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I have been reading Deuteronomy lately and a certain phrase seems to keepdefender popping up, that is Foreigners, Fatherless and Widows. These three groups of people seemed especially important to God. Check these verses out:

God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.         Deuteronomy 10:18-19

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.          Deuteronomy 14: 28-29

Rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name-you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.      Deuteronomy 16:11

Be joyful at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.         Deuteronomy 16:14

God wants his chosen people to live in community and respect and care for one another, especially those who are poor and powerless and most likely to either be forgotten or taken advantage of. That would be the foreigners, fatherless and widows.

God takes special pains to remind the Jews that they were once foreigners in Egypt and to remember how unpleasant that was – to be used and abused. It was bad, don’t treat the foreigners in your midst like that.

With regards to the fatherless and widows – well, in that patriarchal society the male head of household was everything. The breadwinner. The family representative. The protector. If the father died the outlook was pretty bleak for the surviving spouse and her young children. Relatives were expected to help them out. But God goes beyond leaving the burden of care to the extended family. He wants all the people of the community to not only help them out, but to respect them, remember them and include them.

That was then, and this is now. That was God’s commands to a group of tribes that lived thousands of years ago. What about our tribes today? Does God expect us to continue to help the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows? Or is that the governments job and the church can pretty much ignore those people and get away with it. God will wink and look the other way. Maybe, maybe not. James, the brother of Jesus wrote to the church that true religion that is pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Perhaps people who fail to look after orphans (the fatherless) and widows have already been polluted by the world.

In the United States there are more fatherless and single mothers than ever before. Doing some research on the internet I was surprised to learn that there are aproximately 13 million single mothers raising 22 million children and that about 60% of children living in mother only families are impoverished while only 11% of children living with two parent families are impoverished.

In the Gospels children seem to have a special place in Jesus heart. I don’t think that has changed, and perhaps none are closer to him than the fatherless.

The foreigners, fatherless and widows were on the bottom rung of society in ancient times, and even today they struggle more than most. There are other groups in the United States that are struggling and many feel hopeless and helpless. As I was considering the plight of many foreigners, fatherless and single mothers, three other groups came to my mind that God may be calling the church today to not only give a hand out, but a hand up, spiritually and economically speaking:

The department of Housing and Urban Development reports that there are about 554,000 homeless people in the United States.

There are about 16.1 million mentally disabled people in the United States.

5.5 million veterans have some type of disability.

Thank God for all the churches and various ministries who help these millions of people with encouragement, programs and spiritual direction. Everyones greatest need is the love of God and living in right relationship with God. God loves everyone and wants everyone to be happy. Sometimes God calls a church or individual to be part of the answer to relieve human misery; to bring joy and peace to a suffering soul, whether that person be a foreigner, a fatherless boy or girl, a single mother, a bruised and battered veteran, a homeless person or a mentally challenged individual. Helping people in need helps us to be happier people. Just ask God, he’ll tell you.

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Rejoice – verb – feel or show great joy or delight

rejoice1

I have been reading Deuteronomy lately. Three times in chapter 12 the Israelites are instructed to rejoice. Two of these instances hearken back to my last post. Moses relays God’s instructions to the people that when they take control of the Promised Land they are to gather in a place that God will designate and offer sacrifices and offerings and rejoice. They are to celebrate God and his rich blessings that he had given them.

The third instance of “rejoice” in the chapter occurs in verse 18. Moses tells everyone that they are to rejoice before the Lord their God in everything that they put their hand to. This reminded me of what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” ( Philippians 4:4)

Moses told the people to rejoice in everything they put their hands to, and Paul tells people in the church emphatically to rejoice in the Lord always. After meditating on these words I decided, at least for one day, to be intentional about rejoicing in the Lord.

I get up pretty early most mornings, and when I went outside to begin my workday, it was still dark, and the sky was filled with stars. I rejoiced in this beautiful sight and gave thanks to God for his marvelous creation. All those stars! God didn’t have to make all those stars, but he did because he loves us and wants us to be happy. He wants us to rejoice, to feel great joy and delight.

I’m the gardener at the home for needy children here in Oaxaca, Mexico. One of my jobs is to water the soccer field. I turned on the sprinkler and rejoiced that we have water that keeps the field green and the kids have a wonderful place to play their favorite sport.

My wife, Anita, is the kitchen supervisor and was making breakfast that morning. Walking into the kitchen I rejoiced in the dedicated wife that God has given me, and that we could work together in ministry. Helping her make quesadillas I rejoiced that the children and staff would have a healthy, nutritious meal to start their day. I thought of Jesus words, ” I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…When you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.” I wondered what the children would have had for breakfast, if anything, if it wasn’t for this home for needy children.

Afterwards I drove some of the teenage girls to their school in Oaxaca city. I rejoiced that they could go to a private Christian school and get a quality education that would prepare them for whatever career they might choose. I rejoiced that God chose me to be a part of their lives, to make a difference in who they are and what they would become.

And so went the day, rejoicing intentionally in the Lord and all that I put my hands to. I realized that no matter what we do, we have three choices in how we emotionally react. We can complain about what we see wrong or negative in our situations. That makes us angry or depressed. We can react indifferently which makes us apathetic. Or we can rejoice, which makes us alive to God’s presence and his blessings. This makes us happy, and after all, God does love us and wants us to be happy.

Most of the day the rejoicing thing went great because all my situations were pleasant ones. That changed toward the end of my day.

After work I took my daughters, Sally and Kelly, to their piano class. While they learn tunes on the keyboard, I teach the piano teachers daughter English. It’s a barter deal where no money exchanges hands and everyone is happy. I rejoiced that my girls enjoy learning the piano and I could bless the music teacher and her daughter with English skills.

When we finished we went to a little piece of property that Anita’s dad had given us. We are in the process of building a tiny house and have planted a few fruit trees that needed to be watered. I rejoiced at the thought of these blessings as well.

What we encountered upon reaching the property was not a blessing. Some mischievous young truant, or so I guess, had crawled under our fence, had climbed to the top of a shed where we keep a water tank, and had broken off the water valve, unleashing a thousand liters of water. How could I rejoice now?

I felt violated that someone had come onto our property and distressed over the waste of our water by some random act of vandalism. While I stared in disbelief, my daughters kept asking me “Why?”. ” Why, Daddy, would someone do this? “

I told them that this is how a lot of people act in the “real” world. I explained to them that they live in a Christian community and go to a Christian school, and while Christians aren’t perfect, they normally try to live by the standard of love, and that is what they are used to. People in the world who are not Christians, many times just live by the moment and if it makes them happy to cause pain to others and destroy things, they just do it.

After saying these words I found cause to rejoice. I told the girls that we needed to pray. So we prayed and rejoiced at the work God had done in our lives and was continuing to do. We thanked God that nothing worse had happened and prayed for the person who had done this, that he might see the light and come to know the love of God and find his joy in Jesus and not in random acts of violence.

We got back in the car and drove home. Most of the anger and frustration had left me, replaced by the “peace that passes all understanding.” Some disappointment remained, but it helped me to think of Paul’s words to the Roman church, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). And in this I rejoiced.

 

dissappointment

mex indp1

What do you get when you combine dozens of children, the colors red, white, green, Jenga, Dolores, gritos, September 15 and a pigs head? You get a grand Mexico Independence Day celebration at the Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico!

Yesterday we celebrated the big day with lots of games, food, music and fun. Adults and kids here at Casa Hogar made their own teams and set up booths, some for games and others for food. The food included corn on the cob, melotes, beef, chicken and pork tacos, and pastries (even a Chinese dish from a staff member who spent three years in China). There was coffee, hot chocolate, soda and champurrado to drink. There was a prize for best food and booth. Anita, my wife, and her mother worked together on the tacos and some of the muchachas and girls helped with decorating the booth and serving tacos and coffee. The pork tacos were made from a pigs head and won first place (last year Anita won second place with her grasshopper salsa, but that’s another story).

tacos dolores madre

Anita’s mom making tacos

pig head

Today a pigs head, tomorrow a taco

dolores

“Dolores” – made by muchachas

All of the staff and children at the mission were encouraged to invite friends and family, so there was a good crowd on hand enjoying the fiesta. Anita is the kitchen supervisor. She invited the people who supply our tortillas everyday and the couple who bring us fresh chicken once a week. There were people from the church gathered together as well as families who work with other ministries in the area. It was a wonderful gathering and as they say, “a good time was had by all.”

 

God loves us and wants us to be happy, and he loves it when people of faith get together to have a good time. Not only does he love it, he commands it. In the Old Testament he commanded the Jewish people from all over Israel and all over the world, to gather three times a year for worship, feasting and fiesta. There must have been hundreds of thousands of people all crammed into Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to their Loving Creator and rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness with their fellow citizens.

It’s the same in 2000 a.d. as it was in 2000 b.c. God doesn’t choose people to be “Lone Ranger” followers, but to follow him as a community of faith. He not only calls his people to come together to worship him and serve him, but also to celebrate him and enjoy him as a faith community in unity, forever.

unity

Miriam-Webster Definition of Cretan – a stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person:clod,lout

At church on Wednesday nights we have been studying Paul’s letter to Titus. Most ofcretans the letter talks about what is good. Love what is good. Teach what is good. Be an example of what is good. Be eager and ready to do what is good. Learn what is good.

At the end of chapter one, Paul writes about a group of people who are incapable of doing what is good. Those people would be the Cretans. Paul quoted a Cretan philosopher who, talking about his own people, says that Cretans always lie, are brutes and lazy gluttons.

This is somewhat unfortunate for Titus as he is on the island of Crete, ministering to said Cretans.

I have been doing some thinking about those Cretans. I have come to love the Cretans. Why? First of all, God did not take a pass on the Cretans. He didn’t say that those good for nothing Cretans are hopeless and that it’s a waste of time, effort and resources to share the Gospel with those people. No, he had Paul doing some evangelizing there. Some were converted and became followers of Jesus. When Paul had to leave the island, he put his trusted companion and son in the faith, Titus, to continue the work. Then Paul wrote him this letter instructing him what he needed to do to establish a strong church there.

The take away here is that no matter how bad the Cretans were, God loved them and wanted them to be happy by radically changing the way that they thought about right and wrong, good and bad, God and man.

The second reason I love the Cretans is that I was a Cretan, and sometimes still act like one. In fact, according to Scripture, we are all cretanish until we start walking in the Way of Christ and with Christ. Colossians 1:21 says that “once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Until our spiritual eyes are opened and we are illuminated to the Truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are all just a bunch of Cretans. Ephesians two says that we were all dead in our sins, until Christ Jesus made us alive. Another way to say that is that we were all Cretans. We were all liars, brutes and lazy gluttons.

We were all liars, and mainly lied to ourselves. We told ourselves that we were pretty good people and deserved to go to heaven.

We were all brutes. The dictionary says that a brute is a cruel, unpleasant or insensitive person. In one way or another we all acted cruelly in that we were insensitive to those that were different from us. To those that offended us we wished in our hearts pain and destruction on them. Sometimes we could even feel that way toward our own family members. Jesus said that as we think in our hearts, that’s the way we really are. While we may not have killed anyone, we have hated and cursed others and acted unpleasantly toward others.

We were all lazy gluttons. We were lazy in that we made no effort to know God, to serve God, to follow God. We were gluttons in the sense that we continually fed our pleasures, feasted on what we thought was good for us, with little or no concern for others. We dined without stop on the lusts of our flesh, the lusts of our eyes and the pride of life.

We were all just a bunch of Cretans, until the day that God rescued us from that slimy pit of existence, and forgave us, redeemed us and adopted us as his dearly loved children who could now live joyfully in right relationship with the Father.

Thank you God for not giving up on Cretans!

mercy

The book of Deuteronomy is primarily Moses farewell speech to the Israelites beforethere is a way they go off to conquer the Promised Land and he goes off to a mountain to die. In some respects it’s not such a happy speech. Honestly Moses seems a bit ticked off. And why shouldn’t be be? God’s people, Moses’ people, whom they led through the wilderness lo these forty years are going off to the land of milk and honey, and all Moses gets is a t-shirt and a view from a mountain top. Moses traces his sad state of affairs to an incident that occurred shortly after they left Egypt.

They had made good time getting away from Egypt and were soon knocking on the door of the Promised Land, preparing to invade, when some wise guys suggested to Moses that they send in spies to check out the land and the best route to invasion. In chapter one of Deuteronomy Moses said, “it seemed like a good idea.”  Looking back, he surely reflected that it was the worst idea ever and ultimately led to his exclusion from the Promised land.

The spies came back from their recon mission and while all of them declared that it was an extremely abundant land, most of them said that the inhabitants were as big as giants and the walls around the cities were huge, and that they would all be killed if they tried to take the land.

The Israelites all panicked and God got angry and instead of the Promised Land, they received a promise ban. God promises that that generation would be prohibited from entering the land and that they would wander in the wilderness until all the chicken hearts die and a new generation grows up that will follow God into the land of milk and honey and take possession of it.

So why was it such a bad idea to send spies to search out the land? Because up to that point they had trusted God wholeheartedly. He laid down the plagues on the Egyptians and Pharaoh finally let them go. Then the Egyptian leader changed his mind and chased them to the Red Sea. God parted the waters of the sea and the Israelites escaped while the Egyptian army drowned. Then God led them through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He delivered them, protected them and guided them to the doorstep of the Promised Land, and then the people stop trusting him, and decide they know best. “Okay God, we can take it from here” they seemed to be saying. It was all downhill from there, both for the people and for Moses.

Verse 34 of chapter one says that the LORD was angry and solemnly swore: “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give to your ancestors, except Caleb because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.”

Verse 37 is the nail in Moses coffin. “Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it either.”

What seemed like such a good idea ended up being a terrible idea. From Exodus through Deuteronomy, Moses is talking to God. Maybe if Moses would have taken some time to talk to God about the spy plan, things would have turned out differently and would have had a happy ending for Moses and the troops.

That’s kinda like us sometimes. We hear a suggestion, and it seems like a good idea, and we go with it, only to have it go sour on us later on down the road. Many times these suggestions come from the World, the Flesh or the Devil. That’s why some ideas seem good, because they appeal to our fleshly appetites. Rather than run the idea by God, or Godly counselors or the Bible, we just run with it. Sometimes we pay a terrible price for an idea that seemed good at the time. Sometimes our families pay as well.

My wife and I are cooperating with God and partnering with Foundation For His Ministry to help needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the home here are almost 60 children who are being cared for. Many are here because of decisions that their parents made that seemed good at the time, but then went terribly wrong. Some of the children have been abandoned by their parents. Others have parents in prison or parents with addiction issues.

Fortunately, all the children here learn that God loves them and wants them to be happy. They learn to make decisions based on God’s Word. They have godly house parents who they can turn to for advice. They learn that the best decisions that they make are decisions that they have invited God to be a part of.

We have all been like Moses at times and have made decisions that seemed good at the time and ended up being big mistakes. Thankfully we have a God that forgives us, picks us up, shakes the dust off us, wipes our tears away, and continues to walk down the road of life with us, encouraging and guiding us. Let’s go with God all the time and not take a path away from Him that simply seems like the the way to go because it feels good at the time.

 

may god go with you

The last verse in Judges says everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Everyone wants to be happy.  Everyone does what is right in their own eyes because they think that will make them happy.  Nobody thinks “I am going to do what’s wrong in my own eyes so that I will be happy.  Doing what’s right in our eyes is equal to doing what we need to do to be happy.  Muslims, Mennonites and Mormons do what is right in their own eyes to be happy.  So do Anglicans, Animists and Atheists.  We have some philosophy or world view that instructs our behavior in hopes that we will be happy.

So what about those Israelites who did what was right in their own eyes?  I think that they were happy.  Dallas Willard clued me in to this idea on his book  about Spiritual Disciplines.  He writes that the people of Israel at this time were living during the times of the Judges.  They had recently taken control of the Promised land.  The land flowing with milk and honey.  They were happy because they had seen the mighty hand of God at work in their favor.  They were a people specially chosen by the Creator of the universe and had received His laws, precepts and commands because He loved them and wanted them to be happy.  When they had a conflict with someone that made them unhappy, they could present their case before a local judge who, with the help of God, could make a wise decision about the conflict, so that ideally both parties could walk away reconciled and content.

We also can do what is right in our own eyes and live happy lives if we live in right relationship with God.  Then His delight becomes our delight.  His righteousness become our righteousness.  This doesn’t happen overnight.  That’s why Willard wrote his book about Spiritual Disciplines.  These disciplines Jesus practiced to be happy and live in communion with the Father.  Disciplines like silence and solitide, alone time with the Father.  Disciplines like study, worship and service, in fellowship with other believers. These are all important to successfully live a happy life doing what is right in our own eyes.

Here are a few more good words from Dallas Willard, taken from his book The Spirit of the Disciplines –

To do as one pleases is the ideal condition of humanity, what is often called “freedom”, and does not imply wrong doing at all.

God has all along intended that we walk with him on a personal basis, be pleased by the right things, and then do what is right in our own eyes. This is why we were made and what constitutes our individuality.

God calls us to be part of his efforts.  Our part is to understand the way God works with humanity to extend his Kingdom, and to act on the basis of that understanding.

So, just like the Israelites, we can live righteously, delighting in God, cooperating with God, doing what is right in our own eyes.

white house on green grass and green mountain

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was a child I went to church because my parents took me there.

When I was a teenager I went to church because I experienced the love of God and wanted to learn more about Him and His great love.

When I was in Bible College I went to church because it was required by the Bible College and I enjoyed the preaching.

After I graduated from Bible College I went to church because I worked with the youth group and I was married and had two daughters.

After I divorced I went to church because I needed the fellowship and support of the Body of Christ, and I was committed to contributing to the life of the church in various ways.

I have gone to church my whole life, and for the most part it has been a positive experience. I have enjoyed the music, both the richness of the old hymns and also the lively contemporary tunes. Most churches that I went to had talented musicians who made that aspect of the service something special.

The sermons were usually my favorite part. Most of the ministers were highly educated, gifted speakers who made the Bible come alive. Preachers who explained biblical passages in their cultural and literary settings, and then offered practical applications for present day followers of Jesus.

I came to Mexico to help needy children thirteen years ago. These years have probably been the happiest years of my life. Living my life helping the fatherless and the incarcerated. Making a difference in the lives of poor children who have been abused and neglected by those who should have cared for them. Seeing smiling, happy faces everyday of young ones who would otherwise be living miserable lives, is an exceedingly rewarding experience for me.  Laughing with inmates and bringing a message of encouragement to them; many who were falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned, is a great blessing for me.

Going to church in Mexico, on the other hand, is not such a great experience for me. The music is almost always too loud and hurts my ears. The lyrics are generally shallow and the theology of the songs suspect. The same can often be said for the preaching. I miss the music and sermons from the U.S.A.

So why do I still go to church? Because that is where I encounter the Body of Christ, the Community of Faith, gathered together to acknowledge the goodness of the God who has called us, redeemed us, justified us, rescued us, saved us and is sanctifying us everyday. I go to church primarily to look around and be reminded that God loves US and wants US to be happy. I go to church and see the Family of God, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, brothers and sisters of the Faith.

In reality, every time I walk out my front door here at the mission, I go to church.  The church is the people who I work with everyday, my fellow Christians.  In one sense, I don’t go to church – I live in the church.  I live and work with people who are dedicated to making beauty, doing good and sharing the truth in the name of Jesus.  People who strive everyday to love God and love humanity.  People trying to bring peace, joy and light into dark and unhappy lives.  We do it all depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the strength of the Lord and the nurturing of our loving heavenly Father.  That is the true church.

But when we all gather together, now that is something special.  The presence of God is manifest in our lives in a unique way.  I look around the auditorium and I see house parents who give their time and love to children desperate for love. I see cooks who make delicious, wholesome meals for children who previously lacked a proper diet and nutrition. I notice men who do maintenance; who keep the vehicles in working condition so the kids can go to school safely and the cooks can go and buy food and the teachers can go and buy supplies. I take in the school teachers who are so dedicated and give so much of themselves so that their students have a good education and can make something of themselves in this country where it can be so difficult to get ahead.  God’s presence is with us all as we go about our individual chores and fulfill our responsibilities.  But when we all gather together to worship God and look into each others eyes and pray for one another, that gives God an opportunity to do a work in our hearts and lives that would not otherwise be accomplished.

So I go to church and worship God with music that is too loud and where the preaching is less than stimulating, because I am part of a team that God has called. He has not just called us individually to salvation, but He has called each of us to come to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, to work together and grow together and make a difference together. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I go to church to celebrate US. US who are God’s handiwork. US who are created in Christ Jesus. US who are doing good works that God has prepared for US to do.

I go to church to celebrate God with my brothers and sisters in the Faith. The God who has opened our eyes to the truth. The God who gives us a common vision of how we can participate in the Kingdom of God in the Tlacolula valley of southern Mexico. To celebrate the faithful God who gives us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

That is why I still go to church.

Don’t

live in the world

and go to church.

Live

in the

church

and go into the world!!!

They attacked civilians, and killed babies and women. They searched every single house for YPG soldiers, and if they found anyone armed, they killed them or gave them to the Turkish government.” This quote is from the latest World Magazine about Turkish forces working with jihadists in Afrin, Syria. The story also reported that 200,000 mostly Kurdish residents were forced to flee the area, along with 3,000 Christians and 35,000 Yazidis. This earth is not where righteousness dwells.

Compassion International reports that globally in 2014, 1 billion children aged 2-17 experienced physical, sexual, emotional or multiple types of violence. A quarter of all adults report having been physically abused as children. One in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child. This earth is not where righteousness dwells.

In Bosnia, beginning in 1991, Yugoslavia began to break up along ethnic lines. When the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) declared independence in 1992 the region quickly became the central theater of fighting. The Serbs targeted Bosniak and Croatian civilians in areas under their control in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The war in Bosnia claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 people. This earth is not where righteousness dwells.

Over a decade ago the Government of Sudan carried out genocide against Darfuri civilians, murdering 300,000 & displacing over 2 million people. This earth is not where righteousness dwells.

Every month, 255 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, 180 Christian women are raped, sexually assaulted or forced into marriage, 66 churches are attacked, 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned. This earth is not where righteousness dwells.

Yesterday I had an argument with my wife. I was helping her with her with her job as kitchen supervisor here at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. I was feeling resentful because I had my own work to do in the garden. I had a bad attitude. This earth is not where righteousness dwells.

Righteousness means doing the right thing. God is righteous. He always does the right thing. Humans are not righteous. We rarely do the right thing. More often than not, we do the wrong thing, whether it is having a bad attitude and arguing with our spouse or orchestrating the torture and death of millions of people. God loves us and wants us to be happy, and gave us His Word telling us what is the right thing to do to be happy. We largely ignore His Word and end up living in an unhappy world.  

In the second chapter of second Peter we can read about the wickedness and unrighteousness of the first century.  Peter tells his readers about false prophets, false teachers, destructive heresies, depraved conduct, greed, exploitation, arrogance and adultery.  About people who are  boastful and full of lustful desires.  Evil ones who scoff at God’s Word and blaspheme. What will happen to a world filled with people like this?

The third chapter of second Peter tells us about the day of the Lord. The day of judgment and condemnation.  We read that that day will come like a thief and that the heavens will disappear with a roar. The elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Peter tells us we should look forward to the day of God, and hope it comes soon! He writes, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements by heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:12-13

The old things will pass away, like doing the wrong things over and over and over again.

All things will be made new, like actually doing the right things, as in loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. As in loving our neighbor as ourselves. The new earth will be a place where righteousness dwells.

The issue of children being seperated from parents has been in the news a lot lately. At the Home For Needy Children, all the children here have been seperated from their parents.  Their parents have abandoned them.  Their parents are drug addicts or alcoholics.  Their parents are in prison.  Their parents have abused them.  For a few, their parents have died.  Those are the exceptions.  I am definitely looking forward to that day when homes for needy children like this one don’t exist.  When all parents love their children; provide for their children; take good care of their children.  Where all parents always do the right thing for their children.  Where righteousness dwells.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that day.  But until that day comes, with God’s help, we can all try to do the right thing.  We can shine a little light in the darkness.  We can give of our time, talents and treasures to those around us that are hurting physcially, economically and emotionally.  We can love the least, the last and the lost.  We can bring some righteousness to a terribly unrighteous world.

Groups and individuals from the United States and Canada regularly make their way down to Oaxaca, Mexico to help out at the childrens home.  We have a group here right now from Trinity church in Cleveland, Ohio.  Some men, some women.  Some teens, some retired.  All have one goal.  To do the right thing.  To help children in need.  To help a ministry that is helping the poorest of the poor in Mexico.  According to God, that is Righteous.  We can’t make the whole world righteous, but by sharing the Good News of Jesus and His love, people become righteous, one soul at a time.

Three ladies from Trinity church in Cleveland, Ohio with three girls from the childrens home.

 

 

 

I know President Trump. I know my wife, Anita. I know them both, but in different ways. I know facts about President Trump. I know Anita personally and intimately.

Peter writes a lot about knowing and knowledge in his second letter, the first chapter.

Verse 2- Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Verse 3- His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Verse 5- For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;

Verse 8- For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, he will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

German, French, Spanish and Greek have at least two words for knowledge; for the different types of knowledge. English has one word, so sometimes we misunderstand what the Bible is trying to tell us when it talks about knowledge. In this information age in which we live, when we think of knowledge we generally think of facts. When my daughters ask me a question in which they want a fact, and I don’t know the answer, I tell them to ask Mr. Google. He knows all the facts. All the information.

Reading 2 Peter 1, and seeing the word knowledge used five time in the first 8 verses, I immediately thought of facts and information. I thought that the more facts and information I have about God the more grace and peace I will have. The more theology books I read, the more power I will have for godly living. That’s not what Peter is talking about here.

He is using the Greek word for personal, intimate knowledge of God. This kind of knowledge of God initially comes to someone when the Spirit opens the spiritual eyes of a person and that persons heart is flooded with the love of God. It continues to grow as one dives into God’s Word, spends time with God’s people and participates in God’s activities. This is heart knowledge as opposed to head knowledge.

Anita grew up in a small town called Mitla, in Mexico. She went to the local Catholic church as most people in her town did. She and her family had some head knowledge of God, but not heart knowledge. They knew facts about God and a lot of his rules, but not much of his love. They worked for local missionaries who were doing Bible translation, whose lives were full of joy, peace and contentment, something Anita’s family lacked mightily. The missionaries regularly shared with Anita and her mom about the great love of God – how he loved them and wanted them to be happy. Finally the eyes of their hearts were enlightened, and they entered into a personal relationship with God. Their head knowledge was transformed into heart knowledge. They began to enjoy a life of peace and happiness that they had never known.

In verses 2, 3, and 8 Peter is referring to this kind of knowledge. In verse 5, Peter uses a different Greek word for knowledge, that signifies head knowledge of facts and information. He tells his readers that they need to make every effort to add to their goodness, knowledge. It’s vitally important that followers of Jesus get head knowledge of the Bible; get facts and figures and information about the major themes and doctrines of the Bible. The different cultures the scriptures were written in and the languages and genres that make up God’s Word. When we prayerfully meditate on this head knowledge, it slowly but surely makes its way to our heart, transforms our desires and deepens our relationship with The God who loves us and wants us to be happy.

 

If someone were to ask you, “Do you love life?”

What would you say?

 

How about Good Days? Do you See Good Days? Looking back on this week, did you see more good days, bad days, or so-so days.

I think we all want to live a life that we can say we honestly love. To love our family, our work, our neighbors, who we are and what we do. We all wake up every morning and hope that we have a good day, that everything goes as planned, that we cross a few things off our To Do lists. That we have fun. That we enjoy success in all we do.

Peter, in the Bible, wanted his readers to love life and see good days. In 1 Peter 3:10-12 he reminded those who would read his letter, of something King David had written many years before-

Whoever would love life

and see good days

must keep their tongues from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good,

they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

So there it is. Five simple steps to loving life and seeing good days.

Let’s review. To love life and see good days we need to:

1. Keep our tongues from evil.

Evil – profoundly immoral and malevolent; harmful or tending to harm.

This definition reminds me of Ephesians 4:29,  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Keeping our tongues from evil means that we never say harmful words, only helpful words.

2. Keep our lips from deceitful speech.

Deceit – the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.

These first two principles for loving life and seeing good days both involve restricting what we say. James 3:2 says, “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

If we want to keep our tongues from evil and our lips from deceitful speech, silence is the key. Dallas Willard, in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines  writes a lot about the spiritual discipline of silence and shares the testimony of a young person entering the practice of silence – “The more I practice the discipline of silence the more I appreciate the strength of silence. The less I become skeptical and judgmental, the more I learn to accept the things I didn’t like about others the more I accept them as uniquely created in the image of God. The less I talk, the fuller are words spoken at an appropriate time.”

I think this young person loves life and sees good days.

3. Turn from evil.

We already looked at the definition of evil. Here we are directed to “turn” from evil. This makes me think of repentance, which many define as turning from one type of bad behavior to a good type of behavior. I like Dallas Willard’s definition of repentance in his book The Divine Conspiracy, “Radically changing the way we think about something.” We can never really turn from bad behavior if we don’t radically change the way we think about that behavior.

4. Do good.

Good – to be desired or approved of; pleasing and welcome; appropriate to a particular purpose; possessing or displaying moral virtue; showing kindness.

Psalm 100:5 says, “The LORD is good and his love endures forever.” From this verse I get the idea that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Our natural response to His love and goodness is to love others and be good to them.

5. Seek peace and pursue it.

The “peace” that Peter is referring to comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which is defined as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace and success.”

We seek, pursue and find true peace through Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Experiencing peace with God makes it much easier to experience peace with our neighbors, co-workers and family. 

Pablo comes to mind when I think of these traits.  Pablo came here to the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, about four years ago after graduating from the FFHM Bible Institute in Baja, Mexico.  He started working as a house parent for the little boys and later for the teenage boys. He also helped and continues to help with grounds keeping and maintenance.  He preaches and teaches here as well as at rehab centers in the area.  He is a fountain of encouragement and prayer for those men struggling with addictions.  He does a lot of good. 

But that wasn’t always the case.  As a young man he was himself addicted to drugs, did a lot of bad things, and rarely saw good days.  His life was miserable.  One day he came to the end of his rope.  People had been telling him about Jesus and His great love and power, and how Jesus could give him new hope and a new life.  Pablo asked Jesus to take over his life.  Jesus did and Pablo became a new creature in Christ.  He radically changed the way he thought about life and God.  Now everyday is a good day and he loves his new Life in Christ.  

When you go to bed tonight, think about your day. Did you see a good day? Did you love life today? If not, tomorrow might be a better day if you reach out to God and ask Him to –

 

Keep your tongue from evil

Keep your lips from deceitful speech

Turn from evil

Do good

Seek peace and pursue it

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