Monday, May 25, 2009

The freedom to choose

Mark 12:30
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 first part of this verse, “Love the lord your God with all your heart” gives us the first step in how to love God. Our heart is our feelings, which means that our relationship must be entered into emotionally. Love is first and foremost emotion based. While we feel love emotionally, the decision to follow through with it comes from our soul, not our heart.

As described in the book, “your soul is your God given personality”. All humans have the same basic emotions, but we decide how to handle them in our own ways. Each one of us has a different personality, which means that no two people will handle a situation in exactly the same way, and God didn’t make us the same as anyone else.

Have you ever wondered why no where in the Bible does it say, “you must go to church every Sunday to worship me”? God also didn’t make us to worship in the same way. Some worship in church, while someone else worships by working in a soup kitchen. I suppose the same would be true of rest. Many churches say, you must not do any work on the Sabbath day, but who are they to determine what you consider rest. How we worship and rest is part of our relationship with God, and is up to us, not the church.

Another important part of our soul is our talent. God gave us our talent to serve him and others; it shouldn’t be hidden. God speaks to our heart what he wants, and if we are listening, we make the decision to do his will without hesitation. This is what is meant by “all your soul.” When God asks you to do something, you decide to do it automatically, not because you have to, but because you want to. This is what love is all about, doing by choice, not force.

God calls us to certain tasks of service to him, and to others, but he also gave us the freedom to choose; to choose a relationship with him, to choose to do his will, and to choose the needs of God and man over ourselves.

Challenge: Listen to what God is telling your heart, and decide to do his will. The choice is yours.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The heart of Love

Mark 12:30
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Day three of the book takes this verse from the first day, and begins to explain it in greater detail. Tom Holladay brings up a very interesting point. “God’s principals don’t change our lives, our FAITH in God’s principals changes our lives.”

This chapter is devoted to “All your heart” and when you connect this statement to loving God with all your heart, putting God first means that you have to have faith in him. Faith comes from our emotions, and our emotions come from the heart.

Mark 12:30 placed the order of how you need to love God with a definite purpose. Before you can put God as a priority you must first have faith in him. Faith in his existence, faith in his promises, that he will do what he says he will do, and faith that God will never turn his back on us.

With the people we come in contact with, misunderstandings can occur, and they can turn on us, ruining our faith in that person. They can eventually return, and we will forgive them because they are our friends. As a result of their betrayal we are a little more cautious when reentering the relationship. God will never leave us or forsake us, and he is deserving of “all your heart.”

It is important to remember that before we were born, God chose us to have a relationship with him, and this is engrained deep within all of our hearts, but it will ultimately depend on us, whether or not we accept his offer. We must decide to put God first, and this is what day four will be about.

Challenge: search your feelings to find the faith in God’s love.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Prioritize love, and trust God

Matthew 6:24-33
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, What you will eat of drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?”, or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

There’s no doubt about it, God places the highest priority on our love for him. In day two of the book he goes into the priority of our relationships. Verse 33 of Matthew 6 says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we give God the priority in our lives, we will have what we need.

In this world, with the economy in an uproar, and unemployment at very high level, it’s very easy to place a high importance on getting a job so you can make money for food, clothes, and shelter. This is important, but God knows what we need and, if we make him our priority, we will have what we need. That doesn’t mean we go to sleep, and wake up with our daily needs waiting at our feet. By placing him first, he will send us opportunities that will give us the money we need. We just have to listen to him.

We need to think in the long term. When we worry about money, food, clothes, and shelter, that worry can turn into panic, and that panic can change our priority from God to money. The saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a meal; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Is very true. By worrying, people are looking for the fastest way to get something. They expect the government to give them handouts, but they don’t think that they are tapping into a limited resource. They will never accept the responsibility for their own future, and when the government stops giving them what they want, they will end up with nothing.

What God offers is long term. All we have to do is love him first and trust that he will supply us with what we need. He will show us job opportunities that may not be fortune 500, but they will give us what we need.

Tom Holladay mentioned a quote, “God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.” What you do in your life is not important. What is important is that you love God first, and trust him to know what’s best for your life.

Your definition of success will determine your life’s priorities. There are three priorities, and depending on where each one falls will give you how much success you will have. The three priorities are God, man, myself.

I will go into these later. For now, I want to leave you with this thought. “Your definition of success will determine your life’s priorities.”

Challenge: Write down the quote that Tom Holladay mentioned, “God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.” Put it in a highly visible place.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The greatest commandment

I know I wanted to go through the book of Proverbs, but the church I’m going to has started going through the program called, “The 40 days of love” and I felt it would be worth writing about the observations I make as I go through this wonderful program.

The Bible is more than just a book about knowledge and wisdom. Even more than that it is a book about the greatest love, and the relationship between God and man. The Ten Commandments are all about love. Mark 12: 28-31 says: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "O“ all the commandments, which is the most important?" ”
”The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.

The Ten Commandments all have to do with how we relate to God, and others. There are many people who give to charities, go to church, and pray loud, and long in public places. They do this so that everyone will know how great they are. They do all this in the name of Christ, but none of it matters if the only reason they do it is so that everyone will notice them. Doing things with a reward in mind is putting yourself first, and others second.

Many religions believe that you have to convert people, or give something up, or do charities to get to heaven, but that is thinking about the reward and not God or others. The commandments are all about putting others first. People will watch what we do, and call us great, and tell us things that build up our ego, but God sees what’s in our heart, and he knows our motivation. If we do something for recognition and people call us great, then we will have what we want. If we do something out of love, we do it regardless of the recognition, and what people tell us won’t make one bit of difference.

When we leave the world, and stand before God, he will judge us by our love of him and others, not by our actions.

Challenge: If you want to follow along with the program, the name of the book is, “The Relationship Principles of Jesus” by Tom Holladay.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Emerge victorious

Proverbs 2:7-8
He holds victory in store for the upright,
He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
For he guards the course of the just
And protects the way of his faithful ones.

One of the things I love about the Bible is the connections you can make. In the story of Job, God allowed Satan to take away his family, friends, money, and his home, yet through it all, Job never turned his back on God. Through everything God protected Job, and when it was all over, Job got back all he lost with interest.

In our journey through life, there will be many traps and pitfalls, set by Satan to tempt us away from God. If we listen, and trust wisdom, without turning our backs on him, he will shield us from Satan’s attacks. On that note, let me warn you that Satan is an opportunist. He knows our weaknesses and will use any advantage to wear down our defenses, but Christ promised “victory for the upright,” “to shield those whose walk is blameless,” “to guard the course of the just,” “and protect the way of his faithful ones.”

Our faith is going to be tested our entire lives, and the greater our faith, the harder the trials. Satan will throw every temptation at us to stray, based on our weakness. With wisdom, and discipline, we can overcome those temptations. If you think it’s easy, it’s not. Even Solomon had a weakness with women. He fell at times, but the one thing that remained was his determination to follow wisdom and God forgave him and continued to protect him.

We will give in to temptation from time to time, but God is always willing to show mercy and forgive us as long as we don’t turn our backs on him. He will continue to protect us and lead us to victory.

Challenge: Even if you stumble, don’t allow Satan to turn you away from God and his wisdom. Emerge from this life victorious in Christ.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Don't hide your head in the church

Proverbs 2:6
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

One of the things that humans have never been able to understand about God, besides the part where he had no beginning, is how he can have three separate parts and yet, be one God. Many people think of Christ as beginning with Mary, but his spirit was always there. John 1:1-3 describes Christ as the word of God. What does this mean? Proverbs 2:6 is actually talking about Christ as both knowledge and understanding. This is where wisdom comes from.

Christ is the beginning of all life, and the universe, so it is through him that we get our spirits. When we hear the call of wisdom, it is actually Christ trying to help us through life’s problems, and keep us safe.

I once had a conversation with a girl I worked with about “evolution vs. creation”. It was a civil conversation, but every argument she came up with, I had a rebuttal. Her final argument was, “You’re just close minded.” This is how a lot of arguments against Christianity end up.

With wisdom, knowledge, and understanding being from Christ, we are very open minded. If anything, the more I learn, the more the knowledge that comes from Christ can stand up to the lies of society.

The biggest myth I’ve heard about Christian teachings is that the church is trying to hide us from the truth by banning books and regulating what we learn. Christ doesn’t try to keep us from the truth; he gives us the knowledge and wisdom to open our eyes to the truth about evil so that we will know it when we see it. We can’t hide behind the doors of the church forever. He gives us the knowledge to go out and inform the world of his love.

We can’t protect our kids, or ourselves from the effects of the world; it is our job to share the truth so that our kids can make informed decisions on what they believe. If we do our part in sharing the gospel, we can trust that Christ can lead all of us closer to him.

Challenge: Trust that Christ will give us the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, to take us safely through this world.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Selective hearing

Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you; turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding; and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding; and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

My wife is always telling me that I don’t listen to her. This happens mostly when I forget something at the store, or I forget to take out the trash, and quite honestly, I don’t always hear her. If you put me around a lake with my camera, I’ve been known to hear a half-inch frog jumping on an oak leaf, from 20 feet away. The word for this is selective hearing.

We are not born with selective hearing; it comes on gradually. When our body and mind are subjected to the same things all the time, they become immune to their effects, and that includes the senses. When we get to a point of complacency, we have to retrain our minds to look and listen for the things we take for granted.

One of the things people take for granted is wisdom. It’s not always easy to hear wisdom because we grew up with it always present. Proverbs 2:1-5 says we can “understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” If we accept his words, and store up his commands within us, but before we can do that we have to hear what he has to say. We have to retrain our minds to hear what wisdom is saying and we can only do that by eagerly searching for it. We need to replace the complacency with a firm desire to gain knowledge. As verse 4 says, “look for it as silver, and search for it as for hidden treasure,”

Once we start to hear wisdom, we can take its teachings into our hearts.

Challenge: Retrain your heart and mind to listen for wisdom. You might be surprised what you might learn.


Friday, May 1, 2009

consequences of rejecting wisdom

Proverbs 1:22-33
22 "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you had responded to my rebuke,
I would have poured out my heart to you
and made my thoughts known to you.
24 But since you rejected me when I called
and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice
and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you-
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 "Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the LORD,
30 since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm."

When I read these verses, I wondered why people reject wisdom. After reading this chapter, I realized that the other word for wisdom is conscience. Therefore, every time we hear our conscience trying to stop us before we fall, it is really the call of wisdom. Therefore, the reasons I came up with are the way we respond to our conscience.

One of the reasons people use to reject wisdom is that wisdom tells us what we don’t want to hear. When we are in high school, and get invited to a party with drinking, and drugs, wisdom reminds us of the consequences of drinking, and drugs, but we tell ourselves, it’s an opportunity to socialize, and fit in with our friends. Many of us will turn it down, but others tell themselves they can handle it, and there’s no reason to worry.

Another reason wisdom is rejected is that people don’t trust easy answers. The reason so many people procrastinate is the fear that something will be harder than it really is. Wisdom tells us to do something now, and it isn’t as hard as we imagine. What we do is put it off until the problem gets worse, and the consequence is that it will take more time, and more money to fix.

We are afraid that if we listen to wisdom, and do things correctly before the deadline, people will start to expect it all the time. When some people go to work, they don’t perform to their full potential because if the boss expects it all the time and we fail at any point, we think the boss will yell, or even fire us. This fear is usually unfounded, and when they apply themselves to their work, they find they can handle their job. The consequence of not listening to wisdom is smaller raises, no promotions, and getting fired in some cases.

The biggest reason people reject wisdom is that wisdom makes us responsible for our own actions. Before the sixties, most people felt responsible for what they did, but since then, society placed the responsibility on our parents, or our environment, or the school system, but very rarely on ourselves. In doing so, society has created a generation of kids who don’t feel they have to think for themselves. They feel the government should take care of them, and that wisdom is outdated. The consequence of this is that people have become slaves to society, and its rules.

By rejecting wisdom, people may think their getting something better, and in the short term it sounds like a fun life, but continuing to ignore wisdom’s call will have some long term consequences that may be hard to break free.

Challenge: If you hear wisdom warning you not to do something, listen to it, and think about the consequences if you don’t.