Then she got another iPhone 7… by convincing another boyfriend to buy her the smartphone. She did the same with yet another boyfriend. And another. And another.
Eventually, Xiaoli got 20 new phones from 20 boyfriends. She then sold the phones on the Internet and bought herself a house in the countryside! No one is sure which of the boyfriends will share the house with her or if any of them will.
In the Bible, God frequently told his people that he wasn’t willing to share their love. They could worship him, or they could worship false gods, but they couldn’t do both. God doesn’t want to be one “boyfriend” among many; he wants people to love him will all their hearts.
Are you willing to give your whole heart to God? Or are the things that would compete with him for the top spot in your life? Here are some common rivals:
- Family. We’re often tempted to put people we love ahead of God. The Bible says that won’t work:
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37)
- Possessions. We love our stuff. We love money. We love having things around us. We can’t let those things become more important than God.
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
- Sin. That should be pretty obvious, but some people have trouble coming to God because they don’t want to give up the bad things that they are doing. We have to be ready to let go of things that are wrong.
“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:5–6)
- Life itself. Sometimes, we’re so in love with this present life that we just aren’t that interested in the life that God offers. Jesus came to reach out to those who are weary of this world and long for something better. If we want to love God, we can’t continue loving the world as it is:
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
A girl with 20 boyfriends isn’t being faithful to any of them. Those guys aren’t going to let her continue to live that way and still be in a relationship with them. In the same way, if want to be with God, we have to be willing to put aside all of his rivals.
Jesus said it this way:
“Jesus replied: “ ‘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)
If you want to know more about loving God and giving yourself to him alone, contact us. Or just leave a comment on this post.
Of the four gospels in the New Testament, the one written by the physician Luke is my favorite. It has more words of Jesus than any other book in the Bible. If you have a Red Letter Bible, where all the direct words of Jesus are in red letters, there you will notice at times page after page is all in red. This is a marvelous fact, since Luke was not one of the original disciples and came to know Jesus through the memories of others. Secular tradition says that Luke was well acquainted with Peter, Paul and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and it was through their telling that Luke was able to transcribe the words of Jesus.
The 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel consists of three parables of Jesus. I call it the “Lost” chapter because the coin, the sheep and the son are lost. The irony is that the three didn’t know they were lost.
The coin, being an inanimate object, has no mechanism of thought or discernment. The sheep, while being a living animal, simply follows its instinct of looking for food regardless of what dangers might be present. The son, felt entitled and thought he was smarter and knew how to avoid the perils of life or simply didn’t care.
Yet, in all three stories, the action of reclamation is taken by someone other than the “lost”. The woman, the shepherd and the father all initiated their search of the thing that was “Lost.” Each of those individuals represent our Father, God Almighty, who when we are “Lost” begins His search of us. Whether we are just misplaced or wander off to satisfy our basic biological needs or when we think we know better than everyone else because “we have it under control”, God searches for us.
Even after we betray him, he still looks for us. He did it in the Garden of Eden. When both Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the tree that God had told them not to eat, he still wanted to know where they were. (Gen 3:8ff) He has, does and always will want to know where we are when we have become so lost.
As you read Luke 15, which are you? the coin, the sheep or the son? Do you hope God still is searching for you?
What is your response to knowing that God Almighty still is searching for you?
There are times when your entire world is turned upside down. Times when the pain is unbearable and the future seems unfathomable. When God did not answer your prayer and you wonder if he even heard your cries. Events that change your life forever. The things that make tomorrow an impossible dream. And one of the worst of these is the death of a child. It does not seem to matter if they die in the womb or as adults in an accident. Death strikes at any age. And parents have to bury children.
Nothing will ever be the same. Questions fill your every waking hour. How will I ever go on? How can I face tomorrow… and the day after that … and the day after that? Why did my child die? Why are other children spared? Where was God? Where is my child? What did I do to deserve this? So many questions and so few answers. Having dealt with far too many families in situations like this, I have learned that I do not have the wisdom to give answers.
But I do think I know where there is an answer. God speaks into our lives through a story in the Bible. It is the story of when King David and Bathsheba lost their infant child. David fasted, prayed, and pleaded with God to heal his sick child. Probably begging God not to hold his sin of adultery against the child. But the baby died. So David got up, cleaned up, and ate. He went on with life. When asked how that was possible, he said that the baby was not coming back to him… but that he could go to where his child was.
So here are three things that are certain.
- You are not the only one to experience this. It is a world where death happens and evil exists. God does not always do what we want. I do not know why because I am not God. And that is a good thing because there has to be someone bigger and stronger than me in control. So God’s people chose to believe in spite of the pain.
- Life goes on. You may want it to stop. You may even wish that it would, but it will not. So those of us in God’s family keep on living. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time … because we believe.
- This is not the end. Christians know that we will see our children again. Death is not the end. It is only final for the short time we are on this earth. It is not final forever.
So if you have wondered where answers are when there seem to be no answers… listen to God. If you want to live through the darkest night imaginable… hold on to faith in God. If you want to live forever with your children… believe in Jesus.
The Bible has some interesting things in it. One of my favorite passages is in I Peter, chapter 2, where Peter writes about dogs, pigs, vomit, and mud. When I was a kid I liked this verse because I thought it was cool that this was in the Bible. As I got older, I was impressed the way Scripture uses common events to make a point. After all, pigs do go right back into the mud after you wash them off and dogs do stick their nose right back into their vomit.
Those two actions make absolutely no sense to us. Why would a dog be so interested in vomit? What is this compulsion pigs have to roll in mud? Peter thought these observations had a spiritual point. He wrote about people who escaped the evil of this world through knowing Jesus and then go back to it. Just like dogs and vomit and pigs and mud. In fact, Peter says when a Christian turns his back on Jesus, it would have been better for him never to have known the way of righteousness.
This is a strong warning to Christians not to return to the ways of an evil world. It is a vivid reminder not to quit on Jesus. But it is also instructive for those thinking about becoming a follower of Jesus. It is a serious decision.
There is no better news than the fact that God loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus to bring you into relationship with him. Your life will have joy, peace, hope, and purpose. You will make a difference in this world, and then live forever with God.
It is worth everything, but be all in. There is no turning back.
I freely admit that my New Year’s Resolution this year is borrowed from someone else. I wanted a very simple goal for this year. I decided to select one thing a make it my 2016 focus. I found it in my Bible. It was stated by the Apostle Paul in a letter to the church in Philippi, and it is my one resolution for the year. Here it is:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The resolution is Jesus and here are the three things that he is determined to do. These are good resolutions for all of us.
- Forget the past. Let go of your past sins and poor choices. God has forgiven you in Christ. Your past does not have to determine your future. Let go of guilt, shame, and humiliation. Stop hanging on to past hurts. You cannot look forward when you are focused on the past.
- Go for the prize. We are going home to heaven. Do not quit. Do not get distracted. Do not lose sight of where you are going. Stay on the road that leads to where God has called you.
- Press On. Choose faith over fear, joy over depression, hope over despair, forgiveness over revenge, and love over hate. Be bold and radical this year in following Jesus. Give generously. Pray boldly. Read God’s Word daily. Share your faith. Represent Jesus in your world. Share your faith.
One thing: Jesus. Three things to do: forget the past, focus on heaven, and press on till you get there.
I know that some of you reading this have not yet fully bought in to following Jesus. Why not make this is the year to hear the call of God in Jesus.
It is the time of year when everyone talks about being thankful. It is the month we celebrate a holiday entitled Thanksgiving. Christians talk about always giving thanks. We are told to “count our blessings”. But there are many people who really are not in the mood to give thanks. And there are others who are thankful even in the midst of very difficult times. So why is it so hard to be thankful? What is the secret to recognizing our blessings? Why are Christians so intent of living lives full of thanksgiving?
Here are some ideas to reflect on concerning Christians and thankfulness.
- Short term pain sometimes makes us forget the larger picture. The loss of a job or a relationship, the death of a loved one, natural disasters; these can seem overwhelming and the pain makes it hard to see anything to be thankful for. But Christians see the big picture. The pain of living in this fallen world is not permanent. It will not last. Our hope is rooted in the knowledge that this world is not our home.
- It is hard to be thankful when you focus on what you do not have instead of what you do have. This is especially true when what we want is given priority over what we need. Most people will never have everything they want. Christians strive to be thankful for the daily needs that God provides. Jesus taught his followers to ask for daily bread. God will give us what we need. For that we are thankful.
- Sometimes worry overwhelms gratitude. What will the future hold? Will my children be alright? Will I get sick? What about my job and my retirement? Christians focus on today. We believe God does hold our future. We strive to serve him today.
- It is hard to be thankful when you believe you earned – or deserve – everything you have. Christians know that our greatest blessing is that we will live with God forever. That is something we do not deserve and could not earn. That is the gift of God through his son Jesus who died for our sins.
So happy Thanksgiving every day – both now and forever.
Cargo ship lost in a hurricane.
Flooding in the eastern United States.
Mudslides in Guatemala.
Flash floods in France.
Earthquakes in Chile.
Wars, natural disasters, murder, disease, and crime.
Death, loss of possessions, destruction.
Fear, anxiety, and grief.
We live in a hard world. Wars, natural disasters, murder, disease, crime, death, loss of possessions, destruction, fear, anxiety, and grief.
It is a world full of uncertainty and evil. How do you survive? How do you protect yourself, your family, and your possessions? Is there anything you can count on?
I can tell you that as a Christian, I am not surprised by the trouble in this world. It has been this way since Adam and Eve rebelled against God. This world is a battlefield between good and evil.
And I can tell you as a Christian that Jesus has overcome the world. He has won the war. Satan’s greatest weapon is death and Jesus beat it. God sent his son to die for us. Jesus let himself be crucified on a cross. Then God raised him from the dead.
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus has enabled me to overcome this world also. I let God know about my worries and he gives me a peace that I cannot even adequately explain. Because my family is all Christians, I believe that we too will be raised from the dead to live forever. All that I possess is from God and he will see that all of my needs are met.
So yes it is a hard world, but God is stronger.
The three friends had every reason to doubt God. Though they had been faithful to him, they had been taken as slaves to a foreign country. Their homeland had been destroyed. The history of their nation seemed to be coming to an end.
And now… now they were about to die. Or so it seemed. The king of the country where they found themselves had ordered them burned alive.
This king, a man named Nebuchadnezzar, had built a great statue honoring his favorite person: himself! It was a huge statue, 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. The king gave the order that whenever the royal music was played, everyone was to fall down and worship this idol.
These three friends, named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow down to this statue. So the king had them arrested, threatening to burn them alive in a huge furnace. But wanting to show himself to be a gracious king, he offered them one more chance to worship his image.
That’s when the three friends showed what kind of faith they had:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16–18)
They assured the king that they would not worship his idol. They also told him quite clearly that their God was able to rescue them and that they thought he would do just that. But they also make it clear that their faith is in God even if he chooses not to rescue them.
Far too often, we want to believe in God as long as he will do what we want, when we want. Just save Grandpa, and I’ll believe. Just get me out of this mess, and I’ll believe.
We need an “even if” faith. We need the kind of faith that says, “Lord, I’ll believe in you even if you don’t do what I hope. I’ll believe in you even if you don’t answer this prayer the way I want. I’ll believe in you no matter what.”
There’s a passage at the end of the book of Habakkuk that says:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17–18)
We don’t need a faith that comes and goes according to our circumstances. We need an “even if” faith, that follows God no matter what.
“I love my children so I will let them play in the street.”
“I knew it would really be hot in the car, but they did not want to go into the store, and I really love them, so…”
Of course these kinds of actions are not love. Parents quickly understand that love means saying no sometimes. It means setting boundaries. It does not mean letting your children do whatever they want. Parental love recognizes that you know what is best for your child. It is why vegetables get eaten and dessert is not allowed to be the main course.
So many times people define love based on what they want. Teenagers tell their parents that if they really loved them they would let them go where they want, or spend whatever they want, or do what they are sure will make them happy. Good parents know that real love is making and enforcing decisions that are the best thing for the physical, emotional, and mental health of your children even when it is not what the child thinks they want.
If we understand this concept of parental love, why do think it does not apply to our relationship with God? God is often called our Father. God loves us and his love is perfect. He not only wants what is best for us, but he absolutely knows what is best for us. And because He does love us, He is not governed by what we think is best for us or what we are sure is the best thing for our life.
After all, if babies really knew what was best for them, they would not need a parent. And if we really knew what was best for us, we would not need a God.
Most of us have figured out that we do not always know what is good for us. But God does know what is best for you. He is the Father that loves you and He invites you into his family and offers you the chance to be his son or his daughter.
One of the psalms describes the anxiety pilgrims would feel while making the trip. Many travelers would pass through Jericho; the road from Jericho to Jerusalem rises more than 3200 feet in less than 20 miles. Mountain roads were dangerous, full of robbers and bandits. Traveling on the plain, a traveler could see any ambush ahead. In the mountains, danger could lurk around any bend.
The psalm begins by saying, “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?” (Psalms 121:1) We can easily imagine an anxious traveler eying the ominous mountains ahead and worrying about his safety. Who would protect him against unknown foes?
“Where does my help come from?” The psalm offers an answer to this question:
“My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalms 121:2–8)
As we face an uncertain life full of hidden dangers, we ask the same question: where will our help come from? In other words, who will we turn to for help? Where will we put our trust?
Where can we find hope?
The answer remains the same: our help comes from the Lord. He’ll never be too weak or too distracted or too tired or too distant to come to our rescue. We have eternal security knowing that God is our helper. We don’t have to trust in money or politics or armies to rescue us. We can fully trust in God.
What’s your hope for the future? Who or what are you putting your trust in? Let me encourage you to fully trust in the Lord and his salvation. If you want to know more about trusting in the Lord, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on our www.hopeforlife.org website.