This Old House

We invested time, money, and sweat equity there. It represented memories, a chapter in our lives, and all the ups and downs that go with that chapter.

Billie Sue and I both get a melancholy feeling when we go back from time to time to make sure its clean for the realtor to show it to prospective buyers. It represents sixteen years of our lives.

We sometimes reflect on leaving our house in Benton to move to our current house in the Village. But our three-year-old grandkids, Molly, Maggie, and Asher, punched us with perspective!

Guess how many times they mentioned missing the old house they used to visit? Guess how many times they said they wished they could go back there?

Zero!

They haven’t missed it at all! They came at Christmas and this past weekend and they just wanted Gram and PawPa’s lap. They wanted to play with Gram and PawPa. They wanted to go fishing with PawPa. They wanted to go for walks with US!

It didn’t matter what house we were in. They wanted to be with US. What a joy that brings to a grandma’ and grandpa’s heart to have their warm bodies close and happy to be with US, not a house.

The number one, most mentioned, topic in the Bible shows up thousands of times. The New Testament uses three Greek words translated by this one English word.

  • Eros refers to marital or sexual passion. We get our English word erotic from it.
  • Phileo refers to friendship or family cohesion. The name Philadelphia finds its root here.
  • Agape refers to an ultimate, sacrificial commitment.

It is this third word, agape, John uses here for love:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 ESV

As a grandparent I would be broken-hearted if my grands wanted our old house more than they wanted our laps! Maybe that’s an inkling of what God is trying to say to us in this verse.

Do you think God is broken-hearted when we love this world instead of loving Him? It is not about where we are but Who we are with!

Our Father, forgive us for loving this old world instead of loving You. We have broken Your heart when we have loved this old house instead of loving your lap. We commit  today to loving Your Presence instead loving this world and its stuff.

Why I Looked Down the Hallway

He took long, strong strides when he walked. He usually walked with a fast pace too. It was difficult, especially as a child, to keep up with him. As a boy looking up to him, I often wanted to literally walk in his same footprints. I would almost have to leap from one to the next.

He was the butcher at the grocery store he co-owned with his brother. He told me one day I was going to work in the meat market with him on Saturday mornings. The store opened at 7:00 a.m. and lunch was at 11:30 a.m. It was a long four and half hours for a kid!

Although I disliked the thought that most of my school mates were sleeping in on Saturday morning, I took a pride in working with my Dad.

I was a deep sleeper. It was very difficult for me to wake up in the mornings back then. But he would turn the light on in my bedroom at 6:00 a.m. and say, “Get up!”

By the time I rolled out of bed, rubbed some sand out of my eyes, and got my feet on the floor, he was fully dressed and sitting at the dining table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper while my mom cooked breakfast. Yes, she got up every morning and cooked breakfast!

I would stick my head out my bedroom door, look down the hall at him sitting there. I wanted see what color shirt he had on.

That’s right, if he had on a blue shirt, I went to my closet and picked out a blue shirt too!

The apostle John says of Jesus with whom he literally walked and followed:

But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:5-6 ESV

The key to walking like Jesus is not to leap from one footprint to the next. Although there is likely a spiritual application in that. The key is to love Him so much you want to.

Each morning look down the hallway of Scripture and see what He’s doing. Now love Him enough to go do that too.

Our Father, thank-you for the view of Yourself through Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We commit today to walk as He walked, live as He lived, react as He reacted, love as He loved. 

Kicking and Screaming

I heard someone say once, “The opposite of love is not hate. It is apathy. In order to hate, you at least have to care enough to hate them. Apathy means you don’t care enough to love them or hate them.”

There’s a truth in there somewhere, but I’m still pondering that one.

I have also heard this, “Withholding forgiveness and holding on to bitterness is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

Now I get that one. That makes sense! Holding on to anger, hatred, spite, and a desire for revenge indeed poisons one’s own soul and often the other person does not even know you feel that way.

So today’s verse got me thinking about love and hate.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 ESV

One of the closest followers of Jesus and in His inner circle of three, John, said it is incongruent, it is contradictory, it flat doesn’t make sense to SAY you love the invisible God yet hate your fellow human being who is standing right in front of you!

Is he saying we only have to love our “brother?” That is, we only have to love fellow Christians? Do we have permission to hate others? Well, we don’t get off the hook there either. Jesus said:

But I say, love enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! If you love only those who love you, what reward is there in that? Matthew 5:44, 46 NLT

We tend to go along with all this “love stuff” kicking and screaming! Our natural man doesn’t like it! But there is a new man living in us that is to overcome the old, natural man in us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Ugh! Ok, so how do I love my brother or my enemy? We feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and go to those in prison. Matthew 25:25-26

Our Father, thank-you for loving us while we were sinners against you. Forgive our hatred and apathy. We commit to love others in tangible ways to show how much we love you.

My First Time

Behind ole Doc Jones’ office building it happened for the first time.  I don’t know how old I was, but I was a bicycle-riding kid old enough for my parents to give me permission to go to a movie that night with two friends.

The two brothers, one and two years older than me, introduced me to it. I would not have dreamed of doing this on my own. You know how peer pressure goes and how a kid looks up to those who are older.

I met them at their house. We began our walk to town to see the movie. On the way they suggested we not go to the movie. Instead we hid behind Doc Jones’ office. They produced the contraband which they had smuggled out of their house.

They each took one and handed me one. I smoked my first cigarette. In one fell swoop, I succumbed to peer pressure, my words about going to a movie became a lie, and I indulged in something strictly forbidden in my family.

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT

The context of this verse is important, read chapter six. There you will find Paul’s warning not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This could apply to marriage, friendships, or business partners. These partnerships can throw us off track spiritually in a heartbeat!

Then the apostle Paul introduces us to “these promises” in last verses of chapter six.

I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Paul references Lev. 26:12, Ezek. 37:27, Isa. 52:11, Ezek. 20:34, and 2 Sam. 7:14.

I would not have smoked that cigarette if my Dad watched.  I would not have given in to peer pressure to break my word about going to a movie if my Dad stood there!

Here’s the promise: God is standing there!  More than that, He is living in us!

No, we don’t live a holy life because the bogeyman will get us if we don’t. We live a holy life because a loving Father made the costly sacrifice to have a special relationship with us and IT WILL BREAK HIS HEART if we don’t.

And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Why? So we can be saved? NO! Because we ARE saved! Be sure not to get those backwards. We work because He saved us by grace, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We work toward holiness because we respect a holy God who LOVES us!

Our Father, thank-you for the promise to live in us and walk among us. Your grace gift of salvation motivates us to live lives pleasing in your presence. Thank-you for Jesus, the Immanuel, for in Him You are WITH US!

Love and Boldness

My TV consumption has dropped considerably. I watch an occasional football game and some news.

I recently watched one of the new detective dramas. The underlying tone disturbed me. “Hate crimes” provided the theme.

Now I believe prejudice is a sin. Eliminate it from your attitudes and actions! But, to me, it is obvious that this “hate crime” legislation is the foundation in America to persecute Christians. In fact, it already is.

If I disagree with someone does not mean I hate them. But now, in America, if I disagree with the abortion law, then some define me as a hate-monger. If I say that homosexuality, adultery, or pornography are not good lifestyles, then some define me as having a “phobia.”

Society’s treatment of first century Christians “scattered” them. That means they fled for their very lives! Their society defined them as haters of Caesar and haters of Judaism because they loved the Lord Jesus Christ..

America is quickly moving back to this barbaric attitude that condones the imprisonment and even killing of Christians.  To love God more than this world, stand for salvation in Christ alone, and call sin a destructive force will increasingly cost us more.

As a nation, we have moved back to the secular attitudes the early Christians knew in the first century. Peter and Paul in the New Testament faced these situations with courage and spoke the gospel story of Jesus Christ.

Don’t lose hope! Jesus still changes lives! The love of God in John 3:16 is still the center of the gospel.

What was true for the Psalmist centuries ago is still true for us today!

O Lord, how many are my foes!

Many are the rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.  Psalm 3:1-4

Our Father, the tide is shifting just as you prophesied in Your Word. Keep us confident in You. We believe in Your Son Jesus Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We believe every knee will one day bow to Him. Thank-you that you love us and live in us. Fill us with boldness and love.

 

Oh, To Be Young Again!

“If I could go back and live my life all over again, I would ________________.”

“What do I regret?” was one of my first thoughts. If I could re-live my life, what would I change so that I don’t live with regrets today?

The writer of Ecclesiastes had a long life, experienced all of life’s advantages, and God gave him great wisdom.

Now that the results of aging overtook his body and he reflected on his life, what’s his conclusion?

In Ecclesiastes 12:1, he describes the aging process. In verse one he tells those who are still young,

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

The aging process is further described in verses 2-8: eyesight dims, legs and shoulders get weak, the hearing starts to go, fears grow, and friends’ funerals are attended.

But at the end of a life lived weighing many proverbs, reading numerous books, and trying many forms of pleasure, what’s his conclusion? Life is meaningless, all is vanity, EXCEPT for two things!

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

An ATTITUDE, “fear God” and an ACTION, “obey God” sum up the only things that truly make life meaningful.

Jesus said it just as succinctly,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

If a young man or woman is reading this now, you will avoid a thousand regrets if you commit your life to this attitude and action.

First, have an awesome respect, a healthy fear, for your Almighty God and Creator and love His Son Jesus Christ with every fiber of your being.

Second, do what God tells you to do. The Bible, His written, inspired Word reveals His will. Take it seriously and do it.

Our Father, thank-you for the wisdom of your Word that shows us the real meaning of life. Thank-you for Your Son Jesus whom we love with all our being. By the power of your Spirit living in us we commit our lives to translating that love into obedience. Thank-you for your constant presence with us to give us courage and strength.

 

 

Praying Scripture

Have you heard of the concept of “praying Scripture?” We know God inspired His word and it is holy. By praying what the Scripture says, we can know we are praying in the will of God.

I like to write my prayers, because when I write my prayers, my mind tends not to wander to the dozens of other things that can get my attention.  Writing prayers keeps me focused.

Here’s an example. Take a passage of Scripture and try it yourself!

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. 2 Thes.3.5

Our Father, please lead us,

  • from deep within our hearts,
  • from the stirring of our souls,
  • from the use of each moment of time in our lives,
  • from our toenails to the tips of the hair on our heads …

into

  • a full-blown understanding,
  • a totally encompassing comprehension,
  • a moment-by-moment living-it-out today …

of

  • Your love for us,
  • Your love expressed through us to others,
  • Your love revealed in the sacrifices of time & money,
  • Your love flowing through us because You are in us …

And give us

  • Christ’s attitude of patient endurance for serving You,
  • Christ’s perspective on anxiety and worry,
  • Christ’s reaction to difficult circumstances,
  • Christ’s power to not just wait, but have His mind while we wait,
  • Christ’s tangible presence made known to us in real ways many times today.

Father, please lead us into a full understanding and expression of Your love.  Please lead us into a full understanding and expression of Your Son’s patient endurance. Genuine love comes from You, Father, so we seek You today.  Patient endurance comes from the continual presence of  Your Son, Jesus Christ, living in us, so we depend on Him today.

The Lord is far from the wicked, but hears the prayers of the righteous. Prov. 15:29

 

 

How May I Help You?

  • Relationships based on lust, infatuation, and a what-can-you-do-for-me mindset.
  • Lifestyles that love evil, rejoice in sexual perversion, and a don’t-judge-me-I’m-free-to-do-what-I-want attitude.
  • Daily letting go of good and decent things in order to grasp and hold fast to temporary things.
  • Continually holding grudges, unforgiveness, and treating others as objects instead of fellow humans.
  • Always trying to outdo one another is getting recognition and climbing to the top of the heap.

What have I just attempted to describe? I’m sure a lot of things came to your mind! 

I have just stated the opposite of Romans 12:9-10 (ESV) in which Paul, directed by the Holy Spirit, pens five brief commands that are to be obeyed in someone who is transformed (click Romans 12:1-2) Jesus Christ:

Let love be genuine.

Abhor what is evil;

Hold fast to what is good.

Love one another with brotherly affection.

Outdo one another in showing honor.

These actions do not happen naturally.  They happen supernaturally.  They can only be sustained in a living, breathing, walking, talking fellowship with Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus Changes Lives! And that change … must happen everyday in an overflow of HIM living in and through us.

  • Jesus is genuine in His love.
  • Jesus abhors what is evil.
  • Jesus holds fast to what is good.
  • Jesus loves us as a brother.
  • Jesus honors the lowliest. 

Want a simple way to do all five of these at once?! Your assignment today, if you choose to accept it, is to ask at least one person today, “How can I help you?”

Our Father, flow through us today through your Son, Jesus.  Overflow your love, your view of evil, your grip on good, your love for others, and your ability to honor those around us.  Thank-you that you asked us, “How can I help you?” and in our inability to even answer that question, you answered it for us with Jesus!  Thank-you!