Category Archives: Loving God

Honoring God

The only instance where tithing (giving a tenth) is found in the New Testament is when Jesus makes a statement to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24: (It’s also in Luke 11:42)

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

It is important to note that Jesus is totally in favor of tithing when, even of the garden herbs, He states, “these you should have done”. Of course, Jesus is really teaching about the “weightier provisions” that are more about issues of character rather than just the details of the law.

Jesus emphasized the condition of the heart over and over much more than a rule to obey. Tithing was a benchmark set long before the law when Abraham gave a tenth of everything to Melchizidek as an act of grateful worship. In later years, the law of the tithe was implemented to make sure that a priority was placed on getting God’s work done through the temple service. This standard was set by God to make sure we knew what was reasonable and right.

In tandem with the tithing emphasis is the admonition to give the first part, often called the first fruits in Israel’s agricultural environment. As an example, Proverbs 3:9-10:

Honor the LORD from your wealth,
And from the first of all your produce;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

In cultures all around the world, honor is woven into the fabric of their daily life. This is not the case in the United States. We’ve lost the concept of honor somehow. So, when scripture talks about honoring, we can easily overlook this and miss a critical piece of what it means to be in relation to God. We are to honor Him — to revere, yield to His position and person, and give respectful expressions to. And how do we do that? By giving Him the FIRST PART of everything we accrue.

And when we honor God, His heart is open toward us. Just look at the second half of the above scripture passage! Wow! I would love to have God’s favor directed toward me like that! Yes–it is ours as we honor Him with our first portions.

As I look at the New Testament, it’s not so much about obeying a particular number, but rather living with generosity in your heart. What is generous? Is 10%? For some people, absolutely. For others it would seem to be a very good starting point. Whatever the case, make sure you honor God, both by the amount you give and in what priority you give it.

New Beginnings

The spring season is upon in full bloom! Especially in Minnesota, spring is a welcomed friend. It brings new life, the promise of warmth, and fresh beauty every where.

God often works in our personal lives through seasons…and does so with churches too. I’m excited about the season that God has been preparing for Edinbrook Church. This will be a season of hope, new life, fresh starts, and meaningful commitments. We are awaiting a QUAKE of life-rattling proportions.

The golden voiced preacher of Great Britain’s  1800’s, Charles Spurgeon, has talked about new beginnings and fresh commitments. Read it carefully…

We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same. If we ever meet with occasions which deserve to be called “crowning mercies” then, surely, if he hath crowned us, we ought also to crown our God; let us bring forth anew all the jewels of the divine regalia which have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel.
If we would learn to profit by our prosperity, we should not need so much adversity. If we would gather from a kiss all the good it might confer upon us, we should not so often smart under the rod. Have we lately received some blessing which we little expected? Has the Lord put our feet in a large room? Can we sing of mercies multiplied? Then this is the day to put our hand upon the horns of the altar, and say, “Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even for ever.”

QUAKE, which begins this coming Monday, has the potential to draw us to God’s altar with new commitments and fresh resolve. If you have still not signed up for a QUAKE Group, so so today at https://edinbrook.ccbchurch.com/app/w_form_response.php?form_id=146

Let the QUAKE begin!

Be Like Jesus

The selfless nature of Jesus is to also characterize the the Christ-follower.  Consider Philippians 2:

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges

Since the “greatest commandment” is to love God and love people, we must make sure that this “love” we are living is not a phantom love. We tend to love God in our heads…that is, we believe that God is, that He loves us, that He cares for us — you know, all the stuff that church-going people believe. We have these feelings of love, but lack the proof in our actions and lifestyles. We can live in the realm of selfish love (which isn’t love at all) and think we’re A-OK.

I’m convinced that this is one of the reasons Jesus talked about money so often. As Mark Batterson has stated, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” True “agapeeseis”, which was presented yesterday, is demonstrated through selfless and generous action.

How can we honestly claim to love the Lord when we are unwilling to give Him a portion back of what He has given us? How can we say, “You’re number one, God!” if we are unwilling to slaughter the god of materialism or greed on the altar of generosity?

We choose to love or not love God and people every day by the choices we make — even in the grocery store, department store, venues of entertainment and decisions we make about our resources. Jesus doesn’t want us to live google-eyed in a world of phantom love.

Be like Jesus. Be generous. That’s the kind of love God is looking for.

Agapeeseis

“Agapeeseis” is the greek word used for love when Jesus talks about loving God and loving people. This is the verb form of “agape” love — God-kind of love. It’s the love explained in 1Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, when it lists some of its most outstanding characteristics:

“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.”

“Agapeeseis”, however, emphasizes a love of action, decision, sacrifice, intentionality, and selflessness. This kind of love goes far beyond the nice feelings one may have about another. This love kicks into action simply because another human being is present. As a result, Jesus tells us on numerous occasions to “love our enemy”. This is ludicrous unless God enables us with some kind of super-human divinely infused love. Yes, through God’s presence in us, we become the very presence of Jesus in our world as we let Him live His life through us! That’s what it means to walk in the Spirit. This is one of the results of being filled with the Spirit. We agapeeseis others.

Remember now — Jesus didn’t say this is important, or something we need to work at, or something that would be a good idea. Scripture tells us that this is THE most important thing we MUST do. We must selflessly and sacrificially love God — and we do this by selflessly and sacrificially loving others…whether they deserve it or not.

Can you imagine the impact, just in your little corner of the world, if you actually began living this way?

Oh why not? Let’s just do it! Infuse us, LORD…

God Among Us

Jesus stated that when you interact and minister to others, you are doing it to Him — ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Is this really what it means? Does the very essence of God reside in the presence of each individual?

A critical element of the gospel has been lost over the years of Christendom. In current Christianity, we tend to see fallen people as completely sinful. In other words, if they are not believers, they are wretched, fallen, dirty, unholy, and of the world. As a result, we have a whole stream of Christians who separate themselves from the world and the very ones who desperately need God’s holy salt and light. These sin-entities in fallen people are totally true, but we unfortunately overlook a very essential other truth — that every individual is created in the image of God! This means that no matter how depraved, sinful, despicable, or distant from God, a person is still precious and highly valued because they are the height of God’s creation — and created in Jehovah’s very image. The Creator-Artist has carefully fashioned each person to His desired design, investing His creative energies…and love (because God IS love) into the very essence of each person.

The human race, and with that, every single human being, is an extension of God somehow. This is true so much that scripture repeatedly tells us that “as we have done it to the least of these, we have done it to God.”

So–if you really want to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, you better learn how to love your neighbor. Now if that doesn’t bring it right down to real life, I don’t know what does.

Go ahead — love God today in some very practical ways…


homoia

“But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.'” Matthew 22:35-40
.
When Jesus clarified that the greatest commandment was to love God, He also hitched another partnering commandment with it — “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The connecting word between the first part and the second part of this “greatest commandment” is the Greek word “homoia”. This word means that these two statements are of like nature, same essence, and intimately related. In other words, these are not two separate commands, but are “two sides of the same coin”. To accomplish one, you must do the other.

To love God with all that you are (heart, soul, mind), you must love your neighbor — referring to those that are close around you. To love your neighbor, you must love God.

How can this be?

Stick with me this week. What a fascinating study to see how God is found in people — that when we love people, we are loving God. Just to get you started thinking on this track, let Matthew 25:37-40 sink in…

“Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Back to the Basics

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples…” Here we have the last words of Jesus summarizing as succinctly as possible what it means to be the church.  Let me remind you – there are a number of statements Jesus did not make, like “Go and develop creative programs,” or “Go and be comfortable,” or “Go and develop your own little culture.”  No, Jesus told us to make disciples – the daring adventure of helping people become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ.  Certainly this will take a strategy of programs brimming with creativity.  This commission often means that facilities and tools will be needed to accomplish the task.  However, the bottom line is changed lives.

At Edinbrook Church, we need to be sure we are still about helping people find the real Jesus.

What a great reminder, especially when pure and undefiled Christianity unsuspectingly becomes diluted to a mere shadow of Jesus’ design.  At Edinbrook Church, we need to be sure we are still about helping people find the real Jesus.  We are not about buildings (even though we need them) or programs (even though they are a vital means to our mission) or niceties (the false assumption that Christianity should make life nice).  We are about mission – the daring task of treading into unknown territory for the cause of Christ!  That unknown territory may be that trying co-worker, mysterious neighbor, or long-time friend.  It’s becoming the presence of Christ to these people for the sake of making disciples!

A quick word about evangelism: You rarely need to force Christianity on someone.  Your task is to make people thirsty.  If people become genuinely thirsty, they will drink.  Of course, you must have the living water ready for their consumption, but enough of this pressure-type evangelism.  It has done a great disservice to the kingdom of God.  Listen to one atheist’s words about Christians:

“…as soon as people find out I don’t believe in God, they tell me I am going to hell.  One woman said, ‘You cannot possibly have good morals if you don’t believe.’  This is nonsense.  I know plenty of ‘God-fearing church-going folk’ who have rotten moral standards. They drink, smoke, do drugs, lie, steal and cheat on their spouses.  How can I get these well-meaning people off my back?”  from Ann Landers, Star/Tribune, 2-22-02

I assure you, this is only one of thousands who will never submit to Christ, partially because well-meaning Christians forgot how appealing, gentle, and understanding Jesus was when He offered the “water of life.”

Now, let’s go back to Jesus’ Great Commission.  We are to make disciples “of all nations.”  This is a big job without limits.  It has a way of nixing the old statement, “numbers aren’t important.”  Let me tell you the truth: I hope Edinbrook Church grows bigger than any of us expect!  Not for fame, fortune, ego, or recognition, but for the thousands of people in our community (and around the world) who need a dynamic encounter with the living Christ.  We have something to offer!  We need to figure out how to help as many people as possible.

Focus

The dynamic duo -- my babe is on the right. Ooh la la!

Susan has been all about one thing this week — putting on a gardening seminar this morning. She and her friend Pam have been talking, meeting and preparing to hit a “home run” at the Chocolate Oasis workshop at our church this morning. In fact, last night she apologized for being absent this week — meaning she wasn’t giving me much of herself since the workshop was getting it all. I assured her, “It’s OK, Babe. You need to do your best.” By the way, that’s all she knows how to do — her best. I like that about her.

While observing her this week, I was reminded of the power of focus. I saw it all week with Susan. And trust me — her passionate focus will pay off in an amazing seminar. I told her that I wish I could be in her workshop! Her attention to detail, the energy expended in covering all of the details, the thoughtfulness invested in making sure it is pleasing, artsy, and enjoyable will pay wonderful dividends to her attendees. Focus lends itself to excellence.

Jesus told us to have one primary focus — Love God. If you want to love God excellently, focus is essential. All other things, even workshops, somehow need to fit within that one driving passion of our lives. When zero in our focus on the ONE who loves us with an infinite love, we find something extraordinary happen in our lives — excitement, energy, and passion grow in our souls. This never happens when God is a mere slice of the pie, an afterthought, or an entity we fit in the cracks and crevices of our lives.

Another thing happens with focus: We see more than we ever thought was there! I’m guessing that Susan learned more about gardening this week than she ever anticipated. That’s because gardening was her primary focus for days! And when God becomes the ultimate focus for us, we begin to realize the absolute beauty of His character and qualities. It will blow our minds.

So make loving God your number one focus in life, just as scripture commands. Amazing things will happen in the pit of your soul.

Know what’s cool? My little wife did this workshop today in order to love God. This is her offering to Him! She believes that when people get their fingers dirty in God’s amazing creation, they’ll get to know the creator even better.

Good call, my Love!

Distractions

I have recently been dealing with an individual who is immersed in the negative talk of government bashing, one world governments, and endless conspiracy theories designed to take away our freedoms and life as we know it. I DO believe there is some truth in these things…a thread at least. But the danger is that we can become so focused on these tantalizing details of underhanded activities around us that we lose focus of what really matters.
Here is a portion of my response to my email friend:
I suspect you will be frustrated by my take on these things. I am not alarmed. In fact, in a unique way, I see the global government and global banking and United Nations as tools that GOD IS USING. The All-Powerful One is simply bringing His plan to a culmination in His time. I’m not sure what we should do? Stop it? No. Inform people? Maybe to some degree. But do you know how to best spot a counterfeit? To perfectly know the real thing. If we focus our people on the events around us instead of the One who empowers us, the enemy wins.
You and I have very different approaches. I KNOW Edinbrook is not to take this course. I have experienced God’s leading in such clear and profound ways in the last few months. Alarming our people with questionable facts and fantastic conspiracy theories is not what God wants us to pursue. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might!” We are not to be immersed in the ways of the world and anxious about the enemy’s strategies. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, the older seasoned apostle clarified to young Timothy what he was to make sure he focused on as a leader of the church: 1 Timothy 1:5-6, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion…”
I do think that much of what you are focusing on is “fruitless discussion” and that the enemy’s strategy is working beautifully with you — to get you focused on everything BUT what really matters. This is very dangerous territory. When I read the material you send my way, it is not of God. I see no hint of Spirit-led communication at all. It is hostile, angry, vindictive, judgmental, fear-inducing, and distracting from what we’re to be about.

An IMPORTANT REMINDER: Jesus told us to be sure we do one thing really well — Love God. We are often distracted by fantastic and compelling theories, political movements, and an endless list of other focuses. But it directs our hearts and passions toward things that, in the end, do not matter. This is one of the enemies deceptive strategies. Don’t buy in.

Love God. Make sure He is your ultimate focus. This, above all else, is what really matters.

A Little Pencil

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” Mother Teresa

Having seen the masses of destitute and suffering people in Kolkata, India — even so briefly — I am stricken by Mother Teresa’s statement here. This woman spent a good deal of her life selflessly ministering to the sick and forgotten of this strange city. She knows the pain, hardship, hopelessness, and despair of the slum-dwellers of Kolkata. Even with all of that, with the stench of rotting flesh still in her nostrils and the cries of dying hoards still echoing in her head, she declares the deep longing of relationship and significance in every human being. This need is greater than the food that keeps them alive.

Job made a similar declaration in his scriptural journal in chapter 23:12: “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food!” Recognize that Job was not simply infatuated with words from his creator God, but rather, longed for interaction in a relationship that was life-giving. He valued this more than the physical food (“necessary”) that kept him alive!

We are surrounded every day by  people who are lonely, lacking significance, and feeling unwanted. What a tragedy! And this by people who are created in the image of God. They are deeply and profoundly loved by God, but often fail to be affected by that love. That’s why one of the pieces of loving God is also to love people. As Jesus said, after clarifying the greatest commandment, “The second is like it, you must love your neighbor as yourself.” We are the hands and feet and face of Jesus in our world. God loves people through His representatives! The people around us should not feel “unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody” as Mother Teresa described. We need to love those around us with a God-kind of love.

When we do this, we are loving God too!

Mother Teresa also said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” This amazing lady wrote quite a few love letters, touched a mass number of lives, and loved God in an amazing way. She knew what she was talking about.

Today, be a little pencil in the hand of God…