One More Day

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7-10 ESV). I have often used the illustration of the time of day to describe where I might be in my life. I have said that I am much nearer midnight than morning. And, with being morbid, average life-span of an American male makes that a reality. Today, being New Year’s Eve, makes us all think a bit more about time. Certainly we will see an ending of sorts and a beginning of another. This year will soon become “past” while the “future” dawns. That truth really doesn’t impact our life. We all live in a very specific span of days. God has already determined the length of those days. Our choice is then not how many days we have left, but how we shall use them. So, if you received an official notice today that this is your last day to live, what difference would it make in the things you do? Would you try to make more money; or stay late at the office working on that special project not yet completed? Would you spend the time with your family, or express thanks to those who’ve helped you along the way? Would you seek to get right with God? What would you do? We tend to focus on the material and the temporal and neglect the eternal and relational. None of us knows the number of days God has planned for us. It is essential that we not procrastinate until tomorrow the really important things you can do today. God became a man in the person of Jesus to show us how. Start there, and show your family how much you love them. Surprise them by occasionally coming home early. Tell them you love them. Plan fun things to do with them. Help someone you care about, someone who needs you at the office, in the neighborhood, or maybe someone who needs a friend. Certainly this is the Apostle Paul’s instruction in our reading today. This is where we should spend our time. It may not be the last day you live here on earth, but it may become a great day for you and those you care...

read more

All Your Strength

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength [emphasis added].’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV). Jesus now says we are “…to love the Lord your God …with all your strength” (v. 30d). Disney’s portrayal of strength is epitomized in the characterization of Hercules. He proves his strength by flexing his muscles as the devil measures him. If only it were that easy in real life! As we approach the New Year we should see this last phrase as a whole-hearted, life-encompassing allegiance to God. The context of our reading today stresses that treasuring God’s oneness and uniqueness needs to be personally applied to our lives. It needs to impact relationships, and what goes on at home and in the work place. Jesus is calling us to wholehearted, life-encompassing, community-impacting, exclusive commitment to God. This truth means that every closet of our lives needs to be opened for cleaning, and every relationship in our lives must be influenced. This call to love God this way destroys any option of being one person at church and another person elsewhere. What you do on the internet needs to be just as pure as what you do in Bible-reading. The way we talk to our parents needs to be as wholesome as the way we talk to our pastors. There needs to be an authentic love for God that starts with God-oriented affections, desires, and thoughts, that permeates our speaking and behavior, and then influences the way we spend our money and how we dress, and drive, and our forms of entertainment. Whether we’re eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, love for God is to be in action. And, that means all of our energy. It’s interesting that the word Mark uses for “strength” also means “ability.” It means that God has given all of us talents and abilities. You see, to love God with all of our energy, with all of our abilities, with all of our spiritual gifts, is the means for our serving the Lord. It’s a way of expressing our love to Him. It means holding nothing back when it comes to our energy level in showing our love for God. It means that when we’re using all that energy in our vocation, or in school, we’re doing it because it is pleasing to God to make the most of our abilities for Him. We are loving God with all of our abilities, with all of our being, with all of our strength. There’s a focus for your New Year!...

read more

All Your Mind

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind [emphasis added] and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV). The third thing Jesus says about loving God is that we should “… love the Lord you God… with all your mind” (v. 30c). This one is significantly easier to understand that yesterday when we explored loving God with all our “soul.” It can be said that Jesus is drawing our attention to an intellectual love of God. There are several components to intellectual love for God. First, it is a sincere, practiced dedication to know God. This is more than just knowing about God. I can describe in great detail every part of some of my most pleasurable experiences; however, you would never know those things until you also experienced them. You would merely know about them. Second, Jesus is encouraging us to think clearly and truly about God so that we don’t have false ideas in our minds. This can only be accomplished by a thorough and consistent study of the Scripture. Last, intellectual love of God means not being satisfied with merely an intellectual awareness of his attributes, character, and acts but intentionally devoting that mental effort to serve the affections for God. If a person doesn’t move from intellectual awareness of God and right thinking about God to an emotional embrace of God, he hasn’t loved God with his mind. The mind has not yet loved until it hands off its thoughts to the emotions where they’re embraced. And then the mind and the heart are working in what feels like such harmony, and you experience it as both intellectual and affectional love for God. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Isaiah 55:8 and 9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” That’s a beautiful passage in the Word of God to describe why the word of God is so unique. Because everything we read here in this life tends to be contrary to what God’s Word is saying. We need to immerse ourselves in the word of God as a way of getting to know God, so that we can love God with our minds. This New Year, dedicate yourself to loving God with your...

read more

All Your Soul

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul [emphasis added] and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV). Next Jesus says, “… you shall love the Lord your God … with all your soul” (v. 30b). The soul is a little more difficult to understand than the heart. We don’t often use this kind of language in describing a part of our being. However, we can define the soul as our personality and the seat of our will. Think about it this way. When a man and woman fall in love, they often marry. While passion may have drawn them together, it is a decision of the will that keeps them together in a committed relationship. The fact is that sinful human nature often causes us to be tempted to be unfaithful to our spouse. It’s during those times that we have to completely ignore temporary feelings and by an act of the will, decide to stay faithful. We express our love through this long-term faithfulness, loyalty, and devotion. It’s the same with God. When we give our heart to God, we begin that relationship with Him. Then along the way, we’re tempted to fall into sin. And if we simply followed our feelings, we would give into the temptation. But if we’re really going to love God, we choose to be faithful to Him, no matter what we’re feeling at the moment. We love God when we choose to root our entire lives in the hands of God. Then we will begin to discover the contentment and peace that we have been searching for all our lives. We will find meaning and purpose and value and worth in the unconditional love of God. And the best part is that we will find that all these thing s will belong to us in increasing measure no matter what circumstances life may throw our way. Life does have a way of keeping on coming at us. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out something comes along to mess the whole thing up. Car breaks down. Recession hits. Job gets cut. One you thought you trusted betrays you. Lab report comes back positive. Rejection notice shows up in the mail. Death of a loved one stops everything in its tracks. We try our best to pretend that we have things all under control. But we know that all it takes is one single moment in time to shatter that illusion. Knowing this is true, we worry. We get angry. We lose our patience. We grow desperate. Some of us even we give up. Loving God with all your soul means that no matter what circumstances come your way you will continue to trust that your soul, your very life, is firmly rooted in a foundation that will never be...

read more

All Your Heart

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart [emphasis added] and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV). Yesterday we looked at the majestic beauty of creation as a motivation for continuing to develop our relationship with our heavenly Father. Today I want us to look into what has become known as “the Great Commandment.” Jesus was asked the question as to the greatest commandment. He answered, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (v. 30). We are going to look at each of these separately for the next few days. The first is to love God with “all your heart.”  It means to love God with all of your feelings, with all of your emotions and with all your passion. Now, passion is a very hot term in our contemporary culture. People ask, “What’s your passion?” What they’re asking you is what is it that really gets you excited? It could be a certain ideology, social cause, activity, or interest. Perhaps it’s a passion about the theatre, movies, or music; or it could be something as basic as making money, physical fitness, or watching college football. You can be passionate about a lot of things, but the number one passion of your life needs to be your relationship with God. Think about your relationship with God this way. When you first came to Christ there was no problem in feeling passionate about God. You had a hunger for the word, to be in worship, and to tell others about Christ. You were excited about it and there was a very real passion rooted in your mind. As time went by and life presented its many challenges and opportunities, it became easy for other things to become a higher priority. That’s our natural response to everything. New things, new relationships, new seasons of our life are always more exciting in the beginning. As we settle into the routine of those things, we simply don’t feel as passionate about them any longer. If we were talking about your marriage, we might be tempted to think we were no longer “in love.” The truth is that we simply let our passion shift to the next newest thing. The solution is not someone or something new. The solution is to change our focus. We accomplish that by revisiting what we already know through our experience. Remember the great gift God has given to you; recall the incredible wonder of His grace; and, recount the many blessings of His presence. How’s your...

read more

Majestic Beauty

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31 ESV). Our reading today so simply states the obvious. When God finished creating, “he saw everything, and behold, it was very good.” In my new “study/guest room” we have hung one of our favorite watercolors by Jim Gray. It is titled “Winter Sunset.” We acquired this painting many years ago on one of our trips to the Smoky Mountains. Gray is retired now, though he still maintains a gallery in Gatlinburg, where he lives. It is a reminder for me that God’s creation is indeed a wonder to behold. As we begin to move through this week and the end of this year, I think it will be encouraging to look at some of the wonders of God. I’m always amazed when I watch the Discovery Channel or a National Geographic special on an in-depth study of a place or an animal I’ve rarely seen, gaining insight about what makes them unique and how wonderful they are. Even though God is rarely, if ever mentioned on these shows, it causes my faith to be strengthened, for I’m reminded that God thought of every little detail in creating the universe. Everywhere you turn in creation, there’s evidence of intelligent design, the work of the Master Artist. When you see a great painting, DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, a piece by Van Gogh, or a scene of American life by Norman Rockwell, do you have more awe of the piece of art than of the artist? Not likely. Yet we do this all the time with God’s creation. And we miss the real message of God. The Scripture is so clear in declaring the ultimate reason why God created. The psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). I’ve often been asked how I can believe that earth is the only inhabited planet and man the only rational inhabitant among all the universe.” Well, the answer is easy for me. It’s not about us. It’s about God. And that’s an understatement. God created us to know him and love him and show him. And then he gave us a hint of what he is like. He is like the universe. When God created the world he did not create out of any need or any weakness or any deficiency. He created out of fullness and strength and complete sufficiency. Jonathon Edwards said, “Tis no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that it is inclined to overflow.” So we don’t glorify God by improving his glory, but by seeing and savoring and showing his glory, which is the same as knowing, loving, and showing. We know this from our relationship with Him. As we approach the New Year, let the majestic beauty of God’s creation draw you into His...

read more