If you heard someone say they believed in God, would you assume they were good?If they said: "I believe Jesus rose from the dead," would you assume they were Christians?
James says,"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."(James 2:19)
We read that"the devil took Him[Jesus]to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.'All this I will give You,' he said, 'if You will bow down and worship me.'"(Matthew 4:8)
From this scripture we know that Satan has personally met Jesus.Satan doesn't just believe Jesus is the Son of God - He knows He is.Since Satan knows who Jesus is and his angels believe and tremble; how can we say, "My belief makes me a Christian?"Can belief alone be sufficient?
If all we do is believe that Jesus is the Son of God; that he died and rose again on the third day; then, we believe what Satan knows for a fact!He was there!Perhaps it takes more than belief alone to be a child of God.
"By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and areHis children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God's will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ)."(1st John 3:10 AMP)
Jesus said,"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength...Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these."(Mark 12:30-31)
Add to that, Jesus' statement, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15) and we're beginning to get the picture.Now remember that His commands included:
Preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15)
Proclaim the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:60)
Receive the Kingdom of God like a little child (Luke 18:17)
Be born again. (John 3:3)
Do not be ashamed (Mark 8:38 & Romans 1:16)
He also said, "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)
"All things!""Everything!" Not just those things that we want to hear or that we think are "appropriate" or "politically correct" for today.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:20)
Belief is required; loving God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is required; and, loving our brothers and sisters is required.But if we stop there we will not win the prize.We must obey everything our Lord Jesus told us with the faith of a child - and take that Word to the world without fear or embarrassment.Then we can call ourselves "Children of God."
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 2:5
September 20, 2005
"Let's play with the children"
Have you ever walked in a forest just after a rainstorm on a cool autumn day and listened to the sounds around you?There are probably snakes, wild animals (and definitely lots of mosquitoes); but, for a short moment, everything is peaceful.Sometimes we can be surrounded by peace and fail to see it.
Recently, while watching a news broadcast concerning the tragedy in New Orleans, I noticed that while the reporter was interviewing a survivor, children were playing in the background.The survivor was talking about what they had lost - their home and their business.They wanted someone to blame - someone to take responsibility.They were angry and filled with rage and bitterness.All the while, children were playing in the background.
The children weren’t playing with toys, but with pieces of debris.They were using bits of all those destroyed lives as makeshift toys and trying to enjoy life in the face of all their tragedy.
Some might say that these are only children; they don't understand the seriousness of the situation.What they do is irrelevant because they don't have the knowledge or education of an adult; they cannot react "appropriately."
Really?They know that their home is gone.They know that their favorite toys are gone.Some of them know that one or both of their parents are gone.One of the biggest mistakes an adult can make is to underestimate what a child understands.While the child may not understand from a material or philosophical point of view, they may understand better than many adults from a spiritual point of view.
Have you ever wondered why children believe in imaginary things; why they often see "imaginary" people?Children don't have all the cynicism and skepticism of adults.Their heads aren’t full of reasons why angels can't exist.Children simply believe.
Jesus said,"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."(Matthew 11:25)He also said,"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."(Matthew 18:3)
Lots of bad things happen in our world.We can predict even worse things.Maybe we should be preparing for the end of civilization as we know it.Maybe we should be fleeing the country or hiding in the mountains.Or, maybe, we should have the faith of a little child and believe Jesus' words that He has "overcome the world". (John 16:33)
Children get trough many of life's storms by quickly forgiving and returning to their "play."Adults, with our superior knowledge and experience, sometimes live with anger, resentment, bitterness and hate for years after the storms have passed.Some never return to play (happiness); they allow life's tragedies to keep them captive.
It's our choice.We can grieve for a time and then, like the children, forgive, pick ourselves up, and return to play; or, we can allow our lives to sink into a bottomless pit of anger and bitterness.
I think I'll walk down into the putrid water and join the children in their games because"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me."(Mark 9:37)Will you join me...?
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 2:5
September 21, 2005
"I love God!"
A sequel to I believe in God; or, as Paul Harvey would say, "The rest of the story."
Several years ago my wife and I gave each of our twin daughters a box of crayons that contained 128 colors. The crayons came with a few rules: don't make marks on the furniture or your clothes; don't leave them on the floor; and, put them away when you're done.
A short time later, I came home from a particularly difficult day at work; and, as I walked into the kitchen, I was greeted by two very surprised little girls.In the twinkling of an eye, my mood changed from tired, to happy (to see my girls), to shocked (at the mess they had made), all the way to angry as I realized that they had broken every rule we gave them concerning the crayons.
At the same time, the girls went from excited to see Daddy, to surprised, to fearful, to tears.Great!They're crying and I'm yelling.Welcome home Daddy.
Crayons were everywhere!Crayon marks were on the floor, the kitchen table, on their clothes and, somehow, even on their faces.As my temperature continued to rise, Angell climbed down from her chair and walked over to me.With a trembling hand and tears running down her little face, she handed me the focus of all this "creativity" that had brought such chaos to the kitchen.It was a page covered in every conceivable color; and, across the middle, printed ever so carefully were the words, "I LOV DADI."In an instant I couldn't see.
As I held the paper in my hand, Alyssa brought me her work or art.It was a similarly colored page, but the words were different.Hers said, "DADE LOVS ME"
Instantly, the only thing in that room was love and forgiveness.I completely forgot about their mess and they forgot about my anger and harsh words.They were beaming with happiness because they knew that their father loved them and they loved him.I was beaming because my children, whom I loved, loved me.
Paul said our words are useless if we don't have love.Our gifts, our knowledge, even our faith does not matter if we don't have love.(1st Corinthians 13:1-3)Jesus said there is no commandment greater than these: Love God and love your neighbor. (Mark 12:29-31)He also said, "...He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him."(John 14:21)
The difference between Christians and the rest of the world is not that we believe Jesus is God or that He rose from the dead.The difference is that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.That love begats forgiveness; that love is His easy yoke and the heart of His commands.That love overcomes the world.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.But the greatest of these is love."(1st Corinthians 13:13)
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 2:5
September 22, 2005
"SMALL ACTS OF KINDNESS"
"…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have
done it unto me." Matthew 25:40
The past three weeks I spent several afternoons volunteering in a church office that had been turned in a Disaster Relief Room. There was some chaos the first couple of days as the Shelter personnel learned their new responsibilities. After hurriedly learning the multi-phone system, I spent much time answering questions and getting calls to the correct person.
Between phone calls, I made calls to the enormous list of names of those who had gone through a Red Cross training a few days before.
My family, the church we attend, and thousands from the small city we call home had turned out en masse volunteering their services to help make the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina comfortable. We fed them three meals a day and furnished them comfortable beds.
The transportation committee spent hours driving them to the doctor, Social Security office and County Health Office, bank, post office and other places they needed to go. A team of nurses and doctors stayed 24 hours a day at the shelter to take care of their medical needs. For protection, local policemen took 8 hour shifts around the clock.
We were all a team determined to show God’s love through simple acts of kindness freely given to our new neighbors.
One afternoon a call came in from a couple who had planned to help serve the evening meal. An emergency would prevent their being able to come. My husband was out of town and I didn’t have to fix supper at my house that night. So I volunteered to go down to the kitchen immediately after the office I was working in closed for the day.
My very degenerate back would not allow me to stand on the concrete floor for very long. But in the short time I was there helping prepare the meal a lovely lady came to the counter.
"May I have a sandwich?" she asked.
Talking further with her I discovered she had been gone at lunchtime and was now hungry. Joyfully, I opened the huge refrigerator and brought out the turkey and cheese. It was such a small chore to make the sandwich and give it to her. Little did I know the impact that tiny act of kindness would have on me a few hours later.
The next morning I opened up our local paper and there on the front page was a picture and story of the sweet lady I had made and served the sandwich to. She told of the horror she had gone through escaping from the hurricane a few days earlier. The two jobs she had previously worked were now completely ravaged by the storm. She was homeless and helpless, completely at the mercy of those who were providing her needs at our shelter.
As I sat there and read her story, I heard loud and clear in my spirit, "When you have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
What a revelation! It was only a sandwich furnished by other volunteers but God spoke directly to me as I stared at the face in front of me.
I knew there was rejoicing in heaven as God looked down upon the thousands and thousands of volunteers across our nation feeding, giving money, clothing and sharing hospitality to Hurricane Katrina evacuees. So many people were serving and loving wherever they were needed.
These acts of mercy did not depend on our wealth, ability or intelligence. They were simple acts of kindness freely given.
During this national tragedy known as Hurricane Katrina that has hit our nation I pray that we have all glorified our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by reflecting our love for Him through a simple sandwich, a cold drink or a much needed hug.
Why would a good God let bad things happen?Someone recently said, "I can't believe any superior being, if one exists, would choose destruction over enlightenment.If someone can create it (the universe), they certainly have the power to affect and change it.There is no good reason for destruction; none!"
This person is absolutely correct on one point.God can affect change and He can create a world (or universe) that is totally and eternally peaceful.So, why didn't He?Maybe a more significant question is, "Why did God create us in the first place?
The answer lies in God's very nature.God is love (1st John 4:16) and the nature of love is to give. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son..."In John 15:13 Jesus said,"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
When He created the heaven and earth, He spoke them into existence saying,"Let there be light, and there was light"(Genesis 1:3).But when He created man, the Bible says, "He formed man from the dust of the ground"(Genesis 2:7).He formed us with His own hands.He formed us with love and longed for us to love Him.He could have forced us to love Him; but, He desires a genuine love - not robots.That's why He gave us free will.
God did not create a world where nothing would ever go wrong.He created a world where human freedom, the ability to choose, is a free gift.However, that freedom to choose carries with it the possibility that we might make the wrong choices.
God knows that we are all the same; we all sin and fall short of His intent for us (Romans 3:22-24).However, He gave us a way home and He longs for us to choose that path.
When Jesus told the Parable of the lost son in Luke 15, He described a father that allowed his son to do as he wished.However, the father rejoiced when the son, of his own free will, came to his senses and returned home.
Jesus was describing our Heavenly Father.We have the ability to do great evil and we live in a world filled with evil.However, He gave us the ability to overcome the world through His Son.Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble.But take heart!I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
God does not want robots.He wants sons and daughters that have chosen Him over all the world has to offer.He is not oblivious to our trials and tribulations and He will bring justice to the world when His Son returns.Why do bad things happen...?Because we allow them too through disobedience.God not only gave us free will; He also gave us dominion - rule - "over all the earth" (Genesis 1:26).We can rule our way or His way.We can take the wide road that leads to destruction or we can take the narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14)
However, if we chose God's road - the narrow road -"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"(1st Corinthians 2:9).So brothers and sisters, let's not live by the standards of this world.Although we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world; our weapons have divine power (2nd Corinthians 10:2-4) so we can enjoy "...the fruit of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."(Galatians 5:21-23)Amen!