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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ] 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.
Too often, we tend to have a one-dimensional image in our mind of who Jesus Christ is to us. He is, indeed, first and foremost, Lord and Savior to those who believe in and trust in him as their Lord and Savior. But beyond that, what do we really know about the character and nature of Jesus Christ?
Although He had “no beauty that we should desire Him…” (Isaiah 53:2), it was His “personality” that drew men to Him. He was a man of great character.
He had a COMPASSIONATE nature. He had compassion on the crowds “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Because of His compassion for them, He healed their diseases (Matthew 14:14; 20:34), and because of their hunger, He compassionately created enough food to feed more than 5000 (Matthew 15:32).
Jesus was SERIOUS and FOCUSED. He had a mission in life and never got sidetracked from it, knowing the weightiness of it and the shortness of time. His attitude was that of a SERVANT. “He did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). KINDNESS and SELFLESSNESS characterized His personality.
Jesus was SUBMISSIVE to His Father’s will when He came to earth and subsequently went to the cross. He knew that dying on the cross was the only payment His Father could accept for our salvation. He prayed the night of His betrayal by Judas, “O My Father, if it be possible, take this cup of suffering from Me: but let what you want be done, not what I want” (Matthew 26:39). He was a submissive son to Mary and Joseph, as well. He grew up in a normal (sinful) household, yet, “He continued in subjection to them…” (Luke 2:51). He was OBEDIENT to the Father’s will. “He learned obedience through the things that He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus had a heart of MERCY and FORGIVENESS – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). “…If we admit that we have sinned, He will forgive us our sins…” (1 John 1:9). He was also LOVING in His relationships – “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (John 11:5). John was known as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).
He had a reputation for being GOOD and CARING. He healed often and in most places where He went in order that they might know who He was! Truly He proved to be the Son of the living God by all the miracles He did, all the while showing concern for the afflictions of those around Him.
HONEST/TRUTHFUL – He never violated His own Word. He spoke truth wherever He went. He lived a life we could follow explicitly. “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE…” (John 14:6). At the same time, He was PEACEABLE. He did not argue His case, nor try to bully His way into people’s hearts.
Jesus was INTIMATE with His followers. He spent quality and quantity time with them. He coveted their fellowship, taught them, and helped them focus on what was eternal. He was also intimate with His Heavenly Father. He prayed to Him regularly, listened, obeyed, and cared about God’s reputation. (Angered at the money changers who were buying and selling in the temple, He said firmly and AUTHORITATIVELY, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you have made it a robbers den!”) He was obviously a STRONG, but quiet LEADER. Everywhere He went (until the inevitable decline), the people followed Him, eager to listen to His teaching.
He was PATIENT, knowing and understanding our frailties. He was and is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
These are traits that all believers should desire to become a part of their “personality” and character. The things that drew people to Jesus should be the very things that draw people to us. Jesus has given those who believe in Him His Holy Spirit, who enables us to be constantly changing into His image (Romans 8:29). This will only come about as we YIELD to Him for who He truly is…LORD of the universe! We must believe that He is conforming us into His image, and not resist His will for us. Even as Jesus never drew attention to Himself, (but rather to His Father), even so, we ought to say as John the Baptist did, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). (Quote source here.)
There are over 70 questions related to Jesus Christ with links to the answers on GotQuestions?org at this link. There are also approximately 200 names and titles attributed to Jesus Christ found in the Bible. Here are a few listed on GotQuestions?org:
The Nature of Christ
Chief Cornerstone: (Ephesians 2:20) – Jesus is the cornerstone of the building which is His church. He cements together Jew and Gentile, male and female—all saints from all ages and places into one structure built on faith in Him which is shared by all.
Firstborn over all creation: (Colossians 1:15) – Not the first thing God created, as some incorrectly claim, because verse 16 says all things were created through and for Christ. Rather, the meaning is that Christ occupies the rank and pre-eminence of the first-born over all things, that He sustains the most exalted rank in the universe; He is pre-eminent above all others; He is at the head of all things.
Head of the Church: (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23) – Jesus Christ, not a king or a pope, is the only supreme, sovereign ruler of the Church—those for whom He died and who have placed their faith in Him alone for salvation.
King of kings and Lord of lords: (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16) – Jesus has dominion over all authority on the earth, over all kings and rulers, and none can prevent Him from accomplishing His purposes. He directs them as He pleases.
Light of the World: (John 8:12) – Jesus came into a world darkened by sin and shed the light of life and truth through His work and His words. Those who trust in Him have their eyes opened by Him and walk in the light.
Prince of peace: (Isaiah 9:6) – Jesus came not to bring peace to the world as in the absence of war, but peace between God and man who were separated by sin. He died to reconcile sinners to a holy God.
Son of man: (John 5:27) – Used as a contrast to “Son of God” this phrase affirms the humanity of Christ which exists alongside His divinity.
Word: (John 1:1; 1 John 5:7-8) – The Word is the second Person of the triune God, who said it and it was done, who spoke all things out of nothing in the first creation, who was in the beginning with God the Father, and was God, and by whom all things were created.
Word of God: (Revelation 19:12-13) – This is the name given to Christ that is unknown to all but Himself. It denotes the mystery of His divine person.
Word of Life: (1 John 1:1) – Jesus not only spoke words that lead to eternal life, but according to this verse He is the very words of life, referring to the eternal life of joy and fulfillment which He provides.
His Position in the Trinity
Alpha and Omega: (Revelation 1:8; 22:13) – Jesus declared Himself to be the beginning and end of all things, a reference to no one but the true God. This statement of eternality could apply only to God.
Emmanuel: (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23) – Literally “God with us.” Both Isaiah and Matthew affirm that the Christ who would be born in Bethlehem would be God Himself who came to earth in the form of a man to live among His people.
I Am: (John 8:58, with Exodus 3:14) – When Jesus ascribed to Himself this title, the Jews tried to stone Him for blasphemy. They understood that He was declaring Himself to be the eternal God, the unchanging Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Lord of All: (Acts 10:36) – Jesus is the sovereign ruler over the whole world and all things in it, of all the nations of the world, and particularly of the people of God’s choosing, Gentiles as well as Jews.
True God: (1 John 5:20) – This is a direct assertion that Jesus, being the true God, is not only divine, but is the Divine. Since the Bible teaches there is only one God, this can only be describing His nature as part of the triune God.
His Work on Earth
Author and Perfecter of our Faith: (Hebrews 12:2) – Salvation is accomplished through the faith that is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) and Jesus is the founder of our faith and the finisher of it as well. From first to last, He is the source and sustainer of the faith that saves us.
Bread of Life: (John 6:35; 6:48) – Just as bread sustains life in the physical sense, Jesus is the Bread that gives and sustains eternal life. God provided manna in the wilderness to feed His people and He provided Jesus to give us eternal life through His body, broken for us.
Bridegroom: (Matthew 9:15) – The picture of Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride reveals the special relationship we have with Him. We are bound to each other in a covenant of grace that cannot be broken.
Deliverer: (Romans 11:26) – Just as the Israelites needed God to deliver them from bondage to Egypt, so Christ is our Deliverer from the bondage of sin.
Good Shepherd: (John 10:11, 14) – In Bible times, a good shepherd was willing to risk his own life to protect his sheep from predators. Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, and He cares for and nurtures and feeds us.
High Priest: (Hebrews 2:17) – The Jewish high priest entered the Temple once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people. The Lord Jesus performed that function for His people once for all at the cross.
Lamb of God: (John 1:29) – God’s Law called for the sacrifice of a spotless, unblemished Lamb as an atonement for sin. Jesus became that Lamb led meekly to the slaughter, showing His patience in His sufferings and His readiness to die for His own.
Mediator: (1 Timothy 2:5) – A mediator is one who goes between two parties to reconcile them. Christ is the one and only Mediator who reconciles men and God. Praying to Mary or the saints is idolatry because it bypasses this most important role of Christ and ascribes the role of Mediator to another.
Rock: (1 Corinthians 10:4) – As life-giving water flowed from the rock Moses struck in the wilderness, Jesus is the Rock from which flow the living waters of eternal life. He is the Rock upon whom we build our spiritual houses, so that no storm can shake them.
Resurrection and Life: (John 11:25) – Embodied within Jesus is the means to resurrect sinners to eternal life, just as He was resurrected from the grave. Our sin is buried with Him and we are resurrected to walk in newness of life.
Savior: (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:11) – He saves His people by dying to redeem them, by giving the Holy Spirit to renew them by His power, by enabling them to overcome their spiritual enemies, by sustaining them in trials and in death, and by raising them up at the last day.
True Vine: (John 15:1) – The True Vine supplies all that the branches (believers) need to produce the fruit of the Spirit— the living water of salvation and nourishment from the Word.
Way, Truth, Life: (John 14:6) – Jesus is the only path to God, the only Truth in a world of lies, and the only true source of eternal life. He embodies all three in both a temporal and an eternal sense. (Quote source here.)
Title and Names of Jesus Christ
These, in their rich variety, throw light on either the person of Jesus Christ or on some aspect of his ministry.
Titles relating to Jesus Christ’s identity
The Lion of Judah Rev 5:5
The “I am” sayings of John’s Gospel:
John 8:58 See also: John 6:35—the Bread of Life;
John 8:12; John 9:5—the Light of the World;
John 10:7-10—the Gate;
John 10:11-14—the Good Shepherd;
John 11:25—the Resurrection and the Life;
John 14:6—the Way, the Truth and the Life;
John 15:1-5—the True Vine
Titles relating to Jesus Christ’s ministry
The Root and Offspring of David Rev 22:16
The Bridegroom John 3:29–John the Baptist describing himself as the bridegroom’s friend, and Jesus Christ as the bridegroom. See also Matt 9:15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35; Matt 25:1-10; Rev 19:7; Rev 21:2
The Firstborn among many brothers Rom 8:29
The Firstfruits 1 Cor 15:23
The Firstborn from the dead Rev 1:5
The Heir of all things Heb 1:2
Titles relating to Jesus Christ’s authority
Prince Acts 5:31
Titles emphasizing Jesus Christ’s saving work
Jesus: the Lord saves Matt 1:21
Man of Sorrows Isaiah 53:3
The Passover Lamb 1 Cor 5:7
A Horn of Salvation Luke 1:69
Titles stressing Jesus Christ’s mediatory status
The Mediator 1 Tim 2:5
See also (click on links):
—Jesus, the Christ —Christ, Son of David —Christ, Son of God —Christ, Son of Man —Christ, the Lord —Immanuel —Messiah, coming of —Christ, high priest —Christ as Lamb —Christ as Saviour —Christ as shepherd —Servants of the Lord
Jesus Christ is so much more than we can ever imagine . . .
How can anyone resist a Savior like this?
YouTube Video: “At The Cross (Love Ran Red)” by Chris Tomlin:
“. . . you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses . . .
to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus Christ made this statement to his followers after his resurrection (on the third day after he was crucified), and right before he ascended to Heaven (see Acts 1:1-11), which ended his physical earthly ministry at that time.
Right before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples the following in John 14:1-27 (NIV):
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid . . . .”
“. . . the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you . . . .” Unfortunately, there is much misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit and how he works in the lives of those who truly trust and believe in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God, and he is one of three distinct persons (God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit) that make up the Godhead–the Trinity. The Holy Spirit also has a personality with a mind, will, and emotions (see this article, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” by Mary Fairchild at this link). And his attributes include the following (see page 2 of “Who is the Holy Spirit?” at this link):
- He teaches (John 14:26)
- He testifies (John 15:26)
- He convicts (John 16:8)
- He leads (Romans 8:14)
- He reveals truth (John 16:13)
- He strengthens and encourages (Acts 9:31)
- He comforts (John 14:16)
- He helps us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26)
- He intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26)
And the Holy Spirit has gifts for each of us who believe in Jesus Christ, which are stated in I Corinthians 12:
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You know that at one time you were unbelievers. You were somehow drawn away to worship statues of gods that couldn’t even speak. So I want you to know that no one who is speaking with the help of God’s Spirit says, “May Jesus be cursed.” And without the help of the Holy Spirit no one can say, “Jesus is Lord.”
There are different kinds of gifts. But they are all given to believers by the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve. But they all come from the same Lord. There are different ways the Spirit works. But the same God is working in all these ways and in all people.
The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all. To some people the Spirit gives a message of wisdom. To others the same Spirit gives a message of knowledge. To others the same Spirit gives faith. To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. To others he gives the power to do miracles. To others he gives the ability to prophesy. To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart. To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before. And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages. All the gifts are produced by one and the same Spirit. He gives gifts to each person, just as he decides.
One Body but Many Parts
There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it. First, God has placed apostles in the church. Second, he has placed prophets in the church. Third, he has placed teachers in the church. Then he has given to the church miracles and gifts of healing. He also has given the gift of helping others and the gift of guiding the church. God also has given the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages. Is everyone an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? Is everyone a teacher? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages they had not known before? Do all explain what is said in those languages? But above all, you should want the more important gifts.
Love Is Necessary
But now I will show you the best way of all [which is love–the greatest gift of all–see I Corinthians 13].
Often, in our fast paced society, we (who are Christian) are often too busy making a living and trying to squeeze in everything that we can to stop and consider what the Holy Spirit would have us to do. If we acknowledge him at all, it might be in his giving us the abilities that we have to make a living and provide for our families, but if we read the list of “gifts” above, those gifts are not about us what we want to get from him in this life. No . . . those gifts are given to us to expand the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of self on earth. Those gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, spiritual discernment, the gift of tongues (the ability to speak in unknown languages) and the interpretation of the same. When was the last time we gave any thought to these gifts of the Spirit as we rush through our days in an effort to secure our own place in this world, make a name and a place for ourselves, making more money, and acquiring more “stuff”? Our focus is often on us instead of God, and we need to shift our focus back to the One we claim to follow.
For those of us who truly believe in Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:11-14 states:
In him [Jesus Christ] we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Genuine believers are “marked” with the Holy Spirit living in them; however, as 1 Thessalonians 5:19 states, we can “quench” the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives by running our own lives in our own power and going our own way if we choose to do so. As stated in the answer to the following question on GotQuestions?org, “What does it mean to grieve/quench the Holy Spirit?”:
Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin. Just as we do not like to be grieved, and just as we do not seek to quench what is good—so we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.(Quote source and full article at this link.)
That is not to say that we can attain “sinless perfection” in this life. “The Bible teaches that, while we are in the flesh, we will always struggle with a sin nature (see Romans 7:14-25). No one will be “perfect” (sinless) until we reach heaven.” (Quote source here.) At it’s core it is about a heart attitude, and who it is we love and want to serve–self or God.
Ephesians 4:30-31 also makes the following statement regarding our ability to grieve the Holy Spirit:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
So how do we know whether or not we allowing the Holy Spirit’s leading or grieving him by the way we are living our lives? I read a couple of short devotions yesterday regarding the Holy Spirit that I will share in partial answer to this question. They are taken from the book, “Tozer on the Holy Spirit,” compiled from the writings and/or sermons of Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) by Marilynne E. Foster:
Am I really Converted?
As the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also.
I believe in the deeper Christian life and experience–oh yes! But I believe we are mistaken when we try to add the deeper life to an imperfect salvation, obtained imperfectly by an imperfect concept of the whole thing.
Under the working of the Spirit of God through such men as Finney and Wesley, no one would dare to rise in a meeting and say, “I am a Christian,” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord. . . .
Today, we let them say they are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the provisio that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at sometime in the future.
Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience?
We have owed Him obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him . . . obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted. (Source: “Tozer on the Holy Spirit,” April 13.)
The second reading speaks to how the Holy Spirit becomes one with us:
Who is the Holy Spirit?
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
he shall teach you all things. . . .
How shall we think of the Holy Spirit? The Bible and Christian theology agree to teach that He is a Person, endowed with every quality of personality, such as emotion, intellect and will. He knows, He wills, He loves; He feels affection, antipathy and compassion. He thinks, sees, hears and speaks and performs any act of which personality is capable.
One quality belonging to the Holy Spirit, of great interest and importance to every seeking heart, is penetrability. He can penetrate mind; He can penetrate another spirit, such as the human spirit. He can achieve complete penetration of and actual intermingling with the human spirit. He can invade the human heart and make room for Himself without expelling anything essentially human. The integrity of the human personality remains unimpaired. Only moral evil is forced to withdraw. (Source: “Tozer on the Holy Spirit,” January 7.)
I’ll end this post with the words from Galatians 5:13-26, which tell us how to live by the Spirit:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness . . .
Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control . . .
Against such things there is no law . . . .
YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon:
I left Orlando, Florida, on September 26, 2014, after spending six months there and headed for Houston, Texas. I had no idea what might be waiting for me in Houston, but I was determined to find out. I’ve never been able to get Houston out of my mind ever since I lived here six years ago for exactly one year (September 25, 2008 to September 25, 2009), even though the job I relocated to Houston for turned out to be the biggest bust career-wise in my entire life. And, it has also left me unemployed for the past 5 1/2+ years now. But I didn’t blame the city. No, it’s not Houston’s fault. I just landed in a really bad place to work. But I fell in love with the city.
So I came back . . . .
I don’t know what I expected to find as I made the 18-hour drive back to Houston, but I love taking road trips so I was full of anticipation. I’ve been looking for a wide open door for the past 5 1/2 years and so far I haven’t found it no matter how hard I’ve looked and tried. I’ve even tried to wedge it open on my own a few times only to discover I couldn’t do it. Everybody needs a little help at times, but I just wasn’t finding it. But I’m not a quitter, and I don’t give up. So I decided to take my search back to where the bad stuff (long term unemployment) all began when I lost that job in Houston in April 2009.
And Texas is certainly a big enough state to find a wide open door . . .
The first thing I went looking for when I arrived over six weeks ago was inexpensive housing. I checked out all the “room for rent” ads as well as apartments and temporary sublets on Craigslist and in other sources and answered a bunch of them. The response, unfortunately, was practically zilch; and of the few who did respond, the price was too high on the first one and I was also expected to share a bathroom with three other tenants (are you kidding me???) in a house in The Woodlands, and the second person who responded with a cryptic email stating, “Can show on Wednesday,” never wrote back when I responded asking for a time and location so I could look at the room for rent. Another couple of responses directed me go to “Roomster.com” to find them and once I got there, I discovered that after I created an account it is not a free service as one has to pay a fee to contact those folks advertising rooms for rent. And it’s not cheap, either.
I also checked out apartment complexes, especially those that catered to seniors and low income (I qualify for both) and found waiting lists a mile long (well, of up to a year or longer). And all the time I’ve been doing this I’ve been staying at weekly-rate hotels. Weekly-rate hotels are much cheaper than staying at a regular hotel but still very pricey overall when compared to rent on an apartment, but I’m unemployed and living on a very limited income (social security) that isn’t enough income to qualify to rent a regular apartment.
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place . . . .
Also, being a “new” senior on social security now that I turned the magic age of 62 of few months ago, I could officially apply for low-income senior housing. Someone I had talked with in the past couple of weeks suggested an “Interfaith” organization as a place where I might find some help, so this past Wednesday I visited that organization and got a two-page list of apartments in the area (including several senior, low-income and “Section 8 subsidized–HUD–housing”) so I started down the list calling a bunch of them. Most had waiting lists or the rent was too high, but I decided to visit three of them in The Woodlands as I really like that particular suburb in the Houston area. The first place I visited was absolutely huge, and the woman I talked with was very friendly. I told her I was new to all this “senior” stuff and she gave me a lot of information including the 30-page HUD application. 30 pages!!! I thanked her for the information and then visited the other two complexes that were nearby and much smaller (I really liked the third complex the best–a small complex with 66 units and a very cozy feeling–but with a waiting list of up to a year). And, I got a copy of the HUD application from them, too. I have to tell you that one look at that application is a bit discouraging. And I don’t like anyone nosing into my business to that extent–talk about an invasion of privacy!
Now before I go any further I want to mention that I am an able bodied U.S. citizen who has been actively seeking work (in and outside of my career field) for the past 5 1/2 years since the day after I was fired in April 2009. Also, I didn’t want to have to take Social Security at 62. I want to WORK!!! And I can earn a whole lot more money working then living off of my small social security check, and that is exactly what I want to do, too!!! There should be no need for me to have to apply for and live in public housing if someone will just give me a break, a break I’ve been actively seeking for over 5 1/2 years now!!!
With that being said, I took the three applications back to the weekly-rate hotel where I had been staying for the past three weeks and decided to give it some serious thought as to what I wanted to do over the weekend. My last week’s stay at this particular weekly-rate hotel ended on Friday (two days ago) at noon, and I made the decision to leave there on Friday instead of staying for a fourth week. I planned to get an inexpensive hotel room for a couple of days in order to not be tied into an entire week at a weekly-rate hotel. There is no refund if one leaves before the end of the week (which starts on the day the room is rented). I needed to decide whether or not to stay another week in Houston since most of the housing options that I could afford required the 30-page HUD application and up to a one-year wait to get into an apartment. And, where am I supposed to live while I’m waiting on somebody’s list to be called? Answering “room for rent” ads has gone absolutely nowhere for six weeks now, and I can’t afford the weekly-rate hotels long-term on my social security checks. I never expected for it to take this long to find some type of affordable housing (especially a “room for rent” in a home).
Well, Friday and most of Saturday I spent time trying to decide whether to stay in Houston after six weeks of going nowhere fast or leave, and on Saturday I did some extensive driving around Houston in other areas as up to this point I had primarily been looking in the North Houston, Spring, The Woodlands, and Conroe areas. I had responded to ads in other parts of the city, too, over the weeks I’ve been here and that’s when I got the “Go to Roomster.com” response. I drove over to the west side of Houston including the Cypress and Katy areas and then decided to take at look at the east side of Houston in the Baytown area. So I hopped on I-10 which is the main interstate that cuts right through the heart of Houston as it’s the quickest way to get from the west side to the east side of the city, and just as I was approaching the downtown area in massive traffic (and it wasn’t even rush hour as it was Saturday) every vehicle traveling on I-10 came to a screeching halt and at that point it was an incredibly slow crawl for what seemed like miles on end. Finally, I noticed a big sign off to the left that said, “I-10 closed on Nov 7th and Saturday (8th).” I couldn’t believe it. They closed a main artery through Houston that close to a million vehicles travel on on a daily basis? Whoa . . . The mass of traffic at a standstill or slow crawl stretched as far as the eye could see.
Well, I happened to be in the left lane of traffic and noticed a sign for the exit to I-59 North that was just up ahead on the left. I-59 North goes back to the northeast section of Houston so I decided to take it and get out of the mess on I-10. As I approached FM 1960 (a main road in the North Houston area) I exited on FM 1960 and ended up in Humble which is only a few miles from where I had been staying in that weekly-rate hotel.
By this time I was tired and hungry and sick of all the traffic jams, and I knew I just wanted to find a room for the night and get off the road for a while. I noticed a sign for a hotel sort of hidden off the main road and decided to turn in and check it out. The nightly rate was way out of my price range and I almost left but instead asked if they had a weekly rate. Well, the weekly rate was a much better deal and not all that much more than I was paying at the previous weekly-rate hotel I’d been staying in for the past three weeks. And this particular hotel is brand new and just opened a week ago for business (it’s part of a chain), and the manager asked me if I wanted to look at a room. I said, “Sure!”
Well, when the manager opened the door to the room my jaw almost dropped open. It is huge and beautiful and everything in it is new. It has a sofa and coffee table, king-size bed, a small refrigerator and microwave and 42″ HD TV with a bunch of cable stations on an entertainment center, a desk and chair, and the quality of the furnishings is excellent. And, it has a 12′ high ceiling. And it’s also beautifully designed and very colorful. I asked him again what the weekly rate was as I could hardly believe I was getting all of this for what he quoted me considering I paid only a little less for far less (and a much smaller room) at the weekly-rate hotel I stayed at just a few miles down the same road to the west. Without even blinking an eye I said, “I’ll take it!”
So here I am for this next week . . .
Maybe things are starting to look up after six weeks. At least they look pretty darn good right now in this hotel room. While I don’t know what this next week (my seventh week) in Houston holds for me, I’m glad I didn’t leave when I felt so discouraged on Friday or Saturday. There’s a saying that’s been around for a long time now and I’m not sure where it originated, but it goes like this:
Yes, it is . . . “it’s always too soon to quit.” As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’m not a quitter, even when I get discouraged. And despite the obstacles I’ve found in my first six weeks here, there was something deep inside of me that said I wasn’t ready to give up on Houston just yet. But at this point in time I needed a sign to show me what to do as I honestly didn’t know what to do yesterday. I knew as I headed toward the east side of Houston on I-10 that it wouldn’t take much to just keep on going on I-10 back to Florida and throw in the towel. It’s really hard to know how to make the right decision when one is feeling discouraged. And, if it had not been for that huge mess on I-10 yesterday I would have most likely ended up on the east side of Houston and quite possibly just kept on going at that point. Fortunately, I couldn’t leave that way as the interstate was closed, so I hopped on I-59 North to get out of that mess which took me back to the area of Houston I really like, and I found this hotel in the midst of it. And it was the sign I needed to remind me that “it’s always too soon to quit.”
This morning I read a devotion I received via email from “Leading the Way,” titled, “Not Limiting God,” and it was a great reminder to me to never limit God even in the midst of feeling major discouragement while being in the middle of a huge traffic jam. Here is that devotion:
It’s natural to look out for number one. But this focus on self takes us off course in our walk of faith. We may profess devotion and obedience to God, yet we seldom are willing to give up anything for Him. In Genesis 22, we see that Abraham was told to give up not just a little something—he was told to give up his long-awaited and treasured son, Isaac.
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you’” (Genesis 22:1-2).
Can you imagine the pain of hearing those words? After years of waiting for his promised son, Abraham had now been called to sacrifice him. Most of us would claim that we had misheard God. We would try to bargain with Him or to run and hide our beloved treasure from Him. Yet the Bible gives no indication that Abraham put up a fight.
How could he go along with such a plan? Abraham’s faith was bigger than his fear of losing his son forever. After a lifetime of lessons in his walk of faith, Abraham had finally learned to not limit God with human thinking.
Prayer: God, help me to be totally surrendered to You and Your plan for my life. Help me not to put my human limits on who You are and what You can do, for You are far greater than I can even imagine. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?” (Job 36:23).
I don’t know what this next week holds, but I know Who holds it in His hands. I just have to keep my hands off of it and let each day unfold as I leave it with Him to guide me. One thing I keep learning over and over again especially during these past 5 1/2 years of wandering around in the land of the unemployed is that God is always up to something, even when we can’t see it or know what it is He is doing. His ways are, indeed, not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
If someone in my reading audience is going through a season of discouragement, I hope this post has given you a bit of encouragement. I’ve had my share of discouragement and disappointments during these past six weeks in Houston (as I’ve had during these past 5 1/2 years of unemployment), but I’ve learned over and over again to let go of what I want (my wants are so very few anymore) or think should be happening by now and hold nothing back from God (including those things and/or people that have become my “Isaac”), and let Him guide me. And it’s at that point that He brings the most unexpected surprises (even in really small things and not just in the big things). I had reached that point yesterday when I was just not sure what to do as I drove across I-10 in the middle of Houston and right into that massive traffic jam that took me on a detour I never expected but greatly appreciated. I never would have guessed that another week’s stay in a really cool and beautiful hotel room (much, much cooler than any of the others I’ve stayed at while I’ve been here) was even on the radar screen. And even the name of this hotel has His fingerprints all over it–Palace Inn in Humble, Texas.
God’s leading really is a “moment-by-moment” thing. At just the point I was tempted to quit, He provided the answer in a way I never expected, and He gave me hope when I felt like hope was slipping through my fingers. Proverbs 3:5-6 states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” That’s “moment-by-moment” guidance, and it’s not just in the big decisions in life but in the everyday decisions we make, too; even in the tiniest of decisions. So if you happen to be carrying a load of discouragement right now and are at the point of quitting, remember these three things . . .
Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .
And do not lean on your own understanding . . .
And let God lead the way “moment-by-moment” . . . .
YouTube Video: “Something in the Water” (2014) by Carrie Underwood:
Hebrews 11 is the Bible’s “Hall of Faith” chapter and it starts out with this verse, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). So what exactly is faith? The following explanation comes from GotQuestions?Org (click here for link):
Question: “What does the Bible say about faith?”
Answer: Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of the Christian life is more important than faith. We cannot purchase it, sell it or give it to our friends. So what is faith and what role does faith play in the Christian life? The dictionary defines faith as “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It also defines faith as “belief in and devotion to God.” The Bible has much more to say about faith and how important it is. In fact, it is so important that, without faith, we have no place with God, and it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is belief in the one, true God without actually seeing Him.
Where does faith come from? Faith is not something we conjure up on our own, nor is it something we are born with, nor is faith a result of diligence in study or pursuit of the spiritual. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God, not because we deserve it, have earned it, or are worthy to have it. It is not from ourselves; it is from God. It is not obtained by our power or our free will. It is simply given to us by God, along with His grace and mercy, according to His holy plan and purpose, and because of that, He gets all the glory.
Why have faith? God designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to Him and those who don’t, and it is called faith. Very simply, we need faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. A key part of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This is not to say that we have faith in God just to get something from Him. However, God loves to bless those who are obedient and faithful. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 7:50. Jesus is engaged in dialog with a sinful woman when He gives us a glimpse of why faith is so rewarding. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman believed in Jesus Christ by faith, and He rewarded her for it. Finally, faith is what sustains us to the end, knowing that by faith we will be in heaven with God for all eternity. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Examples of faith. Hebrews 11 is known as the “faith chapter” because in it great deeds of faith are described. By faith Abel offered a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4); by faith Noah prepared the ark in a time when rain was unknown (v. 7); by faith Abraham left his home and obeyed God’s command to go he knew not where, then willingly offered up his only son (vv. 8-10, 17); by faith Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (vv. 23-29); by faith Rahab received the spies of Israel and saved her life (v. 31). Many more heroes of the faith are mentioned “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (vv. 33-34). Clearly, the existence of faith is demonstrated by action.
Faith is essential to Christianity. Without demonstrating faith and trust in God, we have no place with Him. We believe in God’s existence by faith. Most people have a vague, disjointed notion of who God is but lack the reverence necessary for His exalted position in their lives. These people lack the true faith needed to have an eternal relationship with the God who loves them. Our faith can falter at times, but because it is the gift of God, given to His children, He provides times of trial and testing in order to prove that our faith is real and to sharpen and strengthen it. This is why James tells us to consider it “pure joy” when we fall into trials, because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and matures us, providing the evidence that our faith is real (James 1:2-4).
Without faith we cannot believe in God, and we certainly cannot please God. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” There is lot of talk about faith in our culture today. Unfortunately, little of it has to do with God. Some folks like to say, “I just have faith,” but never go on to state what or who that faith is in.
When it comes to the church, most folks express a measure of faith and that faith is usually in God; however, having “faith” has come to mean some pretty aberrant things nowadays. Take, for example, the “Word of Faith Movement,” touted by several high profile pastors and teachers over the past several decades. A further explanation on what this movement is and why it is not biblical can be read at GotQuestions?com at this link. As stated in that article, “The Word of Faith movement is deceiving countless people, causing them to grasp after a way of life and faith that is not biblical” (quote source here). It’s also totally self-centered. It focuses on us and what we want instead of on God and what He would have us to do. Unfortunately, untold numbers of people have fallen for this false belief about faith.
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) clearly delineated what faith is and is not in a chapter (Chapter 7) titled, “Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine,” in the book, “Man: The Dwelling Place of God” (the entire book is available online at this link and also for purchase at this link):
by A.W. Tozer
In the divine scheme of salvation the doctrine of faith is central. God addresses His words to faith, and where no faith is, no true revelation is possible. “Without faith it is impossible to please him.”
Every benefit flowing from the atonement of Christ comes to the individual through the gateway of faith. Forgiveness, cleansing, regeneration, the Holy Spirit, all answers to prayer, are given to faith and received by faith. There is no other way. This is common evangelical doctrine and is accepted wherever the cross of Christ is understood.
Because faith is so vital to all our hopes, so necessary to the fulfillment of every aspiration of our hearts, we dare take nothing for granted concerning it. Anything that carries with it so much of weal or woe, which indeed decides our heaven or our hell, is too important to neglect. We simply must not allow ourselves to be uninformed or misinformed. We must know.
For a number of years my heart has been troubled over the doctrine of faith as it is received and taught among evangelical Christians everywhere. Great emphasis is laid upon faith in orthodox circles, and that is good; but still I am troubled. Specifically, my fear is that the modern conception of faith is not the Biblical one; that when the teachers of our day use the word they do not mean what Bible writers meant when they used it.
The causes of my uneasiness are these:
1. The lack of spiritual fruit in the lives of so many who claim to have faith.
2. The rarity of a radical change in the conduct and general outlook of persons professing their new faith in Christ as their personal Savior.
3. The failure of our teachers to define or even describe the thing to which the word faith is supposed to refer.
4. The heartbreaking failure of multitudes of seekers, be they ever so earnest, to make anything out of the doctrine or to receive any satisfying experience through it.
5. The real danger that a doctrine that is parroted so widely and received so uncritically by so many is false as understood by them.
6. I have seen faith put forward as a substitute for obedience, an escape from reality, a refuge from the necessity of hard thinking, a hiding place for weak character. I have known people to miscall by the name of faith high animal spirits, natural optimism, emotional thrills and nervous tics.
7. Plain horse sense ought to tell us that anything that makes no change in the man who professes it makes no difference to God either, and it is an easily observable fact that for countless numbers of persons the change from no-faith to faith makes no actual difference in the life.
Perhaps it will help us to know what faith is if we first notice what it is not. It is not the ‘believing’ of a statement we know to be true. The human mind is so constructed that it must of necessity believe when the evidence presented to it is convincing. It cannot help itself. When the evidence fails to convince, no faith is possible. No threats, no punishment, can compel the mind to believe against clear evidence.
Faith based upon reason is faith of a kind, it is true; but it is not of the character of Bible faith, for it follows the evidence infallibly and has nothing of a moral or spiritual nature in it. Neither can the absence of faith based upon reason be held against anyone, for the evidence, not the individual, decides the verdict. To send a man to hell whose only crime was to follow evidence straight to its proper conclusion would be palpable injustice; to justify a sinner on the grounds that he had made up his mind according to the plain facts would be to make salvation the result of the workings of a common law of the mind as applicable to Judas as to Paul. It would take salvation out of the realm of the volitional and place it in the mental, where, according to the Scriptures, it surely does not belong.
True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God said it, and if the statement should contradict every one of the five senses and all the conclusions of logic as well, still the believer continues to believe. “Let God be true, but every man a liar,” is the language of true faith. Heaven approves such faith because it rises above mere proofs and rests in the bosom of God.
In recent years among certain evangelicals there has arisen a movement designed to prove the truths of Scriptures by appeal to science. Evidence is sought in the natural world to support supernatural revelation. Snowflakes, blood, stones, strange marine creatures, birds and many other natural objects are brought forward as proof that the Bible is true. This is touted as being a great support to faith, the idea being that if a Bible doctrine can be proved to be true, faith will spring up and flourish as a consequence.
What these brethren do not see is that the very fact that they feel a necessity to seek proof for the truths of the Scriptures proves something else altogether, namely, their own basic unbelief. When God speaks unbelief asks, “How shall I know that this is true?” I AM THAT I AM is the only grounds for faith. To dig among the rocks or search under the sea for evidence to support the Scriptures is to insult the One who wrote them. Certainly I do not believe that this is done intentionally; but I cannot see how we can escape the conclusion that it is done, nevertheless.
Faith as the Bible knows it is confidence in God and His Son Jesus Christ; it is the response of the soul to the divine character as revealed in the Scriptures; and even this response is impossible apart from the prior in-working of the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift of God to a penitent soul and has nothing whatsoever to do with the senses or the data they afford. Faith is a miracle; it is the ability God gives to trust His Son, and anything that does not result in action in accord with the will of God is not faith but something else short of it.
Faith and morals are two sides of the same coin. Indeed the very essence of faith is moral. Any professed faith in Christ as personal Savior that does not bring the life under plenary obedience to Christ as Lord is inadequate and must betray its victim at the last.
The man that believes will obey; failure to obey is convincing proof that there is not true faith present. To attempt the impossible God must give faith or there will be none, and He gives faith to the obedient heart only. Where real repentance is, there is obedience; for repentance is not only sorrow for past failures and sins, it is a determination to begin now to do the will of God as He reveals it to us.
Also, James 2:14-26 makes it very clear what true faith looks and acts like:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Don’t be fooled into believing in a false faith (which is no faith at all). Any time we are trying to use faith as a means to seek after any type of material gain or personal accolades (e.g., prosperity, power, and notoriety) for ourselves we are on very shaky ground. Read Hebrews 11 (the “Hall of Faith” chapter) again. Faith looks beyond our material world and does not seek it’s own. Not even once . . . .
Real faith depends on God and God alone . . . .
About three years ago, after being unemployed for almost a year and a half at that time, I reached a point where it was hard to know how to pray about my situation anymore. It was also apparent to me that something bigger than the issue of my unemployment was going on, but it was like trying to piece together a puzzle when some of the pieces were missing.
The first year to year and a half that I was unemployed I had a bunch of interviews and a couple of times I was almost certain I had the job, but something would always happen after the initial and very successful interview that stopped me dead at that point. That point, of course, was when they contacted my references. I trusted my references and had known them for years and did very good work for all of them. Of course, since I was terminated from my job in Houston, I had no idea what they (the folks in Houston) were saying, although some of the universities I interviewed with had no problem with the fact that I had been terminated there since I had twenty years of stellar work experience in my field before I landed in that job (which lasted under seven months). It was also a “for-profit” institute that fired me, and my previous years of experience were all in nonprofit colleges and universities. I figured that the reason I was never hired after successfully interviewing had something to do with the institute in Houston where I was fired, or one of my references. And that is still a big missing piece of this whole puzzle.
By the summer of 2010 bits and pieces of information were coming my way, but I didn’t have enough to go on to put the puzzle together. In one of my weekly phone conversations with my stepmother in August or September of that year (she lived in Iowa and I’m in Florida), she made a statement to me that I have never forgotten, even though the meaning at the time was unclear to me. She told me, in the course of our conversation when I mentioned to her that I had no idea at that point in time what was keeping me from being hired, that there were many people rooting for me (that’s a somewhat shortened version of the conversation but I wasn’t sure what she meant by “many” as our family is very small). While the issue didn’t arise again in later conversations as we always talked about a number of things during our phone calls, I never had a chance to ask her what she meant by “many” as she died very unexpectedly in April 2011 after complications from surgery at the age of 86.
Long term unemployment is a blight on the life of anyone who has to endure it. The ups and downs–not to mention the severe financial ramifications that come from it–are only the tip of the iceberg of what it’s like to live with the stigma of being unemployed for a long period of time in America. Friends call less often and former work colleagues drop off the radar screen after a year or so. Conversations with others aware of the situation tend to avoid the whole issue altogether–like the proverbial 800-pound elephant sitting in the living room that nobody ever talks about–or treat it tritely, which is actually worse. Actual offers of genuine help are pretty much nonexistent. Most folks, if they acknowledge it at all, say something like, “I’m praying for you,” or “I’m sure something will come along soon,” or “I wish you luck in finding something” (some even add “soon” to that last phrase, too). Or, they give an example of that proverbial “someone else” they know who is also long term unemployed as if that is supposed to help the situation; however, it is never “them” who is unemployed. Of course, at that point, the conversations usually end and they walk away. Talk is cheap and way too easy.
In the summer of 2010 I had no idea that this already long time of unemployment back then would still be going on three years later. A very long term trial can and will push all the trite phrases right out the door that church-goers (for those who attend church) and other mostly “employed” persons like to say to the unemployed (and they speak from the sidelines, too). Walk a mile in my shoes before giving me another trite phrase, please. All of the surface stuff we strive for to make our lives better becomes absolutely meaningless, but most people don’t understand that until tragedy hits them square in the face.
It was also in late 2010 that I realized I simply had no idea how to pray for my situation anymore. The words flowed but nothing seemed to changed. The Lord did provide for my needs in miraculous ways but not in the way I was expecting (e.g., employment). And for the first time in my life I understood the real difference between wants and needs. What I found is that mostly what we ask for are “wants” and not needs. And what I have found is that our needs are far, far fewer than most of us want to believe. We live in a prosperous society (even if we aren’t particularly prosperous individually) where the dividing line between wants and needs has disappeared. And when tragedy strikes, that line becomes very, very visible again.
It was back in 2010 that I remembered how Jesus taught us to pray in His Sermon on the Mount. It’s a prayer I memorized as a child when the only version available was the King James Version. And he gave us a warning before giving us that prayer that states:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8, NIV).
And then He offered this prayer (quoted in KJV that I memorized as a child and because it includes the last sentence that other versions leave off):
“Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
I began praying that prayer on a daily basis and sometimes it was all that I prayed on some days. I replaced the old English to make it more personal (replacing which art with Who is and Thy and Thine with Your and Yours in reference to God) and I meant every word with a sincerity I had not known before when praying that prayer. The Lord’s Prayer, as it is known universally, is so much more than just words on paper, or a prayer to be recited in public or other formal gatherings.
That simple prayer, over the past three years, has revolutionized my life and brought a focus regarding what this life is really all about like nothing else has in my entire life. And while this prayer is not the only prayer I pray, I begin all of my prayers with it.
“Thy kingdom come . . . Thy will be done . . .”
These past three years have opened up a world to me that I was not even aware of until the daily routine activities of life had been stripped away when I lost my job. And it took a while to understand that there is much, much more to this life than what we see on the surface and regarding what we think we “need” in this life. I thought I needed a job and an income as soon as possible after losing my job in April 2009. However, these past four plus years of unemployment have taught me not to “second-guess” what God is doing in my life and in this world of ours, and He has provided for my needs all along the way.
“Thy kingdom come . . . Thy will be done . . .”
During Jesus’ three-year ministry on earth His greatest adversaries were the very people who should have understood who He was from the beginning, and they were the Jewish leaders and teachers of the law–the Pharisees–and the religious establishment and their followers who hounded His every step. And at the end of His public ministry, He was betrayed by one of his own disciples, Judas, for money, and was arrested and sent before the High Priest for questioning. From there He was sent to the palace of the Roman governor, Pilate, right before He was handed over to the Jewish religious establishment to be crucified (see John 18-19). In Pilate’s questioning of Jesus, he asked Him:
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:33-38).
While Pilate did not find the truth that day, even though the Truth stood before him, he told the Jewish leaders that he found no basis for a charge against Jesus. However, the Jewish leaders came back at Pilate by insisting:
“We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God”
When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:7-12).
The Jewish leaders manipulated Pilate using fear to get what they wanted, and, as a result, Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified (John 19:16). Of course, Jesus’ response to Pilate after Pilate said to Him, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” clearly stated Who was in control, and it wasn’t Pilate or even the Jewish leaders. Jesus answered Pilate by saying, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11). God was in control, and the entire course of events from the time of Jesus’ arrest to His crucifixion and resurrection can be read in John 18-21.
Jesus’ mission while on earth is clearly stated in 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.” And that hasn’t changed in over 2000 years.
Jesus clearly stated to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world . . . my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). It is His kingdom and not one of our own that we should be seeking. The daily grind of life has a way of blinding us to the reality of the truth of what this life is really all about. Add to that all of the excesses available in a society like ours and we can easily lose our way and not even realize it. The kingdom we seek is not found in this world. It is found only in Jesus . . . .
“Thy kingdom come . . . Thy will be done . . .”
And His kingdom is coming soon . . . .
YouTube Video: “Let Your Kingdom Come,” a Praise and Worship song:
I had a boss several years ago who told me once that he never asked for permission to do anything, but rather he asked for forgiveness after the fact if what he did got him into trouble with his supervisor (a woman). He had a rather charming way about him and he knew the weaknesses of his supervisor and he knew that no matter what he did, she would always relent. And she did. And you have no idea how much that ticked me off. He was the most ineffective boss I have ever had. In fact, he was never around — ever. During the 15 months that he was my supervisor I can count on one hand the number of times he actually met with me to discuss anything. However, I heard later what he had been saying about me behind my back, and it wasn’t very nice. His supervisor had known me a lot longer then she knew him and knew my work ethic (in fact, she was the reason I worked there as we met at a conference a few years earlier and we hit it off immediately at that time), yet she believed him because he was a charmer and she never asked me for my side of the story. (See note in “Comments” section below this post for additional information–I actually worked at that university for almost four years total.)
I never got a hearing in that particular case and I’m not even sure what happened, but when I decided I had had enough of it and found another job and resigned, his supervisor was totally upset with me because I was leaving. In fact, she mentioned to me that she had plans for me–unfortunately, she never let me know that until it was too late. In all that time she never asked me anything, but depended on him to tell her everything that was going on at our off-campus location. And he lied to her. A lot.
Something happened at the time I turned in my resignation that caused him, a few days later, to suddenly turn in his own resignation and he actually ended up leaving before I did as I gave a one-month notice of resignation (to this day I do not know exactly what happened as I was not included in any of the communications). I did hear through the grapevine that he had been threatened with being fired, and his resignation was very sudden and unexpected. Unfortunately, scenarios like the one I experienced happen all-too-frequently in the workplace today.
This scenario reminds me of the way many Christians in our society relate to sin . . . as long as they don’t get caught, it’s fine and they keep on doing it. But when they do get caught, they pull out their “ace card” and ask God for forgiveness. Well, God is not as easily fooled as my boss’s supervisor was fooled (until it was too late for her to rectify the situation). God knows our heart attitude and whether there is any sincerity in our asking for forgiveness. Genuine repentant produces a changed life–not a perfect life but a genuinely changed life (and from a grateful heart, too). Getting caught and then making excuses for wrongdoing with a weak “please forgive me” when the attitude hasn’t changed at all has nothing to do with genuine repentance. And if we are just looking to find out how much we can get away with, a repeat performance is soon to happen again. Making excuses has nothing to do with genuine contriteness.
I was reading a devotion this morning (actually, two devotions from two different sources) and the first one from “Open Windows,” titled, “Does Sin Have You Tied Up?” written by Terry Bowman, starts with the following passage reading in Proverbs 5:21-23 (NIV):
For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all your paths.
The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;
the cords of their sins hold them fast.
For lack of discipline they will die,
led astray by their own great folly.
Mr. Bowman writes:
While the writer of this proverb specifically warned of the perils of adultery, his words apply to all sin. Though we may attempt to hide our iniquity, God sees it and holds us accountable. Sin entangles us just as a thin strand of silk binds an insect [e.g., a spider’s web]. Deceived by our desires and lusts, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the web of disobedience. Each successive transgression adds another strand until we are ensnared firmly in the trap of sin. We are left to face the consequences of having indulged ourselves in our unrestrained lusts and passions.
Take hope. That’s not the end of the story. Jesus broke the web of sin that binds humanity. All believers are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. When we obey His leading, we overcome sin and can walk away from temptation.
So often today (as it has been since the beginning of time), we revel in our sin. Take gossip, for example, although I don’t want to get into naming a “list” of sins but rather a pervasive heart attitude that cares more for self then anyone else, including God. As A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) stated well over fifty years ago, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking” (quote source here). Unfortunately, that Christian life centers around us and what we want most of the time and not on God, and that type of living tends to view God as a magic genie, available to grant us our every wish, whim, or want.
The news is quick to report all the details of famous people’s wrongdoings and their subsequent confessions. Perhaps it’s an athlete who was arrested for driving while drunk. Or it could be a politician caught in an indiscretion. Only God knows the heart, but when we hear a stuttered “I’m . . . uh . . . sorry,” we may wonder if they are truly repentant or just sorry they got caught.
When we read the confession of the famous King David we see what looks like genuine contriteness. In his public discussion of his sins in Psalm 51, this disgraced monarch—who had an embarrassing record of flagrant sins which he had kept hidden (2 Sam. 12:1-13; Ps. 32:3-5)—pleads for mercy.
He recognized that his sin was an affront to God—not just to people—and that God alone can judge him (Ps. 51:1-6). He realized that he must be cleansed by God (vv.7-10), and he celebrated his restoration through service and worship (vv.11-17).
All of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. When we feel the heavy burden of sin weighing us down, we have the blessing of confession and forgiveness (1 John 1:9) to lift us up. Isn’t it just like our great God to turn even our sins into an opportunity to grow in His grace and power and love!
There is a huge difference between being truly repentant or just being sorry we got caught, and we can read and hear it in David’s words in Psalm 51:1-17:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
When was the last time we felt that way about sin? More often then not, we are far more like my former boss, who did what he wanted to do regardless of any consequences because that is what he wanted to do, knowing that he could go to his supervisor and she would relent so he could do it all over again. There was no real repentance on his part, and eventually, he paid the piper for it, too.
Genuine repentance before God washes us clean. King David aptly stated this when he said his sacrifice was “a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” that God will not despise. Do we really view our sin as evil in God’s sight (Ps. 51:4)? Or do we just play with it and excuse it off until we get caught?
Jesus Christ did not go to the cross just so that we can make excuses for our sin. And if we truly believe in Him as Savior and Lord we shouldn’t be looking for excuses anyway. Genuine repentance washes us clean. I John 1:9, clearly written to a Christian audience, states “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Pay attention to the last part of that verse—“and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That means if we are genuinely repentant, the “excuse making” stops dead in it’s tracks.
So which will it be? Making excuses or genuine repentance? Do we really want to be free from the stranglehold sin has on our lives, no matter how pleasurable sin can be? And who do we really want to serve–ourselves or Jesus Christ? Do we want to say, like David, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)? Or do we want our own way? The choice is ours . . .
And the price we pay is not just temporary . . .
It’s eternal . . . .
YouTube Video: Here, once again, is Shirley Caesar singing Bob Dylan’s song, “Gotta Serve Somebody”:
Today is Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall this evening. I wrote about it a year ago and decided to repost that blog post again today (see below). It is customary to read from the books of Lamentations and Job in the Old Testament on this day known as an official day of mourning and fasting due to a series of catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those
whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Posted on July 29, 2012 by Sara’s Musings
Today is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall tonight (which is the typical start and end of each day on the Jewish calendar). However, this particular day has powerful significance for the Jewish people and it is known as a day of mourning due to a series of severe catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries.
Being a Gentile (non-Jewish), I haven’t given much thought to the Jewish calendar over the years in relation to our own calendar. However, in June, I stumbled upon some interesting facts regarding the Jewish calendar and came upon information about Tisha B’Av and the three weeks prior to that day–a time frame observed by religious Jews as a time of fasting, mourning and repentance that starts on the 17th day of Tammuz and leads up to the official day of mourning, the 9th of Av–Tisha B’Av.
So what exactly happened on Tisha B’Av? The following information is taken from Chabad.org:
The 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day specially cursed by G‑d.
Picture this: The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.
The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.
When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!
One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation’s holiest site.
The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b’Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.
Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av.
What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.
I was stunned after I read that list and realized that every single horrific event listed above that occurred over several centuries happened on the exact same day–the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av. I found a “reader” (a small collection of articles) on Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks at Aish.com and downloaded it last night and read it this morning. As I was reading through the incredibly moving stories, the similarities that the Jewish people feel regarding the catastrophes that have happened to them on Tisha B’Av are not dissimilar to how Americans feel about what happened to us on 9/11. Tisha B’Av is primarily about mourning the loss of the Temple (twice), where God’s presence dwelt among the Jewish people in the Old Testament. It was the pulling away of God from His people and His presence in their lives. Normally, during Tisha B’Av the Book of Lamentations is read as well as other readings which “reflect the sadness of the tragedies and often relate the tragedies to rebellion of the people. However some of the Kinot [readings] reflect the hope of redemption” (Source no longer available at former website).
The following two quotes are from two articles in the reader which you can download at this site: Tisha B’Av Reader.
The first quote is from an article titled, “The Heart-Rending Cry” by Keren Gottleib, pp. 4-7: “I understood that this (the mourning mentioned in her article) was exactly how we are supposed to mourn the Temple on Tisha B’Av. We are supposed to cry over the loss of the unity and peace throughout the entire world. We are supposed to lament the disappearance of the Divine Presence and holiness from our lives in Israel. We are supposed to be pained by the destruction of our spiritual center, which served to unify the entire Jewish nation.
“We’re supposed to feel as if something very precious has been taken away from us forever. We are meant to cry, to be shocked and angry, to break down. We are supposed to mourn over the destruction of the Temple, to cry over a magnificent era that has been uprooted from the face of the earth. The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air” (p. 7).
As I read that article I was struck by that last sentence, “The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air.” After America’s own catastrophe, 9/11, we pulled together (and filled the churches) and were united once again as a nation unlike anything we had experienced in recent decades since the war in Vietnam that divided our nation; however, it didn’t take long for most Americans to get back to living their own individual lives again although every time we go through security to board an airplane it should serve to remind us of the horror of that terrorist attack instead of as an inconvenience that takes too long to navigate. And, after the initial shock of 9/11 dimmed, we put God back on the shelf, too, except maybe on Sunday morning.
The second quote is from an article titled, “On the Same Team,” by Dov Moshe Lipman, pp.7-9: “Perhaps each time God puts us through another round of suffering, His proclamation of ‘Again,’ He is waiting for us to stop identifying ourselves as an individual Jew coming from his separate background and upbringing. ‘I’m modern Orthodox.’ ‘I’m Reform.’ ‘I’m a Hasid.’ ‘I’m secular.’ ‘I’m Conservative.’ ‘I’m yeshivishe.’
Those characterizations polarize the nation and make it impossible for us to function together as one team. As individual groups, we cannot accomplish what we can accomplish as one team. We are held back by that same baseless hatred which creeps in when we are not one unit.
“Perhaps God is waiting for all of us to proclaim in unison, ‘I am a Jew.” Plain and simple.
“Even more importantly, perhaps God is waiting for us to stop seeing others as ‘He’s modern Orthodox.’ ‘He’s Reform.’ ‘He’s a Hasid.’ ‘He’s secular.’ ‘He’s Conservative.’ ‘He’s yeshivishe.’
“Perhaps the answer to our suffering and long exile is reaching the point where we see other Jews as members of the same team and family. Jews and nothing else” (pp. 8-9).
As I read those words, it became crystal clear that we as Christians in America do the same thing. We put each other in categories–‘Baptist.’ ‘Charismatic.’ ‘Methodist.’ ‘Pentacostal.’ ‘Anglican.’ And the list goes on and on . . . . Yet we all claim to serve the same God through Jesus Christ. We fight among ourselves in a sort of “our church is better than yours” self-righteousness instead of working together, united in Jesus Christ. No wonder our nation is falling apart. We have forgotten what true repentance is and what it requires of us, and we’ve forgotten that if Jesus Christ is truly our Savior and Lord, that we are all on the same team.
Another anniversary of the horrific catastrophe of 9/11 will soon be here. Will we continue to be “one nation divided” or “one nation united under God”? Do we want to see God’s blessing on our nation again, or will we continue on a path that brings only division and strife, and ultimately, destruction?
The choice is ours, and we need to start making it now . . . .
Music is not played during the observance of Tisha B’Av; therefore, I have not included a YouTube video on this post.
Photo credit here
What, exactly, is love? Many times it comes disguised as lust or greed, even pride. We can usually tell when it isn’t really love because it is centered around us and what we want. There is a lot of lust, greed and pride in the world, but not so much love. Not authentic love. Authentic love centers on the “other” and not on ourselves and looks out for their well being and not just our own. Jesus Christ stated in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Authentic love is a heart attitude.
There is a story in Luke 7:36-50 that illustrates authentic love. Let’s read it:
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
What a contrast exists between the two people in this passage! One was a proper male, a Pharisee. The other was a woman, a sinner, likely a prostitute.
The Pharisee wrongly considered himself righteous; the woman knew she was a sinner. The Pharisee was proud; the woman contrite. The Pharisee failed to provide the most basic courtesies to his invited guest. In spite of what others might have thought, the woman openly displayed devotion to Jesus by anointing His feet with fragrant oil.
The Pharisee believed He had little to be forgiven for; thus, he failed to show any measure of love in return. The woman knew she had much to be forgiven for; thus, she demonstrated lavish love.
This woman’s response should be seen as normative. Our love for the Lord is not an attempt to win His favor. It is a response to having been granted the favor of His forgiveness. How much do your actions show your gratitude and love for the forgiveness you have received from the Lord?
Jesus’ reaction between the two (the woman and the Pharisee) is strikingly different, and this marks His entire three-year ministry leading to the cross. As Dr. John MacArthur notes in a chapter titled, “When It’s Wrong to be ‘Nice’,” in “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore” (Thomas Nelson, 2008, pp. 1-2, hardcover edition):
Jesus’ way of dealing with sinners was normally marked by such extreme tenderness that he earned a derisive moniker from His critics: Friend of Sinners (Matthew 11:19). When He encountered even the grossest of moral lepers (ranging from a woman living in adultery in John 4:7-29 to a man infested with a whole legion of demons in Luke 8:27-39), Jesus always ministered to them with remarkable benevolence–without delivering any scolding lectures or sharp rebukes. Invariably, when such people came to Him, they were already broken, humbled, and fed up with the life of sin. He eagerly granted such people forgiveness, healing and full fellowship with Him on the basis of their faith alone (cf. Luke 7:50; 17:19).
The one class of sinners Jesus consistently dealt with sternly were the professional hypocrites, religious phonies, false teachers, and the self-righteous peddlers of plastic piety–the scribes, lawyers, Sadducees, and Pharisees. These were the religious leaders in Israel–spiritual “rulers” (to use a term Scripture often applied to them). They were the despotic gatekeepers of religious tradition. They cared more for custom and convention than they did for the truth. Almost every time they appear in the gospel accounts, they are concerned mainly with keeping up with appearances and holding on to their power. Any thought they might have had for authentic godliness always took a backseat to more academic, pragmatic, or self-serving matters. They were the quintessential hypocrites.
Sinners invariably know that they are sinners; the self-righteous do not nor do they acknowledge their sin. As the apostle Paul, a former Pharisee redeemed by Jesus Christ, stated in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” And as Jesus stated in Mark 2:17, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
One of the real tragedies that has occurred in the past several decades is that we all have been lead to believe that we are basically good folks at the core of our being. However, Jeremiah 17:9 states: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it?” Also, Romans 3:10-12 makes it adamantly clear that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And Isaiah 53:6 states: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” How often do any of us compare ourselves to sheep?
Unfortunately, Pop-psychology (which started back in the 1960’s as the “human potential movement”) has produced a plethora of books, CD’s, and other media products and a stream of “motivational speakers” constantly telling us how great we are and how we can be even better–and that “feel good” self-love philosophy has infiltrated the church. In fact, we now feel so great that we even pat ourselves on the back. For example, look at how we brag about ourselves on social media. Psychobabble is so commonplace that we don’t even recognize it for what it is anymore–babble. We are just too wonderful for words (and pride is at the core). If we want to know how much we truly show authentic love, how do we treat others especially those who are different from us or that we disagree with?
There is a healthy self-love that we mostly miss and it is stated in Mark 12:30-31 when Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
We hear so much about “self-love” nowadays that we have totally forgotten that healthy self-love is not about us. It’s about others . . . as in “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” code of “non-ethics” has permeated our Christian environments and saturated the way we deal with each other. We are often looking for a “return” benefit for the “good turn” we do for others, and folks, Jesus never said to do that–in fact, He said the very opposite. And while we are on the subject, whoever talks about sin anymore, and repentance? Those are still ongoing issues as clearly stated in 1 John 1:9 which was written to Christians as an ongoing instruction–“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” In fact, let’s read that verse in context (1 John 1:5-10):
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Could it be any more clear, folks? We are not so wonderful that we don’t even need Jesus anymore except when we want something from Him or we’re in trouble. Quoting from John MacArthur’s book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore,” pp. 63-64 (hardcover edition):
Let’s face it: the idea that the entire human race is fallen and condemned is simply too harsh for most people’s tastes. They would rather believe that most people are fundamentally good. Virtually every popular arbiter of our culture’s highest, noblest values–from Oprah Winfrey to the Hallmark Channel–tells us so constantly. All we need to do, they say, is cultivate our underlying goodness, and we can fix everything wrong with human society. That’s not terribly different from what the Pharisees believed about themselves.
But Scripture says otherwise. We are hopelessly corrupted by sin. All who do not have Christ as Lord and Savior are in bondage to evil, condemned by a just God, and bound for hell. Jesus not only strongly implied those very things in his opening words to Nicodemus [see John 3]; before He had finished fully explaining the gospel that evening, He made His meaning explicit: “He who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18).
Did you catch what he is saying? If we think we are basically good and that we can fix anything including ourselves in our own power we are just like the Pharisees.
Just . . . like . . . the . . . Pharisees . . . .
If that statement doesn’t stop us in our tracks, nothing will. The measure of love is not about self and our own “goodness” and it never will be. If we can’t get beyond ourselves and what we want all the time we will totally miss Jesus here on earth and in eternity. And it just doesn’t matter how many times we have gone to church or how many “Christian” activities we’ve taken part in or how much money we’ve given over the course of our lifetimes. It’s not about what we do (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
It’s a heart issue, and if we don’t get that right . . .
Nothing else matters . . . .
YouTube Video: “You Are There” by Salvador (from their 2004 CD, “So Natural”):
Okay, okay, this isn’t “A Silicon Valley Story” but it is “the new, new thing.” And, I’m pretty sure my niche is definitely here on this blog site. I know I mentioned in my last post that I had started a new blog site and I called it “a new thing”; however, after writing two blog posts on it, it really isn’t turning out to be much different from this one. And while I won’t trash that site yet, I can hear the wrecking ball in the distance . . . 😉 Some things just need to be trashed. (UPDATE: I completely trashed it on June 8th and I just replaced that blog post mentioned above with one of the posts I wrote on my new blog site that no longer exists.)
May 2013 has been an interesting month for me. I think I’m glad it’s over, too (along with another birthday on May 31st). Besides the never-ending frustration of being unemployed for a zillion years now (okay, maybe not that long, but it sure feels like it), I was hoping that by starting the new website that I could sort of “showcase” my writing skills to potential employers with the hope of possibly landing a writing gig. (You do know that I want to be a writer when I grow up, right?) And, most employers (except for Christian employers and that’s still a “maybe”) probably aren’t interested in reading what I write on this blog.
Well, after encountering a bunch of hacker issues on that particular blog site (no point in going into the details) and writing two blog posts that were not significantly different in topic then what I write on this blog (well, they may have been a bit more “edgy” then what I write on this one–after all, I’m pretty sick of being unemployed and going nowhere fast or slow or at any speed, really), I decided that it was best to leave the month of May in the past, and start fresh again in June.
I am in definite need of inspiration and I’m not getting it by what I’ve been doing lately. So, I’ve been thinking about taking a road trip to the most inspiring place I can think of right now–Washington DC. It’s about the same distance as my trip to Houston, but Houston wasn’t too inspiring (after all, I lost my job there over four years ago now). It’s been years and years since I’ve been in Washington DC. In fact, if I remember right, the last time was when I attended a national conference (NASPA) held there when I was a grad student at Iowa State University.
My first stop would be at the Lincoln Memorial. I can’t think of a more inspiring place to start my tour. If it was possible (and it’s not, I know . . .) I’d like to crawl up on Lincoln’s lap and ask him for some advice. He had a pretty tough life and, of course, he was assassinated at the end, but slavery was abolished under his tutelage. And that is a very big deal. A VERY big deal. Slavery was one of the worst blights ever to appear on the American landscape.
And my next stop would be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where so many, many soldiers of my generation died at way too young of an age in a war that divided our nation and brought scorn to those who did returned. Another blight for which the creation of “The Wall” has provided much healing especially for those who served in Vietnam. And, of course, there’s the Washington Monument, dedicated to our first president, George Washington. And, a tour of the White House would be nice, but due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration tours have been cancelled.
There is much to see and I’m sure I’d plan to pack in as many sites as I can during the few days I’m there; but mostly, I want to go there because it is the greatest place of inspiration and dedication to America and what America stands for in our nation. And I’m in need of inspiration . . . (a job would be nice, too).
I’ve been alive long enough now (61 years) to have seen a deterioration of America over the past few decades. It started when we threw God out of the public schools and the public arena; drugs became highly fashionable with the invasion of the hippie revolution, as did a major decline in morality on a large scale; and there was the whole women’s lib movement as well as the civil rights movement that brought two significant issues to a head that certainly needed to be addressed, and there was also the “God is dead” movement followed by the “Jesus freaks.”
The disco era bought in shallowness as a mainstream lifestyle and the 80’s brought in the “Me generation” with all of it’s excesses in greed and materialism (on a mass scale), and somewhere along the line making money became our god and God was put on a shelf. Even our churches started catering to the culture to draw and keep crowds, and the birth of mega-churches produced “the 20-minute sermon” to go along with our fast food and fast paced society. Our lives became a long, never-ending “to do” list of things and events and how to make more money. Spiritual maturity ended right after the “get saved” prayer and the Bible was relegate to a shelf on the bookcase except when it was dusted off to take to church on Sunday morning (if we even took it or if we even attended).
Then there was the Wall Street crash right after the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date–9/11. And we started a “war on terror” overseas and here at home. Over the next few years there was a housing boom that was really built on nothing more than a “house of cards” waiting to fall. What looked like a real boom for several years wasn’t . . . and it fell with the second Wall Street crash of September 29, 2008, the greatest crash of all that sent shock waves around the world and the world economy reeling.
Of course, the unemployment rate started to skyrocket in 2008 when the “house of cards” started falling and the recovery ever since has been very slow and in many cases, nonexistent (for those like myself who are still unemployed). We live in troubling times.
Times, of course, have always been troubled . . . ebbing and flowing with whatever is going on in the world and our own culture at the time (the two are intrinsically intertwined). And we threw God out of the public arena in the 60’s–fifty years ago now. The very principles this nation was founded on no longer seemed to matter to anyone (at best, we’re admonished to “keep it quiet”). Now when the tough times hit, there is nothing to fall back on. We have a whole generation (primarily people under 40) who have been raised with little or no “religious” values of any kind or if they have been raised with them, they are shallow at best and never meant to be an “anchor” for their lives. Faith in self is their motto (or maybe faith in technology).
Let’s look at how Americans responded after 9/11. For a few months after it happened people flooded into churches all over the nation and God was mentioned everywhere, but in very short order life went back to “normal” and God was put back on the shelf and faith in ourselves was back full force. But what will happen if something worse happens in the future (after all, terrorism hasn’t disappeared)? If people haven’t put their faith in anything other than themselves and/or their own financial resources, what will happen when it all collapses? Where will they turn?
I feel fortunate to have been raised in an era when Christianity was still very much a part of the fabric of America. It’s not that everyone in my generation (the Baby Boomers) adhered to it–in fact, many didn’t–but it was still there and widely available. Discipleship was taken seriously after conversion and we knew there was a “growing” process to a new life in Jesus Christ. The focus was on Him and learning how He expected His followers to live, and not on all of the focus on “us” that started happening in the 80’s (or possibly earlier) in mainstream Christianity. We can’t ever get to know Jesus Christ if what we are looking for most of the time is what He can or will give to or do for us and/or if we were brought up to believe that our sin doesn’t matter or that sin is irrelevant (just look at how the whole topic of sin has died out in the past few decades).
These past four plus years of unemployment have been some of the hardest years of my life, and I know that if I didn’t have my faith in Jesus Christ along with the Biblical knowledge of how to live my life (not perfectly, mind you, but knowing the direction it should be taking), and without having a relationship with Him that is “two-way” and not just “my-way,” I don’t think I would have survived for this long. My faith in Jesus Christ (and not faith in myself) is the anchor that holds my life together, and while many folks in our society today ridicule such beliefs I find it amazing that they ridicule something they don’t even understand, nor do they even try to understand. They just mock. But what will happen if/when the bottom falls out of their lives? The Wall Street crashes have proved that any monetary support that people have built up over the years to support themselves could be wiped out in an instant and that happened to millions during the Great Depression. Faith in self and/or money is no faith at all.
Do you want to know the type of faith that conquers the world? It’s stated in I John 5:1-15:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
This life is not just about the “here and now” of how to keep ourselves going and trying to stay away from trouble as much as possible and/or trying to accumulate as much money as possible (circumstances have a way in interfering with that as we all know). It’s also about eternity, which lasts forever . . . forever . . . . I am amazed at how trite people take the concept of eternity, if they even allow themselves to think of it much at all. This life on earth isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to eternity.
Many of our early leaders in America like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were strong believers in Jesus Christ and they were not ashamed to lead with the clear knowledge and conviction that they were not in charge, and that God was (and is) ultimately in charge. And, this nation was founded on Biblical principles and with the eroding of those principles over the decades there has been an eroding in our culture. But just because our culture has eroded, that doesn’t mean we as individuals should allow our faith in Jesus Christ (if we are truly His followers) to erode into a shallow type of Christianity that looks and acts no different from the rest of the culture and will not stand when the tough times comes, and they will come as they always do.
So you may be asking if I really need to make a trip to Washington DC to be inspired? Maybe not. But I want to go and celebrate a nation that is still the greatest nation on the planet, and celebrate the lives of all of those leaders and soldiers and other folks, too, who have made it great. And where is our nation headed? I don’t know. I can’t even find a job let alone answer a question as big as that, but I am grateful for our past and where it has brought us and I look forward to being inspired by all of those folks from our past while I’m there.
So, let me ask this question . . . what or who are you putting your faith in? If it’s anything (self, money, etc.) or anyone other then Jesus Christ, your faith will not hold, and you’ll cave in at the first sign of trouble. Don’t cave in. And if you don’t know Him, get to know Him now.
You’ll never regret it, no matter what circumstances come your way . . . .
YouTube Video: Here is Salvador singing that great Steve Winwood song, “Higher Love” (1986):
Many of the long-term unemployed in our country are in a prison–a financial prison–and while there are no visible bars for others to see, the prison cell is every bit as real and as confining. I know as I’ve been there for over three years now. Yet, I’ve seen how God has provided for me. And I’ve experienced over and over again the power of praise when the frustration of my circumstances feels overwhelming and never-ending.
Praise pulls us out of the pit of despair and turns our focus back on God, who alone knows why the answer hasn’t come yet. It’s hard to see beyond our own immediate circumstances, but God sees the whole picture and all that it encompasses including all of the other lives it affects that we know nothing about. Adversity is a chance to praise God for what He is doing in our lives through the adversity and in the lives of others we come into contact with (e.g., in Paul’s case, the Philippian jailer).
Praise is powerful in taking our focus off of ourselves and our immediate situation and quieting the desperation we feel especially when it feels like our trial will never end. It puts hope back in our hearts knowing that God is quite capable of changing everything in a moment–but it has to be His moment and His timing. As Christians, no matter how dark our circumstances or how long lasting the trial may be, we are instructed to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:16-18). So let’s praise Him for who He is, and leave our circumstances in His hands even though I personally know how incredibly hard it is to do that when it has gone on for so very, very, very long. He is our faithful God. I say this to myself as much as I say it to you as after over three years of unemployment I need to be reminded to do that, too, on a daily basis.
So let’s praise Him–every single day–and not just on Sunday or only in song but also in our actions and attitudes towards Him and towards others and from the very core of our being. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
Photo credit here
Being in prison for something you did not do is not an ideal situation, but Paul found a way to make it a place of praise. Most people would have been questioning why they were there, wondering if living for Christ was really the right decision. Who would want this type of abuse?
However, Paul understood the power that rested within the God he served. He knew that despite the gravity of his circumstances, God could change everything in a moment. So instead of waiting until after God delivered him to sing praises, Paul took the first step. He and Silas began crooning praises to God. Then the foundations of the prison shook.
Praise is powerful because it removes our focus from the circumstances and turns us toward God. Instead of seeing a desperate situation, we see an opportunity for God to reveal His glory to everyone involved. And in…
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