love

How To Use the Cell Phone.

Last Sunday evening at church, we reviewed some considerations for using the cell phone (assuming a cell phone with data and text messaging functionality). Some might say that this is not a spiritual issue and is outside the bounds of pastoral ministry. However, I believe it is a pastoral concern because:

1) Relationships are suffering.

2) The world and its ideologies are pumped in through the cell phone/social media.

3) Digital dialogue is taking over the church’s communication.

4) More and more children have them, thus affecting their ability to hear their parents.

Matthew 18:1-10 indicates that the way that we treat those who follow Christ is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, it would be better to drown yourself than to cause a “little one” to stumble into sin. Jesus also instructed us to “love one another” (John 13:34). The NT goes on to instruct as to how to love one another in the world so that we might demonstrate to the world that we are disciples of Christ, both for their conviction and drawing work of God.

The fact that both of these teachings come down to conversations, how we speak, is clear in the NT. Our conversations with one another must be well thought-out, purposefully edifying, and meant to provoke one another to love and obedience (see Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:25). If Proverbs teaches anything, it certainly instructs us in the wisdom of useful conversation. For example:

Proverbs 16:13
Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
And he who speaks right is loved.

 

Proverbs 16:21
The wise in heart will be called understanding,
And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

 

Proverbs 16:23–24
The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Learning how to speak to one another with righteousness, wisdom, and pleasant words will take time, effort, and practice. In fact, so much so, that it takes a lifetime of effort to produce words “fitly spoken” (see James 3).

However, what seems to be the case, is that the product of having all kinds of data, stories, and pictures at instant disposal, has produced in people a failure to communicate face to face. The ability to look someone in the eye and learn what they need to hear at that very moment is precious and valuable in the church (it is at the very heart of ministry!). But, the lack of interest in the concerns of others is evident in the superficial and careless communication that exudes the church. In short, personal, verbal, communication is unclear. And, when communication is unclear, the mind is muddy. And, when the mind is muddy, the glory of God suffers, and we cannot look at one another in the church in love.

Why make that assertion? Consider:

Philippians 2:3–4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

How much of what we do on our cell phones is for personal interest? News stories (so-called), rumors, trends, shopping, music, latest scores… In fact, there are very few things that can be done on our cell phones (or other personal digital devices) that are for others. Sure, you can send a text message of encouragement, email an important letter, look up something for someone. But, don’t let the little things like that, give permission for the greater problems that are created by the wasted, selfish, time spent. The fact is, it is a phone. Phones were created to communicate with someone else. The new technology that allows deep self-interest is actually working against the commands to love others before yourself.

A mature believer uses things the way they are meant to be used. When he is done, he puts it away until useful again. In that way, the phone becomes a tool, not a worker. It remains a slave and not a master. Many conversations are lost due to untold hours surfing Facebook, “checking” text messages, reading useless weather reports and articles. And that, beloved, is leading the church to superficiality at best, and sinful self-indulgence at worst (compare the wisdom of Paul in Acts 20:24).

Quite simply, put it away. Use the technology to alert you when your spouse, children, or other important people, are trying to get contact you. Limit your business calls to regular work hours, where appropriate. Otherwise, put it down and do the dishes, wash the car, visit someone in the church, read Scripture, pray, etc.. Channel surfing, whether on T.V., or the cell phone (including iPads etc…), is a complete waste of precious time. Time must be redeemed, not wasted:

Ephesians 5:15–17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Does God Love the World?

Does God love the world? What does the Bible say? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does not? Is there any Scripture to teach that He does? Does it matter? It is important that we are willing to hear and understand what God says about this, not what supports or offends a popular notion about the love of God because every doctrine of Scripture, in one way or another, intersects with the love of God. Here goes:

1) GOD’S LOVE IS described as relationship to Himself. Intimacy and relationship to the Father is the gauge of love. Jesus said,

 
John 14:21–23
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Notice the disciples’ response: "You are going to disclose yourself to us and not the world…why?" What is the answer? "Because I love you and the Father loves you. The world does not share in that love."

2) GOD’S LOVE IS conditional. Intimacy and unhindered relationship is only for those who keep His commandments. And, that is not the result of man, but of God’s own will:

John 15:10, 14
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.
(see also Deuteronomy 7:11-23; Daniel 9:4)

3) GOD’S LOVE IS lesser, much less, in degree for the world than for His own due to the fact that the world does not know God. This kind of love expressed toward the world is not the result of knowing the Father. It is the nature of God expressed to enemies in spite of their rebellion (1John 4:8, 16). This is love, but it is not given back to the Father, sadly. They are still enemies of God (James 4:4)

Matthew 5:44–45
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In fact, the love of the world is not the kind of love that comes from the Father. God does not love the world in the sense that His affections are for the world or His pleasure is felt toward the world. It is not. John wrote that the kind of love that the Father has is not resultant in the love of the world:

1 John 2:15–16
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

4) GOD’S LOVE IS expressed purely and absolutely by the expression of His own will, and not the worth of man.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

1 John 4:10, 19
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
19 We love, because He first loved us.

5) GOD’S SOUL HATES the sinner who does violence. And, by the way, every sinner does violence (Romans 3:10-18):

Psalm 11:5–7
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
6 Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.

Proverbs 8:13
13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Luke 14:26–27
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For many, the issue is not "Does God love the world?" For many the issue is, "How, now, do we relate to the world if indeed God hates those who commit sin? Should we now hate them too? (and since we simply cannot relate to this level of perfection expressed in hate and love in God, we usually have a fleshly definition of ‘hate’)" Jesus said in Matthew 5:43–48,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We must express mature, perfect, discerning love (Philippians 1:9–11
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God) to the world. To not do that is to be of no use to God, whether in the church or out of it (Galatians 6:10
10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 13). However, to set affection upon the world is not wise either and is not God’s kind of love (1 John 2:15-16).

God’s people, who have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts (Romans 5:5) and who have been reconciled to God into a level of intimacy with the Father equal to that of the Son (John 14:23; 16:26-27!), can rejoice and praise God for His mercy in loving them first so that we might receive this love AND be able to return it back to Him in fulfillment of His commandment, "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart…" To Him belongs all praise, dominion, and affection!

Romans 11:33–36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Biblical Masculinity-pt.2

If you were asked to write a book, only one book, that you believe would summarize who God is in every way, what would be the topic of that book? Some might say, “holiness.” That is true, God is holy, immensely holy. Some might say, “Grace.” That is true, God is a God of grace. However, after considering a bit I believe that I would write it on the “Love of God.” Why the love of God? Because it is the love of God that bridges the distance from a sinner to a holy God. It is the love of God that motivated grace to be extended to me, a sinner. It is the love of God that defines the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and has done so for eternity. God is love. Further, it is the love of God that summarizes the magnificent work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on the cross. Paul writes,

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

When a person considers all that occurred in the death of Jesus Christ, and to know that it was all motivated out of love, love for God and love for His neighbor, it must bring you to your knees. Why? Because that one act is so much unlike us. We do not love in that way. We should. We are made in the image and likeness of that God who is love. But we don’t. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ died for us.

There are a myriad of ways the love of God can be understood and observed. However, one of the best displays of that love, outside of the cross itself, is found in that little-known prophet of the Old Testament, Hosea.

Hosea ministered during the reigns of four kings of Judah and one king of Israel (Hosea1:1), a number of years before Israel’s exile into Assyria, and Judah’s into Babylon at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He is prophesying as a prophet of God toward both Israel and Judah. What God commands Hosea to do is very unusual and even irrational. However, Hosea obeys and thus speaks volumes about his character as a man of God, and God’s character as one who loves.

In chapter 1, verses 1-3, Hosea is told to go and take a harlot as a wife. Further, he is to have children by her also. This would signify Israel who is like that harlot and has gone after other gods and thus has offspring by those other gods/men. This would be highly illustrative of Israel’s waywardness, often spoken of in terms of adultery. So, Hosea went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, as his wife. This was extremely unusual because a priest was forbidden to take a harlot for a wife (Leviticus 21:7, 13-14). This level of consecration would, I assume, also extend to God’s prophets as well. He would not be expected to marry a known prostitute, yet God commands him to. Why? To demonstrate that love triumphs over law. Love establishes the law, fulfills the law, supersedes the law. Hosea would then demonstrate God’s love to an unfit woman.

At some point, the woman returns to her wickedness, and leaves Hosea behind with the two children she bore to him. We know this because in chapter 3, Hosea is once again told to go find a woman who is loved by her husband and yet is an adulteress (v.1). That is the same woman, Gomer. He does find her…on the slave block. She would have been naked, chained, and being sold for slavery in order to repay her debts. It is a pitiful sight from a woman who had a godly man for a husband. Hosea gathers all that he had, some silver and barley to pay for her. He apparently used all the money he had, because he resorted to paying by barley, a valuable commodity. He pays everything he has to buy her back. Sold. She is his now. He makes a covenant with her, since he paid her price-you will remain faithful to me, and I to you (v. 3).

What a display of love. This woman deserved to be on that block. She was in flagrant sin, rejected her responsibilities at home, despised her husband and children, and rejected the Law of God. However, Hosea loved her. He loved her! He went to her in her worst, and paid the price for her freedom and purchased her from the slave market so that he could take her home and care for her. She would never again go after other men. She would never again be in debt. She would never again have to resort to wickedness for her needs. She would be cared for, protected. In short, she would be loved by a faithful husband.

This is the love of God. You obviously see the similarities between Hosea’s love for Gomer, and Christ’s love for the church (not to mention God’s love for Israel, which will culminate to her restoration in the future-2 Kings 13:23;14:27). To love a woman who is defiled, unlovely, and unfaithful is not the normal husband’s ideal bride. Normally, a man wants the most beautiful, the most lovely, the most respectful and faithful woman he can find. But, what about the woman who is none of those things? Would we love her? God did.

Men, if we are to be like God toward our wives, then this is the love that we are to exhibit. God’s love seeks to cleanse, restore, and sanctify. This kind of love understands the state of the other person. She may be defiled, disrespectful and dirty. But God’s love seeks to make her beautiful and holy.

All of this is in the powerful verse in Ephesians 5:25. This one verse sums up the motivation of the behavior of a godly husband. He loves his wife in the same manner as Christ loved the church-He gave Himself up for her. Jesus Christ “threw away”, so to speak, His life for the benefit of a people who were dirty, defiled, destined for destruction and unfaithful. However, He did not consider His high and lofty privileges in heaven something to hold onto, but rather left those behind out of obedience to the Father and benefit to the church, in order to purchase a bride off of the slave block, naked, destitute and unclean. Thus, making for Himself a cleansed bride who would be presented to Himself something glorious. In short, like Hosea, “He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, so that [we] through His poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

Husbands, do you love your wives? According to what standard? Do you love her when she does good to you? Do you love her when she respects you and agrees with your decisions? Do you have a harder time loving her when she is disagreeable, and defiant? Do you have a harder time loving her when she rejects you and maybe even slanders you? The world’s love would never hold up under such disrespect. But God’s will. If you doubt that, look at Christ. The love of God and man met at the cross. Jesus loved God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength and obeyed Him to the point of death. Jesus loved sinners as Himself and died so that they might be with Him forever and share in His glory and joy. This love endures. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).

So, men, the next time you think that you just can’t love a woman like that, remember the cross of Jesus Christ. What if Jesus used that excuse to the Father? “I can’t love a sinner like that. He despises Me, he disrespects Me, he will not do what I say, and he refuses to listen.” Remember, men, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for the ungodly, not the godly. He came to call the unrighteous to repentance, not the righteous. Men, you love your wives, because they are sinners; seek to cleanse them, in wisdom and love, and you will enter into the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, thus bearing His image and likeness.

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