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Points to Ponder: Do You Merely Believe?
Points to Ponder
Do You Merely Believe?
Marcella and I recently attended the wedding of her young cousin. Sitting in one of the front pews in the beautiful ornate Catholic church in Baltimore City, I reflected back on the "early days" when he was just three years old. She and I had just started dating then. I hoisted this little guy up on my shoulders as we visited the Science Center. It was particularly fun that day because one of the nosier ladies from my boyhood home neighborhood saw me with this woman and a small child, whom she did not recognize. Known to be a gossip, I could only guess what she was thinking, longing to know, and dying to tell someone. The suspense of not knowing what was going on with me probably ate at her. And I rather enjoyed that.
The decades have passed and here we were watching this now tall and handsome young man preparing to marry and begin the next chapter of his life.
It's interesting how the journey of life steadily marches on through scenes and circumstances, much like a slow-rolling train passes through one town, and then through another. The passengers are the same but the towns and what may be going on within them differ. If you stop and visit for awhile, you may meet some interesting folks, see some fascinating sites, and come away from there deeply affected. That experience, those interactions, and your memories are like the fingers of a potter forming the still-pliable clay. Somehow God takes the best - and the worst - of our life experiences and molds our character. I am impressed with how God works even more so in the mundane.
When I've gone back to my journals and looked at the "Index of Important Events" to revisit one of my milestone experiences, I find myself reading farther back or ahead. The "important" event was memorable; but surrounding that occasion are often some insignificant happenings which led up to or followed it. Now, with many years between then and today, I can sometimes find that those mundane or routine days were more significant than I'd realized when I was living through it.
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
We cite this verse usually after something bad has happened. But notice how it says that God does this for "those who love God." Well, who are they?
God is working in everyone's life to some extent. You can't draw your next breath without His provision (Daniel 5:23; Psalm 104:29; Acts 17:25). He even uses evil people to work for His glory (remember Pharaoh in Egypt - Exodus 7:3-5; 10:1-2; 14:1-18). But is it not true that God works best in the lives of "those who love God." Why? Because each day of their lives is a work of God. Those who love God have a significantly different perspective on life in general and their life in particular. It's one thing to believe in God; even the demons do that (and tremble, according to James 2:19). So paying lip service to the existence of a "higher power" or the "man upstairs" is not the same as loving God. You give priority status to who and what you love. There are lots of religious people who say they believe there's a God - or believe in God - but they don't really love God. This is the most important command, stated in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), which Jesus quoted.
"The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment'" (Mark 12:29-30).
So how do you love God? I have always wondered that. As the scripture says, do it with all your heart (the center, the helm control of your person), all your soul (your life), and with all your strength (ability, talent, gifts). In Jesus' quote of the Shema passage, He adds to the list, "with all your mind." You process, discern and respond to life with your mind. To love God with your mind is to break through the clouds of the day-to-day and be able to transcend your senses. You finally know, God's hand is really there. And you can know what's right.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).
It's useful to know God's perfect will. Right? But again, what is it to love God? The essence of loving God is obedience.
"Jesus . . . said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me'" (John 14:23-24).
So, examine your life. Do you merely believe in God? Or, do you love God?
Well, what is important to you? Do your priorities agree with His standard (His word)? Does that matter to you? It's much easier to simply believe in God than it is to love Him, isn't it? As you reflect back on your life, and then come forward, what have you been doing with regard to God? Have you noticed what He's been doing with you? If not, that's not His fault.
It's your move.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com
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