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Valentines Day is coming up. The day of love and romance. A day where people will celebrate love – love for spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends. They will celebrate with things they love, like roses, candy and wine. At least in the United States. Here in Mexico it is also know as dia de amistad, day of friendship. People will not only do something with a romantic interest, but friends will take time out to express their love for each other in special ways.

It’s too bad English only has the one word “love”. We love our spouses or romantic partners. We love chocolates and flowers. We love our friends. We love our mother. Other languages have different words for different kinds of likes and attractions. The Bible uses that English word “love” many times, but in it’s original languages of Hebrew and Greek, it has different words to express different types of love. One main word the Old Testament uses for love is “hesed” or “chesed”. The word Hesed or Chesed/Cheset is connected with love, goodness and kindness but means more, a bit like the English word “charity” “mercy” or “grace”.

Greek uses words like “eros”, “storge”, “philea” and “agape”. Eros refers to “passionate love” or romantic love; storge or familial love; philia to friendship as a kind of love; and agape refers to “selfless love“, the kind of love God has for us and wants us to have for one another and for him. Agape love is more about Devotion to God and to our fellow human beings. The other loves are more about emotional attachments or attractions.

The Bible has a lot to say about agape love. Jesus said the two most important commandments of the Old Testament are about love –

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your

soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

(Matthew 22:37-40)

Love is devotion to God and neighbor.

Jesus gave concrete examples of love in Matthew 25:35-40 when he said –

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.

I was a stranger and you invited me in.

I needed clothes and you clothed me.

I was sick and you looked after me.

I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him,

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?

When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink?

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?

When did you need clothes and we clothed you?

When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King (Jesus) will reply,

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these,

brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Lots of devotion and commitment to helping others. Not so much emotion.

Paul wrote a lot about love. Many people call chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians the love chapter –

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not boast, it is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others,

love is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

but rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects, always trusts,

always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

We can see the devotion and a little emotion.

Paul also prays for the Ephesians –

I pray to the Father, that you,

being rooted and established in love,

may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep

is the love of Christ, and to know this love

that surpasses knowledge.

(Ephesians 3:14-19)

More devotion; no emotion.

1 John tells us –

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Whoever does not love does not know God,

because God is love. This is how God showed his love for us:

He sent his one and only son into the world

that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-9)

Great devotion.

I like what C.S. Lewis says about loving our neighbor –

“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor;

act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.

When you are behaving as if you loved someone,

you will presently come to love him….Whenever

we do good to another self, just because it is a self,

made like us by God, and desiring its own happiness

as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love a little more,

or, at least, to dislike a little less.”

(Mere Christianity)

Maybe, in the end, it is all about emotion. Perhaps, when we are devoted to doing God’s will and helping those around us, we will be happier people. It could be that God loves us and wants us to be happy, and the road to emotional happiness and well being, goes through Devotion. This Valentines Day, lets try some Devotion, some good old fashioned Agape Devotion, and see what kind of emotions we have at the end of the day.

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Orientation is important. Perhaps the most important part of life. Here are some definitions:

Noun – the determination of the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself)

The relative physical position or direction of something

The adjustment or alignment of oneself or one’s ideas to surrounding or circumstances

In high school and college I went to freshman orientations. These were intended to help new students orient themselves with the geography of the school. I learned where the library, cafeteria and different classrooms were. After orientation I always knew where these places were, no matter where I was. That was important. To this day I have bad dreams that I am in some large school and I am disoriented and can’t find my class, or worse yet, the bathroom, and I really need to go!

Orientation is important for everyone. Orientation is not just knowing where we are spatially, but also knowing where we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Many people’s lives are oriented around the wrong things. For example, some people orient their lives around money and the accumulation of wealth. Acquiring wealth makes them happy, at least for awhile. With money they have a house, a car, a savings account. They can have nice clothes and eat at the best restaurants. With wealth they have security and status. They know where they are by how much money they have.

Other people orient themselves around sex or drugs or power or education or family or work or politics. There are countless things we can orient ourselves around. Good things and bad things. I am reminded of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Verse 40 tells us that Martha was oriented around all the preparations that had to be made. Her orientation led her to be “worried and upset about many things.”

Mary on the other hand, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Her orientation was Jesus. Jesus told Martha that “few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

May I suggest that we choose to orient our lives around Jesus? I recently read about a comedian whose life was oriented around being a comic. He couldn’t imagine his life oriented around anything else. Then he heard about Jesus, and how he would live a happier, more complete, more contented life, if his life was oriented around this God/Man. He didn’t believe it. He fought against it. But he couldn’t get Him out of his mind. Finally he gave in. In his words, he began to orient his life around God, and discovered, quite to his surprise, he was happier, more complete and more content.

I like that he used the word “orient”. Some Christians use the words Saved, Born Again, Converted, Redeemed or Rescued. Those words indicate important aspects of what it means to be a God Follower, but not the entire package. I think the the concept behind the phrase “to orient myself around God” encapsulates the entirety of what it means to be a Christian. When I orient myself to God, my whole life, every moment becomes related to God who loves me and gave himself for me.
There are many Bible verses that refer to this kind of orientation:

Seek first the kingdom of the heavenly Father and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37,38)

Rejoice always, pray continually give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


My life is oriented around God at a mission that helps needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico; a mission run by FFHM. Our mission statement states that we exist to make disciples of Christ. A disciple is one whose life is oriented around the teachings and practices of a person or organization. We aim to orient the poorest of the poor in Mexico to lives centered on Jesus. This ministry takes in children whose lives have been oriented around abuse and poverty, neglect and rejection. Showing them the love of God by meeting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs enables them to reorient themselves toward a better life. Once they see themselves as dearly loved children of God and orient their lives around that truth, they are able to live happy, fulfilled lives.

We all want to be happy. God created us in his image; he created us to be happy. We can all be incredibly happy. It just takes the right orientation.

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

 

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.

 

I have chicken coop dreams and orange tree visions. Am I okay?

My Father-in-law, Artimeo, gave my wife, Anita, and me, a piece of property shortly after we were married ten years ago. It’s right outside a little town called Union Zapata. It’s kinda small, the town and our property. Our piece of land is about one acre I guess, but is in a beautiful location. The piece of land is on top of a hill, with valleys on either side and mountains all around as far as the eye can see. It is surrounded by thorn bushes, cactus and dumb bird trees. What you can’t see are other houses. Our nearest neighbor is about a quarter mile away, which I love. The downside is that there is no electricity or water. Well, it’s a downside for some. For me it is kind of adventurous. I imagine us living off the grid with solar power and a huge cistern full of water to get us by.

So we are trying to build a tiny house. At the end of last year I was introduced to the concept of The Tiny House, and I was enchanted. I thought we would have to wait many years to save up money to build a house. We had waited ten years and had little savings for a house. But a tiny house doesn’t cost so much and you can build a little here and a little there as you get a few pesos, or dollars. So we started in January with a fence, a slab of concrete and a little shed. That’s where we are now.

Our propery, fence and shed. No chicken coop or orange trees – yet.

But you know what we think of most? A chicken coop and orange trees. Well, Anita thinks mostly about the chickens she wants to raise, and I dream about the chicken coop I want to build for her chickens.  I know exactly where it is going to go and what it will look like. I also have visions of orange trees. We live in Southern Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, where the average daily temperature is 85 degrees. We can grow oranges. I am the gardener at a home for needy children and here we have about a dozen citrus trees that I have planted and that the children enjoy. I look forward to planting a few of my own orange trees on our property and enjoying the fruit of my labor, if you know what I mean.

So my wife is drying stale bread and old tortillas which will make excellent chicken feed, and I am sifting through our rock filled dirt and making a large pile of rich soil which I can use to plant the orange trees in.

I read in the Bible the other day, Proverbs chapter three, which declares, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

That reminded me of a verse in Psalms 37, “Trust in the LORD and do good … Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Both passages use the phrase, “Trust in the LORD.” Trust in the LORD means to believe that God loves you and wants you to be happy. To enable this to happen he has given us his Word, the Bible, to show us how to be happy. His Son, Jesus, came to earth to show us how to be happy. Jesus said the most important things that you can do to be happy, are to Love God with all your being, and to Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s all fine and well, but what about chicken coops and orange trees. How do they fit into God’s plan for my happiness. What does chickens and oranges have to do with loving God and my neighbor.

Well, I’m not really sure. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. You see, I really do love God and reading and studying and meditating on the Bible. I like to think that I “take delight in the LORD.” So if I “take delight in the LORD” then he will give me the desires of my heart. That can be taken in two ways. One way to think about it is that all on my own I have developed the desire to go to Mexico and help poor children and plant flowers and trees and build a chicken coop and grow oranges. Or, it could mean that GOD has given me the desire to come to Mexico and help poor children and plant flowers and trees and and build a chicken coop and grow oranges. I lean toward the latter interpretation.

All of these things have made me happy, either doing them or thinking about them, in the case of the chicken coop and orange trees, and God loves me and wants me to be happy. He created me. He hard wired me. He installed the hardware and software in me. He knows what makes me tick. And that is helping poor children in Mexico, planting gardens and perhaps, just maybe, building a chicken coop and planting a couple of orange trees. I don’t understand it all, but am just trying to trust in the LORD.

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The book of Proverbs, in the Bible, is all about getting wisdom and wisdomknowledge.The good life, the happy life, consists of growing in wisdom and knowledge and reaping the benefits of those traits. Proverbs compares and contrasts those who seek wisdom and knowledge and those who reject wisdom and knowledge. The Wise and the Fools.

Chapters 1-9 consist of teaching about the importance of wisdom and knowledge and how to get them. In my pattern of Bible reading, I read a chapter of Proverbs every Saturday morning. Yesterday I read about the Wicked Men and Wayward Women.

Verses 12-15 say, “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.”

Verses 16-19 follow with these words, “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth, and ignored the the covenant she made before God. Surely her house leads down to death, and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.”

Verse 22 summarizes what happens to wicked men and wayward women, “the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.”

I see the results of wicked men and wayward women everyday here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico. Wicked men and wayward women don’t care much for their children. They are abused, neglected and often abandoned, and many end up in special homes for children. Verse 14 mentions that the wicked men delight in doing wrong. Almost all of the children here at the mission have no contact with their fathers. Their fathers delight in making children, and disappear sometime after conception or birth when they discover that raising children is not so delightful.

Everyone wants delight. Everyone wants pleasure. Everyone wants joy. Everyone wants to rejoice. Everyone seeks these things. The book of Proverbs is all about these things. The wise find their joy and delight in God and following Him and His ways. The wise find pleasure in helping the poor and oppressed. They are generous to the downcast and fatherless; with the widow and orphan. The wicked – not so much.

We make choices everyday about what we are going to do to make us happy, to fill us with delight. Many think making money will make them happy. Money in the bank for security and money in the wallet to spend. Others, like the wayward woman, think ultimate pleasure is found in using their bodies in ways contrary to God’s Word and His ways. Sure, there is some measure of happiness and pleasure to be found in these things, but it is a fleeting happiness, and short lived pleasure. Usually the pleasures that the wicked men and wayward women encounter not only don’t last very long, but are ultimately harmful, painful and cause suffering for them and those around them.

Some of my favorite people in the world are those who come to this ministry in Southern Mexico to help for awhile. Some come with church groups for a week or so. Others come with family members and stay for a little bit longer periods of time. Some come by themselves and stay for months. All of these people have a joy that will never fade away, because, by giving of themselves and their time, talents and treasure to help the “least of these”; the poorest of the poor in this country, they are filled with a joy that will never fade away. Many of the visitors and volunteers that come to help the children say before they leave that they came to be a blessing to others and discovered that they had been blessed beyond belief by their time here helping others.

Psalm one presents us with two paths that we can choose to go down. The first is the path of the wicked which leads to destruction. The second is the path of the LORD, which leads to lasting delight and prosperity. God, help us to choose Your path and to meditate on your word, which you gave to us because you love us and want us to be happy.

wisdom2

Happy Easter!

He is Risen!

The apostle Peter makes reference to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ in the first three verses of his first letter.

In the first verse he writes that his letter is to God’s elect and in verse two he goes on to say, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus and sprinkled with his blood.”

Whew. That’s a lot to take in. The part I have been focusing on these last few days is the sprinkled with his blood part. What did Peter have in mind when he wrote that? None of the followers of Jesus that were reading Peter’s letter had been sprinkled with his blood. What could he possibly mean? How did his early readers take that phrase? It must have something to do with the crucifixion, but what exactly?

The best book I have ever read on the crucifixion is called The Day the Revolution Began – Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion, by N.T. Wright. With regards to “sprinkled blood” he writes about the lid of the Ark of the Covenant and says, “This was where God met with his people; and, in order for this to take place, it was where the priest cleansed the sanctuary from the defiling effects of the past sins of Israel with the sprinkled blood of the sacrifice.”

So one thing that Peter is trying to communicate with God’s elect is that through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, the chosen ones are cleansed and can meet with God. Cleansed, meaning forgiven of all sins. Purified, white as snow. That’s how God now sees his followers through the lens of the sprinkled blood of Christ.

One other thing that probably came to mind when Peter wrote about the sprinkled blood, was the great Passover, when the Israelites killed a lamb and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts of their houses. Upon seeing the blood, the killer angel would pass by and spare any firstborn male in the house. The results of this last plague, was freedom for the Jews from the Egyptian slave masters. Similarly, the result of the sprinkled blood of Jesus is that God’s elect are set free from the Evil Slavemaster called Sin, and are free to worship the one, true God.

With regards to the resurrection, Peter writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Wow! New birth. Living hope. No more living in sin, being totally controlled by passion and pride. Because of the resurrection, we have  new birth, old things have passed away and all things have become new.

Because of Christ’s resurrection we have a living hope. Not dead hopes that many people in the world depend on. Dead hopes like a new job will make me truly happy. Or a new soul mate will fulfill my life. Or a good education is what I really need to live the good life. Those are just a few examples of dead hopes that people rely on to get them through each day. With the reality of the resurrection, Messiah followers have a living hope that brings true and lasting joy now and all the way into eternity.

Because God loves us and wants us to be happy, he has chosen us, sprinkled us with the blood of Jesus, rose from the dead with new life and living hope in his wake! No wonder Peter exclaims, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” and in verse six he writes, “In this you greatly rejoice…” And in verse eight, this, “You love him and believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Indeed we love him and rejoice greatly.

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God purifies his people in and through the shed blood of Jesus,

so that the covenant may be renewed,

and not just renewed,

but now effective for the whole world.

N.T. Wright in his book The Day the Revolution Began

I read Psalm 36 today and David mentions the love of God three times.

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The fountain at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico

Verse 5 says, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens”.

Verse 7, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!”

Verse 10, “Continue your love to those who know you.”

He mentions love in contrast to the wicked. David begins and ends this Psalm by talking about the wicked. The wicked do not fear God. They flatter themselves. The words of their mouths are deceitful. They plot evil and do not reject what is wrong.

God loves those who trust in Him and pursue righteousness. I always talk about how God loves us (those who trust in Him) and wants us to be happy. This is readily apparent in Psalm 36.  There are four results of God’s love that are listed.

One is a river of Delights. David writes, “you give them drink from your river of delights.” I love that. God doesn’t just throw His followers a bone once in awhile, but has a river of delights for them.  We sometimes sing a song here at the Home For Needy Children in Mexico, that says something to the effect that I don’t just want to put a toe in God’s river.  I don’t just want to go knee deep in God’s river.  I don’t just want to wade in up to my hips in God’s river.  I want to swim in God’s river.  One of the blessings of God’s love is that we get to swim in His River of Delights! One definition of delight is great pleasure; a cause or source of great pleasure. God wants His followers to enjoy great pleasure.

Second, He is a fountain of Life! The wicked just exist in their misery, trying to make others miserable, but the righteous have Life and joy and vitality and Shalom which come from the never ceasing Fountain of life. Here at the Mission,  we have a fountain in our courtyard. Every time I see it or hear the water splashing down, I think of the living water that Jesus talked about. I thank God that I don’t merely exist on this planet, but that I have Life that comes from the Fountain of Life.

The third result of Gods love is that He gives us light that allows us to see the light. The wicked meander in darkness, looking for delights in all the wrong places. Those who cooperate with God and His Kingdom plan, are able to do so because He has shown them the light, opened the eyes of their Spirit and understanding. They embrace truth instead of lies, which enables them to grow in truth and righteousness.

A fourth aspect of God’s love is mentioned in verse 6, “You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.”

I think that is great that animals are included in this Psalm. God’s great love that reaches to the heavens is not just for the preservation of people, but also for animals. I grew up on a farm and at various times we had pigs, sheep, cows and rabbits, not to mention the dogs and cats that were running around. I enjoy the animals in God’s creation and thank God that he looks down from heaven and not only cares for the people, but for the animals.


God loves us and wants us to be happy. He has made that abundantly clear. We are happy in Him when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When we set our hearts on things above, where Christ is, then we are filled with joy. We swim in the river of God’s delights. We drink deeply from the fountain of life. We live in light and not in darkness. We are preserved and protected, us and Fido and Spot and the animals we love. How great is the love of God!

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God serves up drinks, from His river of delights. He lays out a feast, from the abundance of His house.

 

What comes to mind when you think about the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of God?shalom They are connected. The Gospel is the Good News about the Kingdom of God. About the King. We constantly need to remember who is the King of the kingdom. I think the Good News about the Kingdom is that the King is also our Father! Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven … your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10). I think that news blew the Jews away. We read a lot about kings in the O.T. Some good, some bad. Some who strove to be righteous and others who were very evil. Some powerful, some weak. But none of them were portrayed as a loving Father. In Jesus sermon on the mount, which is all about the Kingdom and Gospel, he uses the word Father as a title for God more times than it is used as a title for God in the whole O.T. God as Father was almost a totally new idea for the Jews of that era. God as King – of course. God as Judge – they knew that God. God as Creator – Right on. But God as Father – What a concept!


Why are Gospel and Kingdom so important?  Why is knowing God as a loving, compassionate Father something we need to embrace. Because God wants us to be happy. Because God wants Shalom. I have been thinking and reading a lot about Shalom lately. That word is generally translated as peace. It is a Hebrew word that is used throughout the Old Testament and it means so much more than what we think of when we think of peace. It is the glad result of Kingdom and Gospel. Shalom is the goal of God for everyone. Shalom is happy wholeness. Shalom is harmony and prosperity.  Shalom is all encompassing. Shalom is living in peace and right relationship with God, ourselves, our family and community. Shalom is whole, right relationships between rich and poor, powerful and weak, black and white, Jew and Gentile.


Alas, we see far too little Shalom in the world today. Why? Because human beings in and of themselves do not have the power to live in and practice Shalom. Power is defined as the ability to do something. We have no a ability in ourselves to live in right relationship with God! And as for loving our neighbor – We despise our neighbor! I think this is why Jesus and Paul talk so much about the Power of God. There is no Shalom without that power. Shalom is the Good News that that power is available. When Jesus said the Kingdom is near, I think he was saying that Shalom is available to all who come to the loving, compassionate Father in an attitude of weakness and realization that without the Fathers power, we will live sad, miserable lives full of conflict and strife. Jesus is proclaiming Shalom and telling the people the Good News that God the Father is inviting people into the Kingdom of Shalom!

It is kind of like what we do here at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico.  We take in poor children who are broken and by the power of God and our love, they are made whole.  Children come who are hurt and angry, confused and abused, betrayed and shamed.  Here they experience Shalom. They grow into complete, happy people, full of smiles and laughter.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It can be a long process.  But when the children hear about the love of God and experience the compassion of their Heavenly Father on a daily basis, and depend on His power for their wholeness, then they live in peace and contentment.  They live in Shalom.

shalom2

Today is Tifani’s birthday. She is my oldest daughter and I dedicate this post to her. In Romans chapter 12 we find five ways to be, five ways to treat one another and five Do Not’s. Considering and living out these 15 admonitions from Paul we can all experience happier birthdays, merrier Christmas’s and happier lives.

The Five Be’s

Be devoted to one another in love.

Be spiritually passionate, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope.

Be patient in affliction.

Be faithful in prayer.

Five Ways to Treat One Another

Share with one another.

Rejoice with one another.

Mourn with one another.

Live in harmony with one another.

Live in peace with one another.

Five Do Nots.

Do not be proud.

Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Do not take revenge.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

God loves us and wants us to be happy. He inspired Paul to write these words so that we would take them to heart, put them into practice and live in right relationship with God and our fellow human beings. I think of them as 15 gifts  around the birthday cake or presents under the Christmas tree. Each one to be carefully unwrapped, treasured and used daily.

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