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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Daily Devotions

Laying Down Your Life

John 15.13

Of course, when He made that statement, Jesus was directly referring to the fact that He was about to literally lay down His life for His friends. Jesus was about to literally lay down His life for the entire world and its sins. Is that necessarily the application for all of us? In certain circumstances, it might be. Any one of us could encounter a situation where literally laying down one’s life might be an appropriate expression of ultimate love. What about the rest of us? What if we are never asked to literally sacrifice our lives for a friend? Are we just off the hook? Hardly! What, then, might it mean to lay down one’s life for a friend?

We live in a culture today where people won’t even lay down their thoughts, ideas and opinions for their fellow man, much less their lives. The United States, particularly, is a “me” culture. “Looking out for number 1,” “If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will.” These are all reflections of the way we are. Yet, Jesus’ still said to lay down one’s life for friends is the ultimate expression of love.

We can do this by making others needs more important than our own. Jesus did that for us; He gave up his rightful place in Heaven to come here, live as a man, suffer and die just because our need for a savior was so great. Next time you have a situation where two needs are presented and only one can be met, meet your brother or sister’s need and let yours go unmet.

We can do this by forgiving. People wrong us; that is simply a fact. Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to forgive. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very people killing him on the cross in Luke 23:34.  We simply have to learn to forgive the same way; we need to forgive no matter the seriousness of the offense that is committed against us

We can do this by sacrificing for others. Not only might we be required to meet another person’s need and leave ours unmet, but we might actually have to give up something our our own to meet their need. Maybe you have plans but a brother or sister has a need; give up your plans and be there for them.

We can do this by meeting the needs of people who don’t deserve it and cannot or will not do a thing for us. Some folks don’t deserve help. Some are not capable of doing anything for us in return. Some are capable, but in our hearts we know they wouldn’t give us a fire extinguisher if we burst into flames. Help them anyway.

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Who Is My Neighbor Anyway?

Luke 10.29

Luke 10:25-37

This passage in Luke is similar to the story we saw in Matthew 22:34-40 Again, a lawyer was trying to trick Jesus by asking Him what is the greatest of all the commandments; again, Jesus answered him by saying that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all you have and then to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

The lawyer, probably knowing he had failed on this count, attempted to excuse himself by asking, “And who is my neighbor:” Jesus then explained what He was trying to say by relating the well-known story of the Good Samaritan, which is in the link at the top.

Most of us know the ending of this story; Jesus asked the lawyer, based on the story, just who had been a true neighbor to the man in need. The answer of course, was that the Samaritan who rendered aid to the wounded man was his neighbor.

The lesson in love shown here by the Samaritan who helped the hurt man is actually quite simple. It is really an illustration of how Jesus loves all people and how we, in turn are to love all people.

Our neighbor may be someone who is totally different from us and many even be an enemy. Any reading of the Gospels reveals quickly how Jews and Samaritans felt about each other.  In this case the needy man’s own people, the priest and the Levite passed by him while the enemy the Samaritan, stopped to help.

Our neighbor may be someone we have no obligation to help. Certainly the priest and the Levite were duty bound to help their fellow Jew, but they did not. The Samaritan, with no ethnic or religious duty whatsoever, stopped to help.

Our neighbor may be someone who poses potential risk or sacrifice to us if we help. There were many good reasons not to stop and help a person on the road to Jericho; it was a dangerous place filled with robbers. The hurt man may have only been a trap, for instance.

Our neighbor may be someone who doesn’t deserve our help and certainly cannot be expected to repay us. Not only did Jews hate Samaritans, but they would have treated them as second class citizens, no better than dogs. One of the reasons the priest and Levite would not have stopped is that even touching such a person would have made them ceremonially unclean.  Stopping to help a man who probably thinks you are worse than a dog is a hard thing to do.

The Samaritan certainly did not know if he would ever see the money he spent returned. In fact, he dropped the man off at an Inn and left extra money in case his bill ran over. He even said he would come back by and make good on any more expense that may have arisen.

So then, who is our neighbor? Short answer: everyone. There is nothing that someone we may have contact with can do  to make them undeserving of being our neighbor. All people, of all types, all races, all religions and all personalities are our neighbors. Jesus has commanded that we love those people as we love ourselves. We are to deal kindly in our encounters with all of our neighbors, as the Samaritan did with the wounded Jew. We are to show the kind of love Jesus showed for all humanity on the cross. He died not just for the lovable, but for all.

What Is Love Anyway?

John 21.15

First of all, this devotional is not going to be a deep theological dissertation on all the various meanings in the passage above. Someday perhaps we will do that, but not today. I am only using it to illustrate what love means.

Both of the types of love mentioned in the Bible can be found in the above passage. The Bible commonly uses two different Greek words, with quite different meanings. The two words from the Greek which are translated love are, “agape” and “phileo.

The above passage goes something like this:

  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes Lord, you know I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you agape me? Yes, Lord, I phileo you.
  • Peter, do you phileo me? Peter, mildly put out, replies, Lord you know I phileo you.

As I said, here we are not going to analyze that passage; it just works well for what we are going to do briefly, which is explain just what love is.

  • Agape love is the kind of unconditional, sacrificial love which God the Father has for us. It is not based on feelings or based on if the recipient deserves it or not. It is the kind of love that is willing act and sacrifice even when another is totally undeserving. It is the kind of love both God the Father and Jesus Christ displayed when God sacrificed His Son for us, even though we did not deserve it. Agape love is the kind of love we are commanded to practice towards our fellow humans.
  • Phileo love is the kind of love we might have for a friend, or brother or anyone who we are fond of. This love is feeling based; in other words, this is based on whether we actually like a person or not. It might be sacrificial in some circumstances, but only insofar as it meets the needs of the person sacrificing.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The kind of love He commanded was not phileo love, but agape love. Because we are not commanded to love just those we actually feel something positive for; we are commanded to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Stay tuned for a future post on that very subject!

It All Hangs On Love

Matthew 22 37_40

Yesterday we discussed the same passage as we will briefly discuss today. Today our focus will be on the last sentence of the passage. What does it mean that all the law and the prophets hang on those two greatest commandments?

It’s a pretty visual and simple illustration Jesus used, really. Just picture a rack entitled, “love.” On the rack there are two pegs, “The Law” and “The Prophets.” Now picture what happens if there is not a rack entitled “love.” Got that? The pegs fall to the ground if they are not attached to a rack. Jesus was just illustrating that all of God’s expectations concerning His moral law can be met if we just do two things: Love God and love each other.

We can take a look at the Ten Commandments to illustrate how loving God and loving one another roll everything up within them. These are paraphrased in a short form, incidentally.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy
  5. Honor your Father and Mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

If we love God with everything we have, then the first four Commandments will be the natural result. If we love our neighbor, then the last six will be the natural result.  If you carry this to its ultimate conclusion, there is really nothing God expects of us which could not be found in one of the Ten Commandments; we could say they have many unspecified subcategories. And The Commandments can be further reduced to two: Love God and love each other. Love.

All of God’s moral law does hang on Love. If we really do love God with our all, and each other with our all, then the natural outflow of keeping those two commandments will be doing the things God wants us to do. If we fail in either of those two areas, then we will be unable to meet any expectations God might have of us.

Love It Matters To God

Matthew 22 37_40.JPG

Apparently, I still need some teaching on the subject of love. Since I have already written on that some, I thought perhaps re running these were appropriate. I suppose I must be slow, because I have actually re run this particular series more than once.

Love matters to God: a lot. How much does it matter to Him? Well, just read the above passage. Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is to Love God with everything we have. And the second greatest commandment is like it: we are to love our neighbor like we love ourselves.

Today begins a devotional series on some of the things God’s Word has to say about the topic of love. The Bible has many, many things to say about love; there are so many that if we discussed them all this would become simply the Daily Love Devotional. So, we are just going to look at some of them.

The key take away for today is going to be to take note of the fact that Jesus didn’t say these two were the biggest suggestions; He said they are the biggest commandments! These aren’t things Jesus would have us do if we don’t mind, or if we agree or if we like it.

We are to love our neighbor just as we love ourselves, which for most of us is fairly completely. God says so. If we choose to NOT love our neighbor, we are basically thumbing our noses in the fact of Almighty God! That is really not a good idea.

Stay posted for more about love over the next few days!

Is it I, Lord?

Matthew 26_22.JPG

In chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew, we see one of the accounts of the Last Supper; we see the last Passover feast to be celebrated by Jesus before His crucifixion. Most readers will recognize this as the institution by Jesus of our current celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This, however, is not really a post about that, but something else.

Jesus had just announced in this passage that one of the disciples would soon betray him:

Matthew 26:21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

The reaction from the men present was very telling, and I think we can learn some things from it. Immediately, they all began to wonder out loud who the betrayer was to be; isn’t that interesting?

No one had ANY clue that Judas Iscariot was to be the betrayer. If there had been something amiss with that fellow, instead of wondering if they were the one, all of the disciples would have immediately pointed fingers at him! They, however did not. Friends, we don’t know the state of another’s heart, as only God does. False converts and even outright evil can lurk in our midst and we may never know. Does that mean we start trying to hunt down those folks? No, it does not; again, we can never know nor are we to even try to know that. What it means is we need to preach to ourselves. There is a reason why(hopefully) the Gospel is preached in our churches week after week. If we are preachers and teachers, the clear Gospel message should remain an integral part of our teachings…always.

Now, let’s move on the the other disciples. Paul taught us this:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

A bit of self reflection never hurt a soul. Are we secure in the salvation of Jesus Christ? Have we accepted and believed on the complete payment He made for us on the cross of Calvary, or are we thinking that somehow we have worked our way to God’s grace by our own efforts, and because we look the Christian role? We all know, deep inside, that we are simply sinners in need of somebody to pay what we can never pay, except with our own lives and souls. I have to think that even the disciples understood that in and of themselves they were sinners, and concerned that they would fail their Lord given the opportunity.

It doesn’t hurt for us to always remember that we are all sinners; some are simply saved and forgiven sinners….and some are not.

 

Is It Ever Okay to Tip Over Tables?

Ephesians 4_26.JPG

I want to preface this post by clearly saying that as I point that bony little finger at all of you, there still remain another three pointing backwards at myself.

Can or should Christians ever, ever get angry? I hope we have clearly established that kindness should be the Christian way, and that anger should not. Still, the question remains: should Christians ever show anger?

This question in today’s world has even more significance in the Christian’s life, because the world itself is in an angry state. Governments are mad at each other; politicians are mad at each other; at least one politician is heading toward possible election on a platform of anger; people on the street are angry at each other. People are angry about injustice, perceived or real. People are occupying Wall Street, rioting in the cities, and beheading their enemies. People are angry, and the world is angry.

Anger has precedents in the Bible. Moses and Jesus both showed anger on more than one occasion. Jesus’ anger in the temple inspired the title of this post, in fact. Which raises and interesting point. People, me included, have been known to use Jesus’ conduct in the temple flailing a whip and tipping over tables to justify our own anger and acting out.

Well, there are indications that the possibility for appropriate Christian anger exists:

Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

That might possibly be telling us that we can be angry and not sin. I say possibly because frankly not everybody sees it that way. I do think a Christian can be and show anger in appropriate situations and not sin. So, I’ll just share a few thoughts.

We are not Jesus. Next time you start yelling at your co worker, and use Jesus as your example and justification, step back and examine yourself. I have heard it said, “Well, I was mad, but it was Godly anger!” No, it wasn’t. Unless you suddenly became God. We don’t have the discernment or good sense to really know when our anger is righteous. Generally speaking, erring on the side of shutting up will serve us better.

Anger is actually a normal reaction to certain situations. Adrenaline, “fight or flight.” comes to mind here. There are situations of stress, danger or challenge which may very well produce feeling of anger or tension. That is normal, and God made us that way. If a 300 pound brute suddenly appears trying to snatch on of our kids away in his car, a certain amount of anger might be needed and appropriate to deal with that particular situation.

It’s never about us. Righteous anger, if there is any possibility of it actually being righteous, is never about us our our needs, goals or desires. People are mean and people are irritating: so what? We have to get over it. Turn the other cheek and all of that, remember? Something to remember here is that anger is the temptation, and action is the sin. As we talked about earlier, anger is a perfectly normal reaction physically and emotionally to many situations life puts us in. The line between temptation and sin then becomes one between our feelings and our actions. In this case, there is almost no case for acting out in anger on our own behalf.

This never means we have to roll over belly up. The world, a very angry place, is also full of very angry Christians. In 99.9999999 percent of these cases, these angry Christians are simply in error and sin.  On the other hand, our injunction to not sin on anger does not mean we just lay down and let the world run us over. Can we defend our faith? Of course. Can we out and out tell others that they are simply wrong in what they say? Of course, when we present Biblical truth. Can we confront sin openly and honestly? Of course, because again that is Biblical truth. Can we confront the co worker who throws us under the bus at every opportunity? Of course. Can we confront that person who is spreading rumors about us? Of course.

Being angry at a situation does not mean I get to be angry at people. I find myself upset about numerous things. Abortion, same sex marriage, rampant poverty in our cities and countryside are things that come to mind. I am angry about anger; the fact that people are so mean ticks me off. Anger is how I feel about these situations, not what I do. Anger is the temptation, acting out on it is the sin. We should find some things bothersome and agitating to us; God hates these things, we should also. It’s a distinction that I hope I need not explain. We may hate these things, but we simply don’t have the right to hate the practitioners of them. Period and get over it.

Jesus is the solution to anger. I hope everybody knew that one was coming. Jesus is the solution to our own anger. Through His presence in our lives and the indwelling of The Holy Spirit, we can tame our own anger, if we allow Him to work in us. By following the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can discern when our anger is proper and when it is not. Anytime we truly follow that leading, we will not err.

All the stuff we are angry about? Jesus is the solution to every bit of that as well. And that is our job. Our job is not to protest, complain and rail against the things we see wrong about the world and in the world. Next time you open your mouth and complain in anger about the sin and injustice in the world, just shut it. Then think, pray, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Then open your mouth back up and tell one of the people you are angry at about Jesus.

Jesus the Only Way You Say? That’s NOT Very Nice

John 14_6.JPG

Telling people about Jesus is mean; if we love folks, we certainly would not tell about things like sin, hell, Jesus as the only way to God, or the joys of Christian living. Right? Well, or course that is NOT right. It is, nonetheless, what the world would say that Christians should do. We should just shut up.

Telling people Jesus is the only way is exclusionary to all of those other religions!

Hell? How can you tell me something so horrible as that?

What do you mean I sin? Don’t judge me!

How dare you say you are right and I am wrong!

That’s what we are expected to believe, and the onslaught of that mindset is everywhere, every day. Sadly the largest purveyor of this sentiment is not particularly the non believing, atheist world, but the professing “church.” Every Sunday around the country, thousands of people gather to hear how to improve their lives, how to improve their marriages, how to have successful kids, and a many other topics. We are a religion of “seeker friendly” churches. We want the crowds, so we tickle their ears.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

The time is not coming; the time is here; the time is now.

Be kind, be kind, be kind. Love, love, love. That is a good message and I love that message. I write on it quite often; in fact if readers recall this small series is entitled Lettuce Be Kind-Let Us be Kind. We are commanded to do so.

So, is it kind to preach a Gospel of sin, redemption, and salvation? Is it unkind to share honestly the consequences of rejection of God? The world, including a huge bulk of the visible church believes that it is.

Rather than clog up this with my own words, I wanted to share the following:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Who said that? Some famous evangelist or noted preacher? Some great commentary writer? Well, no that’s a quote from atheist Penn Jillette, of the magician duo, Penn & Teller.(and a pretty funny guy honestly)

If I knew a truck was coming toward you and you disagreed, is it mean for me to drag you out of the way?

If you were drowning, and I withheld tossing you a life preserver over fear you would be insulted by my saying you can’t swim, what would that say about me?

Christians here is the deal. Sharing the Gospel is why we are even here in the first place. Share it in love and kindness, but share it. That is our job, and our commandment. Do people always like it? No, but get over it. Are people sometimse unpleasant in response? Yes, but get over it.

It’s NOT kind to fail to share the Gospel if Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. It certainly would not be kind to allow our friend to get hit by that truck or sink under that water for the last time, and it is certainly not kind to allow them to perish spiritually either.

One last question here:

If we claim to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, yet don’t love the people around us enough to share that with them, do we really believe what we say we believe?

 

Being Kind Is the Difference

John 13_35.JPG

Luke 6: 27-38

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Being kind is the difference. The difference in what? Well, it’s the difference between faith in action and faith that is non existent or perhaps just dead. It should be a a clearly observable between one who says he or she follows Jesus Christ and others around him or her. It should be. As we see clearly taught in the passage above, we are to love even those who hate and despise us in a way that is different. We are to be kind to them, not retaliate against them.

This is just a side note regarding some word usage in the above passage. The word used for love above is agape, not phileo. I think that is a very important thing to consider as we move onward here. Agape, of course is the all encompassing type of love that God has for us. It is a love that acts regardless of feelings or the actions of another. Phileo, on the other hand, is the type of care we have for a friend who we feel a close personal relationship with. We are to possess love that acts, regardless of our feeling towards a person. We don’t have to be their friend, but we do have to love them.

I hope we all agree from the start, that we are supposed to be different. There are things that should definitively set believers apart from the rest of the world, and this is one of them.

It is how people know we believe

John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

If we don’t, we might NOT believe

1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

It is among the fruits of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

We can do it because we are not the old man; we are new creations

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

This is not the way of the world is it? What does the world say?

Tit for tat

You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours.

Morality is based on empathy and reciprocation!

Do onto others BEFORE they do onto you!

As long as I get mine!

Now, what does our Lord Jesus have to say? He had some things to say about this subject for sure.

Luke 6:32-24 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

Jesus clearly teaches that everybody loves the ones who do for them. If I only scratch the back that scratches mine, I am no better than the rest of the world. If I look to “get”the other person before they “get” me, I am no better than the rest of the world. If I only behave morally for in the hopes others will behave that way toward me, I am no better than the rest of the world.

What, then is  our expectation? Jesus covered that as well.

Luke 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

Turn the other cheek. Love your enemy. Be kind to your enemy. Go out of your way to be kind to your enemy. If we don’t, then who are we really?

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