Tag Archives: discipleship

Sermon Notes: 1 Samuel ch. 1

1 Samuel Ch. 1 – Pastor Mark Neely

Worship:

Forever – Chris Tomlin
O Praise Him – David Crowder Band
Let Us Adore – ummm? It’s kind of old…
You Are God Alone – MercyMe
Come Thou Fount – Traditional Hymn

Tonight we started our run through the book of 1 Samuel. I’ll spare y’all the background behind the book and just hop straight into the content.

The book opens up with a guy named Elkanah who has two wives (hint: that’s trouble). One has children and the other (Hannah) is barren. Unfortunately for the wife who bears children, Elkanah loves Hannah much more. As consolation for her childlessness, he gives her more attention and stuff. So the childbearing wife makes it a point to get under Hannah’s skin and annoy her as much as humanly possible. Unfortunately for Hannah, she is very successful.

So the family goes to the temple to worship, and Hannah begins to pour out her heart to the Lord. In fact, she grieves so intensely, that the priest thinks that she’s drunk. Her mouth is moving but words aren’t coming out. Here’s point numero uno: when we pray, our words aren’t actually that important. What’s important is pouring out our hearts to God, surrendering to Him.

When the priest realizes that she’s just greiving, he offers her consolation. In fact, he blesses her. God hears Hannah’s prayer for children, and answers her. She gives birth to a baby boy, whom she names Samuel. To show her thankfulness to God, she offers up Samuel to His service. That must have been hard right there. She basically gives him over to the temple to raise, which means that she probably won’t see much of him for the rest of his life. Now I’m not a mother (captain obvious right there), but I can only imagine how hard that would be.

And here’s point numero dos: after she gives Samuel over to God, she begins to worship. This should be the default response to all situations in life. Hard times? Worship. Good times? Worship. Enjoying a piece of music? Worship. Getting dressed in the morning? Worship. God has ordained every circumstance in life, and everything fits perfectly into His master plan. In Hannah’s case, He used her barrenness to show how powerful He was. I don’t know what He’s got going on with the rough situations that I face, but I know that He’s doing it for a reason.

So I worship.

Easier said than done.

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Sermon Notes: Luke 12:35-46

Luke 12:35-48 – Rod Blackburn

Worship

Our God Saves – Paul Baloche
Sanctuary – I have no clue, it’s kind of old
Majesty – Delirious?
Revelation Song – Kari Jobe

We’re going to make this one snappy, since this passage can be summed up pretty quickly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of good stuff in there. In fact, go read it yourself and click on that fancy-schmancy link up at the top of the post. I just won’t say much.

Here’s the skinny: Jesus has told us that He will come back. It could be any time. How does my life reflect that? To constantly engage in meaningless activities that I will ultimately regret when I get to heaven is a horrible waste of time. Unfortunately, I’m far too often guilty of this. From endless hours in front of a computer screen to just sitting on my bed and doing nothing, I am a master of laziness. At least I can be. I’m making an effort to change that.

There you go. Super short, and hopefully super sweet.

Fact of life: locking your guitar in an office at church is a bad idea when nobody at church has a key to said office. Especially when you’re supposed to lead worship that night. Oops.

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Help my unbelief!

Oy. It’s been forever. Too long. Summer will do that to you. Not that that’s a good excuse, but it is what it is. Anyways, as part of summer, my family took a huge road trip out to the west coast. As part of road trips, you listen to the radio. It’s just what you do. Sometimes you hear some good stuff, sometimes you hear some complete baloney. Today we were listening to a sermon on the Christian station (scary, I know) and some guy was teaching on Mark ch. 9. This passage has always been impactful to me, but today it struck me in a new way.

The passage depicts a man whose son has a demon in him. He takes his son to the disciples, who fail to heal the boy. Now, most people would give up here. Jesus’ disciples had cast out demons before, and were known for their works. If they couldn’t something, the situation was pretty hopeless. This man doesn’t give up though. He wants so badly for his son to be healed, that he goes to Jesus Himself.

After a little exchange in which Jesus assesses the situation, the father asks, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Now Jesus responds, “If you can? All things are possible for one who believes”. This is where I’m getting to. After being told that, the man answers, “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief!”.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It has been since the first time I read it. I’ve always been amazed by this man’s lack of pretense. He doesnt care about putting on a facade, he just wants God to work. Here’s what struck me today: this is the way that I should always pray. I never have the faith that is required to pass whatever trial God has placed in front of me. If I could do it on my own, where would God get the glory? He doesn’t!

What God wants is for me to get to that first “I believe”, where I am willing to let Him help me. This is the easy(ish) part. The second, more difficult part is the second half: admitting that I have unbelief that I cannot fix on my own. Apart from Christ, I am uncapable of even the tiniest smidge of Faith. With that in mind, it would be unreasonable and, quite frankly, idiotic to try to fool myself into thinking that I have everything necessary to pass whatever trial God sends my way.

And that’s about all I have there, soooo……abrupt ending.

Fact of life: hashing out a whole blog post in a car on an iPhone is very difficult.

Second fact of life: that was a very long buildup for that itty bitty point. But hey it made sense to me!

Third fact of life: this is the first post to ever have three facts of life!

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Some thoughts on giving

Just read this and had to share it:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:27-31 ESV)

I’m sure you’ve read this passage before, but I want to point out something I’d never noticed here. We often hear the first part of this passage, but I’ve honestly never heard the last part of it, namely the instruction to “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from the one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”. I think that statement is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t spend too long here.

I do want to say, however, that I know of very few people who follow these instructions. I know I don’t. How often have I passed by someone holding a cardboard sign on the corner when I know full well that I have enough cash in my wallet to but them a nice meal? I can try to justify not giving, but it’s not going to work. Jesus says that I’m to give to them without worrying about whether I’ll get my cash back, or what they’ll use it for.

And that’s about all I have to say about that. I don’t know if that’ll hit you the same way it did me, but I had to at least put it out there.

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Authority

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(Romans 13:1 ESV)

Romans 13 has always been a difficult passage for me. Submission in general is a difficult topic for me. I don’t like it. The natural leader in me wants to be in control, in command. My flesh hates losing control. I tend to freak out when that happens. But some things have happened recently, causing me to lose some authority over things. So I turned to the scriptures to make sense out of it. Through these circumstances (which I’ll spare you, because it would take forever to explain), God has shown me that I never really had any authority in the first place. It’s been a humbling few weeks for me, and I want to share some of that.

Let’s start by looking back at that passage. Paul says, “Let every person be subject to…authority.” Not just the followers. Not just the weak-willed. Even the strongest-willed among us is to be subject to authority. Whether it be under a boss, parents, government, or God Himself, everyone on this planet is subject to some sort of authority. Unfortunately, human nature is to rebel. Has been since the very beginning. This is equivalent to rebellion against God.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
(Romans 13:2-4 ESV)

Now here’s the hard part for me. If I’m to believe the Scriptures (and I’d be an idiot not to…), then ALL authority is an extension of God’s own. In fact, God has appointed them to their position. We are to obey them as we would obey God.  This includes the people who seem like they’re flat-out wrong. Put another way, if my parents ask me to to do something I think is stupid, the order may as well have come from God. If a boss asks me to complete a menial task in a horribly inefficient manner, God Himself may as well have asked me. To disobey them would be to disobey God.

Taking it a step further now

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
(Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

Heavy-duty stuff here. The writer of Hebrews is telling us that we’re to obey our leaders. Not only that, but we’re to do it cheerfully. Even when the commands are lame and asinine. He tells us that if we groan, we’re missing the point. This is a really hard pill for me to swallow. Every part of my flesh screams that it’s stupid. It screams, “But God! Surely you wouldn’t ask me to do that! Why should I do it?!” God allows these things to happen to stretch us, refine us, and give us opportunity to kill the flesh. In fact, if my flesh is complaining, I’m probably doing something right.

Now John had a few more choice words about this business. He says that if we love God, we’ll obey Him. Check it out:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
(1 John 5:1-3 ESV)

Again, John just said that if we love God, we’ll keep His commands. God has commanded us to obey authorities, and to do it cheerfully. Do you see where I’m going with this? If we don’t obey authority, we prove by action that we don’t really love God. Holy smokes, that smarts. Put that in first-person. If I don’t submit to authority cheerfully, I am proving by action that I don’t love God.

Wow.

Now, that’s really hard for me to write, because I am normally the last person to talk about submission. I’m the guy who will might do what you say, but if I don’t like it you’ll probably have to drag me kicking and screaming. But God calls me to submit cheerfully! The dilemma here is that it’s impossible to submit cheerfully at all times. There is not one person on earth who can do it. Sure, some can fake it for a while, but eventually circumstances will arise that bring their flesh to the surface. With me it probably happens more often than others.

However, part of following God is doing things that don’t come naturally. I wrote earlier that I was in the process of having authority being stripped away from me. Through this, however, God is doing a work in me. He is showing me that the less control I have, the more I have to rely on the fact that God is in control. I can’t say that I’m a master of this yet (or even close). In fact, I’m quite bad at it. The best I can say is that I’m learning.

Recommended Reading:

Touching Godliness Through Submission – KP Yohannan
http://www.amazon.com/Touching-Godliness-through-Submission-Yohannan/dp/1595890556/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334453232&sr=8-1

 

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To My People

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

-1 Peter 2: 9

This is my generation. We are chosen, royal, holy, special. We are called. Called by the God of the WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. This is kindof a big deal, because He’s talking to me, He’s talking to you, He’s talking to the people of our generation. I think there’s something wrong with a lot of the Christians in my generation. We’re wimpy. We’re too sensitive. We don’t take well to haters. Last week, someone drove by my school and cussed at the girls’ PE class. They didn’t take it too well.

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

-1 Peter 4: 12

Whoa now, calm down a little bit… FIERY TRIAL? Um, have you seen fire? Ever been in fire? Kinda scary. And yet here’s Peter telling us, “dude, this is to be expected. It’s not a big deal. This is what you signed up for.” How is it that we see persecution as some great injustice? Some major, unexpected offense? Jesus went through a whole lot more than this, and He didn’t whine about it. It was no big thing, He totally expected it. In a way, He kinda asked for it.

Ever notice how Christianity is super offensive to the rest of the world? Think about it. All of this “separation of church and state” business? It only applies to the Christian’s involvement with the state. Only Christians are forbidden from praying and reading the Bible in public schools. College professors directly attack Christians, mainly, in philosophy courses, history courses, science courses, you name it. No other religion gets treated like this. Why? Because it’s radical. Why was Jesus crucified? Sunday school answer is “for our sins,” but that’s not what was going through the religious leaders’ heads when they turned Him in. Jesus was crucified because He was radical. Too radical. You can’t just walk around saying that you’re the son of God. People kinda freak out when you say stuff like that.

As Christians, we are called to follow Christ’s radical example. This means that we will take fire. And what are we supposed to do with that? Rejoice, that’s what. If Christ was abused for what He taught, and we are abused for supporting what He taught, then that means we’re doing a good job. To quote The Dark Knight, “If you’re not getting shot at, you’re not doing your job right.” Seriously. If you’re not taking fire for the Gospel, then you’re probably not doing it right. Christianity is offensive to pretty much everyone who doesn’t believe in God. Heck, Christianity is offensive to a lot of people who do believe in God. Christianity is even offensive to a lot of Christians. Examples: Rick Warren, Rob Bell. ‘Nuff said.

Let us keep in mind here the ultimate goal: God’s glory being revealed. We’ve talked about suffering for Christ’s sake, but the end to that is seeing His glory and being able to partake in that. How awesome is that going to be? When we finally get to the end of this life, battered and bruised for the sake of the gospel, just think of being able to rejoice with the Lord about all the glory that was revealed through the beatings we took. Kinda lightens the blow. I mean, obviously, it’s not going to be fun if someone shoots an arrow at your knee because you say you love Jesus, but what about the people who watch that incident? They’re gonna be all like, “Wow, Jesus must be pretty rad if that person is willing to take an arrow to the knee for Him!” (Oh yeah, internet, I went there.) And when this life is done, we will be able to see the impact that our actions had on others. We are God’s chosen generation. This is our job. This is what we do.

Fact of Life: Pouring liquid into a glass tends to be much more successful if the glass is right side up.

Fact of Life 2: Listening to Break of Reality while writing makes whatever it is that you’re writing seem completely epic and amazing.

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Ouch.

I have just been slapped in the face. Listen to what Jesus had to say here:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 5:39-40

Jesus was talking to the Pharisees here, telling them that they were complete hypocrites. They were hypocrites because though they looked to the Scriptures, they refused to look to Jesus. I thought to myself, “Goodness gracious, that’s me!” I don’t know about you, but I know that I am far too often guilty of looking for life in the Scriptures, instead of going straight to the source. Jesus was upset at the Pharisees for this very shortcoming. They were so wrapped up in searching the Scriptures and obtaining knowledge that they missed the point completely.

You see, the Pharisees loved the Scripture. In fact, they started out very well as far as that is concerned. They formed as a group of priests and rabbis who were sick of Jews who didn’t follow the Law. They interpreted the Scriptures literally, and in general had very solid doctrine. They opposed the liberal Sadducees, as well as extremist groups on the far right. You might compare their beginnings to the Calvary Chapel movement. I’m taking some liberties there, I know, but the similarities are undeniable. Over time, however, they began to place a higher importance on God’s word than on God Himself. Dangerous decision.

If you look back at the above quote, you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t necessarily have a problem with the Pharisees searching the Scriptures. In fact, he admits that the Scriptures bear witness of Him. His problem is that they think that they have eternal life in the Scriptures. This is a huge problem. Only Jesus is capable of giving eternal life. Yes, he reveals Himself to us through His Word, but the Bible is meant to point us to Jesus. It is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 4:13-14

I think that sometimes Christians (especially in the circles I frequent) tend to focus more on the Bible than on Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is great. It is God’s living word. The problem is that often we’d rather spend time in the Bible than spend time with Jesus. We have an issue, and instead of going to Jesus we go to the Bible. Do you see the problem here?

Here’s the root issue: the Pharisees didn’t want to see Jesus as who He was. It was too uncomfortable. He even told them that if He were anyone else, they would surely believe His words. Yet because of Who He was, they refused to believe in Him. We have the same issue. It is often more convenient, more comfortable to put our faith in something tangible. We can pick up our Bibles, open them up, see them with our eyes. But that’s not really faith, is it? No, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Look at the countless believers in persecuted nations who have little or no access to the Bible. What do they have faith in? Jesus Christ.

Again, I’m not advocating that we all stop reading our Bibles, I’m just saying that we need to rethink our priorities. Jesus had harsh words for those Pharisees, I pray that we would stop being like them. All too often we worship the Bible instead of worshipping God. Granted, it’s much more comfortable to worship that which is tangible, but God never called us to be comfortable, did He?

I didn’t think so.

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Two Years

Hi there! If you haven’t noticed, Anna’s blog is at a different web address. Obviously you did notice, because you’re here. It also has a new look. Looks nice, doesn’t it? Hopefully now that it looks pretty cool, she’ll share it with more people. Blogs are more fun when people read them. Just saying.

Another thing you might notice is that I’m not Anna. Wow. She asked me to write on her blog (don’t ask why; I don’t know either), so here I am. As you may already know, Anna’s creative epiphanies often come to her in the shower. I’m not so much into the shower-think scene. My inspiration usually comes very late at night, when I can’t fall asleep. If you want to know more about me, read the about section.

So for my first post, here’s something I wrote during a recent night of sleeplessness.

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I can’t sleep. Again. Since all other methods of convincing my brain to shut down seem to have failed, I’ll try writing a bit. I know, writing involves thinking, which is usually not conducive to slumber. Nothing else seems to have worked, though, so it can’t hurt. My brain is different (read: a little messed up and a lot of weird), so maybe it’ll even help.

Now, since sleeplessness is the reason I’m writing, I may as well write about it. I’m just sort of going to write what comes to mind, so forgive me if this is nothing but mindless rambling. What is it about sleep, anyways? It seems everybody these days complains of a lack of it. And in a cruel twist of irony, get too much, and you’re tired again! Really? Of course, lack of sleep can also be wildly entertaining (especially when combined with excessive amounts of caffeine and a game of Apples to Apples), but those times are often painfully irrelevant to an insomniac such as myself. At this point I could tell many stories of late-night hilariousness, but that’s not really the point.

Back to the topic. The more I think about this insomnia business, the more I’m convinced it’s not such a bad deal. While those gifted with the ability to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow seem to have things easy, they miss out on precious moments of consciousness. The insomniac is gifted with having that extra time of consciousness, which can be  an extremely productive time if used wisely. I did the math here. Assume that a “normal” person averages five minutes to fall asleep, and I average 45 minutes. Over the course of a 75-year lifetime, I have been awake for 2 more years than he has. 2 years. That’s a long time. I could singlehandedly make a feature-length film in that time. Would it be good? Probably not. But that’s not the point! The point is that I have 2 extra years at my disposal.

Now, this line of thinking makes one critical assumption: reality is better than…whatever you call not-reality. If you disagree with me here, I suggest you get off of the drugs. That reminds me:

This is your brain:

This is your brain on drugs:

Any questions? Good. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m easily distracted. Bear with me.

Where were we? Right. Sleeplessness. Consciousness. Got it. So I have two extra years of consciousness at my disposal. This does me absolutely no good if I don’t put the time to good use. The first activity that comes to mind is prayer. Two years spent on my knees before God’s throne is certainly not a waste of time. The next thing that comes to mind is creativity. I can spend that time writing songs, poetry, and more blog posts that will be read by a grand total of five people. Of course, I can also think of many less noble activities (pacing, prank calls, staring at the wall…), but I’m trying to be constructive here!

“But wait!”, you yell.

“Yes?”

“Won’t you be tired?”

“Now why would you think that?”

“Because 2 extra years of awake also means 2 lost years of sleep!”

Right. Ignoring the fact that you just talked to a blog post (which talked back), you have a good point. Except you don’t. Psalm 127:2 says “It is vain for you to rise up early/ To sit up late/ To eat the bread of sorrows/ For so He gives His beloved sleep”. God knows exactly how much sleep I need, and will give it to me. Jesus also said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest”. If I am busy about my Father’s business, rest will come as it is needed.

I could even take this a bit further. Jesus said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He was speaking to the man who would be His disciple, but was not called. If we are not willing to lay all (hint: that includes our beauty sleep) behind to follow Him, we are not worthy to be called His disciple. The only sleep that we actually need is that which we are given by the grace of God. Indeed, a quick read through Proverbs reveals that too much sleep is actually much more harmful than too little.

“That’s great.” You say, “But I still can’t fall asleep!” (Again, we’ll ignore the physical impossibilities behind you having a conversation with a blog)

To which I respond, “It wasn’t supposed to help you fall asleep.”

“What?!” You exclaim, “What about all that ‘He gives His beloved sleep’ business?”

You just unknowingly hit the nail on the head. You see, He gives the sleep. Don’t try to go to sleep, that’s not our job. Our job is to use the time we’ve been given wisely. If you still want to fall asleep, here’s my life verse: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your supplications be known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So don’t be anxious, and spend the time in prayer. Rest will come. Seeing as it’s very late (my clock only has three numbers on it. Ha.), I don’t know how well this turned out. Maybe it makes sense to someone. If you can track my mindless rambling, I’m glad. If you can’t I’m sorry. Now I leave to get sleep myself. Good night!

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Well, there it is. That was my first blog in the history of the universe. It was fun! And to keep things consistent with Anna’s style, I’ll leave you with a life tip: Don’t put sharp objects to the side of your bed. When you wake up in the middle of the night, they WILL attack you. Every time.

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Love

Love.

It’s a funny word. It slips off the tongue quite easily, just try it. Say it. Love. What is it? What does it mean? Why are there so many songs written about it? According to Dictionary.com, love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, or a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. It is generally a noun. Urbandictionary.com defines love as nature’s way of tricking people into reproducing. And that’s what our world has come to, folks. If I didn’t love Jesus, I might agree with the above statements.

You know what’s coming. Let’s go back to the textbook, shall we? Here’s the 1 Corinthinthians definition of love, broken down into outline form with all the fancy poetry taken out. Love is:
1) Patient.
2) Kind.
Love is not:
1) Proud.
2) Rude.
Love does:
1) Rejoice in the truth.
2) Bear all things.
3) Hope all things.
4) Believe all things.
5) Endure all things.
Love does not:
1) Seek its own interests.
2) Get angry over things.
3) Think evil.
4) Rejoice in iniquity.
5) Fail.

In my opinion, love is a verb. It’s not a feeling, it’s an action. It’s a conscious choice. It’s a commitment. It’s a command that we as Christians have been given. 1 John 3:16-18 – By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. Our culture today relies on the first few definitions of love that I gave. It’s a feeling. One day, you love someone, the next day, maybe not so much. When two people are in love, they send each other all sorts of sentimental junk that means, to be honest, nothing at all. The world view’s love as a hole that you can just fall into, without any personal responsibility, and fall out of with no more volition. Look at the divorce rate in our country if you don’t believe me. People “love” someone for what the other can provide. “I love you, you make me happy.” And when the happy is gone, so is the love.

1 John 4:9-11 – In this the love of  God was manifested toward us, that God sent His son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

You’ve probably heard that God loves you. If you haven’t, you just did. God loves you. Why? We cannot do anything that would earn His love. And yet, God in His love for us sent us what? Flowers? A box of chocolates? A teddy bear maybe? No. God, in His infinite love for us sent HIS ONLY CHILD. And it wasn’t just like, “hey, I love you, here’s my kid.” God sent His son, Jesus Christ to do something for us: to die the most gruesome, horrifying, torturous death ever devised in the heart of man for what? So that we, miserable sinners that we are, could spend eternity with this God of Love. That right there is love as a verb. Love gives of itself. God’s gift was not a flippant little trinket that He found at a gift shop. His gift was a part of Himself.

We are called to love in the same manner that God loved us. To sacrifice yourself to meet the needs of others. He didn’t do that because it made Him feel all warm and fuzzy and cute, but because we are His creation and He chose to. He calls us as His people to do the same. 

His love is also unconditional. Therefore, we don’t get to fall in and out of love. He didn’t. He loves. The end. He doesn’t love BECAUSE you did this or that, He just loves. Same thing with us. We as Christians must make the choice to love others, not because of anything they have or haven’t done, but simply because God made them. That’s all I got for now.

Fact of Life: Small children do not understand the concept of elastic waistbands on basketball shorts. When they want to be held, they will simply reach their hands up to your waist, grab your pants, and pull. Beware.

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Rejoice

1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always.
I love the simplicity of this verse. The author didn’t say to rejoice when something awesome happens. He didn’t say to only rejoice when you felt like it, he said this: Rejoice always. Period. End of sentence. Always. That means even when life sucks, when your best friend turns into a complete jerk for no reason, when you’re feeling lonely, when everything seems to be falling apart around your ears. Rejoice. What does that even mean?

Rejoice: (Verb) To be glad; to take delight (in)
So then are you supposed to start dancing when you discover that your best friend has a drug addiction? Do we burst into song when Grandma dies? Negative.
James 1:2-3 – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
Acts 5:40-42 – And they (the Sanhedrin) agreed with him (Gamaliel), and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Wow. These guys rejoiced because someone found them worthy… of taking a beating within an inch of their lives for what? Preaching the name of Christ. And having taken this beating, they continued in the course of action that got them there, which was proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. I think the apostle’s attitude about it was totally awesome: they rejoiced. Why? Because they were radical enough in their faith to get attention. Am I loud enough about my faith that I would take a beating for it? Do people have to tell me to calm down? Am I worthy of taking a beating for my Lord? And would I rejoice about it?

Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
When God thinks something is important, He’ll tell you. When it’s important enough to tell you twice, you’d better listen. Clearly, God knows that our natural response to most situations is not always rejoicing, but that’s what He calls us to do. And just to make sure that we didn’t miss the message, He said it twice. So basically, if you miss the message, you’re in willful defiance of a command that He has given. This is most definitely a command. God didn’t say, “you can rejoice if you feel like it, if you really want to. You don’t have to or anything, but it’s an option.” No. He said, “Rejoice in Me always. And if you didn’t get it the first time, I’ll reiterate: rejoice!” The prepositional phrase in there is worth noting: rejoice in the Lord. You’re not just gonna roll around town rejoicing for no particular reason. What’s the point of that? There must be some cause for rejoicing, and believers have the perfect reason.
Philippians 4:19 – And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Sounds like a good reason for rejoicing to me.

Psalm 35:9 – And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation.
Notice something: first David was joyful in the Lord. God is good, and that is why we have reason to be joyful. Secondly, his soul REjoiced in His salvation. Joy. Rejoy. You have to have joy before you can rejoice. That joy comes from the Holy Spirit within you. You have the God of the universe dwelling inside you! If that’s not a good enough reason for you to have joy in your heart, I don’t know what is! On top of that, this same God of the universe came here to earth to save your lowly, miserable self from the sin that you would have wallowed in and eventually died from. That is cause for rejoicing! Not only is He living inside you, but He saved you. Joy. Rejoy. Don’t ever forget that.

Fact of Life: You may not think the middle finger on your left hand is good for much. Wait until you accidentally pop the nail off and have to have the whole finger in a fatty bandage. Typing is a pain in the butt! But I can rejoice about it. Not sure how, but I’ll figure it out.

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