Archive for March, 2016

Characteristics of Love 2

March 30, 2016

“If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost.  You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.”  I Corinthians 13:

What a beautiful description of love that surpasses human understanding!

Imagine for a moment loving someone who is really difficult to love.  What if my sister were a drug addict, and had caused the family much grief and loss over a long period of time?  Imagine what it would mean to be loyal to her no matter the cost.  It would mean never breaking relationship with her.  It would mean standing beside her even when it puts me behind the defendant’s table in court, on the opposite side of the window in jail, on the losing side of almost every imaginable situation.  If I always stayed loyal, I would stay and not leave.  The world often advises getting out of the situation–leaving for your own good.  Love will stay.

If I always believe in her, I will trust even when my gut tells me not to.  It doesn’t mean to put myself in danger such as allowing her access to my money, my car or my personal information.  But it means I will believe the best about her, and not jump to conclusions that she will in every circumstance revert back to her past.  It means I will to believe she will always do her best, and I begin that believing again and again even when she falls.  People tend to live up to what is expected of them.  I will let her know I believe she can be well and healed and whole today, and I’m expecting that.

Standing my ground defending her means I will risk being made a fool of again and again by continually voicing my belief in her.  In the end, I know there are no alcoholics or addicts in heaven for God has healed them.  I look to God to do that, and when I look at my sister that is who I see–someone who is whole, and healed.  Not an addict.

Do I always live up to these things?  I’m sorry to say I do  not.  I’m not whole and healed myself yet, and I get tired and wrung out sometimes.  There are episodes of failure on her part when I feel I have no patience left–absolutely no reserves.  That is when I have to lean on God and act as though I do have all I need.  For in God I do.

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Characteristics of Love

March 30, 2016

“Love does not demand its own way.”  I Corinthians 13:5

In the classic description of love:  I Corinthians 13, from verse 5, comes this rather stinging rebuke of our modern culture.  Everything from the popular song “I Did It My Way”  to the Burger King ad “Have It Your Way”, tells us that we are entitled to have things the way we want them–always, all the time, and we should expect that.  Anything less than our own way is not to be acceptable.  Something is wrong–with the government, the company, the product, the service–whatever it is, something that doesn’t go our way is wrong.  And this cultural message is everywhere, and not even very subtle.

Anyone who has been married knows it isn’t always possible for two people to each have things their own way and remain together.  Perhaps this is the number one reason why there is so much divorce and so many relationship breakups.  If one party is offered an attractive position in another state and the other party doesn’t want to leave–do they break up so each can have their own way?  What about lots of things, like which house to live in, which cars to drive, what kind of decor, landscaping, food, friends, entertainment, pastimes, and so on, on and on.  If each is always demanding their own way, unwilling to compromise, what happens?

Love would value the relationship above the other desires.  Loving someone means seeking the happiness of another–shall I dare say it?  –seeking the happiness of another above one’s own desires, preferences, and convenience.   When courting one usually does that, as one wants to win the prize of the other’s permanent commitment.  After the commitment is made, each tends to revert back to the old preferences, claiming they want it their way.  People go back to thinking of “Me” rather than “Us”.

Love thinks “Us” first, then “You” and lastly “Me”.  Thinking “us” leads to compromises where both parties win, not 100% of what they want in every case, but a lot of it.  If each gets a large part of their needs and desires met, they theoretically  can be happy that “we” (the relationship) is happy.  Secondly, thinking “you” means sometimes giving up something or sacrificing something for the other, because the other, and the relationship is so valuable.  It is worth it to give up lesser things for the well being and happiness of the other.  One thinks of spouses who care for their ill partner, or put the partner through school.  In each case one carries the far heavier burden, but does it for the other and for the relationship.

The definition of love is meeting the needs of another, and considering their needs as important as one’s own.  Love in any situation, love of spouse, family, children, or neighbor is totally unselfish.  It considers the legitimate needs of another as equally important to one’s own needs.  It is truly “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  And in those situations where the needs of another take precedence over one’s own needs, it’s helpful to remember another teaching of Jesus:  “Whatever you have done for one of these the least of my brethren, you have done for me.”

Temptation 2

March 28, 2016

While it is always best to run immediately from temptation, there are those rare circumstances when you can’t run.  Consider the Christians in orange jumpsuits, being held by ISIS with knives at their throats.  Their temptation was to renounce their faith to save their lives.  I truly believe an exceptional circumstance prompts exceptional grace from our God.  I have read, and believe it to be true, that those Christian men saw Christ and were crying out to Jesus while being killed.  I believe it to be true, because the account of Stephen’s stoning  in Acts 7 describes his seeing Christ in the air as he was being struck with the stones.  I believe the exceptional grace is that Christ reveals himself and takes his loved ones to his side quickly lest they suffer.

Temptation

March 28, 2016

But remember this–the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different.  Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you.  And no temptation is irresistible.  You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says.  He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it.    I Corinthians 10:13

 

After reading this, there just isn’t a whole lot I can say.   I think sometimes our problem isn’t that the temptation is so strong, but our own reluctance to walk away from it.  We stand there and consider it too long.  We are entertained by its possibilities.  We need to walk, no, run away from it.

Should a Christian drink alcohol?

March 22, 2016

While there are prohibitions throughout scripture against drinking too much wine, it is never prohibited outright. There are religious groups who do not drink alcohol, indeed they pledge not to drink alcohol. That is because they feel alcohol is such a problem in today’s world, they don’t want to be the cause of someone else falling into sin with alcohol. They believe that though they are free to drink, it would not be pleasing to God in their situation. I think it is somewhat similar to the situation in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians chapters 8-10) that Paul wrote about involving eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Strong Christians who knew idols were nothing believed they had the freedom to eat any meat and not worry about whether it had been in an idol temple. But other Christians believed it would be a sin to eat meat that came from an idol temple. Paul said for a person who believes it to be a sin, if they eat it anyway, for them it is a sin. He also taught those who believed it was not a sin, to be careful of the consciences of others, and not to trip someone else up. We are not to act in doubt, for anything we do apart from what we know to be right is sin. So if someone is in doubt about drinking, and our doing it pressures him to do it because of us, we have put him into a situation where he might fall. Love for others doesn’t do that.

The Miracle at the Wedding

March 20, 2016

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus mother was there and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why do you involve me?”  Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the maser of the banquet.”  They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.  He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

John 2:1-10

Why would Jesus call his mother “Woman”?  Why not call her “Mum” or “Mother”?  and why, if he said “My time has not yet come”, would he go ahead and perform a miracle?

Use of the term “woman” has to do with the translation. English has too few words sometimes. The word translated as “woman” was not a term of disrespect in Aramaic. It would be better translated “My dear lady”, or “Dear Madame”. In my own use of English, children are taught to say “Yes Ma’am” as a term of respect to their mothers, grandmothers, and all adult women. What is translated “Woman” is likely similar. Jesus used the same term when addressing other women for whom he performed miracles, and again for his mother when He addressed her from the cross.

What Jesus meant by “my time is not yet come”, is puzzling to many commentators. It probably does not mean he changed God the Father’s timing to suit the human needs of the situation. It may mean (1) He was reminding his mother that God’s timing is not our timing, and he would always move in God’s timing, or (2) the wine was almost gone, and he desired to wait awhile until the wine was completely gone, so there could be no doubt about his miraculous provision. In any case, he cared very much about the deep social embarrassment the family would suffer if the wine ran out. While some might think Jesus was only concerned about more serious things, he also cared about the hunger of crowds in the wilderness when he provided bread and fish for them.   A third possibility was God the Father indicated to him it was indeed time to begin his public ministry of miracles, showing us that the Father cares about our earthly needs, however seemingly small in the great scheme of things.

Politics

March 13, 2016

Too many Americans are treating their fellow Americans like enemies.  I see this as very dangerous and I fear what could come of it.  People can have opposite perspectives, yet refuse to be enemies.  Painting everyone who disagrees a hater, or worse yet, acting hateful is poisoning the atmosphere we all have to breathe.  I don’t hate anyone, but I sure hate what the political process has become.

A Parable

March 11, 2016

Once there was a little baby found abandoned on the street of a third world country.  The king of a very wealthy country was vacationing there, and learned of this baby.  It was ill, malnourished, full of open sores, and nothing about it was pleasant to see.  But the wealthy king felt compassion for it and took it home with him.  As time went on, the king saw to its upbringing.  He got it the best medical care, the best food, the best of tutors and gave it his personal time and attention.  In fact, it became something of his pride and joy as he personally saw to its care and education.  As the child grew, the king began to spend time with it, playing with it, and looking for ways to bring it pleasure and delight.  As it became more mature, he spent long hours talking with it, teaching it his own thoughts and helping it learn to reason and choose.  Nearing adulthood, the king revealed that he was grooming his child for an inheritance in the kingdom, and revealed the love of his heart for this child.  He had high hopes for it, and often spoke to the child about the child’s own wishes and dreams.  And then one morning the child was gone.  The note said the child wanted to seek his own way.  The king heard from his child occasionally, and usually when the child wanted to ask a favor.  And as time went on, even those contacts became farther apart.  The king was brokenhearted.

 

Was the child ungrateful?  Did it fail to return the love of its adopted father the king?  Was it lacking in character?  Whatever the reason, it was estranged from its father.  And this, is the condition and situation of every human being in relation to its Father the King of Heaven and Earth.  Will we, individual children that we are, seek a return and a reconciliation with him?

God Put it There

March 11, 2016

“There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.”  Romans 13:1

Some people are very worried about what will happen to the country if Trump is president.  Some people are just as worried about what will happen to our national security of Hillary Clinton is in power.  Some people would feel less worried if their favorite candidate became president, but is any of the worry or lack of worry valid?

God is the one who puts some into leadership, and takes it from others.  All who serve in leadership, serve at God’s pleasure.  God could take any leader home in a day, and we saw that happen in our history i.e., Lincoln, Kennedy and others.  Instead, it seems God uses leaders to his own purposes.  He doesn’t need their cooperation at all.  He uses them, influences them, and has them act in ways that fulfill the greater plan he has for individual nations and the world.  We may not know what some of those scenarios were until the end of time, but we can be sure God won’t allow any leader to overshadow His leadership or interfere with His purposes.  Nothing catches God by surprise, no leader thwarts God, and while leaders may rebel, they will never succeed in overturning what God has established.

Peace

March 9, 2016

Don’t quarrel with anyone.  Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.  Romans 12

How is it possible to get along in this world without a quarrel?  What causes quarrels anyway?  Either someone insists on things being done their way, which is a quarrel about doing, or the quarrel is about being right, which is a quarrel about believing.  Both come about because both parties are putting themselves before another.

Whenever possible, a loving, humble person lets the other fully state their position, giving them the respect of being heard.  It is helpful to reflect what you believe the other person is saying.  It is also helpful to reflect the feelings being expressed.  When you have done this, you have opened a door of respect to let yourself be heard.  When the disagreement is about doing, often a compromise can be worked out–often coming to a better solution together than if one person simply gave in.  When the disagreement is about belief, hearing another person first should open the door to letting the second person state their beliefs in turn.  If that isn’t about to happen, nothing is to be gained by quarreling.  The second person can simply say  “Lets agree to disagree”, or something like that.  People who cannot listen to another’s beliefs, cannot listen to reason.  If someone didn’t reason their way into their own position, they will never be reasoned out of it, or even be able to acknowledge your right to another point of view.