LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

HOW TO HAVE A HAPPY MARRIAGE

My wife and I have a perfect marriage.  Okay, I’m lying.  We do have a great marriage though.  For 35 years, we have managed to love and like each other.  We’ve worked side by side for many of those years always with a single goal.  That goal was to seek the Lord and his will for us.  We have always sought his guidance and trusted him for the outcome.  Well, maybe always is a little exaggerated, but we’ve done our best to trust him.

I really believe that our success in marriage stems from our commitment.  The commitment I’m talking about came from before we met.  In August of 1980, we both surrendered our lives to the Lord and committed to serve him.  Bonnie sat down on a piano bench, and I sat on a rock.  We both asked the Lord to take over our lives.  Speaking for myself, I’d made such a mess of things I realized that I couldn’t do life without Him.  On the last day of November in 1980, we met.  From that day, it was a whirlwind of events that led to our marriage in April of 1981.

I had asked God for a wife, and I knew that Bonnie was his answer to that prayer.  And she was sure that I was the man God had sent to her.  This assurance, combined with our faith, has carried us through the years.  One of our early discoveries was that we both believed God had called us to love and care for children.  He has guided us to do just that.  What an amazing life he has given us.  There is no greater existence on the earth than a life with purpose fulfilled.  We have shared that life.

This is what I’ve learned.  Marriage is a partnership of strength.  It is a central point from which to radiate outward for the good of others.  In the process the relationship is strengthened and both partners become more of who they were created to be.  We are happy people in a happy marriage because we allowed God to lead us.

THE TROUBLE WITH MARRIAGE

The most important thing to remember about marriage is that two human beings are involved.  Now humans are created in the image of God, but they picked up an additional element at the fall of man.  This additional element is known as a sinful nature.  When thrown into a marital situation the sinful nature can wreak havoc.  Since we all have this destructive element, those of us who are married have an inherent obstacle to success.  How do we combat this obstacle?

I don’t claim to have the ultimate answer, but here are some thoughts that might help.  First, don’t be surprised when your partner sins; remember it’s inherent.  So, be ready with love and mercy.  In Colossians 3:12 &13 there is some great advice,

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Having trouble incorporating this into you relationship?  Help is just a prayer away.  God has always answered my prayers of “help me!”  When I fail to see the wonder and blessing in my wife, I ask God to fix my eyes. I recognize that the fault is in me.  My failing to see is found in the clouding of self-centeredness.  I’m thinking of me and not her.  God always helps me to alter my perspective and see clearly the wonderful gift of her presence in my life.

I’m writing here from the husband’s point of view, but I’m pretty sure this also works for wives.  If both partners look for the fault in themselves then God has an easier task.  He doesn’t have to wait till we own our part of the problem.  I realized early in our marriage that it was unfruitful for me to try and fix what I thought was wrong with my wife.  (Do I hear chuckling in the background?)  Yes, only God can fix me, and only God can fix my wife.  We both have that sinful nature to deal with.  Thankfully, we have a savior who is always ready to help.  All we have to do is humble ourselves and ask.

DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH

When Jesus was explaining the parable of the sower to his disciples (Matthew 13:18-23) he used this phrase, the deceitfulness of wealth, when speaking of those who represent the seeds falling among the thorns.  In Matthew 13:22 Jesus said, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word making it unfruitful.”  This phrase caught my attention as I read through the passage, and I thought it worth a more in-depth look.

I frequently like to refer to The Message to expand a passage.  Here’s how verse 22 reads, “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.”  (I love The Message.)  The words deceitfulness and illusions both give indication of something that is not really there.  We are lead to think there’s something there, but it is a deception.  Here in America, I believe the deceitfulness of wealth hinders us from fully participating in God’s kingdom.  Perhaps it is our greatest deception.

I remember, when my youngest daughter returned from a mission’s trip to Mexico, she was deeply impressed by how happy the people were in the village where she stayed.  She said to me, “Dad they live in shacks and have nothing, yet they are always cheerful and happy.”  It was a great experience for her.  She had the opportunity to realize that possessions don’t bring happiness.  It’s a deception.

As we celebrate this Christmas season let us not fall subject to the deception that it’s about getting more.  We already have what we need, Jesus.  We are celebrating God coming to earth, living among us, and giving his life for us.  What else could we need?  JOY TO THE WORLD!  THE LORD HAS COME!

NO

No is an interesting word.  It is almost universally understood, but it is not our favorite word when spoken in response to a request.  However, no is a very useful word.  For instance, “No, you can’t play in the traffic,” is a valuable use of the word no.  When raising my children I often used no in response to their appeals.  They didn’t like it, but the no answer gave me time to think about the repercussions of their request.  They were delighted when the decision was reversed.

My Heavenly Father has said no to me a number of times.  I recall an incident some 25 years ago.  I had discovered an opportunity to apply for a teaching job on California’s central coast.  I love the central coast, and my wife grew up there.  So I applied for the position.  One night while I was waiting to hear from the school, I had a dream.  In the dream, my wife and I were on a roller-coaster. Before the thrill of the big drop, the tracks took a flat weaving diversion.  We had stopped the car and gotten out to redirect the tracks to go immediately to the drop. When I awoke, I knew this dream was from the Lord.  As I prayed, the Lord showed me that the dream indicated I was rushing ahead of his plan for us.  The next day, I got a call for an interview.  I declined.  I put the tracks back where they belonged and got back in the car.

The Lord had said no, but it was only for a season.  About ten years later, we had the opportunity to move to the central coast and spend a productive five years there.  We had finally reached the big drop.  Who knows what would have happened if I had ignored the Lord’s caution and moved there too soon?  Only he does.  Isn’t it good to know we have an all knowing father that says no?  He knows what is best for us, and we can trust him.  Even when he leads us down a difficult path, he walks beside us.  His path is the best path.  I don’t always like the direction he sends me, but I am always blessed when I follow him.

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

When contemplating the meaning of life, I find that it is infinitely complex like the Author of Life.  Still, it can also be boiled down to something quite simple.  The questions: why am I here and what is my purpose can be easily answered.  We are here because God brought forth life in his creation, and He made beings like us in his image.  So we have life because God ordained it.  Our purpose is to have a close loving relationship with him.

Since we acquired, through disobedience, the knowledge of good and evil, that relationship has been complicated.  We now have to seek him, yet he has cleared the way for us to find him through the cross of Jesus.  We just have to accept the way he has provided.  Finding him is not difficult.  However, looking for him through other paths will not lead to him.  There is only one way; His way.

We exist at God’s good pleasure, and he has given us purpose.  As I stated above, our purpose is to have a close loving relationship with him.  Some are confused about our purpose and think that our purpose is to work.  It is important to note that the work I’m referring to is the work of the kingdom, good deeds, as opposed to working for a living.  These works are not our purpose; they are the result of our purpose.  In my loving relationship with God, he has taught me to love others.  Because I love him, and he has taught me to love others, I work to help those around me.  I give of myself.

Throughout my life, I have worked to provide for my family.  This is a requirement in this fallen world.  During this time of sorting out eternity, we have to work for a living.  It is the curse for disobedience (Genesis 3:17-19).  In the midst of our work, we often have the opportunity to do the work of the Kingdom.  However, no matter what type of work we are doing, the only work that has eternal merit is that which is driven by love.  In our relationship with God, he nurtures us with love. From this love, he generates in us the strength to provide for our family and do the work of the kingdom.  Work flows out of the fruit of relationship.  Relationship with God is our purpose.

IT IS NOT EASY, BUT IT IS TRUE

What I write about in this blog is founded on the belief that God, as described in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, created the world we live in.  Therefore it is reasonable to look to him for guidance.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”  Jesus tells us (see Matthew 6:25-34) not to worry about what we will eat, or drink ,or wear, but to focus on the kingdom that God is building, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to us.

In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 1-23) Jesus warns us about focusing on the cares of this world.  He explains to his disciples that the seed sown among the thorns is about the cares of this world.  He says, “But the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it (the message of the kingdom) making it unfruitful.”  The worries of this life keep us distracted from the direction God would have us go.  We are then unfruitful.

I believe with all my heart that these scriptures are exactly how I should conduct my life.  Yet, this is not easy.  Every aspect of our American culture wars against what these scriptures teach.  I’m supposed to be proactive and make it happen.  I’m supposed to seek wealth.  You’re still doing that job?  Can’t you find anything better?  “Well the Lord wants me here” I respond sheepishly.

Friends and fellow Christian aren’t much help either.  When asked, “What are you going to do about this?”  My answer, “I haven’t heard from the Lord yet, but I’m trusting that he will direct me in this,” gets some interesting reactions.  They are often speechless, at least to my face.  Would Christians talk behind my back?  “Aren’t you worried about that? “  I am asked.  “No, Jesus said don’t worry.”  That answer is definitely a conversation stopper.   So, there are cultural and peer pressures, but the greatest pressure comes from within.

Guilt is a big one.  “I should be doing something about this.”  I’m now seeing the cartoon with the black devil on one shoulder and the white angel on the other.  The devil is pumping guilty thoughts in one ear and the angel is reminding me of scripture.  I know what the scriptures say, but……  That “but” is always troubling.  Did the Lord already tell me, but I missed it?  God helps those who help themselves.  I know that this is not in the scriptures.  My flesh is always warring against my spirit.  Now that is in the scriptures.

Trusting in the Lord to take care of things is not easy, but He has shown me over a life time that his word is true.  He is my provision, and he does guide my path.