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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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How Should We Then Live?

How should we then liveThe late Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), who was one of America’s most influential evangelical thinkers during the 20th Century, wrote a wonderful book that was first published in 1976 titled, How Should We Then Live? (subtitled: “The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture”). I used to own it but lost it along with a zillion other books when I left Houston to return to Florida in 2009 after losing my job in Houston. Here’s a quote from a review of the book on CEP (quote source here) that was republished in 2005 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Schaeffer’s L’Abri Fellowship International:

In the publisher’s foreword, Lane Dennis . . . writes, “Schaeffer’s thesis was that if we are to understand (as stated in the title) ‘how we should then live’ today, then we must understand the cultural and intellectual forces that brought us to this day.” Schaeffer thus begins his penetrating analysis with the fall of Rome, followed by the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, while focusing in the twentieth century primarily on the influence of art, music, literature, and film. As kingdom disciples, we must not only understand the Word, we must understand the world, if we are to communicate the truth to our generation.

Because this book was written thirty years ago it did not reflect some of the latest understanding of postmodern philosophy. Schaeffer demonstrated himself, however, as a bridge person who understood the shortcomings of modernism and how it was leading western culture toward the path of postmodernism. He had an ability, as a cultural apologist, to demonstrate how a post-Christian mind impacted the arts, music, drama, the media, as well as theology. This made his ministry uniquely applicable to his 20th century audience. It also paved the way for us as we moved into the 21st century.

In chapter after chapter you will find underscored the importance of understanding Christianity as a total life system or as Nancy Pearcey has written, “total truth.” In his closing remarks, Schaeffer wrote, “This book is written in the hope that this generation may turn from the greatest of wickedness, the placing of any created thing in the place of the Creator, and that this generation may get its feet out of the paths of death and may live.” Those same words can be said of the rising generations today, as well.

While Schaeffer demonstrated time and again that Christian thinking was on the wane, at the same time he challenged his generation to develop a Christian mind that thinks from a Christian perspective about all things. He stood on biblical truth as he wrote and taught these truths. His key text was Ezekiel 33:1-11, 19 and especially verse 10. Like Ezekiel of old, Schaeffer, in his prophet-like style, challenged the readers to be watchmen, knowing how they should live.

The title of the book comes from Ezekiel 33:10:

“Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’

And the answer is found in Ezekiel 33:19:

And if a wicked person turns away from their wickedness and does what is just and right, they will live by doing so.

Love everyone including enemiesIt seems in our present day society we hardly even recognize wickedness in ourselves or others (one of the definitions is mischievious or playfully malicious), tending to think it only exists in a list of “top ten sins” (like murder, adultery and/or other sexual sins, stealing, taking God’s name in vain, etc.–The Ten Commandents in Exodus 20 come to mind) that we most often focus on while a hundred “lesser” sins go on unnoticed (like gossip, for example) in our own lives. Oh yes, and many of those sins listed in The Ten Commandents go unnoticed today, too, even among Christians. Since it was God who spoke them, I think we should take them a little more seriously then we do. Those were His commandments to the Israelites whom he freed from their bondage and slavery in Egypt, so why would we today want to continue to live in the bondage and slavery brought on by sin when God has shown us a much better way to live? Too often, it is because we want to keep on sinning. We like our sin. And even after all these centuries have passed since the Israelites were freed from their bondage through a miraculous intervention by God, people still don’t want to change. Only Jesus Christ can change us but we have to be willing to live life on His terms (it’s called discipleship) and not on our own. He didn’t die on the cross just so we could keep on making excuses to keep on sinning.

In Ephesians 4:17 – 5:20, the Apostle Paul gave the Ephesian believers instructions on how to live as Christians in their own society, and it is just as relevant to us today (for those of us who call ourselves Christian) as it was for those Christians back in Paul’s day. Let’s read what he had to say:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How often today do we take even this one verse from the passage above seriously?–“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph. 5:3). Of course, being human, we are not perfect, but far too often we use that as an excuse to keep on sinning any way we want, and our hearts and attitudes are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. It is our heart attitude that guides our lives, and a deceitful heart will find any excuse to keep on doing what it wants to do. That is why Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) states:

Above all else, guard your heart
(“with all diligence”–
NKJV)
for everything you do flows from it.

And it is also why we are admonished in Ephesians 5:15-16 (from the passage quoted above) to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” If we are living and acting just like the rest of the culture we are not Christian whether we show up for church on Sunday or not. And if we don’t look or act any differently from the rest of the culture but still call ourselves Christian, it’s time to . . .

“Wake up, sleeper . . .

“Rise from the dead . . .

“And Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14) . . . .

YouTube Video: “I’m Not Who I Was” (2006) by Brandon Heath:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Our Calling as Christians

I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus ChristThose of us who claim that we are Christian in America or anywhere else in the world have a calling–from the poorest and/or unemployed and/or homeless to the richest and including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, and/or Kings and Queens. And this calling is true for everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior . . . no exceptions . . . .

None . . . .

In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul stated the following: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” And he lived out what he believed and suffered a “litany of abuses once he became one of those whom he had [previously] persecuted” and “after an intense missionary career spanning twenty years or more (45-66/67 A.D.), Paul (on the same day as Peter) paid the ultimate price for his Christian faith: martyrdom. He was beheaded outside the walls of Rome on June 29, 67 A.D., and remains one of the Church’s brightest witnesses of radical, self-giving discipleship” (quote source here). I wonder how many of us are willing to live out our faith like that as we go about our daily lives living in a secular culture full of excesses and distractions with a great pull to “fit in.”

Talk is cheap. Living it out isn’t. And there is a huge difference between talking about it and walking it out in our daily lives. Lots of folks talk about the Christian life, but the proof is in their actions and how they treat others. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and where the rest of the world can clearly tell if we mean what we say or not.

Second Peter 1:3-11 has a lot to say about confirming our calling and election as Christians. Let’s read it:

His [God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our calling is clear–we are to add to our faith in Jesus Christ these attributes–goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love–for if we possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 5-8). And if we don’t possess them, we are nearsighted and blind, forgetting what Jesus has done for us in forgiving our past sins (v. 9).

In a recent blog post, The Power of Love,” I discussed I Corinthians 13, the chapter in the Bible best known for it’s description of what real love looks like. If we don’t have real love for others, all other attributes are meaningless. Jesus even stated in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And in Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus stated:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew_6--14-15One of the most difficult things we are called to do as Christians is to love our enemies and to forgive those who abuse us. I know how I’ve struggled in my own life in the past five years with trying to genuinely love and forgive those who caused my unemployment through no fault of my own. While I have personally wished them no ill will, my anger at them as vacillated back and forth over these past five years, especially since I have been unable to find work due to that very unfortunate experience. However, even in the most vitriol times of my anger, I can honestly say I didn’t hate them, but you wouldn’t have known it by the anger that I spewed out at them in the privacy of my own apartment. Maybe beating a pillow would have been better, but the boil had to be lanced in some way. That’s an explanation and not an excuse.

However with that being said, I also believe that God is in control, and that nothing happens by accident. I wrote about it back in September 2013 in a blog post titled, Contemplating God’s Sovereignty.” While several areas of my life have changed for the better in significant ways during these past five plus years, one of the biggest areas of challenge for me has been my anger due to this very long time of unemployment. Of course, God knows just what we need in order to change a destructive habit in our lives, and sometimes it’s a life altering circumstance He brings our way. And our response is crucial. It’s hard to love others when anger is so apparent. And God knew I had to deal with it in the right way (and I must admit I’ve stumbled a lot getting there over these past five years). Yet I knew I had finally–after all this time–reached an end to that severe anger that I felt when I recently sent my former boss who fired me a congratulatory email when I found out that he had recently been promoted to president of one of the number of institutes housed under the umbrella organization I worked for at the time I lost my job. It’s been a long time in coming (the loss of my anger, and his promotion to president, too). I remember him telling me when I worked for him that his goal was to become president. And I knew when I read that he had become president and I wasn’t angry about it or at him (in fact, I was happy for him) that my anger had finally subsided.

We are called to love, period. And it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are or who our enemies are in the process. If we profess to love and follow after Jesus Christ, we don’t get any wiggle room to continue living with destructive habits. The option, of course, is always ours as to whether or not we change, but God has a way of bringing to light those areas in our life that need attention. And the improvement may not happen overnight, either (such as in the case of my anger against my former employer), but the struggle for me has always been in the right direction and I knew that I desperately wanted and needed to get over it and not be angry anymore.

We are not perfect, but we should never use that as an excuse not to change or to keep on sinning in any area of our lives when God has shown us our need to do an about face.” And God knows our heart and whether or not we are willing to change. We live in a culture saturated with “self” and it pulls at us every single day to live our lives like the rest of the culture. But Jesus calls us to a higher calling of self-sacrifice and loving others, regardless of the situation or circumstance.

How are we loving others, including our enemies? 

They will know . . .

We are Christians . . .

By our love . . . .

YouTube Video: “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Small World

globeThe other day I got into a box full of DVDs and CDs and found Greatest Hits by Huey Lewis and The News.” Their band, based in San Francisco, CA, “had a run of hit singles during the 1980s and early 1990s, eventually scoring a total of 19 top-ten singles across the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts” (quote source here). And, as you can tell from my last two blog posts and now this one, too, I am a BIG fan of theirs . . . a BIG fan. This particular song–Small World (see YouTube videos  Part Oneand Part Two below)–is the latest to be added to that list. Here are the words to that song:

“Small World (Part One)”

Huey Lewis and The News

All around the world
There are people like you and me
From the poorest beggar in the street
To the richest king and queen

Some people take
And then they never give
You gotta learn to give and take
If you wanna learn to live
In a small world
Small, small world

Now we can
Fight one another
Like they do on T.V.
Or we can
Help one another
The way it’s supposed to be

If we all give a little
It could really mean a lot
It’s a small world
But it’s the only one we’ve got
Small world
Small, small world

Lyrics compliments of www.azlyrics.com

We live in a world that is increasingly self-absorbed (that’s a statement and not a judgment). And if you don’t believe me, just get on the freeway and see how long it takes before someone cuts you off in a hurry to go nowhere fast. I’ve lived in several major cities in the past twenty years (Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Miami, and Houston) and visited a few in the past year and a half–Atlanta, Houston (again), New Orleans, and Washington D.C., (just to name a few of the places I stopped and a whole bunch more not listed that I’ve either lived in or traveled through in those past twenty years)–and at times it seemed like my little car was my only protection (too bad it isn’t armor plated) from a world whizzing by at break neck speed, and I don’t exactly drive slow myself, either.

Seems we are all in a hurry to go nowhere fast anymore.

These past almost five years of unemployment have slowed down my world (well, my work world) considerably. All the hustle and bustle and frenetic activity of work came to a screeching halt on the day I was fired back in April 2009. And, it’s given me plenty of time to stop and smell those roses everybody else misses on the fast track to nowhere. Hurry, hurry, hurry and for what? Why do we hurry so much and so fast? Why do we pack schedules so full that we miss out on really getting to know others, except maybe (and it’s a big maybe) for those folks who happen to be a part of our lives on a daily basis.

No wonder the divorce rate is at 50% and we don’t even know who our kids are once they’ve grown up. Somebody else helped raised them (day care centers and “babysitters” like T.V., the Internet, cell phones and texting, movies, a thousand books on a million topics (what are they reading?) along with hundreds of other things that isolate us from others and cement us into our own little cocoons.

Self-absorbed . . . .

I suppose it’s one of the unfortunate outcomes in a society on the fast track to who knows where. Does anyone even pay attention to anything other than what is going on right this moment unless, of course, one is planning on how they can make more money to keep on going nowhere fast because, heaven forbid, if we don’t we will miss out on something we think we really need or want or we aren’t keeping up our end of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Unfortunately, by doing exactly that we miss out on a lot . . . . but we do end up with a lot of stuff–the latest techy gadgets; replacing the car every two years to have the latest and greatest with the coolest stuff; always striving for a bigger house or a better job that pays a lot more money so we can end up in a bigger grave at the end of our lives and pass it all on to folks we never even really got to know (our families, for example). But hey, we had a great life, right? All that “stuff” is what we wanted, right? And in the end, that’s all we ever really had because we forfeited human relationships for “stuff” in order to have power, prestige, status, being cool, using people for our own benefit, etc. And who really cares once we are dead (and it would probably shock us if we knew how many really don’t care while we are still alive)? Maybe we don’t even care anymore. In fact, maybe we don’t even think about it anymore because we are just too busy accumulating stuff. We have no time for regrets because we’ve been too busy chasing after the wind.

The debris in our lives isn’t from the “stuff,” but from the human relationships we threw away in the quest for all that stuff. We don’t value others like we value ourselves. If we can get something from others that we want (even if it costs those “others” dearly), well then fine . . . it just means more for us; but actually helping others (and I’m not talking about the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” kind of help, either)? We don’t have time for that because it doesn’t benefit us.

How far we have fallen, and we don’t even see it. And I’m not sure we even care anymore. As long as our own bank account is full, who cares about someone else in need? Hey, we earned it, right? Let them go earn their own.

throw-awayWe live in a throwaway society”--we throw away jobs we don’t like (while millions still go unemployed); we throw away folks who don’t benefit us in some way; we throw away marriages and play musical chairs with spouses and “significant” others (guess they weren’t so “significant” after all); and we throw away unwanted children by the millions (around 60 million abortions to date since Roe v. Wade formed a huge black cloud over the landscape of America in 1973), and even those children we do have often grow up around others because we are just too busy to spend any quality time with them. And what have those “others” been teaching them? We shoved them off into day care centers and didn’t even care what they learned there as long as we had the time to go out and make more money and accumulate more stuff. They learned whatever the “values” were of all those “others” who essentially raised them because we lost our own values long before they were even born.

And we are now beginning to reap the harvest of our “throwaway” mentality and lifestyles. Unfortunately, we don’t even notice and probably won’t until it’s too late. When was the last time we really looked around at what is going on in the rest of the world? No, we’ve been way too busy accumulating all that stuff of our own and paying attention to ourselves and what we want.

We live in a small world, and there are plenty of others who could use our help. So when will we learn to take our eyes off of ourselves and starting living like the words in the song above state:

If we all give a little
It could really mean a lot
It’s a small world
But it’s the only one we’ve got

James 4 contains the answer if we will only listen and learn from it:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Is all that “stuff” we’ve been accumulating at the expense of people and relationships worth it in the end? The choice is ours to make. At the end of our lives when it’s all said and done, the “Joneses” no longer matter, and if we had been paying attention, we would have discovered all along that keeping up with them never should have mattered in the first place. As the words of the song state:

Some people take
A
nd then they never give

You gotta learn to give and take
If 
 you wanna learn to live

In a small world
Small, small world

There’s still time to reconsider our ways. So what is it going to be?

Just more of the same?

Or an about face?

The choice is yours . . . .

YouTube Video: “Small World” (Part One & Part Two) by Huey Lewis and The News:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Power of Love

love_powerIn two days it will be Valentine’s Day here in America and in other countries around the world. Love is in the air, and much like Christmas is to me, I love looking at all the Valentine decorations that are in stores everywhere, and I even bought myself a tiny box of chocolates (only three pieces–the only amount I’m safe with) with a pic of Snoopy and Woodstock on the cover.

The expression of love almost defies definition, and it can mean different things to different people. It can be disguised as lust (e.g., sexual attraction), or as the ultimate sacrifice, as in laying down one’s life for their friends or their country. It can be tossed around tritely, as in “I just love my new car,” or, in my case, “I just love chocolate,” or it can be deeply felt, as in love for a parent, spouse, or children.

Dictionary.com defines love as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person” (quote source here). And in the opening words to the song The Power of Love sung by Huey Lewis and The News (YouTube video below) love is described like this:

The power of love is a curious thing
Make one man weep, make another man sing
Change a hawk to a little white dove
More than a feeling that’s the power of love

Love can turn enemies into friends; it can mend a broken heart; it can change a life overnight; it can heal the deepest wounds. Love isn’t cheap or easy and it costs us everything, and it puts self in second place. It makes mush out of emotions, and words to describe it seem totally inadequate. It can hurt and it can heal. And as another verse in the song mentioned above states:

First time you feel it, it might make you sad
Next time you feel it it might make you mad
But you’ll be glad when you’ve found
That’s the power makes the world go ’round

Love does make “the world go ’round.” But, as a popular song back in 1965 stated: “What the world needs now is love sweet love, that’s the only thing that there’s just too little of” (quote source here–song title: “What the World Needs Now”–lyrics by Hal David and music composed by Burt Bacharach, sung by Jackie DeShannon and later by Dionne Warwick).

Love is in very short supply in this world of ours. Wars and rumors of wars, conflicts, terrorism, power struggles, hidden agendas, jealousy, and hatred abound both on a grand scale and on a much smaller and much more personal scale such as in our homes, work places, and in our relationships with others. And often in our quest for an ever better lifestyle, we trample others in the dust and end up with a life totally void of love, except perhaps the love for possessions or money and all it can buy (including people). And that kind of love destroys everything it touches.

I Corinthians 13 describes what genuine love looks, feels and acts like. Let’s take a look at it in I Cor. 13:4-13:

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.

Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

As I read through that list, I realize how far short I fall many times as I’m making my way through this life. When I’m mad at someone, I’m not often kind (whether it is said verbally or I just keep it to myself). And after almost five years of unemployment, I can still be easily angered by my situation and the folks who caused it. And I am weary beyond words after being unemployed for this long with still no end in sight. And, of course, trust is a major issue of mine right now. There is very little of it left to give out to anyone.

We all have our lists of failures (usually ongoing and unresolved) when it comes to that list regarding the attributes of genuine love. Self gets in the way all too often, and it trips us up every single time. We can confuse love with a lot of other things, which ends up not being love at all. Let’s look at the first three verses in I Corinthians 13 that often get overlooked when reading over the list of attributes for what genuine love looks like. Those three verses tell us often what we don’t want to hear:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels,
but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge
and if I have a faith that can move mountains, 
but do not have love,
I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor
and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love,
I gain nothing.

So often it is in the stuff that we do that we try to prove to others and to ourselves that we have love (or if nothing else, that we can try to manipulate them in some way). Yet these verses tell us that nothing we do means anything without real, genuine love being attached to it. And if we do not have real, genuine love for others–the selfless kind of love mentioned in verses 4-13, we have failed. Period. And it doesn’t matter how smart we are or how good we are at what we do or how much money we make and/or give to people in need or organizations or even if we have the kind of faith that can move mountains or are martyred for our faith. Without love, none of it matters.

None of it matters . . . .

Love is giving up the last bite - Snoopy - 2-12-14And that’s a hard pill to swallow. Our pride gets in the way of it (at least I know mine does). There is something about going through hard times especially when they just don’t seem to end that can make one hard and reactive instead of soft and submissive. I vacillate between the two most of the time after five years of this struggle with unemployment. I’m sure you have your own examples in your life, too. It’s that constant struggle of being between a rock and a hard place.” And I want a third option–I don’t want to be between either anymore.

But the third option turns out to be the hardest . . . loving those who hate us or abuse us in some way. The urge to strike out is so powerful that the only remedy for it is love–real, genuine love. And that only comes from one place. And it’s not in us, either.

It comes from God through Jesus Christ:

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ~John 3:16-18

Apart from Jesus Christ, real genuine love is unattainable no matter how hard we try. It requires sacrifice, and that is something we humans are not very good at. We are so busy trying to protect ourselves and always “looking out for #1” that any love we think we have for others blows away in the wind. It’s fake, and has self at it’s core.

Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 5:44-45:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

I often find myself wanting to fight with my enemies instead of loving them. I rail against them because often I don’t understand why they are my enemies in the first place and it is the only way I know how to protect myself. Evil is very real in this world of ours and most of the time we have no explanation for it other than it exists. Terrorism comes to mind as an example of hatred that has no apparent reason, at least to us. Yet to fight against an unnamed evil in others is like fighting against that same wind I mentioned above that also blows the love out of our life. We are barely even good at loving our friends let alone our enemies. And if we continue to hold on to the list of wrongs done to us by others we destroy any possibility of experiencing real, genuine love for others, including our enemies.

Indeed, it is a hard pill to swallow . . . .

But shallow it we must, if we ever hope to experience real, geniune love . . . the kind of love that can turn the world–our world–around. And apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot do it. He is the One who has shown us the way.

Love isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come in a box of chocolates. It comes from hard work and from resisting the urge to retaliate no matter what. Real, genuine love can be cruel (Jesus Christ went to the cross), and it is selfless. It is also life-saving.

The chorus in the song, “The Power of Love,” goes like this:

You don’t need money, don’t take fame
Don’t need no credit card to ride this train
It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
That’s the power of love

I don’t know what you are going through in your life, but if you’ve reached the point that I have reached, there is only one option left . . .

And I’m taking that third option . . . .

How about you?

YouTube Video: “The Power of Love” (1985) by Huey Lewis and The News:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit 
here

It’s Hip To Be Square

Hip to be squareOkay, okay, o-k-a-y, O – K – A – Y . . .

So I’ve written a couple of pretty hard hitting posts in the past four days . . . .

So deal with it, okay?

Here’s a fun one that is also very, very, very, very true, and I have Huey Lewis and The News to thank for it. If you think I can be tough (well folks, it’s not me–I’m just telling you what the Bible has to say that you don’t hear–and probably don’t want to hear–very much from the pulpit, or avoid reading in the Bible–remember the Bible???), I can also have some fun with it.

So there . . . . . . . . . . .

And it’s “Hip To Be Square” — sing it guys (see YouTube Video below). Here are the words in case you want to sing along:

“Hip To Be Square”

Huey Lewis and The News

I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around 
But I couldn’t take the punishment and had to settle down 
Now I’m playing it real straight, and yes, I cut my hair 
You might think I’m crazy, but I don’t even care 
Because I can tell what’s going on

It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square

I like my bands in business suits, I watch them on TV
I’m working out most every day and watching what I eat
They tell me that it’s good for me, but I don’t even care
I know that it’s crazy
I know that it’s nowhere
But there is no denying that

It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
So hip to be square

It’s not too hard to figure out, you see it every day
And those that were the farthest out have gone the other way
You see them on the freeway, it don’t look like a lot of fun
But don’t you try to fight it, an idea whose time has come
Don’t tell me that I’m crazy
Don’t tell me I’m nowhere
Take it from me

It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
It’s hip to be square
So hip to be square
Tell ’em, boys

Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip, so hip to be a square
Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip

Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip, so hip to be a square
Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip

Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip, so hip to be a square
Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip

Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip, so hip to be a square
Here, there, and everywhere
Hip, hip

Lyrics compliment of www.azlyrics.com

YouTube Video: “Hip to be Square” by Huey Lewis and The News:

Photo credit here

Walking the Talk

admin_1-asset-50364223b84f3Imagine, if you will, that your life and everything you do every single day and night is being watched 24/7 (as in a Reality TV show). Try to imagine what it would be like if you knew people were watching your every move–in the shower or bathroom, in your home or apartment, in your car, at work, with your significant other (if you have one), what you do or don’t do in bed including sleep, what you eat and drink, what you say to yourself (as in “thinking out loud”), what you say to others, what you watch on TV or on DVD or in a movie theatre or any other type of media, where you travel and what you do when you get there, and the list goes on and on and on.

And what if everything you did on the internet was tracked (it can be, by the way) and every call you make on your cell was recorded for others to hear (that is possible, too, with today’s technology). In fact, imagine a life with absolutely no privacy whatsoever and that the folks watching could use that information in any way they so desired to their own benefit and to your own detriment or destruction. How do you think you would fare if your life was turned upside down like that?

George Orwell wrote about such a scenario (sans the internet and cell phone stuff as it didn’t exist back then) in his famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four,” published in 1949 (a summary of the plot can be read at this link). With the technology now available in today’s world (a quick Google search on the internet for  “survelliance camera” or “survelliance equipment” is enough to scare the pants off of anybody), personal privacy is, in reality, a thing of the past.

With that in mind, let me ask a question. If we knew our every move, actions, words, and thoughts were recorded and available to others 24/7 would it change the way we live our lives? Maybe? Maybe not? Well, there is Someone who knows our every move, actions, words, and thoughts whether we believe it or not. And that person is God. And God is not mocked (see Galatians 6:7-9). And our adversary keeps very close tabs on us, too, and he knows exactly how to trip us up (and we fall for his tactics all the time because so often we love what he offers us). And just in case you think I’m bluffing, read Ephesians 6:10-18 if you think we are not in a spiritual war, folks. And if we aren’t prepared for it, it can disable us spiritually and get us killed.

The way we treat others and how we live our own lives is rarely hidden from others and never hidden from God. And with today’s technology, it not only can be recorded and spread around the world via the internet but it can also be “instantaneously” broadcast as it is actually happening. And it can and usually is twisted to benefit others, especially those people who are putting it “out there” for anyone to see and hear for monetary gain. Of course, this kind of behavior is rampant during election years with the mud-slinging neck deep with the dirt we get on others. However, we would never want our own dirt put on display for the world to see, right? As a nation, we’ve become National Enquirer on steroids. And we do all this raunchy, evil stuff to each other and those we don’t even like or know to benefit ourselves in some way (usually involving money/power/sex).

Here are a few questions to get us thinking about how we live our lives:

  1. Do we gossip and tear people apart with our words and actions and attitudes?
  2. Do we pry into the lives of others and judge them accordingly?
  3. Are we ethical at work or do we just “go with the flow” to keep that paycheck coming in?
  4. Are we ethical in the way we earn our money? And how about how we spend it?
  5. If we are Christian and married (as this flies in the face of the rest of the world), are we faithful to our spouse (and that includes the stuff on TV, the internet, movies, strip clubs, swap clubs, prostitutes, porn in any form, our neighbor’s wife or husband, and anyone else we think about having sex with to include oral sex, etc.)?
  6. If we are Christian and not married (as this also flies in the face of the rest of the world), do we not have sex with others before marriage (including oral sex) and also including the items listed in #5?
  7. Do we always try to “push the line” to see how far we can go and not just in the area of sex but in all the other ways we use things and people for our benefit (as if God doesn’t know our intentions)?
  8. Do we demand our own way all the time, always “looking out for #1”?
  9. Do we judge others we don’t even know and do we show no mercy to others, except perhaps to our fellow church goers if they like to gossip as much as we do?
  10. As a group (in whatever setting), do we gang up on others we don’t like for whatever reason and shun them (in workplaces and churches and other social settings)?
  11. Do we try to force our way on others (the political arena comes to mind, but so does work and church and other social settings) without any regard to the hypocrisy and duplicity in our own lives?
  12. And how do we spend our private time when we think no one is watching (whether at home or in hotel rooms or anyplace else)?
  13. Do we really even believe in God? And if so, is it a god of our own making while pretending it is the God of the Bible?

Duplicity . . . as in hypocrisy, deceit, fraud, trickery, misleading others, perversion of the truth, deriving benefit at another’s expense, and the intentional concealment of truthful information (source here). Sound familiar, or is that all just whitewash,” like telling little white lies used to be when we were kids decades ago before lying became fashionable and common practice?

hypocrisyJesus Christ had a lot to say about living lives of hypocrisy and duplicity, and he said it to the Pharisees and teachers of the law who taught the people how to live but didn’t live it themselves. It was the religious folks of his day who made up the rules as they went along and demanded that others follow them while they didn’t always do so themselves. And it was the religious folks who opposed Jesus at every turn, right up to when they finally nailed him to a cross (but he didn’t stay there). And it was to the religious folks that he gave his harshest words in Matthew 23. He called them hypocrites (see vv. 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29), blind guides (see vv. 16, 19, 24, 26), snakes (see v. 33), and a brood of vipers (see v. 33). They neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness (see v. 23), and were full of greed and self-indulgence (see v. 25). And too many religious folks in our day are just like them, talking a good talk but not walking it.

It is obvious by the way lots of people live today that most folks don’t believe that there are any consequences for the way we live and how we treat others. We are mostly looking out for #1 with anyone else taking a distant second place. And, if we can screw over a family member, a friend, a work colleague, or better yet, a complete stranger (especially if we can do it by making them look bad regardless of whether the information spread about them is true or not–mostly not) to get more money in our pockets we don’t think twice about it whether we are Christian or not. And we can even do it in ways that are legal nowadays (just look at Wall Street, for example, or on a more common level–the admissions/retention practices in my own field of work, or overcharging for services rendered, or lying on expense reports, or in a myriad of other ways we make money in businesses here in America). Of course, I’m not implying that every way that we make money in America has ill intentions behind it. Of course not. However, greed has taken over in America in a big, big way in the past few decades and we just don’t think twice about what the cost is to anybody else as long as that money stays in our own pockets and we find ways to get more of it, legal or not (and mostly through deception).

The way we live our lives and how we treat others matters . . . and it matters a great deal to God. We can’t hide anything from him, even if we are good at hiding most of the nasty and devious stuff from others. And for what propose? Just so we can have more money or more power or more prestige or more (as in more, more, more) of what? More of what? Our own greed will destroy us in the end. And does the end even matter to us, or just the “here and now”? The end will be here sooner than we think, folks.

We live in a secular society where “anything goes” if we can get by with it and not get caught. I’m not even sure about the “getting caught” part of it anymore as there is so much corruption at all levels in our society today. And most of it is centered around money (and all it can buy including people) and how we can get our hands on it. And how we get that money doesn’t appear to matter anymore, either. The people who can’t be bought with money are getting to be fewer and fewer. And loyalty is a thing of the past . . . except loyalty to self.

But God sees it all–every last bit of it–and that includes everything we’ve ever said or done or didn’t do or shouldn’t have done or should have done or thought (with or without actions)–right, wrong, and everything in between. A.W. Tozer was right when he said, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking” (quote source here), and he said that well over 50 years ago as he died 50 years ago this past May).

Folks, we don’t even have a low opinion of God anymore. We have NO opinion of God anymore, and we’ve made money our god. And that is the biggest deception going in our society today—that money is god in our lives. We serve a god called money, and we hate anything that gets in the way of that (including God). Jesus clearly stated this in Matthew 6:24 when he said: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

But do we listen???

Our lives lived out 24/7 prove who or what we really believe in. And a glance at our checkbook or credit card statements will give us the answer in pretty quick order.

Are we walking the talk . . .

Or just talking it . . .

The whole world is watching . . . .

YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” (Bob Dylan’s song) sung by The Abbadons:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

This One Thing

Just One ThingWe all have various agendas going on in our lives on a regular basis. Some are good, some not so good, and some are downright evil. We do still recognize evil, right? We pass our days making plans for the future to make our lives better by acquiring more money, climbing a corporate or church or some other type of social ladder, and leveraging for a little more power (and, oh, the ways we use to get that stuff). From a gender perspective, men are primarily good at it by using money (if they have it) or “scratching other’s backs” and women by using sex or spreading nasty gossip. Oh, “the games people play, every night and every day” (see YouTube Video at the end of this post).

There are three verses in 2 Peter that sum up clearly what God’s purpose (remember God?) is for all people on this planet of ours. Let’s read them in 2 Peter 3:8-10:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

As we strive for “bigger, better, more, more, more,” in any way we can get it, we forget that this life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow (see James 4:13-17). We live for the temporary (which is this life, folks) and grab for all the gusto we can get, and we forget all about the eternal (you know, the place where we will spend eternity–as in forever.) And that includes many Christians living in America, too. And often (way too often), pastors tend to focus their sermons on the “here and now” and how we can be successful in this life and rarely, if ever, give sermons about what comes after this life. Those “success” sermons wouldn’t fly very well in Syria or Egypt, but they keep us here in America always seeking after “the good life” here and now.

Let’s take a look at what James has to say about this in James 4:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

When was the last time we heard a sermon on those verses? Maybe a few decades ago depending on how old we are. But that’s where it’s really at, folks. Real life–God’s way of life–not in the “bigger, better, more, more, more” sermons that keep us focused on “us” and what we can get right now. Unfortunately, we now have an entire generation who has grown up on only those kinds of sermons, and they don’t have a clue what truly following after Jesus Christ is all about. And it’s not about “bigger, better, more, more, more.” No wonder the younger generation as a whole has lost interest in Christianity. The brand of Christianity they’ve been sold is nothing more than the world all around them dressed up in religious garb but still doing the same things that everybody else does.

Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse but the horse isn’t dead yet (but it’s close). I’ve spent my entire life in and out of churches here in America and I don’t much like what I’ve experienced as a whole. The culture has taken over the church instead of the church being salt and light (see Matthew 5:13-14) to the culture. We’ve taken greed and gossip and sexual immorality into the church instead of exposing it for what it is. And church discipline is nonexistence today (read the book of Acts which is the story of how the church began in the first place). And repentance? Who does that anymore?

If you’ve been reading my blog you are aware by now that I can hit pretty hard on what the Church has become in our day (as a whole and not individual churches). Unfortuately, the church in America has so succumbed to the culture that it is often about as effective in living out the true gospel of Jesus Christ as putting a bandaid on cancer. How we live on a daily basis–including work, church, social activities, and generally how we treat others including our enemies and those we don’t understand (e.g., just consider the political arena if you think we don’t have any issues in these areas)–and how we go about making and spending money–screams to the culture all around us that we are really, at our very core, no different from them, and that makes the gospel of Jesus Christ null and void. And the book of Hebrews has much to say about that kind of living while professing to be Christian.

red-warningWe need to wake up, folks, and stop playing church games that only benefit us. When was the last time we actually tried to help a homeless person, or better yet, our enemy, whether that enemy is someone trying to get our job or someone we don’t like or don’t even know, or, better yet, someone we gossip about and tear apart with our words. When have we tried to love someone who makes us jealous or stole our spouse away. What do we really think it means when Jesus said we are to love our enemies Matt. 5:43-48)? Do we think he meant we should disparage them and gossip about them behind their backs and spread false rumors about them?

And how about how we earn our money? Are we ethical in the way we earn our money or do we screw over others in order that we might have more of it? Some of the practices in my own field of work left a lot to be desired in this area (on the admissions side of the business). So exactly where IS Jesus in the midst of us, folks? The very way we live our lives proves out on a daily basis whether or not he is real to us and to others, too.

That, of course, doesn’t mean we are perfect, but God calls us to a holy life. It’s not about making up our own rules as we go along while giving lip service to God. God is not fooled, nor are the people around us who aren’t Christian. There are plenty of places in the New Testament that bears this out (e.g., to not live a life of duplicity) if we would only take the time to actually read and meditate on them and take them seriously. But the question remains–do we really even want to change our lives? Most often we want to live like the rest of the culture and have God, too. And it doesn’t work that way.

And it never has, either . . . .

Regarding the verses I quoted at the start of this blog post, let’s put them into context with the surrounding verses (2 Peter 3:1-18):

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Those words give a pretty clear picture of things to come that we don’t hear in most churches today. Are you currently sitting in a church that preaches “bigger, better, more, more, more” on a regular basis without any real substance regarding how we are to live as disciples of Jesus Christ? If so, you need to think about leaving that church, and finding one where the gospel of Jesus Christ is honored and not the kingdom of self. And if you are living a life geared around “bigger, better, more, more, more” and always seeking after what you can get, then you need to repent and stop before it is too late.

Christianity isn’t a game, and so often we make it a game here in America by the way we live. No wonder the unbelievers in our culture often think it is a joke. What can a weak and insipid form of Christianity possibly offer to them that they don’t already have without all the “God talk” thrown in for good measure? No, the gospel of Jesus Christ changes people from the inside out. Christianity is not there to benefit us politically, socially, monetarily, in the workplace, at church, or anywhere else. In fact, true Christianity is not about us and what we can get in this life at all. True Christianity will cost us everything (see Luke 14). In a commentary on Luke 14 on BibleGateway.com the following statement is made:

So Jesus calls for a follower who will hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life (see Luke 14:25-27). The point of the list is that no other relationship is first for a disciple. “Hate” is used figuratively and suggests a priority of relationship. Jesus is first. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus, not anyone or anything else. A disciple is a learner, and the primary teacher in life is Jesus. This total loyalty is crucial, given the rejection and persecution that lie ahead. If his followers care more about family than about Jesus, when families are divided under pressure of persecution, they will choose against Jesus. This is what lies behind Jesus’ remarks. Discipleship is not possible if Jesus is not the teacher.

This is why bearing the cross and coming after Jesus is the issue of discipleship. Learning from Jesus means following him, experiencing the rejection he experienced and so bearing the cross he bore. We cannot “learn Jesus” without being prepared to walk this path. Discipleship is basically allegiance. To follow Jesus is to rely on him. Paul makes the same point in different imagery in Romans 6. (The full commentary on Luke 14 can be accessed at this link.)

And if we don’t believe that, we don’t believe what Jesus Christ has to say about how we are to follow after him (and not the culture and what we want). Now I realize this is one of my harder hitting posts, but this life is not a game about how much we can get and still pretend to be following after Jesus Christ, and to think that it is has serious and eternal consequences. So let’s remember the final words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:17-18:

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

I’m sharing this information with you as friends . . . 

So be forewarned and stop playing games . . .

Before it is too late . . . .

YouTube Video: “Games People Play” by Joe South:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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