People often view love as a feeling that comes and goes as it pleases. Kind of like a bird that suddenly appears, stays around for a while, and then flies away.
This notion of love has led many to believe that love and the feelings that go with it are completely out of your control. You either have love in your heart or you don’t.
This way of looking at love commonly leads to heartache. It’s what brings about the often heard statement, “I just don’t love him (or her) anymore.”
This way of thinking about love is also, what you might call, undisciplined. Viewing love merely as a spontaneous feeling makes it all to easy to follow those impulses that are actually contrary to love.
If you suddenly find yourself in the grip of anger or resentment or lust, what is it that will enable you to do what is truly loving in such a situation? How will you keep other feelings from extinguishing your love?
When we look to the Bible, we find that we have a great deal of responsibility regarding how we think about love and how we show it. Not only does the Bible command us to love, but it also describes how we are to express it in everyday life.
From the Scriptures we see that “love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor.13:4-7).
When you consider each of these expressions of love, you can see that they are all the result of choices we make. Choices that involve self-control and conscious decisions.
Hence, it takes discipline to be a person who truly loves. Because it’s discipline that governs your ability to choose what is in someone else’s best interest rather than what happens to be pleasing to you at the moment.
It’s discipline that enables you to extend yourself to help another when you’d rather not exert yourself. It’s discipline that brings you to take the time to correct and instruct a child rather than react in anger or just look the other way. It’s discipline that keeps your affections devoted to your spouse rather than another.
Discipline, discipline, discipline. Love is more than a feeling. It takes discipline to endure and flourish.
Where do we get such discipline? It comes with practice, by the grace of God.
When Jesus Christ took on human flesh to come to this earth and redeem humanity from its selfishness, it took disciplined love. And He showed that disciplined love most of all when He went to the cross for all who believe in Him.
When we live our lives in union with Christ, we too can show disciplined love, which is really the only kind of love there is.
“The guide of souls must be a compassionate neighbor to all, but superior in spiritual qualities. He should be a mother in tenderness, but a father in discipline.”
~ John McNeill, commenting on Gregory the Great’s view of those who guide souls.
Here are a couple of Bible passages that will help give the right perspective on your Thanksgiving celebration. I encourage you to read them at your feast table for the benefit of all who join with you.
The first passage is an exhortation to remember the Lord in our prosperity lest we perish. The second is a call to give Him thanks by feasting and rejoicing.
10 ¶ “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,
12 “lest––when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them;
13 “and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;
14 “when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
15 “who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock;
16 “who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end––
17 “then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
18 “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
19 “Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.
20 “As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
22 ¶ “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.
23 “And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
24 “But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you,
25 “then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.
26 “And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
I have not seen this quote for some time, but today I came upon it twice. It’s worth posting. . .
“Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”
~ Neil Postman
Just about everybody knows they ought to be thankful. But being thankful is not always easy. In fact, left to ourselves, we are more inclined to grumble and complain than give thanks.
Well, that feeling of ingratitude could be telling you something. It could be relating something about the condition of your soul, because there’s a relationship between your spiritual health and your level of gratitude.
When people are faithful and growing spiritually, they are thankful. But when they’ve slipped into a state of unbelief, they become ungrateful.
Once you see the relationship here, it’s not hard to see that when ingratitude overtakes you, it’s got a message for you.
The message could be that you haven’t been doing what you know you should be doing. When Cain did not do what he knew was right, his countenance fell (Gen.4:7). The same thing happens today. When you knowingly do what is wrong, your disposition sours, and instead of thankfulness, there’s bitterness.
A feeling of ingratitude could also be telling you that you’ve grown forgetful. As Israel was blessed by God, they often forgot Him as their provider and became ungrateful (Ps.78). That same pattern continues to repeat itself. God blesses; people forget Him as the source of every blessing; and see no reason to give thanks.
Another message that ingratitude may communicate is that you are too much a lover of yourself. The Bible alerts us that times will come when there will be those who are proud lovers of themselves – and one way they will stand out is that they’ll be ungrateful (2 Tim.3:2). Loving self above God and others is a sure cause of ingratitude.
When ingratitude surfaces, it could also be telling you that you’ve become prayerless. Scripture shows us that there is a close connection between prayer and thanksgiving (1 Thess.5:17,18). When you’re prayerful, your eyes are opened to what God is doing in your life and the giving of thanks naturally follows.
Whenever you find yourself ungrateful, it’s an indicator something is not right. Just as a pain in the chest or a noise under the hood tells us that something needs to be checked out, so does living under a cloud of ingratitude tell you your soul needs some help.
Have you been ungrateful as of late? Have you had a hard time finding reason to give thanks? Then ask God to show you why.
And especially ask Him to show you all that there is to be thankful for in Christ. Because it’s in Him the greatest reasons for gratitude are found.
In Christ, there is victory over sin and death (1Cor.15:57). There’s participation in His unshakeable kingdom (Heb.12:28). There’s the promise of an eternal inheritance (Col.1:12). And there’s the assurance that He reigns over all things in heaven and on earth (Rev.11:17).
When ingratitude speaks, be sure and listen. The grace of God found in Christ is sufficient to turn any ungrateful heart into one that overflows with gratitude.
“History has often turned many corners because of very ‘ordinary’ men. Often we know who these men are, because subsequent events raised them to world-wide visibility. For example, an obscure Augustinian monk named Martin Luther turned the church upside down by studying his Bible. On the other hand, men who never knew world fame (perhaps not even local fame!) have nevertheless impacted the course of world history. Boaz in the Book of Ruth is one of these men. If it were not that his name and his deeds were preserved in Scripture, we would never know how his basic righteousness advanced the coming of the Messiah. It is very likely that history has turned in its course many times because of the actions and lives of men who today are remembered only by God.”
William Mouser, Jr. in Five Aspects of Man: A Biblical Theology of Masculinity
Is doing what’s right worth it? Does living according to what’s true matter? Taking a look at the world around you may make you wonder.
It’s often the unrighteous that seem to prosper and be full of strength. They don’t appear to have the troubles that others do. They’re always at ease and getting ahead.
And the arrogant, they seem to have an abundance of all that they want. They speak loftily, and against God. But everybody drinks in what they have to say. And even God Himself seems unperturbed as they saunter in proud defiance.
Does this mean keeping your heart clean is a vain thing, and washing your hands in innocence is futile? Is there then no advantage to those who watch over their inner and outer life?
Only if your perspective is worldly and short-term. Because from God’s eternal perspective, doing right is always right. . . and it’s to your advantage as well.
Though God may seem unconcerned about those who deny Him and ignore His standards, His eye has not left them alone. He has set them in slippery places and will one day take them down suddenly. When He does, the carefree days of the ungodly will be gone like a dream.
And this is something those who sincerely want to live right must never forget.
Don’t be foolish and ignorant! Don’t live like an animal who is concerned only about satisfying his appetites! Remember that God is continually with you and holds you by His right hand. As you look to Him, He will guide you with His counsel, and afterward receive you to glory.
Knowing this is one thing. Living it is something else. Why is living it so hard for us? Because we are so easily satisfied with lesser things, and so quickly turn them into idols.
The Lord has blessed and supplied His creation with so much that brings comfort and pleasure. But these things are not to be our chief end. When we make them so, we make them idols, worshiping and serving what’s been created, rather than the Creator.
But God’s intent for us is something higher. He has made it our chief end to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
Look at how this portion of scripture captures this idea: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail. But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps.73:25,26).
Anything this world has to offer will eventually fail us. Even our flesh and our hearts will fail us. But God will never fail those who trust in Him. And the greatest good is to draw near to Him.
Is living for God worth it? You better believe it. It’s the only way to truly live as He designed you, both now and in eternity.
For a number of years now the church has handed over much of its work involving the cure of souls to psychotherapists. This has come about as the church has ignored the effects of sin on the human personality and forgotten the power of God’s grace to restore lives to wholeness and purpose.
This trend has been devastating. Though the realm of psychiatry adopts a disease model to explain human misery, it offers no causes or cures (as the video below demonstrates). The cost of this approach is staggering. Not only are millions of dollars wasted in counseling and brain-altering medication, but lives are left in anguish.
As this continues to become apparent, the church must recover its cure of souls ministry. She must reject the disease model of human misery and fully embrace what the Bible teaches about sin and the sufficiency of grace. At the heart of this labor is teaching Christ’s disciples to obey all that He commanded.
I’ve been cleaning my office and it’s taking longer than it should. I keep running into things to read. One of these is a little booklet by Steve Schlissel called Television or Dominion. In the booklet Schlissel argues that television is sidelining the soldiers of Christ and removing especially the men from godly action — virtually neutering them and rendering them passive nincompoops. . .
“Jesus Christ is the key interpretive principle, the organizing center of our life and thought.”
“As long as Christians are locked to the television set, we will not take possession of the inheritance that is ours in Christ.”
“Television has become the focal point and mediator of family experience.”
“Television will tolerate no competition in terms of interpreting reality for us.”
“Television presupposes moral relativism under the guise of righteous open-mindedness.”
“This attack on the family is brought into your living room each night.”
“May God have mercy on us in this century. May He teach us to turn the television off and talk to somebody, write to somebody, converse, read, sit down and think, shut the door, relax, fellowship with God.”
When people think about improving their economic situation, they normally think about things like interest rates, debt loads, and cash on hand. They don’t often think about God.
But perhaps we should get more accustomed to using “God” and “economy” in the same sentence. After all, God, as the owner of all that exists, gives us some vital economic principles in His Word. Just consider a few of them from the ten commandments (Ex.20).
In the first commandment God tells us that we are to have no other gods before Him. Nothing is to come before God in our devotion. Those who honor and obey Him in this He causes to prosper, while those who forget Him are eventually brought to ruin (Dt.8:18-20).
Could it be that our prosperity is eroding because we have taken obedience to God lightly, and have come to see honoring Him as unnecessary?
The fourth commandment tells us that six days we are to labor and do all our work, but the seventh is to be a day of rest. Here you’ll find the first rule of economics: “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” God intends for us to work, by the sweat of our brow, as the means of accumulating wealth.
But there is also another principle here, and that is that each week we are to take a day of rest. In doing so, we honor God as the true source of all gain.
Today both of these principles are commonly violated. How many struggle financially because they have come to depend on others rather than work hard themselves? And how many work every day to find that God always seems to take away on Monday what is made on Sunday?
The eighth commandment directs us not to steal. In doing so, the Bible affirms the all-important right of private ownership. By having the right to call things our own, we have a motive to discipline ourselves, work, and save for the future – activities from which many benefit as people find themselves in a position to start businesses or give to those in need.
But as the right to private ownership is stripped away, the motive to labor is taken with it, and many suffer as a result.
Is this not what is happening today as the state continues to plunder its citizens through increasingly excessive taxation?
The tenth commandment says, “Thou shall not covet.” God wants us to trust Him and learn contentment in every circumstance. But a covetous man cannot contain himself. Instead of patiently working and saving, he does whatever he can to get what he covets – now.
Does this not explain how we as individuals and a nation have become so saddled with debt? Have we not become enslaved by our own covetous hearts?
In his classic The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith spoke of an “invisible hand” that grants prosperity. That hand, of course, is the hand of God.
Tinkering with interest rates and the like may have their place. But such activities are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic if we do not first turn to the one who brings blessing by His invisible hand.