Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love Builds Wisely

Matthew 7:24 Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. (NLT)

Have you noticed homes in third world countries typically suffer more damage from natural disasters than those in developed countries? Construction and foundation explain most of the difference. Because of poverty, most inhabitants cannot afford the type of materials that make structures more secure in high winds, earthquakes and heavy rains. It’s one thing to lose a home; it’s a different story altogether to lose a life. Secure lives now and in eternity depend on using the correct material. According to Jesus it’s obedience to his commands. While not always easy or enjoyable, it’s possible and practical. Turning the other cheek may initially irritate me, but joy comes from realizing God gave me power to determine my reaction. Obedience is the steel that makes life’s beams secure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Love’s Sound

Matthew 7:21 Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as “Lord,” but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (NLT)

Have you ever sounded out a person and heard: “I’ve been a member of __________ Church since I was nine years old.” Or “My parents donated trees for the lumber to build this church.” How about, “I’ve been coming to church since before I was born.” Better yet, “My dad gave $10,000 to help build our Family Life Center.” And the classic, “I’m a pretty good person and I just hope God’s going to let me into heaven.” Jesus burst many bubbles when he said sounding religious wasn’t enough. Sound is important, and I couldn’t imagine life without it, but one thing I don’t want to hear at the end of life is, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Sounding religious and religious activity isn’t enough. We are connected to God by faith. So when someone sounds you out, say “I belong because I believe.” Nothing more; nothing less.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Love Protects Its Own

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. (NLT)

I loved the cartoons where the wolf disguised himself as a sheep to catch one for lunch. But in real life, the scenario isn’t funny. Jesus warns of people who mimic wolf behavior. Jim Jones did. So did David Koresh. As well as those who think they know when Christ is returning even though he stated no one would. They’re wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing, and they’ve entered the sheepfold to discourage the sheep, kill testimonies, steal zeal and destroy hope. Jesus also said he was the door to the sheepfold. No one gets by him. He’s the bouncer no one can take; the bodyguard important people wish they had. And I’m glad he’s mine. Sure I can be deceived, discouraged, hopeless, and unfaithful, but only if I allow myself to be. Remaining close to the Shepherd and learning how his sheep look, act and think helps me stay away from the wolves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Love Is Narrow

Matthew 7:13 You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. (NLT)

The road to Cataloochee Valley is unnerving. In a few places pulling against the side of the mountain is required so approaching vehicles can pass. There are no guardrails to keep one from plummeting down the mountain should you get too close to the edge. The road is narrow and reaching the valley requires intense focus. Heaven’s road is no different. I wish it were broad enough for everyone to travel, but it isn’t. I wish in the end God would overlook sin and let everyone into heaven, but he won’t. This narrow road requires repentance, forgiveness and faith. Only those willing to focus on these elements make it to the desired end. God loves everyone but hates sin. Unless we allow him to reconnect us through forgiveness, we won’t make the grade.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love’s Equal Treatment

Matthew 7:12 Do for others what you would like them to do for you. (NLT)

Some rules I don’t agree with, but if established by authority figures I obey them. Others are not of the same opinion, and this is why our prisons brim. Rules are part of life, and we learn early on we must obey the ones established by parents, grandparents, teachers, and other significant adults. After we come of age, we must obey the rules of our employers, society and government. One rule common to many societies is the Golden Rule, but Jesus’ statement of it is unique. He gives it a positive spin while other philosophers coined it negatively and relegated it to reactions: Don’t repay others with the evil they do to you. Instead of passively reacting to bad treatment, Jesus encourages us to do good for others regardless of how they treat us. It’s not uncomplicated, but remembering God’s goodness to us makes it easier. As we consciously do good-regardless of race, culture or creed, we obey the Golden Rule.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Love’s Treasure House

Matthew 7:8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (NLT)

I’ve never had trouble doing the first, but the getting and finding haven’t always materialized, nor has the door always opened. “All you do is want, want, want.” My parents said something similar to me numerous times as a child growing up. I repeated it to my children, and my wife tells me the same though not in the exact words. Every time we visit an auction or antique store, I want, want, want. Sometimes she opens the door; other times she slams it shut. But one thing is certain-if I don’t ask I have no chance of getting anything. Jesus’ offer isn’t a blank check but rather encouragement to ask for the right things and a promise that when we do he will open the door. What are the right things? Whatever enables us to accomplish his will and enhances our journey with him. Anything less is wants, wants, wants.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Love Doesn't Judge

Matthew 7:1 Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. (NLT)

I have a tendency to make judgments on first time impressions: grouchy, gossiper, snooty, mean, quick tempered. Ironically many of our first impressions are right. We often accurately assess who will make a good friend and who will betray us. Or determine after a short interview who will be a responsible employee and who won't. Jesus doesn't actually condemn all judgments; just the unjust and hypocritical ones. Those made by people who think they are better than others and who think they have all the answers. A world where no one judged between right and wrong would be chaotic and result in anarchy. When we must assess, it should be loving and encouraging. Forgiveness is always superior to holding grudges.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Love Trusts

Matthew 6:25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. (NLT)

I once bordered on being one, and I’ve known quite a few. Worry warts, that is. How am I going to pay the bills? Will I ever find someone to marry? Where will I work? What if I lose my job? Will my children turn out okay? Having a Type A personality didn’t help. And if I couldn’t worry about my concerns, I’d worry about someone else’s. Trying to make everyone happy was exhausting. I wanted people to like me and worried when they didn’t. I suppose I didn’t even trust God. After all, if I did why was I worrying? Then one day the verse finally sunk in. If God’s worrying about my needs, why am I? Wants are one thing, but food, shelter and clothing are promised. And it’s okay if I don’t see eye to eye with everyone and even if everyone doesn’t like me. My duty in life-and yours, is to love God supremely, love others as I do myself, and then trust God to take care of the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Love Sacrifices All

II Timothy 2:3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (NLT)

I’ve never served a day in my life, but I have a son who does. My Dad, father-in-law, brother-in-law and nephew also did, and I respect all who have and do. Soldiers who gave a few-and sometimes many, years to protecting their country from threats abroad. Whether they agreed with the command, conflict or war was immaterial. They sacrificed because they loved their country and respected authority. And if it required the ultimate sacrifice, they were willing. Jesus was too. He didn’t war against others, but his fight was significant nonetheless. He paid a debt we couldn’t to make us what we weren’t-free from the chains of sin. So thank God and a vet for your freedom. One keeps your country free and the other liberates your soul.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love Doesn't Straddle

Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (NLT)

I encountered many fences while exploring my grandfather’s farm. They were necessary to keep hogs in and to separate his farm from neighboring farms. Some I climbed and others I went under-usually those with barbed wire strands. One thing I learned is I couldn’t straddle them. I either avoided them or went over them but I couldn’t sit on them. They weren’t sturdy enough nor were they comfortable. On one side of the fence I was on my grandfather’s land while on the other I was trespassing. Our life choices are only two-following Jesus or replacements. If not for him, we are against him. When not supporting his cause we are enforcing our own. Jesus wants followers with undivided loyalty. Choose to be one.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Love Treasures

Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (NLT)

My grandfather often sat on his treasure; his wallet. I can remember as a young boy watching him open it and count out several hundred dollars. Petty cash in today’s terms. I can spend a hundred in ten minutes at the local retail store. Then it wasn’t. And therein lay his confidence. In how much he had, what he had and what he could buy with what he had. At his death, he took nothing with him he treasured on earth. Treasures are priorities, and these determine our focus. If we’re sitting on it, chances are our focus is misdirected. When our heart’s in something-and the right something, we will pursue it with gusto and perseverance. Treasures stored on earth are subject to theft and destruction, but treasures deposited in heaven are secure. And we place them there by loving God with all our being and others as ourselves. These are the two greatest commandments, and obedience to them will always move us to action.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Love Gives Up

Matthew 6:16 And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. (NLT)

“Fast? In the twenty first century? Isn’t that something from a distant past when people thought they needed God? And that they could actually hear him speak?” I don’t know about you, but when I think of fasting I think of giving up what I really enjoy-food, and what I really enjoy doing-eating. For most, fasting is abstaining from food for a period of days or a block of time during each day, but fasting can be more than that and should be. Fasting is relinquishing-permanently or temporarily, whatever prevents us from hearing and serving God. Television, computer games, IPods, internet, Facebook, friends, cell phones, etc. Most of what embezzles God’s time is not evil, just misused. With God’s help we can transform the God stealers into God servers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Love’s Connection

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (NLT)

Do my prayers really change anything? If not, why pray? Or if God has everything planned out from the beginning, what’s the point in praying? How does God hear all the prayers people are offering, many at the same time? Why hasn’t God answered one of my particular requests even though I’ve been praying about it for years? Good questions; only the answers to some of them are unanswerable. In spite of what we don’t know or understand about prayer, the Bible demonstrates by stories and instruction that it does. God communicates with us through the practice of prayer and we talk to him the same way. It’s our connection with the “higher power” who controls and directs our life by his marvelous love. Prayer changes us.
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