Loving God More

Loving God is an interesting thing. Many Christians think that they love God simply because they say that they love God. But loving God surely has to be more than just an affirmation. It’s too easy just to say it.

I can say that I love someone without it really being true.

When Jesus was asked to name the greatest of all of the commandments in the Bible, He said: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). He identified this as the first (in priority) and greatest of all of the commandments that God has given us.

We are to love God with every fiber of our being. Loving God is of no little importance.

But how to do it is the issue.

How can we love God more?

This morning I read this passage which sheds some light on the subject. Jesus said: To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little (Luke 7:47).

Loving God begins with understanding just how much we have been forgiven. Without a proper understanding of our indebtedness we will never love Him the way we should.

The event that led up His statement was a dinner to which Jesus had been invited. During the meal a woman who possessed a less than stellar reputation came into the room and began to act rather strangely.

A brief explanation will help us understand the situation. When guests visited a home they would be greeted with a kiss on the check similar to the custom of some cultures today.

Then because of the hot climate some provision would be made to have the dusty feet of the guests washed before they reclined on low-lying cushioned “couches” or mats arranged around a central table. Depending on the exact arrangement of the mats, it was possible for the feet of another guest to be a little too close to your nose. Not a pleasant thought if their feet had not been washed.

Apparently the normal customs were not provided at this particular dinner.

Back to the woman and her strange behavior. The story says that she began to wash and dry the feet of Jesus. Nothing too strange at this point – these were accepted norms in the culture. It would not have been unusual for the other guests, if they were not paying close attention, to assume that she was one of the house servants.

But she went beyond what was expected and began to kiss his feet and to anoint them with a fragrant oil. Definitely not normal behavior.

If the other guests, however, were paying attention they would have noticed something unusual in the demeanor of the woman. She was in deep anguish of soul. The text says that she stood at His feet behind Him weeping: and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head (Matthew 7:38). Definitely not normal behavior.

That brings us to the question: What produced this unusual action?

The clue is in the words of Jesus: To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little (Luke 7:47).

This woman was not just a sinner – she was a sinner who had been forgiven. And she understood the magnitude of her forgiveness. She understood that she had sinned greatly and that God had forgiven her greatly. This was no little thing to her.

Her love for Jesus sprang out of her understanding of her forgiveness.

The same will be true in our lives. When we understand our forgiveness it will lead us to not only say that we love God, but to demonstrate our love the way this woman demonstrated her love.

Those who understand just how much they have been forgiven by God will be the ones who Love God More and it will be reflected in their behavior.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve


God Sent a Mosquito

In the black night it sounded like a miniature jet plane in my ear. Given its incredibly small size the sound it made was incredible. And irritating. No amount of waving my arms around in the dark could stop it from its intended mission.

Anyone who has been dive bombed by a kamikaze mosquito knows the aggravation. I was getting mosquitoed. Only my third night in Haiti and I was already under attack.

And suddenly I remembered that I had forgotten the most important thing I needed to do in Haiti. Take my malaria medicine.

The problem with malaria medicine is that it’s easy to forget. It’s taken with food and my normal routine over the years has been to take it with my evening meal.

And that’s where the problem started.

Haitians eat their main meal at noon and I was only snacking last night. I’m a creature of habit and not being in my routine was a problem. No meal – no medicine. I had only been in country for three days and I’d already forgotten to take my malaria medicine.

And that’s when God sent a mosquito.

To be truthful I don’t know if God sent it or not but it did the job. That nasty little insect was looking for a landing spot. A place to suck my blood. And if it’s the right (or wrong) kind of mosquito, to give me the malaria virus. All I wanted to do was to end its’ life before it nailed me.

And that’s when I remembered the medicine. I never did kill the mosquito but I did take my medicine.

I got to thinking about that mosquito. Could it have been a messenger from God? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll never know.

But it made me think about how God directs us in life. We tend to think that if God is going to lead us He will do it in a nice, comfortable way. But what if God chooses to send a mosquito to move us in the right direction? What if He decides that the best way to get us to do what He wants is to send an irritation that has the possibility of giving us spiritual malaria if we don’t do the right thing?

There’s no guarantee that whenever God acts in our lives, He’ll do it in a way that we enjoy. In fact that seems to me to fall into the category of Christian myth.

The Palmist wrote; it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71). And this from the New Testament writer, James; count it all joy when you fall into various trials – because trials can produce godliness in us (James 1:2-4) when we handle them the right way.

I suspect that the list of saints, both Biblical and non Biblical, who have been moved by trials of all kinds is long. Somehow God knows that the mosquitoes of life are affective.

So the bottom line is –it’s ok to kill the mosquitoes before they bite you, but it’s better if you can learn from them – especially the spiritual ones.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve


White Like Me

I remember picking up the book Black Like Me at a friend’s house sometime in 1964 as an eighth grade student. Published in 1961 it was the account of a white journalist’s travels in the Deep South disguised as a black man at a time when racial tensions in our country were strained. His objective was to experience life from the other side.

To say the least it was an eye-opening read for a young white boy. Although I was raised in California, my contacts with people who were not like me were limited. In all of my formative years I had one Asian friend, Wesley and one black friend, Leonard. In addition there were a handful of children of Hispanic immigrant workers, who came in and out of school. Many of them never stayed long; their parents were following the crops.

The vast majority of people I knew were White. Like. Me.

That situation leads to a very narrow perspective. When you only know people like you, you don’t learn that differences exist. You think, especially at a young age, that the world is filled with people who are exactly like you. People who look like you. People who think like you. People who have the same values and outlook on life as you.

That first exposure to the real world where differences exist, even through a book, can be a upsetting to your little world. That was what happened to me as I read the story of John Howard Griffin’s journey into another world. A world that I knew little about.

We have a similar problem today.

Not that we don’t know about the others, but that we don’t want to know. We want to live with blinders on. To act like they aren’t there – if we ignore them they might go away. If we oppose them they will run. If we shout loud enough we won’t hear what they are saying.

We want people to be like us, especially if we’re from a European descent. It’s just easier that way.

The problem that many people have is that the immigrants who are ruining America aren’t like us. The LGBT crowd that is destroying the morals of our country isn’t like us.

And it’s true – they’re not.

But that’s not the most crucial factor, especially for Christians.

What’s important is that they are people. And for the Christian – at least for those who really care what God thinks and what the Bible says – that’s more important than what they look like, or where they came from or even what they believe or how they act.

They are people who are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). People God loves (John 3:16). People who can be reached with the gospel (Matthew 28:19). People who have an eternal destiny (Hebrews 9:27).

We need to stop wishing that the world (or our country) was different – that people were like us, and begin to see people with the eyes of God.

If we did, we wouldn’t care if they were White. Like. Me.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Never Be Satisfied – Yet

Being satisfied is a dangerous thing. So is being dissatisfied. Satisfaction can lead to complacency; dissatisfaction can lead to frustration. But satisfaction can also lead to a sense of peace and dissatisfaction can push us to attempt greater things.

So how do you know when to be satisfied and when to be dissatisfied?

That’s a personal call that will differ by individual and circumstances.

As far as the Christian life goes there is a danger in ever being satisfied. As long as we are on this earth there will always be room for improvement. When we stop growing spiritually we become spiritually stagnate. There should always be a nagging sense of dissatisfaction somewhere deep within us.

If there isn’t, something is wrong.

The Apostle Paul expressed his dissatisfaction with this life and all that it had to offer and a longing for something better.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 12:24

We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12

Christians should never be satisfied with lingering sin; never satisfied with our level of love for Christ, our spiritual growth, our commitment, or our service; never satisfied with this life or what the world has to offer us.

In fact there should be a high level of dissatisfaction. Don’t be satisfied to be who you are. Until we see Him we are incomplete, imperfect, unfinished as it were.

But there should also be a certain satisfaction that we have because of Jesus.

We should be satisfied in His love; we should be satisfied with who we are in Him; we should be satisfied with what He is doing in our lives; we should be satisfied in the prospects of eternity with Him.

In short, we should be satisfied in Jesus. Totally, completely.

On that day when we stand before Him we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), finally complete. Finally satisfied.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

In the House of Suffering

I’m in a series in our church that we’re calling No Life for Sissies. It’s about the Christian life. If you live the Christian life the way the New Testament lays it out for us, you’ll find that it’s not easy – in fact it’s a hard life.

Which brings me to this – if you’re a Christian and you find that the Christian life is easy, you’re probably not doing it right.

Do it right and you’ll find out that it’s hard. No all of the time, but much of the time.

Several weeks ago I spoke on It’s Not Easy to Suffer.

As Christians, God has called us to a life of suffering. Suffering for your faith (1 Peter 3:14), suffering for others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), suffering for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-16).

When you suffer your response is what matters.

So how should we respond to suffering?

Since there are different types of suffering there are also different ways to respond. But there are some general responses that will apply to all types of suffering. Here are three things that you can do to turn your suffering from a negative into a spiritual positive in your life.

Try to understand what God is doing in your suffering.

We believe that nothing happens to us by accident. That God has a plan and a purpose for everything that takes place in our lives. That means that when you go through times of suffering, God is working. He has a purpose for your suffering.

And while you may not be able to definitively determine His purpose, it’s helpful to try and understand to the extent that you can.

Spend time in the Word. Spend time in prayer. Look for answers. Ask God to reveal some spiritual insight to you that will help you understand His divine actions.

Even if you never come to a conclusive answer, the effort will be beneficial.

Let your suffering move you closer to God.

It’s true that everything in life will either move you closer to God or farther from Him. And in the mystery of the Divine/Human cooperative, you get to decide which will be true in your moment of suffering.

Allow your suffering to move you closer to God. Closer in fellowship with Him. Closer in worship. Closer in prayer. Closer in dependence. Closer in trust. Closer in love.

View your time of suffering as a holy place.

We don’t normally think of suffering as a place of holiness – but it can be. It can become that place where you grow in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, silence, solitude, and learning.

Most likely your place of suffering will either become a place of holiness or it will become a place of carnality. It will either be a place that feeds your soul or a place that feeds your flesh.

In our humanness our natural inclination is to allow our sufferings to become times of unholiness. Fight against it – make it a holy place.

Suffering, for whatever reason, is never easy. But it can be beneficial. Don’t waste periods of suffering. Allow them to be times of spiritual growth in your life.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Frustrated With God

Admit it – we get frustrated with God. Every Christian does at some point in his/her spiritual journey. We get frustrated with God when He doesn’t act the way we want Him to act. This is especially true when it comes to prayer.

Yesterday I preached a sermon called It’s Not Easy to Pray. We looked at five of the major oppositions to maintaining a meaningful prayer life.

This morning I read the following article by Chuck Lawless who is the Dean of Doctoral Studies and Vice-President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.

I thought it was a good follow-up to yesterday’s sermon – and good even if you didn’t hear the sermon. For those of you from SVBC, I thought that #4 was especially pertinent to what we talked about yesterday. See if you don’t agree.

8 Things to Do When God Says, “Wait”
By Chuck Lawless

Many of us are impatient, yet God often tells us to “wait.” The tension that results is sometimes a faith challenge. If God has called you to wait, here are some things you can do in the meantime.

1. Forget about the calendar. We get stressed with God’s timing because we think He operates according to our calendar. That assumption leads to frustration.

2. Embrace the truth that God has a reason. He really does, even if He doesn’t give us the details. That means that whatever He has on the other side of the wait is better than what we might get through our impatience.

3. Remember that God’s not worried. His timing is always, always, always right. He knows that. You know that, too, actually. Trust what you know.

4. Be faithful today. Trusting God for tomorrow means being obedient today. We should not expect God to respond to our prayers about tomorrow if we’re ignoring His leading today. In my opinion, our unfaithfulness today is one of the primary reasons we wrestle with waiting on tomorrow’s stuff.

5. Spend some time studying God’s Word about waiting. Check out, for example, Psalm 40:1, 130:5-6; Isaiah 40:31; Lamentations 3:25; James 5:7-8. Let the Bible give you hope in waiting.

6. Invite somebody else into your wait. Waiting alone only magnifies the loneliness of the wait. Simply knowing that someone’s sharing your burden can be hopeful.

7. Tell somebody your testimony. This one may sound like a strange suggestion, but here’s my point: when you tell your story, you’ll remember that God has always taken care of you in the past. He’s still taking care of you now, even if His timing is different than yours.

8. Keep praying. The waiting time is not the time to stop talking to God about this issue. Keep praying, doing so in faith that God will provide His answer in His timing, in His way, for your good, and for His glory.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

God is Not Who You Think He Is

Dennis Green, the former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, after a devastating lose (by one point) in 2006 in a game in which his team led 23-3, went ballistic in the post-game press conference, unleashing a profanity-laced tirade in response to a reporter’s question. One of the most famous lines from the press conference, which he repeated several times, his voice getting louder with each repetition was they are what we thought they were! His tirade has gone down in NFL lore as one of the great coaching meltdowns of all time.

They are what we thought they were.

That statement is true in life. People often live up (or down) to what or who we think they are.

The same cannot be said of God.

Paraphrasing Dennis Green, God is not who you think He is.

Too often we picture God as some kind of super human. Like a super hero. Human, just bigger and better than the rest of us.

That’s not who God is.

Although the Bible speaks of God in human terms – His strong right hand, His eyes, His face etc., God is not human. In speaking of God this way, the Bible is using language that we understand. It’s so we can, in some way, know something about a Being who is so unlike us that we would never be able to comprehend Him otherwise.

In every way that you can think of, God is different from us. Theologians use the term wholly other, because that is what/who God is; He is totally different from us.

The only way that we can understand anything about God is through His revelation of Himself in creation (Romans 1:19-20), in His Son (Colossians 1:15), and in the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). Without His revelation of Himself we could not know God.

But getting back to Who God is.

The danger of thinking that God is basically like us is that we don’t take Him seriously.

We think that it’s OK if we tell a little white lie, so it must be OK with God. We think that a little profanity is not too bad so God must think the same thing. We think that it won’t hurt if we neglect reading the Bible, prayer or going to church, so God will understand.


In so many ways, sometimes without even thinking, we reason that if we can bring God down to our level it will make our decisions and our actions OK.

But it won’t.

In Psalm 50, God rebuked Israel for their sin and said: You thought that I was altogether like you (Psalm 50:21). In other words, they thought that if they could rationalize their sin certainly God would understand. We’re the same. He’s just like us. They didn’t understand that God is different, especially when it comes to sin.

Understanding that God is not only different from us, but He is above us, higher than us, more complex than us, will go a long way in helping us take God, and what He says seriously.

We’re not dealing with a super hero here; we’re dealing with G.O.D.

We underestimate Who He is to our own detriment.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve