Tag Archives: Love

The Four Greatest Words

I was spending a week in a cottage of one of our congregation members. They had offered to let me stay there as I wrote and developed a discipline/discipleship Bible study.  The combination of seclusion and the beauty of the surrounding nature was the inspiration I needed to keep at the task. I still find it hard to believe all I accomplished during that week.

Yet I also longed to be home because I missed my wife and three young boys. Since Facetime and Skype were still years from being developed my only contact with them was via phone – for which I had to pay long distance charges!

So I highly valued the few phone conversations, which were largely with my wife. But one time she said one of our sons wanted to speak to me. She gave him the phone. Across the miles, beyond the separation, even when we he couldn’t see me he said, “Daddy, I love you.” Then he gave the phone back. Wow! My heart melted and the tears rolled gently down my cheeks. It took all my energy and focus to remain at my task and not immediately head back home to give him a hug.

Those are, I believe, the four greatest words we can hear: “(your name) I love you.” No matter who we hear them from, they stir our hearts and lift our spirits. I have a hunch you know what I mean. That moment in time reminded me of how important it is to say them to those we love.

Yet it also brought another thought to mind. God likes to hear those four words from us as well. I’m certain Jesus had this in mind when he taught his disciples – and us – how to pray. “Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9) The word Jesus used was Abba, a term of love and intimacy; it was “Daddy’ rather than ‘Father’ or even ‘Dad.’ All that Jesus prays for in this prayer flows from a loving, trusting son to His loving, faithful Daddy. And Jesus said this is how we are to pray. In other words, let God, our Father, our Daddy, know we love Him. Imagine what it means to Him to hear those words – especially in those times when we may feel distant from Him.

How often do you tell Him? When was the last time you simply prayed “Daddy, I love you?” When was the last time you prayed “Daddy, I Love you” and said nothing else, made no requests – just let Him know you loved Him?  How often do you sing a love song to Him? John Fischer expressed beautifully when he wrote and sang (1):

“Love Him in the mornin’ when you see the sun a -ris-in,                     Love Him in the evenin’ ‘cause He took you thru the day.                     And in the in-be-tween time when you feel the pressure comin’,                  Remember that He loves you, and He promises to stay.”

Sound, sensible advice. Perhaps it’s time to follow it. Today how will you say/pray/sing “Daddy, I love you?” Go ahead – do it now. And tomorrow – and the next day. Do it often. After all, they are the four greatest words that will melt even the heart of God.

(1) “All Day Song”, John Fischer, © Lexicon Music, Inc. 1973

 

 

 

Running Loose in Church

It was a long time ago. But it seems like only yesterday as the memory makes it fresh. It could only happen in the life of a preacher. It was Sunday evening and I was, as usual, leading worship from the pulpit. Sitting near the back of the sanctuary were my wife and our 3 darling young boys. All was going well. Until…

The congregation had just finished singing the hymn before the sermon. I said my typical, “You may be seated” and everyone sat down. Well almost everyone…

As everyone else sat down the youngest of those 3 darling young boys dashed away from his horrified mother and darted up the center aisle straight up the platform steps to his thoroughly surprised father. As my wife wanted to crawl under the pew and hide I had a quick decision to make: what to do? All eyes were on me, and all those eyes were from faces with huge smiles. Some were even chuckling. So I picked our son up, said “Hi” to him, told him to say “Hi” to the congregation, and then told him – politely of course – to go back to his seat in the pew. (Thank heavens we had a wonderful congregation who thought it was all so cute and wonderful!)

Following the service the obvious question for us was “Why?” What possessed our son to do that? While he denied it at the time, our other, older son – years later – admitted he had sent his little brother scampering up the aisle. So, in reality, it was really an act of obedience.

The whole experience, therefore, now points me to ponder my obedience level. How quickly do I obey God? How often do I jump at His commands and directions? Do I dash away from what I’m doing and dart down the road in obedience? Or do I delay, pausing to ponder the pros and cons, or perhaps to bargain with God? I shudder to think how often I’ve hit the pause button and delayed my obedience. True – delayed obedience is better than no obedience, but instant obedience is the best and most blessed. As Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it…If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (Luke 11:28 & John 14:25)

How about you? Where has it been hard to obey? For what obedience are you currently hitting pause?  Realize I’m not thinking so much about God’s grand calls to serve as I am about simply obeying His lifestyle commands. For example:

  • Honor your father and your mother
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • Forgive as Christ has forgiven you
  • Get rid of selfishness, jealousy, anger
  • Show the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
  • Get rid of anger
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up
  • Be kind and compassionate
  • Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything … present your requests to God

Certainly there’s much more, but these should be enough to assist in answering the questions: Where has it been hard to obey? For what obedience are you currently hitting pause?  Are you ready to dash away from your pause and dart down the road to obedience? Dashing and darting truly is the way to live. It is, after all, an act of love which reaps great reward.

Do you want Jesus to be at home in and with you? Dash to obedience, even if it means running loose in church.

 

 

 

It’s Not My Law

I’m sure you’re familiar with the scenes.

  • Someone smokes where it is forbidden
  • While driving there is always that driver that just has to speed past everyone else
  • The driver treats the stop sign as a yield sign
  • A person cuts a few corners on their taxes
  • A witness commits perjury
  • A group of friends set off fireworks after posted hours
  • Parents let their underage teen host a party where alcohol is consumed

This one may not be familiar but it fits. From the Detroit News: “Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday she would not enforce a state abortion ban if federal protections are overturned…” (1)

While there are many more examples these, hopefully, raise the question of the day. Why do people feel it’s okay for them to break the law? Why do they feel they can say and act as if “It’s not my law?”

I believe the answer is quite simply “Pride.” To knowingly and willingly break the law is to say, in essence, “I’m special. This law doesn’t apply to me.” “I think it’s a stupid law – I know better so I can ignore it.” Pride puts us in a position of feeling superior, better than and different from others. Pride allows us to make laws and set boundaries as we see fit. After all, it’s not my law.

But make no mistake about it; we’ve all been similarly prideful and willingly broken laws at some point in time. And I believe it stems from our rebellious, sinful nature. We saw it with Adam and Eve when, because their pride placed them above God and rejected His law, they ate the forbidden fruit. The reality is every time we sin we are saying to God “It’s not my law.” The testimony of Scripture is clear.

First, there is law. God has firmly established His law within the world He created and “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure… Your statutes, Lord, stand firm…”  (Psalm 93:1&5) “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…” (Psalm 96:10) “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7-8) The truth is it’s not now and never is ‘my law.’ It’s God’s law.

Second, we all break God’s laws. (2) “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “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… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:9-12 & 23)

Third, there are consequences for breaking the law. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) A basic theme of the book of Judges is that when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, there is chaos in the land.

Fourth, the power to obey comes from loving Jesus. He proclaimed, “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.” (John 14:15-17)

Fifth, there is great reward in loving Jesus. Jesus said “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11)

Why this brief overview and summary of Scripture? Because the bottom line is that obeying God’s laws compels and enables us to better obey human laws and to live with joy. The better we understand it the better off we and our world will be; because, after all, “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…”

————–

No Smoking Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

(1)https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/04/16/nessel-id-never-enforce-michigan-abortion-ban/3487903002/

Gavel – Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

 

Ever Break a Heart?

Did you ever break someones’ heart? I have.

Growing up I was fortunate to experience and know that I was loved. My parents made sure of that. I never felt I needed to earn their love and was never concerned I’d lose their love. The older I grew the more I was aware of this great love. Mom and Dad worked hard to provide a good home. They did whatever they had to do to meet my true needs. They paid attention to me and supported my endeavors. I was valued. They always wanted and strove for what was best for me.

I felt this love so deeply that it influenced my behavior and choices. Certainly there were times I behaved poorly and made poor choices. Most often I felt badly after doing so. I began to recognize that this was not so much because of any punishment or chastisement Mom and Dad delivered – in fact sometimes they did not know of the poor behavior and poor choices and I still felt badly. So why did I feel so badly? I eventually came to understand it was because I had an inner sense that I had broken their hearts. Whenever I did or chose something that was not the best for me it was a rejection of their love. And rejected love hurts. And knowing how much Mom and Dad loved me I didn’t like hurting them. It was this understanding that began to influence my behavior and choices. I was not concerned with what they might do to me but what I might do to them.

At some point along my life’s journey an even deeper reality struck me – every time I sin and make poor choices I break the heart of

God. After all, He loves me so much that He sent His one and only Son to die in my place that I could have eternal life. (John 3:16) Out of love He sent Jesus so I could live forever and always in an intimate relationship with him. He does whatever He has to do to meet my true needs. He pays attention to me and supports my endeavors. I am valued. He always wants what’s best for me. I can only imagine the pain my sin and poor choices bring to His heart – how deeply He grieves when I reject His love. I still sin and still make some bad choices – but it’s usually when I fail to stop and remind my self of His great love for me. For with that reminder comes a deep desire to avoid breaking His heart.

Yes, I know that nothing – no thing – can ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. (Romans 8:31-19) I’m not worried about Him rejecting me. I am concerned about me rejecting Him and breaking His heart.

I just wonder how different life would be, how different society would be if we fully recognized the depth of God’s great love for us and behaved and made our choices in light of it. What difference would it make for you?

The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is my prayer for all who read these words: ”I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

 

 

A Christmas Letter

Human hand with pencil making notes in notepad

Dear children:
It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you’ve forgotten that I wasn’t actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.
How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth just, GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santa’s and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can & may remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching explaining who I am in relation to you & what each of our tasks were. If you have forgot that one, look up John 15: 1 – 8.
If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it.
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile it could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local Hotline: they talk with people like that every day.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas”. That doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary, especially one who takes My love & Good News to those who have never heard My name. You may already know someone like that.
9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals & whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them (and I suspect you don’t) buy some food & a few gifts & give them to the Marines, the Salvation Army or some other charity that believes in Me & they will make the delivery for you.
10. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.
P.S. Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me & do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above & get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember,

I LOVE YOU.

GOD