Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wild Week

Last Sunday we drove to Seattle to see Keith who was there for business. We hung out with him when he wasn't busy and had a very pleasant time, then drove back to the Tri-Cities Tuesday morning.

Back at work, Dennis pulled an all-nighter Wednesday night working on a project with a tight deadline. Thursday morning he slept on the hour ride to Dayton for a 3 hour meeting, returning to work 1-6 pm on aforementioned project. Friday morning he left the house at 4:30 am and worked until 10:30 pm. Saturday it was 7:30 am to 11:00 pm. Sunday (today) it has been from 7:30 am till who knows when, with a four hour break to write and preach a sermon for church on a nice spring day with Julie and Loretta in the auditorium.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Arthur and I stayed occupied at work with a big fulfillment order of 4000 pieces working with a team of temporary help who came in and got it ready to ship out. Then on Saturday and Sunday (today), Art and I spent about 8 hours each day over at work helping Dennis some and getting the place back in order since the big order got done. Hopefully the project that Dennis has put so many hours into is being printed as I write this and perhaps our life will be "normal" again this next week!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Separating love from worship

We are born wanting to be worshipped. We want others to think we are wonderful because it feels good to be admired and paid attention to. It doesn't feel good to be ignored; we don't like it. So we do everything we can think of to be one of the worshipped ones. We perform well or go to great lengths and expense to look some way that we see gains approval or worship. We feel we will just die if we don't get those we value to value us with their worship. And we spend plenty of time worshipping others who meet our criteria as being worthy of our attention and approval. The people who worship us are not nearly as valuable as those we worship but everyone is changeably fickle. Often we are left in the middle, feeling terribly alone.

When He decides to begin to reveal Himself to us, we start to learn about the God of the Bible. In His very first commandment, He says he is the only one who is to be worshipped. And then we read that He loves us, enough to die for us. So we figure He is going to make us feel good, like when others worship us. But he doesn't worship us; He loves us. He knows we are in terrible trouble. The very fact that we desire to be worshipped indicates something is very wrong with us. The underlying reason why we are born wanting and needing so badly to be worshipped is because we are all messed up. We are trying to be god instead of the worshippers of God we were originally created to be.

So we keep reading His Book to find out what went wrong. We discover that when God made the first man and woman, everyone got along great. God loved them and gave them everything they needed, including heart-filling fellowship with Himself. They did everything He asked them and had a wonderful time with Him and with all the rest of the new creation. They worshipped God and loved one another. Everything was good; there was no shame, no right or wrong.

But when they were tempted to disbelieve that God loved them, when they were tricked into thinking that God was holding out on them, they disobeyed the only rule He had given them. Then their eyes were opened to a whole new world of man-wisdom, a place where a man worships other men or things instead of God (idolatry). But at the same time their eyes were opened to the new ways of man-fallen-into-sin, their eyes were closed to the wisdom of God. They lost His glory and so exchanged His goodness to them, His love and fellowship with them, for an idolatrous pretend-life that is really death. They were thrown out of the Garden and barred from re-entry by a flaming sword. God already had a Way in mind to make them part of His Kingdom family again but they didn't know it or see it. Their minds had become darkened, full of futile human wisdom.

Their babies were born like us, wanting to be worshipped, full of envy and strife, wanting to be the best so as to gain the most worship. In time, earthly kingdoms developed with the most powerful man in charge lording it over the others. Cruel tyrants ruled people as pawns with force and fear. Within the cruelest of all kingdoms, our Lord Jesus Christ was born, lived and died. When God raised Him from the dead, He had completely paid the ransom price for those who would receive His Spirit into their hearts and thus become new creations in His image.

These new brothers and sisters of our Lord were each one reborn into the former glory that had been lost in the Garden! They were the only ones in the earth able to worship and love God and love the people God placed in their lives. By the new birth into the glorious Godly wisdom now they could see others by faith as God had seen them. They could forgive just as our Lord Jesus forgave those who killed him because they had been reborn in His image. Many of them were killed just as cruelly as our Savior but their faith in Him kept them in peace in the midst of their martyrdom. They had been delivered from the man-lost-in-sin darkened way of thinking that made them desire to be worshipped and to worship anything but God. The chains of sin that had bound them to this selfish life of death had been broken. Now, the new and living Way of love was theirs, a Way filled with prayer to and praise for their Redeemer.

Because the concept of love had become so intertwined with feel-good desire for worship (idolatry) within the darkened ways of thinking of man-fallen-in-sin, a special term came into use to describe the kind of love God has for those He is redeeming. Only those who have been given the new creation Life of His Spirit are able to love God and other people with this same kind of love that God has for us. The Greek word 'agape', often translated 'charity', means an active choice, not motivated by feeling, to do the best for another. This is exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ did when he went to the cross. He did not feel like being cruelly whipped and crucified! He endured the suffering for the joy set before Him: gaining new brothers and sisters in His eternal Kingdom!

Only God's Spirit within us can make us able to love like He did and does. Only His power within can make us chose to do what love requires in the face of the natural feelings of our fallen flesh. Agape love can forgive when another does us wrong, not our natural inclination. Our natural inclination is vengeance. When another person receives some benefit, our natural inclination is envy. But with His charity filling our hearts and minds, we can chose to rejoice with the blessed person. And so on. Read 1Corinthians 13 for a full description of someone habitually given over to this supernatural kind of love.

This kind of love is the only kind that actually fills up the heart. An idolatrous heart is ever empty, ever hungry, never satisfied, always needy. But a redeemed saint who chooses to exercise the love power he has been given reaps a bountiful harvest of peace, joy and contentment as well as the myriad of other benefits of Kingdom life. Marriage was designed as a garden to grow the fruits of the Spirit, especially agape-style love.

So why do Christians get divorced and do all the other horrible things that non-Christians do? Some have forgotten (or never knew) the horrible sin-filled state that they were rescued from. We were all helplessly doomed to eternity in hell before our Father chose us for His Kingdom. He ransomed us so we would no longer be held captive by the power of sin. He gave us a new power that overcomes sin, the power of His love, agape. Nothing on this earth is more powerful. But because we are so used to our old, familiar sinful ways, we'd rather cling to them. The old idolatrous ways die hard since they are so ingrained in who we have learned to think we are. That is the very sad truth. But nothing amazes Him. When we see how repulsive clinging to this sin is, He is always ready to forgive and restore and re-empower us with His love. He does not love us because we are wonderful! He loves us because it is His nature to love and because He has chosen us for His own. He loves us because He Himself has made us valuable to Himself! The more we come to understand our new identity in Him, the less we are tempted to return to the old familiar ways of death.

God is the only One able to be worshipped because He is the only one without blemish, and because He is the only One who can handle worship. People do very well when they worship God because that is what they were made for. When people worship other people or cultivate being worshipped themselves, destruction always occurs because people were not thus designed. Worship does not replace love. Because God loves us, we can love Him and others. Children need lots of charitable agape love, not worship. As much as parents worship their children they destroy them, but if parents agape-love their children, their children will prosper. Same goes for spouses. Amen!