The Sacrifice of Praise (Hebrews 13:15)

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

The Hebrew author has just extolled the value and virtue of Jesus, particularly regarding his redeeming work on the Cross. Because of what Christ has done for us our response is to offer to unceasing and sacrificial praise to him. In this way, we are proclaiming our undying fealty to him.

It bewilders me that the author here describes praise as being sacrificial in nature. Shouldn’t we enthusiastically praise Jesus all the time for the amazing things he has done for us? Shouldn’t praise be as natural to us as breathing?

Sure, ideally. However, the praise of the “forever-worthy” Christ is sacrificial in nature because we must eliminate, or suspend, something else in order to do this grand act of worship.  Biblically nuanced, worship generally, and praise specifically, is always considered as a valuable gift we give to God. And the greatest give we can possibly give is to render our full selves unto to God in deep admiration and adoration.

So how can we practically fulfill the command to offer “continual sacrifice of praise to God, through Jesus” especially in a culture where both Christians and non-Christians increasingly treat Sunday’s (The Lord’s Day) as the second Saturday of the week, i.e., an extra day of recreation to “do what I want to do?”

Answer: We whole-heartedly proclaim our steadfast allegiance to his name by making congregational worship the heartbeat and highlight of our week. And we do so, unflinchingly and faithfully!

See you this Sunday.

Agape,

Pj

Love God V-How To 3

Intro:
 
Have you ever sat down with a loved one and explained to them exactly how he or she should meet your relational needs? If that sounds strange it’s probably is because we have an innate fear that expressing our needs is selfish (it’s not). Or, we might be suffering from the Hollywood or romance novel syndrome. That’s the assumption that if my spouse or loved one, is really into me they will intuitively know what my needs are, without me ever uttering a single solitary word.
 
Although conversations about relational needs met may be rare or even uncomfortable, they are indispensable for healthy and growing relationships. I say that because over the years I have noticed that most of the issues that surface during counseling sessions revolve around a lack of communication regarding relational needs. Most people want their relationships to be satisfying, fulfilling, and successful but haven’t openly or honestly discussed how to make it so. And we all know what happens when relational needs aren’t met. Dysfunctions like frustration, anger, and resentment can settle in and damage the relationship, sometimes permanently. The irony: these can be easily avoided if we clearly communicate our relational expectations. For instance,
 
I need you to finish that “honey-do” list honey because acts of service are my main love language. I really need you to be more affectionate. I love it when we spend time together without distractions.
 
How Jesus Wants to Be Loved
How many do you know that Jesus was a clear communicator but he certainly wasn’t selfish? He certainly didn’t leave us in the dark as to what his main relational need was, particularly how he wanted us to love him. With crystal clarity, he tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me obey my commandments.” He then continued in John 14:21 “Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me.
 
Pretty simple! Pretty clear! Pretty direct! Notice it’s not, “If you love me, just believe I exist.” Or, “If you love me, just accept me.” Or, “If you love me, just do your devotions.” No, it’s “If you love me I need you to do something very specific for me, and that’s to obey my commandments.”
 
Confusing?
Who said what to who now? At first blush, Jesus tying love and obedience together seems confusing. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are, “Saved by grace through faith and not of works.” Now Jesus says that we must obey him which, quite frankly, is a lot of work. Is he saying that we are on the performance plan with him? That we are saved by obedience? What in tarnation does he mean? We’ve got to know because he gave us 49 direct commands so do we have to obey every one of them in order to be saved? Yes!
 
Obedience’s Bad Rap
Before we see the connection between love and obedience let’s just say that obedience gets a bad rap. “Obey” sounds so oppressive and authoritative. But that’s not the tone or nuance of it in Scripture. For instance, we have a family dog, an Australian Shepherd, named Crosby (by the cross), after the greatest hockey player on the planet, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Australian Shepherds are bred for high energy, high intelligence, and most of all, high will (stubbornness). They are not bred to be complaint or comfy lap dogs.
 
They can’t be. If a 1300-pound bull doesn’t want to move from one grazing place to another, the Australian’s inborn tenacity will keep him nipping at the bull’s heels until he moves, no matter how many hoofs the Aussie has to endure to the snout. When we got Crosby we were pretty much unaware of these characteristics, however. We got him because he was cute and his coloring was exquisite. However, we soon found out that we had a mammoth challenge on our hands.
 
So we need to continually teach him obedience and even once enrolled him in obedience school. Believe me, it’s continual labor of love and patience, but we keep obedience at the forefront because: (1) It makes him a better dog. (2) It protects him from danger. If he obeys us he won’t chase the ball or Geico squirrel into the busy intersection. (3) We love him. He’s a part of the family and love always wants what’s best for what it loves.
The Love – Obedience Connection
Now the connection between love and obedience is more natural than we might think. Obedience is not a condition of love for if it were it would contradict the Gospel of grace. However, hear me now and believe me later, obedience springs from love, and love motivates obedience. Let me illustrate with a couple of personal examples.
 
Growing up, my three sisters and I had chores to do. These chores included making our beds, doing dishes, washing cars, feeding animals, weeding the garden, taking out the garbage, and mowing the lawn, etc. Obviously, those chores were a chore, but every once-in-a-while I would add to them by cleaning out my dad’s garage and rearranging his toolshed. He never told me to do these things but I did them for two simple reasons, (1) They needed to be done, and (2) I loved my dad.
 
Likewise, when Lisa gives me her mile-long “honey-do” list, complete with detailed instructions and amazing specificity, I “chore” through it, sometimes, I confess, with grumbling and complaining, not to earn her love, I have that already, but because I love her, and it needs to be done.
Likewise, we obey Jesus because: (1) Doing so makes us better people. (2) Doing so protects us from danger. (3) Doing so demonstrates we love him. Obviously, we can obey out him of fear. I mean, ultimately there are consequences to disobeying the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” However, fear-based obedience neither glorifies him nor satisfies us and is not a recipe for long-term relationships.
 
Conclusion
To sum: we don’t obey Jesus out of works, fear, or even to get saved. We saved because we are madly in love with Jesus and obey him out of that same love. Obedience flows out of love while disobedience flows out of a lack of love. For instance, a husband and wife were having marital issues which, unfortunately, were being exacerbated by the wife’s extra-marital affair. She agreed to go to marital therapy but not to break-off the extra-marital relationship. Neither the therapist nor the husband could convince her that it was impossible to heal the marriage until she broke it off with the other person. “What’s the big deal” she questioned, “I still love my husband.” Who in this room would want to be in a relationship based on that kind of disobedient love?
 
Let’s conclude our message with the hope that we would love Jesus more by obeying him more. Obedient love is the most beautiful, greatest, and purest of all loves. It is the very love with which Jesus wants us to love him so let’s pray now that we are willing and able to love him in this way.

We Win (And Always Will)

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:37
 
In the face of mounting persecution and death. In the context of watching fellow Christians getting imprisoned and tortured, (many of whom were his close friends), the apostle Paul declares that despite the horrible external circumstances that we are conquerors because of what Jesus has done for us and because he loves us. He is Christus Victor, i.e., our victorious champion who sits in the unrivaled, unchallenged place of the highest authority, “The right hand of the Father” (Mark 16:19). He himself promised that although we suffer tribulation in this world, we can be filled with joy because he has already “overcome the world” (John 16:33) by his sinless life, substitutionary sacrifice, and supernatural resurrection.
 
So if you are feeling a bit down today, perhaps because of the virus, personal issues, or even the struggles of the world and church, cheer up! Be filled with joy because we win, and always will, because of Jesus’ supremacy over all forces hostile to God, his people, and his world.
 
Agape,
 
Pj

Love God III-How To Love God 2

Introduction: Uniqueness & Enormity of Love God Project

Thus far in our “Love God” series, we saw why we are to love God: he deserves it and loving him is absolutely the best thing we could ever imagine. Then we looked at how to love God. We love God by first loving the compassionate and courageous Son of God and God the Son, Jesus, with nothing less than “all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

We now come to the most challenging part of our series. If we can love God in the way we are going to describe today, then all the practical ways we are to love him, which we will cover later on in the series, will be incredibly easier. Now, come with me to one of the most troubling stories in the Bible, “The job on Job.”

A Divine Wager

In the book that bears his name, Job is characterized as a blameless and righteous man who revers God and resists evil. He has 10 kids, massive wealth, and a reputation of being, “the greatest man in all of the East” (v3). In other words, he is religious, wealthy, prolific in procreation, and a great statesman. Does it get any better than that? However, his blessed position catches the eye of Satan. So one day, he traverses the dimensions of our three-tiered universe and comes before the throne of God. God asks Satan, “What do think about my main man Job?” Satan replies,

“Honestly God, he doesn’t really move the needle for me. He’s just like all those other dirt worms you created. He only loves you because you bless him and protect him from me. You don’t seem to get it, God, nobody on earth loves you for who you are. Stop blessing and protecting Job and his love for you will fold quicker than an overcaffeinated origami artist.”  God replies, “Wanna bet?” Satan responds, “What did you have in mind?” God says, “Do your darndest against Job but do not take his life.” “You’ll see that he will love me for nothing.”

The job on Job

I don’t know how you feel about divine wagers but if this scenario doesn’t send shivers up your spine I am not sure what will. Satan leaves God and with demonic delight starts his systematic destruction of everything Job.

-v14: Job’s livestock are stolen by a rogue group called the Sabeans, who then kill some of his servants (watch out for them).

-v16: A lightning strike from heaven kills more of Job’s livestock and servants.

-v17: The Chaldeans send a raiding party that take Job’s camels and kill more of his servants (watch out for them).

-v18-19: A tornado kills all of his sons and daughters.

For Job, bad news doesn’t come in threes, but fours. After the last catastrophe, Job falls to the ground and laments (v21), “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” v22 tells us, however, that despite all that has befallen him he still loves God for nothing, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Double or Nothing: Health Crisis

Afterward, God tells Satan, “I told you Job loves me for nothing.” But Satan responds (2:4-5)

4 Skin for skin! A person will give all he has for his own life. 5 But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.

God replies, “Double or nothing?” “Take his health but do not take his life.” Talk about double jeopardy! It’s been said, “If you have your health you have everything.” But what if your health is taken away? What do you have then? Job is about to find out.

Boiling Away

The next time we see Job he’s boiling away. By that I mean he is infected with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Twice I have had the misfortune of getting boils that had to be surgically lanced from my body. Let me just say, it’s horrible! In agony and anguish, Job sits down and starts scraping away at these ulcerating pulsations. They say that God never gives us more than we can handle. Do you think Job has had enough? Well, unfortunately, there’s more to go and it’s probably the most painful part of the job on Job.

Job’s Wife

Job’s wife, i.e., his companion and confidant, sees what’s going on with her husband. She rushes in to do her dead-level best to comfort and console him. “Give it up already! Curse God and die” (2:9). Either she skipped out on their pre-marital counseling or she suddenly forgot her wedding vows: “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.” Job, on the other hand, attended both his pre-marital counseling and basic theology class. Thus, he responds to his wife, not in anger, but with air-tight logic (2:10), “Shall we receive only good from God and not trouble?” Because most of us love God for something, that seems like a rather puzzling question. But 2:10 tells us, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” Amazingly, he still loves God for nothing.

The 3 Amigos: Eliphaz, Bilad, and Zophar

I wish I could say this was the merciful end of the job on Job, but it isn’t. His three amigos, Eliphaz, Bilad, and Zophar, make a visit to support and comfort Job. They do so by blaming him for all that he has suffered. “Job just confess that your secret sin is really ticking God off. You’re the culprit of your own suffering!” How many do you think that Job needs to find some new friends? Their piling on continues day and night for days until Job finally responds in 13:15 and 19:25

Though he slays me, yet will I hope in him…

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

These Scriptures tell us, that although Job lost it all: family and friends, health and wealth that he loves God for nothing! Because he does, God double restores back to him all that he lost.

Conclusion: Helping a Person-For Nothing

I don’t know if divine wagers still occur in heaven today but if God placed his bet on you, that no matter what you would love him for nothing, would he win? Or would the devil? He is so certain that we only love God for something, and once that something is taken away, we won’t love God any longer. Now obviously, God is very generous and loves lavishing all kinds of blessings and benefits upon us, amazingly, whether we love him or not. However, do we love blessings more than the Blessor? Or gifts more than the Giver? Or, if there were no gifts or blessings at all, would we love God just for who he is? Loving God for nothing is the how on how we love God (and everyone else). Everything else is gravy, temporary gravy, so let’s pray that we might love God in that way

An Experience in Yummy Goodness

Galatians 6:10  Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
 
Paul states the “priority of opportunity” for the care ministries of the church. Indeed, the church is to care for/minister to all people at all times, however, it is to first start with the “family of believers.” The phrase “family of believers” here identifies the folks who are committed to the covenantal faith community (i.e., church) and are serving Jesus Christ by serving others.
 
In the spirit of Ephesians 6:10, Lisa and I want to take a moment to thank the caring “family of believers” of the great Bay Point church. Since her surgery a few weeks ago you have overwhelmed us with a steady stream of varied and delicious meals, (including lasagnas, soups, salads, desserts, and … drum roll please… POT ROAST & PRIME RIB). Your excellent “food care” has not only kept us well-nourished during this healing time but has greatly eased my tremendously deficient culinary skills and (fortunately or unfortunately), has totally blown up my summer plans to lose a few (lol).
 
With the army of excellent cooks and caring people at Bay Point, I’m envisioning a new initiative to feed needy folks in our community. Let’s do it!
 
Agape,
 
Pj

Run To The Tower

Proverbs 18:10
 
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
 
Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s second son, had a reputation for being the wisest wise guy in the world. After inheriting the throne from his father, he accomplished two extraordinary feats (other than marring 1000 women lol), (1) construct the long-awaited and opulent Temple his father had envisioned years previously and (2) unify the northern and southern tribes of Israel.
 
In this proverb, however, Solomon’s wisdom envisions God as a strong impenetrable and unassailable tower. The tower imagery suggests that God himself is the ultimate Tower of TO WHICH his people can always run and not be destroyed by their trials, tribulations, and troubles.
 
So if you are feeling threatened by someone today, run to the Tower! If you are feeling insecure over world events, run to the Tower! If you have already run to everything else and have been disappointed, run to the Tower! Run to the Tower and be safe, once and for all, and forevermore!
 
Agape,
 
Pj

The God Who Is Always Close (Psalm 34:18)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
 
In this beautiful psalm, David writes about a God that has immense compassion for his suffering people. Incredibly, he pens this glorious truth while hiding out in a dark and damp cave feigning insanity as a way to avoid the pointy spear of his archenemy, King Saul. Saul was on a very public rampage to snuff out David before he could wrestle away Saul’s kingdom/kingship from him.
 
David is “brokenhearted” because after the prophet Samuel anointed him to succeed Saul as king (mainly due to the latter’s obstinance and ungodliness) he thought his life would instantaneously be “onward and upward.” His reality, however, turned out to be anything but. It had been nothing but one big downward spiral. Thus, discouragement had set in and “crushed” his spirit.
 
Despite the fact that life happens when we are making other plans (or when our plans go awry), God loves to be “close” to us and “save” us. He does so by ministering to our pain, comforting our souls, and healing our spirits. So if you are brokenhearted today, don’t hesitate to cry out to God and let him know your anguish. But remember, you don’t have to be very loud because he is right there with you and has been the entire time.