“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things I tell you” (Luke 6:46).
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
I apologize for the title. Everything our Lord said was “big.” It’s just that some of His statements in particular seem to have been muted in recent years. See what you think.
1) We keep forgetting the second commandment is a command.
We want our religion to be private, just “me and the Lord.”
Jesus refuses to play that game. After being asked to identify the “greatest” command, He said, “And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). We must note that this is a command, not an option, an opinion, a wish, a Facebook “like,” or a good idea. To love one’s neighbor strongly is a key component of the kind of witness Jesus envisioned His people extending to the world.
So, why don’t we obey it? Answer: We have found it inconvenient, difficult, and demanding. When we love people–truly care for them to the point that they know it–they might need us and that would interfere with our schedule. It’s much easier to love the lovely, to care for the appreciative, to give to the deserving, and to reach out to those who need little or nothing.
(For this article, we enlisted the aid of our Facebook friends. We’re quoting them here, but not verbatim. They will recognize themselves. Thanks, guys.)
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul… They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb…. In keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)
The Bible loves the Bible.
From one end to the other, God’s word tells us how wonderful is God’s word. Better than gold and sweeter than honey it is. Job said, “I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
We preachers believe this. And we say those words to our people. We like our people to bring their Bibles to church, open them as we read and preach, and use them when they return home.
There is nothing wrong with our aspirations in this regard.
However, when it comes to connecting our people with God’s word personally to the point that they will become ardent readers and diligent students of Scripture, we should give ourselves a C-minus. And sometimes, an F.
The book focused on the year 1940 and all the war-related events of that brief period: Hitler’s invasion of the Low Countries, Churchill’s coming to power, Dunkirk, the Blitz, FDR’s election to the third term, and the isolationism in the USA.
I emailed the author of my appreciation for the book and added, “That year is also special because I made my appearance on March 28, 1940.”
After thinking about that a moment, I added, “But don’t think me old just because I was born in 1940.”
Later, I wondered why I’d said that, since I do not know the author or expect to meet him. Why was that important to me?
It must be a personal thing.
None of us want to be pigeon-holed because of demographics or statistics, nor for preconceptions or ignorance. Just because you are a Southerner does not make you a redneck. Living in Mississippi does not mean you are barefooted. All Louisianians do not speak Cajun. All Yankees are not rude. All Democrats are not socialists nor all Republicans idiots.
A program on a science channel dealt with “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin.” The two planets are similar in size, and according to the experts, have the same origin. But Venus is hellish, with acidic atmosphere and temperatures in the monstrous range.
Early in the program, the scientists began telling how Earth’s future is to become as Venus is now. Not next week. But in the distant future.
Now, personally, I have no trouble with anything that occurs on this planet a billion years down the road, which is the time period the experts dealt with. For one thing, I won’t be here, and neither will you. For another, scripture says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:12).
Wonder why the scientists feel the need to tell us such?
Watch enough such science shows, and you come away feeling that their purpose was to unnerve the viewer, to frighten the audience with the awful fate awaiting the planet and possibly to eradicate any primitive thoughts of a God who could be expected to rescue us from such a future.
I suspect their ploy works. If one watches enough of this stuff, it would.
But there is one thing–one word actually–which keeps people of faith grounded, one word which is our answer to those who would frighten us about the future of this universe.
That which was from the beginning….we declare to you…. (I John 1:1ff)
(For my suggestions on introducing this Bible study for your people, see #7 below.)
I confess. I read scriptures looking for gold. Some of it is found in nuggets on top of the ground, just waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Others are in veins which need to be mined and worked and treated carefully and faithfully.
The opening of the First Epistle of John is pure gold and for good reason….
That which was from the beginning…which we have heard… which we have seen with our eyes…which we have looked upon and our hands have handled…. And we have seen and bear witness and declare to you…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you….
Get the point? John, the old apostle–the last one standing–is saying, “I was there. I know. This is not hearsay. This is not something I thought up. This is the Truth; it’s what I know.”
There is no substitute for a personal experience. “The person with an experience is never at the mercy of someone with an argument.” Consider…
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.
Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.
Is there a verse of Scripture on that?
These “super-apostles” write me, taking issue with many of the positions we hold in these articles. They have it all worked out and find it incredulous that we do not see matters their way. The only explanation, they conclude, is that I must be a) unsaved or b) willfully blind.
I wrote something about tithing for this website.
In “The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published,” David Skinner describes the hostile reaction that greeted the release of “Webster’s Third Edition” in 1961. The incident provides an excellent lesson for all of us, particularly church folk.
But first, the context.
Skinner’s book traces the development of dictionaries in this country and their struggles to determine what goes in and what stays out. Then it chronicles the work of G. and C. Merriam Company to produce a new kind of dictionary, one unlike all the others.
The editors had arrived at the interesting conclusion that no one had made them the authority over the English language. No one had put them in charge of English as spoken and written in America. In fact, they decided there is no authority.
This must have come as a shock to every teacher I ever had in elementary and high school. Invariably, they would fault students for some breach of the language and add, “Check the dictionary.” Yep, there it was, in black and white.
“….the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” –I Corinthians 2:8
There is more going on in this universe–above us, underneath us, in the spirit world surrounding us–than we can imagine.
God is always at work. The hosts of Heaven are constantly serving Him in ways unknown to us. But so is His arch-enemy at work, as well as his minions. We see this throughout Scripture.
Satan is the enemy is all that is good. Anything that would honor God, benefit humanity, and spread the gospel, Satan hates and works to sabotage.
But God is not stymied by Satan. The Heavenly Father loses no sleep worrying about him. Satan’s doom is settled, his fate is sealed, his days are numbered.
“On earth is not his equal,” said Martin Luther about the devil in His majestic anthem “A Mighty Fortress.” Granted, you and I are no match for Satan. But in Christ we are more than conquerors. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith in Christ. (Romans 8:37 and I John 5:4)
God is constantly handing the devil defeat after defeat. We see it in life, we observe it in the world about us, and we see it demonstrated in Scripture.
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses….” “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:16,21).
I’ve been reading books again.
That explains a lot of things. It explains where my mind is these days, what’s been bugging me, and where I’ve been searching the Word.
I’ve been reading “The Story of Ain’t.” This is mostly the story of struggles to decide what goes into dictionaries, culminating in Webster’s Third Edition. Author David Skinner brings us into the inner offices of G. and C. Merriam Company and tells how decisions are made concerning the English language. If you like that, you’d love watching sausage being made. (It’s a difficult book to read and only the wordsmiths among us should “rush out and buy this book.”)
I’ve been reading “The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844.” Author John L. Brooke takes us back into the context of the birth of this American-made religion to show that almost everything about it was the product, not of revelation, but of ideas floating around when Joseph Smith was a young man.
I’ve been reading the Bible.
“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before them….” (Luke 2:8ff.)
I wonder a lot about that first Christmas.
I wonder about the shepherds Luke told us about, the men tending their sheep throughout the night in the field outside Bethlehem.
What a magical moment this must have been for them. I wonder what that was like.
As a farm boy, I can imagine myself outside in that field with them. I’ve kept the calves and cattle, the pigs and the mules and horses. I could keep sheep. It’s basically unskilled labor, we’re told. I’ve heard that shepherds in Judea ranked on the social scale one notch above lepers. I could be a shepherd. What would that have been like that night?
–I wonder what they were talking about in the few minutes prior to the angels’ visit. Did they have a fire going? Were they talking or dozing or joshing with one another? Were they friends or even brothers?
–And when the Angel of the Lord arrived and filled the sky with Heaven’s glory, I wonder if anyone else could have seen what they saw and heard what they heard. Could someone in an adjoining field have been dazzled by that same display? Or would it have been dark over there and they would have seen nothing?
I am almost willing to bet they would not have seen a thing, that the angelic host that evening was sent to the shepherds and for no other eyes. Over in Matthew chapter 2, we’re not told of anyone else noticing the wandering star. No one else seemed to have been transfixed by a star that seemed to have a specific direction in mind.
So maybe this was just for them.