Saturday, October 24, 2009

Our Purpose in Life: Love

What are we called to in life? What is the purpose of our existence?

Well, Jesus answers this. Here is the conversation-

We are called to-

Matthew 22:37 And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, known as the Jewish Shemah and Leviticus 19:18
NAU Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

NAU Leviticus 19:18 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

So what does this love look like?
1. Hebrew word for love- aheb, "to love".
2. Greek word for love- agapao, "love".
Definition of the Greek word, meaning of the Hebrew- Friberg lexicon defines it as "Love, especially of love as based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action."

The best example is found in two passages- John 21:15-18; Joshua 24:15

CJB John 21:15 After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim'on Kefa, "Shim'on Bar-Yochanan, do you love me more than these?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I'm your friend." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Shim'on Bar-Yochanan, do you love me?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I'm your friend." He said to him, "Shepherd my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Shim'on Bar-Yochanan, are you my friend?" Shim'on was hurt that he questioned him a third time: "Are you my friend?" So he replied, "Lord, you know everything! You know I'm your friend!" Yeshua said to him, "Feed my sheep! 18 Yes, indeed! I tell you, when you were younger, you put on your clothes and went where you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go."

ESV Joshua 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Love for God is seen as an aheb and agapao type of love. It is a choice a decision to be devoted and loyal to God. That is the essence of what we are called to.
So, as Joshua challenged the Jewish people, we are left with the same challenge. To make a choice. To follow God (the Lord Jesus) to do our own thing, or to follow some other god (ie- Allah, Brahma, Buddha, Krishna, Shiva, Al-ilah, etc.). What is your choice?

3. This doesn't rule out the type of love that Peter expressed for Jesus. Phileo- which is a brotherly (Philadelphia), affectionate type of love. God wants our affection, but what He is primarily after is our agapao-type love.

Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 6, we are to love (aheb) God with all of our heart (inners), self (will, emotion, passion), and might (abilities). We are to be undivided.

A. I love God with all of my ability + passion - heart (unwilling to obey Him with my motives, ie- some televangelists who serve God to get rich)
B. I love God with all of my heart + passion - ability (unwilling to serve Him, ie pew potatoes or those who don't join the cause of Christ)
C. I love God with all of my heart + ability - passion (emotion, affection. I don't like God. ) (ie this person serves God, not willingly but because they are only SUPPOSE to and are under compulsion. God doesn't want a bitter person or a robot. He also desires our affection).

Thought question: So what is the choice that I have to make? How do I choose God? How can I have peace & be reconciled to my Creator? What must I do to be saved?

Check this out

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If God is good, then why is there so much suffering?

Illustration- Hebrews 11:32-38
ESV Hebrews 11:32- And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- 38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Why would God allow these terrible things to happen? Especially to His people?

1. John 16:33- Jesus came to give us proper perspective
The tragedy of the prosperity gospel is that it sets people up for sorrow & discouragement. It teaches us to have faith, be positive, God wants you to be happy. But this is very different than what Jesus taught.
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

A. Why did Jesus tell them these things? So that they may have peace. A proper perspective brings peace to the believer. So that when bad things happen, we can say, "Oh yes, Jesus did say this was normal." Instead of, "But I thought I was suppose to have things go my way..."

Illustration- CS Lewis
"Christ said it was difficult for 'the rich' to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, referring, no doubt, to 'riches' in the ordinary sense. But I think it really covers riches in every sense-good fortune, health, popularity and all the things one wants to have. All these things tend-just as money tends- to make you feel independent of God, because if you have them you are happy already and contented in this life. You don't want to turn away to anything more, and so you try to rest in a shadowy happiness as if it could last for ever.
But God wants to give you a real and eternal happiness. Consequently He may have to take all these 'riches' away from you; if He doesn't , you will go on relying on them. It sounds cruel, doesn't it? But I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a 'cruel' doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were 'punishments.' But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a 'punishment,' it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad.
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic." -CS Lewis, "Answers to Questions on Christianity" in Timeless at Heart

B. Some people struggle much with suffering because they have a false understanding of reality. They think that God made it so we would be happy down here. And He most certainly did. However, this creation, this Garden of Eden, was given to frustration because of the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12) & if it were not for his sin, it would of most definitely been ours that did it in.

C. Romans 8:20-23
NAU 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

1) Because of Adam's sin, God placed creation under futility & slavery to corruption, in hope that it would one day be set free, & it will be set free one day- when the adoption, revealing & redemption of the sons of God takes place (spiritual sons).
2) We suffer because we live in a fallen world. We, together, groan. Both believer & nonbeliever. None are exempt from this groaning.
3) Hope- But for the believer Jesus tells us to, "take heart" because He has overcome the world & has given us hope. The nonbeliever has this same hope, but the benefit of this hope will never be enjoyed unless they receive the promise.

D. We often project our mind, our ideas of the way things ought to be into reality. This can cause great frustration & undue suffering. Consider this passage-
Isaiah 55:9 "As high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

E. Romans 3:23- Much suffering is the result of fallen man.
With this in mind, think of how evil, disastrous this world would be if God didn't choose, out of compassion, passion, & love choose to save us (Romans 5:8). God took the initiative to start the redemption process & every day thousands of people are being redeemed, born again, renewed through faith in Jesus Christ. So God is, has been, and will continue to "save" people from the corruption that comes with fallen humanity.

F. John 10:10- Satan is allowed temporary rule on this earth, and his mission is clear.
NAU John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

2. The advantage of suffering?
A. For the believer- James 1:2-4
NLT James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

It is to help us to grow in endurance & in character. So when we suffer, we can experience joy & peace through it, knowing that it is God who is working in us (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 12:7) and that it is normal.
Jesus is a carpenter of stone. He takes blocks of raw stone & makes something beautiful out of it (Philippians 1:6).

So, when you suffer with the right perspective, you may say, "Man this is rough, but I know this is a part of my development. God thank you for loving me, even to pieces at times."
If you have the wrong perspective, you may say, "God, why do bad things always happen to me? Do you hate me?" or "Maybe God doesn't exist after all...because why would He ever want me to be unhappy down here?".

B. For the nonbeliever- To lift up Christ
God loves you too much to just allow you to live your life & then to face judgment with failure. He is constantly working in and around you to draw you to Christ. So that you would receive Christ as your savior & lord, so that you may have forgiveness & enjoy the depths of adoption in the family of God.

Consider the following-
1) John 12:32 "As for me, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."
2) 1 Timothy 2:4 "He wants all humanity to be delivered and come to full knowledge of the truth."
3) John 16:8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged."

C. Only an evil being would allow someone to believe that everything was okay if it isn't. The fact is that the human race is under the penalty of sin, being lawbreakers. Therefore, we will be found guilty. Because of God's goodness, He often makes things miserable in the hopes that we will cry out to Him for His ever-ready help.

D. Also, one reason why some people suffer at a seemingly young age is because God wants to remind us of the brevity of life. Another, God has His purposes for people (Psalm 139:16). We all, redeemed & unredeemed are the actors in a grand play.

E. When you suffer, it is not "God judging" you. He reserves this judgment for another day.

Closing thought from a righteous man who suffered grievously-
Job's wife told him to give in. To, "Curse God and die." Because life had become miserable to the point of silence. Here is his response-
Job 2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Suffering is hard for all of us. But with the proper perspective, we may become privileged enough to be able to stand firm as the people did in Hebrews 11, thus becoming people whom the world was not worthy of.

Closing song
This world is not my home, I'm just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

Words and Music by Albert E. Brumley
© 1965 - Albert E. Brumley & Sons

In this world, you will have trouble, but Christian take heart, Jesus has overcome the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cultural Study: God as "Father". Difference between Judeo-Christian God & other gods

One Greek word-splagchinizomi- compassion, to be moved in the bowels.
Context: Luke 15:11-32
In this culture, if a son would have said to his father, "You are dead to me. Give me my share of the inheritance and I am outta here." the father would have written his son off as dead. He would have held both hands out against his son.

HOWEVER, the father in this story can be none other that the Father. In fact, this is the only description that we can put onto God, as a father-figure. His fatherhood is, unlike others, splagchinizo- he is moved with compassion, moved in the bowels when he sees someone come to Him. No matter how brutal the offender was, God will NOT resist a repentant person. There is no sin that God is not willing to forgive. If a person comes to Him, through His door, the Father will gladly receive Him.

So in your studies of other gods; Islam's Allah, many Hindi gods, many tribal gods, remember that the God of the Judeo-Christian faith is the God who is moved in the bowels. Not only compassionate in practice, but also in heart. And even desiring, from His heart, that men come to Him. In fact, He does EVERYTHING to draw people to Him except make them believe.

Example- Allah Raman- Allah is compassionate. He is compassionate toward the faithful & the unfaithful, inasmuch as he is said to provide for both. One of the main teachings of Islam is to be compassionate to animals & people. Many Muslims do a great job of being kind. However, their god (Allah) also teaches to kill unfaithful "wherever you find them".
Whereas, the God of the Bible (the Lord), teaches to have compassion ALWAYS & never to kill people who are unfaithful or infidels. We are to love, even those who would destroy us, where the Muslim god teaches that we are allowed to retaliate & even to go a step further & go after people who mistreat us, once again killing them wherever you may find them.
The perfect example of this is Jesus, while hanging on the cross, prayed FOR the people who were unjustly killing him. He asked God to forgive them because of their ignorance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Satan's Plan for Your Life

Ephesians 6: 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Some observations from this passage-
1. Our struggle is not against flesh & blood. It is not against people. People are not the enemy.
2. Our struggle is against rulers, powers, world forces, spiritual forces. These things are set up by Satan, to direct our lives. To work against the cause of Christ. To steal, kill, and destroy us!

Question: If you were Satan, what would you do to keep people from joining the cause of Christ?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Being graceful in speech

NAU- Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

1. What not to say
"unwholesome"- (adv. sapros)- rotten, worthless, unwholesome, bad
Don't let any of this come out of your mouth!
Keep it to yourself & deal with it privately with God...even though you are bursting to say something like this.
If you are like me, sometimes I get so angry at someone that I FEEL I have to say something or burst. Well, this morning I was once again convicted to keep this to myself & if I have a bone with someone, then take it to the Lord in prayer. If I have to spill my angry beans, spill them in private with God.

2. What to say
"edification"-(noun, oikodome)- building words according to the need of the moment.
We are to speak words that are building, not rotten.
Neil Anderson once wrote, "Be a part of God's construction crew, not Satan's wrecking crew."

3. The advantage of speaking this way-
"Grace" (noun, charis)- it will give grace, kindness to those who hear.

Summary- God has called us to two simple things: Love God. Love people.
In order to love people, we can be people who never speak rotten (of others, or through being complainers, whiner babies ;-p ) but speak in such a way that we help people grow in grace.