Real Godly Love

 
               February is the “love month”.  We set aside a day to celebrate romantic love and even brotherly love.  Love plays a central and necessary part in our theology and thus in our identity.  Satan, though, seeks to use love to disparage Christians…otherwise how could we of all people be called “haters”?  Unbelievers and even misguided Christians will point to such wonderful scriptures as “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16), “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7), and even “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34). But here is the one misquoted and mis-used the most: “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  So according to the worldly line of thought we are to love everyone and thus accept them as they are and affirm anything that makes them feel good.  We are to love them by agreeing with them and reinforcing their innate goodness in their chosen lifestyle.  And why not? God is love.  Right?
 
                In these conversations I always point people to this scripture: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6). I do that to begin the line of thought that there are certain things we are not to love.  We have to learn to differentiate between good and evil.  How do we do that? I give them back the fact that the Bible says that God is love.  The reason I do that is because most people interpret that verse wrongly; they work backwards.  They reason that if they want to know the character of God, they first need to interpret love.  However, they then apply the human, or carnal, definition of love and in doing that there is a fatal error:  love becomes their god.

 

                To truly understand love, we must first understand the character of God.  Then, and only then, can we know true love.  Real love bears the unmistakable fingerprint of God.  And because of that we know that there are certain behaviors, attitudes, and actions that are self-destructive and dishonor the character of God; therefore, they are not acceptable in a relationship with God.

If you want to understand God, study the Bible.  If you want to understand love, study God….by studying the Bible.

Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff
 

Bro. Tony

 

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Christian Principles Maligned

 
 
                I can well remember the day when, if a politician was seeking election, he or she (the only two genders there were then) wouldn’t dare publicly disparage Christians and the Christian faith. We are shocked by how much that has changed.  The leader of the Democratic Party said, this: “They pray in church on Sunday and then prey on people the rest of the week,” she stated. “And while we’re doing the Lord’s work by ministering to the needs of God’s creation, they are ignoring those needs, which is to dishonor the God who made them.”
 
                I am almost at a loss for words when it comes to how outrageously disgusting such a statement is, especially when coming from her.  And the fact that the national news organizations just let those words slide by without a “fact check” is equally appalling.  She, Nancy Pelosi, is doing “the Lord’s work”?
 
                When did killing babies in the womb, and now up to the moment of birth, become the Lord’s work?  When did this ridiculous gender insanity nonsense become the Lord’s work?  When did illegal entrance into our nation become the Lord’s work? If anyone has ever “taken the Lord’s name in vain” that lady did.  And it is dangerous. Why?
 
                The first step to marginalizing Christianity is to use phrases and euphemisms that incorrectly portray Christian doctrine and beliefs. “Preying on women” now describes any opposition to abortion for instance.  Any speech that opposes the current “government directives” regarding sex, gender, or behavior is “hate speech”.  When that is being taught as the acceptable way to regard Christianity, and it is being taught to our kids from grade school through college, it is a bad sign, indeed.
 
                What concerns me as much is that it looks like the second step is being taken:  Adhering to false religion.  It’s one horrible thing to say that Christianity is wrong but to supplant Christianity with a dark and satanic religion is a knife in the heart of a nation founded on Christian principles and built on obedience to the Word of God.  And that is exactly what Ms. Pelosi did; she substituted government directives for God’s will.  Notice she never referenced the Bible.  How could she? It contradicts each of her statements. Evidently, in her eyes, God wants to kill babies in the womb, give young children sex reassignment surgery and call men women, and women men.
 

So, throw those Bibles away and substitute what seems right in the minds of men for God’s desires and purposes. And if you are not sure what that is, just ask Ms Pelosi, our high priestess.

 
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff
 

Bro. Tony


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Faith, Grace and The Law

    A well-known pastor of a mega church got into theological hot water when he said: “Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles.” That, of course, entails the famed and revered “10 Commandments”. There was an immediate backlash from Christians around the nation and rightly so if we are to take those words at face value. I believe his heart and theology are in the right place, his wording could have been different or expounded on.
 
    The Bible says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). Jesus, Himself, said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17 NIV). In fact, Paul, when talking about being justified by faith instead of works “since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:30-31 NIV).
 
    So here is my take on it. If we concern ourselves too much with the law, we are in danger of having a works-based relationship with God. God knows that, and He knows the fallacies of such a relationship. God separated His people from the other nations by giving them a system of moral, ethical, and spiritual laws. In addition, he gave them instructions on health and hygiene. All these things were a foundation on which He built a God-fearing, unique, and powerful people leading up to the completion of His plan that through
Christ all people could know Him.
 
    When Christ came, He fulfilled the promise of a Savior and bought with him God’s amazing grace. Yes, we live under grace and not the law, but grace doesn’t nullify the law, grace intensifies the law; it takes it to new heights. Do not commit murder? Don’t even get angry because that brings on murder. Do not commit adultery? Don’t even lust because that is the root cause of adultery. That’s tough, isn’t it? It’s almost impossible! Let’s ask Jesus how it is even possible to live up to all of that. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (That covers the first four of the Ten Commandments) “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (that covers the last six). All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” Matthew 22:39-40 NIV
 
    Are we to keep the Ten Commandments? Of course, we are. But we keep them by adhering to a higher standard of love for God and love for our fellow man. Keep the command that Jesus gives in those two verses and you’ll never worry about breaking one of those hallowed Ten Commandments.
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff
 
Bro. Tony

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God Created Male and Female

While hiking in the Smoky Mountains a few years ago I met a hiking couple at the base of a beautiful waterfall. We talked a few minutes, introducing ourselves and making polite conversation. Then the lady asked me a question.  The conversation went like this:
 
Her:  Did you see that big water moccasin stretched out over the trail?
Me:  Did you hear anyone scream like a little girl?
Her:  No.
Me:  Then no.  I didn’t see a snake.
 
According to current “progressive” thought I had made a sexist remark probably brought on by my toxic masculinity. I had implied that little girls scream and that little boys don’t. I must be a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal to think that.  Surely, I know that boys and girls are the same and it is only a wrong-minded, sexist culture that raises them otherwise.  I guess the theory is that if we cast babies into the wild, with no social construct, they would eventually grow up to be exactly alike in thought, demeanor, and physicality.
 
Nope. No way. Males and females are different in a variety of ways. Genesis 1:27 says “so God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Take note that both are created in His image.  Both sexes were created in the image of God and thus have equal value and worth.  One is not better than the other, but they are different.   A forensic scientist can look at skeleton and tell you whether it is a male or female skeleton because they are different.
 
While sitting in a hospital wait room once I picked up a booklet that spoke of all the services that the hospital offered.  There were three pages, front and back, of “women’s services” and one page, front only, of services designed specifically for men.  Do you know of any hospitals that have built a “Men’s Center”?  Males and females are quite different.
 
That doesn’t mean one is inherently smarter that the other or that all men are better than all women in everything. There are plenty of women who are smarter than I am and there are many females who are in better physical condition that I am.  Serena Williams would make mince meat out of me on a tennis court and Rhonda Rousey would squash me like a bug in the fighting ring.  But they can also bear children and feed children.  They can nurture children, and even adults, better than I can.  And yes, they are mentally and emotionally different than I am.
 
God didn’t create two sexes so that one could play sports better than the other.  He didn’t create two sexes so that one could be a CEO or President and the other couldn’t.  The next verse about the creation of the two sexes says this: “then God blessed them and said to them ‘be fruitful and to multiply’”. (Genesis 1:28).  You see, Gods creative purpose for the sexes was to become a family unit.  His purpose is for a man and a woman to unite as husband and wife and raise a family, instructing them in God’s Word and raising them in the fear of fear and knowledge of God. Their God-given differences and abilities will naturally flow out in their other endeavors, but family is the most important construct God has ever given us.
 
All this noise and smoke about men and women being the same, people determining their own gender, masculinity is toxic, et al is just that…a smoke screen by Satan to destroy yet another facet of God’s creative purpose. The Bible tells us to relate to each other and both sexes would do well to treat each other with respect and honor.
 
Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff
 

Bro. Tony


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To Judge or Not to Judge?

 
    Who am I to judge? You’ve heard heard people say that, haven’t you? You have probably said that yourself. I think even the Pope responded to a question with that remark.  And, indeed, who are we to judge others?  The Bible specifically says that we are not to judge people (Matthew 7:1-2).  Or does it? If we read the next few verses, we discover that Jesus is speaking of holding ourselves to the same standards we expect of others and to make sure we are in a right relationship with God before we even think of others relationship with Him. That’s important. Hypocrisy doesn’t work well when we are trying to help others.
 
    And I think the “helping” aspect is important.  Are we correcting someone concerning Christian doctrine because we care about them or because we are mad at them for doing it?  Are our motives pure and honorable or are we just being “holier than thou”?  You see, we are specifically supposed to discern truth and speak truth. That is not judging people; it’s judging sin.  We not only have the right to reveal sin we have the responsibility to do it.  Just a few verses after the “do not judge” verse we are told to watch out for false prophets and that we will recognize them by their fruits.  In other words, we are to judge their doctrine and point out the untruths.
 
    I like to think of it like this:   Suppose you are on a beach and the weather is cloudy and windy and the red flags are flying that indicate it is dangerous to go in the water.  A young couple run onto the beach and head toward the water.  If you tell them that the red flag is flying, and it is dangerous to swim, are you judging them? When someone is doing something that the Bible says is contrary to the will of God and therefore dangerous, pointing that out with love and concern isn’t prohibited by the Bible.  It is encouraged.  Romans 10:14 says they cannot hear if no one tells them.
 
 Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff
 
 Bro. Tony

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Winter

 
 

          Sometimes we see Winter as just a cold, dreary time we have to endure until Spring makes its glorious appearance.  I, too, look forward to Springtime but I think we should also take time to look at the beauty of Winter and understand that it is a vital part of God’s wonderful plan.  An atheist once said: “There is no purpose for winter unless you believe in God and if that is so, ask Him”.  That’s a very backward way to look at it, for if you look at what happens in Winter it will encourage you to see God’s handiwork.

 

                Winter is a time when all of nature takes a needed break.  Trees and plants go into dormancy, recharging and preparing for a bountiful spring.  Without a certain amount of freezing temperatures, fruit trees will not produce a good quantity and quality of fruit. Flowering trees will not be as vibrant without a season of cold weather. Oaks, maples, and poplars wouldn’t have as many or as large leaves to shade the forest grounds that produce other plants. Cold temperatures even decrease the presence of certain insects and pests that would make otherwise pleasant times outside in the spring somewhat miserable.

 

                Winters differ in areas, and that is a good thing. Yes, a winter in Hawaii will be more pleasant to humans but try growing apples there. A certain variety will grow, but they are much smaller and arguably not as tasty or diverse. You want good apples? Try Washington state or Tennessee. On the other hand, I wouldn’t try a pineapple farm in Minnesota.

 

                Cold weather isn’t comfortable but at the same time we look forward to hot chocolate while sitting by a fireplace or having a steaming bowl of soup or chili on a cold winter’s night.  It’s all good.  God knew what He was doing when he formed the seasons and if we take the time to enjoy the gray landscapes and chilly weather while God does His work through nature, we can appreciate His magnificent creation even more year around as we see the perfectness of God’s provision for us.

 

Say good things about your Savior and His Church on the Bluff.

 

Bro. Tony


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Resolutions

How about some resolutions for 2019? There is just something about a new year that points to a fresh start. Some, however well intended, often fall by the wayside.  For that reason we sometimes find it easier to simply not make any; it removes the pressure.  Some, though, are worthy even if difficult:  Exercise more, Lose weight, Eat healthy, Quit (insert your bad habit here), Be nicer to people, etc.  But  how about we set some spiritual goals as our resolutions?  Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Read/study the Bible more. A time of daily devotion will help for that.  There are so many devotional resources.  Our church provides “Open Windows” and people enjoy the disciple and spiritual wisdom found there. We have several books in our library and we are welcome to use them.  Lifeway Christian Store has many to choose from.

 

  1. Pray more. The time of daily devotion certainly helps this one but there are so many opportunities in a given day to have quick, yet meaningful times of prayer. Turn the TV off a couple of minutes or take a few minutes during your lunch break.  Pray as you drive (but don’t close your eyes for this one).  If there is a desire to pray there will be time to pray.

 

  1. Be more useful for Christ. Many will say “oh, I’d love to do that, I just don’t know how”.  Let me offer a suggestion.  I always say that prayer time is also a time to listen to God.  So when you pray about a person or situations always close that prayer by asking God how He wants to use you in answering your desire.  Then listen.  I think you will be surprised how often God shows you how to be useful.

 

  1. Love more. By that I mean to learn to show Christ’s love to people who are difficult to love because of their behavior, unbelief, and/or demeanor. Remember that He loves them in their current state and we have to reflect that love.  Admittedly that one will take practice and discipline, but it is important.

 

  1. Live unashamed of Jesus and by association, the Word of God, the Bible. Never be ashamed to tell people that the reason for the way you live and the way you think is that you live by the Bible as you walk in the footsteps of Jesus; that you follow His teachings and obey His every command.
 
    And…as you practice and accomplish these things…say good things about your church!
 
    Bro. Tony

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Christmas Greeting

 
 
Merry Christmas!  I know that every year we lament the  generic “happy holidays” greeting. We grumble about sales associates that assault us with that somewhat cowardly greeting, as if they are afraid of offending someone who doesn’t believe in or celebrate Christmas. I’ve gotten over it.  They may greet me as they please; I can’t control their actions.  But my reply to those and my greeting to others is and always will be “Merry Christmas”.
 
Why? Because I truly want each and every person to have a wonderful, joyful, loving Christmas season and especially a Christmas Day. It doesn’t matter if a person is atheist, Jewish, Muslim, a naturalist,  a Wiccan, or even a satanist, I want them to know the joy of Christ and be able to celebrate His birth in the true sense of the event. Not just a time of bright lights, gifts, and family gatherings, but a time of celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world.
 
You see, the only way we can honesty celebrate the birth of Christ is when it is the culmination of a life lived in the power of Christ. Celebrating Christmas means we are celebrating Jesus birth, yes, but it also means we are celebrating His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.  It means we are celebrating the forgiveness of our sin and our righteousness before the father because of his spilt blood. It means we are celebrating the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to experience joy in troubled times, happiness in times of struggle, peace in times of conflict, and faith in days of doubt.  We are, in fact celebrating another year lived in the glorious presence of God in our lives. We are celebrating the certainty of an eternal life because our names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life.
 
So yes, I greet people with”Merry Christmas” because that is what I wish for them; to know and experience Jesus on a daily basis and to know heaven awaits them.  I really feel for them if that makes them mad.
 
Say good things about your church and about your Savior.
 
Bro. Tony

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Jesus Never Condemned

     A Christian recording artist made headlines when she said she couldn’t approve or disapprove homosexuality because “I’m not God”. She is absolutely right about the last part, she isn’t God. Neither are you or I. That is why God spoke to us through the anointed leaders of Israel, prophets, and writers. We may not be God but we can know the true character for God and His desires for His people. Each and every time homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, homosexual activity is viewed in a bad light and revealed to be sin.
     Many have said that Jesus never condemned homosexual activity. That’s is true. Jesus never condemned a lot of things that common decency and common sense knew were unnatural, harmful, or otherwise unseemly. In fact, He never spoke against any sexual deviance. He didn’t have to; everyone knew there were forbidden….even the heathen and irreligious.
     There is a huge list of things Jesus never specifically condemned. He never vilified rape or incest. He never actually said that it was wrong for a human to think he or she was a horse or goat. They didn’t need a divine edict to tell them those things and we shouldn’t need one today. Common sense and rationality reveals that to us. The Bible certainly backs that up when it tells us to dwell on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8 )
     I’ve also heard it said that “they didn’t know then what we know today”. First, God gave them the things to write and He knew more back then than we will ever know. That sentiment, though, raises a necessary question: what do we know about homosexual behavior or a transsexual mindset now that they didn’t know then? There is certainly no new scientific evidence of either being natural or normal. There is no great medical breakthrough that confirms either as a fixed result of birth; chromosomes or DNA. In short there is nothing new to know about sexual perversions. A dark and un-Godly culture simply wants to affirm their own unseemly lifestyles.                Again, I want to say that we are to view and minister to those people with great love and compassion. But not at the expense of truth. Affirming their problems will not fix their problems but perhaps interaction with a Christian who kindly leads them to a knowledge of the truth can make a difference in their lives.
 
Say good things about your church and about your Savior.
 
Bro. Tony

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His Birthday

     A humanist website says this about Christmas: “Christmas is a multicultural festival with a long pagan history, and can be celebrated by anyone”. You’ll probably hear stuff like that from unbelievers. They will tell you that “the church” just decided to appropriate a then-current pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice or the Roman celebration of the sun god, Jupiter. Please understand that whether or not Christians decided to have a celebration at a time when heathen celebrations occurred is irrelevant. That doesn’t mean it has a pagan history.
      The first recorded date of celebrating Christmas on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December. It was observed to celebrate the birth of Christ; nothing more and certainty nothing less. There were no Christmas trees, partridges in pear trees, sleigh rides or exchanging of gifts. It was a religious mass (celebration) of the birth or Christ. Santa Claus was nowhere in the picture.
     Since that time well-meaning folks have, however misguided, sought to enhance that celebration with certain symbols and events meant to take the celebration to new heights. In doing so the door was opened for the commercialization of Christmas and from there the religious celebration morphed into a frenzied holiday that contains elements that even pagans can embrace. In fact, I believe that the statement from the humanist website should be corrected to say “Christmas is a Christian celebration, many aspects of which several ideologies have appropriated for their own celebrations”.
     Think about this: All of the characteristics that people say are what Christmas is all about…love, forgiveness, compassion, generosity, family…are characteristics that God commands us to have and empowers us, as Christians, to have to a degree that the “world” can never achieve. But, because of what began with the birth of Christ, people can now love their enemies, do good to those that abuse them, and forgive those that wrong them. They can love their neighbors as they love themselves. They can sacrifice for the good of others. All…to a measure the world cannot copy.
     So when people try to secularize Christmas, remind them that it is His day. And because of what happened on that day love, joy, and happiness in their purest forms are available to all.
 
Say good things about your church and about your Savior. It’s His birthday we are celebrating.
Bro. Tony

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