it speaks to both the Israelites in that time and us today. Isaiah is talking about both Israel’s return from exile and the coming of Jesus (as well as the miracles he will perform) hundreds of years later. Amazing!

 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

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We built this city

imageStarship (née Jefferson Starship née Jefferson Airplane) recorded the song “We built this city” in 1985. It’s a bit controversial because a band with a history of musical political activism released a song that was received as quintessential “pop rock”. The original lyrics are actually an indictment of “the corporation” and its insensitivity to the artist and live music, but it was produced to be a radio hit. And it worked! Oh the irony.

The dissection of the lyrics on the Internet is mesmerizing. I found a blog post on the line “Marconi plays the mamba” with comments that span from 2007 to 2015! Amazing.

I am only interested in the title phrase from the chorus, however.

Don’t you remember
We built this city we built this city on rock an’ roll

This calls to mind Isaiah 22 from the Bible. It’s also about a city, defending that city, and remembering who built it.

10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem
and tore down houses to strengthen the wall.
11 You built a reservoir between the two walls
for the water of the Old Pool,
but you did not look to the One who made it,
or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.

In this prophecy, Jerusalem is about to be attacked because the Israelites have turned their backs on God. They mistakenly believe that their hope is only in their own strength and efforts. They take steps to defend their city, but they do not seek God. They do not look first to the God who brought them out of Egypt, delivered them to Canaan, and established them in this city. Through Isaiah, God calls them back to him.

I have found myself in the same position, many times. Under attack. Relying on my own strength. Desperate for help.

Similar to Starship, have you ever gotten the feeling that life is changing too fast? That it’s slipping away from you or, even worse, accelerating away from you? Are you also being attacked and don’t know how to defend your “city”, your life? I have good news. God is calling you to return to him as well. He offers you a safe refuge.

God built his eternal city on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God made man. He was born from a virgin, lived a life without sin, died in our place to pay our sin debt, and rose again. He is the risen Christ and your belief in him is the key to new life, the eternal city. Check out John 3:16.

If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your savior, do it now. He offers you a city built on a foundation that is much more solid than rock and roll, even the 80s version.

Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

 

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