We had a peaceful Christmas, and I hope yours was blessed, too. Tonight our Bible Study group got together for a Christmas party, and it was great to spend time with other Christians and their families. We're all just starting to get to know one another--our Bible Study has only been meeting for a few months--so we're still in the "Where did you say you live?" and "What did you say you do for a living?" stage. Making new friends can be a bit of work in the beginning, but the rewards are so great.One of the things I miss most about California is the special group of people in our Bible Study. God brought all of us together for a little while, and we grew to care so much about each other. One family even moved back to Minnesota just a few months ago after living 20+ years in California. They are a gift and we're so delighted they came back home. When you share your thoughts and pray together week after week, something special happens, and I hope it will happen again here in Minnesota.In our culture, it seems like fellowship is something of a lost art; it's much easier to stay on the fringes of church than it is to step in and get to know people. Sometimes certain people at church aren't very friendly (surprise!) and you can even feel like you're invisible at times . . . but it's worth it to hang around and try again. Sooner or later, God will bring someone special into your life.We really do need each other in the body of Christ. We're stronger when we stand together; we're stronger when we learn to trust each other. I know God must be pleased when we embrace fellowship and actively work to nurture relationships with each other."Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. " Hebrews 10:25
I've decided to set aside one day a week on the blog for my Dad's comments. It should be interesting, especially since we've been going through some archived tapes and finding great little gems that haven't been heard in quite a while. Here's one of my favorites:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." John 13:34 NKJVThis verse is what I always refer to as the lost commandment. Why do I call it that? Because it’s so absent in the lives of Christians. Now, you may say; “I love my fellow Christians. I hug them. I pray for them. I care for them.” But just think for a second: Do you love as He loved you?We need each other in the body of Christ. We need to be fed. We need to share our feelings. We need to be able to confess our faults one to another. We need to learn to love one another as Christ loved us.I don’t mean phony love where everyone hugs you, pats you on the back and says, “Glory to God! Hallelujah! I love you!” Sometimes they’re patting you on the back just to find a soft spot in which to embed the blade! I’ve found this to be very true, particularly in some of the circles I’ve worked in. So, I don’t go along with all that “sloppy Agape.” But there is nothing wrong with telling someone you love them or giving them a hug or a squeeze on the arm, if you really feel for the person. Don’t do it just because it’s expected of you. That’s hypocritical.There are some people I like that I have difficulty loving. There are people that I love that I have difficulty liking. There are people who neither love nor like me! We all have our problems, but you can’t become an icicle when someone demonstrates some form of Christian love toward you. We have to learn to love each other.There is a quality of love of which Jesus spoke. It’s a quality of love that when manifested, testifies and convinces the world as nothing else can. It is the love of Christ in us for each other; a far greater love than any kind ever before experienced by mankind. That’s why Jesus said, “A new command I give you.”How did He love us? He loved us unto death. How did He love us? Vicariously—He was willing to suffer in our place. Do we love each other that way? Do we put other people’s interest above our own? Is it what we want or what someone else wants? Is it for the Glory of God or for our own glory? What is the quality of love you have?If it’s the love of Christ, then it will be a selfless love; a sacrificial love. It will be a giving and enduring love. And if it’s the love of Christ, it will be an exemplary love. It will not be something that you put on to impress people. It will be something that flows out of you because Christ is in you. Because He loves you, you are capable of loving each other. Love one another in the same manner, says the Greek, as I have loved you.I believe every Christian should pray: “Lord Jesus, give me your love, so that I might have that love for the body of Christ.” One of the greatest problems with the Church today is that we can’t see any further than our own noses. It’s always our own denomination; our local congregation; our program; our TV show; our missionaries; our this and our that—instead of recognizing that the whole body of Christ is one. We are to help each other for the cause of Christ.True Christian love transcends all denominational barriers. It goes beyond all sexism and beyond the color of skin. It transcends all normal values. True Christian love transforms us.
Years ago, I heard a beautiful song that spoke so eloquently of endless love (forget the movie—love the song). The first few times I heard it I thought immediately of Jesus, and at this time of year especially, I’m reminded of how perfectly it still expresses my heart. This morning, I told my sweet Heavenly Father that I wanted to write something that was full of love for Him. I was rejoicing today and thanking Him for all the loving things He’s done for me, and He reminded me of this beautiful song. It has been so long since I last heard it.
The Lord speaks of the Church as His bride . . . His endless love. He did all He could to rescue us and restore us, so that for all eternity we could love Him—and be loved by Him. At this beautiful, joyful time of year it is so moving to be reminded of how much I am loved . . . and how much my Father, my Savior, and my Comforter means to me:
My love, there’s only you in my life
The only thing that’s right.
My first love, you’re every breath that I take,
You’re every step I make.
And I want to share all my love with you,
No one else will do.
And your eyes—they tell me how much you care,
Yes, you will always be . . .
My endless love.
Two hearts, two hearts that beat as one,
Our lives have just begun.
Forever, I’ll hold you close in my arms,
I can’t resist your charms.
And love, Oh love, I’ll be a fool for you,
I’m sure—you know I don’t mind—
Because you, you mean the world to me,
I know I’ve found in you . . .
My endless love.
And love, Oh love, I’ll be that fool for you,
I’m sure—you know I don’t mind.
And yes, you’ll be the only one;
No one can denythis love I have inside,
I’ll give it all to you
My love, my love, my love . . .
My endless love.
“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:5
Do you have a special song, poem, picture or story that tells of your love for the Lord? If you would like to share it, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will add a new page to our website praising and thanking our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His great love for us.
Merry Christmas!Endless Love
Written by Lionel Richie
Recorded by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, 1981
Did you ever ask God for wisdom? I know I have. I used to ask Him all the time for wisdom but lately, I've been a bit more cautious when it comes to my wisdom requests. You see, I ran across something in Scripture that made me stop and think. Ecclesiastes 1:18, "For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."Knowledge and sorrow go hand in hand, but does the sorrow actually come in being wise and seeing the foolishness of man around you? Or does sorrow itself bring wisdom? I think it is both, and so you see why I am a little leary of wisdom at the moment. I've asked God why hilarious laughter, sheer contentment, and endless joy can't make us wise, but so far, no response. I think He might be laughing at me; I don't know how wise I want to be, though, if it's going to hurt. Recently, I've been through a very painful episode--watching a whole lot of evil returned for good--and it's funny but I just don't feel much wiser. I'm waiting for it to hit me anytime now.Have you ever watched while someone you loved was treated badly? Did you ever feel so powerless to stop it and so angry you wished you could materialize a foot in front of the person and pop him in the nose? Yes, that is how I've been feeling lately. I am in need of more wisdom, I guess, but I'm certainly not looking forward to it.What do you do when you or someone you love is hurt? How do you deal with the unfairness of it all? My sweet niece, Amber, just sent me someone's insight into the heart of God--and it is wise, so I'm thinking this guy had his share of sorrow: "God never conceals His expectations from us. We never have to guess how we should live.In response to the misguided ways in which people sought to please God, the prophet Micah clearly explained what God does and does not expect. The people asked: Should we come to God with many offerings? Should we bring a thousand rams and ten thousand rivers of oil? Would God be pleased if we gave our firstborn child to Him to express our devotion? (Micah 6:6-7) Micah's response was straightforward: "He has shown you, O man, what is good."Micah listed three things God desires:
First, He wants us to show justice. The desire to receive justice is not enough. We must also be absolutely just in the way we treat others. If we have given our word, we should keep it with complete integrity. If we have people working for us, we should treat them as fairly as Jesus would. We should act justly in every relationship.Second, we are to love mercy. The knowledge that we have received undeserved mercy from God should motivate us to show mercy to others. We must resist the temptation to retaliate against those who have wronged us, choosing to show them mercy instead.Finally, God requires us to walk humbly with Him. God does not ask us for spectacular acts of service --He asks for humility." ~Henry BlackabyJustice, mercy, humility: three strong words of wisdom. I have not enjoyed being merciful, but I am happy to say that I was . . . and the person I love who was so terribly hurt has been merciful, too. (But I hate to admit that I'm still praying for a little payback in my weaker moments.) That's why it's great to have family and friends--and wise men--remind me that God has certain requirements and we had better do our best to fulfill them."Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine , I will repay," says the Lord." Romans 12:19God has his reasons for allowing sorrow, and the gift of wisdom is one of them. There is comfort, though, in knowing you have fulfilled His requirements, and in knowing God will deal with those who have hurt you. He will repay.
The Will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you.
These words have been such a comfort to me over the years; I remember reading them when I was just a teenager. I love the promise in them: God will never abandon us. He will never leave us to fend for ourselves. He will always direct us and sustain us.
We recently moved from California back to Minnesota, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The moving part (packing boxes, throwing out half our belongings) was a piece of cake compared to the actual leaving part; it was so hard to say goodbye to my family and friends. Frankly, I didn’t want to go one little bit.
Kevin said he thought it was the best thing for all of us to move. I dug in my heels and looked at my husband and said, “I don’t think so!”
He answered, “I think this is where the Lord wants us.”
And I said, “I don’t think so!”
It was the first time in our marriage that we couldn't agree on where we should live, and it was a true test of our love for each other, and our love for the Lord. I felt as if my whole life was in crisis—I couldn’t imagine leaving everyone and heading back to a place I had no desire to call home. It was awful.
Suddenly, I had new insight into the thought processes of a cranky old guy named Jonah.
Jonah said: “Lord, give me a break. Why are you sending me to Nineveh of all places? Why are you wasting my time? I have better things to do. My family is here, my friends are here. Give me a message for them, okay? Are you listening to me, Lord?”
I don’t know why God sends us to certain places at certain times, I only know that He does. And I know that there are situations when we just don’t want to go . . . times when we think we know better, like Jonah.
Jonah. . . this guy was a real piece of work. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--the Creator--told him to GO, and he said, “Uh . . . nope.”
He said NO to God. And what happened? Selfishness led to disobedience; disobedience led to full blown, pigheaded rebellion; rebellion led to utter stupidity (running away on a ship) and total disaster (as in fish food).
Why? Because Jonah thought he knew better, and I thought I knew better. And in the final analysis, it was only God who knew better.
After a very long talk with the Lord, I finally agreed to move back to Minnesota . . . Kevin’s home and so, my home. After we’d been back a few months, a friend told me a story about someone whose husband had come to her one day and asked her to move to a different place. Times were hard and he’d found better work in a different city, far from her family and friends. She refused to go, so he was forced to go without her. It wasn’t long before he met another woman, and she was left with nothing. Selfishness led to rebellion, and rebellion led to disaster.
There are times when it makes very good sense to listen to the Lord; times when our wishes and desires must be set aside to accommodate His wishes—and the needs of other people. If you can’t set “me” aside and listen to the voice of God, you’re heading out on the great sea of life aboard the good ship, Jonah.
Is God calling you to do something you wish you could run from? Do you feel that overwhelming sense of hopelessness and fear? Hang on to this wonderful promise:
The will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you.
I have felt this awesome Grace of God over the past year. I have experienced His strength and joy and peace. And I can tell you this . . . He keeps His promises. God will never abandon us. He will never leave us to fend for ourselves. He will always direct us and sustain us.
A few months ago, I flew to Philadelphia for my brother's wedding. I'd gotten this great deal on Priceline for a hotel there--the Sheraton Society Hill. It was a beautiful place, but the minute we walked in the door, I knew we were in trouble. (Why were you in trouble, you might ask?) Well, let's just say there were an awful lot of people wearing black leather checking in at the front desk. And did I mention the huge metal studs in the leather and the pink hair? How about the bald man in the black leather skirt?Yes, it was true . . . the hotel I had booked for the weekend was hosting a Gay/Lesbian S & M Convention (and that doesn't stand for sweet and mellow). Let me tell you, I wish I'd had a blindfold handy for my 14 year old daughter. My sister and mother were with me, too, and it was quite an experience for all of us. In retrospect, I still can't believe that people live this way. Display rooms full of equipment straight from the Middle Ages (no, I didn't go into the den of iniquity--just peeked in as we walked by); whip marks deliberately displayed on their bodies . . . yes, really.And the Sheraton welcomed every single one of them.There was a time when this would have been shameful . . . a time when people would have been embarassed to admit to such behavior, instead of openly flaunting it. There was a world (long gone) when people would have been disgusted by this, and said so. There was a time when a hotel like the Sheraton would have shuddered and asked these people to please get dressed.Our world is changing . . . has changed. We are in Rome once more, where anything goes and crowds of people watch and cheer.The Bible teaches these are the last times, and everywhere I looked that weekend I was reminded of it. In retrospect, I wish I'd had some tracks or some CDs to give away. I wish I could have said or done something that might have made a difference in someone's life. I regret that now. Yes, I was disgusted and yes, I was appalled, but I wish I could have looked past that for just a few moments. As I look back, I am saddened because every one of those people will spend eternity separated from God--if they continue in their sin. And for what? Whipping and being whipped. It boggles the mind. An eternity without God . . . unimaginable.If I could do it again, I would do things differently. I would complain about the lack of clothing and the public displays of affection to the front desk, and I would leave tracks all over the lobby (and maybe even in the den of iniquity). I might even walk up to the bald man in the leather skirt and tell him Jesus loves you . . . yes, really.Jesus came to save the sick . . . the ones who needed saving. These people are truly sick and truly need saving. If there ever is a next time, I hope I do a better job.
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
During the Civil War, a seventeen year old boy left home without his father's permission and traveled to join "the sea of blue"--the Union Army. He was the eldest of five motherless children (she had died the year before--a horrific death all too common during that time--her gown caught on fire and she was engulfed in flames.)He left for the army but could not join until his father gave permission--which he wisely did. The boy, Charles, soon found he had a knack for it. He entered as an enlisted man but quickly earned a commission--no easy feat for a penniless foot soldier. He distinguished himself in battle after battle (missing the Battle of Gettysburg due to Typhoid) until the day he was gravely wounded. A bullet entered his back and nicked his spine. He missed being totally paralyzed by one inch.His father nursed him back to health, deeply grateful to God for sparing the life of his eldest son. While sitting at his bedside, he wrote what was on his heart:I heard the bells on Christmas DayTheir old familiar carols play,And wild and sweetThe words repeatOf peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,The belfries of all ChristendomHad rolled alongThe unbroken songOf peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,The world revolved from night to day,A voice, a chime,A chant sublimeOf peace on earth, good-will to men!Then from each black, accursed mouthThe cannon thundered in the South,And with the soundThe carols drownedOf peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rentThe hearth-stones of a continent,And made forlornThe households bornOf peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head;"There is no peace on earth," I said,"For hate is strong,And mocks the songOf peace on earth, good will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!The Wrong shall fail,The Right prevail,With peace on earth, good-will to men!Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem captured all the pain and despair of the Civil War, and all the hope of God's unfailing love. Long ago, it spoke to a nation at war, and its beautifully written words still touch millions of hearts today. "The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail" is a promise God made to all of us. No matter what weight we carry on our hearts today, there is great comfort in these words. There is great comfort in knowing "God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!"Fanny Appleton Longfellow died the same day she was burned, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (burned on the face and hands while trying to save her) mourned her the rest of his life. Longfellow's son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, survived his wounds but was discharged from the army. If you would like to read more about Charley's story, you can find it here: http://suvcw.org/mollus/art005.htmI praise God that we have a future and a hope--a place where peace will reign:"There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever." Rev 22:5
Well, it certainly looks like The Local Church threw tons of money to the wind (and no, I'm not talking about donations they might have made to Hanegraaff's CRI.) “On December 1, 2006, the Texas Supreme Court denied review of the Local Church and Living Stream Ministry’s $136 million libel lawsuit against Harvest House Publishers and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon. At issue in the case was the book Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR), which The Local Church claimed was defamatory of them.”*
This is a victory for Harvest House, John Ankerberg, and John Weldon—and a victory for Christians who believe that courts should not define the word cult. It has cost a great deal financially and personally: Dr. Norman Geisler submitted an Amicus Brief in support of Harvest House; Hank Hanegraaff and Gretchen Passantino submitted one in support of The Local Church. Between Preterism and The Local Church, it seems as if Hanegraaff took aim and blew off both his feet. You can read more about this here: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/404-norman-geisler
I sincerely hope this is the end of it.
*Harvest House Corporate Statement http://www.harvesthousepubl.com/about_cstatement5.cfm