Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Love the Lord – Part 3

I drive a 1990 Plymouth Laser. It’s a nice little sports car with a strong engine. It can go fast. I’ve had it for about 8 years. I’ve put about 10 or 11 alternators on it in that length of time. (I know!) The first time I replaced it, the job took about 6 hours. (Have I told you how much I hate working on cars?) Now, I can take it off and replace it in an hour. I know the procedure very well. I like, enjoy and am grateful for my car despite the problems that come my way because I own it.

In the prayer before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (John 17:3). During the course of my life, I’ve met a few famous people, but I really don’t know any of them. We don’t hang out. They don’t come over for dinner or invite me on their vacations.

Knowing God is not only something we can do, it’s something we’re supposed to do. Yes, its work. It does take time. There is real effort required. Relationships must be cultivated. Do you have any friends that you really like, but they never call you? You are always the one who calls. And they’re always glad to hear from you, but you’re not on their list of people to call and connect with. Do you suppose that God feels that way about you? Is He the one who is "waiting by the phone?" Sometimes I think we treat God like the words of a country song I heard about, “If your phone ain’t ringin, its me.” Tell me… How are we ever going to know God if we won’t invest the time and effort required? The more we know him, the deeper will be our understanding and our love for him. This is what he seeks.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

To love God with all of your mind is to love him with knowledge and understanding. It is to know his word and allow it to inform the course of your life. It is to allow the word to discipline, correct and instruct your life. It is to know Father and the nature of his love. It is "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowships of sharing in his sufferings." It is to be acquainted with and lead by the Spirit in - the walk of life, the study of scripture, the ministry of God’s people and the depths of our faith. It is to understand mysteries of suffering for Christ. It is to know the Presence of God in the darkest hours of our lives. To love God with all your mind is to know him and love him beyond the pain that will come your way because you follow him.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Love the Lord - Part 2

During the summer when I was 15 I got very sick. Due to a severe frontal sinus infection, I was having severe headaches and was unable to keep food down. I lost a lot of weight and was very weak. It was the first time that I had ever been really sick in my life. The Dr. prescribed some strong meds and I eventually began to feel better. I don’t know when it happened, but one morning I woke up and realized that I was well…healthy.

According to E. Stanley Jones, holiness is “spiritual health.” The Hebrews writer said, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:14).

In our walk with God, there is too much attention given to spiritual sickness, that is to say, the presence and power of sin in our lives. Will redeemed people ever stop saying things like, “We’re all sinners” and “We all fail everyday.” Nonsense! We who are in Christ are the redeemed children of God. We have a testimony to demonstrate to the world, to our enemy and to our selves that we are forgiven, saved, and adopted into the family of God. We have received the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we might live holy lives and that we might love the Lord with a healthy soul. So enough already with the talk of sin and its power.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30).

To love the Lord with all your soul is to love him in holiness or “spiritual health”. It does not regard the sickness of sin above the health of redemption. It does not minimize the ugliness of sin, but takes refuge, rest and joy in the power of Christ over sin. It does not empower sin by making resistance the focus of life, but keeps a deep love of God as the focus of life. To love God with all your soul is love him beyond your sin and failures. To love with all your soul is to display holiness as the condition of your life. It is to know and acknowledge that you are spiritually healthy because of him and to express your love by living in holiness - being spiritually well...healthy.

telemicus out

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Love the Lord – Part 1

Over the next four weeks, I’m going to do a series of articles that speak to the “Greatest Command.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a sermon or lesson that attempts to put feet on this passage. We all know the passage, but to express the meaning of it is difficult. I’m not saying I’ve figured it all out, but I think I’ve learned something that might help us have a better handle on understanding it and more to the point, doing it.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

Jackson Browne wrote a song called Sky Blue and Black. It’s a song about a failed relationship. The guy knows he blew it, but there is no undoing the damage. But he offers this statement.

If you ever need holding

Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back,
I’ll see you through
Sky blue and black

This is the cry of a man who lost real love. He and wants her to know that if he ever gets another chance, he’ll be different. He says, “If you ever need holding and no holding back.” This is the key to loving with all your heart. The love Jesus is talking about is an undivided, no holding back love. The love that a grandma feels when she hugs so tight you feel you might pass out. It’s the love that a child demonstrates when they want to kiss you over and over again.

To love the Lord with all your heart is to love him with a pure or “undivided” heart. The undivided heart is not torn between the old life of sin and the new life of redemption. It does not look back with nostalgia, to those days that were, and thus nullify the future. It does not regret the life of ministry with a yearning for the secular. To love the Lord with all your heart is to love him with no holding back, beyond your old life and your old way of living.

telemicus out

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Fellowship of Suffering

I’m doing some work right now on the life of Peter. The more I learn, the more I like him and the more I’m impressed with his maturity in Christ. In John 21 when Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Follow me,” (John 21:18-19) he was asking him to follow in suffering.

When we look at Peter’s life from Pentecost until his death, we see a change in his heart. Despite being arrested, being flogged, (that’s an easy word to write and perhaps read, but it was a brutal, evil practice,) and being threatened to stop talking about Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer. Over and over in the scriptures we see Peter face the burdens of following Christ with a glad, loving heart.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share in the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” What is it to share in the fellowship of his sufferings? It is acknowledging the suffering while recognizing he is with you. It’s oneness with him in the midst of it. It’s walking in the dark with the acute awareness of his Presence.

Suffering for Christ moves us away from being self centered. It moves us from sinful and toward sinless. We seem to work at avoiding suffering, and while that is human nature, it robs us of opportunity to fellowship with Christ. I’m not saying we should go looking for misery. But in following Christ with a whole heart we will encounter the struggles and sufferings that God would use to bless us. Peter wrote, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin, (1 Peter 4:1).

What attitude? The attitude that accepts the blessings that come, with and through suffering for Christ. In verse 2 he says that suffering helps the disciple to “not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” Suffering for Christ is not simply persecution, it is joining Christ in the struggle to live as a believer in a world and culture that is set against the things of God. Arm yourselves with the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. It will change your heart.

telemicus out

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Closeness of Loss

Friday 5:15 a.m. I got up, showered and went to the office.
2:30 p.m. Left the office and ran errands.
4:00 p.m. Arrived at home and began the process of removing the alternator and power-steering pump from my old car. For the record, I hate working on cars, but it had to be done. Rhonda brought me cold drinks and set up a fan to keep me cool. She also held the flashlight generally helped out in every way she could.
9:00 p.m. Finished the task and made a Taco Bueno run to get a late snack for the family.
10:30 p.m. Hit the shower again and got ready for bed.
11:30 p.m. Laid down with Rhonda for much needed sleep.
11:35 p.m. Got a goodnight kiss from Rhonda and hit the full relax mode.

11:40 p.m. Rhonda sat up abruptly and said, “I’m gonna be sick!” She ran to the bathroom and was very much sick. I got up and went in to get her a drink of water and a cool wash cloth. She was standing and bending over “the bowl.” She said she was dizzy and her chest was burning. I told that was normal and to get down on her knees. She did that and said, “Something is really wrong with me.” She then passed out and slumped over to her left side against the wall. I laid her down on the floor and she was out…but breathing. She sat up and then passed out again and slumped back to the floor several times. I continued to try to figure out what was happening. I left her to get the phone.

Saturday 12:00 a.m. I dialed 911 and asked for an ambulance. I gave the operator the information she asked for and went to get Brittany. I got some clothes on and continued to try and keep Rhonda breathing and still.

12:15 a.m. The paramedics arrived and began working on Rhonda. She was mostly unresponsive. Her blood pressure was very low, about 80 / 50. She was blue. She was making a lot of noises, but not making words. We were very concerned.

1:00 a.m. Arrived at the hospital and was told to sit in the waiting room. Rhonda’s mother arrived and we began the work of waiting.
3:00 a.m. We were called to the E.R. to speak to the Dr. He told us what was happening to Rhonda, but he said, “The scary thing is that we cant figure out why. She is a very sick young lady.” He told us that they were going to keep working on it, wait for the CAT scan results and then if nothing changed move her to ICU. We returned to the waiting room to wait and pray.
6:00 a.m. Called to the E.R. again. We were told that the CAT scan was clean and they were moving her to ICU. Rhonda’s blood pressure was being maintained artificially and they were trying to re-hydrate her. Her oxygen level was too low and her lungs were not working well.
7:00 a.m. We were called in the ICU room and told that she was stable and they were giving her something to make her sleep. They were going to run additional tests. I went home to tell the kids what was happening and get a nap.
11:00 a.m. Rhonda was moved to a regular room. At noon I returned to the hospital to talk with the Dr. and sit with Rhonda. She looked a lot better but was still hooked up to a lot of tubes and machines.

Sometime in the evening we saw the Dr. and he explained what he thought had happened. He explained that it was a combination of issues that caused Rhonda to get sick, pass out, her blood pressure to drop and her oxygen levels to plummet. She was able to come home on Monday afternoon. She is resting and recovering.

It was a close call. Had someone not been there she might not have made it. Remember to appreciate the relationships you take for granted. It may not always be so. In the course of a normal Friday where everyone was feeling fine we experienced the closeness of loss. We are grateful that Rhonda is ok. But more than that, we are more appreciative of how quickly loss can come close.

telemicus out