Wednesday, February 22, 2006

LOVE: The Greatest Thing God Has Demonstrated!

HE'S NOT OUR SON! [Matthew 28:20]

"and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Herbert Toney, 36, and Latisha Washington, 29, were arrested in October in St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans, and face several charges including abandoning their 8-year-old son.

According to police, the couple instructed the son to go into a Winn-Dixie supermarket and steal groceries and beer. When a security guard stopped him, the boy pointed to his parents nearby. But Toney and Washington matter-of-factly denied knowing the boy, and walked away.

Deputies brought the couple in again a while later, but Washington said only that maybe she had seen the boy around the neighborhood a few times. Finally, she admitted he was her child. [The Times-Picayune, 10-4-02]

The Lord will not leave us nor foresake His children!

BIBLICAL LOVE! [John 15:12-17

I've been in many services where the preacher, the evangelist, or the teacher told us to turn to a person on the left or right and say, "I love you." But you know, I've never been in a service where anyone told us to turn to the person next to us and say, "I'm willing to die for you!" Yet that's exactly what God said to the whole world.

Love is not a theory; it’s a theorem. You see, we are supposed to demonstrate our love for others, not just say that we love someone. God so loved the world that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God demonstrated His love for us! So now, I tell my congregation to turn to the person next to them, weeping, and say, "I'm willing to die for you!" That's biblical love!

ENJOY YOUR MEAL! [Psalm 23:5a]

Our family has been enjoying a nesting pair of doves. They’ve set up house in a Creeping Charlie, which hangs on our front porch. Mom seems to be there 24/7. Dad? Well, he comes around from time to time ... bringing lunch, perhaps.

Last year they laid a brace of eggs but having a new roof installed scared them away before they hatched. This year ... in fact just a few days ago, two chicks were born and they were born hungry. Now even dad spends time in the nest. I won’t tell you what he does.

Our dog sleeps right under their nest and they aren’t in the least fazed. We also have three cats, who take turns sitting at the screen door several times each day. The cats don’t know about the birds yet ... conversely the birds don’t seem to know about the cats.

I’ve discovered a couple of things from observing these birds. First, mothers, human or otherwise, put up with a great deal. Second, each hatchling has its meals in the presence of its enemies. Yet, unlike you or me, they have no concept of their enemies.

And so shall I be free of fear, for God promises "to prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Now David has made no distinction whether these were temporal or eternal enemies. However, since I know the Lord is immutable [unchanging], I hold it makes no difference ... He would never have me feast fearlessly in one dimension and not in the other, so great is His love for me.

On the other hand, if you’re like me, your enemies often give you indigestion. So what’s up? Not faith, that’s for sure! I wouldn’t need spiritual Zantac ® if I really lived by faith. Jesus often said to the disciples, "Oh ye of little faith."

He also said, "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." [Matthew 10:28] And, "be not anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself." [Matthew 6:34a]

It certainly isn’t the Lord’s fault that our temporal lives are so full of hobgoblins who give us spiritual reflux.

EVERYONE HAS A BOB! [Matthew 25:31-46]

The following is by Charles Lowery: "What about Bob?"; SBC LIFE, April 2002; Copyright © 2001 Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
There are always a few in every church. When we see them we think of that little Family of God chorus and sing "I'm surprised you're a part of the family of God." God made them fearfully and wonderfully weird. They have the amazing ability to drain the joy right out of the ministry. ... . The porch light is on but no one is home. ... .

When I see them I want to ask, "Where are Moe, Larry, and Curly?" ... . They act so inappropriately at times. They are usually standing when they are supposed to be sitting or talking when they are supposed to be quiet. They aren't cool, quick, or articulate like us. ... .

When everyone else has gone home, they want to talk to you. They usually want to hug you. And there is always one who zeros in on you; you are his hero, his idol, and the person he wants to spend as much time with as he can. They are there after every service, waiting to tell you things you already know. ... . You devise ways of avoiding them. ...

Let's be honest, sometimes you're just rude. You blow them off because your time is too valuable. ... . You say something that cuts them off or you embarrass them with your quick wit and it hurts and it works. Now you're free to do what important people like you do.

A friend of mine told me about someone that drove him crazy. His name was Bob. My friend was grumbling about Bob under his breath, and God was listening.

That night everything changed because God spoke to him as clearly as He had ever spoken before. God said, "You know that fellow, Bob, who is a little slow and never quite gets things right? The one you avoid at all costs? Well, I want you to remember something - compared to Me, you are not the sharpest knife in the drawer, either, and you don't get things quite right most of the time. So, the next time Bob starts to bug you, remember you're My Bob."

My own Bob was a lady who rode the van to our church. ... . When I had important things to do, I would try to sneak by without her seeing me. She always saw me and would yell, "Pastor, good morning!"

After church we greeted guests in the Hospitality Room and she always came in to give me a hug ... . I hugged her ... and I enjoyed it. Because I knew she was my Bob, I knew that in her simplistic mind, I represented God. God in His still, small voice said, "Well done, Charles. You loved someone who needed My love desperately. When you are desperate for love, I'll be there for you like you were for her." And when I was desperate, He was there.

I have now resigned from that church and when I look back on my time there, she is one of the people I miss. Why? Because I know she really needed me. I pray that God will send her another Charles and ... me another Bob, and give me enough sense to recognize him when he shows up.

THAT DREADFUL THING! [Matthew 25:40-46]

Bias is as simple to understand as the difference between a ladybug and a cockroach. Take a ladybug to your wife, girlfriend or mother and let it crawl on her arm. You’ll discover they have no objection ... that is, if don’t sneak up on them. They’ll say. "Oh, how cute. Aren’t they the prettiest things?" Some of them will add, "Don’t hurt it. They’re good bugs."

Now try doing the same thing with a water beetle (a very important bug except it looks like a cockroach). See what I mean? They’ll shout and scream, "Oh, don’t bring that dreadful thing near me. They’re so disgusting." Some of them will add, "Kill it! Kill it!" But they’re both bugs. What’s the difference?

Bias is rooted in our experiences; prejudice is rooted in our fears, which are also rooted in our experiences. Many of these experiences are actually lessons taught to us by others while we were young ... usually without our conscious knowledge.

Little girls are taught that bugs are "icky," while little boys are taught that bugs are good things to use to scare little girls. Yet, all kids are taught that ladybugs are "good bugs"; so too are "Daddy-long-legs" and "swamp flies."

Prejudice and bias interfere with the proper working of human life in general but in the heart of a believer they interfere with the proclamation of the Good News. At this moment there is a man sitting on the bench under the huge oak tree in our church parking lot. His name is Frank, he limps over here from a rest home down the street. He comes every day to sit in the shade and a drink his daily quart of bottled beer.

Frank is scruffy bearded and always appears in need of a bath. His fingernails are long and unclean. But Frank is the nicest guy. He’s as friendly as a Golden Retriever and just as uneducated. In a few minutes my associate, Dan, is going out to talk to him, and remind him of how much God loves him ... and why.

On the other hand, some people in our church have seen Frank under the tree, and asked with a tone of condemnation, "What’s he doing there?" The "he" is elevated, and clearly communicates that people like him are not welcome around God’s house. Others have asked, "Who’s that?" With the accent on "that" and the "who" drawn out like a barn owl’s cry.

My heart breaks for Frank ... in need of friends and love and space ... but it double breaks for those in my church who are biased against the different. Whose experiences have taught them to ignore the clear teachings of their Lord and Savior, "To the extent you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. ... to the extent you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." Whose prejudices have caused them to reject the Teacher Himself because they’ve rejected His teachings. "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

THE BEAUTY WITHIN: [Proverbs 5:18]

The sculptor and the diamond cutter have one thing in common, they’re both trying to craft a work of art out of a rough, natural stone. These artists study the jagged object before them to such a degree they can actually visualize the finished product in their minds.

Another mental phenomena which fascinates me is how lovers are able to grow old together. The process is similar to that of the artisans above, only the image visualized is an image past, while the image seen is the image present.

When we fall in love, we are enamored with our sweetheart; she is beautiful to us and, though we all have imperfections, she seems perfect.

The aging process is heartless to the images of young love; but where true love exists, it allows us to see in our aging mate the original beauty which attracted us to them. How wonderful it is to look into our wife’s eyes and see the beauty hidden behind her now maturing flesh, the continuing elegance of her now failing frame, and persistent loveliness and appeal of her now mellowing voice.

Oh, how marvelous is this thing called true love; what a gift God has given to the man who is man enough to see with the eyes of his heart ... letting his fountain be blessed, rejoicing in the wife of his youth.

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