Making Deals With God Continue reading
Making Deals With God Continue reading
I think we can all agree that’s true. In this life, we can only do a few things well. With that in mind, why wouldn’t one of those things be what Jesus says is most important? If you’re not a follower of Christ, then it doesn’t matter. But if you are a follower of Christ…
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” –Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:36-39
(From the book The Art of Neighboring, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon)
Image via Leland Francisco – Creative Commons
Do not act this way, my brothers. You are young; profit by the sincere confession I make to you of the little care I took to consecrate my first years to God. Consecrate all of your years to His love; for, as for me, if I had known sooner, and if anyone had told me the things I am telling you now, I would not have waited so long to love Him. Believe me, and count for lost all the time that is not spent in loving God. -Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
I couldn’t possibly say it better than he did.
I just read a great article on marriage by Tim Keller. In it he quotes from John Tierney’s classic humor article Picky, Picky, Picky some of the reasons Tierney’s single friends ended relationships. (NY Times)
“She mispronounced ‘Goethe.’”
“How could I take him seriously after seeing The Road Less Traveled on his bookshelf?”
“If she would just lose seven pounds.”
“Sure, he’s a partner, but it’s not a big firm. And he wears those short black socks.”
“Well, it started out great … beautiful face, great body, nice smile. Everything was going fine—until she turned around.” He paused ominously and shook his head. ”… She had dirty elbows.”
Keller then proceeds to explain how the person who will fulfill us and completely accept us just as we are is never the person we marry, not for anyone. Wait around long enough and every marriage relationship winds up in the same place, a place where both husband and wife recognize they’re two flawed people who will each have to make changes and work at their relationship to make it worthwhile.
But why should we think marriage wouldn’t be hard work? Keller asks. Why should a baseball player think it wouldn’t be hard work to learn how to hit a curve ball? Why should a basketball player or a football player think it wouldn’t be hard work to make the playoffs? Or why should a writer think it wouldn’t be hard to write a great book?
Worthwhile things are hard work. Marriage is no different.
Perhaps, like many people, you’ve forgotten about a relationship more important than your marriage. Perhaps you’ve forgotten or neglected your relationship with your Creator.
That relationship can be hard work too.
Today your relationship with God is under constant assault by distractions: There’s sports, and travel, and work, and friends, and family — and then there are the screens. The screens are bombarding us with distraction like never before. There’s movie screens, and computer screens, and smartphone screens, and tablet screens, and TV screens. All of these distractions, most of which aren’t bad in and of themselves, are pulling on you, pulling you away from God. Sometimes it takes hard work to pull yourself away from all of these things to draw near to God. (James 4:8)
Go ahead, ask yourself, Am I treating God as I should? Am I honoring Him? Do I do that which I think will please Him? Do I live my life with the design to please Him? Is He ultimate in my life? And if I answer yes, does the way I invest my time, energy, and money reflect my answer?
Investing your time, energy, and money in God and your relationship with Him can be hard work at times. Just like a marriage you’ll have to make changes in yourself and you’ll have to work at your relationship with Christ to make it worthwhile.
But it’s worth it.
The return on investment is eternal.
You, and I, and every person has to ask, Do I believe I ought to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind? (Matthew 22:37)
And if the answer is yes, then comes the hard question.
Am I doing so?
This is an outstanding post by Stephen Altrogge, who, early in his article, In Defense of Video Games, states:
“…first, some full disclosure: I play video games. I enjoy playing them as a way to unwind. I am a colossal nerd of pocket protector proportions. Sometimes I play with my friends online. And wear a bluetooth ear piece.”
From there he goes on to share his response to disparaging comments made about video games by Mark Driscoll and Russell Moore.
I thoroughly enjoyed this blog post.
And I don’t even play video games!
It’s a great read: In Defense of Video Games.
In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
How Jesus Loved People:
Let me start with the obvious, you’re not Jesus Christ. That being the case, I don’t recommend you visit your local place of worship and clean house with a whip. But I do believe there’s a most important insight found here concerning how you and I can love like Jesus did. That insight is…
Jesus loved God first.
“Hey, this series is supposed to be about loving people,” you might be saying to yourself.
Well, God is a Person!
And Jesus loves God far more than He loves other people. Here in this passage of scripture we see He loved God with such abandon, He had no regard for what other people thought of Him.
In case you might think Jesus lost His temper here, read closely, and you’ll notice this wasn’t something done on impulse. Making a whip out of cords takes time. He knew what He was going to do ahead of time, and without question, He knew what others would think of His actions.
But He expressed His passion for His God anyway.
We gain additional insight into Jesus’ view of people’s opinions just a few verses further into the same chapter. In verses 23-25 we learn how many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
Jesus loved God first, and He loved Him with abandon. He gave no value to what others thought of Him with regard to His love for His God.
How to Love Like Jesus–Love God First
It’s hugely important to love God first! To love Him far above and beyond anyone else. This is the idea behind Jesus’ teaching: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Obviously Jesus taught over and over we are to love God and love people, and of course that includes the people in your family. What He’s saying in Luke 14, and what we see Jesus demonstrating when he cleanses the temple, is to love God first, far above anyone else. Jesus cares deeply about what God thinks, and what pleases Him. And He puts that above, far above, what other people think.
When I put God first, I’m blessed because I become focused on what’s truly important in life. When God slips out of first place, I quickly become mired down in the temporal. My heart and my soul and my mind are taken up with what’s happening at work, or on ESPN, or what’s on sale at Best Buy, or my next big project, or maintaining my toys, or whatever other temporal business presents itself. And a kind of inertia sets in. The more I move in the direction of the temporal, the further away I drift from God and the eternal. In my experience, when I find myself in this state of being, I’m usually brought back to intimacy with God through some sort of crisis. You can learn from experience, but it doesn’t have to be your own experience. Please, let me encourage you to learn from mine. Draw close to God before the trial comes. You’ll be so glad you did.
And there’s another, even more compelling reason to put God above all others in your life, and it has to do with shame. There have been times in my life when I was skulking around, embarrassed about my love for Christ. I lived in fear of what others might think of me. Man, I’m on dangerous ground when I live like that. Jesus said very plainly, “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be disowned by Christ before the angels of God.
So I need to love God the same way Jesus did: far more than anyone else, with abandon, giving no value to what others think of me with regard to my love for God.
That’s how Jesus loved.
That’s how you can love like Jesus.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”
-Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:37
[Image via: AldoZL Creative Commons]
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Read Genesis 35
Where we last left Jacob: After raping Jacob’s daughter Dinah, the young prince Shechem, went with his father to Jacob, to ask for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s big brothers pretended to enter into an agreement with Shechem but then retaliated in a horrific and murderous manner. They were chastised for it by their father Jacob afterwards, but, surprisingly, they remained a part of God’s plan. In Levi’s case, his descendants were even assigned to minister unto God as His priests. We learned from this example, four reasons why God will choose to use you as a part of His plan for the world. (see previous post on Genesis 34) Today we’ll read of Jacob’s conflict and controversy during his travels. Then we’ll answer one of the most important questions that can be asked: “What is the object of your love?”
Now, on the heels of this massacre by his sons, Jacob hears from God: Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.
So Jacob says to his entire household, Get rid of any foreign gods you have with you, purify yourselves, change your clothes. We’re going up to Bethel where I’ll build an altar to God — He answered me in the day of my distress and He’s been with me wherever I have gone. So they give Jacob all the foreign gods they have and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buries them under an oak tree at Shechem. Then they start on their journey to Bethel, and the terror of God falls on the towns all around them, so no one pursues them to avenge the massacre they had committed.
Jacob and all who are with him come to Bethel in the land of Canaan. He builds an altar there as the Lord instructed, and he calls the place El Bethel which means, God of Bethel. It was there God revealed Himself to Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother Esau.
Afterwards, Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, dies and so they bury her under the oak outside of Bethel. As Rebekah was Jacob’s mother, Deborah, her nurse, would have been the one who helped raise Jacob. She also would have been a valuable mentor and leader to the women in Jacob’s household. She was obviously well loved for they name the oak tree under which she was buried Allon Bakuth, which means oak of weeping.
After Jacob came back from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.”
And God also said to him, “I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” Then God went up from him.
So Jacob sets up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he pours out a drink offering on it; he also pours oil on it. Jacob calls the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
So they leave Bethel and head for Ephrath. While they’re traveling Rachel begins to give birth but she has difficulty. As she’s struggling in childbirth, the midwife says to her, Cheer up, you’re having another son. But it’s such a difficult birth Rachel is dying, and as she breaths her last she names her son Ben-Oni, which means son of my trouble. But Jacob graciously spares the child from the burden of such a name and names him Benjamin, which means son of my right hand.
So Rachel dies and they bury her on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob sets up a pillar, and to this day (to the time of the writing of the scripture by Moses, some 400 years after these events) that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
Israel moves on from there and pitches his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel is living in that area, his oldest son Reuben goes in and sleeps with Israel’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel hears about it.
Jacob’s twelve sons:
The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.
The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.
The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
Jacob eventually comes home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (also called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lives a hundred and eighty years. He breathes his last and dies and is gathered to his people, old and full of years. Esau and Jacob, his sons, come together to bury him.
What is the object of your love?
We see in our story Jacob, in response to this tragedy his sons instigated against the entire city of Shechem, institutes a renewal of faith. He tells everyone in his household and every person with him to give up their idols and he buries them. It is truly amazing how during times of prosperity we drift away from what’s important and the idols creep in. Our focus, our time, and our energy become devoted to things other than God. We become distracted. This is what happened to Jacob’s household. We see they have accumulated quite a collection of idols.
In the Bible we see idols defined, not just as the making of little statues depicting strange gods, but also the making of good things into ultimate things. Idol worship is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. When you’re looking to your career, or your marriage, or your romance, or your friends to give you everything you should be looking for in God, you’re looking to idols. Making these good things into ultimate things is a misappropriation of your love. Love your uncreated God designed for you to devote to Him, is given instead to these created things. And the ultimate result is undue anxiety, drivenness, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment. It happens this way every time. (excerpts from Keller)
Why put yourself through the emotional instability that comes from directing your love toward those things which are created instead of your God? Do you know that the infidelity of a Reuben or Bilhah might possibly come into your life? Or death, no one escapes the death of loved ones. The death of a Deborah or a Rachel is, with absolute certainty, going to take place in your life. No life escapes death’s touch. Jacob’s father Isaac died and so will yours. In the world, you will have trouble. When these storms come, and they will come, if you’re looking to your career, or marriage, or friends to provide you with strength to stand, you’re in for a disappointment. Instead, have your feet planted solidly in a deep and rich relationship with Christ when these troubles come your way.
There is no replacement for God.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”