Archive | April, 2019

In Pursuit Of God

30 Apr

In Pursuit Of God…

The Book of Proverbs was probably Grandfathers favorite place to go when teaching me bible lessons.

Proverbs 21:21 says, “He who pursues righteousness and mercy finds life”. The word used for ‘pursue’ is a Hebrew word that also means ‘to hunt’. We are to hunt after righteousness and mercy, to pursue it with all our hearts, to even run after it.

Notice something else— it doesn’t say that the one who pursued righteousness is blessed, but the one who pursues it. In other words, we are never to stop pursuing God. The pursuit of God and His righteousness is something that must never become an action of the past tense.

One of the greatest mistakes believers make is that they pursued God— but only in the past tense and not anymore. They lost their zeal and passion to pursue God. Having pursued Him in the past alone doesn’t bring blessing. But pursuing God in the present does.

Make it your aim, your plan, your occupation, your joy to pursue God. Then you will find life and you will be blessed. For the one who continually pursues God and His righteousness will continually be blessed with new life.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness,faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11

Make it your goal to actively pursue God with passion! Run— do not walk— after Him.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

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Focused

29 Apr

Focused…

Grandfather used to tell us a piece of paper is one of the weakest and most flimsy of substances. But paper can also be dangerous. Have you ever had a paper cut? How can something as fragile as a piece of paper cut you as if it were a knife? It’s because the edge of the paper has the potential of focusing the weight and the strength of the paper into the smallest of spaces. When you focus something, it increases the force, so a paper can actually become as strong as a knife.

It’s true of sheets of paper, and it’s true for your life and walk in God. If you’re all over the place, it’s unlikely you’ll accomplish great things or live a great life for God. If you’re focused— on Him, on His kingdom, on His purposes— then everything changes. The power you have gets multiplied. Paul was focused and look what He did.

So set your focus; be single-minded, fixing your eyes on Jesus doing all things with one purpose. A focused life in God can cut through the greatest problems and even change the world.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5

Be single-minded, fixing your eyes on Jesus and doing all things with one purpose.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

Loving Your Enemies

28 Apr

Loving Your Enemies…

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful,just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36

If you are looking for a nice, comfortable religion that doesn’t call for too many demands on your life, makes you feel better when you’re down, and will reserve luxury suites for you in heaven when you die, then you probably shouldn’t try to be one of Jesus’ disciples. He is demanding. He has the crazy notion that his followers should serve others rather than themselves. He expects them to show integrity when no one is looking. And he expects them to love. Not just people who only occasionally have a bad day. But enemies. Jesus expects you to love your enemies. Don’t follow him unless you’re ready to experience some discomfort.

The world says — rightly — “Love your friends. Be loyal to your friends. Look out for your friends.” Why? Friends will look out for you. Loving your friends is just smart. This also goes to loving your wife or your husband. As the Apostle Paul observes, “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28).

Loving your wife is a no-brainer unless you’re self-destructive. Loving your friends and your spouse is just enlightened self-interest.

But it’s altogether another thing to love an enemy, someone who has your disgrace or destruction as a goal. Notice as Jesus teaches his disciples in this passage he uses the familiar rhythm of Hebrew parallelism.

“Love your enemies,
Do good to them who hate you.”

Jesus uses some heavy words to describe the Christian-haters:

Greek echthros means “the (personal) enemy” from echtho, “to hate.” Ethros means “hateful,” and as a noun, “adversary, enemy, foe.”Greek miseo means “hate, persecute in hatred, detest, abhor.” These are people with an active desire for our hurt. Miseo is particularly used as “to persecute.” There is a malicious attitude. These are people you can’t turn your back on.Greek kataraomai means “to curse.” Curses are utterances that are designed to bring harm by supernatural operation.Greek epereazo means “threaten, mistreat, abuse.”

But Jesus says that we are not to just force a smile and mind our own business when we are hated and mistreated. We are to actively try to do good towards our attackers. Agapao is a rare word in Koiné Greek. It was developed almost exclusively in Christian literature to refer to the kind of love that doesn’t serve itself, but extends itself for the sake of another. The other Greek words for love are eros, erotic love, philos, love for family, brotherly love, and stergos, natural affection. Agape love is really a different category of love that the world hadn’t seen in action until Jesus came along and infected his followers with it.

Jesus uses four very strong action words in these verses:

Greek agapao — love your enemies Greek poimeo kalos — do good to those who hate you.Greek eulogoeo — to speak well of Greek proseuchomai — to pray for, to intercede for.

None are in the passive voice. They don’t just take care of themselves. They are active verbs describing deliberate action to do good to one’s enemies.

Let’s pause for a moment. Who are your enemies? I’m not asking who you hate? I’m asking who hates you, or despises you? Often they are the people close to us who have been hurt. A spouse or former spouse. A parent. A son or daughter. A co-worker at the job. An enemy of God who takes it out on you. Someone whose evil action you have exposed and is now out to get you. Who are your enemies?

Now what can you actively do to seek their good? That is the way Jesus is training his disciples to think.

How do I love my enemy? you ask with all seriousness. This isn’t a matter of just thinking nice thoughts. We need Jesus to do a heart change within us, to put the kind of heart within us toward our enemies that was in God who sent Jesus to redeem and forgive a world full of despicable people. God-haters, vulgar, foul-mouthed, unfaithful to spouses, lying, cheating, stealing, selfish. The list goes on, and on describes us at our worst. Somehow God loves the people of Israel who thumb their noses at him again and again. He doesn’t quit. They are unfaithful and are punished, but then God is at it again seeking to bless them. He doesn’t give up. He has a heart of love toward the loveless. That is what we need to love our own enemies. We have plenty of strong examples from our God to follow.

So how do you do it? I don’t think we wait for emotions of love. Rather we start with actions of love, and emotions may follow later. We start doing what Jesus taught right here:

Do good. When you find a way you can do something good for one of your worst enemies, do it. Not to shame him, but because you are trying to find it in your own evil heart to love him for Jesus’ sake Bless. When you think of the person who is slandering you, and saying untrue and nasty things about you, find ways to work blessing into your thoughts. Speak a blessing out loud. When you are with friends, instead of complaining about your unjust treatment, go out of your way (actively) to speak well of your enemies. Why? To shame them? No — though it will. But to find it in your own heart to love them.

Pray. Intercede. When you’re praying, you probably pray for your family and your pastor, and your friends and family. Why don’t you begin to pray and intercede for your enemies. Actively. Start to ask God to help them. Ask God to heal the hurts in their lives that are some of the motivators of their evil actions. Ask God to bless them and show mercy to them. Why? To shame them? No, in order to find it in your heart to love them.

And if you’ll do good when you find opportunities, and bless when you think of them, and pray and intercede earnestly before the Lord, you’ll find that God will begin to put love in your heart toward your enemies. Actual love. Sometimes loving emotions, too.

You see, Jesus is out to create an army of disciples that look at enemies as he and his Father look at them. As people to love and care for. People to provide rain for. People to die for. Jesus is out to change you and me. And obeying Jesus’ commands in these verses, along with the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, will accomplish just that.

Refuse to Retaliate (6:29)

“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (6:29)

“Turning the other cheek” has made it into the English language as an expression meaning to go out of your way to avoid a nasty confrontation. Even though provoked, instead of lashing out, you turn the other cheek. In fact, I think that’s pretty close to what this sentence means in Jesus’ teaching. Remember, the context is enemies, those who insult us and seek to embarrass us.

Jesus’ point is that we are to avoid hitting back, the natural human reaction. How can we love when we hit back with something that will wound our opponent? Husbands and wives sometimes get into arguments; tensions that may have been simmering for years boil over once again. And with the boiling comes anger, and with anger a willingness not just to defend, but to strike back. To get an advantage. To have the last word. To wound.

Though Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek is intended in the arena with a sworn enemy, the principle applies to every area of our lives. Don’t retaliate. Don’t hit back. Don’t move from a position of prayerful love for your enemy to a drop-down, drag-out fight. Love doesn’t retaliate. Love seeks the enemy’s good (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

The second command is harder yet to understand. “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (6:29b). But the principle is the same — after all, this is Hebrew parallelism. When your enemy takes your cloak, remember that you love him. You are praying for him. You are blessing him and seeking his good. Don’t get grabby and nasty and accusing. You love him, remember? Let him have your tunic also.

Oohhh! I can hear you say. You don’t think you can do that. I don’t think you can, either. But with the Spirit of Jesus working through you he can teach you to love your enemies — even at their ugliest.

After all, we can learn from the masters of patience, and repeated forgiveness. The Father told Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children by her. Inevitably she returned to her old ways, and left Hosea. But he went searching for her, and brought her back and forgave her. I hear the old, old story of the searching Father loud and clear in the story of Hosea, as I do in the story of the Prodigal Son. On the cross, this is how Jesus treated his enemies … he treated them to the words, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

And we would quibble over a cloak or a tunic? Jesus is seeking to train disciples to think and act and love like he does. Turning the other cheek is indeed what he did as the soldiers spat on him and flogged him, and jammed a thorny crown into his scalp and mocked him as king. Was he tempted to retaliate. Oh, yes! But he didn’t. Why? He loved them. That is the radical lesson of verse 29.

Taking It Literally

If you’ve got the point, then Jesus’ hyperbole has struck home. Now let’s consider what his words don’t mean. They don’t mean that we as a society should let criminals run free to do violence on any citizen. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call the police when robbed. It doesn’t mean that we should stand idly by when someone is assaulted.

Jesus words aren’t about crime or pacifism in war. They are about loving enemies in a radical way. If we seek to make a new law that overrides the civil law in Exodus against violent crime we miss the point. Then we’re trying to make a new law where Jesus intended that we look underneath the law intended to restrain sinful people. Having now a glimpse of love, don’t try to legislate it.

The same goes for people taking your clothes off. If you were to take this verse literally, nudity would be the result. Is that what Jesus intended to go with this? Of course not. This is hyperbole to make a point: radical love for your enemy. But we aren’t to misunderstand and suspend the law. That would be foolish.

Possessions Are Less Important than Love (6:30)

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (6:31). Verse 31 follows along in the same vein as vs. 29. When our enemy seeks to take what we own, we are to STILL love him. Our love is to transcend evil deeds. That is Jesus’ point.

Does Jesus mean that we are to give to every beggar or con man we meet? Of course not. He expects us to be good stewards of our money. The point is how we treat our enemies, the radical way we love them.

The Golden Rule (6:31)

Now Jesus moves from love of enemies and the radical way we are to exercise that, to a principal that CAN be applied generally. It’s been called the Golden Rule, and with good reason.

Scholars observe that it has been stated negatively by many before Jesus. The great Rabbi Hillel, for example, taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof.” But that is merely prudent, a wise way to keep out of trouble with your neighbor. When Jesus turns this to a positive, it IS radical. It states for us clearly how we are to exercise love. We are to treat people the way we would like to be treated. Not the way they DESERVE to be treated, but the way we would like to be treated. There is still the strong current of radical love of the Father. If Jesus had treated us as we deserve, we’d all be doomed. But he has shown us grace, and now expects his disciples to dispense that same grace and graciousness to the world in his name.

Exceed the Self-Aware Goodwill of Unbelievers (6:32-34)

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.” (6:32-34)

Now Jesus gives several examples to illustrate the difference between a selfish, prudent way of dealing, and his own radical love — looking out for the other person’s best interests. Even “sinners,” unbelievers, shrewd but relatively moral people, care about their friends. It’s good business. “What goes around, comes around,” so let’s all be nice. But that isn’t Jesus’ point. He tell us to show kindness, especially when we won’t be beneficiaries of it later. Unselfish, serving love — agape love — is what he is illustrating here. Self-love seeks repayment — the sooner the better. Agape love seeks no repayment.

But there will be a day when we will be repaid in full. In the Father’s Kingdom Jesus’ disciples will have the high status of sons of the King. There will be a payday, someday. But we are not to seek it now, in this life. The eyes of faith are trained to look beyond the seen, to the unseen. “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Learn Mercy from God’s Example (6:35-36)

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (6:35-36)

Here Jesus has digressed a bit and generalized his instructions about love to all mankind. But now he narrows the view again to enemies. Anyone can love friends — and we must — but the test of real love comes with loving enemies. And into that school Jesus thrusts his disciples. If they would follow him they must learn the Father’s way, the way of long-suffering, the way of love, the way of mercy. Jesus gives three commands as the elements of this pass-fail exam:

Love your enemies Do good to them Lend to them without expecting to get anything back.On Lending

In America we live in a credit culture. Young people are encouraged to incur a little debt and then pay it back at regular intervals in order to develop a credit rating. People commonly borrow to buy a house, buy a car, purchase living room furniture. Buy now, pay later. When we read about lending in the Bible we need to purge our thoughts of borrowing for these purposes. They just didn’t.

Sometimes businessmen might borrow to set up a business, but interest rates could be 20% or 30%. Moneylenders were tolerated in First Century Palestine (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27), though despised. There was no Small Business Administration loan to provide a “grubstake” to begin a business. Business loans were a much later development. Jews were prohibited to loan on interest to other Jews, especially to help them subsist. The Law provided considerable protection to the poor, when it was enforced.

People borrowed only when they were needy, when they had a reversal of fortunes and needed money for food. Borrowing was not entered into lightly. If you think loaning money to your useless brother-in-law to help provide for your sister’s family is a recent invention, you’d be wrong. People lent to family members. Sometimes they were paid back, often they were not.

Forgiven Debtors

Then, says Jesus, the Christians whom he is persecuting should ante up on his behalf and lend the money to get him released. No matter if the Christian is not repaid. Here is a wonderful test case for Jesus’ disciples, an opportunity to help a miserable insolent unbeliever purely out of love, with no hope of reward.

That, Jesus says, is real mercy. That comes closer to the Father’s style of mercy than any other possible repayment the Father can expect from us miserable sinners. We surely can’t repay enough to compensate for the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on our behalf, that atoned for our sins. Mercy to those who have no way of repayment? Jesus’ death for our sins is one such case.

And disciples of Jesus must learn to be merciful. Not when it is useful. Not when it is convenient. Not when the recipient is worthy. Mercy is never justified. It is given freely. That is what we disciples must learn.

“Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (6:35b-36)

The cost of learning this costly mercy to enemies may be some insults and slander. Some blows to the cheek and stolen cloaks. But to learn this is to learn the essence of the Gospel — unmerited, costly forgiveness. And the reward is God-likeness, the most rarefied gift Jesus’ Spirit can bestow

Prayer

Lord, the more I ponder these uncompromising words, the more I realize that I am in agape kindergarten. Please help me to take your words seriously and not discount them. Make your point deep in my heart. Teach me your mercy. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

In all of this the key verse is: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) This in itself says a lot. As we get out of life what we put in, we also get from others what we serve…

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

The World We Live In and You

26 Apr

The World We Live In and You…

I listen to people rant and rave over how bad our world is and how everything is changing — for the worse and I ask myself why. Yes, we have grown in technology and people tend to think life is harder than ever and it may be. However, as the world changes are we required to follow in its ways?

In my post “Love Is Stronger” I talk about how divided our world has come and how we, as Christians, should shine our lights and try to make things brighter. I received a response “I wish this would happen but I am not sure it will. I don’t see love being displayed much today, I see just the opposite. I feel the only way for love to flourish is for Jesus to come back and start the Kingdom.

This saddened me, because “Your World” is quite a bit different from “The World We Live In” or it should be. Being raised on the bible I look at the greatest commandments– “Love your neighbor as yourself and as I have loved you” along with “Put no other God before me” as a rule to live everyday life. Nowhere do I see where it says let yourself blend into the outside world. And nowhere do I see where we are to allow negativity control our world and life.

Let’s all take a close look at the world in general. Yes things have changed, people have become bitter, our country is divided, and hate seems to be more prevalent than love. But, God has not changed, He is the same today as yesterday and will be the same tomorrow!! He promised to ways be here for us and has never let anyone of us down.

So when you feel the world is closing in on you, look up and thank God for all the blessings He has given you and the security you have with Him in your life. He is always there!!

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

The Sprinkling Of The Blood

26 Apr
The Sprinkling Of The Blood…

When Grandfather talked about the sacrifices of the Bible, there was often a special act performed at the end of the offering. It was called the “Zarak”. It was the sprinkling or the applying of the blood.

On Yom Kippur, he said, the blood of the sacrifice had to be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat itself. Christ is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices of the Bible. Thus, it means that those who partake of His sacrifice must in some way perform the Zarak, the sprinkling of the blood.

How do you perform the Zarak?

You apply the blood of Christ — the love of God poured out, the mercy and forgiveness of His atonement— to every area of your life. You apply it to your home, to your workplace, to your marriage, to your children, to your emotions, to your sins, to your past, to your anger, to your unforgiveness, to your fears, to your dreams, to your conscience, to your heart— to everything in your daily life. The sacrifice of Christ is a Zarak, and it’s for you to perform— on everything.

but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:19

Perform the Zarak and apply the blood of Christ to every area of your life.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

The Bride

25 Apr
The Bride…

When my sister got married, there was a hairdresser who volunteered to do the hair for all the bridesmaids. The problem was that she didn’t exactly know what she was doing and they ended up looking like the bride… of Frankenstein. So we were waiting for my sister and her maids for two hours! Fortunately, there were a lot of recording artists present to keep everyone busy, but I wouldn’t recommend that any bride come two hours late to her own wedding.

In the same way, the Scripture tells us that Jesus is the Bridegroom and He’s looking for a bride who is prepared and ready for the wedding. That’s you. Your wedding is coming, and the only time you have to prepare for it is your days on earth. Make the most of every moment. Use it to become more spiritually beautiful, more loving, more pure, more righteous, more filled with the Holy Spirit and grace.

This is the only time you have, and you don’t want to be late for your own wedding. You want to come out looking like the Bride of Jesus – not the Bride of Frankenstein!

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1John 3:3

Make it your aim to become a more beautiful person. Make the most of every moment to become more like Messiah.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed

The Greatness Of God

23 Apr

The Greatness Of God…

Grandfather taught me the bible and about life. He told me you will sin, as everyone does, but God is great and forgives us our sins.

One day I was troubled by my sins and confessed them to Grandfather. He replied, “You have indeed sinned and you will undoubtedly sin again. But one sin you must never commit. Never commit the sin of forgetting that no matter how great your sin is, the love of God is greater still to forgive it.” It was that counsel, which focused not on my sin but on the greatness of the grace of God, that helped to set him free. As it is written, “The grace of God leads us to repentance.”

The point is, the point is not us, or even our sins. The point is the love of God is so great that it washes away all of our sins. Whatever you’re going through, you will undoubtedly disappoint and grieve God. But never forget that no matter what your sin, if you repent, the love of God will be there for you and will be greater than all your sins.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25

If you need to repent, do it. Then accept His love and forgiveness. Be free and rejoice in the amazing grace of God.

Walk daily with God at your side!

Love always,

Ed