Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The fervent desire of Jesus

Photo by Gary, courtesy of Photoexpression.com
Hello again - it's so good to spend time with you today in A Good Bible Study! If you are sticking with this study of "A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you" then you are probably, like me, ready to lighten up a bit!

We've shared quite a bit about the negative side of passion, and how we can get our passion mixed up with ambition, anger, or false spirituality. I'm ready to hear more about the passion of our Lord, for you and for me!

I searched for synonyms for "passion" in my Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, which is the main resource for this study, and I found the following:  fervent and fervently; delight; delighted; and delights. During the next few lessons, we will delve into the passages containing these passionate terms.

 Now, we've got to start with Jesus! I love this passage, in particular, from Luke 22:15.

"On the night of the Passover Jesus sat down with the apostles and said, 'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.'”

I love the way the Weymouth New Testament translates it: Earnestly have I longed to eat this Passover with you.

Do you hear the love and yearning in this passage? Fervent desire, desired . . . earnestly, longed. Repeating words to magnify the intensity of the meaning is called an anaphora.  Do you see how each repetition or synonym lends weight to the importance of their relationship? It's like an exclamation point!

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible contains one of the most descriptive explanations of why Jesus was so emphatic about eating this particular meal with His disciples. It says, for one, "because he should eat it 'with' his disciples; an emphasis lies on the phrase, 'with you', to whom, and not so much to the passover," itself.

Jesus wasn't just hungry. He wasn't just glad to be participating in one of the most important Jewish traditions. Jesus has a bond with these particular individuals, like to no one else. He is preparing to suffer intense physical and emotional pain for not only their sakes, but for each of us in the world, and like anyone, Jesus wanted to spend his last hours with those he loved, and with those who would carry on His work.

In addition, Jesus knew that this was the Passover, the one that immediately precedes His fulfillment of the promise of the Passover: salvation. Once Jesus left that table, He knew He would be arrested, horrifically tortured, and nailed to a cross until His human body was dead. He was ready to do what it was He came to do: give His life in exchange for ours.

Gill's says it this way: He looked forward to this night "since hereby justice would be satisfied, the law would be fulfilled, sin atoned for, and the salvation of his elect obtained; for whom he bore the strongest affection, and whom he loved with a love of complacency, and whose salvation he most earnestly desired, and even sufferings for the sake of it."

Oh, to be there in the morning of the third day, Sunday, when Mary found the tomb empty and her Lord alive!

Read it for yourself. It's almost like the ending of an incredible movie that gets even better when you discover the story is true!

John 20 New International Version

"The Empty Tomb
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

17Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you maya believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Lord, thank you for loving us so earnestly, so passionately, so willingly! I pray that each of us reading this study, experiences the depth of your love today! In the name of Jesus, amen

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Worshipping the Creator, or the creation?

Photo by Graurraz Vanionut. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Welcome to A Good Bible Study! Our topic is A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you.

If you have been reading the New Testament for a while, you've probably noticed that many of Paul’s letters contained some kind of response to the doctrine of false teachers. It seems there is always some new group passionate about a secret way to attain spiritual heights, but having nothing actually to do with the Spirit of God. Paul particularly criticized the Gnostics, who focused on either exploiting the pleasures of the body, or denying them.

Gnostics taught that "special" knowledge was required to break from the physical realm into the spiritual, thereby negating the power of God or the need for Him. Only through their rituals and recitations could you really become spiritual. Sound familiar? And you thought the New Age was new.

Gnostics had two ways of thinking: Those who worshipped pleasure believed that since the body was not spiritual, you could do what you wanted with it and it wouldn’t affect your spirit or salvation. Yet, those who believed the body was evil, punished their bodies with torture and denial of basic comfort in an effort to earn spirituality. Both views are in direct conflict with Scripture, focusing either on earning salvation, or living both carnally and spiritually at once, which is not possible. 

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other." Matthew 6:24

God loves us and what He created is good. He said so. We are body, spirit, and soul and what we do to one intimately affects the other. We cannot earn, or learn, salvation or spirituality. It is a result of our passionate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:18-32 describes God’s response to those who claim to be wise and sophisticated, who worship God's creation instead of the Creator.

All of creation is not God, but is evidence of God. Since the earliest of times however, there have been those who turn away from our Father who has all the power to help, as well as the love and desire to do so, and instead worship the proof of a Creator, as if it could do one thing to change our lives.

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven, Paul says, against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of those who have had the truth revealed to them, and yet suppress the truth.

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i] 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 Romans 1:18-26

Now we might say that we are above worshipping and praying to a statue, or a tree, but are we?

There are those who kill people in protest of others who destroy the habitat of the owl or hunt whale; those who blow up abortion clinics (and the people within) to protest the killing of our unborn children; those who lose their health, livelihood, and families in pursuit of drugs; spend hours each day searching for information about their favorite celebrity online, or playing Internet games from the moment they get home till late into the night while their spouse and children live with a virtual ghost; carry on an addicted affair with pornography; or live every moment for the next financial deal.

Are we too sophisticated for our own good?

“Therefore God gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions.” 

Lord, thank you for giving us signs of who You are everywhere we look. From the glory of your design for everything both alive and inanimate, to the beauty and splendor in each day, your creation sings of Your passion for each of us. Help us to be truly wise, and not just wise in our own eyes! Give us a passion for You! In the name of Jesus, amen

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Set our minds on things above 2

Photo by Graurraz Vanionut. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Hello again! Welcome back to A Good Bible Study. Our current topic is "A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you."

We have been discovering the difference between passion that serves God, and that which serves sin (at it’s root, Satan.) We've asked, how can we express passion in a way that delights God?

Remember that in Col. 3:5, Paul described five specific examples of passion gone wrong, using the former practices of the Colossians as an example that can just as easily apply to those of us here and now. The first was fornication (read the post "Set our minds on things above 1.")

The remaining four are (clarified by various commentaries ) uncleanness; passion or inordinate affection; evil desire; and covetousness. Uh . . . what? Let's try and put this into our language.

Uncleanness doesn't mean you need to shower more often. It means behaving in a manner, thinking, and saying things that are just plain nasty, filthy, hateful, disgusting, and/or amoral, etc. It  means "impurity, or moral defilement; particularly to those impurities which he proceeds to specify in
Romans 1:26."

It's whatever made your granny wash your mouth out with soap, and then some.

Passion or inordinate affection isn't referring to the passionate love between yourself and God, or you and your spouse. That's a wonderful, life-affirming passion given by God Himself for us to enjoy! No, this actually refers to the Greek word πάθος pathos, meaning vile affections, or lust.

Lusting is passion gone haywire! It is not desire for your spouse. It is not a yearning to honor God, to help others, or to be take a God-given talent to a level of greatness that only perserverance and determination can achieve.

How can I say this? Lust involves mentally using the visual form of others for your own internal sexual gratification. What's wrong with that, you say?

God says imagining yourself sexually engaging is not only the same as physically doing so, in His eyes, it is adultery if you are married, fornication if you are not, and eventually leads to taking action. Your behavior follows your thoughts, and sin begins in the heart.

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

If you think about it honestly, looking at another human being with lust is so disrespectful (if not abusive.) Ever felt your skin crawl and turned around to see someone mentally undressing you?

It's disrespectful to your spouse who feels humiliated  - and yes, he or she knows despite how sly and sneaky you think you are. It's also disrespectful to your future spouse, who wants to delight and scintillate you with his or her body, not compete with what you've worked up in your own mind or have come to believe through watching porn is more exciting. You think you are creating passion, but in fact pornagraphy steals passion.

Over time, you'll need more and more explicit and degrading images to attain the same level of excitement and eventually, your desire for your spouse actually decreases, not increases. Find out more here.

Finally, it's disrespectful to yourself. You deserve God's best and it's available once you focus on allowing God to transform you into a man or woman who is ready for the kind of love God can provide, if you let Him.

I know this post has been another lengthy one, but let me quickly give you the final two examples of destructive passion: evil desire, meaning all of the above and below, as well as wanting anything that harms oneself or anyone else; and covetousness, or greed, which is idolatry.

Greed means loving things, be it money, possesions, status, achievement, etc., more than God, and covetousness isn't merely liking something, or really enjoying doing an activity; it is a strong desire to take something away that rightly belongs to someone else.

In other words, you value the object more than you care about the effect your actions have on anyone else. So, in essence, you are worshipping that object or event. Your desire for it supercedes all else. It is theft, but it is more than that.

The Topical Bible Dictionary says "Its heinousness, doubtless, is accounted for by its being in a very real sense the root of so many other forms of sin, e.g. departure from the faith (1 Timothy 6:9, 10); lying (2 Kings 5:22-25); theft (Joshua 7:21); domestic trouble (Proverbs 15:27); murder (Ezekiel 22:12); indeed, it leads to "many foolish and hurtful lusts" (1 Timothy 6:9). Covetousness has always been a very serious menace to mankind, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament period. It was one of the first sins that broke out after Israel had entered into the promised land (Achan, Jos 7); and also in the early Christian church immediately after its founding (Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5); hence, so many warnings against it. A careful reading of the Old Testament will reveal the fact that a very great part of the Jewish law-such as its enactments and regulations regarding duties toward the poor, toward servants; concerning gleaning, usury, pledges, gold and silver taken during war-was introduced and intended to counteract the spirit of covetousness."

Now, contrast the preceeding with the wordly view of passion:

The media tells us that if we are passionate about something, we have an obligation to give everything we have to that interest or object, and that to neglect our relationship with God, our family, or our responsibilities is a further validation of the importance of the focus of that passion.

But the truth is that we are merely serving the passion, instead of the One who designed us with not only the passion, but a purpose and a way to express that passion or drive honorably.

God wants to direct the passionate nature He created in us to serve Him, to worship Him, to praise Him, and to honor Him. Passion is a gift, or a curse, depending on if we see it as a "god", or as a means to honor God.

Let’s pray: Lord, there are so many confusing messages in our world. Help us to set our minds on the things You value, that You are passionate about. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A slave of Christ

Hello again. It's good to see you in A Good Bible Study: A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you.

Our last lesson was pretty heavy. Sometimes good medicine is hard to swallow, but good for us all the same.

Today, I wanted to simply share with you something my husband discovered. I think it will mean something to you and remind us all of something very important while we are learning about who God loves, as well as what He does not.

My husband has been reading the bible from the beginning, and at times it has been slow going. Much of the Old Testament is a history lesson, and pretty dry at that. But when you get to the New Testament, things really pick up!

He has been reading with the goal of discovering God's love in a personal way. He wants to understand it, accept it, and feel it. I can relate. Can you?

Today he read the first letter Paul wrote to his fellow believers: the book of Romans. He got as far as the first sentence, and was struck by the importance of Paul's introduction. Paul was announcing who he was and what he was about.

He said, "This letter is from Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach His Good News."

A slave of Jesus Christ. A SLAVE of Jesus Christ. Do you get the meaning of this word?

From the meeting on the road to Damascus, Paul gave himself up to Jesus Christ, to do whatever required, no matter the sacrifice, no matter the cost to himself.

What kind of love inspires a  man to willingly become another's slave?

Think about the life Paul led up to that point. He valued his financial and social position, his ability to follow the Law without error, and his skill and fervor at hunting down, imprisoning or killing, Christians.

What had he gained by all this? In comparison to his experience with meeting the Lord Jesus Christ one to one . . . nothing. It had become filthy rags to Paul. Nothing would satisfy him again but the love of God through Christ.

What would it take for you to become a slave of Christ? What does that mean to you?

Let's pray: Lord, I want to know the love that Paul knew in You, and from You. My heart is open. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and You - Set our minds on things above

Photo by Graurraz Vanionut,
courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Hello again. I am so glad we are discovering God's passionate love, and our passionate response to him, in A Good Bible Study. Today's topic is Setting Our Minds on Things Above.

What is the difference between passion that serves God, and that which serves sin (at it's root, Satan)? How can we express passion in a way that delights God? 

In Col. 3 Paul writes in verse 2 to set our minds on things above, not on the things of the earth. I notice God is always giving us these polar opposite choices: life, death; good, evil; blessings, curse; heavenly concerns, earthly desires; Christ, carnality. He's never wishy washy about it either, so be fore warned.

In verse 5 Paul breaks down five specific examples of passion gone wrong, using the former practices of the Colossians as an example that can just as easily apply to those of us here and now. You might not want to hear it, it is certainly not politically or socially correct in this day and age, but if you are serious about living a passionate life that delights our God, you'll be willing to prayerfully consider God's view on the behavior that results from a misuse of passion.

I ask you to remember God that loves you, and like any good parent He is willing to offend you if that's how it has to be, with an honest discussion regarding choices and behaviors which are ultimately harmful, no matter how tempting:

1. Fornication - sexual behavior with anyone other than, or in addition to, your spouse - defined as one person of the opposite sex (like it or not.) The Andrew Wommack bible commentary defines it this way 

"The English word 'fornication' comes from the Greek word PORNEIA and alludes to
any illicit sexual intercourse including adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse
with a close relative or with animals. (Lev. 18). Our English word "pornography" is derived from PORNEIA plus the Greek word GRAPHE which means a writing or picture involving unlawful intercourse. Pornography is wrong because it is looking or lusting after someone else's nakedness. The Scripture states that our own wife or husband is our nakedness (Lev. 18:8; Gen. 2:25)."

We like to pretend it's alright if we are only thinking about it, or fantasizing; that imagining the act is not bad, but really a "healthy outlet." In contrast, in Matthew 5:28 Jesus says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

And in Jesus Matthew 15:18-20 says, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, blasphemies. These are what make a man ‘unclean’ not eating with unwashed hands."

We as a society don't want to hear this. We are like children wanting to run amok in the candy store with no limits. We see only our ferocious appetites with no ability to look to the future consequences of a sick belly and exhausted body.

I've felt the sting of following my sexual whims and have suffered the consequences, as I bet so have many of you. I've learned from those mistakes, but not without cost. And I've justified my own misbehavior as a "payback" for someone else's wrong.

Even when I was given good advice, I rationalized my desire to sin by claiming that it's the best way to learn and so therefore, I wanted to learn from my own mistakes, which I think simply means "I know it's wrong but I'm going to do it anyway and I'll pay the piper later."

Honestly, I didn't learn much at all, until I gave my life to God, to live His way instead of following whatever "spiritual" teaching flattered my ego and my self-serving desires that day. 

Let me give you a comparison to ease the pain. I like to compare everything to parenting, because we've all been either parents or children, so who can't relate to that image? 

When I build a fence around my yard, both my children and I can relax and enjoy ourselves fully, because we are protected from outside elements from coming in, and my children are prevented from venturing farther than is safe.

In terms of sexuality, marriage is the safe fence. Marital commitment is a safe fence. Mutual respect and love within that marriage is a safe fence. Does that mean no one will ever hurt you if you respect these boundaries? Of course not! Anyone who is determined to sin will find a way to do so regardless of what they disingenuously promised. That fence is only as strong as the building material used.

We've got to take responsibility to choose our mates wisely, to keep God as our source of guidance and strength within our marriage, to do what we each can to ensure those boundaries stay healthy.

And, here's a difficult one for many of us. We've got to give ourselves permission to be passionate with our spouse, and let one another enjoy that passion, instead of comparing one another to photo-shopped, idealized images in books and movies. Think about that for a moment. Are you passionate with your spouse, and do you allow your spouse to be passionate with you?

Now, does this answer the question for those who feel they are born with homosexual desires or other passions that Scripture defines as sinful? I can only venture to empathize with the dilemma, and compare it to the fact that we are all born with a tendency toward a particular sin(s), even as we are all born to grow into sexual, passionate adults. Does that make our choices any easier? Not easier, but hopefully simpler. God says sexual sin is so overwhelmingly tempting that we should not even play around trying to resist it half-heartedly, but just run from it. 

 Am I the ultimate authority on this matter - absolutely not. So, I will share Who is, and what He has to say:

No matter the what, or why, or how, we have only one recourse, only one way out, only one path to our true passionate natures: to give ourselves to God daily (sometimes minute by minute) to lead us away from expressing that passion in ways that God defines as harmful to our bodies, minds, and souls. That's it. That's all. Give ourselves to Him, ask Him to lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. If it's up to us alone, we are lost.

I'm going to save the last 4 examples for the next post. They are definitely shorter than this, but I wanted to give this topic the time it deserves, because in one way or another, I think this is the most common struggle for us all, be it in our outer behavior or inner thought life.

Let's pray: Lord, You gave us this wonderful gift: passion. You gave us a desire and a fenced playground in which to fully enjoy it. Help us to overcome what has become of Your good gift. Help us to be the passionate lovers of life that You intend - and not settle for distorted pleasures that erode our souls in the name of sophistication. Everything You created in me is good - as created, as intended. Give me a passion that has no sin and let me enjoy it Lord! Lead us away from temptation, and deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Burning with passion - for Christ

Hello! Welcome back to A Good Bible Study and today's topic in the ongoing study of our passionate relationship with God: Burning with passion - for Christ.

I looked the word “passion” in the index of my Nelson Study Bible, to see which verses contain the reference and came up with three: 1 Corinthians 7:9; Colossians 3:5; and Romans 1:26.

Passion can be a gift, or a burden, depending on how you handle it. 1 Cor. 7:9 specifically refers to hhe distraction and danger of burning with passion with no righteous outlet to satisfy or relieve your desire. 

Paul uses himself as an example, referring to the fact that he is so passionate about serving Jesus, he has no room in his life, or even desire, for marriage, and he wished we all felt that way. But Paul recognized his lack of need for marriage and physical love was a gift from God, and let's face it, not everyone is so gifted.

To try and force yourself (as an adult) to remain single (and celibate) when you truly desire marriage and the accompanying benefits, is to torture yourself and subject yourself to unnecessary temptation. Paul describes it as burning with passion.

Don’t be misled to think passion is ungodly, or something to avoid. God loves our passion, for He is a passionate God.

When you are passionate about someone or something, you are willing to put everything else aside for it. You think about it all the time, it’s importance supersedes everything else. You would die for it. You would give up whatever is necessary for it. That’s how God feels about us.

 John 3:16 "For God so love the world (meaning the people in the world) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Jesus, being of the same substance as God, and His only begotten Son, feels the same way. If He didn't, He would not have suffered, died, and rose again for our sakes.

In John 17:19-23 Jesus says, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be as one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. . . that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

Can you imagine being loved by God, in the same way God loves His only begotten Son, Jesus? Think about that for a moment.

Now, can you imagine being so passionate you are willing to ask, and allow, Your Son to suffer for our sakes? Let that blow your mind for a bit.

Finally, can you imagine being so passionate about God, and about all of us, that You agree, and wholeheartedly? Jesus did.

So let there be no mistake, God is the author and giver of passion, but like anything good, it can directed in a positive manner, or misdirected to our own doom. Passion without boundaries is just chaos leading to destruction.

Satan loves to try and convince us that passion is the most important aspect of being human. “If it feels good, do it.” “Just do it.” “Go for it.” In fact, he really gets a kick out of convincing us that the most important thing we should be passionate about is money. Often, we neglect our families in the pursuit of social achievement or financial reward and call it a desire to provide for them.

Do we want to provide for our families? Of course, yes! But, I'm not talking about responsibility, I'm talking about being honest with what your goals and desires really are, and only you can answer that question.

It's because we are created in the image of God, we are passionate, like God. But, like all good things, the gift of passion is meant to enhance our relationship with God, not distract us from Him, or from those we love.

Passion with the drive to honor God is a delight to Him (one of the definitions of passion), but passion perverted into sinful behavior or that replaces our God (or our families) in importance, becomes an abomination.

Let's pray: Lord, thank you for being passionate about me. Help me to recognize what You've made me to be passionate about - and how to use that gift to honor You. Let me be wise in my work, so that I take care of all of my family's needs, not just their financial needs. Help me to keep myself straight in who and what I am serving with passion. In the name of Jesus, amen.

In Christ, Karen

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Passionate Love: the relationship between God and you

Are you ready to begin a new Good Bible Study? I can't wait!

I just finished reading the Book of Revelation and was struck at the very end, by God's passionate love for all mankind! Not only that, but the fact that while God loves each and every one of us, He really seems to develop a special friendship with those who are passionate, as well.

Think about it: who did God call His friend - by the way, can you imagine being called God's personal friend, not His child, not His servant, not His follower, but His friend? A few passionate souls come to mind:

Moses, a man so passionate he struck an Egyptian guard down to defend his fellow Israelites. Exodus 33:11

Abraham, who was so devoted to God he was willing to sacrifice his own son at God's command, trusting that God would raise his son Isaac up to fulfill God's Word that a nation would come from Isaac's line. 2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23

David was called a man after God's own heart. After God's own heart! Can you stand it? 1 Samuel 13:14b

Now, David was truly a man with an appetite for life and a passion for God. When the Lord showed David that he didn't have to be afraid to have the Ark of The Covenant in David's household, he brought the Ark to the City of David with such gladness, that after the procession had only gone 6 paces, David commanded they stop and offer a sacrifice to God. Then he danced before the Lord with all his might wearing a linen ephod (a short, sleeveless garment worn by priests.) The word used as danced here actually means "whirled." Imagine the trumpets blasting, and the people shouting, and the king of the land dancing and whirling with joy before the Lord!

I know that feeling, do you? That desire just to tear off my coat and dance with my face lifted up to the Lord, with tears of joy streaming down my face, just whirling about filled with the passion of the Holy Spirit before my God!Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don't go to that kind of church and do I really want to attract that kind of attention? David didn't care and I hope one day that I don't either!

The flipside is that passion without boundaries is just chaos.

Like Moses, David showed his passionate nature gone astray when he commanded one of his officer's wives, Bathsheba, be brought to the palace, where he seduced her (he was the king after all, I doubt she had much choice in the matter.) To cover his sin when she became pregnant, he then had her husband transferred to the front lines, and abandoned to die. You don't want to tick this guy off. Don't worry, God deals with David.

Paul is one of the best examples of a passionate, godly man - prior to his meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul (known then as Saul) was passionate about one thing only: killing Christians. Paul boasted that he followed all the commandments and all the Jewish traditional laws without blame. He considered himself a holy crusader of sorts, ridding the land of the "blasphemous" Jesus-followers without mercy. He was single minded, purposeful, and would let no one sway him from his goal.

Where you and I might see Paul as a lost cause, I can imagine God looking at Paul and saying, "Now there is a man I can use. There is a passionate man." He was right. Paul served God unselfishly and loved His people without rest, until the end of his life.

Peter, who Jesus called His "rock" was also a man of great passion. When Jesus asked Peter and his brother to put down their nets and "follow me," they did so immediately. Matt. 4:18-19. Later, when Jesus asked His disciples who the people said He was, and who they said He was, it was Peter who answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matt. 16:16

When Jesus described His coming death and resurrection, it was Peter who took Jesus aside and vehemently insisted this should not happen. But Jesus reminded Peter that he was worried about things that concern men, instead of things that concern God. Matthew 16:21-23. Good or bad, it was Peter who always spoke up, who couldn't stop himself from speaking out, or acting up, because he was filled with passion! Peter was all in.

Peter followed Jesus out of the boat and onto the water. Matt. 14:28-29.

Peter struck off the guard's ear when Jesus was arrested. Matt. 26:51.

Peter followed Jesus all the way into the courtyard for His Lord's trial, when the other disciples fled. And it was Peter who wept bitterly when he realized he had just as adamantly denied knowing Jesus, just as Jesus predicted. Matt. 26:69-75

Finally, I want to add Mary, the sister to Martha and Lazarus, to this list of passionate individuals. Jesus loved these three as dear friends. John 11:5.

When Jesus visited their town, it was to Lazarus, Martha, and Mary's home that he stayed. During one such occasion, Martha was preparing the meal, while Mary sat enraptured at Jesus' feet, listening to Him talk and teach. Martha was irritated and asked Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help. But Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

You might not think this is a big deal, but in this time and culture, a women's place was definitely not in the living room with the men, but in the kitchen working and serving! Mary didn't care. She was passionate about Jesus and tradition be - well, you know!

You know, most of these individuals made really big mistakes, and sinned in ways you and I would condemn. But God doesn't demand perfection in behavior, but genuine love in our hearts. He knows those with huge hearts make huge mistakes - and they suffer just as greatly when they realize their error.

Moses ran off to live in the desert for 40 years, Exodus 2:15; David wept and fasted for 7 days, 2 Sam. 12:16-17; and Paul changed his entire life, giving up the wealth and prestige of his position in the Jewish culture and giving his very life to serve the cause of his Lord, Jesus Christ.

After denying Jesus three times, Peter ran off alone to weep bitterly, probably feeling like the worst Christian in the world. But as soon as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He sent for Peter. He asked Peter three times if Peter loved him (the word for love used was "agapao", meaning a love requiring commitment.) I think Peter must have been unsure of his own ability to uphold his commitment to Jesus after failing so miserably in the courtyard, so answered first and secondly that he loved Jesus, using the word "phileo", meaning a strong warmth and friendship.

Finally, the third time, Peter asserted that he did love Jesus with commitment, or agapao, and it was only then that Jesus commanded Peter to care for His flock, His church, His believers. This time, Peter knew what was at stake, and he said "yes."

Interestingly, it seems Mary and Abraham lived their whole lives in obedience to God, and perhaps that was the reason they were each called God's friend, for Jesus says if we obey His commandment (to love one another as He has loved us), we are His friend. John 15:14-15.

I want to be called the friend of God. I want to be Jesus' friend. I want to be passionate about loving what He loves; who He loves! Are you with me? If so, we are going to passionately love God, love Jesus, and love others. That's a verb, by the way.

Join me again in A Good Bible Study as we learn to loose our passionate nature for God!