LOVE!

LOVE! THE TRUE MEANING HAS BEEN PERVERTED FOR SO LONG  BY HOLLYWOOD USING SOUND AFFECTS, PICTURES and PLATITUDES disguised as profound until we’ve essentially resorted to making it entirely physical.  A good example is the 1970 movie with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, LOVE STORY.  A memorable line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  [O how sweet!]  Not too many people can define LOVE. Our culture, philosophy, education and experiences all influence the way we think of LOVE.  

I guess Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald defined and sang LOVE this way:

“I’ve got the world on a string

I’m sitting on a rainbow

Got that string around my finger

What a world, what a life; I’m in love.”  (Ted Koehler)
In the 1960’s our culture redefined LOVE to mean a whole list of decadent behaviors.  Our American “enlightenment” has proven The Scriptural statement:  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 (kjv))  Using the ’60s definitions & behaviors, one could do anything, act any way, and as long as its called love, all is OK!  I think the 60s is when the innocuous statement got started, [gotta sing it] “luv yeew.”  No you don’t and I don’t!  But as long as we kind of sing it, it legitimizes it. True LOVE goes beyond and above.  LOVE is willing to go to the mat, make any sacrifice, lift any load, go the second mile, and do all this without complaining. 

 Do I have the ability to define LOVE apart from the Word of God?  No!  But the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  penned one of the most memorable, declamatory and eloquent chapters in the Bible writing to the Corinthians.  

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t LOVE others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t LOVE others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t LOVE others, I would have gained nothing. LOVE is patient and kind. LOVE is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. LOVE never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But LOVE will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and LOVE —and the greatest of these is LOVE.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (nlt)

“Because of His great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

Ephesians 2:4-8 (niv)

“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the LOVE of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (nlt)

“Greater LOVE hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (kjv) 

🎼🎶🎹

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

“Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure—

The saints’ and angels’ song.”

(Frederick M. Lehman)

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On the Wings of Angels

A FEW YEARS AGO – actually, it was over 40 years ago, but the older I get “ain’t it funny how time slips away.” So, over 40 years ago I went to Los Angeles, maybe Costa Mesa, to a wedding; a small one.  Pat and Debbie Boone were there. Pat’s secretary was getting married. No huge pipe organ.  No big choir.  No marching down the aisle. No train following the bride. Suddenly, but softly Pat and Debbie began to sing,

🎼🎶🎹
“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

There were no strobe lights, no acid rock music, and no blonde bombshells prancing across a stage yelling into the mic. But guess what? The Holy Spirit showed up.  Some may not understand the metaphor, but all of us there that day heard the flutter of angels wings.

The Quietness of Growth

BACK IN THE STONE AGES WHEN I WAS ABOUT SEVEN, we moved to Grandpa’s ranch way out in the country north of Cisco, Texas.  The little town we moved from near the Mexican border was noisy, but on the ranch it was real quiet. The cows were eating grass so about the only sounds they made were when they mooed. Grandpa didn’t have tractors. He had horses. They didn’t make noise either except snortin’ around. Chickens clucked and the pigs oinked, but for all practical purposes it was quiet all the time.

The wheat, corn and highgear, grass, trees and flowers didn’t make any noise as they grew. Things that grow don’t make noise, but in town there was alot of noise especially when they were tearing things down, or if Grandpa ran into something, or if the blacksmith was banging on iron.
I guess I learned that when things grow they don’t make noise, but when you tear things down or go running around here and there you make a lot of noise and bring a lot of attention to yourself.
It’s better to be in a growing mode than to tear things down. It’s better to lift people up than to tear them down!

WHY PEOPLE HURT

I HAD MY PASTOR’S HAT ON.  [I was so young.]  TEARS OF CONFUSION POURED FROM HER EYES.  She was a relatively new Christian.  Her little son had just died and her husband was angry. He was mad at her, God and everyone!  In addition, they were in debt head over heels. With pleading eyes she said, “But I thought Jesus was supposed to help us.” I was thinking, “Is she thinking God caused this? Does she think God allowed this? Did I teach her this?”  Where is God when you need Him?  Maybe I should say, “Well, we live in an evil world.”  Both she and her husband would have thrown me out of the house … and he was a big guy.

I don’t think quoting Jesus would have helped, and leave it at that.  “‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’”  (John 16:33 (niv))  And yet, he spoke truth.  Nevertheless, she had a sincere question. She wouldn’t have accepted a scriptural exegesis.  A saccharine sweet brushoff wouldn’t do from a 27 year old “preacher of sorts.”  She was in emotional and spiritual pain!

When someone has had a terrible auto accident, lying in the middle of the road, blood everywhere, a doctor would not give a classroom  lecture on trauma.  Sorry Charlie.  It’s not the right time or place. Furthermore, the pain would be too excruciating.  I’m trying to figure out why people hurt.

#1 –  The place to start is before the injury & pain; before the heartache, before the discouragement or disappointment, before the treason or lies, before the uncertainty or questions.  The relationship we have with Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit,  a voracious hunger for his Word, the Bible , our spiritual road map is our  protection and peace.

He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me.” (John 10:14)

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 (kjv))

“But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Romans 5:8-9 (kjv)

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (kjv)

#2 -The Rorschach test was designed to help the psychologist delve deep into our thinking finally diagnosing our mental state.  Other than our own destructive behavior, trying to diagnose how or why human beings suffer – usually blaming God – only creates more suffering through hate, anger and despondency.  When suffering through our heartaches, should we blame God or perhaps go to a street-side mind reader?  Trust me on this my friend, things will happen in our life for which there is no answer – none.  You can read books about why bad things happen to good people and it may bring a little comfort, somewhat like rubbing Lidocaine on a sore tooth, but when God works with us through our hurt, he goes to the heart of the matter.  Count on it, he does not cause human suffering, but in many cases he will pick up the pieces left along the way.  He welcomes us as we fall helplessly into his bosom.  Even Jesus who was God in the flesh had terrible feelings of hopelessness.  In his feelings of unrequited soul-hurt he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

#3 –  Over and over throughout the Bible the Lord challenges us by saying, “Do not be afraid.”  When the disciples were about to drown, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”  When a celestial being appeared to the shepherds, it scared the living daylights out of them.  Think of it,  thousands of angels spread across the sky, singing.  I would be scared, too.  An angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.”  In the Book of Revelation 2:10, the indication is that Satan causes suffering.  It says,  “DO NOT BE AFRAID of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer for 10 days.  But be faithful, even if you have to die, and I will give you the crown of life.”

#4 – How about those three hanging on crosses?  Two of them were criminals.  The One on the center cross was God who took upon himself flesh and bone.  In his pain and suffering, one of the thieves railed at Jesus, mockingly said, “So, some people have said you are the Messiah! If you can’t save yourself, how are you going to save us?” I can’t find where Jesus shouted back condemnation to the bitter thief.  “But the other criminal protested, ‘Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’  And Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
(Luke 23:39-43)

#5 – Sometimes the pain we feel is because we don’t know what to do. It’s as though there is no answer.  Hopeless. “What do I do now? Is there no one to help me?”
It’s interesting that Paul and Silas “were PRAYING and SINGING HYMNS to God [in jail], and … suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!”
(Acts of the Apostles 16:25-26)

#6 – Rather than dealing with the “Why” of suffering, the key is to deal with the solution. The solution is to PRAISE HIM!  Praising shows trust!

#7 – 🎼🎶
“Praise Him! praise Him!
Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
Hail Him! hail Him! highest archangels in glory,
strength and honor give to His holy name!
Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children;
in His arms He carries them all day long:
“Praise Him! praise Him! tell of His excellent greatness!
Praise Him! praise Him! ever in joyful song!”
(Fanny Crosby)

SACCHARINE OUT THE YINGYANG!

THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE CAUTIONED ME, ASKING THAT I ONLY PRINT “POSITIVE” THINGS.

No prrroblema (a little Spanish lingo for your enjoyment).  But c’mon now.  This happyhappy mind set is like the (P.T.) Barnum or Forer Effect, like Pollyanna.  Pollyanna, Barnum, Forer, positive thinking, you can do it yourself philosophy … the happyhappy life, the give me your money for seeds and you’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise; all this was actually used by charlatans.  This may be called subjective validation. They say you will never have to worry about sickness because all you need to do is just go to one of those big healing campaigns and whoever it is will heal you. Oh, and BTW, your heart will never hurt.  That being the case, no one would ever die.

The book, Pollyanna, was written back in 1913 [the same year the 16th Amendment was ratified – INCOME TAXES] by Eleanor H. Porter and became a popular children’s book.  Pollyanna has become a derisive term for someone who always has an “optimistic outlook: a subconscious bias toward the positive.”

Theoretically, all you need do, they say, is to think positive and your problems will dissipate.  You’ll never have a “Job” experience; that’s JOB, the man, not a job.  You’ll never fail at anything [or if you do, just think positive; be happy-happy].

Do you remember that comic strip by Charles Shultz, Peanuts?  Charlie was saying, “I’ll never make it. I’ll be a failure.”  Lucy says to him, “Charlie, think positive!”  Charlie answers back, “OK.   I. WILL. fail!”  I presume one could think positive about failing – I wouldn’t recommend it.  But I have known those who just couldn’t bring themselves to face reality – it wouldn’t be spiritual.

Did you know that the Pollyanna, Barnum, Forer Effect has been associated with New Ageism, astrology, fortune telling, graphology and sorcery?

Am I saying that faith is of no effect?  Absolutely not!  Am I saying that positive thinking is of the devil?  Not on your life!  Are you supposed to walk around with a rain cloud over your head?  You gotta be kidding!  Sour, negative, down in the dumps? No way!  But if you think you can do it yourself without the hand of God in your life, I guarantee that some time or in some way you’ll be jerked back to reality with your little positive attitude wrapped around your little positive neck.

Maybe this is a good time for you to open your Bible and read about the human experience.  It is the oldest history book known to man.  Do you think Eve suffered when one of her sons murdered her other son?  Was Joseph thinking positive when his brothers dumped him in a pit?  Was Job happy-happy when he lost everything he had worked so hard for and wound up with revolting sores all over his body?  The Psalmist cried,  “People make fun of me and hate me.” (Psalms 22:6 (ncv))   Do you think he just snapped his fingers and sang, “O what a beautiful morning?”  No way Jose’.

In my book, “Write it on My Heart,” I mention that from the time I was about 19 years of age it is provable I read approximately one (1) self-help book every month.  I mean everything from “Think and Grow Rich” to “The Power of Positive Thinking,” from “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” to “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  I even read some of those saccharine sweet religious books authored by preachers who never had the experience of suffering, that is until they lost their kingdom in scandal and/or bankruptcy.   I attended seminars out the yingyang conducted by those guys who collected $500.00 with glee.  I even spoke at a bunch of those seminars myself from hither to yon collecting half of the $500.00.  I went home healthy, wealthy and wiser.  If the person speaking or leading the seminar had a certain esteem or charisma, or was perceived to be (pseudo) successful, he could say “the.world.is.round!” and the attendees were more likely to accept what was said and jump up and down shouting “Whoopee!”  Hence, the “power of positive thinking” acceptance.

My friend, “positive thinking” without Christ is like a shadow without substance, a shell without the kernel, a brain without a mind!  If you want positive, try this:

“My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side! I PRAISE God for what he has promised; yes, I PRAISE the Lord for what he has promised. I TRUST in God, so why should I be afraid?”
Psalms 56:9-11 (nlt)

“I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST because he gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13 (ncv)

YOUR “I CAN DO ALL THINGS” CAN BE LIFTED INTO THE HEAVENLY REALM ONLY  “THROUGH CHRIST!”

DOES JESUS CARE?

MILLIONS IN THIS COUNTRY ARE ONE PAYCHECK AWAY FROM HOMELESSNESS! JEWEL, the well-known singer, was essentially homeless and living out of her car in San Diego. I heard her say, “I had the privilege of being stripped of everything except my thoughts.” You may have been there.  I was! Those around me were confused. “Friends” didn’t know if it was permissible to remain my friend. Two kids. No money. Misunderstood. Heartbroken. Two inches away from homelessness. Turned down for unemployment. No one … no one to help!  THEN JESUS CAME in a new way. He had always been there in my heart, but I had also received a weekly salary – not much, but at least it kept the wolf away from the door. I had a few dollars for cereal and wieners.  Not enough for rent.

In the fog of my confusion, stripped of everything, JESUS CAME!  Oh, I knew him as my Savior, but who’s gonna feed my kids … right now?! Will the three of us be sleeping on the street after having been the pastor of a growing church?

“You are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”
Isaiah 64:8 (nlt)

Laughed out of a 7-Eleven. Not answered by a messenger service. Rejected as a hotel clerk. No experience as a waiter. Another church looked upon me with skepticism when I applied as an assistant. Frantic, looking for a job … any job. Nothing! Stripped of everything – except my dignity. Yes, Jesus saves, but he also cares. Three weeks later I was hired as the executive assistant to a man who was worth multiplied millions. He paid me well.

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19 (nlt)   🎼🎶
“Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
“Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.”
(Frank E. Graeff)

NO MATH HERE!

FYI – BE AWARE OF THOSE WHO TELL YOU TO “TAKE THESE THREE [or four, or five, or seven] STEPS, and you’ll be saved! Islam has The Five Pillars, some Christian groups have two, seven, and some have 12.  It is as though if you DO these two [or 3, or 4, or 7, or 99] things – taadaah! YOU’RE IN, MAN! ‘Taint so!  “Am I suppose to say, ‘Mother may I?’ Are these supposed to be baby steps or giant steps?” This way of Christ is not a mathematical equation. It is not a check list.

John 1:9 – “If [you] confess your sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive [you] and to cleanse [you] from every wrong.”

“He is the forgiveness for [your] sins. … And [you] can be sure that [you] know him if [you] obey his commandments.”
I John 2:3

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7 (kjv)

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

THE KINGSTON TRIO SANG IT AND FRANK SINATRA MADE IT POPULAR, “It Was A Very Good Year.” Ervin Drake wrote it.  It was a mournful song, a melancholy melody looking back at his life. As I race toward the ripe old age of 80, I remember …; yes, I remember.  Some of the words are (you may remember):
“When I was seventeen …
When I was twenty-one …
Then I was thirty-five …
But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs, and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year.”

OH, BUT WAIT, he also wrote (or co-wrote) “I BELIEVE.” [the intricacies of theology notwithstanding] –
“I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come to show the way
I believe, I believe
“I believe above the storm a smallest prayer
Will still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry
Or touch a leaf, or see the sky
Then I know why
I believe.”

ON THE OTHER HAND, THE LORD says: “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me!”
Jeremiah 29:11-13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

IF YOU HUNGER FOR HOPE, get alone somewhere, talk to the ONE who said, “I will never leave you,” and He will open the highway of hope for you.  Find someone who really knows what this means or contact me on FB and I will point you to THE ONE!