universal love

Universal Love of God

A guest post by Nic Bryson

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

universal loveI’ve wondered how the world can be so prejudiced. We as humans look on the outside but God looks on the inside.

We look at the color of a person’s skin, their disabilities, or the way they are dressed. At the same time God is looking at the person that is on the inside and how caring and compassionate they are.

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). In this scripture, again, God is saying that no one is less equal or inferior but that we are all the same.

Another good reference is, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (Romans 10:12). Here again He is saying that He cares not about race.

Back in the Bible times there was prejudice also, it’s not just a recent thing in the past few centuries. The Jews and the Gentiles are just one example of it.

The Jews were the “superior” race (because they were God’s chosen people), and the Gentiles were “inferior.” Although when Christ came and preached the word to everyone, like these scriptures say, He did not look on the outside of the people He was preaching to, but on the person.

We think that no one is prejudice anymore, but just the other night my family and I sat down to watch a video that my father brought home.

It was about two men, who worked together side by side everyday, who were taken by a news crew from 20/20 to test the different responses of people depending on the color of skin.

They took them to the same places and each of them did the same things as the other. Yet, they still received different responses, all of them favoring the man whose skin was lighter.

In the same way, it happens everyday around us  and we say that people are not like that anymore, but they are. I just hope that one day we will be able to say it does not happen and that statement be completely true.

A Spiritual Mother

A guest post by Louise Robertson

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

When I was growing up my mother would say to her children, “When you are little you step on my toes; but when you are grown you step on my heart.”

I’m a grandmother and a great-grandmother. After the children are grown, instead of stepping on your toes and your heart, they sometimes almost cut your heart out.

After the children are grown, you have to watch what you say to them. Most grown children do not control their tongue. You may want to live their life for them, but you can’t.

A mother gives birth to a happy, healthy, bouncing baby boy or girl. For the first few days she will hug, pat and caress her little baby. She will rock back and forth, and say, “I love you forever,” and “I like you always,” and “as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

When they are growing up you get angry because of things they might be doing, and you might say, “You’re driving me crazy.”

When the child gets to be a teenager, they think they are eighteen going on twenty-one. They like loud music and strange clothes. Sometimes, it would be great if you could put them in a barrel, cover up the hole, and let them out whenever they are twenty-one.

Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: “Like mother, like daughter!”

“You are your mother’s daughter, loathing husband and children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children; your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite” (Ezekiel 16:44-45).

Most children today think you can buy love, but you can’t buy love, because love is not sold anywhere.

 

The Love of Many

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Among the prophecies of the Lord was one that must have been painful for Him to speak. It is contained in the above verse.

The apostle Paul, in his instruction, said we should put on the whole armor of God that “you may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13).

There can be no doubt that the Lord’s words are true. You can see how the love of many has turned cold.

Christians, once steadfast, once regular in attendance, once supportive of every good work, abandoning their faith and breaking the hearts of loved ones in Christ, their lives blighting their relationship with others, and their consuming self-interest has destroyed their usefulness to the Lord.

Their love has waxed cold.

Those who have held steadfast sometimes asked themselves, “Why?” Self-incrimination often follows. They ask themselves, “Where have I failed?” or “How have I failed?” “What could I have done that would have made a difference?”

A person seeking entrance into the military electronic school was told by his superior officer in the service, “You will never make the grade.”

The reason Christians are compared to soldiers (Ephesians 6) is because of the rigors of training. Some just do not have the qualities required to be able to “stand.”

Do you?

Or, do you feel like the little boy trying to sharpen a cheap pocket knife? It just does not have metal hard enough to take an edge.

Has the world taken the “temper” (degree of hardness or strength) out of you…that which would enable you to, as the Scriptures say, “Stand?”

Making the simple switch, from sitting to standing, begins with love.

 

The Gift of God

A guest post by Ronald F. Pounders

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, so you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

“Love is a beautiful thing.”

“Love is a physical attraction.”

“Love is never having to say you’re sorry.”

“Love is something you show to people you like.”

The Bible agrees that love is a beautiful thing but says it is much more than just a feeling.

Love is a verb—it actively participates. Go to the Bible and seek all passages which refer to God’s love. They all have one thing in common—”God loved, so He gave” or “God so loved, so He did.”

This gives us a clue as to the meaning of love—it’s foremost characteristic is an active quality which evidences itself in giving to others, in pouring out its feelings in deeds of kindness.

Love is a way of living life to the fullest. Psychologists tell us that man has two basic needs: to love and to be loved.

God is love. Love is the very essence of His being.

Jesus is God’s love personified. Because He loves us, a relationship with Him is possible.

God loves us for ourselves. God loves unconditionally. God loves unselfishly. God loves us while we are still His enemy.

True love is reciprocal—the more you give, the more you get. Love in this way is difficult, however God rewards those who take up the challenge. He forgives our sins. He drives out our fears. He gives us greater strength to love.

We may be unable to meet everyone’s needs for love. We can meet the needs of a few and meet some of the needs of others:

“I am only one, but I am one.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something.

What I can do, I ought to do.

By the will of God — I will love

and lighten someone’s load.”

 

Overcoming Depression

Depression tear

Guest Post by David Johnson

“Overcoming despair, depression and discouragement God’s way” (Job 1-3).

1. Even the strongest believers can be discouraged and depressed.

Depression and despair are tools Satan uses most often. If he can create in us any of these symptoms, then we begin to lose our faith, and “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

In II Corinthians 1:8-11, we find that even Paul experienced depression. However, he recognized where his help came from.

2. We may be going through many levels of depression simultaneously!

a. Intellectually (Job 3)

b. Emotionally

c. Spiritually

3. Discouragement can cause us to lose perspective

a. We often forget who God really is. What we may consider as tough, difficult, challenging, and impossible, for God it is nothing.

b. Remember, the power of His Word holds the whole world, and we even sing, “He Has the Whole World in His Hands.”

4. Do not keep your deep pain to yourself. Share it with someone else.

5. Remember that God has a purpose for our suffering (I Peter 1:3-9).

In conclusion: take the proper steps to avoid depression:

a. Memorize and meditate on the Scriptures. Also, remember songs of faith when tried or tempted to sin, such as, “Yield Not to Temptation.”

b. Listen to Christian music.

c. Stay in Christian fellowship.

d. Find someone else to encourage.

e. Find a prayer partner.

f. Remember that God is sovereign.

g. Maintain physical exercise.

Peace and Contentment in Life

Guest Post Author: Don Litchford

One definition of contentment is satisfaction with one’s lot, or a disposition of mind undisturbed by anxiety or envy.

It seems that as I read the newspaper and watch TV, the majority of people have very little of either peace or contentment. In general, we are always in a hurry to get some place other than where we are. We have very little patience with our fellow man and we generally want much more in life than we now have or need.

I grew up on a farm and I remember very well the much slower pace of life back then. Neighbors worked to help each other and we always had time to visit either with neighbors or family. We didn’t have a lot of the world’s material goods, but we never did desire to a great extent those things we knew were beyond our obtaining. I guess what I am trying to say is we were content and at peace with ourselves and those came in contact with.

Hebrews 13:5 says to keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, “…never will I leave your and never will I forsake you.” The only true way to find peace and contentment is to put our lives in the hands of the Lord. When difficult times come, as they have for my family, it is only by placing our lives in the trust of God that we can survive and know with full knowledge that God will give us peace and contentment.

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Persecuted

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

Jesus ends the beatitudes by saying, “Blessed are those persecuted, reviled, and spoken against.” Would anyone care to get in “the blessed line” after hearing that?

Most of us prefer popularity, praise, and prosperity over persecution. Certainly applause is more appealing than abuse, and we’d much rather have one’s support than be slandered.

From a Christian perspective, persecution isn’t that hard to evade. One needs only to live as the world lives and by default approve of its standards, or lack thereof; simply engage with the world by using its language, adopting its practices, and enjoying its entertainment.

Furthermore, never confront any sin or engage a sinner in a discussion of his eternal destiny. Never, ever suggest that Christ is the only way and any other religious “system” is a lie. If questioned, lie about your convictions (which you don’t have) and never publicly take a stand for God or Biblical truths.

Could it be that we suffer so little persecution because we have don just that?

Truth be told, our lives are just not that different form the world. Surveys repeatedly reveal that professing Christians do not live that differently from the world in that their stated faith has had little impact on how they live their daily lives.

While they profess faith and attend services, most tend to watch the same movies and TV programs, listen to the same music, dress and talk the same, and pursue the same goals.

The divorce rate among Christians is almost as high as that of the world, as are the rates of school cheating, teens lying to parents, alcohol use, and premarital sex.

We want to point to the world and blame it for the change in our own behavior. In our hearts we know that isn’t the problem.

The fact is we have lowered our personal standards for righteous living. While our standards have changed, God’s standards for righteous living have not. Personal holiness is still part of the required curriculum for following Christ.

Followers of Christ have been called t olive righteous lives. In the context of this study, we have been called to live a beatitude kind of life.

Here is the hard reality of such a life: Anyone who lives out the first seven beatitudes is guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth.

The word for “persecuted” (dioko) means to harass or to treat in an evil way. The word for “revile” (oneidizo) means to abuse with vile, vicious, mocking words. It is the word used by the thieves in Matthew 27:44 who “heaped insults” on Jesus. The phrase “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” means to slander by stating things that are not true.

Jesus was clear in that one who chose to follow Him and live by His standards would encounter opposition and persecution.

He spoke of carrying a cross and counting the cost (Luke 14:27-28). He made it clear to His disciples that just as He had been persecuted, they would experience a similar fate (John 15:20).

Paul echoed that same truth often with such words as, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12).

The early Christians were persecuted horribly. Christians were flung to the lions, wrapped in pitch and burned, sewed in animal skins and torn to death by hunting dogs, tortured on racks, burned to death by molten iron being poured over them, body parts cut off and roasted before them, and many other such horrific acts of torture.

They were accused of eating each other, committing immorality, participating in orgies, setting fires to cities, being revolutionaries, inciting political unrest, and breaking up families.

When Paul wrote, “For to you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29), those were far more than words on paper to those maligned and persecuted Christians living in Philippi.

Those called to bring peace had discovered the price for such, and that price was often persecution and death.

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, “When a man encounters Jesus, he will do one of two things. Either he must die, or he must put Christ to death.” The question each must face is which of those two we have done.

A beatitude kind of life s a death wish.

Bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable desire for righteousness, sharing the mercy received, seeking purity in everything they do, and sharing the message of peace, one finds himself totally committed to living a Christ-centered, God-honoring, kingdom-focused, self-denying life.

One also finds himself at odds with a sinful, selfish, self-indulgent world. Every virtue stated in the beatitudes is at odds with the world of which we are a part. A broken spirit stands in stark contrast to the proud, self-promoting world in which we live.

Mourning sin certainly creates issues in our “I’m okay, you’re okay” culture. Submission to and a hunger for God is a foreign concept in our selfish, self-centered world.

One who lives a life of mercy and purity while promoting peace through a relationship with Christ will find himself swimming in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, hostile waters.

I want to tell you that persecution is something you read about in the Bible and something that no longer happens. The reality is there were over a quarter million individuals killed last year because of their faith in Christ throughout the world.

While the vast majority is in other countries, one has to have his head in the sand to fail to see the constant progression of opposition to Christianity in our own country. In 2012 there were 115 incidents of church-related violence reported, 63 of which resulted in death.

When we think about violent opposition to people of faith, we are reminded of Columbine a few years back when Cassie Bernall was asked, “Do you believe in God?” and when she answered “Yes,” she was shot. Rachel Scott, a young lady known for her faith, was also killed.

Where the opposition to and persecution of Christianity is headed is anyone’s guess, but at present things are not getting better but worse.

How is one to respond to persecution?

Biblically, one needs to understand that persecution can serve a good purpose, a sit forces us to look heavenward, take stock of what we believe and are committed to, strengthens our faith, and encourages others who may endure a similar fate.

To handle persecution in a God-honoring way, I would suggest that you:

(1) Recognize the source. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we will always be in a battle with the “forces of evil.”

(2) Refuse to retaliate. Romasn 12:17-19 tells us that vengeance is not a part of the Christian’s job description. Vengeance belongs to God.

(3) Respond positively. If you are always trying to get even, you will never get ahead. Romans 12:21 tells us to overcome evil with good.

(4) Reflect on God’s will. David in Psalm 37:7-9 reminds us to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently on Him.”

Jesus never preached a prosperity gospel. His final promise in the beatitudes was a promise of persecution for those who lived out those qualities listed before.

God’s greatest were persecuted. That will never change. How are you doing?

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.