Priorities – Time

Time – that one commodity that we seem to never have enough of, but we all have the same amount of. We each have 24 hours in each day, and 7 days in each week. Why do some people seem to accomplish more with their time? It is a matter of priorities…

For most of us, earning a living consumes nearly a third of our time, and unfortunately it is taking more a more time to earn less and less real money. More and more families are now dependent on two incomes to make ends meet. Something has to give…

Let’s make a list of what has/needs to be done, and see where we spend our time:
1) Worship
2) Couple
3) Sex
4) Family
5) Work
6) Personal care
7) Community
8) Entertainment

Perhaps you are looking at this list and thinking that I have their order screwed up, but I believe that if we put the first four items in their proper place, the rest will fall into place.

1) Worship…
How can we call ourselves Christians if worshiping our gracious Lord is not a high priority in our lives? God has commanded us to take one day off every week for worship, rest, and fellowship with His people, and yet many Christians cheat Him out of worship time because they think they have “better” things to do. Is it any wonder our country and our society are in unprecedented moral decay? Worship also should include regular devotional and prayer time.

The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) If we are placing ANYTHING ahead of God in our lives, we need to revisit our priorities.

2) Couple…
You spend LOTS of time together while you are dating, but after the “I-do’s” are said, you almost go our separate ways…often only passing each other somewhere in the house. Why is that? Isn’t your spouse the most important person in your life?

While you were dating, you couldn’t get enough of each other and you seemed to have EVERYTHING in common. Now, all you have in common is a house and a mortgage. What happened? It seems that you forgot number 3 – sex…

3) Sex…
Why did I put SEX as your number 3 priority? Tim and Beverly LeHaye, who are noted Christian writers and counselors, called SEXThe Act of Marriage” in a book by that same name. It is THAT important! The couple that prays together, plays together (has sex), stays together.

Sex is foundational to a successful marriage. The first couple – Adam and Eve, were commanded by God to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), and when God instituted marriage, He said “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall BECOME ONE FLESH“. (Genesis 2:24) The picture of “one flesh” is sexual union.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over he own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you ::because of your lack of self-control.” (1st Corinthians 7:3-5) Sex is NOT an optional activity for when you both “feel like it” or are “in the mood“. Sex must become a high priority in your marriage. It doesn’t get any clearer than that…

4) Family…
When we consign our children to others to raise, is it any wonder they grow up with all the WRONG values? When we marry and decide to have a family, we are making a commitment to raise those children, and yet how many parents are strangers to their own children? “School” is now starting at a much earlier age than even when I was raising my children, and these “schools” are today’s childcare facilities. We are allowing someone else to raise our children.

Our children…our families are one of our MOST important responsibility, not an afterthought…and our children should be involved with us in worshiping our Lord.

A friend of mine recently had identical twin boys, and I was asking her a few days ago about their childcare arrangements, because she works at the blood center where I donate blood. Her husband is a career firefighter, so he works 24 hours on, 48 hours off, which means he is HOME two days out of three. With their staggered schedules, at least one of them is home taking care of their children 90% of the time, and when their schedules conflict, one of the grandmas pitches in. They are raising their own children…

I am reminded of a picture I saw recently of a father with his young son. They were sitting by a pond, with their feet in the water…fishing. Dad was spending time with his son.
In all honesty, the comment I had to make was that “I was too busy earning a living to be a father to my children“. Is it any wonder that I have been estranged from them for over 16 years? I am reaping what I sowed while they were growing up…without me.

5) Work…
I know, that as you are reading this list, you are probably thinking “Steve, you must be out of your mind, placing work this far down on the list“. Maybe I am, but I am seeking to know the mind of God, not the priorities of man. “Work” is a supporting-actor for the first four priorities. Yes, work IS necessary, to be able to support your spouse and family, but the problem is that it more often is to support a “lifestyle“. Which is more important… relationships… or lifestyle? Far too many people sacrifice their relationships on the ALTAR of their lifestyle. Their LIFESTYLE has become their “god“. See #1…

They think they “have” to have that new status-symbol car, and they “have” to live in that exclusive golf and country-club community. They think they “have” to “keep up with the Jones“, and they are sacrificing their most-important – their relationships, on the ALTAR of their least-important – their lifestyle.

Don’t you think their spouse and children would rather have quality couple and family time, instead of that new car, or expensive (unaffordable) house? I certainly do…

6) Personal care…
Personal care is taking care of your health – your body – the temple of the Holy Spirit. Again, from the pen of the Apostle Paul: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1st Corinthians 6:19-20)

Perhaps Christian would take better care of themselves if they understood this truth from God’s Word. I am not pointing fingers, because I am just a guilty as anyone. Personal care IS important…and it is really “temple maintenance“.

7) Community…
God exists in eternal community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He created us for community also. Our two most important “communities” are our church and our family. We are “relational” beings, and we can not thrive without relationships. What we do together is more important than what we do alone…

8) Entertainment…
Far too many people will place entertainment second only to their work. They work to afford their entertainment. Marriages get sacrificed on the ALTAR of entertainment, and families are destroyed by entertainment-addiction. Even if the whole family is home, each person is in their own corner with their TV or their computer. “Football-widow” is no misnomer, because some men are SO addicted to watching football on TV that they will skip social-occasions with their wife and family to watch that “big-game“.

Entertainment has become an obsession…an addiction, to the exclusion of everything else. By the time a couple gets to bed, they are too tired for what is important – couple-time – communication…sex.

Entertainment can also be a huge money-hog…the latest and biggest TV…the most expensive entertainment center…the most expensive stereo system, and addicts will work long hours and go into debt for those things, while sacrificing what is truly important.

Final thoughts…
I am sure that by now you are thinking that I have really lost my marbles, but I have seen first-hand the carnage that has been wreaked on couples and families by misplaced time-priorities. I have done some of it myself, as I mentioned earlier. If I could turn the hands of time back, there are things that I would do differently, but I can’t. I can’t get my family back, and I can’t raise my first wife from the dead. Yes, I have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, but I am not proud of it. I have lost a LOTTOO much.

I am in church every Sunday, unless I am too sick to go, and I have joined a fellowship group in our church, and even though it takes quite a bit a fuel every week to go there regularly, I wouldn’t miss it. There is also a monthly men’s fellowship, hosted by our assistant pastor, and it too is vitally-important to my spiritual-health. Those are my priorities…

If this brief article doesn’t do any more than prompt you to examine your own priorities, and see if they are aligned with God’s priorities, I will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. That is my hope and prayer for you…that by getting your time-priorities straight, you will be better able to help build up the body of Christ – His church, and that your marriage, your family, will be blessed by it. May you use your time wisely. I am only His humble messenger. To God be the glory, forever and ever, AMEN!

God bless!

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Secular…or Sacred?

We, as Christians, often divide our activities in “secular” and “sacred“. Those things we do in the world that aren’t “for the kingdom of God” we call “secular“, while those things we do that are related to the kingdom of God and Christ’s church, we call “sacred“. Are these really two different “worlds“?

Rev. David Hatton RN, is a bi-vocational pastor and labor and delivery nurse. Many would divide his life into the “sacred“…being a pastor, and the “secular“, his work as a nurse. While it is true that he “pays the bills” with his income from being a nurse, many would claim that his “true” vocation is being a pastor. He doesn’t see it that way, because he believes that EVERYTHING he does is sacred. He is performing “ministry” by helping women bring their babies into the world.

How could his work as a nurse, helping women deliver their babies and teaching them how to breast-feed, ever be considered “sacred“? That really depends on our view of the human body and how we see our calling in Christ. I am not going to develop a “doctrine of the body” in this post, because I have already addressed that topic in other posts, but I do want to look briefly how Christ has eliminated that false dichotomy through His shed blood and finished work for us.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

If our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit“, are not our bodies “sacred“? In the Old Testament, the temple was that special place where God took up residence and revealed His glory. The temple was very definitely a “sacred place“, and only those who were “clean” were allowed to worship there. The priests had to go though certain “purification” rituals before they could perform service in the temple. We no longer go TO the temple to worship…we ARE the temple, and we can worship God at any time and in any place, including our place of employment.

Again, the Apostle Paul has written: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

These two passages are ALL-INCLUSIVE, and Paul emphasized that by saying, not just once, but twice “whatever you do“, and “do all“…in the name of, and to the glory of God. This does not leave any room for some false division.

As I sit here putting in my own words a message which God has laid on my heart from Scripture, it is easy to say that I am doing “sacred” work. How about making my coffee, or preparing my breakfast, or cooking my supper? If I do those things with “thanksgiving“, they also might be considered “sacred“. But, what if I am making a beautiful set of wind-chimes, which give music to the wind? Could that be “sacred” too? What if I take my neighbor to a doctor’s appointment, or for surgery?” “Secular“…or “sacred“? How about emptying the black-water holding-tank on my RV? Ugh…how can THAT be considered “sacred“? If WHATEVER, ALL, is included, they are all sacred activities.

When our Lord Jesus said “it is finished” from the cross (John 19:30), “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51a). The veil of the temple…the wall of separation between God and man, was removed, so that ALL may have access to God through Christ Jesus. The “secular” became “sacred“.

May we all remove this false division in our lives, and truly believe that EVERYTHING we do is sacred…a service of worship to our great King and Almighty God, to the good of His kingdom, and for His glory. This whole world IS God’s kingdom. Amen…and AMEN!

As Filthy Rags…

What mental-images does “filthy-rags” bring to mind? Perhaps we think of those nasty shop-rags hanging out in our garage. For those who are parents, maybe it is dirty-diapers. And then there is…

In 1993, I worked in a welding shop, and most of the work we did was on trucks – BIG trucks – semis. The nastiest of the nasty were the car-haulers…the “portable-parking-lots“. Because they were built low to the ground, they collected road-grime like there was no tomorrow, and because the ones we worked on were older and typically hauled used vehicles, they were slathered with all the drips and leaks from hundreds of vehicles. There was no way we could stay clean and work on those critters, but thankfully our boss provided shop-rags and coveralls through a uniform-service. Some days it looked like we had swam in all that crud. I would have hated to take my filthy clothes home for my wife to wash, because nothing short of a commercial laundry could ever get those clothes clean.

As a parent, I changed quite a few dirty diapers, and even though disposable diapers were available, we couldn’t afford them. We had a pile of cloth diapers, and particularly when we had two babies in diapers, we washed a LOT of diapers. By the time the diaper-pail got full, and my wife did laundry, they were rank, even though she had rinsed them out.

And then there is…
The image of “filthy-rags” used in scripture is that of menstrual-rags. Women didn’t just start having menstrual periods when Kotex sanitary napkins were invented. Eve started that “tradition“. Is it any wonder that when a man notices that his wife is a bit cranky, he says “She is on-the-rag“? Menstrual rags were hand-made, one at a time, so they had to be washed-out…cleaned, before they could be used again. Can you imagine a bucket full of those nasty things?

That IS the image…
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

The “way”…
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (Phillipians 2:2)

How many people are working FOR their salvation? Are you, am I, working for our salvation? We don’t seem to be confident that God can get the job done without our help. We can’t get ourselves (self) out of the way of God, and we each have our own way of going about it.

Muslims pray five times a day towards Mecca, and go on pilgrimages. They also believe that if the die a martyr, they will be rewarded in heaven with 70 virgins, and even though they keep their women covered head-to-toe in cloth, it is easy to tell what is really on their minds… What do the women get who die as a martyr?

Mormons are required to be missionaries as part of the progression to adulthood. So that their marriage will last even into heaven, they get married in the temple.

Jehovah’s Witnesses put in “service” to make sure they are part of the “chosenfew“.

Many Christians believe that they must “contribute” to their salvation, or that they must help “keep themselves saved“. That is blatantly false.

I knew that “Jesus loves me” from a young age, but I wasn’t so sure about God, to I tried to “keep the rules” so that I could keep from incurring God’s wrath and anger, but it didn’t work… I felt the sting of His belt quite regularly.

The common denominator is that all of us really think that God needs our help, and that our salvation is really “earned“, not a truly free gift. One of the problems is that we always fall far short of the mark…

As filthy rags…
The problem is that we are practicing an empty religion… Our “new-legalism” is really just reborn Pharisaism. As we can tell from Isaiah 64:6, the Israelites were practicing legalism in his day as well. They were practicing empty religion…keeping the rules, but not loving God and giving Him true worship.

If we are trying to earn our way into heaven, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. If it were up to us to merit our salvation, we could not earn one nano-second in heaven, nor could be get ourselves one nano-meter closer to heaven. For those who are not scientifically-inclined, a nano-second is one billionth of a second, and a nano-meter is a billionth of a meter…very small measurements.

A more excellent way…
We must accept that we are naked and polluted…spiritually-bankrupt, before Almighty God, and that the ONLY was we will ever gain entrance into heaven is through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We have to take ourselves out of the salvation process, and accept what He has done for us.

What about “working out our salvation”?
Our “good-works” and “righteous-acts” should give evidence of our salvation…of the grace and mercy of God in our lives. For a person to “claim” to be saved, but show no evidence of it, their claim should be seen as shallow at best. It is not that we are going to become dynamos of good-deeds and righteous-acts as soon as we are saved, but those things should grow and become a greater part of our lives as we mature in Christ.

Righteous acts of the saints…
7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)

While we WILL be rewarded in heaven for our acts of service to our Lord, that reward should NOT be our motivation. We should respond with gratitude for what the Lord has done for us, not for the self-serving desire to gain a “greater-reward“. We should “give Him glory” in everything we do.

From my own testimony…
While I knew that Jesus loves me, God was distant, scowling, rule-enforcing, and completely unlike our Heavenly Father. It seemed that His belt was always handy, and I felt its sting often. I accepted Jesus as my Savior at an early age, but measuring up to God’s impossible standards was a nightmare. I knew nothing about salvation by grace through faith, and even after I accepted it as theological fact, it took many years to start to sink in, and I am not sure it will completely this side of heaven. I was always striving, striving, striving, but never getting there. Life seemed more downs than ups.

Outwardly I seemed to do okay, but inwardly I was a mess. At each low-point in my life, God picked me up, dusted me off, and helped me get back on my feet…for a while. Every time I said “ I am going to make it this time“, I failed again. It seemed to be a never-ending cycle…up, then down, up, then down. “It” was still dependent on me, and I couldn’t get “it” done. Of course that was exactly what God wanted me to realize all along…that I couldn’t do it on my own, but I had to keep trying, because that was all I knew. His grace was there, but I couldn’t see it. Maybe I couldn’t even trust it. Maybe I couldn’t even trust Him…

I pray that my own testimony is NOT yours also, that you DON’T and HAVEN’T struggled to do it on your own, but if you have…give it up, and let God do it ALL. You will have a lot more peace in your heart.

If God hadn’t held me up, I would have gone down in flames long ago.

God bless!

The “Shame” of Nakedness…

Nakedness is “shameful”?

How many times have you heard something like: “Get your clothes on!“, or “Cover that nasty thing up!“, or maybe “Running around naked is just plain WRONG!“. We have all heard those statements at some time in our lives, but why? Is there something “shameful” about our bodies? Is God’s image in us, which He called “very good“, somehow “shameful“? Why are Adam and Eve described as being “naked and unashamed“, and then a few verses in that narrative later, Adam told God that “I was afraid because I was naked“? Is it really “shameful” to be “naked“? That is what our churches and society would have us believe…

What I would submit to you is that the shame Adam and Eve felt was shame of the heart, not shame of the body, and being physically unclothed had nothing to do with it. First I want to look at Adam and Eve’s condition before the fall, and then their condition after the fall. We will also look at Isaiah 20 to see if there are any clues there.

Naked and unashamed…

They were naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) That is how Adam and Eve are described after God created them in His image, which He called “very good“. In addition to God’s image in their bodies, Adam and Eve were in perfect fellowship with God, and their relationship with each other was perfect as well. We are told that they walked and talked together in the Garden. This is a picture of “perfect-completeness“. God had provided everything they needed physically in the Garden, and fellowship with Him made them spiritually-complete. While it is true that they had no external clothing, in the Garden they didn’t “need” any either. In reality, Adam and Eve were only “nude“, or clothes-free. In the truest sense, they were NOTnaked“, because they were complete, but something happened…

Naked and afraid…

9 – Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 – So he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself”. (Genesis 3:9-10) Why were Adam and Eve afraid? Was it their physical nakedness that cause their fear?

Not quite… 11 – And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, and in so doing, had disrupted their perfect fellowship with Him. Their “very good” bodies had NOT changed, but their HEART had. They were no longer “complete“. They had become spiritually-bankrupt.

The difference…

Before their fall, Adam and Eve were “unashamed” – complete, even though they had no physical clothing. After their fall, there was a huge spiritual void in their lives, which was actually the cause of their fear and shame, and no amount of clothing could ever erase that condition, although they struggled in vain to do so.

Isaiah 20:

The “naked” Prophet…

In the year that the commander came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it, 2 at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips and take your shoes off your feet.” And he did so, going naked and barefoot. (Isaiah 20:1-2)

“Naked” Egypt…

3 And the Lord said, “Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. (Isaiah 20:3-4)

“Shameful” Israel…

5 Then they will be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast. 6 So the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, ‘Behold, such is our hope, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and we, how shall we escape?’ (Isaiah 20:5-6)

The difference…

Isaiah, one of the Lord’s great prophets, was commissioned by God to proclaim a message both to Egypt and to Israel. God also told Isaiah to take his clothes and shoes off. Isaiah was in intimate fellowship with God, and was proclaiming His message, so Isaiah was by no means “incomplete“. Isaiah was to proclaim that message in the buff – nude, but to those for whom the message was intended, there was a deeper meaning. Isaiah had no reason to feel “shame“, but his audience did.

Egypt was a proud country. Its Pharaohs had build huge cities, magnificent temples and amazing pyramids…to their OWN glory. Their nobles wore fine clothing and expensive jewelry. Their Pharaohs WERE their “gods“, along with an assortment of other “deities” which they worshiped, but there was no place for the true LORD God.

Israel had entered in a defense-alliance with Egypt, rather than depending on the LORD God. When God decided to punish Egypt for their arrogance and godlessness, He also intended it to be a sign to Israel, that they could no longer depend on Egypt for their defense.

God’s Word through Isaiah was that Egypt was going to be totally-devastated by the Assyrian army. They were even going to lose the clothes off their backs…they were going to be NAKED. Their pride was going to be reduced to ashes, and Israel was going to know that it happened. Israel was going to be “dismayed and ashamed“, with no hope.

Isaiah was simply clothes-free – “nude“, but Egypt was going to be NAKED in the truest sense of the word.

Naked and unashamed…

When I post or comment on Christian Naturist Village, I end my messages with “I am naked and unashamed in Christ!“. As a sinner, I know that I have no “goodness” of my own. Apart from Christ, I am spiritually-bankrupt. I can do NOTHING to earn, merit or contribute to my salvation. I know it, and so does God. I bring nothing to the table, because I have nothing to bring. In that sense, I am “naked“, but it doesn’t end there. While God knows my sinful heart, He doesn’t count it against me, because of what Jesus Christ brings to the table for me…His perfect righteousness. HE bore my shame on that cross, and He has given me what only He can give – salvation through grace and a perfect record before God, so I need not have or feel any more shame.

That is how I can be “Naked and unashamed“, because I am in Christ.

God bless!

Some Thoughts on Valentine’s Day…

February 14th…the day we call “Valentine’s Day“…the day we celebrate our love for the one we love. What is it that we either love or hate about that day? Do you have mixed emotions about Valentines Day? I certainly do…

Valentines Day is second only to Christmas in the number and kinds of gifts that are given. People start making their Valentines Day plans often far in advance, and with great anticipation. There are plans to make, gifts to buy, special dinners to prepare for, even special trips to arrange. People often spend money they don’t have in an attempt to show their love in a tangible way to the one they love. It is a very special day for a man to ask his beloved to marry him. While that is all well and good, shouldn’t they be showing their love for their beloved EVERY day of the year?

Why do we only focus on love one day a year? Why not every day? Why do those who have no beloved feel left out in the cold?

I have spent far too many Valentines Days alone, though not by choice, and this year was no exception. It isn’t that I don’t have a special someone who I love deeply. It is that she is in love with someone else, even though she is married to me. Our short-lived “marriage” lasted a mere six weeks. For her, I was just a means to an end. She left me out of her Valentines Day plans. I received no card, no chocolates, not even a text-message or call from her. I am “out-of-sight, out-of-mind“.

My Valentines Day dawned as an ordinary day. Sure, there was a Valentines Day dinner and dance in the community that I live in, and another at the church I attend, but I couldn’t go to those, because Valentines Day is a day for COUPLES. Besides, I had a doctor’s appointment…

Sometimes love has a way of finding us…where we least expect it. As I walked into my urologist’s office, I noticed a large Valentine card on her door. Someone had shown her love and left her chocolates. We get along very well, but it seemed that our relationship was even warmer that day.

I had to stick around the medical center, so that she could make certain I didn’t over-react to the new medication I was trying out. I also needed to get some blood-work done.

Against that backdrop, in walks love. Oh, it wasn’t THAT kind of love, but it WAS love. The ladies of one of the veterans organizations were roaming around the facility handing out Valentines Day cards. These were no ordinary cards though. They were hand-made by grade-school children, specially for us…veterans. While they were getting the usual school-kid cards and treats, we were getting a far greater treat – their love. I even received TWO cards, and a small, stuffed, red monkey.

As I was thinking that day about it, I realized that EVERY day is Valentines Day to God. He doesn’t just think of us one day a year. He is our “allday, everyday” lover. God loves us so much, that He sent His own Son into this world to become one with us. Then, if that wasn’t enough, His Son, Jesus Christ, gave the ultimate gift…His life, that we might become part of God’s family. Our Lord Jesus Christ was God’s Valentines Day gift to us, and that Gift keeps right on giving. In John 15:13, Jesus says: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his own life for his friends“. On that old, rugged cross, He showed us what true love is.

Lest you think that all I did was “get” on that special day… No, I didn’t just “get“. I became a giver also. I was privileged to share the Good News of freedom from bondage in Jesus Christ with a fellow struggler that afternoon. I also shared one of those special cards with my neighbor-gal, and I gave her the red monkey…because, like me, she has no one to give her a Valentine either. We are just friends, but she needs love too. Giving is its own special gift, so I was blessed many-fold.

May we always remember that God is our ultimate Lover, and that His love never fails. Every day is Valentines Day

God bless!

At What Cost?

Most of us who have put our faith and trust in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ have at least some idea of the tremendous cost of our salvation. What is given freely to us cost the giver – God – an incredible price. Numerous sermons have been preached, and many scholarly papers have been written about the horrendous death Jesus Christ died. While His physical suffering is important for us to understand, I believe it is the tip of the salvation-cost ice-berg. I am going to talk briefly about His physical suffering, and then I want to examine in more depth what I believe to be the greater costs.

By the time our Lord Jesus walked the earth, the Romans had raised the art of torture and painful execution to a totally different level. Their scourgings were intended to torture and humiliate their prisoners beyond belief. Their professional floggers knew exactly how much punishment a person could take without killing them outright, and that is how far they went. Our Lord Jesus was scourged until the whole back half of His body was a shredded, blood mess. Imagine being flogged naked for an hour with barbed-wire strands by several pros, while stretched on a flogging-post.

Then He was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, bleeding and half-dead, to a public place on a hill where they carried out their crucifixions. By the time they got Him there, He was so weak that they had to drag Him. He couldn’t even carry His own cross-bar, so they pressed someone else into service for that.

The crucifixion itself was the most cruel punishment that had ever been devised. Those who were being executed were once again stripped naked. They wouldn’t be needing their clothes again anyway, and that was further humiliation. He was thrown on top of His cross, and His wrists and feet were nailed to it with crude iron spikes. Once the cross was raised vertically, His whole weight was supports by just three points. He hung there, between Heaven and earth, until He died of dehydration, blood-loss, suffocation and fatigue. While He suffered horribly, His suffering otherwise is what we will deal with next. Jesus wasn’t alone in suffering that horrible death that day. Two criminals were also crucified, one on each side of Him.

Do we really understand WHY our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on that cross? Maybe I should put that question another way. Do we really understand the penalty for sin? The Bible says: “For the WAGES of SIN is DEATH…” (Romans 6:23) Death…yes, physical death, but more importantly, spiritual death. Spiritual death means separation from God, separation from all that is good, and union with all that is evil…for ALL ETERNITY.

One friend told me that he was going to be partying in Hell while I sat on my cloud and played my harp. If those are his ideas of Heaven and Hell, he is sadly mistaken. Perhaps a better picture of hell is getting dropped in an inescapable prison yard, full of inmates, each with a Roman flogger, endlessly whipping each other and you…for all eternity. No love…only hate, no compassion…only disdain, no good…only EVIL. Oh, there WILL be people partying, but in Heaven, not in Hell. I can imagine that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be a party to end parties. Imagine Golden Corral, only infinitely better, hosted and provided by the God of all creation.

Part of the penalty for sin is His curse upon us. God’s favor is portrayed as the light of His countenance shining upon us, so His curse, which is the opposite of His favor, is God’s “turning out the light” of His countenance upon us. Jesus Christ had NEVER been separated from His Father for so much as a nano-second in all eternity. The light of His Father’s countenance shone upon Him during His whole earthly journey, until He died on that cross. Jesus, Who was sinless, took upon Himself OUR sin, and when He died on that cross, He died for us as we should have died. Jesus experienced the totality of God’s wrath and curse…God “turned out the lights”, both physically and spiritually. God turned His back on His OWN Son. God was silent…absent, until He thundered from heaven, rolled the stone away, and breathed fresh life into His only begotten Son…our Savior.

There are a couple of wonderful songs that capture this in a way I could never describe it. I will have a couple more comments after them.
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How Deep The Father’s Love For Us
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
(Stuart Townend)
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Ten Thousand Angels Cried
Stillness filled the heavens, on crucifixion day.
Some say it rained, I don’t know if it’s true.
Well, I can just imagine ten thousand angels cried
That would seem like rain to me and you.

The angels all stood ready to take Him from the tree
They waited for the words from His voice.
And when He asked the Father “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?
They watched the Saviour die of His own choice.

I’ve never seen ten thousand angels cry
But I’m sure they did
As they stood by
And watched the Saviour die.

God turned his head away
He couldn’t bear the sight
It must have looked like rain
When ten thousand angels cried.

As the sun slipped away
The skies turned to grey
And when Jesus gave His all
That’s when the tears began to fall

I’ve never seen ten thousand angels cry
But I’m sure they did
As they stood by
And watched the Saviour die.

God turned his head away
He couldn’t bear the sight
It must have looked like rain
When ten thousand angels cried.

It must have looked like rain
When ten thousand angels cried.
(Leann Rimes)
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Do we see ourselves as the ones who crucified our Lord? Do we see ourselves as the REASON He went to that cross? Can we understand the full impact of what was done on that day of infamy?

That IS the cost of our salvation. We can neither earn it, nor can we add or subtract from it. It is our job to humbly acknowledge our part in His death, and gratefully accept His gift.

I pray that we do, and that our gratitude grows greater every passing day.

The cost – beyond comprehension. God’s love – indescribable. His gift – beyond compare.

The Creation and the Fall of Mankind

Genesis 1:26-31
New King James Version (NKJV)
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 2:7-25
7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 3
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
21 Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
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This is the account of the creation of mankind and the fall from the book of Genesis without any cultural alterations, but how do 21st century American Christians read and interpret this account? Most we will read the account “as-is” until they get to Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

What about that “naked and not-ashamed” part? Shouldn’t that mean that they were “naked, but something didn’t feel quite right“? Shouldn’t they have been ashamed, since they were naked? Or, how could God have the audacity to create them naked, and not provide them a whole wardrobe of clothing?

Maybe they weren’t ashamed when they were taking a bath or having sex, but living naked? They HAD to be ashamed at their nakedness…

The problem is that these interpretations don’t fit the text. If the Bible is God’s Word, then it was God that said they were “naked and not ashamed“.

In this culture, nakedness is automatically equated with shame, and the only situations where a person is allowed to be naked are when they are bathing or changing clothes, or having sex, or being examined by a doctor or other medical person. Even then we may feel shame…

What we fail to take into account is that Adam and Eve had never had clothes on, and had never seen anyone with clothes on. Even the concept of clothing was foreign to them, so being “naked“, as we think of it, was totally NORMAL to them. Even the concept of being “naked” was unknown to them. They weren’t “naked“… they were as God created them. The French call it “au naturel“, which is quite an elegant description.

There are still indigenous tribes of people living in remote parts of the world who spend their entire lives without any form of clothing. The only way they would ever know the difference was if someone from a clothed culture invaded their territory. For them, living without clothing is NORMAL, and the concept of being “naked” would not even register. We are the ones who have a problem with being “clothes-free“.

We tend to interpret Scripture through the lens of our culture, rather than interpreting our culture through the LIGHT of Scripture.
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So what about the fall? On to Genesis 3… 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

The critical verse here is Genesis 3:7 “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings .”

Well why didn’t they make coverings for themselves earlier? They were naked, and why did it take them this long to figure it out? Because before they sinned, they had no reason to feel shame… They also didn’t know there was a difference.

Again, our culture equates nakedness with shame, while the true source if their shame was disobeying God, NOT their nakedness.

Do you see the problem here? The real problem is that we are projecting our cultural biases back several thousand years on Adam and Eve, and they had no such biases. They were “naked and unashamed“.
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How about this clothing issue?
From Genesis 3:21 we read “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” They had made themselves temporary coverings, and God made them more durable coverings, but why?

The answer to the “why” question comes from Genesis 3:18a “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” Thorns and thistles… The Garden of Eden provided a perfect and safe environment for them to live and work, but the “real” world was not going to be quite as hospitable. They would face extremes of temperature, both hot and cold. They would face those flesh-damaging thorns and thistles, and what about those unmentioned stinging and biting insects?

God knew all these things. After all, He created it all, so the solution He provided was coverings of skins…coverings that were far more durable than their fig-leaf coverings. God’s provision was a gracious act…one He had no obligation to do. He could have left them to fend for themselves, but He didn’t.

Doesn’t that seal the deal? They needed clothes and God provided them… WHOA…not so quick on the draw there. Where do you read that God told them to wear those clothes? Come on…keep looking…have you found it yet? Of course not, because it IS NOT THERE. God NEVER told Adam and Eve to wear those clothes. He simply, graciously provided them, for when they actually needed them.

A quick, simple analogy:
Suppose you had been raised in Key West, and had never been outside of Florida, and for some reason, you were forced to move to northern Alaska. Would your “Florida” clothing be adequate? How much protection would a skimpy bikini offer at 40 degrees below zero? Of course the answer is obvious…not even in summer. Would you need appropriate clothing for the difference in climate? Of course you would. Do you get my drift?
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But what about us? In 21st-century America, clothing has become so deeply ingrained in our culture that even Bible-believing Christians have believed this myth. The original purpose for clothing was to provide protection from the elements, NOT to dispel the shame of nudity.

Only one question remains…from Genesis 3:11 “And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?” The only remaining creature that wasn’t interviewed was Satan…the Serpent. God knew the answer, and He knew that Satan was the one that told Adam and Eve that they were naked. Satan is called “the father of lies“, and he sure told Adam and Eve a couple of whoppers. The truly sad part is that we are still believing Satan’s second lie…that nakedness brings shame.
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For the true answer to these questions, we must go back to Genesis 1:26-28... “26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Do you see it? According to verse 26, we are image-bearers of God, made in His likeness. What does that say about our bodies? In verse 31, God saw everything that he had made, and it wasVERY GOOD“. God liked what He saw then, and nowhere in Scripture does it ever say that He changed His mind. We are STILL image-bearers of God…thus our bodies ARE very good, notused to be“, but ARE.

For a wee bit more perspective, we go finally to Psalm 139:13-16, a Psalm of David, where he says:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

If those beautiful words don’t create in us the sense that we are God’s masterpieces, nothing will. We are each a special creation…as special a creation as our first parents, made and autographed by God Himself. Once in a while, God likes a particular blueprint so well that He makes two at the same time – identical-twins. If we are His masterpieces, how can we NOT be made in His image?
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It is high-time Bible-believing Christians start redeeming our culture for God, and start seeing themselves for who they really are…God’s image-bearers. Not shame…dignity. Not ugliness…beauty. I will look at how we distort our image of ourselves in another segment.

Read the Bible…believe the Bible, and allow the Bible to form your cultural views, not visa-versa.