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Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Give to God what is God’s

Matthew 22:21

Thomas Kempis puts a unique twist on this phrase which is from Jesus.

Kempis’ twist is: Give to God what is God’s and ascribe to yourself what is yours.” (1)

What do you have that is God’s? 

Perhaps, asking the question in the negative is more illustrative and to the point: “What do I have that is not God’s?”

On one hand, everything I have is God’s because it comes from what God has provided me.  There is nothing I have which I can truly claim is mine.  But I must ask, “Does God really want all the junk in my basement?”

No!  God does not need nor does He desire all my junk.  What he wants is my heart, your heart.

God wants our first love, if He has that, He has all of us.  If He does not have our first love, there is nothing we can give Him of value.

Jesus’ original response to the inquiring and savvy Pharisee who hoped to get Jesus arrested by the Roman guards was: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” 

Jesus made clear that God neither needed nor desired our worldly stuff. 

God wants what He deserves. 

God wants the one and only thing we have which is of value to Him.

God wants our grateful and humble hearts, our first love.

Does he have yours?  If not, go read Revelation 2:4.

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(1) Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 83.

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… have the mind of Christ …

Philippians 2:5

 

Your mind is as valuable to God as your heart because you make decisions about how you will actually live with your mind.  

 

While your heart determines how it want to live, it is your mind which sends impulses and messages to all the parts of your body, generating action.  

 

We know many people who say, “They would love to ….”, but at the end of the day, they act differently.

 

In Romans 12:2, Paul encourages us, “To be transformed by the renewal of our minds so we might do what pleases God.”

 

If you read further in Philippians 2, particularly verses 6-8, you will see how Jesus’ mind worked.  His only thought was to suffer because He loved us.  A perfect melding of the mind and the heart.

 

The mind of Christ is developed through 5 particular activities: worship, prayer, Bible Study, Christian fellowship, and compassionate care.

 

Many Christians fail to develop the mind of Christ because they are self-absorbed and focused on so many different activities.  

 

We frequently hear and say, ”If you put your mind to it, you can ….”!  

 

Individuals have mastered physics, business management, shooting free throws, home decorating, how to make friends, and auto mechanics by simply putting their mind to it.

 

Yet, many of the same people will tell me that developing the mind of Christ is too much work.  Phooey! 

 

Developing the mind of Christ is no harder than developing any other skill-set or body of knowledge.

 

The heart that desires to develop the mind of Christ can, if it puts it mind to it.

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The Crucible of Love

 

Love is easy when it blesses.  

 

But what happens to you when love lacks benefit, becomes a cross to bear, or a curse upon you?

 

Oswald Chambers asks a question which causes me to pause: 

Have you come to the place where God can withdraw His blessings and it does not affect your trust in Him? (1)

 

I would be lying if I claimed that a withdrawal of God’s blessing would not affect my trust in Him.  

 

This is why I cling to these verses:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me; His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

 

Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (2)

 

In those times when doubt has crept into my heart and mind these verses remind me that God never withdraws His blessing from me.  

 

I may perceive God has withdrawn His blessing, but He does not.  

 

God sends His blessings in comforts and in difficulties, in joy and in sorrow, in praise and in discipline, in gain and in loss. 

 

Knowing this sustains me when His love is greater than a warm fuzzy for the day.

 

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 23:4, Romans 8:39, and Hebrews 4:16.

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Always keep a part of your heart reserved for God. (1)

 

I have known people with hard hearts or, as Ezekiel writes, hearts of stone.

 

People with hard hearts are generally unforgiving, self-centered, and cold.  They are not drawn towards others nor are others drawn to them.

 

A hard heart is the ugliest attribute a person can possess.  

 

Hard hearts do not make room for God.  They are devoid of love and are unmoved by the beauty and mystery of life.  

 

Hard hearts are never broken, but neither do they live.

 

Not only does God want us to have hearts that have a spot reserved for Him, but he promises to give us one:

“I will remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.” (2)

 

A heart of flesh is a goldmine for love and life.  

 

A hard heart is nothing more than a gravel pit.

 

Your heart is your treasure chest. (3) 

 

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 290). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26.
  3. Matthew 6:21

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Set us afire, Lord, stir us, we pray.  

While the world perishes, we go our way, 

purposeless, passionless, day after day.  

Set us afire, Lord, stir us, we pray! (1)

How far do you live beyond yourself?

I am a huge fan of Apple products, but there are two things about the company that bug me.

First , is the initial moniker “i” which identifies their smart phone, tablet computer, music library, and podcast player.

Second, is the “@me.com” network identifier for their email service.

The egocentric nature of these identifying names and titles reminds me that for most of us, our world’s are quite small.  For many the outer limits of our universe is the reach of our arms, or perhaps, the reach of our personal digital imprint.

The Civil Rights Movement has evolved into a Personal Rights Movement.

Community and Team have become secondary to the me, myself, and I.

We have become an entitlement society.

All the while, the world perishes.

When I was a child heroes were those men and women who risked their lives to save others in need.  Today, you are a hero if you have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame or if you win a Reality TV Show contest.

Instead of loving others and dying for them, we expect others to love us and to die for us.

Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for another!” (2)

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  1. The author of this prayer is unknown, from Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 267.
  2. John 15:13

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Mercy is a gift. It is undeserved. (1)

With common compassion we redefine words and concepts, using them to please the longings of our hearts.  Mercy, along with grace and justice, are three words which we commonly misuse.

Justice is giving people what they deserve.

Mercy is not giving people what they deserve.

Grace is giving people what they do not deserve.

Consider this scenario:

If a young boy steals a pound of hamburger meat and 5 pounds of potatoes from the grocer, justice is served if the boy is fined and required to pay the grocer for the food.

However, if the grocer learns the boy stole the food to feed his penniless family, then mercy is served if the grocer refuses to press charges against the boy.

If the grocer goes a step further and provides the penniless family with $500 of free groceries, then grace has been served.

Justice is always deserved, mercy and grace are always undeserved.  Mercy and grace are gifts, justice is a consequence.

With this being so, how can we say that God is a God of justice, mercy, and grace?

God is just because all sin is justly punished.

God is merciful because He chose not to inflict the punishment upon the sinner, but upon Jesus.

God is gracious because He forgives us and offers us eternal life, even when we sin.

Christians worship a God who serves justice, mercy, and grace this way:

God is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He does not forsake the sinner.  God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins.  (2)

This is the Good News of the Gospel.

This is news we do not deserve!

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  1. Blackaby, Richard (2006-12-01). Experiencing God Day By Day (Kindle Locations 3084-3085). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. Nehemiah 9:17 and Romans 5:8.

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Everywhere love turns, it finds burdens to carry. (1)

I use to have a friend who I loved, as friends love each other, but I dropped the friendship because he became too difficult to love.  Carrying his burdens became more than I could bear.

We have all had this experience, whether with a friend, a spouse, a parent, a child, or a sibling.  It became too much of a burden to love them, so we dropped them.  While we did so with regret, we did so convinced that we had to.

Love brings burdens.  

We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.  None of us are perfect.  

When my wife said, “I do” at our wedding nearly 32 years ago, she knew I was incomplete and imperfect.  Together we agreed to share each other’s burdens in the exchange of these vows:

I will you love you, comfort you, cherish, honor and keep you in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and health, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in whatever our life may bring, as long as we both shall live.

Yes, love brings burdens.  Yet, love also finds ways to carry those burdens either through a season of difficulty or until the burden has been relieved.  

This is where most love fails.  There is a weight limit to the load we are willing to carry.  When we reach the limits of the weight we can or are willing to carry, we cry out, “Loving you is killing me!”

I have wept with others who stand at this crossroads.  I understand the heaviness of the load and the pain and suffering it brings.  

Love is a heavy load.  

Love is a rose set in a bed of thorns, in this setting love is a many-splendored thing. (2)

Jesus said it best, 

“There is no greater love, than to lay down your life for your friends!” (3)

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  1. Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-19). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
  2. This phrase is from the 1955 movie, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, which is based on Han Suyin’s 1952 autobiographical novel A Many-Splendored Thing.
  3. John 15:13.

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