Friday, February 26, 2010

Looking for Mr. Right

For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about …what he has promised him. Genesis 18:19 NIV

A friend was speaking from the front of the church hall during a business meeting. During her talk, she said that she was looking for a husband, and any help would be appreciated. From the back came a droll bass voice, “Shouldn’t you be looking for a single man?”

She and I have talked often about men. Of course we don’t want someone else’s husband! We’re waiting on the Lord’s choice. We want men with demonstrable skills in commitment and loyalty. But pickings are slim. Why is that?

Across America, two-thirds of church members (in any denomination) are women. The other third are youth or married men. Many don’t attend church regularly. So there’s not a large population of Christian single men. Wouldn’t it be great to market our beliefs and lifestyle to single men in an evangelism campaign directed at men? Think how the offering revenues would rise after their baptisms! Some megachurches have done just that, and that's why they have the prefix "mega" before "church."

Many men, looking for playmates instead of the Proverbs 31 virtuous woman, bewail the lack of “dateable” women (aged 20-39, athletic, slim, childless, and willing to compromise morals). “Man [particularly the male gender] looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD [and most women] looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.

The heart of Mr. Right submitted wholly (and holy) to the Lord Jesus—that man is incredibly desirable. The intelligent, righteous, and moral man who commits himself to the ministry of the church and in the community—oh, be still my beating heart!

Mr. Right is described in Genesis 18:19 NIV: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about …what he has promised him.”

There are godly single people in both genders. Perhaps our focus should be less on finding the One Perfect Specimen, and more on bringing new people into our communities of faith, and by example and fellowship, developing their potential to be all that God has planned for them.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Influential People

And in the church God has appointed…those able to help others. 1 Corinthians 12:28 NIV

People with whom we have relationships affect us profoundly, far more than celebrities, politicians, or world leaders do. Answer these questions, if you can:

...Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

...Name the last five Heisman Trophy winners.

...Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.

...Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

...Name the last six Academy Award winners for best actor/actress.

...Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

Few of us remember the previous headliners. They are the best in their fields. But achievements are forgotten and awards tarnish. Accolades and certificates fade and get filed.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

...List teachers who aided your journey through school.

...Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

...Name three people who have taught you something worthwhile.

...Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

...Think of three people you enjoy spending time with.

...Name half a dozen real-life heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care.

Are you a hero or an inspiration to someone else? You are if you complimented someone at work, wrote a supportive letter to the newspaper op-ed page, donated a pint to the local blood bank, rehearsed with a church vocalist, drove a teenager to a youth meeting, took your neighbor to the doctor, or cut a bouquet of roses for a friend for no reason at all. They’re a few of the answers to the question: What would Jesus do?

One gift of the Holy Spirit is to be a helper and encourager (1 Corinthians 12:28). It’s listed along with apostles, teachers, administrators, and those gifted with language. And it directly precedes chapter 13, about the greatest gift of God: love for others. It’s all about love and relationship.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love, Love, Love

Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life. 1 John 4:7 CEV

Popular songs and movies are about finding love, losing love, unrequited love, spurned love. Advertisements from soft drinks to resort vacations are about love. Romance novels are complete fantasy. The reality-TV dating shows are staged, scripted, and ultimately unrealistic! (Never mind the Internet dating sites with misrepresentations and blatant lies.) The potential mates on TV's "The Bachelor" claim they're "in love," are unscrupulous and immoral, and don't seem to mind that their competitors' saliva is still on the tongue of their suitor. Blech!

Politicians of every party speak of love for country, but their actions often show disdain for their constituents, while fawning over their contributors.

I knew a pastor, at the time a bachelor, whose license plates on his red sports car read, “MY WIFE.” (I wonder what his plates changed to when he married.) Yet his subsequent marriage and adoption of a child shows his enduring commitment to love.

One person falls in and out of love as easily as changing a shirt, while another loyally and doggedly perseveres when it seems there’s no hope of returned affection.

For all the talk of love, is it love? What is love? It depends on who or what you’re talking about. Everyone wants fulfillment, happiness, appreciation, and a sense of belonging. On Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, those qualities are listed in the “love” category, about halfway up the ladder from physiological needs (bottom) to self actualization (top). The love that we strive to give and receive is at the top of the scale. The characteristics Maslow lists as self-actualized are mostly those of a fulfilled and godly human being, and we, with apologies to Dr. Maslow, might call them Christ-actualized!

The beloved disciple wrote in 1 John 4:7-11 CEV: My dear friends, we must love each other. Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life. We are now God’s children, and we know him. God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him. God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life. Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven. Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we must love each other.

In word and deed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who do you trust?

Which theme shall we go with for this February devotional article? Primary elections and the future of America? Valentines Day and true love? Black History month? Heart-health awareness? Groundhog Day marks six more weeks until equinox? The evils of Carnival and the “redemptive” works of Lent? No, let’s go big — and controversial.

A friend at church said that his 85 year-old mother was declining in health and did not have hope of salvation after years of church membership and countless agonized prayers that she has not yet attained perfection.

Another friend says his mother is bitterly angry with her family when they talk to her of God’s grace, because she believes they offer “cheap” grace. Her name is on the wall and she’s found wanting, she says.

A friend in my Bible study group describes his “Romans 7 life” of struggling against his sinful nature instead of moving into the “Romans 8 life” of trust that God can and will give us the divine nature.

Who or what do you trust the most when it comes to spiritual matters? Take this list slowly and one at a time:

  • Dr. Phil, Oprah, Joel Osteen, media preachers (even “ours”)
  • Inspired religious authors
  • Your parents or your spouse
  • The person who brought you into “the Church”
  • The people of your congregation
  • Your pastor
  • The denominational officers
  • The church guide book or its list of fundamental beliefs
  • Church pioneers
  • The “way we’ve always done it” in a religious system set up by minds greater than your own
  • Your ability to obey the 10 Commandments
  • Your theological understanding of Bible truths

Or do you place your whole, entire trust in the Word of God, namely, Jesus Christ, our Savior?

If you answered YES to the last question, then you should have no dispute with what follows; only an affirmation of hope. If you answered YES or YES-BUT to any of the previous list, you are living in the dark and cold of spiritual winter, because none of those people, things, or behaviors has the power to save you.

The Revelation 14 messages given by the three angels are to worship Creator-God and give Him glory, to leave the false worship system and its death penalty, to obey God’s voice and have enduring faith in Jesus, and to rest in Jesus.

What does it mean to have “faith” in Jesus? That you believe He exists? (Even the demons believe that way.) That you demonstrate you are a follower by keeping the Law of Moses?

NO (Romans 3:21-22). You must have faith in Jesus’ ability to save you, even when you know — you remember all too well — that you are not worthy of saving.

I’ll be blunt here: Who are you to say that Jesus’ gift is not sufficient to save you? “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:29 NIV.

When we confess our sins (not when we’re perfect or “cured” of them), God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse from ALL unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9.) When we confess, sins are instantly:

  • Finished
  • Done
  • Forgiven
  • Thrown away to the abyss

We remember our sins, but God has chosen — decided — to forget them eternally. He will not bring them up ever again, as Satan would have you believe. They’re not sitting on a sagging shelf in readiness to add back into your sin-bank when you fall, as you undoubtedly will.

Once your sin is forgiven and forgotten forever, God declares you “righteous.” Here is the part to remember: When Jesus created this world, He pronounced His creation GOOD, and when He creates in you a new heart, the divine nature, he also pronounces His new creation GOOD, “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14 NIV.

Notice that God’s Word says that in the past, by one perfect sacrifice, Jesus “made perfect forever.” That’s where the Father chooses to see your bare-naked, deformed and sickly self as clothed in Jesus’ robe of righteousness. You are invisible because Jesus stands there. Then the Word says, “those who are being made holy.” That’s where God does the reparative work to develop you into that new creature with His holy character.

But you do NOT attain perfection in order to be saved. Before He created this world, God resolved to love and save us to His uttermost ability. Jesus bought you at His cross. You, nearly dead from the vicious torture of slavery to sin, He redeemed and declared perfect, which actually means healthy, whole, complete, and mature.

The same God who was satisfied with the perfection of His created world and all features and creatures within it, says the same about you: GOOD. RIGHTEOUS. PERFECT.

“By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. Christ has also introduced us to God's undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2 CEV.

“I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest. I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep.” John 10:10-11 CEV.

The entire Bible is packed with words of hope and restoration. Therefore, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Love sent His Son to save and not condemn (John 3:16-17).

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19 NIV.

So is there any reason for bitterness? Is there any reason to hold back from shouting with all confidence that Jesus, for the joy set before Him, and for the sake of His own delight, saved you and you expect to either be caught up in the clouds or be awakened by your Creator's voice — with radiant joy!


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