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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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Christmas and the Christian Faith

Nativity-Merry-ChristmasI ran across the following article this morning on a Public Domain website titled, Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith by Steven Arnold King (source here). It is actually a speech given by the Honorable Steve King of Iowa in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.

It’s significance cannot be underestimated. Here is the text of that speech (quote source here):

RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

SPEECH OF
HON. STEVE KING
OF IOWA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

manger cross kingMr. KING of Iowa: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for her support and help in getting this important measure to the House floor for a vote.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the House today to discuss the importance and relevance of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

As this resolution notes, there are approximately 225 million Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population. Beyond that, there are approximately 2 billion Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population.

And yet, Mr. Speaker, in recent decades there have been some who have undertaken efforts to diminish the significance of this great religion, and these efforts are no more apparent than during this time of Christmas.

It is not hard to look out over this great country of ours and find those who, for one reason or another, have engaged in a highly-politicized and highly-publicized crusade to rid the public square of any reference to the religious underpinnings of the Christmas holiday. These are individuals who have subscribed to a radical interpretation of our Constitution’s free exercise and establishment clauses and have sought to impose their secular views and beliefs on the nation as a whole.

In many respects, it is this ongoing effort to bring about the secularization of Christmas–and all of our everyday lives for that matter–that motivated me to bring this resolution before the House today.

Regardless of how others may define it, Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is the day on which Christians–those who identify themselves as believers in the salvation from sin offered to them through the death and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible–celebrate the birth of their savior. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is cause for great celebration. As the Son of God, Jesus was sent to earth, by our Heavenly Father, to become a human being, live a sinless life, be crucified on a cross for our sins, and rise from the dead three days later. The purpose of this, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, was to save sinners from eternal death–the price to be paid for their sin.

And so, Mr. Speaker, the birth of Christ, as celebrated by Christians on Christmas is a truly important and significant day because it is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy and Grace.

The importance of Christmas, however, does not end with the tenets of Christianity. Because Christmas is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar, I believe that its annual passage should serve as an opportunity for all Americans, Christian or not, religious or not, to recognize the important role played by Christianity in the formation of our nation and in the founding of our civilization.

It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that courthouses throughout this country proudly display the Ten Commandments. It is no accident that, in this very chamber, it is the face of Moses, the human author of those divinely dictated commandments, that looks down upon you, keeping close watch on all that transpires in this chamber. Mr. Speaker the framework of our laws and the fabric of our society is heavily dependent upon the maxims of Christianity, and I believe that as we Christians begin our annual celebration of the birth of our savior, the one from whom Christianity derives its name, it is wholly appropriate for us, as a nation and as members of this House, to take the time to acknowledge the contributions that the Christian religion has made to our country and our way of life.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all can agree that virtually any American, whether Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, when confronted with the fact that he has in some way wronged his neighbor, will rightly respond in one universal way–knock on his door, confess to him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. The neighbor would then forgive them as Christ has taught us. True and simple as this may seem, it is important to ask why we as Americans naturally react in such a way. The answer of course is that in this “conditioned behavior” we see very clearly the positive effect that Christianity has had on the development of our country and culture.

There are few places in the United States–if any–that you can visit where the laws “do not steal” and “do not murder” do not apply. Likewise, there are few households in this great country in which moral character is developed in young children without the invocation of the ninth and tenth amendments regarding lying and coveting that which belongs to others.

Mr. Speaker, we as Americans live in a moral society and in a country that is governed by moral laws. While many of these laws obviously cannot be found in any explicit sense within the pages of the Holy Bible, when we survey the content of that book–the document that outlines how it is the Christians are to live their lives here on earth–we do find much in the way of foundational principles that has come to guide not just the development of our laws, but also the foundation of our nation.

It was from the Bible and the example of Jesus that Pilgrims first established government on this continent, from which the Founders outlined the political thought that shaped our nation, and by which Congress first intended to educate our children. Furthermore, as the scholar David Barton and others have tirelessly pointed out, it was from the Bible that early American leaders derived concepts like private ownership, the free-enterprise system, an industrious work ethic, and workfare rather than welfare. As a result, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ have permeated every aspect of life in America. He has shaped our culture and transformed every great leader to rise from our population. As a testament to this, each of our American Presidents has acknowledged God’s hand on this Christian nation that is the United States. If there never had been a Jesus Christ, there would never have been an America.

In an address to the nation President Truman once said that, “In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!”

Luke 2v13-14He went on to say that, “This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the Eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past–to some of the things which have gone into the making of our Nation.”

In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of Christmas, “it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth.”

President Eisenhower called the nation to reflect during his remarks at the lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on December 15, 1957 when he said, “In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.”

He went on to say, “That Child–we should remember–grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony. But His death–so the Christian faith tells us–was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph–when the spirit of life triumphed over death. So–if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby.”

During his Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve, 1983 President Reagan pointed out that “It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.” [YouTube Video of speech is available here. Length of video: 5:10]

As the words of these great men–these revered and honored presidents of the United States of America have clearly demonstrated, it is not a stretch to say that the precepts and principles of Jesus have so completely permeated the culture of this nation that even an American atheist would be hard pressed to separate his worldview from the impact of the first Christmas.

Though we are not all Christians, Mr. Speaker, we are all Americans. By virtue of that simple fact, I will again reiterate my belief that it is not only appropriate but, more importantly, is necessary during this special time of year to remember not only the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, but also to recognize the important impact that the Christian faith has had on the foundation and development of our society, our nation, and our civilization. (Quote source here.)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. . .

Let Earth receive. . .

Her King. . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston:

In case you’re interested, here’s the YouTube Video of President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve 1983 referenced in the speech above:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

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Beyond the Manger

Beyond-the-MangerI would like to believe that most of us living in America know the real story behind Christmas. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that is true anymore. Today, many kids are being raised to believe in Santa then they are ever (if ever) taught about Jesus. Of course, that speaks to the issue of what their parents believe, and possibly how they were raised, too. Other than a surface glance at a religious/formal version of Jesus who appears to be anything but human except as a sweet little baby in a manger, they might wonder what Jesus could possibly have to do with them and the way they live their own lives today. And it’s a sad state of affairs that we learn to believe mostly in ourselves and to keep Jesus at a distance if we acknowledge Him at all.

Unless we are shopping in a specifically Christian store, we rarely find anything beyond Santa and all of his enticing presents glistening in store windows and aisles in the malls of America. And it’s been this way for a very long time, too. So long, in fact, that the younger generations among us often have no idea who Jesus really is and they don’t pay much attention, either. Their technology can do more for them then they think any Jesus might be able to do for them. And the version of Jesus they may get (if they get any version of Him at all) is rather weak and placid, which is absolutely nothing like the real Jesus that previous generations laid down their very lives to serve.

Jim Elliot quoteIn fact, the Bible tells the story of many, many people who gave up own their lives to serve Him (the twelve disciples as well as the Apostle Paul are classic examples, see also the people listed in Hebrews 11), and there have been many more down through the ages, too. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and pastor during the time of Hitler’s reign, comes to mind from the 20th Century (he lost his life at the age of 39 in 1945 right before the end of World War II). And it was Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador, who was murdered by them in 1956 at the age of 29. It was Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (quote source here). His wife, Elizabeth Elliot, later spent two years as a missionary (along with her infant daughter) to the tribe members who killed her husband, returning to the United States after many years in South America. She died recently on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88.

If we don’t believe there is actual power and forgiveness in the name of Jesus, we will never understand what He is all about and why He came in the first place. There is more power in the name of Jesus then in all the technological wonders available in our world today. But do we really believe that? We often only believe in what we can actually see and experience (or manipulate) until something comes along that rocks us to our very core and we have nowhere else to run.

But back to the topic at hand . . . Christmas. Another Christmas is rolling around, and commercialism reigns supreme once again during this season. However, there is One who transcends it all, and this is the story of His birth and early childhood (from Luke 2):

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni 2011 - www.tapestryproductions.com

“Simeon’s Moment” by Ron DiCianni

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Jesus Christ has always existed, even before this earth was created, and this is clearly stated in John 1:1-5, 14:

In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . .

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus-in-the-Old-TestamentIn an article titled, The Portrait of Christ,” by Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), Dr. Rogers clearly shows how Jesus Christ is pictured in the Old Testament and how He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy:

[Jesus stated] “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

We now have available, instantaneously, the wisdom of the ages. Or do we? We have the ability to read or hear or view the opinion or beliefs of anyone who thinks they are an intellect.

Now intellect is a wonderful thing.

• You can understand biology, but if you don’t know the Giver of life, you’re still uneducated.
• You can comprehend geology, but if you don’t know the Rock of Ages, you don’t really know anything of importance.
• You can know all about botany, but if you haven’t met the Lily of the Valley, your knowledge is useless.

You can know all the facts of history, but if you reject the central figure of history, your time has been wasted.

• The wise man who doesn’t know God is ignorant.
• The strong man who doesn’t know God is weak.
• The rich man who doesn’t know God is poor.

Only the Lord can fulfill all our needs and answer all our questions. Jesus came to fulfill all things.

The Lord said He had come to fulfill the prophets. The historical figure of Christ is the secret to understanding the Bible. Everywhere you look in Scripture, you see the writer pointing toward Christ.

In Luke 24:27, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two forlorn followers and began teaching them the secret to Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” The Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ. Every story and every event leads directly to the Savior.

In John 5:39, the Lord Jesus told His followers to “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Of course, the New Testament had not yet been written, so Jesus is telling His disciples to explore the Old Testament writings, because they all point toward Him.

As you read through God’s Word, see how it points you to Jesus.

• Christ is the Seed of woman and in Genesis 3:15 we are told He will one day crush Satan.
• In Exodus we find the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us.
• In Leviticus we read of the high priests making sacrifices for the people, and Christ has become our High Priest, making the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.
• In Deuteronomy Moses prophesied of a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself. Jesus is that Great Prophet.
• In the book of Joshua, Joshua met the Captain of the Lord’s host. That man is Jesus Christ.
• In Judges, the leaders were judges who delivered God’s people, each of them typifying the Lord Jesus.
• Boaz, the kinsman who redeemed Ruth‘s inheritance, is a picture of Christ.
• David, the anointed one, pictures Jesus and Jesus is described as being the Son of David.
• In 2 Samuel when the king is being enthroned, the entire scene is descriptive of the Lord Jesus.
• The books of Kings speak of the glory of God filling the temple and the Chronicles describe the glorious coming king, both referring to Jesus, the King of Kings.
Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers.
Esther offers a picture of Christ interceding for His people.
Job says clearly that the Redeemer is coming!

• Christ appears time after time in the Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd.”
Isaiah details His glorious birth.
Jeremiah reveals that He will be acquainted with sorrows.
Joel describes Him as the Hope of His people.
Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations.
Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom.
Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance.
Zephaniah says that He will be the king over Israel.
Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt.
Malachi is the one who calls Him the Son of Righteousness.

Can you see it? The entire Old Testament points toward Jesus as Savior, and if you miss that, you’ve missed the entire point of the Scriptures. Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy.

four-gospelsThe New Testament opens up with the birth of Jesus Christ in the four Gospel accounts that also include details of his life, ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection. GotQuestions.org gives us the reason why there are four specific Gospel accounts:

While the entire Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), He used human authors with different backgrounds and personalities to accomplish His purposes through their writing. Each of the gospel authors had a distinct purpose behind his gospel and in carrying out those purposes, each emphasized different aspects of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Matthew was writing to a Hebrew audience, and one of his purposes was to show from Jesus’ genealogy and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that He was the long-expected Messiah, and thus should be believed in. Matthew’s emphasis is that Jesus is the promised King, the “Son of David,” who would forever sit upon the throne of Israel (Matthew 9:27; 21:9).

Mark, a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), was an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ as well as being a friend of the apostle Peter. Mark wrote for a Gentile audience, as is brought out by his not including things important to Jewish readers (genealogies, Christ’s controversies with Jewish leaders of His day, frequent references to the Old Testament, etc.). Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Luke, the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14 KJV), evangelist, and companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the apostles. Luke is the only Gentile author of the New Testament. He has long been accepted as a diligent master historian by those who have used his writings in genealogical and historical studies. As a historian, he states that it is his intent to write down an orderly account of the life of Christ based on the reports of those who were eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). Because he specifically wrote for the benefit of Theophilus, apparently a Gentile of some stature, his gospel was composed with a Gentile audience in mind, and his intent is to show that a Christian’s faith is based upon historically reliable and verifiable events. Luke often refers to Christ as the “Son of Man,” emphasizing His humanity, and he shares many details that are not found in the other gospel accounts.

The gospel of John, written by John the apostle, is distinct from the other three Gospels and contains much theological content in regard to the person of Christ and the meaning of faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels” because of their similar styles and content and because they give a synopsis of the life of Christ. The gospel of John begins not with Jesus’ birth or earthly ministry but with the activity and characteristics of the Son of God before He became man (John 1:14). The gospel of John emphasizes the deity of Christ, as is seen in his use of such phrases as “the Word was God” (John 1:1), “the Savior of the World” (John 4:42), the “Son of God” (used repeatedly), and “Lord and…God” (John 20:28). In John’s gospel, Jesus also affirms His deity with several “I Am” statements; most notable among them is John 8:58, in which He states that “…before Abraham was, I Am” (compare to Exodus 3:13-14). But John also emphasizes the fact of Jesus’ humanity, desiring to show the error of a religious sect of his day, the Gnostics, who did not believe in Christ’s humanity. John’s gospel spells out his overall purpose for writing: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

Thus, in having four distinct and yet equally accurate accounts of Christ, different aspects of His person and ministry are revealed. Each account becomes like a different-colored thread in a tapestry woven together to form a more complete picture of this One who is beyond description. And while we will never fully understand everything about Jesus Christ (John 20:30), through the four Gospels we can know enough of Him to appreciate who He is and what He has done for us so that we may have life through faith in Him. (Quote source and entire article at this link.)

And in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus is presented as the “Alpha and Omega, First and the Last” (Rev. 1: 8-13), “Son of Man” (Rev. 1:13), “Son of God” (Rev. 2:18), “Faithful and True Witness” (Rev 3:14), “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 17:14), “the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), and “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). And He will soon rule the nations (Rev. 22:16-21; also see this link at GotQuestions.org).

Jesus Christ is far more that a sweet little baby sleeping in a manger . . . .

He’s Alpha and Omega . . .

He’s the Beginning and the End . . . .

He is the great “I AM” . . . .

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.
(from “Mary Did You Know”)

YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd:

Photo #1 credit here
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 here 
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Photo #5 credit here

Celebrating Advent

Advent-Candles-with-Messages

The season of Advent started this past Sunday on November 29, 2015, and will end on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2015. The following article titled, Celebrating Advent,” published on Christianity.about.com, describes Advent:

Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Celebrating Advent typically involves a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy.

Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spiritand in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time.

The word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly of something having great importance.

For denominations that celebrate Advent, it marks the beginning of the church year.

In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last, or fourth Sunday of Advent. (Quote source here.)

Advent Dates for 2015

November 29First Sunday of Advent
December 6Second Sunday of Advent
December 13Third Sunday of Advent
December 20Fourth Sunday of Advent

GotQuestions.org also provides the following information on Advent::

Churches that observe Advent usually decorate their sanctuaries in the liturgical color of Advent, purple (or in some cases royal blue). Some churches change the color to rose on the third or fourth Sunday of Advent to signify a greater emphasis on the joy of the season.

One of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. On the first Sunday of Advent, churches and homes are decorated with green to symbolize the eternal life that Jesus brings. An Advent wreath—an evergreen circle with four colored candles surrounding a white one in the middle—is placed in a prominent spot. The candles are then lighted one at a time, on successive Sundays. The first candle is the candle of “hope” or “expectation.” The three remaining candles on the perimeter are given various meanings depending on the church. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the center white candle is lighted; this is the “Christ Candle,” a reminder that Jesus, the Light of the Word, has come.

Advent calendars, used to count down the days till Christmas, are popular in many homes. An Advent calendar contains a number of covered “windows” that are opened, one a day, until Christmas Day. Each open window reveals a picture related to the season or a poem or a Bible verse or a treat of some kind. Many parents find that an Advent calendar is a good way to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas—although there are secular versions of the calendars, too.

Should Christians observe Advent? This is a matter of personal conviction. Here is the biblical principle: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6).

There is certainly nothing wrong with commemorating Jesus’ birth and anticipating His return—such commemoration and anticipation should be an everyday part of our lives. Are Christians required to observe Advent? No. Does observing Advent make one a better Christian or more acceptable to God? No. Can celebrating Advent be a good reminder of what the season is truly all about? Yes, and therein lies its greatest value. (Quote source here.)

advent-candles1The symbol most prominent in the celebration of Advent is the wreath with candles placed on it which are lit, one at a time, on the four Sundays in Advent, and the fifth candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve. The Advent wreath and candles are described as follows on Christianity.about.com:

The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, five candles are typically arranged. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Set on the branches of the wreath are four candles: three purple candles and one pink candle.

In the center of the wreath sits a white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

Each week on Sunday, an additional candle is lit. On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger.

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy.

The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the “Angels Candle,” represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world.

The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks prior to Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas. Another Advent tradition that can be very meaningful and fun for children is to celebrate with the Jesse Tree. (Quote source here.)

god-with-us1In an article titled, What is Advent? The Meaning Behind the Christmas Message,” by Justin Holcomb, he gives us the history of Advent and how it is celebrated today:

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

Today, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.) 

Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future. (Quote source here.)

Four related articles written by Justin Holcomb can be found by clicking on the following titles:

Advent I: Waiting for Christ’s Return
Advent II: The Messiah is Coming
Advent III: Rejoice! God Is With Us
Advent IV: God Keeps His Promises

Advent-Calendar-TitleOne more item associated with Advent is the Advent Calendar. The history behind the Advent Calendar is given to us compliments of GotQuestions.org:

The word “Adventhas a Latin origin meaning ‘the coming,’ or more accurately, ‘coming toward.’ For Christian believers, Christmas is one of the greatest events in the yearly cycle, being the celebration of the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind. That gift was Jesus, the Son of God Himself, born into this world in human form and coming to live among us to show us the true nature of God, experience human joy and sorrow along with us, and finally, going of His own will to die a horrible, agonizing death. In this way the price was paid for all human sin that had cut us off from our Holy God and Heavenly Father, resulting in our complete and total reconciliation with Him.

Centuries ago, the importance of this event caused many Christians to feel that it was inadequate merely to mark off only one day on the yearly calendar for celebrating this incredible gift from God. Believers had (and still do have) such a sense of awe and overwhelming gratitude and wonder at what happened that first Christmas that they felt the need for a period of preparation immediately beforehand. They could then not only take time themselves to meditate on it, but also teach their children the tremendous significance of Christmas.

At first, the days preceding Christmas were marked off from December 1 with chalk on believers’ doors. Then in Germany in the late 19th century the mother of a child named Gerhard Lang made her son an Advent Calendar comprised of 24 tiny sweets stuck onto cardboard. Lang never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his Advent calendar at the beginning of each December, and how it reminded him every day that the greatest celebration of the whole year was approaching ever nearer. As an adult he went into partnership with his friend Reichhold and opened a printing office. In 1908, they produced what is thought to be the first-ever printed Advent Calendar with a small colored picture for each day in Advent. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, they hit on the idea of making the pictures into little shuttered windows for the children to open day by day in order to heighten their sense of expectation.

The idea of the Advent Calendar caught on with other printing firms as the demand swiftly increased, and many versions were produced, some of which would have printed on them Bible verses appropriate to the Advent period. By now the Advent Calendar had gained international popularity, and children all over the world were clamoring for them as December approached. Unfortunately, the custom came to an end with the beginning of the First World War when cardboard was strictly rationed and only allowed to be used for purposes necessary to the war effort. However, in 1946, when rationing began to ease following the end of the Second World War, a printer named Richard Sellmer once again introduced the colorful little Advent Calendar, and again it was an immediate success.

Sadly, with the wane of Christianity in Western nations, the Advent Calendar, although still enormously popular with all children, has lost its true meaning. Many, many children and their parents have no idea of the history of the little calendar or its true purpose, which is to prepare us for the celebration of the advent of the Christ-child. Even if they do know, most would not care. Also, the makers of today’s Advent calendars are anxious only to sell their product, and the majority of these neither know nor care about the meaning and purpose of Advent. Their calendars depict Santa Claus and his reindeer, snowmen, holly, mistletoe, and all the secular trappings of Christmas behind the little windows, often along with a piece of chocolate. Fortunately, however, Christian printers are still with us to manufacture calendars for children from Christian families that unfold the story of the nativity with each window that is opened. We, as Christian believers, pray that one day the whole world will be aware of the incredible wonder of the true meaning of Advent and Christmas. (Quote source here.)

I hope this background information on the celebration of Advent provides additional meaning for us as we celebrate this Christmas season. In the hustle and bustle of all the activities, let us take time to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. . . .

O come . . .

O come . . .

Emmanuel . . . .

YouTube Video: “O Come, Emmanuel [Christmas Version]” (Piano/Cello duet) by ThePianoGuys [Original version can be viewed at this link–the music is identical in both videos]:

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Can One Person Change the World?

change-the-world-logoTwo of my favorite fiction writers, Danielle Steel and John Grisham, have written on the subject of homelessness. Danielle Steel wrote, A Gift of Hope: Helping the Homeless,” published in 2012, which is a non-fiction book about her eleven years of working with the homeless on the streets of San Francisco. A brief introduction to her book states:

For eleven years, Danielle Steel took to the streets with a small team to help the homeless of San Francisco. She worked anonymously, visiting the “cribs” of the city’s most vulnerable citizens under cover of darkness, distributing food, clothing, bedding, tools, and toiletries. She sought no publicity for her efforts and remained anonymous throughout. Now she is speaking to bring attention to their plight.

In this unflinchingly honest and deeply moving memoir, the famously private author speaks out publicly for the first time about her work among the most desperate members of our society. She offers achingly acute portraits of the people she met along the way—and issues a heartfelt call for more effective action to aid this vast, deprived population. Determined to supply the homeless with the basic necessities to keep them alive, she ends up giving them something far more powerful: a voice. (Quote source here.)

John Grisham wrote a novel, The Street Lawyer,” published in 1998, where his main character, a lawyer named Michael Brock, is thrown into the world of the homeless that includes clear descriptions of what that world looks like and it should make anyone with a conscience cringe. A brief introduction to his book states:

Michael was in a hurry. He was scrambling up the ladder at Drake & Sweeney, a giant D.C. law firm with eight hundred lawyers. The money was good and getting better; a partnership was three years away. He was a rising star with no time to waste, no time to stop, no time to toss a few coins into the cups of panhandlers. No time for a conscience.

But a violent encounter with a homeless man stopped him cold. Michael survived; his assailant did not. Who was this man? Michael did some digging, and learned that he was a mentally ill veteran who’d been in and out of shelters for many years. Then Michael dug a little deeper, and found a dirty secret, and the secret involved Drake & Sweeney. (Quote source here.)

Add to these two books a third book that I found on a bargain book shelf titled, Walk in Their Shoes: Can One Person Change the World?” (2013), written by Jim Ziolkowski, founder of buildOn, a nonprofit organization he started to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education, and James S. Hirsch, a bestselling author who has written on race, sports, and the human drama behind topics ranging from the military to medicine. The inside front cover of the book states:

The story of real change can start with one person.

Twenty-one years ago, Jim Ziolzowski gave up a fast-track career in corporate finance to dedicate his life to buildOn, an organization that turns inner-city teens into community leaders at home and abroad. He set out to show not that he could change the world, but how each one of us can–through the power of service to others.

Today, buildOn students have contributed more than 1.2 million hours of service, from Detroit and the South Bronx to Haiti, Mali, and Nepal, while building more than five hundred fifty schools worldwide. Together, they are breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations in their own lives and transforming their communities.

An international chronicle of faith and the boundless potential of the human spirit, Walk in Their Shoes tells the story of Jim’s movement and the thousands of young people who have decided to step forward, step up, and make a difference. (Quote from inside front cover.)

0212_homeless-bostonHomelessness . . . it’s a topic most of us want to ignore, yet it is an ever growing problem across our nation and the world. In an article titled, Do You Ignore Homeless People?”, written by Alyssa Figueroa and published on AlterNet on January 29, 2013, our own perceptions and the inability of people to identify with the homeless are the primary reasons behind why most of us ignore the homeless. In a statement in the article by Paul Boden, “who was once homeless for several years, and is now the organizing director for the Western Regional Advocacy Project, which works to expose and eliminate the root causes of poverty and homelessness” (quote source here), he states:

We have demonized homeless people so much over the last 30 years that passersby don’t think they can ever end up on the street because they’re not crazy, they’re not drug addicted, they’re not alcoholics and they’re not stupid. (Quote source here.)

The article is both eye-opening and shocking. Boden also stated in the article:

An overwhelming majority of people that walk past panhandlers ignore them or say something rude or look at them like they’re scum. And then you get a couple people that feel empathy to it and give. And then you get other people that, at the very least, look them in the eye and say, ‘Sorry dude, I can’t do it today.

The article also states that one of the obvious reasons people react differently to panhandlers is their varying perceptions of homeless people:

“People have these attitudes — that they’re lazy, that they deserve what they get, they haven’t worked hard, they’re just looking for a handout. … and people with these attitudes lack compassion,” said Paul Toro, a psychology professor at Wayne State University who studies the public’s perception of poverty and homelessness.

In his research, Toro found that compared to other countries, people who live in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom that have more capitalistic economies and offer fewer social services, are more likely to believe personal failings are the primary cause of homelessness and feel less compassion for homeless people. Meanwhile, these countries have higher rates of homelessness than, for example, Germany, where there is a guaranteed minimum income, more generous unemployment benefits and more rigorous tenants’ rights.

Still, Toro said, the majority of people in the United States have compassion for the homeless.

“There is no compassion fatigue like there was in the media for awhile,” he said. “The media has compassion fatigue starting in the ’90s, and then their interest in homelessness gets kind of leveled off, but the public hasn’t.”

Toro also found in his research that most people — about 60 percent — state they are even willing to pay more taxes to help homeless people. (Quote source here.)

Still, most people pass by the homeless and look the other way when they encounter them. Ambiguity is part of it–from people who don’t believe they could ever end up like that (e.g., homeless) to those who are all-too-aware that it could happen to them and they just want to ignore the issue. Regarding the latter, the article stated, “nearly 40 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and thus can be homeless in a matter of months if laid off.”

In an article titled, What Will It Take to End Homelessness,” by Urban Institute, the opening paragraph states:

Homelessness in America is a “revolving-door” crisis. Many people exit homelessness quickly, but many more individuals become homeless every day. During a given year’s, four or five times as many people experience homelessness as are homeless on any particular day. On any given day, at least 800,000 people are homeless in the United States, including about 200,000 children in homeless families. Calculations from different sources show that at least 2.3 million people experienced homelessness at some time during an average year. Because more families with children than unpartnered people enter and leave homelessness during a year, families represent a relatively large share of the annual population. As a result, during a typical year, between 900,000 and 1.4 million children are homeless with their families. (Quote source here.)

I used to be your neighborAccording to Urban Street Angels, a volunteer-driven, non-profit organization that provides care to the homeless community in San Diego, the number of homeless people in the United States by age breaks down as follows: Under 18: 23.5%; 18-24: 10.1%, and 25+: 66.4% (Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress (October 2014). Of that number, 17% of the total homeless population are military veterans (source here). The Disabled Veterans National Foundation states that “The vast majority of homeless veterans (96%) are single males from poor, disadvantaged communities. Homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America” (quote source here.)

As if this news is not shocking enough, enter into it the growing criminalization of the homeless that is happening in various cities around America. In a July 18, 2014 article published in Al Jazeera America titled, The Growing Criminalization of the Homeless,” the author, , states the following:

As the number of homeless people in America’s major cities has increased, so have ordinances criminalizing homelessness and pushing homeless families and individuals into the criminal justice system. Criminalization has become a tactic with which politicians have reconfigured cities to serve wealthier citizens and tourists, at the considerable expense of the poor. These politicians are rarely challenged, and developers, businesses and city officials have partnered with police and private security forces to “cleanse” urban spaces by any means necessary.

A new report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found the number of cities imposing penalties for camping, begging, sleeping, sitting or eating in public has risen sharply in the last two years. There are now laws against feeding the homeless in over 50 cities. Ordinances prohibiting sleeping in cars — specifically targeted at the destitute — have more than doubled nationwide since 2011. In Denver the City Council passed a controversial “urban camping ban” in 2012 to clear space for the continued development of its downtown into a “millennial playground,” complete with nightclubs, restaurants and a miniature-golf course. Honolulu’s mayor told The New York Times he had renewed a crackdown on the homeless because tourists “want to see their paradise … [not] homeless people sleeping.” And Phoenix announced the creation of “a new organization focused on downtown’s revitalization,” while at the same time launching an initiative to arrest street people with misdemeanor warrants.

This crackdown is happening without equally forceful measures to develop the nation’s supply of affordable housing, which has fallen by 12.8 percent since 2001 because of fewer subsidies for federal housing. The U.N. Human Rights Committee even condemned the trend as “cruel, inhuman, [and] degrading” in a recent report on the United States.

What’s behind these cruel laws? USA Today suggested that the trend toward criminalization was a result of “compassion fatigue,” a gradual receding of empathy for the poor. But there’s a more practical reason for it: As recession- and austerity-battered cities look for ways to revive their economies, they’re offering huge tax incentives for companies to build entertainment complexes, hotels and retail chains in their downtown districts in the hopes that the relocation will spur a renaissance. Statutes criminalizing homelessness have been outfitted specifically to clear out these areas. The New Yorker called this process “Manhattanization,” defined as “turning a city into a playground for the wealthiest inhabitants, even as [the city] forgets about the poorest.”

Cities haven’t quite forgotten about the poorest, though — they’re simply dealing with them in an entirely different way (see article for add’l information). (Quote source and article at this link.)

An interesting item found further down in the article was this rather telling fact:

Utah began giving away apartments to homeless individuals after realizing how much money could be saved. Policymakers realized that, on average, it costs about $16,670 a year to jail a person and $11,000 a year to set him or her up with an apartment and social work. Since a program called Housing First was launched in 2006, homelessness in Utah has decreased 78 percent, despite a recession-fueled plunge in median income. The state estimates that all Utahans will be housed by next year. (Quote source here.)

Imagine if the other 49 states in America would only follow their example. . . .

The least of theseAs a Christian, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what the Bible and Jesus have to say about caring for the poor among us. GotQuestions.org makes the following statement about what our commitment to the poor should be:

There is no doubt that poverty’s reach is both widespread and devastating today. God’s people cannot be indifferent toward those in need, because His expectations for us in regard to taking care of His poor are woven throughout the entirety of Scripture. For example, look at the Lord’s words about the goodness of King Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16: “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the LORD?” And Moses instructed his people how to treat the poor and needy: “Give generously to [them] and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:10). This sentiment is perfectly captured in Proverbs 14:31: “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Conversely, there is another part to this verse: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.” Proverbs is, in fact, filled with Scripture clearly showing that God loves the poor and is offended when His children neglect them (Proverbs 11:4; 17:5; 19:17; 22:2, 9, 16, 22–23; 28:8; 29:7; 31:8–9). The consequences for ignoring the plight of the poor are also made clear in Proverbs: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). And note the strong language in Proverbs 28:27: “He who closes his eyes to [the poor] receives many curses.” Among the many sins of Sodom described in Genesis 19, her people were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

The New Testament is equally clear as to how we are to take care of the poor. One verse that nicely summarizes our expected charity is found in the first Epistle of John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth” (1 John 3:17–18). Equally important is Matthew 25:31–46. Now, this judgment precedes Christ’s millennial reign and is often referred to as the “judgment of nations,” in which those assembled before Christ will be divided into two groups—the sheep on His right side and the goats on His left. Those on the left will be sent to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41), whereas those on the right will receive their eternal inheritance (v.34). Noteworthy, however, is the language Christ uses in addressing these separated groups. The sheep are basically commended for taking care of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the vulnerable. The goats, on the other hand, are chastised for their lack of concern and action toward them. When the righteous ask Him when they did these things, Christ responds by saying, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Now, we are not to misconstrue this as meaning the good works of the sheep factored into their gaining salvation; rather, these good works were the “fruit” or evidence of their having been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8–10), further evidencing that a commitment to Christ will indeed be accompanied by undeniable evidence of a transformed life. Remember, we were created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do, and the “good works” Christ speaks of in Matthew 25 included taking care of the poor and suffering.

Now, with all of these scriptural truths in mind, we are to obey them and act on them, because “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). As James stated, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Similarly, John said, “The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. . . . Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:4, 6). And the words of Christ Himself: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34–35). And what better way to demonstrate the love and kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ than by reaching out to theleast of theseamong us? (Quote source here.)

So let’s go back to the question at hand . . . Can One Person Change the World?

The answer is YES . . .

With compassion and kindness . . .

One person at a time . . . .

YouTube Video: “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath:

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Being Still

Be still and know that I am GodIf there is one thing that is hard for me to do it is to “be still” for any amount of time. Even when I was a kid, my mother told me I was a bit restless even when I was sick. And in today’s world, we live in such a fast paced society that nobody really knows what it’s like to “be still” for any length of time except when we are asleep at night. Of course, that can all change if one’s circumstances change, like losing a job and still not finding another one after six and a half years. But even in the midst of unemployment and financial challenges, I find it hard to “be still” for any length of time.

However, when it comes to God, it is something we are admonished (in a good way) to do. He knows best, and we don’t know anything compared to Him. And I was reminded of this very fact when I read Job 38-42 this morning. It was humbling to say the very least . . . . And if you want to be humbled, read it. It might even make you feel better if you are going through a really hard time right now. If nothing else, you will get a picture of just how big God is and how little control we have over much of anything in our lives.

For the past couple of months I haven’t written very many blog posts. I was traveling a lot in October and early November, and I guess I’ve reached a point where I am just very tired of my circumstances, living in hotels I can’t afford, and wondering when this particular script in my life will finally take an upward turn. To say it is getting old beyond words is putting words to something that there are just no words for anymore. However, that is not to say that I am disgruntled or down by saying that. Absolutely not! Regardless of my circumstances, I am “up” 98% of the time. God is still in control, and that never changes.

Back to the issue of “being still”–now that the holiday season is upon us (and it’s the busiest season for the entire year here in America), if we ever plan on “being still” for even a moment, it’s not likely to happen right now. Maybe we can put it on our list of New Year’s Resolutions that we probably won’t keep for very long (as New Year’s Resolutions tend to go). Our intentions may be right, but our “flesh is weak” and time never seems to be on our side.

In a few days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. And following quickly on its heels will be Christmas and New Year’s. In the midst of all of this activity, let me interject a psalm for us to contemplate during this incredibly busy season. It’s a reminder to “be still.”

I’ll keep this post short as that way you’ll have more time to contemplate the psalm. And here it is . . . Psalm 46:

Psalm 46v10God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Here’s wishing you and your family and loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving. And in the midst of the activity, find a few moments to just “be still” . . . .

Be still  . . .

And know . . .

That I am God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

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Things That Matter

THIS DOESN'T MATTER

STARBUCKS RED HOLIDAY CUPS FOR 2015 — NOT ON THE LIST OF THINGS THAT MATTER

The current controversy over Starbuck‘s red cups for the holiday season 2015 has grown to gargantuan proportions on the internet; however, I’m not going to add to the discussion. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of it’s existence until this morning when I fired up my smartphone and a headline regarding the controversy over the cups was on my news feed. I Googled it to see what I had missed and, fortunately, ran into an article that pretty much sums up my feelings about the controversy, written by Laura Turner, and titled, Starbucks Red Cups, and the Internet Outrage Machine,” (published on November 10, 2015).

I would imagine that many folks who consider themselves to be Christian (and many who don’t, too) woke up this morning just like I did–ignorant of the controversy brewing (no pun intended) over some red cups that Starbucks is using for the holiday season this year. However, the whole matter does brings up the subject of what, exactly, does matter to us? And I don’t think red cups should be at the top of the list. . . or even at the bottom of it. Or, in fact, anywhere on the list.

In an ironic twist, I picked up a morning devotional book by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) titled, Mornings with Tozer (published by Moody Publishers; 1991, 2008), which is a book I had been neglecting for a while but not for any particular reason. The devotion I turned to this morning (which actually happens to be the devotion for tomorrow but I didn’t realize it until after I read it) is titled, “What Really Matters?” And here is what Tozer had to say:

What Really Matters?

“What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22, NIV)

It is all but impossible these days to get people to pay any attention to things that really matter. The broad cynic in our modern civilization is likely to ask: “What really matters, after all?”

It is our personal relationship to God that really matters!

That takes priority over everything else, for no man can afford to live or die under the frowning displeasure of God. Yet, name one modern device that can save him from it. Where can a man find security? Can philosophy help him? Or psychology? Or science? Or atoms or wonder drugs or vitamins?

Only Christ can help him, and His aid is as old as man’s sin and man’s need.

A few other thing matter to be sure. We must trust Christ completely. We must carry our cross daily. We must love God and our fellow man. We must fulfill our commission as ambassadors of Christ among men. We must grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and come at last to our end like a ripe shock of corn at harvest time.

These are the things that really matter!

Prayer: Lord, the world tells me that fitness and finances are the measure for success and happiness. But I know in my heart that my personal relationship with You is the one thing in my life that really matters!

what really mattersRed cups don’t matter, and they shouldn’t even be on the list of things that matter, either, at any time of the year. So what is at the bottom of our need to take up causes that just don’t matter, like red cups at Starbucks? We all do it from time to time and it’s not just about red cups, either, or the other “causes” that aren’t really causes except for the fact that they bring out the “thin skin” in all of us, which is not a very attractive feature on any of us . . . just sayin’ 🙂

Back to Tozer’s devotional book cited above–three pages later, on November 15, Tozer makes the following statement:

Answering God’s Call

“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10, NIV)

When will men and women realize that when God calls us out, He is completely faithful to call us into something better?

In his faith Abraham was against idolatry and idol making, but that was not his crusade. Because of his faith, God led him into a promised land, into possessions and into the lineage that brought forth the Messiah. The call of God is always to something better–keep that in mind!

God calls us into the joys and reality of eternal life. He calls us into purity of life and spirit, so that we may acceptably walk with Him. He calls us into a life of service and usefulness that brings glory to Himself as God. He calls us into the sweetest fellowship possible on this earth–the fellowship of the family of God!

If God takes away from us the old, wrinkled, beat-up dollar bill we clutch so desperately, it is only because He wants to exchange it for the whole federal mint, the entire treasure! He is saying, “I have in store for you all the resources of heaven. Help yourself!”

Prayer: What a wonderful God we serve! You are looking out for our very best. Lord, help me to loosen my hold on the things that are blocking the path of Your blessings.

And it is that “loosening the hold” on all of the things in our lives that we desperately cling to that is blocking us from receiving His blessings and the life He would have for us. We let the lust for power or prestige, reputation, relationships, money, possessions, accolades, jealousy, envy, coveting what others have that we want, etc., (that list is endless)–that we cling to so tenaciously–strangle the life out of our relationship with God. And we often try to manipulate our way to get our own blessings (as in what we want) because they mean more to us then God does.

In between those two devotions is a third devotion for November 14 titled, “Too Much ‘At Home’,” and here is what Tozer had to say in it:

Too Much “At Home”

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. . . and admitted that they were aliens and strangers on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

One of the most telling indictments against many of us who comprise our Christian churches is the almost complete acceptance of the contemporary scene as our permanent home!

We have been working and earning, getting and spending, and now we are enjoying the creature comforts known to human beings in this land. You may bristle a bit and ask: “Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?”

Let me answer in this way: If you are a Christian and you are comfortably “at home” in Chicago or Toronto, in Iowa or Alberta or any other address on planet earth, the signs are evident that you are in spiritual trouble.

The spiritual equation reads like this: The greater your contentment with your daily circumstances in this world, the greater your defection from the ranks of God’s pilgrimage en route to a city whose architect and builder are God Himself!

If we can feel that we have put down our roots in this present world, then our Lord still has much to teach us about faith and attachment to our Savior!

Prayer: Lord, although I live at a local address, I pray that You will help me be a globally minded Christian and that my heart will beat with Yours for this lost world.

for God so loved with worldIf every possession we have, every person we call friend, every family member, as well as our careers and/or our retirement plans, or our homes, and whatever else it is that takes up so much of our time and efforts, suddenly disappeared out of our lives, would we still believe in and cling to God (through our relationship with Jesus Christ) as the very source of our life? Would we believe that even in the worst of times He still knows what is best for us? Or do we cling to those “things” thinking they are our “proof” that He exists and that He loves us, and that we have somehow “arrived” by the acquisition of those things or during our constant chase after those things in this life? For the Christian, this material world that we live in is not our home. And the Bible makes that powerfully clear from beginning to end.

Jesus stated in Matthew 6:24, “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.”

1 John 2:15-16 (MSG) states, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.” 

During the upcoming holiday season with all of its festivities, activities, parties, and gift buying and giving, let’s not lose sight of what really matters . . . .

And red cups don’t matter . . .

Only Jesus matters . . . .

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
(Jesus Christ).

~John 3:16-18

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here (photo courtesy of Starbucks)
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

One Day at a Time

one_day_at_a_timeI’ve been traveling a lot in the past month since I took off for Des Moines, Iowa, from Orlando, Florida, on October 7th to attending the wedding of my youngest nephew (see my last two blog posts titled, A Love Song,” and You Can Go Home Again”). I’ve covered over 3,500 miles of highways traveling through Atlanta, Nashville, southern Illinois and into Iowa to Des Moines; and then on my return trip back to Orlando I took a southern route hitting afternoon rush hour traffic in Kansas City and, again, rush hour traffic the next morning while traveling through Dallas/Fort Worth and east on I-20 into Louisiana and Mississippi with a stop in Biloxi for two nights before finishing the final leg of the trip to Orlando.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, once I got back to Orlando I decided it was time to travel to the west coast of Florida where I had previously lived for over four years to go through some boxes in my storage unit that I had put in it when I left that town to go to Orlando at the end of March 2014. I spent three days rummaging through my stuff and returned to Orlando, only to return again a few days later to that area as I decided there were a couple of things I want to keep with me that I had put in the storage unit. And that is where I am right now.

And again, as if I haven’t traveled enough lately (well, I do love road trips), in a scant two plus weeks and right before Thanksgiving I will be taking another road trip. This time it will be to Arkansas where I will be house sitting the home of my best friend and her husband while they are away for a period of time in Iowa taking care of her elderly mother.

Obviously, all of this traveling of late hasn’t left much time for blog post writing but that’s okay. With over 400 blog posts written during the past four plus years I can use a break every now and then. And I’ve been reminded of one thing over and over again during all of this traveling that I’ve been doing that I didn’t have a clue I would be doing when the month of October opened up. And that reminder is a fact that we all need to keep in mind while we are making our plans for the future–that life only unfolds one day at a time, and we really don’t know what a day may bring even with our best laid intentions and plans.

Jesus had a lot to say about living in the “now” and not worrying about tomorrow. In Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) he made the following statement:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Lately, those last two sentences have given me pause for thought. We are, obviously, instructed not to worry about our lives. However, at the end of this passage in verse 34, Jesus states that “. . . tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” To think that each day will have enough trouble of its own can be a bit challenging. It’s as if he is telling us that there will be no easy days for us to look forward to just enjoying. However, the Message Bible states verse 34 in this way which makes the meaning a bit more clear:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

While this entire passage is about the subject of worry (or anxiety) and that we should not be consumed by it, the verse that holds the key is verse 33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (NIV) (these things being the things mentioned in the previous verses in vv. 25-32).

The Message Bible states verse 33 like this:

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Don’t worry about missing out” . . . . There is a big difference between being involved in “religious activities” and “steeping our lives in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions,” which extends way beyond what we “do” (as in activities). With that being said, I’m not implying there is anything wrong with being involved in religious activities. It, instead, is a “letting go” of every conception we have about how life should be lived (especially in the “religious” realm) and letting God lead the way from the moment we wake up each day until we lay our heads on our pillows at night.

We tend to put a “halo” on “seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness” and miss the entire point of what Jesus was and is saying about seeking his kingdom and his righteousness. We too often make it a “religious activity” in and of itself, and that is the opposite of what Jesus meant for us to be doing. He meant for us to be living it, not merely going through the motions of being involved in some “religious activity” in the hope of earning whatever it is we think we are earning (heaven, Jesus, etc.). Again, I’m not saying that being involved in religious activities is wrong. It is a matter of the heart and attitude, and not just the mind and/or going through the motions of doing particular activities or looking “Christian” on the exterior in order to appear “Christian” to others and ourselves.

loveIt really does come down to the issue of love. A person can be cold as ice and still be involved in religious activities and think he or she is on the right path to God. For example, grim faces and scolding looks are a dead giveaway. And, we can even hide behind a big smile with all the right words while privately judging others harshly who we think don’t quite fit in. However, without genuine love, we are nothing. Let me repeat that again . . . Without love, we . . . are . . . nothing. And no amount of religious activities or “halo” wearing will change that. We can look and act the part, maybe even carry around a Bible, spout an “Amen” at an appropriate time, and still fool others and ourselves along the way. However, without love, it means nothing. 

1 Corinthians 13 (the chapter on what genuine love looks and acts like) is not just a nice little passage on love to be read at wedding ceremonies. It is a way of life, and without it, we have no life. That is not to say that we aren’t alive (as in breathing). We, obviously, do exist and we live our lives pretty much the way we want to or according to a set of rules we think we should be following, but there is no life apart from love. Not genuine life. 1 Corinthians 13 states:

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.

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.

And that is the Kingdom of God. It’s about love–24/7–in the good, the bad, and the truly ugly of life. The classic passage on God’s love is John 3:16-18:

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.

When Jesus hung on the cross, the people who put him there were the religious folks of his day. They had all of the appearances of “looking good” and acting religious in front of others and claiming to love God, but they were completely void of love–for God, definitely for Jesus, and for anybody else. Jesus’ worst enemies were the religious folks; the folks who thought they had it right but actually had it so incredibly wrong.

And down through the ages things have not changed. Only a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ built on love can change us, and all of the religious activities in the world means nothing without it. And if we mock or make fun of anyone, we have lost, and we do not love. And we are the losers as we have missed the entire message of the cross.

Many of the religious folks of Jesus day didn’t get it, and that is the same today. In Jesus’ statement to his disciples in John 15:18-25, he stated something that is still true today regarding his disciples:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”

The Message Bible states that passage (John 15:18-25) as follows:

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.

“When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them.

“They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’”

We don’t often hear messages about the world at large hating the followers of Jesus. For one thing, we often congregate with other Christians, and we are oblivious to (or look down on) those around us who are not on the same page as us. Because we still tend to think of America as a Christian nation, we live in a sheltered world of our own making that really doesn’t exist. The Gospel causes division wherever it is found (see Jesus’ statements in Luke 12:49-53 and Matthew 10:34-37 (NIV)–also in MSG version; also, click this link for a brief explanation to the question, Did Jesus come to bring peace or not?”), and this is true throughout the Old and New Testaments, too. The apostle Paul and the disciples of Jesus along with his other followers did not suddenly have an easy life when they came to believe in Jesus Christ. If fact, some of them gave up pretty cushy lives for the sake of the Gospel (the Apostle Paul, for example). In fact, Paul, as a Pharisee named Saul before he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, hunted down and had killed the followers of Jesus. And that kind of division really hasn’t changed at all today. Just look at the number of terrorists groups in our world today who are murdering and persecuting Christians (as well as others who don’t believe like they do). We only have to look as far as Syria and Iraq, and other places around the globe, to see the severe persecution of Christians by terrorist groups like ISIS.

The greatest difference between Christianity and all other religions is that Christianity is founded on love–love for others including our enemies, and a lack of retaliation for a wrong suffered. It isn’t easy to live that way; in fact, it is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit to genuinely change us from the inside out. And if we don’t allow God his rightful ownership over our lives, we can’t mask very well our hatred for those who we don’t like very much. As Christians, we can’t say we love Jesus and hate our enemies at the same time, or treat our neighbors unjustly, or judge others without mercy. Yet that happens more then it should among us who claim to follow after Jesus. The truth is that the kingdom of God cannot be found in those who hate others, and it doesn’t matter what the reason is for their hatred. We only fool ourselves if we have no love for others, and that includes all others, even those we love to hate.

As for the issue of “religious activities,” there are a whole lot of “religious activities” going on out there today that, in the end, won’t mean anything. Again, it’s not about the actual activities but rather the motives behind the activities that count. And many folks, just like the religious folks in Jesus’ day, who are involved in them will never “get it,” either. If love is not at the core of everything we do, everything we believe, and how we treat others (as in all others–with no exceptions), in the end nothing that we do will matter. Nothing. And it’s a tragedy that existed in Jesus’ day and down through the centuries to us living today.

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 (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

For God so love the world that He gave his one and only Son . . . .

Without love . . .

We are nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

You Can Go Home Again

GOING-HOME-FRONT-COVER-cropped

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) wrote a novel that was published posthumously in 1940 titled, You Can’t Go Home Again.” A synopsis from Wikipedia.org about the novel states the following:

The novel tells the story of George Webber, a fledgling author, who writes a book that makes frequent references to his home town of Libya Hill. The book is a national success but the residents of the town, unhappy with what they view as Webber’s distorted depiction of them, send the author menacing letters and death threats.

Wolfe, as in many of his other novels, explores the changing American society of the 1920s/30s, including the stock market crash, the illusion of prosperity, and the unfair passing of time which prevents Webber ever being able to return “home again”. In parallel to Wolfe’s relationship with America, the novel details his disillusionment with Germany during the rise of NazismWolfe scholar Jon Dawson argues that the two themes are connected most firmly by Wolfe’s critique of capitalism and comparison between the rise of capitalist enterprise in the United States in the 1920s and the rise of Fascism in Germany during the same period.

Plot Summary

George Webber has written a successful novel about his family and hometown. When he returns to that town, he is shaken by the force of outrage and hatred that greets him. Family and lifelong friends feel naked and exposed by what they have seen in his books, and their fury drives him from his home.

Outcast, George Webber begins a search for his own identity. It takes him to New York and a hectic social whirl; to Paris with an uninhibited group of expatriates; to Berlin, lying cold and sinister under Hitler’s shadow. The journey comes full circle when Webber returns to America and rediscovers it with love, sorrow, and hope. (Quote source here).

Two weeks ago I returned to my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, and discovered that one can, indeed, go home again after being gone for a long time. My last post, A Love Song,” published on October 9, 2015, was written at my dad’s home in West Des Moines after I drove from Orlando, Florida, to Des Moines (my hometown) in a scant 29 hours with three of those hours spent in a rest stop in southern Illinois to catch some sleep. I returned home to attend the wedding of my youngest nephew and his new bride, which took place this past Saturday on October 17th. The wedding took place at a Lutheran church in Slater, Iowa, and it was quite beautiful, and the newly wedded couple are a handsome match. I was also able to see family and friends I had not seen in years, and some of them I hadn’t seen in well over two decades.

Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines

My last trip to Des Moines was when I was still working in the fall of 2005. My stepmother was still alive at the time, and I usually made annual trips to Oregon each summer at the same time that my dad and stepmother planned their annual trip each summer to see my older brother and his family who lived there. Hence, I made trips to Oregon more often then I did going back to Iowa. However, since the demise of my job in Houston in April 2009, I have not had the financial resources to visit family in Iowa and Oregon since I live in Florida. My older brother did spring for a plan ticket at Christmas 2011 and I was able to spend eleven days in Oregon at that time.

This most recent trip back to Des Moines was sort of a “spur of the moment” decision. I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a plane ticket in order to attend the wedding so I mailed a wedding card with a gift card to Target enclosed two weeks before the wedding. I told my nephew and his soon-to-be bride to spend it on something fun to celebrate their marriage, and to let them know I was sorry that I wasn’t able to attend their wedding. It would have been the first family wedding I missed.

If you are a regular reader to my blog you’ll know that for the past year (since the end of September 2014) I’ve been living in hotels while trying to secure more affordable senior housing only to find waiting lists longer then I ever possibly imagined. All of my attempts during this time to find more affordable housing in its many various forms including responding to ads on the popular online Craigslist both in Houston (when I was there a year ago) and in Orlando have fallen flat so far. I can’t seem to get any serious responses to either my responses to ads that have been placed for furnished apartments or to ads I have placed on Craigslist seeking housing.

Since I have been currently living in a hotel for several months in Orlando since returning from my three-month (14 weeks) venture in Houston at the beginning of 2015, I woke up one morning almost three weeks ago and realized I had no reason to stay in that hotel any longer, and I decided to pack up my possessions I had with me and drive to Iowa to see family again and attend the wedding. All of my family would be attending, including family living in Oregon and California, and it was my chance to see them again in one place and at the same time. And that is exactly what I did.

I love taking road trips so that wasn’t even an issue for me. My eleven-year-old Honda Civic was in need of some maintenance type service (new timing chain, water pump, etc.) and my family in Des Moines knew of an auto mechanic shop where the work could be done at a very reasonable price. In fact, my dad paid for the repairs plus a set of four new tires, too, that I never expected and I couldn’t thank him enough for doing that for me. And it was accomplished at 1/3rd the price I was quoted for the timing chain alone in Orlando in April 2014. In fact, two different shops in Orlando recently told me I needed shocks/struts at a quote of $611 at one place and $800 at another. However, the mechanic in Des Moines said I didn’t need them at all. Needless to say, the road trip to Des Moines ended up being a real gift to me and attending the wedding (my reason for driving to Iowa in the first place) was the “icing on the cake,” so to speak.

Popular logo when I attended ISU

Popular logo when I attended ISU

I was born and grew up in Des Moines and spent the better part of forty years living there before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in June 1992 when I was awarded one of two annual doctoral fellowships at Nova Southeastern University for the 1992-93 academic year. I also spent time living in Ames at two separate times in my 30’s while attending Iowa State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in 1985 and my master’s degree in 1991. The end of the fellowship year lead to a job with Nova in Orlando in July 1993 and the rest, as they say, is history. Due to job opportunities in Florida I never ended up going back to Iowa to live.

However, back to the present time. . . . I left Orlando at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7th, and arrived in West Des Moines at my dad’s house on Thursday, October 8th, at 8:30 p.m. The long and fast driving trip left me both excited to be back in Des Moines and tired from lack of sleep and being scrunched in my car for all of those hours, so I spent Friday and Saturday resting from the long road trip. On Sunday, October 11th, I took a long drive around all of the places in Des Moines that made it my home for so many years. I drove past the house where we lived when I was very young before my parent’s divorce back in the 60’s, and I drove past the elementary school, middle school (we called it “junior high” back in my days there) and high school where I graduated in 1970. I visited my mother’s grave and my grandmother’s vault inside the building at the same cemetery. I drove out to Johnston (a suburb) and was astounded at the housing development that had built up in that area in the past ten years since I was last there.

Drake University

Drake University

Where some places had changed remarkably, others remained almost exactly as they were 40-45 years ago. The downtown skyline includes some new buildings, and the city has a whole different and very modern feel to it. A part of me wanted to stay a couple of weeks just to have a good, long look around as this was the first time in 23 years since I left Iowa that I had my own car with me (I always flew back to Des Moines previously) so I could do just that–take a good, long look around.

Grand View University

Grand View University

Of course, Drake University is located in Des Moines, and also my alma mater, Grand View College, which was a two-year college when I attended it back in 1977-79 for my associate’s degree, and is now a four-year university with graduate level programs–Grand View University. And it brought a smile to my face when I remembered that Iowa governor Terry Branstad is again the governor after many years in between when he was previously governor (1983-1999) when I lived in Iowa and at the time I left Iowa in 1992.

For two and a half days into that week after my car trip around town on Sunday my car was tied up in the mechanic’s shop and I was house-bound during that time. So I made the best of it and ended up walking to the Walmart less than a mile from the house when I was finally tired of feeling house-bound. The next day family from Oregon and California started arriving and there was a flurry of activities from that point on through the wedding and reception and even a gift-opening get-together this past Sunday at my ex-sister-in-law’s fiancee’s spectacular home with four acres (she is the mother of the groom). It was absolutely wonderful to see everyone again–almost like taking a step back in time yet we all are, obviously, much older now. Still, it is a good looking bunch of older folks, many with grown children. The last time I saw those grown children they were little kids, and now they are grown, married, and with kids of their own, including the youngest little girl who was only a week old.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

At some point during this week I discovered that my best friend, who lives with her husband in Arkansas, was actually in Ames (about 30 miles north of Des Moines) and she had arrived in Ames about the same time I arrived in Des Moines. We met back in 1990 when we were both grad students at Iowa State University. Her father (a professor emeritus at Iowa State) had died a few years ago and her mother is still alive (she’s 96) and living in an assisted living facility in Ames, and she was back visiting her mom. I couldn’t believe my luck in that she was in Iowa at the same time I was and we didn’t even know it or plan it.

Fortunately, we were able to make plans to get together this past Monday and I drove to Ames to see her and to drive around Ames and ISU again after so many years (24 years, in fact, since I graduated with my master’s degree). It was wonderful to actually see her in person again and just like old times. The last time I actually saw her in person was when I lived in Houston when I worked there and she and her husband were living in Fort Worth. They moved to Arkansas when she retired from the school district several years ago. We’ve kept in touch electronically all these years as she lived in Texas for almost as long as I’ve lived in Florida, and now she’s in Arkansas.

Most of my family from out-of-town had left by Tuesday morning, and at that time I decided to head on back to Florida. I thought about paying for a week in a weekly-rate hotel and sticking around Des Moines for another week (since that is what I will be doing once I return to Florida since I haven’t found more affordable housing yet), but I had originally planned to spend a week in Houston after the wedding so I hit the road again heading for Texas. However, by the time I got to the Dallas/Fort Worth area yesterday morning I decided not to go to Houston after all at this time. So, I headed east through Louisiana and into Mississippi when I decided to stop for a couple of days in Biloxi which is where I am right now while I am writing this blog post. The Gulf of Mexico laps at the beachfront across the street from the hotel where I am staying at until Friday morning.

The drive from Des Moines to Biloxi was around 1100 miles, and the rest of the trip back to where I’m headed in Florida is another 650-700 miles which I will start tomorrow once I check out from this hotel. Two weeks ago I drove 1500 miles from Orlando to Des Moines, and by the time this trip ends I will have traveled around 3300 miles by car in just over two weeks. No wonder my body is tired!!! But it’s been good–all good; no, it’s been GREAT, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the alternative of staying in a weekly-rate hotel in Orlando where I have already spent way too much time and money just trying to find more affordable housing. And what I discovered is this . . .

You can go home again . . . 

Yes, you can . . .

And I did . . . .

YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts:

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A Love Song

Wedding DayAt the moment I am currently in my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, and at the end of this next week (October 17th) I will be attending the wedding of my youngest nephew. This post is actually going to be a reblog from Provocative Christian Living as it is a blog post about romantic love. I have copied and pasted the reblogged post below and you can also access it at this link:

Love is clearly a major theme in the Bible. From cover to cover it speaks of God’s love for humanity. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is the two-pronged exhortation to love God with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But for all the discussion about love in the Bible people rarely if ever think of the Bible promoting romantic love. Psalm 45 is all about romantic love. It affirms and glorifies the relationship between a righteous king and the woman he loves.

Consider these words from near the end of the Psalm:

Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
    forget your people and your father’s house,
    and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
    the richest of the people.

All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
    with her virgin companions following behind her.
With joy and gladness they are led along
    as they enter the palace of the king.

The Psalmist leaves us with the picture of the young virgin bride, being accompanied by her bridesmaids as she enters the palace of the king and leaves her father’s family behind. The king greatly desires her and her beauty and she is gladly entering his palace. It is a picture of romance and love.

The emphasis of loving God and loving our neighbor is certainly deserving of our devotion. But that should never be to the exclusion of the value God places on the romantic love between a man and a woman. God has created us to be in relationship and to have the deepest and most beautiful of human relationships between a man and woman. Christians are often too quick to pass by the joy and glory of this relationship. If it gets spoken of at all it is usually a very forensic discussion about biblical morality. But this Psalm is a love song, it is not directed to God and the praise of His name, at least not directly. Rather it is in honor of something God has created to exist between a husband and wife that only poetry can begin to describe.

Perhaps our marriages would be stronger if we added a touch of romance and poetry into them. Perhaps if Christ followers were more open to the wonder and beauty of romantic love, there would be a more complete understanding of love. The Greeks had multiple words that we translate as love. They understood that there are numerous facets to love, like the most brilliant of diamonds. Love is full, rich, beautiful, deep, intimate, glorious, and precious. It is the stuff of poem and song. The Bible affirms and even promotes such love and because it does we should embrace it as a gift from God. (Blog post and quote source here.)

I like how The Message Bible states this Psalm (45) and I have included the entire Psalm below:

Psalm 45 The Message (MSG)

A Wedding Song of the Sons of Korah

My heart bursts its banks,
    spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
    shaping the river into words:

“You’re the handsomest of men;
    every word from your lips is sheer grace,
    and God has blessed you, blessed you so much.
Strap your sword to your side, warrior!
    Accept praise! Accept due honor!
    Ride majestically! Ride triumphantly!
Ride on the side of truth!
    Ride for the righteous meek!

“Your instructions are glow-in-the-dark;
    you shoot sharp arrows
Into enemy hearts; the king’s
    foes lie down in the dust, beaten.

“Your throne is God’s throne,
    ever and always;
The scepter of your royal rule
    measures right living.
You love the right
    and hate the wrong.
And that is why God, your very own God,
    poured fragrant oil on your head,
Marking you out as king
    from among your dear companions.

“Your ozone-drenched garments
    are fragrant with mountain breeze.
Chamber music—from the throne room—
    makes you want to dance.
Kings’ daughters are maids in your court,
    the Bride glittering with golden jewelry.

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
    Since he’s your lord, adore him.
Wedding gifts pour in from Tyre;
    rich guests shower you with presents.”

(Her wedding dress is dazzling,
    lined with gold by the weavers;
All her dresses and robes
    are woven with gold.
She is led to the king,
    followed by her virgin companions.
A procession of joy and laughter!
    a grand entrance to the king’s palace!)

“Set your mind now on sons—
    don’t dote on father and grandfather.
You’ll set your sons up as princes
    all over the earth.
I’ll make you famous for generations;
    you’ll be the talk of the town
    for a long, long time.”

happy-wedding-coupleWhile the bride and bridegroom do not have to literally leave their respective families, they are to be devoted to each other first and foremost, above and beyond the ties of other family members, including their own parents.

The following are the words from a Bob Dylan song titled simply, “Wedding Song” (YouTube Video at this link):

Wedding Songby Bob Dylan

I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love
I love you more than money and more than the stars above
I love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea
I love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me.

Ever since you walked right in the circle’s been complete
I’ve said goodbye to haunted rooms and faces in the street
In the courtyard of the jester which is hidden from the sun
I love you more than ever and I haven’t yet begun.

You breathed on me and made my life a richer one to live
When I was deep in poverty you taught me how to give
Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole
I love you more than ever and it binds me to this all.

You gave me babies, one, two, three, what is more, you saved my life
Eye for eye and tooth for tooth, your love cuts like a knife
My thoughts of you don’t ever rest, they’d kill me if I lie
But I’d sacrifice the world for you and watch my senses die.

The tune that is yours and mine to play upon this earth
We’ll play it out the best we know, whatever it is worth
What’s lost is lost, we can’t regain what went down in the flood
But happiness to me is you and I love you more than blood.

It’s never been my duty to remake the world at large
Nor is it my intention to sound a battle charge
‘Cause I love you more than all of that with a love that doesn’t bend
And if there is eternity I’d love you there again.

Oh, can’t you see that you were born to stand by my side
And I was born to be with you, you were born to be my bride
You’re the other half of what I am, you’re the missing piece
And I love you more than ever with that love that doesn’t cease.

You turn the tide on me each day and teach my eyes to see
Just being next to you is a natural thing for me
And I could never let you go, no matter what goes on
‘Cause I love you more than ever now that the past is gone.

Lyrics compliments of AZLyrics.com

‘Nough said . . . .

I wish my nephew and his new bride a fun and happy life together. And don’t forget to put each other first above and beyond anyone or anything else. That’s what true love is all about!!!

May you both have many happy years together!!!

YouTube Video: “The Wedding Song” by Kenny G:

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What It Means To Live By Faith

living_by_faith“What if Jesus really meant what He said?” That is the theme and premise behind Red Letter Christians,” an organization whose goal is simple: “To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.” (Quote source here.)

If you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 5-7), you’ll see that Jesus addresses some very tough issues. He starts out with The Beatitudes(Matthew 5:1-12)a list of people who are blessed in his sight and that most likely isn’t the same list we might come up with if we were making a list of “blessed people” (see list at this link). After this list, Jesus goes on to address how we are to be Salt and Light in this world and what that means (see Matthew 5:13-20) as well as a host of other topics:

Murder (Matthew 5:21-26)
Adultery (Matthew 5:27-30)
Divorce (Matthew 5:31-32)
Taking Oaths (Matthew 5:33-37)
Eye for Eye (Matthew 5:38-42)
Love for Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)
Giving to the Needy (Matthew 6:1-4)
Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15)
Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)
Treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-24)
Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)
Judging Others (Matthew 7:1-6)
Asking, Seeking, Knocking (Matthew 7:7-12)
The Narrow and Wide Gates (Matthew 7:13-14)
True and False Prophets (Matthew 7:15-20)
True and False Disciples (Matthew 7:21-23)
The Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-29)

It’s a lot to remember . . . a lot to live up to . . . and how can we do it all even if we wanted to?

Good question . . . .

It’s done by faith in the One who made those statements in the first place. And it’s not even about trying to remember all the rules. It’s about being connected to the Creator of the Universe in a relationship that, first and foremost, requires faith. Either we believe, or we don’t; and it all boils down to that basic premise.

So what is the definition of faith? GotQuestions.org answers that question with the following statement (quote source here):

The Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and in those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance of sin (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15).

The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10). (Quote source here.)

Rel_vs_Rel2.001Apart from Jesus Christ, it is impossible to live the Christian life. We might be able to put on a good outward appearance to others and even fool ourselves, but apart from a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ, it can’t be done. It is our faith in Jesus Christ and God that fuels everything we think, say, and do; and it is that very faith that makes it possible to be transformed and to live as he would have us to live.

There is a distinctive difference between living up to a religion and having a relationship with Jesus Christ. GotQuestions.org give us that difference between a religion and a relationship in the following statement (quote source here):

Religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” In that respect, Christianity can be classified as a religion. However, practically speaking, Christianity has a key difference that separates it from other belief systems that are considered religions. That difference is relationship.

Most religion, theistic or otherwise, is man-centered. Any relationship with God is based on man’s works. A theistic religion, such as Judaism or Islam, holds to the belief in a supreme God or gods; while non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, focus on metaphysical thought patterns and spiritual “energies.” But most religions are similar in that they are built upon the concept that man can reach a higher power or state of being through his own efforts. In most religions, man is the aggressor and the deity is the beneficiary of man’s efforts, sacrifices, or good deeds. Paradise, nirvana, or some higher state of being is man’s reward for his strict adherence to whatever tenets that religion prescribes.

In that regard, Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship that God has established with His children. In Christianity, God is the aggressor and man is the beneficiary (Romans 8:3). The Bible states clearly that there is nothing man can do to make himself right with God (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23). According to Christianity, God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Our sin separates us from His presence, and sin must be punished (Romans 6:23; Matthew 10:28; 23:33). But, because God loves us, He took our punishment upon Himself. All we must do is accept God’s gift of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Grace is God’s blessing on the undeserving.

The grace-based relationship between God and man is the foundation of Christianity and the antithesis of religion. Established religion was one of the staunchest opponents of Jesus during His earthly ministry. When God gave His Law to the Israelites, His desire was that they “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). “Love” speaks of relationship. Obedience to all the other commands had to stem from a love for God. We are able to love Him “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). However, by Jesus’ time, the Jewish leaders had made a religion out of God’s desire to live in a love relationship with them (1 Timothy 1:8; Romans 7:12). Over the years, they had perverted God’s Law into a works-based religion that alienated people from Him (Matthew 23:13–15; Luke 11:42). Then they added many of their own rules to make it even more cumbersome (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9). They prided themselves on their ability to keep the Law—at least outwardly—and lorded their authority over the common people who could never keep such strenuous rules. The Pharisees, as adept as they were at rule-keeping, failed to recognize God Himself when He was standing right in front of them (John 8:19). They had chosen religion over relationship.

Just as the Jewish leaders made a religion out of a relationship with God, many people do the same with Christianity. Entire denominations have followed the way of the Pharisees in creating rules not found in Scripture. Some who profess to follow Christ are actually following man-made religion in the name of Jesus. While claiming to believe Scripture, they are often plagued with fear and doubt that they may not be good enough to earn salvation or that God will not accept them if they don’t perform to a certain standard. This is religion masquerading as Christianity, and it is one of Satan’s favorite tricks. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:1–7 when He rebuked the Pharisees. Instead of pointing people to heaven, these religious leaders were keeping people out of the kingdom of God.

Holiness and obedience to Scripture are important, but they are evidences of a transformed heart, not a means to attain it. God desires that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He wants us to grow in grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18). But we do these things because we are His children and want to be like Him, not in order to earn His love.

Christianity is not about signing up for a religion. Christianity is about being born into the family of God (John 3:3). It is a relationship. Just as an adopted child has no power to create an adoption, we have no power to join the family of God by our own efforts. We can only accept His invitation to know Him as Father through adoption (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). When we join His family through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside our hearts (1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22). He then empowers us to live like children of the King. He does not ask us to try to attain holiness by our own strength, as religion does. He asks that our old self be crucified with Him so that His power can live through us (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). God wants us to know Him, to draw near to Him, to pray to Him, and love Him above everything. That is not religion; that is a relationship. (Quote source here.)

We know that our faith must be based in a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live the Christian life. Now we need to have a clear definition of what that Christian life looks like. In answer to that question, GotQuestions.org makes the following statement (quote source here).

The Christian life is supposed to be a life lived by faith. It is by faith that we enter into the Christian life, and it is by faith that we live it out. When we begin the Christian life by coming to Christ for forgiveness of sin, we understand that what we seek cannot be obtained by any other means than by faith. We cannot work our way to heaven, because nothing we could ever do would be sufficient. Those who believe they can attain eternal life by keeping rules and regulations—a list of do’s and don’ts—deny what the Bible clearly teaches. “But that no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God is clear, for, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11). The Pharisees of Jesus’ day rejected Christ because He told them this very truth, that all their righteous deeds were worthless and that only faith in their Messiah would save them.

In Romans 1, Paul says that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power that saves us, the gospel being the good news that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. When we enter into the Christian life by faith in this good news, we see our faith grow as we come to know more and more about the God who saved us. The gospel of Christ actually reveals God to us as we live to grow closer to Him each day. Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” So part of the Christian life is diligent reading and study of the Word, accompanied by prayer for understanding and wisdom and for a closer, more intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

The Christian life is also supposed to be one of death to self in order to live a life by faith. Paul told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Being crucified with Christ means that our old nature has been nailed to the cross and has been replaced by a new nature which is Christ’s (2 Corinthians 5:17). He who loved us and died for us now lives in us, and the life we live is by faith in Him. It means sacrificing our own desires, ambitions, and glories and replacing them with those of Christ. We can only do this by His power through the faith that He gives us by His grace. Part of the Christian life is praying to that end.

The Christian life is also supposed to persevere to the end. Hebrews 10:38-39 addresses this issue by quoting from the Old Testament prophet Habukkuk: “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” God is not pleased with one who “draws back” from Him after making a commitment, but those who live by faith will never draw back, because they are kept by the Holy Spirit who assures us that we will continue with Christ until the end (Ephesians 1:13-14). The writer of Hebrews goes on to verify this truth in verse 39: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” The true believer is one who believes to the end.

So the Christian life is one lived by faith in the God who saved us, empowers us, seals us for heaven, and by whose power we are kept forever. The day-to-day life of faith is one that grows and strengthens as we seek God in His Word and through prayer and as we unite with other Christians whose goal of Christlikeness is similar to our own. (Quote source here.)

Living by faith is based in love . . . . Love for the One who first loved us and gave Himself up for us (see Ephesians 5:1-2). And love is the strongest bond there is in this life (see I Corinthians 13). Everything good springs from it.

The Bible is filled with stories of faith (See Hebrews 11 for many examples from the Old Testament). And in the New Testament you can find 486 verses that give clear examples of faith and belief (as well as doubt and unbelief) at this link at The Mechanics of Faith: Faith-Hope-Prayer.” I hope you find encouragement in those verses. And remember what the prophet Habakkuk stated in Habakkuk 2:4. . . .

The just . . .

Shall live . . .

By their faith . . . .

YouTube Video: “Where I Belong” by Building 429:

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