God "embarrasses" Himself with Love

Luke  15:11-32 NKJV

11 Then [Jesus] said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe, loves us with such intensity, that He “embarrasses” Himself in His pursuit of a relationship with us.  There is nothing so undignified or beneath Him that He won’t do it to win our hearts to Him.  (I am not talking about sin of course).  In the above parable the son disgraced his father and himself and trampled their relationship by demanding his inheritance while his father was still alive.  Yet his father loved his son, kept watch for him, and ran to greet him as soon as he saw him coming back.  In Jesus’ day and culture a dignified adult man would not run, it was considered beneath him.  Yet Jesus portrays God, Jesus’ Heavenly Father, as someone who loves us so much that He is willing to “embarrass” himself by running to greet us to communicate His great love for us.

Of course, this was ultimately shown when He hung naked, brutally beaten and bloody, nailed to the cross, dying, so that he could provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

Love doesn’t get any greater than that.

When you die and meet Jesus He will not ask you about the size of your bank account, what neighborhood you lived in, the car you drove, whether you never smoked, drank or danced, how much you gave, whether you never missed church… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

He will ask you, however, what did you do with “Him”. He gave you His all.  He gave you Himself.  He does not condemn you.  He does not demand perfection.  He wants surrender.  He just wants you.  He wants an unhindered love relationship between you and Him.

What are you telling Him everyday by how you are living your life now?  Go back to Him.  He is waiting for you.  And when He sees you turn, He will run to greet you.

To whom much is given

There is a man I have the privilege of working with on a leadership project for our church.  He loves Jesus, his family, his church and more.  He has been the video production backbone of our team.

And he recently turned 14.

I wish I had had his wisdom when I was his age.

Luke 12:48b NKJV

For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

This verse at first glance seems like a downer to me.  But this verse is like a coin.  One side is responsibility.  When God gives us much we are required to use it all and make the most of it.  The other side of the coin is blessedness, happiness, and joy.  When God gives us much we have the opportunity to love God and others with more.  And that results in ourselves and others having more opportunities to experience joy.

I believe this young man will continue with Jesus.  And make the most of his relationship with the Master.  And I believe he has much joy in his future: for God, others and himself.

Satan’s lie about God

Under traffic sources in the statistics part of this blog’s background functions are what I believe are sources of entry for those who read this blog.  I clicked on one of them and it went to a porn site.  (I quickly closed it and told my wife who was sitting in the living room with me).  Before I became a Christian I viewed pornography.  I eventually recognized its destructive influence on me and got rid of it (even before I knew Jesus).  But like an alcoholic who becomes sober and then stays away from alcohol I stay away from pornography.  And that’s why I quickly closed it and told my wife.  She knows the password on my computer and I don’t hide anything from her, in order to protect myself from falling back into slavery to pornography.

If you view pornography I do not condemn you and God does not condemn you.  God and I do, however, condemn what is destroying you and that is the pornography.  God loves people but He hates sin – because sin hurts the people he loves.

Sin is an attempt to get our God-given needs met outside of God’s will.  Sin provides pleasure for a season but it will never satisfy the human heart’s longing to be satisfied by God.  God is waiting for you to give up satan’s worthless pleasure and seek Him to truly meet your needs.  God said, you will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.  Satan comes only to kill, steal and destroy.  Jesus comes so that me and you can have real life!  Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life, the wholesome nutrition for our souls that we might have true pleasure, true satisfaction, true life.

Satan will tell you that God is no fun.  God invented fun.  Satan will tell you that God is trying to steal the little pleasure you have left in life.  God is trying to introduce you to real pleasure that builds you up, not satan’s counterfeit that tears you down.  Satan is trying to destroy us with pleasure-coated poison.  God is trying to give us food for our souls, what we truly need to be happy.

In the end, it’s your choice.  But remember, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

If you want help please consider going to XXXchurch.com.  I have never gone to the site myself (for fear I would get targeted with spam from the porn industry) but I have heard good things about it from others.

Weather or Not Photography

Jim (Dad):  Jeremy, where did you take this shot?
Jeremy (Son): This photo was taken at a friend’s house.
Jim: Why do you shoot so many weather photos?
Jeremy: Because I think it’s beautiful.  And I love weather.
Jim: Have you had any photography training?
Jeremy: No.

Heaven for the Comfort, Hell for the Company

This is a phrase that I heard as a kid.  It means: I want to go to heaven to physically feel good and escape Hell’s torment and pain; but I want to socialize with people in Hell because they are “real” and not hypocritically thinking they are better than me.  There is a lot of truth to this phrase.

Some people in church are hypocrites.  Talking Jesus but without accepting others as they are, not giving mercy, love, forgiveness, acceptance and grace.  The problem is these same people usually haven’t experienced the unconditional love that Jesus offers.  They think what makes them a “christian” is going to church, obeying rules (that is, the ones they want to obey and ignoring the others), and being accepted by other “christians”.  They have missed everything.  And that “everything” is a personal relationship with Jesus.

When a person truly knows Jesus they don’t think they are better than you.  In fact, they believe they are your servant and put you first.  Not just if you are another Christian but regardless of who you are, what you believe or what you’ve done.  That’s because that’s what Jesus did… and still does.  Jesus counted Himself among sinners and is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters.

People don’t become true Christians by following rules and pretending they are perfect. Rather they become true Christians by surrendering themselves to the Jesus they have learned to trust and love because they have seen Him love them first hand through one of His followers.

If you can’t find a true Christian perhaps you want to consider investigating becoming a true Christian yourself?  Pray to God and tell Him you want to know Him.  Read the Bible starting in John (you can use the index to find it) and learn about Jesus’ character and love for you and others.  Pray that God would lead you to one of His true followers, that they might help you know God better.  You can explore if Jesus is someone you want to spend your life and eternity with.  And being with Jesus is what makes heaven, heaven.

Wisdom, Humility and Real Life

James 1:5 NKJV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 4:6 – 10 NKJV

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:     “God resists the proud,     But gives grace to the humble.”  7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 

Naturally, in and of myself, I don’t have any wisdom at all.  I become painfully aware of this sometimes when God removes His wisdom from me.  Then I realize that if my own wisdom was dynamite I wouldn’t have enough to blow my nose.  God is the source of all true wisdom.

I used to write these posts for the local newspaper, accompanied by a meaningful photo.  After writing them weekly for two years I became proud, thinking I was writing them out of my own wisdom, out of my own power, out of myself.  I knew I was getting proud, but I couldn’t shake it.  My pride got in the way of hearing from God to write the posts.  And eventually I had to quit writing them.  And I couldn’t write another until eight years later.

There is a relationship between wisdom, love and pride.  Wisdom is the practically working out of love for God, others and ourselves in our daily lives.  Pride is the opposite of love.  Pride cuts off the ability to hear God’s wisdom because we seek glory for ourselves and so it results in a fall, or the destruction of our lives.

God knows we all have a problem with pride.  That’s why He sent Jesus to take the punishment for our pride.  God said to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and in due time He will lift us up.  He doesn’t lift us up the way this world does, that is, by making ourselves “greater” than others.  He lifts us up by making us like Himself, by making us able to be a loving servant like Him.  Humbling ourselves and loving and serving others is real glory.  And this real glory, when we humble ourselves, and love God with all that we are and others as much as ourselves, is just breaking even in God’s sight.  It is the minimum God expects from each of us.  We are no “greater” than anyone else.

And that’s the way we would want it isn’t it?  We want others to love us as much as they love themselves.  But, we don’t want them to feel “greater” than us by doing so.  It is just what is expected.

But loving others this way is impossible in our natural selves.  When we are born our spirits are dead.  But, when we confess our sins to God and believe that Jesus paid our sin debt in full (when He died and rose from the dead), God gives us the Person of His Spirit that is alive and willing and able to do all that God asks.  We then are able to choose to follow God if we want to follow Him.  And when we choose to follow Him we find out the reason He made us.  We find real life the way God intended it to be.

 1 John 5:11-13 NKJV

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Matthew 10:39  NKJV

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Today, right now, Jesus is calling you.  And if you listen to Him, and respond to Him, you will never be the same.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I’m glad I didn’t get what I wanted

Jesus said that even in abundance our life does not consist in what we have.  I just updated my Linked In account to reflect my new job.  For my job description I put that I serve the mentally ill of which I am one.  At one time I wanted to be a CEO or president or anything that at that time I thought commanded respect.  I despised my mental illness and the stigma and “shame” that came with it.  Now I thank God for the experience of mental illness though I would not want to go back to having no meds.  I get to meet some of the neatest people through my job.  And what used to hold me back now I use to join with others in moving forward.  Jesus’ kingdom truly is upside-down when compared with how this world thinks.  If God would have granted me a healthy brain and given me my desire to “be important”, I would be lonely, frustrated, and friendless.  Instead He gave me defective brain chemistry, pain and sorrow, and a new life that values other people instead of what I think other people think of me.

What do you value?  Are you happy?  The Bible says that Jesus, took the form of a servant, and for the joy set before Him, endured the cross to pay for our sins.  What did He value?  You and me, and His Father.  He was never elected to public office, never wrote a book, and didn’t travel the world.  He did however, humble himself and obey His Father.  And He is happy.  If you want to follow in His footsteps you can.  Just confess your sins to Him.  Tell Him you’re sorry for them and that you are turning from them with His help.  Tell Him you believe He died for your sins and rose to give you new life.  And then tell someone about the forgiveness and new life God has given you.  Read the Bible and pray.  And love and obey Him.  You will experience His peace, love and joy.