Bible Posts

Love Letters

Love-Letters

Before Judy and I were married, we had a long distance dating relationship for a while, where Judy was in California and I was in Texas. We had to get creative, so we wrote letters – real hardcopy pen and paper letters – almost daily, and talked on the phone once a week. Even though we wrote daily letters, we didn’t always receive letters every day. Sometimes it would be three to four days between letters, and then I’d get several in one day.

No matter when I got a letter from Judy and no matter how many I received at a time, I always cherished them. I recall treating each one like a prized possession. I’d carry it from the mailbox to my apartment, put everything aside and prepare to relish every word on the pages I was about to open. The anticipation was always exhilarating.

I would take my letter opener and carefully open the top of the envelope to reveal the words on the pages that Judy had personally penned for me. I’d carefully pull the pages from the envelope and open them to reveal Judy’s heart and mind in ink – for me.

My mind and heart would race with anticipation of what I was about to read. Why? It was from Judy. A million different people could have written me a personal letter, but none of them would have steeped my expectancy like these words from Judy.

As I read the words on the pages, I savored every one. I analyzed each word and phrase. I wanted to make sure I drew out every nuance and meaning that Judy was thinking and feeling when she wrote this love letter to me.

I found myself pouring over the letter over and over again. I would read it again and walk away pondering the thoughts, the feelings, the meanings once again. There would always be a line or two that would particularly grab my heart or mind. I’d repeat it over and again in my mind. So many of Judy’s words spoke life to me, and gave me inspiration and determination to face the day ahead.

Today, Judy and I have been married for more than 44 years, but I will never forget those letters. And as I remember all that those letters meant to me – the anticipation, the pouring over them for meaning, the encouragement, the challenges, the words that spoke life and inspiration to me – I’m reminded of someone else who has written letters to me.

The God of the universe has spoken to me in the form of letters in the Bible. They are from the heart and mind of God to me – because He loves and cares for me. God did not put me here and say, “Good luck. I hope you can figure it all out.” He has given words of life. Do I cherish His words like I did Judy’s? Do I keep pouring over His words searching for meaning and intent? Do I long for the next time I can read His words? Do I keep rolling His words over and again in my mind?

If I truly love God as I have loved Judy, shouldn’t I treat His words to me with at least as much anticipation, joy, excitement and urgency as I did Judy’s letters?

Why is Morality Changing in America?

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There are so many things happening currently in the United States that are concerns: an escalation in the racial divide, growing immigration debates, gay rights disputes, political dysfunction and distrust, a tepid and yet volatile economy, and a decline in religious tolerance. All of these are very real and present issues that should be concerns for all Americans. But there is one subtle phenomenon that is of even greater concern to me than all these issues, because, if not checked, will impact all of these issues and more, making them worse.

What I’m most concerned about is a major shift in the moral foundation of our country. Morality has to do with determining what is right and wrong, but it is also rooted in something that guides it in that decision-making process.

America was settled centuries ago by those seeking religious freedom from nations, mostly in Europe, that had shifted their moral base away from the church and into the halls of the political elite. Determining what was right and wrong had moved from a quasi-biblical basis to the whims of monarchies and government officials. The result was a severe persecution of those who held the former moral base by those who had the new moral base.

Many fled to America with the hope of being able to re-establish an essentially Judo-Christian moral base for making decisions about what is right and wrong. This Judo-Christian moral base was essentially the Bible, and what it taught about right and wrong. Now skip to today in America.

Over the last 60 years, that moral base has shifted significantly in America, as it had in Europe centuries ago. Today we hear much discussion and debate about Supreme Court decisions legalizing such things as abortion and gay marriage. We are told things either are or are not Politically Correct (PC). But all of these more recent experiences are simply expressions of a national morality base that has shifted and continues to shift away from the Bible, and more to what might be called the “what feels good” base of morality.

The grave danger of this shift in our morality base is that the “what feels good” base is a clear shift away from God and His perfect design to mankind and his fallen nature. It is this shift in moral base that historically has led to “every man doing what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). For a glimpse of what this leads to in a culture, just read Judges 17-21.

This has been developing for several decades, but in recent years the floodgate has been opened and the raging waters of change are already beginning to sweep through our country. My deep concern stems from seeing the results of this morality base historically, but also from considering, “what’s next?”

Abortion is justified by what has been dubbed Pro Choice: the right of the mother to choose whether she wants to give birth to a baby that’s in her womb or kill it. We talk about a woman’s right to choose. What we are saying is she has the right to do “what feels good” to her in the moment, even if that means killing an unborn, living baby (see Psalm 139:13-16, for instance).

The Supreme Court has said we no longer need to follow God’s original design for marriage between a man and a woman (see Genesis 2:24, for instance), but we can do “what feels good” to us at the time, including gay marriage.

So with that logic from our new moral base, what can we expect in the future? Our American culture has opened up Pandora’s box.

Already we are seeing courts being told by defense attorneys that incest, pedophilia and even rape are justified, essentially because the person doing the act was just following the “what feels good” moral base. Incest, pedophilia and rape have been considered wrong in our culture because of our biblical moral base of the past. But with that being replaced by the “what feels good” base, there is no moral reason to not condone them in the near future.

One book publisher is already being sued for publishing a book – the Bible – which teaches against homosexuality and dares to call it a sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-10, for instance). The “what feels good” morality base is challenging the biblical base of the past in open court.

It seems obvious to me this same reasoning will lead to churches being challenged for teaching against incest, pedophilia, bestiality, rape, polygamy and homosexuality from the Bible. How long before the PC police and courts step in and shut down churches altogether for teaching the Bible and its moral base? It has happened before. It is headed in that direction in American now.

I think it is time for Christians who still hold to a biblical morality base and haven’t been seduced into the “what feels good” morality base to do two things: first, stand for biblical truth unashamedly and secondly, pray that God would grant us peace in the midst of this mounting morality storm in our country.

5 Ways to Consistently Be in God’s Word

5 Ways to Consistently Be in God's Word

I have stored up your word in my heart – Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

The Bible is a fascinating book, and God will use your steady time in His Word to build spiritual vitality into your life. A crisis will strike, circumstances will turn against you, or you will need some strength from the Lord, and a verse will come to your mind then. Or you will need to make a decision and you will find your mind scanning things you have learned from God’s Word to get direction.

These are some ways to consistently be in God’s Word so you can be continually refreshed in your time with Him:

  1. Read

Pick a book of the Scriptures and dive in. Read a paragraph or so a day to get into the discipline of enjoying the Word on a regular basis. Think about the passage, pray about it and ask God to show you something from it. You will have days where you forget what you read very quickly, but God will also give you days where a verse will sink deeply into your soul and change your life. You will be surprised how God can bring to life an application for what you just read about that day.

  1. Study

Once you get into the habit of reading each day, slow down and dig into a passage. Keep a journal and write down your observations. I like to take one book of the Bible each month and focus on it. I will read it several times that month, depending on the length, and then try to chart it out on a page so I can see the big picture of the book.

If you want to go deeper into meanings of words and cultural pictures, use a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia that explain words, names, places and culture in more detail. You can also use a concordance to find the uses of the same word in other places in the Bible.

  1. Meditate

This is the churning of the Word of God in your mind, reading the text over and over again a number of times. Emphasize different words each time to see a more complete picture of the intent of the passage. Look for those subtle implications of the text in your life. Bring the passage to mind, think about it, put it away, bring it back up later, consider it, put it away and bring it back up again.

You can take this to the next level by memorizing a key verse or two each week. Maybe begin by writing the verse(s) on a card and keeping it with you so you can look back over it several times each day.

  1. Be Accountable

Accountability is one secret I have learned for self-discipline. Having a Bible study to prepare for or being in a group where we discuss God’s Word, where you know other people are counting on you to have spent time with God beforehand can be very helpful. Join a group or class that studies the Bible and talk with others about what you and they are learning in God’s Word. Then take some time to pray together.

  1. Find Your Rhythm

Everyone is wired differently when it comes to spending time with God and in His Word. Find the natural forms and rhythms of your life. Is it spending time in His Word at home or somewhere else? Is it a daily routine or more of a mix? Over time, find what works best for you, and ask God to help you live in that rhythm on a consistent basis. Ask Him to meet you in the time you set aside to be with Him.

The way I am wired, I try to have some alone time virtually every day that I spend in the Word and talking to God, which may only be 15-30 minutes. Then I have my couple of special times each week where God and I have an extended visit. He has proven to me those times are well worth it, and they are so refreshing when I am in them.