Thursday, April 29, 2010

Living vs. Doing

"There is a subtle but huge difference between Christianity viewed as something to do versus something to live.

- Todd Hunter in Giving Church Another Chance, page 45.
Living involves doing but one can do things for a variety of reasons (coercion, reward expectation, fear, hope), but one does not live something without embracing the concept and committing to the cause.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Coming one is Our Friend and Savior

"And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" - 1st Thessalonians 1:10 (KJV)
The belief in the return of God, or a Messiah, is as old as history. The Jews called it the day of the Lord and said it will be a dreadful time (Mal 4:5). Isaiah called it the day of desolation (Isa 10:3), a day of judgment, vengeance, and wrath.

An editor said he could reduce the Bible down to four (4) sentences:

He came.
He went.
He's coming back.
He won't be happy when he gets here!

Other religious groups also have beliefs in a coming person to bring judgment to the earth.

The New Testament doesn't dispute this, but it adds a wonderful detail - the one coming has a name, Jesus, who has delivered (note the past tense) us from the wrath (of God) to come.

The Bible says his return will cause distress to the nations (Revelation 6:16), but to those who are part of his secret society anyone can join, it will not be a distress but a joy! The one coming is not going to be our enemy, but our Savior and friend, who has already delivered us by his work on the cross!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More complicated than it has to be

" ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." - 1st Thessalonians 1:9b-10 (KJV)
We make being a believer much too complicated and here Paul reduces it to three verbs: Turn, Serve, and Wait - in that order.

Being a Christian is simply turning from idols (the things we value more than God), Serving the living and true God (not accomplishing great things for God, just simply serving Him), and waiting for Jesus to return.

Pretty simple.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Recognizing Jesus

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus." - John 21:3,4 (KJV)
Sometimes Jesus isn't recognized by even his closest friends. We see this several times in the bible. It happened to the disciples, to Mary, to Hikers on the road to Emmaus, and even Sampson's parents.

I think it continues to happen, today. We encounter Him and don't even realize it is him until after.

God sometimes brings a complete stranger to give us advice and, if we are open and willing to try, it was just the word we needed.

As with Mary in the garden tomb (John 20:15), filled with grief, thinking someone has taken away our faith, if we ask, God speaks our name and we realize He has been with us all along.

Like the Hikers on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24), we hear the Word of God preached and the bread broken (communion) and our hearts burn within us and we know we heard from God.

Sometimes our children make wrong choices in spite of our efforts and prayers and we are distressed like Sampson's parents (Judges 14:4), but discover later that God had a greater plan.

Jesus, help me to recognize you in the events of my life, trust you completely, and love you fully.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Get up off your duff! - Song 3:1-4

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not...I will rise now, and go...I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me." - Song 3:1-2a,4 (KJV)
Someone said "If wishes were dollars we would all be rich!" While our lady, here, stayed home in bed, wanting, nothing changed; it was when she decided to go out and find him that she had some results.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Good Church is Important - Song 1:6

" mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept." - Song 1:6b (KJV)
"Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon...?" Song 1:7a (KJV)
"If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents." - Song 1:8 (KJV)
Where do you go when you live in a hostile environment, you have personal failures, and you have lost your way? Where do you go when you want to know more about God but the Bible is a closed book, when you want to pray but you don't know how, when you come to the end of your rope and there's no knot there.

That's the question this woman asks, "Tell me", she says to her love, "Where do you (God) feed and make your flocks rest at noon (when it is the hottest)?

His answer - " the footsteps of the flock..." That would be God's people, His flock, a good, loving, bible believing church - there are those, still. "The Shepherds" would be godly pastors who really care about their people - there are those, too. Find a little church with a pastor who's ambition is to know his people and not make a name for himself, then hang around. Let them show you, at least initially, how following Jesus is done.

Sure there are hypocrites in the Church, but attend anyway, there's is always room for one more.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

These people know how to praise each other! - Song 1:5 - 2:7

The Song of Solomon is filled with over-the-top complements. These people are really into praising each other; it's even a little embarrassing.
"I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots", he says to her.
"A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me", she says to him
Later in the Song they start praising each other's teeth, noses, and necks - What's that all about?!

The devotional use of this is not, I don't think, in the individual items praised throughout the Song but in the fact they are lavishing upon each other expressions of adoration. They are not trying to complement each other for the other's sake, they are enjoying each other through praise. The praise completes and enhances the enjoyment.

We do this to Christ in our worship songs and hymns. Look at the lyrics of "Victory in Jesus"
O Victory in Jesus,
My savior for ever
He Sought me and Bought me
With His redeeming blood,
He loved me 'ere I knew him,
and all my love is due him!
He plunged me to Victory
Beneath the cleansing flood!
Our love in enhanced as we sing praises to and about Him - not about His teeth, nose, or neck but His victory, love, redeeming blood, Him seeking and buying us.

And, as in the Song of Solomon where it is not just the woman praising him, but him also praising her, the Bible says God sings over us!
"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." - Zephaniah 3:17

Friday, April 9, 2010

His Terms and Timing - Song 1:04

"Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee." - Song 1:4 (KJV)
Our attraction to Jesus is the response to Him drawing us to Himself.

The wind is invisible so how do we know when it's blowing? We feel it on our exposed skin. We don't make up the feeling, we recognize it. Likewise we don't just decide to go to God, He draws and we respond.

That "twinge" in our conscience to, initially, give our lives to Christ is Him calling us to Himself. That periodic desire to stop what we are doing, get alone and pray is, likewise, God calling us to Himself.

God's gift of "rest", or inner peace, is a limited time offer in that we must respond when He offers or miss out.
...he limiteth a certain day...Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." (Hebrews 4:7) (KJV)
Don't think you can respond tomorrow, when it's more convenient, if you feel His heart tug today! Go when He calls!

It's when we recognize this and go to Him when we feel that pull to prayer that it is the sweetest. Sure, we can ask to be called; that, too, is initiated by Him. Sometimes we are like Moses who went up to a Mountain and waited six days, alone, until God call him closer.

If we go, and sometimes even wait, the reward is great!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Praise Completes the Enjoyment - C.S.Lewis

"I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is the appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed."

- C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1958), 95. (emphysis is mine)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The "Aroma" of His Name (Song 1:03)

Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. - Song 1:3 (KJV)
Smell uniquely ties memory and feelings together in a way the other senses do not. Smell enhances our experience, evokes a reaction on a subconscious level, and brings back memories long forgotten.

Driving south of Houston, recently, the scent of humid salt air flooded me with childhood memories of camping on the beach with my dad. One scent and I was there, in my thoughts, on the beach eating crunchy hot dogs and swimming in the surf.

The Song of Solomon compares Jesus' name to the "savour (smell) of ...good ointments" and says his name is "as ointment poured forth". An ointment poured forth means the lid is off and it's sending out its smell, like what we did in college when we wanted guests - pop corn and open the doors!

To some the name of Jesus evokes repulsion, but to others there is a feeling of peace and attraction. It is not a mental thing, it is deeper than that. The pure in heart (symbolized, here, by the "virgins") love him.

The wonderful thing is that naturally dull and evil hearts can be changed; he paid for that with his life's blood and gives it upon request.

- fal

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kisses of His mouth - Song 1:02

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. - Song 1:2 (KJV)
I am finding hidden treasure using the Song of Solomon as a devotional aid, interpreting the imagery to understand the relationship between me and Jesus, my savior.

The initial hurdle, for a man, is the idea of kissing. We are not "kissing" Jesus.

But "kissing" is often applied in non-literal ways, even in our current culture. If I told you my back tire kissed the curb, yesterday, when I turned into my neighborhood, you would know exactly what I meant.

"Kiss", in this way, means a brief encounter which leaves a lasting impression and "Mouth", when applied to Christ, means the Word of God.

Devotionally, we interpret this passage to mean a desire/prayer for a God-given encounter with his word, the Bible, specifically applied in a way that leaves lasting results.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Song of Solomon, Devotionally

"The song of songs, which is Solomon's...thy love is better than wine." - Song of Solomon 1:1, 2b (KJV)
If what the Bible says in 2nd Timothy 3:16 is true, that "all scripture is inspired by God... and profitable..." then the Song of Solomon is included.

Armed with that I decided to try using it devotionally and found it wonderful - but there are a few hurdles to overcome.

First, there is no denying the sexual overtones but, taking the Song as a metaphor, there is something to learn.

There is a certain excitement stirred between two attracted "lovers" which is more than physical. There is an interest, a freshness, a desire for more, which captures the attention and can't be explained by reason. Disinterested parties sometimes comment, "What does she see in him!?".

It is the subject of classic movies like the "Beauty and the Beast"; something "clicks" between two people and the adventure begins.

Likewise, there is an non-physical something that "clicks" between the saved and their Savior and an adventure begins. There is an excitement stirred when one really catches a true glimpse of what God offers, individually and collectively, in Jesus Christ. The attention is captured, the interest peaked, and a breath of freshness occurs with God which others just don't comprehend.

The marvelous thing about that is its availability for all who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savour and His love is better than any joy inducing elixir mankind can devise.

- Fritz

Friday, April 2, 2010

Purpose for "lost" causes

"For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always." - Mark 14:7 (KJV)
I hate lost causes; my natural tendency is to shy away from them. If the poor will always be with us then why try to alleviate poverty. This spills over to other seeming lost causes - If the certain handicapped have no hope of living a close to "normal" life, why help; If the terminally ill are going to die anyway why try to prolong their lives?

But Jesus commanded his followers to give to the poor. He calls some families to receive and love the seriously handicapped and to comfort and prolong the life of the terminally ill.

Why? The answer lies in the often ignored second part of our verse.

Have you ever asked God for an opportunity to express your love for Him? Well, there it is whenever you want, right now if you are so inclined. We help the poor, care for the hopelessly handicapped and comfort the terminally ill as an expression of His love and for a different reward than seeing them "succeed" the way we define success.

- Fritz

Thursday, April 1, 2010

We all want a reward, let's admit it!

The idea true Christians are to act from purely (1)altruistic motives is popular but NOT Biblical and not realistic, either!

God doesn't expect it of us. Jesus tells us "why" we are to rejoice when persecuted, give a cup of cold water to the needy, fast and pray in secret, and even love our enemies:
"For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?" - Matthew 5:46 (KJV)
The Sermon on the Mount mentions "reward" no less than nine (9) times - check it out. And compare that with the Bible's definition of real faith:
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" - Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)
Many believe in God (even the devil believes) they just don't think diligently seeking God will give them what they want right now.

The desire for a reward is God-Given! It keeps us seeking, pushing, longing, looking until we find something that satisfies. It's the itch that only God can scratch, and He's not afraid to match his "rewards" with anyone.

He's the giver of "living" water, the maker of better "wine", the ladder that connects heaven and earth (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12) and His is the adventure that never grows old.

We all want a reward, I'll admit that and go for it!

- Fritz

1. altruistic - the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others