What’s Love got To Do With It?

Ahh February..the month of Love! February gives us Valentine’s Day; the holiday that causes most men more than a bit of anxiety. The average person will spend $126.03 this year on Valentine’s Day to show their love to their favorite person.  It is a holiday that people either “love” or “hate”. My son used to call it “singleness awareness” day.

It is wonderful to celebrate love of family and that special someone at Valentine’s Day. But it is unfortunate that even in the church we have allowed our culture and media to define “love” for us.   Our culture today has us believing that love means if you meet my needs then I will love you.  I have been to more than one wedding ceremony to hear the bride and groom promise to stay together “as long as their love shall last.”

We need look no further than to the Creator of Love, God himself for the definition of love. 1 John 4:7 says that love is from God. Biblical love is an action word, not a feeling word. We have reduced love to a feeling that can come and go. Biblical love is based on covenant; a promise made and kept.

The word most often associated with God’s love for us is the Hebrew word hesed translated lovingkindness. Lamentations 3:22 says, The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never ceases, For His compassions never fail.Hesed it is not merely love, but loyal love; not merely kindness, but dependable kindness; not merely affection, but affection that has committed itself. It is most often used of someone “doing,” “showing,” or “keeping” hesed. Hesed expresses both God’s loyalty to His covenant and His love for His people along with faithfulness to keep His promises.

The first time we see the word love used in scriptures is in Genesis 22:2. The Scriptures tell us that God tested Abraham by asking him to offer up his son as a sacrifice.  He said, Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. Isn’t it interesting that the first time God uses the word love it is the context of a father sacrificing his son. This is how our Heavenly Father showed His love towards us; by sacrificing His son, His only son, whom He loved. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What’s love got to with it? Everything; for we are to love one another with the same depth of love that the Father has shown to us. Jesus said to his disciples the night before he died.  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends” John 15:9, 12-13. This too is to be a hesed kind of love; loyal, dependable, kind, committed, all shown by our actions.

This Valentine’s Day as you celebrate the ones you love; remember to give glory to your Heavenly Father the author of love and your Savior who put His love in action on the cross.

 

 

The Power of Words

Words. Words can bring great joy.
“Will you marry me?” “It’s a boy!”
Or great sorrow. “It’s cancer.” “I’m sorry. He didn’t make it.”
Words have begun wars and ended them. Words can hurt or words can heal. Words make the world go round. Consider these facts. There are over 55 million newspapers delivered in the United States on a daily basis. Over 300 talk radio shows air on a daily basis. No one has accurate number of websites currently on the World Wide Web but it is estimated at 100 million. Facebook and MySpace, social utility sites for connecting individuals, both have over 110 million users. Words are vital to our daily lives and yet we often toss them around carelessly. The Bible has a great deal to say about our words and the use of our tongue. James says in James 1:26, If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
Jesus himself says that we will give account for every careless word we say. “Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Matthew 12:35-36 (The Message)
The Lord has been working on me lately about my words, how I use them, how I say them, and what I say. One of my greatest desires is to be a mature believer, one who glorifies the Lord. James says in his epistle that a mature believer is one who can control his tongue. James goes on in chapter 3 of his epistle to tell us how difficult that it is to control the tongue and the words that proceed from it.
James 3:7-8. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer.
I grew up in a family where sarcasm was our family sport. We teased and poked fun at one another often, but it was always in love. However, when I became an adult and used this tactic with others it sometimes went very wrong. I have had to learn to control my sarcasm and my tongue and it has not been easy. Proverbs 12:18 says, Speaking recklessly is like the thrusts of a sword, but the words of the wise bring healing. I regret to say that I have used my words like a sword to cut and wound others.
Reading the book of James, I wonder if the writer also had this problem. James was the half brother of Jesus. Did he ever use his tongue sarcastically to belittle his older brother? Can you imagine growing up in the shadow of a “perfect” brother? Talk about a family being ripe for sibling rivalry! Yet James writes this about the power of words:
James 3: 3-5. A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
Did James write these words from experience, I wonder? Did he know what it was like to throw out a careless or wrongly placed word? Proverbs says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue. All of us at one time have been the recipients of words which have felt like death to us.
James 3: 9, Sometimes our mouths praise our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
With the invention of the personal computer, the internet, and email have come another way we abuse one another with our words. How easy it is to fire off an angry email at someone saying things and using words we might never say face to face. We think that email is impersonal and less confrontive when actually it is more harmful. There is no way of knowing the “tone” of an email and so we tend to read our own bias into it. We curse those “made in the image of God” through our words in an email. 
What are we to do, then, to control this tongue? Shall we remain mute to keep from sinning? Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If we wish to change our speech, we must first change our hearts. This is something we cannot do but through the power of the Word of God. We must pour the Word of God into our hearts and let it change us from inside out.

My husband used to love to visit a restaurant called Cahoots. He would go every Thursday and order the Thai Chicken Salad for lunch. When I came home on Thursdays, I knew what he had for lunch because of the “fragrance” of garlic around him. Our lives are to give off the fragrance of Christ. What we put into our lives is what will come out. James tells us that our outward lives should reflect our inward beliefs.

Oh how I desire words of blessing to come from my mouth; words that might bring life to another. The prayer of my heart is found in Psalm 19:14. I hope it is your prayer too. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD,my rock and my Redeemer. Proverbs 17: 27

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances. Proverbs 21:23

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue, keeps himself out of trouble. Proverbs 10:11

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

“Let my words be sweet for tomorrow I may have to eat them.”


God in the Shadows

This February my husband celebrates his 20th anniversary as senior pastor of First BaptistPicture1 Church. We are delighted that God has allowed us to have such a long and fruitful ministry and we hope to continue to minister here for many more years to come.  It was quite a surprise to us how God orchestrated our move to the Central Coast.

We did not know much about Paso Robles back in 1995 except that it gets hot in the summer and there was no Starbucks Coffee here. A pastor friend of ours had candidated for the position of senior pastor at First Baptist Church but did not receive a call from the congregation. He suggested my husband candidate for the job. God had moved us out of our previous ministry and we were seeking His direction as to what was next.

We submitted my husband’s resume not thinking anything would come of it. We soon received a phone call from one of the deacons and we began the “candidating” process. It would be easy to look at the circumstances that brought us to Paso Robles and think “what wonderful coincidences.”  Our friend just happened to know this church…he just happened to not get the call, and he just happened to tell us about First Baptist.

However there are no coincidences in God’s plan for our lives.  God is constantly at work to bring about his perfect will in our lives and the lives of others. Nowhere can this be seen more acutely than in the story of Esther.

Esther is a young Jewish woman who finds herself in a beauty contest of sorts with other young woman at the King’s palace. The King has banished his queen and is looking for a replacement.  Esther is chosen out of a harem of 400 other young women and she becomes Queen of Persia, the largest and mightiest country in the world at the time.

The book of Esther goes on to describe how Esther, with the help of her older cousin Mordecai ,outwits the king’s right hand man Haman to save the Jewish people living in Persia from genocide. She is helped in this endeavor by a series of coincidences or happenstances.

  • Esther happens to be beautiful.
  •  Esther happens to be favored by the king.
  •  Mordecai happens to overhear a plot against the king’s life.
  • Haman happens to find out that Mordecai is a Jew.
  •  Haman happens to plot his revenge, roll dices to determine the date of the revenge, and it happens to pick a date in a year.
  • The king happens to have insomnia and reads from his chronicles at night.
  • The story the king happens to read is about Mordecai discovering the plot to kill the king.
  •  The king happens to decide to reward Mordecai at the very time that Haman is seeking revenge.

There are many more happenstances in the book of Esther. Even though the name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, the author lets us know that God was at work behind the scenes. This is called the providence of God and it is the major theme of the book of Esther. J. Vernon Mcgee said, “Providence means that the hand of God is in the glove of human events. “

In looking back at my own life I see many events that might be called happenstance but were in actuality the providence of God.  When I was in 2nd grade my father’s company transferred him from Southern California to Central California. We put our house on the market and prepared to move. Then suddenly the move was off. My dad did not transfer and we stayed in the same house, living in the same town. I remember being quite annoyed and embarrassed trying to explain to my classmates that fall why I did not move. A year later I attended a Vacation Bible School near my home where I met Jesus. Ten years later I attended a youth group near my home where I met my future husband.  How different life would have been had we moved. John Piper said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them” .

There are times in the Scriptures that we see God show up in big ways; like the parting of the Red Sea, and raising Lazarus from the dead. But often we see God in the shadows like a drunken king banishing his wife and then choosing a young Jewish girl to be queen of Persia who eventually saves her people.  I think He does this to remind us that he works in our life much the same way. I have had no “parting of the Red Sea” moments. But God has worked his providence in my life in ways too mysterious for me to comprehend.  I pray for clear eyes to see Him in the shadows and a pure heart to sing his praises.