It Is Written

There is nothing more central to the lives of Christ followers than our interaction with Scripture. Yet it seems there is a disconnect between what is read and what is lived. What if we simplied our approach to the Bible? What if we stopped trying to make excuses for what the Bible declares returned to the simplicity of actually doing, living, believing and saying what it says? How much different would our world look if Christians simply lived out in practical ways their personal connection to the Bible?
It is important to remember that the early Church we read about in the Bible did not possess the text we hold in our hands today. Some seem to view that as a knock against the Bible. Yet, the reality is that these early followers who sought to simply live, love and lead like Christ greatly impacted the world around them. They didn’t over think things – they simply lived as He lived; believed as He taught and saught to practically procliam the reality of their decision.
Together, let’s take the It Is Written challenge for 2019. This challenge has 3 parts.  First, spend 30 minutes a day reading and studying the Bible.  Second, make notations in a journal or your Bible of specific things ways the Bible adddresses issues and gives direction for issues in your life. Third, put into practice what you read. No excuses – just do it. I invite you to join me in taking this challenge for 2019. 

Vantage Point: Am I Loved? Part 2

Christianity states with certainty that all of humanity is loved. Love is not something you earn, take, force or feel. In fact, from the vantage point of Christianity, their is a purpose to love that extends beyond human emotion, feeling or intellect. Let’s briefly explore Christianity’s view on love.
  • Love is a person not a force.  The Bible plainly states that God is love (1 John 4:8). This means love is not a feeling, an emotion or an illusion of the mind. Love is a person and as you come to know and understand the person you come to understand and know love.
  • Love is expressed through presence. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. A famous and very accurate assessment of the power of separation in love. When I am away from my wife there is a deep desire to return home. I know she loves me even when we are apart but there is nothing like experiencing her expressions of love in person. The fact that God is love is important. Equally is the idea that God became flesh and dwelt among us. In other words, love became flesh and blood. (1 John 4:9). Christ is the personal present presence of God in our world. God was so committed to loving this world, he brought them His presence in the form of Christ.
  • Love is self-giving instead of self-getting. Our world is addicted to self-centered love. Our idea of love is drowning in a sea of self-focused narcissism. The Christian vantage point of love takes a decidedly different approach by differentiating between human expressions of love and God’s expression. The Bible has four key words that are used to teach us the meaning of love. Yet, only one of them forms the basis for our answer to the question, “Am I Loved?”
  • Phileo – This word describes brotherly love. Caring for one another as if we are all family. It family from this word that Philadelphia gets its name and slogan as the city of brotherly love.
  • Storge – This word describes parental love. When a parent defends their child they are displaying storge. When a parent comforts a hurting child, storge.
  • Eros – This is the word for romantic love. The word erotic comes from Eros. 
  • Agape – This word describe love for someone to the point of self-sacrifice. This is the love God displayed for all humanity by giving his son Jesus to die in our place. Humanity on its own will never be able to live up to the ideas of agape. We are too self-conscious and self-centered. This kind of love one can only experience through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Here are 3 take-a-ways we can learn from and about agape:
    • Agape meets our need for intimacy. While the world is obsessed with sex, pleasure and self, Christianity teaches that we all have a need for intimacy. Agape best meets this need to know and to be known. To find wholeness and completeness outside of self.
    • Agape grows from giving instead of getting. The old statement still rings true: Love is not self-seeking. Love isn’t something you can take or manipulate. It grows as we focus on loving others more than getting others to love us. This is the essence of the gospel. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” (John 3:16).
    • Encountering agape is the best way to tame self-love. In a world obsessed with love of self, Agape teaching that we cannot love ourselves properly without first loving others completely. In fact, the Bible teaches that the way we love ourselves is the way we will love others (Mark 12:31). So if we selfishly love ourselves we will selfishly love others. Agape tames these desires and drowns them in the awareness of a love unearned, undeserved yet totally complete.
Agape is the Christian vantage point’s answer to the love question. You are loved not because of anything you have done or will do. You are loved with a love that transcends our reality and our limitations. You are loved in a way that can equip you to properly love others. The only place you will ever come to truly understand the depth of the power of Love is in a vibrant and growing relationship with Christ. He doesn’t demand your obedience in order to receive his love but when you experience His love you will obey Him.

Vantage Point: Am I Loved?

This is one of the most basic questions that everyone asks and the world is full of opposing vantage points which attempt to answer this question. Culture’s main vantage points are listed below:
The marxist vantage point is alive and well in our culture and is known also as socialism and progressivism. The world  is disproportionaly tilted in favor of the powerful at the expense of the disinfrancised. Since all problems facing society stem from the evil wealthy, seeks a utopia in which everyone is equal within the community. Capitalism creates craving consumers who are never satisfied but always wanting more. So, if some one desires to be loved that desire is based in an area of need which ties to a lack of satisfaction with one’s self. To the Marxist, love is nonsense. People should not be concerned with love or selfish matters. They should join the revolution to overthrow the structures that have caused them to feel need to be loved in the first place.
Islam teaches that all humanity was originally muslim but have been seduced and turned away from Alah through paganistic teachings and philosophies. Their job is to bring all humanity back under the lordship of Alah. Those who do so willingly are welcomed. Those who refuse, out of love for their souls, the muslim use the mechanism called jihad to forcibly bring the wayward back home. Those who continue to resist are killed. In this religion, Alah demands complete and utter obedience. So to those who are desiring to know if they are loved, the only way to truly experience love is to serve Alah because he loves those who are obedient. Thus, from the Islamic vantage point, you are loved if you are Islamic.
This is one of the most popular vantage points of those under the age of 50. More and more people are not clasifying themselves as tied to any one belief system but instead are simply claiming to be “spiritual”. This spirituality is a gathering place for various types of spiritualist followers. Among these would be Budism and Hiduism along with other smaller offshoots. Overall, this grouping of philoophies believe the material world is an illusion that must be transcended in order to experience harmony. Becoming one with the universe is the ultmate goal and the only way that we will truly move above our petty human issues. In this idea, love is universal. By this they mean that love is a part of the universe and since we are also a part of the universe we are love. Thier answer to the question of love is to think / meditate on loving thoughts. If you do so long enough, the universe wil bring to you what you desire.
Postmodernism doubts all truth claims. In fact, true postmodernists doubt that truth outside of one’s self even exists. Truth is a very personal perception of reality and all such views are valid and should be tolerated. Since their is no outside truth, the physical world is all their is and all one should be concerned with. This vantage point teaches that love is an illusion we have concocted to mask our true desire for sex. Any type of moralistic rules that are designed to stiffle one’s pursuit of what they desire are to be abolished. In this vantage point, humanity is reduced to nothing more than its animalistic instincs. One should not be suprised that this vantage point encourages its followers to forget love – forget rules – just have guilt free sex.
Secularism doubts the existence of an ultimate deity. Even if one does exist, the being is not involved with our reality and thus humanity should not be concerned with any thoughts that in any way limit our physical experience. From this vantage point love is simply and expression of our homonal desires to procreate. Like postmodernism, one is meant to be free to explore their sexuality free from the guilt associated  with the confines of a moral construct. It is this vantage point that has reduced love to a feeling of pleasure and coined the phrase, “If it feels good do it.” Those who adhere to this vantage point trust their feelings and live only for today with little concern for the future.
These five cultural vantage points do not really answer the question posed. In summary, the question of being loved is centered in a lack of satisfaction with one’s self (Marxism), living in disobedience to and not following the religion of Alah (Islam), is a sign of being out of harmony with the universe (SPIRITUALITY) or can be found by exploring one’s sexuality free from guilt or constrants.  
Christianity has a vantage point that unlike these others actually answers the question of being loved and shows how to experience it. You can read it here.

Purity Principle

The second of the Commands states that we are not to worship any image nor make an image that is worshiped. This has traditionally been taught that we should avoid idols. True. But there is another meaning. The land that God was giving to Israel was known as Canaan and filled with a idolatrous culture that even sacrificed their children to their gods. Specifically, they had national gods, family gods, and personal gods. Israel was the only people group not to have an image of God that they worshipped. Perhaps as they entered and conquered Canaan, the inhabitance encouraged them to not only have a national god but also family and personal gods.  Specifically, their family gods were the Baals and their personal gods, Asheras. When one studies the history of Israel through the Old Testament they would often turn away from God and begin worshipping the Baals and the Asheras. 
(Judges 3:7)The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord;
they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.
The Canaanites also believed that when you carved the image of a god in heaven the spirit of the god would inter the image. One example is when they would take images of the god of fertility into their bed chambers if their desire was to conceive a child. The Bible even states that they were given to sorcery and other mystical and pagan  practices.
(Deuteronomy 18:9-11)
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire (offered their children – the offered them alive – to gods), who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 
or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.


Priority Principle

The first command of God is that we are to not have any gods before Him. This must have seemed rather striking for the children of Israel to hear. After all, they had spent the last several houndred years in Egyptian bondage being indoctrinated with their many gods, to now be restricted to one would be astonishing. Don’t forget, before the dust had settled on the commands of God etched into the stone tablets, the Israelites were at the base of the mountain making a golden idol and proclaiming that it had brought them up out of Egypt.
It is easy to look at the historical story and scoff at Isreal for their lack of faith and their wickedness. But, are we much different? Do we still not struggle keeping God as the top priority in our hearts? How easily we can place other things “before” Him. Activities, sporting events, children’s athletics, work, leisure, pleasure…the list can go on and on of things that quickly take the top priority in our lives. The reasonings that we come up with to excuse our shifting priorities is only more telling of the mixture of loyalties we carry.
We cannot change the past…all we can do is recognize when we have not kept God in the proper place of priority, repent of it, and choose today to correct the priority list in our heart. So, if you were to make out a priority list for your life, would your heart and actions back it up? Keep Him first, and he will take care of the rest.