What do you want?

What a man wants is unfailing love, better to be poor than a liar.  (Proverbs 19:22 NIV84)

God created us to want unconditional love, to want Him.  It is better to be poor in spirit (know you need God) than to lie (and say in your heart you don’t need God).  Satan appeals to our desire to meet our own needs, be our own “god”, to be our own source.  Satan hates God, hates that He is love, and hates those who accept Him and His love… and return His love.  He hates God because God’s goodness exposes satan’s evil selfish corruption.  People worship (value) God because God demonstrates His humility and self-sacrificing care for them every day.  God puts our needs ahead of His own.  He is not only the Great King He is the Lowest (Head) Servant.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45, NKJV).

 Satan tells people to blame God for all the evil in the world.  Satan tells people that God is uninterested in them, in their struggles, hurts, cares or dreams.  Satan tells people that God is a nitpicking tyrant just waiting to pounce on them for doing the littlest thing wrong.

These are actually the qualities of satan and the opposite of the qualities of God.

God demonstrated who He really is when He walked on earth with us, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Read the truth about God in the Bible.  Read the Gospels, literally the “Good News”: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John at the beginning of the New Testament of the Bible.  Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and proclaimed the coming of His kingdom where His kind of loving service would rule; instead of this world’s current selfishness.

Do you want a God who is a loving leader; who values you and even your smallest dreams; who has served your greatest need already by paying the cost of your sin so you could spend forever with Him, so He could love you, and you could freely love Him back?  If so, ask Jesus to come into your heart, to be your Servant and your Leader.  Spend time talking to Him and listening to Him through prayer and reading the Bible.  Ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit.  Find a church that believes and preaches the Bible.  And tell others what a great thing God has done for you.

When God loves another through you, all three of you are blessed.

One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV84

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, 
and he will reward him for what he has done.
Proverbs 19:17 NIV84

A generous man will himself be blessed, 
for he shares his food with the poor.
Proverbs 22:09 NIV84

He who oppresses the poor 
shows contempt for their Maker, 
but whoever is kind to the needy 
honors God.
Proverbs 14:31 NIV84

Seek first his kingdom (Jesus is the King) 
and his righteousness (Jesus gives us His righteousness),
and all these things (food, clothing and shelter)
will be added unto you as well.
Matthew 6:33

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  
When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  
Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  
And the King will answer and say to them, 
‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, 
you did it to Me.’ 
Matthew 25:37-40 NKJV

When I don’t give freely for the benefit of others one of the reasons is that I fear I won’t have enough for myself.  I used to force myself to give and when I did give I would find no joy in it at all.  But the above verses point to another way.  What would happen to my giving – and to me – if I didn’t have to worry about running out of money (resources)?  What would happen if, when God told me to give more than I thought I could afford, I trusted God to miraculously provide what I needed ?  God, who wrote the above verses, and who cannot lie, said that if I am generous I will: gain even more, prosper, be refreshed, be rewarded, be blessed, and honor God.

But being generous takes guts.  I have to rely on the unseen.  My only guarantee that my finances will work out is that God’s Word promises God will come through for me when I obey Him.  I have to put Him to the test.  But when I do put Him to the test, He comes through and I experience His joy.

Satan doesn’t like this, and always throws doubt into my mind, trying to get me to believe the lie that God doesn’t fulfill His promises.  Satan says, “It’s a coincidence.”  “That would have happened anyway.”  “People will think you’re crazy if you tell them, ‘God did it miraculously.'”  But if you give God the credit due Him, He will provide you a list of proofs.  My more recent list includes:  When neither my wife nor I had a job and we decided to continue giving to the ministries we usually give to, at the same level as we always had – we always had enough to pay the bills each month.  We tithe, and without me looking for it, I received an email from out of nowhere advertising the job of my dreams.  I was hired for the job of my dreams while doing a double tithing challenge.  I needed hearing aids to do my new job and God provided them for me though the sacrificial giving of others.

The biggest benefit of giving isn’t in the pocketbook but in the soul.  I enjoy giving now (except for the times I don’t have the guts to trust God).  And I don’t give to get rich.  I’ve specifically asked God not to make me rich and not to make me poor, but to give me what I need for today and tomorrow.

 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV84

 When I held onto what I had with a tight fist I didn’t have enough.  When I opened my hand to help others, God refilled my open hand to give again and again.  God wants to do good through you, won’t you trust Him enough to let Him?

Obeying God and Putting His Promises to the Test

Sometimes, after you have been a Christian for a while, you have so much of your life, relationships and self invested in “God” that the thought of Him not coming through for you and therefore having proof He is not real is terrifying.  To find out that what you have based your life on is a lie is too embarrassing a thought to deal with.  So, we hedge our bets.  We pray, “God, you said that if I put you first, as Lord and Savior, you would provide for me and my family.  But if you don’t, I will still love you and trust you and feel the same way about you”.  This may sound good, but I suggest that this kind of faith is not honored in the Bible.  What is most important to God is our intimacy with Him, our trust in Him, our faith in Him.  And God says in the Bible that this faith is more precious than gold.  It is so important to God that He will rock our world until we come to the point of saying, “God, I have put You first.  You said that if I did, you would supply food, clothing and shelter for me and my family.  You have to come through for me.  I have no plan “B”.  You promised you would and I am holding You to it.  If you don’t, then I have no reason to trust You anymore.”

God doesn’t say not to put Him to the test.  God says not to put Him to a foolish test.  Satan suggested to Jesus that He jump off the top of the temple because God promised to send His angels to hold Him up.  Jesus answered that it is written, do not put God to a foolish test.  If God says He will do something for you when you obey Him, He wants you to test that.  Obey Him and then hold Him accountable for what He promised.  That’s not a foolish test.  That’s faith.

And here’s my disclaimer:  Though I have had success in trusting God, I have also experienced complete hypocritical failure at trusting God.  I am not an expert.  For every time I have trusted God and seen Him keep His promises, I have not trusted Him multiple times (with disastrous results).  A turning point in my life came when I trusted God and obeyed His teaching by refusing to participant in the production of certain advertising promoting what I felt was pornography, abortion, or the occult.  I risked my family’s main means of support because of this apparent insubordination.  Many true friends prayed for us.  God gave me the chance to talk about His heart of love and concern for people to top levels of management.  God softened the heart of the main decision maker who eventually said I could go back to work without having to touch these ads. (True to God’s style, five years later He had this same company ask me to write large religion section advertising telling people about the love and acceptance of Jesus.  This series of ads ran for fourteen years).

You’d think I would have “lived happily ever after”.  However, less than two weeks after being cleared to not do these ads, I caved in to the gripping fear of losing my livelihood. I moved an objectionable ad from its wrong position on the page to the right position, an ad I previously said I would not touch even to the point of losing my job.  I did it because I was afraid people would think of me as a self-righteous hypocritical trouble maker and reject me if I caused them problems (this was satan lying to me, because I worked with some great people).  There after whenever I was presented with an objectionable ad I always struggled with whether Jesus would protect my job or not if I refused to do the ad.  It was never told to anyone I worked with that I didn’t have to do these ads and I feared others’ resentment for having to do them for me.  There are too many other examples of my failure in trusting God and too embarrassing as well.

It can be hard, very hard, to decide to obey God.  But when I obey Him, He always makes it worth it.  And when I don’t, I always eventually regret it, wishing I had obeyed Him.

A sign from Heaven

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day demanded He give them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove He was the Messiah:

Matthew 12 NKJV
38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
39But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

The spectacle of miracles was not as important to Jesus as changed lives through the demonstration of God’s loving character.  Soul healing through the loving sign of physical healing was the goal of Jesus’ miracles for those who believed in God’s love.  Irrefutable proof of His divinity thrilled those who loved God and confounded those who did not.  His works of love proclaimed Him Messiah, Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh.  Jesus said that those confounded would not be guilty if He had not come and done what no one else has ever done.

John 15 NKJV
22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

Jesus told His followers that the works that He did they would do, and even greater:

John 14 NKJV
12“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 

John 15 NKJV
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

 Control the wind and the waves?  Change water into wine?  Multiply bread and fish and feed thousands from one person’s small lunch?  Grow back missing limbs?  Heal the sick?  Raise the dead?  Greater than these?  I might think that impressing the masses with these spectacular miracles is Jesus goal. But Jesus’ ultimate purpose for doing miracles was to give Life to the spiritually dead and introduce them to a relationship with His Father who loved them.  This He could greater accomplish by loving multitudes of people through multitudes of His followers who love by the power of His Spirit living within them.  That is greater than any spectacle.

So what is the final proof that Jesus is God?  Ask one of His followers what He has done for them personally.

I’m Listening

Have you ever noticed that we don’t have any “problems” anymore?… we only have “issues”?  I think we are so much better off.  And we don’t “make progress”, we “move forward”.  I know I’ve benefited immensely from that change.  But seriously, new words to old concepts bring a new perspective and help us freshly rethink meaning.  But the concept hasn’t changed.  We have.

What is the difference between “truth” as I perceive it, as you perceive it, and as it “Truly” is apart from distorted perception?  And, if you believe there is “no absolute truth”, do you believe that that statement is absolutely true?

Joshua 5 NIV84

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the LORD ’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Jesus’ Truth does not belong to Republicans or Democrats, conservative evangelicals or liberal universalists.  Jesus disciples included a former political freedom fighter (Simon the Zealot) and a former political oppressor (Matthew the Tax Collector).  They included common uneducated fishermen (Peter, James and John) and the intelligentsia (Paul).  Jesus loves all.  And all can be transformed by His Truth.

Steven Covey implied that you can only hope to influence another if you risk being influenced by them.  Why don’t we agree to disagree and still love each other and talk to each other.  Instead we accuse each other of “hate”, call each other “sinners”, refuse to listen to the other’s point of view, and refuse to allow ourselves to be influenced by the other’s pain.  Are we so insecure in what we believe, that we that we can’t allow ourselves to learn from each other?

Jesus’ enemies hated Him because His Truth exposed their flaws.  The people who loved Him (the common people) loved Him because they had the courage to acknowledge their flaws and accept His forgiveness and acceptance and healing.  In His Truth they saw the power of God’s love to change their life.  He didn’t ask them to first be perfect.  He asked them to trust His love to change them by following Him.  His enemies (the self-righteous religious crowd) didn’t want anything to do with Jesus’ love and Truth changing their life.  They loved themselves just the way they were.  They were right.  They were perfect.  Sound like anyone you know?  I know it sounds like me.

I was in the depths of severe mental illness for ten years while God proved to me I was a sinner.  It took that long, not because He is cruel, but because I refused to see the Truth.  I had to admit my flaws and my need of His forgiveness and new Life.  I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  But I would go through it all again if it was the only way for me to meet Jesus.

Our society is polarized to the point of dysfunction.  The answer does not lie in waiting for “the other side” to wise up.  The answer does not lie in political force.  The answer lies in the listening ear of Jesus.  And because He values you enough to listen to you, I value you enough to listen to you.  Do you value me enough to let me listen to you?

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.