Archive for the ‘love’ Category

“Be perfect as I am perfect.”

Our Sunday school teacher said we need to be perfect as Jesus was perfect. But is that true? What does it mean to be perfect? Surely Jesus does not expect us to be as perfect as God? If so, then we have all been set up for failure. What did Jesus mean?

First of all, the teacher quoted scripture blending two passages:

Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Leviticus 19:2  “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”

Secondly, the context of the passage in Matthew is a comparison of the righteous versus the unrighteous (Mt. 5:45), but it is not limited to behavior. He is correcting traditional pharisaical teachings throughout chapter 5. Verse 48 is the summarizing statement of Jesus’ discourse. To gain an accurate interpretation, we need to consider not only the context of Matthew, but also the context of the Leviticus passage. When a New Testament writer quotes from another source, he is not just invoking the semantic text, he is invoking the context of the passage as well. When we consider the context of Lev. 19 we see that the Lord is expressing His wholehearted covenantal devotion to His people. He loves us completely, never wavering, always steadfast. It is to this covenantal devotion that Jesus is calling his disciples to as they gathered around him listening to his teaching.

Finally, to love the Lord completely means that we must love our enemies, just as Christ loved those who spat on him, those who cursed him, and those who drove the nails into his hands. We must remember that we were once enemies of God, worthy of His wrath. It is easy to love those who love us back, but what of those who want to destroy us, those who hate us, and those who wish that we would just shut up and die? I don’t know about you, but the closer I draw to the Lord the more the world hates me. Members of my own family detest when I speak about God, what He is doing in my life, His Word, or pray for them accusing me of “advertising” my faith. What a compliment from someone who wishes I would just shut up!

Dorothy Day once wrote, “I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.” Who do you love the least? Commit today to love completely as Christ with wholehearted devotion, perfectly. I am so in awe that God loves such an imperfect mess such as me. I am so grateful He is not willing to leave me this way. For as long as God allows me to breathe, I pray I have the courage to advertise my faith in this broken vessel.

Advertisements

This is a response to a “God Question” from a friend. I hope you are blessed as we examine scripture together.

#2) Does anyone know the scripture reference that says “God does not bring a desire to your heart that he will not fulfill”

This is a teaching that has emerged from Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of our heart and make all your plans succeed.” An honest look at the context reveals that the promise you quoted is not supported by the text. The text does not say anything about God creating desires in someone heart. We must be very careful not to spiritualize the text such that we apply a meaning that was never intended lest we embrace a false teaching and miss the intended blessing.

This Psalm is a prayer for Israel’s king when he is called to defend himself and the nation in battle. And insomuch as David is a typecast for Christ we are justified in extending the application of the meaning to the church and the triumph of our Savior over his enemies. Setting the stage for this text we see that the king has been called into battle, that a prayer or song is composed to be presented at a sanctuary service on his behalf. After sacrifices were offered and accepted by God, the Levites (singers) and the congregation would join in the prayer of supplication for the king before he left for battle.

In applying this text to the church, it is the duty of all believers to gather together and intercede for the interests of Kingdom. We all experience distress and appeal to the power of our loving Father to protect us, rescue us and help us overcome the enemy whomever or whatever that may be. A final note, a man’s desires reveal his character. If a man loves the Lord, then his desires will reveal it. Righteous desires are always in agreement with God’s will as revealed in His Word, so we can be confident that when we contend for the faith, success is inevitable.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14

The errant teaching occurs when we make man the center of scripture; for instance, some teach that if I have a desire, because I am a Christian and I claim that “God gave me this desire”, God will make it happen. We all have evil and righteous desires, believers included. Am I to assume that because I claim the blood of Christ that God can be manipulated to achieve my will?! Of course not! God does not serve us, it is the other way around! Secondly, how do you know that God gave you that desire? Our faith is not based on arbitrary indulgences; we have an objective standard by which we can determine truth. The degree to which we know God and surrender to His will as revealed in Scripture, is the degree to which we will experience victory in our lives.

I am sometimes jealous of my Messianic Jewish friends. Many have been trained in the age’s old traditions of the Torah, Mishnah and Gemara which grants them eyes to see the gospel in a light I can only gain through hours of study. Jesus referenced these traditions in many illustrations and by gaining an understanding of the biblical history we can glean deeper insight to his message. One of the oft used traditions used in scripture is that of marriage.

Our Messiah describes the kingdom of heaven as a wedding feast (Mt. 22), the disciples referred to the church as the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7), and the prophet Jeremiah compared Israel to a faithful bride (Jer. 2:2). The Israelites were a covenant people and, as such, their relationships were governed by legal contracts. One of those critical contracts was a marital contract called the Ketubah (meaning “her writing”).

The ketubah was much more than the marriage license we acquire today to authorize our legal unions. This contract was initiated by the groom obligating him to his bride. The legal document detailed the groom’s responsibilities to his wife including his promise to serve, support and sustain his bride and denying himself for her good. In a culture that predominately viewed women as property, the document accompanied a monetary obligation in the case of a divorce as well. The ketubah elevated the woman to a valued companion in life emphasizing the protection of the wife and her welfare in the Jewish community.

Today the contracts are still written in Aramaic and elaborately decorated on high quality parchment. The ketubah is signed by the groom and two witnesses and preserved by the bride. Tradition held that the bride remained in her father’s house for one year until the wedding, but they were considered man and wife at the signing of the contract. The bride had no conditions or obligations in the contract, but received and held her husband’s commitment as a gift. She only need remain pure until the designated marriage feast at which time the groom would arrive to gather his bride to himself.

There are many parallels we can draw from the ketubah to the gospel message. God’s salvation is granted to believers through no action of the receiver. It is a free gift of grace through faith for those who believe and are betrothed to the bridegroom. Our purity is evidence of our love for Christ. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1) Believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the Day of the Lord when Christ gathers the church to himself as He promised. As one who is betrothed to Christ, the church is set apart for the bridegroom to work together to fulfill the law of Christ, the law of love.

The covenant of marriage is a beautiful model of God’s redemption for a depraved and lost world. Holy matrimony to this day sets apart a man and a woman to fulfill their purpose on earth together as one.  And now, we await eagerly for the return of the Bridegroom. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:34-35)

 I have been alone with my thoughts more than I care to be. This reminds me of a scene in The Mirror Has Two Faces where Lauren Bacall (playing Barbara Streisand’s mother) after a sleepless night comments to her middle aged daughter, “It’s awful to leave a woman my age alone with her thoughts.” The inference to age aside, I am realizing that when left alone I seem to default to fault-finding introspection.

I have more time on my hands recently since I am between Seminary courses right now. I love my classes, although I no longer enjoy the camaraderie of my peers now that we moved half-way across the country from my school…again. Southern Evangelical Seminary is my third college to attend because we have moved so much due to my husband’s career. I have 110 hours toward a business degree and am about 11 courses short of completing my Biblical Studies degree. Studying as an external student is isolating, almost as much, I remember, as being a stay-at-home mother of four preschoolers.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I LOVE learning! I have over 600 books on my computer (many are reference books), but I could read a book every day for 200 years and still never satisfy my insatiable appetite for knowledge. Makes me sound smart and perhaps in some circles I am, but the more I learn, the more pitifully inadequate I become.

I say all this to culminate with this confession; I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Sounds juvenile and pathetic, I know. And I am quite embarrassed at the acknowledgment of said fact; however, this undeniable observation is the elephant in the warehouse of my thoughts. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years now, and, by God’s grace, I do not have to work. This I recognize as a beautiful blessing, as I am unhindered to fully invest in my family. But still, a small part of me wants to do more—to be more. And that small part is getting louder with every day that passes.

Is this the equivalent of my husband’s mid-life crises? I hope not, because we don’t have enough room for all of Jim’s accumulated toys in the garage for me to add to the stash. I do sense an emerging desire to DO something rather than HAVE something. Everywhere we have lived, God has placed successful Christian writers and speakers in my life and many have encouraged me to pursue the same occupation. I have considered this many times, but (and here is the darkest thought that keeps occupying my mind)… I am NOBODY. I fully believe that I have nothing of value that would be of any help to anyone.

But maybe that is not an ominous thought after all…

Maybe it is essential for a simple clay pot to realize it is a simple clay pot. Apart from Christ I am nobody and can do nothing of eternal value, and perhaps that is the most proficient knowledge of all. To be content as a clay pot is liberating, to be satisfied as a clay pot is condemning. So I shall feast my mind’s eye on this: Let every breath glorify my Savior even if my service never seems to reach beyond the four walls of our home.

I foolishly believed that enduring a plethora of humiliations at Walmart at the less than stellar behavior of my children, that I have emerged a humble woman. But, no, I could still be accused of secretly desiring glory for myself. While there may be some substance to that accusation, I really just want the approval of my Father. I just want to please Him and I think we all make the mistake of confusing the praises of the world as the praises of the Father.

God can be glorified whether I am scrubbing toilets, teaching a precept to my son at the dinner table, reigning on the Best Seller list, or speaking before an audience of thousands. Loving the Lord faithfully should consume my thoughts and my actions even when no one is watching. I may never enjoy the praises of the world, and I can be content with that. I would much prefer the praises of my Father.  My purpose is not to draw attention to myself, but to draw the attention of others to Christ. Perhaps one day something eternally exquisite will arise from the confines of this simple earthen vessel. When that day comes, to God be the glory!

Jonolan is a self described Pagan who serves the war and death godess Morigu and the hunter god Cerrnunos. This interview is posted with his permission. Comments are welcome here and you can also find his blog at http://blog.jonolan.net/

Nancy (10:16 AM):  Hello, jonolan! Do you have time to chat this morning?

Nancy (10:27 AM):  Some other time.

jonolan (10:37 AM):  OK

Nancy (10:48 AM):  Are you available now?

jonolan (10:48 AM):  yes

Nancy (10:49 AM):  Super! I am intrigued how you got into grief counseling. I am interested in counseling as well.

jonolan (10:50 AM):  It was a strange and uplanned vocation on my part

Nancy (10:50 AM):  Did you receive any training?

jonolan (10:51 AM):  Some, later after I’d been doing it for a while

jonolan (10:51 AM):  It’s a fairly new form of counseling – insofar as any standards are concerned.

Nancy (10:52 AM):  How does grif counseling fit with your view of your life’s purpose as a warrior for your gods?

jonolan (10:54 AM):  It fit well – especially after the 1st time I was part of the detail that handed a flag to a young widow in trade for her husband, who’d been my close friend

Nancy (10:55 AM):  Hmm, I had suspected that you served in the military. That must have been very hard for you. Where did you find comfort at that time?

jonolan (10:57 AM):  I found comfort in my faith and it gave me the strength to lend comfort to the others. You see, we don’t have Pagan chaplains in the military, so I served as an unofficial one

Nancy (10:57 AM):  I see. How did you choose your gods? What criteria did you use?

jonolan (10:59 AM):  It’s more like they chose me. I wasn’t really looking for them. It’s hard to explain other than just a knowing and a feeling – like when many Christians read or hear scripture

Nancy (10:59 AM):  OK, why do you suppose they chose you?

jonolan (11:01 AM):  I think it is because I am a useful tool for them. My nature is that of a fighter and defender, though there’s always the strain of choosing which fight and how to prosecute it in a way that achieve the greatest good while doing least harm

Nancy (11:02 AM):  You mentioned that your faith gave you comfort, what do you have faith in?

jonolan (11:04 AM):  That what we see as death is only the death of the flesh and we – in some form – will continue, that a life given up in service is not a wasted one

Nancy (11:04 AM):  What makes your service valued?

jonolan (11:05 AM):  I don’t quite understand what you’re asking, sorry

Nancy (11:06 AM):  If your life has value because you can serve a god, what value has someone without that ability?

Nancy (11:07 AM):  I suppose another way to ask is, what determines your value?

jonolan (11:09 AM):  Ahhh – I feel a person’s value in the end will be determined by what the strove to accomplish, why they did so, and how well they strove to do so (as opposed to wheter or not they were empirically successful)

Nancy (11:09 AM):  If you were chosen by your gods because of your value, what happens when you are no longer of use to them?

jonolan (11:10 AM):  Hopefully, I will be allowed to “retire” as it were and rest in peace (pun not intended)

Nancy (11:10 AM):  Who or what determines your value?

Nancy (11:11 AM):  Is there some universal standard by which we are all measured?

jonolan (11:11 AM):  The Gods will render their judgment of me on this life when it ends.

Nancy (11:12 AM):  and what standard do they use? You must have some idea of what you should be striving for.

jonolan (11:13 AM):  I would say that there there is a universal standard, but I would also say that it is probably both so prosaic and so profound that we mortals won’t fully understand it during our lives.

jonolan (11:14 AM):  I believe the standard is – at least somewhat – how well you served Good in your heart in the fashion that you were made to do so. By that I mean how well you tried to do so.

Nancy (11:14 AM):  How do you determine what is good?

jonolan (11:17 AM):  For me it’s simple – possibly too simple – that which serves to help the human soul grow and thrive.

Nancy (11:18 AM):  And are you the one who determines what that is? In otherwords, is good relative?

jonolan (11:21 AM):  No, I’m not the one who determines that – but I am, as are we all, the one who must at times interprate what is Good vs. Evil. Is that relative? I’m not truly sure.

Nancy (11:24 AM):  Within the Christian worldview, we can know what good is because an objective universal standard exists by which to measure. Yes, that standard is infinite and finite minds fail to fully comprehend it. But that infinite good put on our limitations in the person of Jesus to reveal Himself to us. I can know what evil is because I know the standard of good. You are wise to say you do not determine what is good. What happens to you if your gods judge you unfavorably?

jonolan (11:27 AM):  That would involve torment – much like the Christian’s Hell – before eventual rebirth to try it again. Or – in the most drastic case the destruction of my soul and therefor oblivion.

Nancy (11:28 AM):  So do you live day to day without any security of your destiny?

jonolan (11:29 AM):  Yes. Don’t you? Jesus may love all, but even a loving parent must sometimes inflict harsh punishment…

jonolan (11:34 AM):  <- – BRB

Nancy (11:36 AM):  Christians are secure in their destiny because eternal life is a gift independent of my character or deeds. Salvation from eternal separation from God (hell) is entirely dependent upon the character of God and his love. If I do nothing to earn salvation, I can do nothing to lose it. My deeds and my character are evidence of His presence in my life, but His presence in my life is not dependent upon my deeds or my character. God compares himself to a parent often especially in the matter of discipline. Scripture agrees with you.“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Heb 12:5- 6

Nancy (11:37 AM):  How do your gods disciple or guide you in this life? Through your feelings?

Nancy (11:40 AM):  From what I understand of pagan practices you have no “scriptures” but you design your own worship practices. How can you know that your behavior honors your gods?

jonolan (11:42 AM):  In this life I am punished by myself for my failings and by what I feel is the more mechanical process of recriprocity. Good begets Good and Evil begets Evil – not Karma exactly, but word will serve well enough

jonolan (11:43 AM):  As for guidance, yes I’m guided by my feelings – especially after prayer

jonolan (11:44 AM):  And your right – we have few iff any scriptures left to us. Even our oral traditions were most abolished under ROme .

Nancy (11:44 AM):  What do you think you did to deserve losing your friend?

Nancy (11:45 AM):  Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. How do you establish a connection?

jonolan (11:46 AM):  From a religious standpoint, nothing. When we are called to fight, some must die. That is a sacrifice that must be made and I don’t believe it’s meant as punishment.

jonolan (11:46 AM):  That was to the 2nd to the last question, BTW

jonolan (11:48 AM):  How do I establish a connection? Unles it’s something happening to me or someone I’m responsible for, I try not to make the connection. To do so, implies more knowledge or judgment than I have.

Nancy (11:49 AM):  What is death to you?

jonolan (11:50 AM):  Some odd combination of: going on leave, getting a performance review, and waking up from a dream.

Nancy (11:51 AM):  How do you know that you can have eternal life?

jonolan (11:52 AM):  That has been promised and is part of the traditions that we managed to hold on to.

jonolan (11:53 AM):  Call it faith if you will.

Nancy (11:54 AM):  How do your gods relate to what you are going through? How do they know suffering?

jonolan (11:56 AM):  I think my Gods relate to my suffering, such as it is, in the manner that parent reacts to their child going through a difficult but necessary time in life.

Nancy (11:59 AM):  That parent has experienced suffering himself so he can empathize as one who bears that pain with the child. But it seems that you are a pawn for your gods and they cannot empathize with you or comfort you as a parent would a child. I say this as an observant from what you have told me of your gods, not to be demeaning. How do your gods comfort you?

jonolan (12:04 PM):  I have been remiss in explanation then. My Gods have set me in harm’s way because they must. It is more of a parent sending their child off too war – or school – than a tyrant spending a pawn. I serve them true, but it is out of love; they are stern but not unloving. How do they offer me comfort though? They guide me to people and places that show me that what is happening has meaning and purpose.

jonolan (12:05 PM):  It doesn’t take much really. Sometimes just seeing families playing the parks and knowing that they have no clue about many of things I’ve een and done is enough.

Nancy (12:06 PM):  Do you see yourself as privvy to special revelation? How did you come to this revelation?

jonolan (12:08 PM):  No, I don’t see myself as privy to special revelation. Anyone can see the same things; they just have to look.

Nancy (12:09 PM):  What happens to all the people who do not see what you see?

jonolan (12:09 PM):  How do you mean?

Nancy (12:11 PM):  What happens to all the people who do not have your revelation or your understanding of reality? How are they judged by your gods?

jonolan (12:12 PM):  They do not serve my Gods; they will be judged by their own Gods and held to Their standards.

Nancy (12:13 PM):  How are people matched with gods?

Nancy (12:13 PM):  Are you saying they are judged according to the gods they choose? what if they do not choose a god?

jonolan (12:13 PM):  I really don’t know and it’s a question I ask myself fairly often.

jonolan (12:15 PM):  I’m saying that their Gods will judge them according to Their standards. I’m frankly unsure of what happens to those without Gods.

jonolan (12:15 PM):  I’ve got to go for about 20 minutes

jonolan (12:15 PM):  sorry

Nancy (12:16 PM):  That’s fine it’s been lovely talking with you this morning. Have a beautiful day, jonolan!