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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.

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.

 

 

Have you ever read a passage of scripture dozens of times and thought you reallyfive loaves understood it, and then upon reading it one more time, you get new revelation that you never had before?  This happened to me about a week ago.  I was reading John’s account of the multiplying the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-15).  The words of Jesus seemed to jump off the page. He asks Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”. The passage says Jesus was on a mountain with his disciples and Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd approaching when he asked the question.  A number of things grabbed my attention.  Jesus was having a private time with his disciples, trying to escape the crowds.  Perhaps he was teaching them about the love and power of the Father.  Now approaches the intrusive hordes.  Thousands of people are streaming toward him.  Instead of complaining about the interruption, Jesus sees opportunities.  A great object lesson for the disciples.  Also an opportunity to once again show people how God loves them and wants them to be happy.  He sees both the physical and spiritual hunger of the people.  So He asks the question, “Where shall WE buy bread…?  The passage indicates that He already knew what he was gonna do, but wanted to test the disciples.  He had no intention of Buying Bread!  But he knows what humans natural impulses are. Many times our first response to problems is to throw money at them and they will go away.  Philip thinks about the question and answers Jesus, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  Money was not the answer.

I love the question, “Where are WE…?”  Jesus didn’t ask “Where are You gonna buy bread?”, but “Where are we?”  Jesus didn’t ask, “What should I  to do about this need or problem?”  Jesus says WE.  When we face incredible situations, as Christians, we can be sure that Jesus is cooperating with us to solve the problem, if we resolve to cooperate with him.  Not only with me personally, but With the Community of Faith that I am a part of.  All of the disciples were included in Jesus’ question.  Andrew piped up saying, “Here is a boy with two Small fish and five Small loaves of bread.” Andrew, like many of us focuses on the smallness of the resources at hand, the small fish and bread, rather than the Greatness of God who created the fish and the bread. Just like us today – focusing on the big problems rather than our Big God.  God wants to step into our big situations and cooperate with us in meeting felt needs and spiritual needs.

Most people have forgotten about the two big earthquakes we had here in Mexico about a month ago, but a lot of people are still suffering from them.  A week ago the Children’s Home where I cooperate with God in Oaxaca, Mexico,  sent down a few adults and some of the children with a trailer full of food and water and other material to help those whose houses had been destroyed . This week an 80 year old brother and his wife, Enrique and Elvira, who lead the prison ministry, were given a large monetary donation to help a suffering church in Chiapas, and they are there now, delivering not only the money, but spiritual direction and comfort as well.  The brother, Pedro,  who took the load down last week, noticed the people had no place and no way to shower , so he worked all week rigging up a shower system with a huge water tank.  He left early yesterday morning to deliver it along with more supplies.

Thinking about Christians responding to needs, I read in the news about different churches in Santa Rosa, California, helping out people who had lost everything due to the fires. Same with churches, Christians, Communities of Faith, helping the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.  All over the world, Disciples hear Jesus asking them, “What are WE gonna do about this situation?”  And all over the world, disciples are joining hands and hearts with their brothers and sisters and with God, to meet felt needs, and in the process, they are meeting even greater Spiritual needs.

What a story, human need, the loaves and fishes and disciples and compassion and power and God!  A never ending story, at least on this side of eternity!

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The most significant aspect of the Happy Kingdom of God is LOVE.  I read in my morninglove and hate devotions Psalm 147.  Verse 11 says, “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  It all starts with the Kings love for his subjects.  For his children.  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).  The King is a merciful Savior.  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4,5).

When our spiritual eyes and hears are opened to this marvelous love, our natural inclination is to attempt to love  God back with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  We know we will be happier if we do that.  We fail at that attempt everyday, but the fact that we desire to love God with all of our being is what sets Christians apart from non-Christians.  Jesus teaches us to pray to our loving Father everyday,  “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.  And in great love and mercy he does forgive us.

What about hate.  With our loving God is there room for hate?  Actually there is.  The Bible tells us that God hates!  What does he hate?  Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things that God hates, seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes

a lying tongue

hands that shed innocent blood

a heart that devises wicked schemes

feet that are quick to rush into evil

a false witness who pours out lies

and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Also Psalm 5:4-6

“For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;

with you, evil people are not welcome.

The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.

You hate all who do wrong;

you destroy those who tell lies.

The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest.” 

Some people say God loves the sinner but hates the sin.  According to these passages God hates some people – A false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.  I live in a Christian community and I can understand why God would hate these two types of people.

He also seems to hate all who do wrong, according to David in Psalm 5.  Then he must hate me, because sometimes I do wrong.  But David goes on to say in verse seven, “But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.”  He seems to be saying that what is your hearts desire is important.  In fact it makes all the difference.  If your heart desires to do wicked, evil, wrong things, then God hates you.  If your heart desires to fear and show reverence to God, then he loves you.

We should love the things God loves and hate the things God hates, if we want to be Godlike, if we want to honor and glorify Him and enjoy Life in the Happy Kingdom.

 

 

happy9

 

“How much stuff do you need to be happy?

“I don’t know.  How much stuff is there?

(From VeggieTales – Madame Blueberry)

 

I have been reading Timothy Keller’s new book, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical.  Here are some quotes from him and others about happiness.

“Studies find a very weak correlation between wealth and contentment, and the more prosperous a society grows the more common is depression.  The things that human beings think will bring fulfillment and contentment don’t.  What should we do then, to be happy?”

 

‘Wealth, power, and security – the external goods of the world – can lead only to a momentary satisfaction, which fades away, leaving you more empty than if you had never tasted the joy.”

“Philosopher Alain de Botton says that loving relationships are fundamental to happiness.”

“People find more pleasure in working toward a goal than they experience when they actually attain it.” (Haidt – Progress Principle)

“The functional cause of our discontent is that our loves are out of order.”

“Augustine believed all sin was ultimately a lack of love.”

“The unhappiness and disorder of our lives are caused by the disorder of our loves.”

“The ultimate disordered love, however, and the ultimate source of our discontent, is failure to love the first thing first, the failure to love God supremely.  In his Confessions, Augustine prays to God: ‘For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you for your own sake ….This is happiness and there is no other.  Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy.  Nevertheless their will remains drawn towards some image of the true joy.’ ”

“We were created to know this joy by loving and glorifying God preeminently.”

“You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  Augustine

“If you love anything more than God, you harm the object of your love, you harm yourself, you harm the world around you, and you end up deeply dissatisfied and discontent.”

“Of course, not even the strongest believers love God perfectly, nor does anyone get close to doing so  Yet to the degree you move toward loving him supremely, things begin to fall into order, into their proper places in your life.”

“What matters most for pleasure is not the simple impact on our senses but what it means in relationship to other persons who matter to us.”  Paul Bloom – How Pleasure Works

“Attachment to God amplifies and deepens enjoyment of the world.”  It does not diminish it.     Miroslav Volf

“Don’t love anything less; instead learn to love God more, and you will love other things with far more satisfaction.”

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You are a forgiving God,

gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and 

abounding in LOVE.

Nehemiah 9:17

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