Monday, April 30, 2007

When is it okay to break the rules?

Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the LORD (Levitcus 19:37).

When is it okay to steal? When is it permissible to lie? Under what circumstances are you permitted to cheat?

Following the destruction brought about by Hurricane Katrina, we saw people looting stores in New Orleans. News commentators said that some of the looting was understandable—after all, people needed food and water. But I wonder how the owners of those looted businesses felt? Did they expect to return to their emptied stores and find signed IOUs from every person who helped himself? Or did those storeowners feel like they were victimized twice—once by the storm, then again by their neighbors?

Does a tough situation give you permission to break the rules? If your wife grows cold and distant, are you justified in starting an affair? If you desperately need a good paying job, is it okay to lie on your job application? Do circumstances change what is right and what is wrong?

God’s answer is simple—NO. There is never a time when a being in a hard spot makes it okay to break God’s laws. He has told us what He expects: you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not lie. God said, Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the LORD.

It all boils down to trust. God said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus spoke these words of promise: do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the unbelievers pursue all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33).

Do you believe Jesus? Do you trust God to keep His word? If you do, then there is no reason to lie, cheat or steal, because the Lord will make sure that your needs are taken care of. Psalm 145 verse 13 says, The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.

The ways of God are good and right and just; there is no reason to ever set them aside.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Do Christians stand alone?

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:1-11).

Suppose you are out driving one Sunday morning, when you come upon an unusual sight. Next to the road, there is a neatly tended green lawn, a paved parking lot, a row of trees, and a small cemetery just beyond. In the middle of the lawn, there is a large concrete slab, and all along each side of that slab stand rows of 2 by 4s, spaced 16 inches apart from each other. What is unusual is that these 2 by 4s are not connected to each other in any way—no base boards, no window or door sills, no beams to support any rafters. Even odder is that you see people seated on folding chairs inside the enclosure—and since there is a table with a cross and a speaker’s podium in front of them, it appears as if they are holding a worship service.

Curious, you stop and wait for the service to end. When the people start to leave, you ask one of them how long it will be before their church building will be finished. To your surprise, you are told that the church building has been finished for 15 years now; there are no plans for any further construction. You get back in your car and drive away confused; how can anyone worship in a building where nothing is connected together to protect from wind and rain and snow and cold? What are these people thinking?

And yet, many Christians participate in congregational life as if they were part of such a church. To illustrate what I mean, consider the words of Paul found in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 19-22: You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Paul describes Jesus’ teachings, and the faithful witness of men of God who wrote the Bible, as the foundation upon which the Church on earth is built. Each Christian, then, serves as part of the building—some are floor joists, some are rafters; some are shingles, some are doorframes; some are siding, some are windows. The point is, every Christian is a part of the church building.

How can a building keep out the cold or stray animals if its pieces are not connected together? The answer, of course, is that it cannot. Siding needs 2 by 4s to be nailed to; shingles need plywood, which in return requires rafters. The parts of a building must be connected to the foundation or the structure will collapse, but the parts must also be connected to each other or the resulting building will not offer any better protection from the storms of the world than an old barn that has collapsed due to neglect.

Each of us is a part of the building called the Church. Each of us must be connected to the rest, or we fail to provide a place of shelter from the troubles of the world. In today’s Epistle lesson John tells us, Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. The strength of a structure comes from the foundation, and Jesus is our foundation; Isaiah 33:6 says, He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. But the pieces of the structure that is built on that foundation must be assembled well, or snow will drift in when the wind comes up, and rats will sneak in through boards that are not tightly secured together. The strength that holds the pieces of the church together are the bonds of love.

Love is all about sacrifice. Love is taking actions for others at your own expense. Love is putting another person’s needs ahead of your own. When a Christian loves his fellow church members, that love calls for many kinds of sacrifice. Perhaps the easiest one is the sacrifice of money. When you love a Christian who is living in poverty, you give her gifts of food, of warm clothing, of transportation to medical appointments if her car is not working. When you are concerned about the faith of those who are going through hard times, one way to provide for their spiritual care is through your offerings that support the ministry of God’s Word to them through the church. Donating material things is relatively easy, because most of us can find something extra to share for the good of others.

A little harder is the sacrifice of time. Our lives are so hectic, trying to get everything done. But if you really assessed how important these activities are, how would they stack up against the inconvenience of love? How important is time spent with your son before bed, reading him a Bible story and listening to his prayers? How important is time spent making sure that your daughter and her good friend have a dependable ride to Sunday School? After all, Jesus said: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Luke 18:16-17).

A little more difficult is sacrificing the comfort of security. When Jesus ascended into heaven, His final command to us was, "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). Yet many of us find this a difficult thing to do. We like to be "silent" Christians, people who believe but never speak of their faith outside of church. But how do we make disciples out of others, when we never speak about Jesus and the wonders He has worked in our lives? How do we teach others to obey His commands, when we refuse to speak against abortion or homosexuality or sex outside of marriage? What is the price of our keeping silent, to protect ourselves from ridicule?

Jesus said, "This is My command: Love each other" (John 13:34). But this command to sacrifice seems so hard to carry out; there are times when being a follower of Christ can make us feel very uncomfortable. When such fears come, we must look to Jesus for strength. Jesus did not lavish money on Himself; He was born to a lower middle-class family, and when He took up His ministry as an adult, He depended on the donations of believers to feed Himself and His disciples. Jesus did not even carry the group’s moneybag, entrusting it to another instead.

Nor did Jesus skimp on giving anyone His time. When Jesus wasn’t sleeping, He filled His hours with two activities—either He was working with people, freeing their bodies from defect and disease, and freeing their souls from ignorance of God and the guilt of sin; or He was praying to God for the strength to continue in His work among us until all our sins were paid for on the tree of death, the cross. Jesus spent all His time either strengthening Himself spiritually, or using that strength to care for others spiritually.

And Jesus was bold in His witness to the will of God. Jesus won many believers through His Words, but He also made many enemies. Jesus knew that standing up for God publicly would eventually result in persecution, death threats, and finally execution on the cross, but Jesus would not be intimidated into silence. He named sin for what it was wherever He came across it, but He always spoke with loving purpose; He always tried to draw men away from their love of sin and show them that to live in the love of God leads to a better existance, now as well as after death.

Jesus loved sacrificially, and it resulted in His death. He told His disciples, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). This is exactly what Jesus did for us. Jesus died because He asked God our Father to divert the punishment for our sins from us to our Savior, and that punishment resulted in His grave. But Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life because it was the only way to save us from God’s fierce anger at our sins, and Jesus loves us too much to hesitate in any way from protecting us.

Jesus rose from the dead so that He could be our living cornerstone, the foursquare and solid foundation upon which we can build new lives, freed from the domination of sin. But our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8); so our Lord builds us together into a solid structure where we may find protection, the Church on earth. Jesus is our sure foundation, and He, the carpenter’s son, uses those skills to continue building His church with each new believer that enters the faith through the washing of Baptism. When Jesus nails us together through the bonds of love, we think of the nails driven through His hands and feet, nails that poured our His lifeblood for the washing away of our sins on the cross. Out of love, Jesus shed blood through being nailed to unite us together under His leadership; how can we balk at being nailed to each other in the mutual self-sacrifice of love by the Master Carpenter?

When you give unselfishly to others, there is often the nagging fear that eventually such giving might suck you dry. But we need never fear such a consequence, because we are being built together with others who are also sacrificing in love; when we begin to weaken in our giving to others, there are brothers and sisters in the faith at our side who Jesus has built into His church to give to us, to refresh us, to strengthen us, encourage us, and support us. We are not brought into the church as independent people; we are made interdependent on each other to keep the wind out and the wolves at bay.

Of course none of us are perfect, and our inner sin causes us to weaken in our connections of love and let the wind and rain find a way in to chill and sicken us. But when we fail to love each other as we should, we have the security of Jesus’ promise to forgive us, to renew us, and to make our commitment of love to each other strong once more. John writes, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). With our sins forgiven, we can share that forgiveness with each other and grow stronger in the bond of committed, sacrificing love. Forgiveness is love in action; it is what keeps us united together. And Jesus has promised that through His love, His Church will stand secure; He said the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).

Our Lord has made you a living piece of His Church. He has called you to faith and joined you with others to support your fellow Christians through the sharing of your material goods, the investment of your time, and the words of your mouth that condemn sin for what it is, while inviting sinners to find everlasting peace with God through His Son Jesus in the sanctuary of God's house. May the Lord make you a dependable member of His body the Church, that you may love sacrificially and in this way show the love of Christ to those who feel that they are all alone with their pain.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dare to love

We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).

A mother lets her little girl play outside in the snow without a cap or gloves, wearing an unzipped coat. A father allows his young son to play in the street unsupervised. If we witnessed these things happening, most of us would shake our heads. "How could a parent permit this," we would wonder—"don’t they love their children?"

What does it mean to show love for another person? Certainly love is more than just hugs and smiles; love also involves looking out for the welfare of others. This can include taking care of them when they are sick, sharing with them when they’re poor, listening to them when they’re troubled. But love has another dimension as well—love protects by establishing boundaries.

Loving parents don’t let their children play in traffic or go out into the cold unprotected—when someone we love is about to do something foolish, we step in to protect them. This applies to teens and adults as well as children. If we really care about someone’s welfare, it is unloving to just keep quiet and allow them to foolishly hurt themselves. Consider some examples:

Is it loving to allow your children to disobey you, when this encourages disrespect for all in authority, including teachers and officers of the law? Is it loving to pretend that you don’t know about an affair, when every day that passes only worsens the inevitable payoff of pain and distrust? Is it loving to let a youth quit the team after only a couple of practices, when giving up too quickly can become a crippling, life-long habit? Is it loving to keep silent as a friend contemplates getting an abortion, when such decisions result in a lifetime of sorrow and regret? Is it loving to let your children stay in bed instead of insisting that they come with you to church, when ignorance of Jesus will result in heaven’s gates being forever closed to them?

Many people are afraid of confrontation. Some believe that they have no right to poke their nose in another’s business. Some fear loss of friendship if they speak a word of warning. But true love is not afraid of pain—not if that momentary pain of confrontation spares someone from a far greater pain to come. To love is to be courageous, willing to suffer discomfort in order to steer your loved ones onto a better path. Do you have such courage? Do you dare to really love?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Did God make me this way?

You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

"I can’t help it—God made me this way." Have you ever used this excuse? Every day, more Americans are resorting to it. "I can’t help it that I’ve got a quick temper—God made me this way." "I can’t help it that I’ve got a wandering eye—God made me this way." "I can’t help it that I’m gay—God made me this way."

But is God really the one responsible for your shortcomings? Can you blame God for the fact that you enjoy committing sins? Impossible—God is perfect. In fact, not only is He perfect, He expects us to be perfect too. Jesus said, you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

God’s design for you was perfect. But each of us had imperfect, sinful parents, and we inherited their imperfection much as one inherits a genetic disorder. That inherited sin distorted God’s perfect design. God intended that you be firm—it was sin that made you stubborn. God intended that you be spontaneous—it was sin that gave you a hair-trigger temper. God intended that you have a sense of humor—it was sin that made you sarcastic. God intended that you have an appreciation for beauty—it was sin that made you a skirt-chaser. God intended that you seek intimacy—it was sin that made you gay.

One thing is true—if Jesus isn’t living in your heart, you can’t help but sin. God’s perfect design can never be realized in your life unless you reject your imperfections and welcome Jesus’ efforts to remake you in His image. This is why Jesus came to earth—He came to restore the perfection that sin had destroyed. He lived the perfect life that we cannot, and He died the death that we deserved for enjoying our imperfections. Our Lord did this for you because He loves you, and He doesn’t want to see you made miserable by sin here in life or after death in hell.

We cannot achieve the perfection God had in mind for us during our time on earth. But with Jesus taking charge of our lives, we need not be helplessly enslaved by our sinful impulses and passions. God did not create us for a life as sinners; He created us to live as His devoted friends and followers. You can’t blame God for your shortcomings, but you can thank Him for sharing His perfection with you.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Perfect Father, perfect Son, perfect trust

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father" (John 10:11-18).

None of us can really understand the special relationship that exists between Jesus and our heavenly Father. Jesus is the perfect Son, and God the Father is the perfect Father; the relationship of love and trust that they share is perfect in a way that lies beyond our comprehension. None of us had perfect fathers; none of us who are parents have had perfect children. Some earthly fathers have smaller flaws, like being forgetful or easily irritated; others have more significant weaknesses like being unforgiving or emotionally distant. Some earthly children have lesser faults, like being lazy or being unable to take anything seriously; others cause their parents significant heartache by being rebellious or frequently getting into fights.

As we grow through life as a part of a family, our experience is that you cannot always trust your parents, you cannot always depend on your children. This is because all of us, parents and children alike, are victims of sin. Just as each of us inherit characteristics from our parents through sharing in their DNA, each of us also inherit the defect of sin, the inability to recognize God’s influence all around us, the inability to live our lives according to His high moral standards. Every day our defective human nature focuses our attention first and foremost on our needs and wants; it is only after we feel satisfied with life that we are inclined to think about the needs of others. It is because of this sinful self-focus that parents and children inevitably come into conflict with each other, because all too often their selfish desires cannot accommodate each other.

Because we have experienced only imperfect families in our lives, it is difficult for us to understand how a perfect Father/Son relationship works. But that is exactly the kind of relationship that Jesus and His Father share. God is without sin, and the Son of God is without sin. God the Father never acts out of selfish motivations, nor does His Son Jesus. From out of eternity, the Father and the Son have always had a perfectly harmonious relationship because the two of them have the same values and priorities; because the Father and the Son completely agree on everything, they can love and trust each other without hesitation or reservation. And it is this relationship that has resulted in our salvation.

Jesus has always been perfectly submissive to His Father. Even though Jesus is just as much God as the Father, Paul tells us He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:6). Jesus set the pattern for all of us by being the child who completely respects His Father’s authority and leadership, because He has absolute trust in His Father’s wisdom and love.

Jesus never acts independently of His Father’s will. In John chapter 5, Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does." Jesus never acts independently of His Father’s will, because Jesus trusts His Father’s judgment completely and because the two of them think alike. So when our ancestors became sinfully selfish because of sin, cursing themselves with lives of conflict and an eternity of God’s anger, the Father and the Son were in perfect agreement: man must be offered a way to be freed from the sin that is passed down from human parent to human child.

In His perfect wisdom, the Father created a way to do this, a plan of salvation that would do away with the selfishness of sin but not do away with the person who was born the helpless victim of sin. The plan was this: sin would be killed through the shedding of blood, but that blood would not be our blood, it would be the blood of God’s Son instead. The Father would arrange for His Son to be born in a human body, a body that could be put to death and buried. His Son would assume responsibility for all human sin by being baptized as one of us; and after Jesus had explained to His followers what He was going to do and why it was necessary, Jesus would allow Himself to be put to death, because through His death the power of sin would also be killed. With sin dead and buried in Jesus’ grave, the Son of God would then return to life, a living guarantee that the power of sin to condemn men to hell was ended. This was the plan the Father proposed to save us all from the consequences of our sinful selfishness.

We can be eternally grateful for Jesus’ response. Jesus was in complete agreement with His Father—no sacrifice would be too great in order to rescue us from the curse of death and hell that sin brings into our lives. God the Father and God the Son both loved us too much to allow us to suffer through a miserable, pointless life only to continue to suffer even after death—not without trying to save us from ourselves. And Jesus trusted His Father’s wisdom completely—when the Father said that becoming a man and going through death back to life was the only way to save us, Jesus accepted that truth and willingly agreed to carry out the task. Jesus agreed to the plan of salvation, not only because He loved us, but also because He loved and trusted His Father.

It must be clear—Jesus was never forced to surrender His life. He said, No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. Many times during His ministry, people tried to kill Him, but they were not successful because it was not the right time or place for Jesus to die for our salvation. In chapter 7, John records: they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. In chapter 8, he writes: they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. In Luke chapter 4, we are told: All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. Jesus is the Son of God—there was absolutely no way that mere men could take His life from him on their own. It was not until Jesus celebrated the third Passover of His ministry that the appointed time arrived; John records: It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love (John 13:1). When His hour finally arrived, Jesus went willingly to trial, sentencing and death; when Peter tried to get Jesus to resist arrest, Jesus said, "Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:52-54)

Jesus said, "I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." Jesus was obedient to His Father’s will, but God the Father did not order Jesus to sacrifice His life for us. The Father left the final decision in Jesus’ hands. Our heavenly Father told Jesus that if He willingly went to death as our sacrifice, a return to life was guaranteed—but this would in no way ease the intense suffering that Jesus would undergo, in order to suffer on our behalf the hell we deserved. This was no small thing that the Father asked, and if Jesus had wanted rescue from the soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane, He need only have said the word and His Father would have sent an army of angels to put the murderous Jews in their place. But Jesus was willing to endure any pain to spare us from everlasting pain, and He trusted that His Father would not ask Him to save us in this way if any other means were possible. And so Jesus suffered our hellish punishment on the cross, and He did so willingly—out of love and concern for us, out of love and trust in His Father.

God the Father knew His Son’s heart. He trusted in Jesus’ commitment to the Father and to us. Because the Father loved and trusted Jesus completely, He gave Jesus the authority to lay down and take up His life; He did this because the Father knew that Jesus wouldn’t let Him down, wouldn’t let us down. And Jesus proved that His Father’s trust in Him was well founded—Jesus did everything that the Father needed done to save us from sin and death and hell. God the Father had always loved His Son, but that love was increased even more because of Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice everything for our eternal good; this is why Jesus said, The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. What father could not be proud of such a son? How could the Father not elevate Him to the highest place, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father? (Philippians 2:9-10)

Jesus proved Himself worthy of His Father’s trust; He was given authority from above and used it responsibly. Jesus has proven that His love can always be relied on, that He always completes what He sets out to do, that He honors His commitments and keeps His promises. This should be of great comfort to you. This is the Jesus who promised, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). This is the Son of God who said, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25). This is the Savior who declared, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). This is the Christ who said, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty...whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:35-40).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Preserving marriage according to God's design

Marriage should be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4).

Why is it important to defend marriage as God instituted it? What’s the problem with gay marriage, or single parents hiring someone to help them conceive a child? Why do we even need marriage?

The answer to these questions is implicit in God’s command to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis: "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." In these words, God gives the first family two instructions. First, they are to work together in raising children. At no time does God imply that one person is to raise children alone—the intent is clearly that each child have both a mother and a father. Modern scientific study has repeatedly shown the wisdom of God’s ways—children raised by both parents together are significantly better off going into adulthood than are children raised by one parent alone.

The other instruction to the family is this: Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. The family has a job to do—take care of God’s creation. Again, there is no suggestion that one person go off and do this work without the help and support of family—the intent is clearly that God’s wonderful world is to be tended and cared for by God’s family.

How then can we imagine a society that does not have marriage as its cornerstone? How can a culture thrive when the people don’t know how to build loving, committed relationships? How can our way of life be healthy if our families are unhealthy?

Marriage is the seed from which society grows. It is from being raised by loving parents who demonstrate mutual trust that a child learns that others can be trusted. It is by being held to high moral standards by parents who stand united in their expectations that a child learns to be a good citizen around everyone. The skills needed to be a team player are modeled by the teamwork between spouses. Most importantly, when a husband and wife belong to Christ, they are helped by the Holy Spirit to forgive each other as Christ has first forgiven them; their marriage shows their children and the community around them that Christ’s forgiveness makes long-term relationships possible and wonderful. Society can only thrive when marriage is everything God intended it to be.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Honoring Marriage

Marriage should be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4).

Holy matrimony is a creation of God. Marriage had its beginning on the sixth day of creation in the Garden of Eden, in a world where everything was still perfect. It makes sense then, that if we want our marriages to be as close to perfection as possible, we must align our marital relationships with the goals God has for marriage.

God states His first goal for marriage in Genesis chapter two: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. The primary reason for marriage is to provide the blessing of close companionship between a man and a woman. God intends that husbands and wives love each other; that love is demonstrated by mutual life-long commitment.

God’s second goal for marriage is addressed to Adam and Eve as soon as they have been introduced to each other: God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:22). God instituted the marriage of man and woman as the place in which children are to be conceived and raised.

The third goal of marriage does not come up until after sin has corrupted men and women. Even in ancient times, people were obsessed with sex and treated it as something that could somehow be separated from God's design for marriage; so in 1st Corinthians Paul shares the following words: since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband…if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. God’s third purpose for marriage is to provide the only appropriate place to express sexual desire. Think about it—if no one engaged in sex except with the one person whom they married, could AIDS have become the epidemic that it is today?

Marriage—a commitment to be helper and friend to one person for life, the nursery for children, and the place reserved for the intimacy of lovers—this is God’s design. To depart from this plan, to try and re-write the rules of family, is to come up with something that can only be a pale shadow of God’s original, perfect design. If you want a marriage that is aimed for the very best, aim at the goals that God first established in paradise.

The "burden" of being a Christian

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the one who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:1-6).

How do you know whether or not you really love God? How do you know that you truly love your fellow Christians? In today’s Epistle lesson, St. John tells us how we can find out the answer. John tells us to look at how we are living our lives from day to day. The words that we speak, the actions that we take: are they words and deeds that conform to our Lord’s teachings? John writes, This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

And what are those commands, exactly? What are we to be doing every day which gives proof of our love for God and our brothers and sisters in the faith? Jesus summarized what God expects of us in Mark chapter 12: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: `Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

These are the commands of God--Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength...Love your neighbor as yourself. But we must not understand our Lord to only be speaking about warm emotions in the heart; earlier in 1st John the epistle writer tells us, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).

So the command of God, then, is to love our Lord and our fellow Christians with actions, not just with words. We are to give to God our time and our attention in worship and study. We are to support the mission of the church through our gifts and our personal witness of our faith. We are to show respect for our parents and all who have been given authority. We are to give aid to the poor, care to the sick, time to the lonely. We are to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves. When we do these things without holding back, we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength; in doing these things, we love our neighbor as ourselves.
John tells us, his commands are not burdensome. They are not burdensome, because everyone born of God overcomes the world. When we love God, we are assured of victory over the world. This victory is three-fold.

First of all, when we are in a love relationship with God, the problems of daily life are brought under control. In Romans 8:28, Paul tells us we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. This means that no matter what kinds of aggravations the world puts in our way, God has the power and the concern for us to make sure that every dark cloud in our lives will eventually reveal a silver lining.

Second, when we are living in union with God, we are assured of His defense against the assaults of the devil. The devil attacks us by trying to make us afraid; he tries to make us fear that we are unlovable, that we are unforgivable, that we are all alone with our problems. But John tells us, there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. Jesus died so that we do not have to be afraid. Jesus’ love drives out all fear. The fact that Jesus was willing to endure the terrible anger of God to spare you from punishment for your sins is proof that you are lovable, you are forgivable, that God has not left you alone with your problems. Jesus’ love for you drives out fear, and so protects you from the devil’s most devastating weapon.

Third, when we are walking in our Lord’s ways, we are in Him and He is in us. Jesus said, Remain in me, and I will remain in you (John 15:4). This means that we have Jesus within us to help us resist temptation—the desire to use our time and money to make ourselves comfortable, when God is calling for our attention and our fellow Christians are suffering in need. Our evil human nature wants us to be Number One, while the command of God tells us to make God Number One, and our brothers and sisters in the faith our equals in the Number Two position. It is only through the presence of Jesus in our hearts that we can get our priorities straight. It is only with Jesus’ help that we can avoid ruining our relationships with others by being selfish, inflexible, and unforgiving.

But even though God’s ways give us victory over the world, the devil, and our own weak human nature, the sinfulness within us still sees God’s commands as burdensome. There are times in our lives when we don’t want to get out of bed to go to a church activity. There are times when we would rather spend money on a trip to a casino or a night in a bar instead of putting it in the offering plate. There are times when we really don’t want to forgive someone who has wronged us, we don’t want to feel guilty about cheating, we don’t want to say we are sorry for breaking a few rules while we were having a good time. When the pleasures of sin are foremost in our minds, the commands of God do appear burdensome.

It is because of this problem that Jesus came into our world to suffer and die on Good Friday, and rise again on Easter morning. Through His crucifixion, Jesus accepted all of His heavenly Father’s angry punishment for our selfish disobedience. Through His resurrection from death, Jesus proved that He is greater than our sins, which He left defeated in His grave. With the power of sin brought to heel, Jesus proves that He can change our lives.

Our sins hang across our shoulders like bags of wet sand, making every step through life a struggle. People tell lies to get what they want from others, but then they have to continually remember their lies in precise detail, lest they get found out. Loved ones get into bitter fights and end up not speaking to each other for years, because neither one wants to admit that he or she was wrong. Some become addicted to alcohol or pills to relieve stress, and bring eventual ruin to their health and their pocketbooks. Others make a habit of using people to achieve their own ends, then casting them aside when they are no longer useful; such people spend years wondering why they can never build a relationship of lasting trust with another person.

These are the kinds of burdens the world gives us to bear—burdens of lies, bitterness, compulsive behavior, and betrayal. These are heavy loads to bear, and every year that we struggle through, the burden gets only worse as we add even more sins to the load. How sweet, then, to hear Jesus say, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus’ burden is light, when you compare it to the burdens of the world. Which is more burdensome? Knowing the truth, even though it is a truth that many in the world cannot accept? Or living your life making sure that you don’t accidentally damage your web of lies? Which is more burdensome? Forgiving loved ones for hurting you, or letting them go to their grave without ever again having the chance to share words of love and tenderness, in order to protect your pride? Which is more burdensome? To pray to Jesus for help and trust that He will see you through any trouble, or to be a slave to booze or drugs or sex or gambling in order to feel good, even if it sickens your body or leaves you penniless? Which is more burdensome? To make commitments to others and follow through on them, or to face the end of your life alone, with no one you can trust, no one you can turn to for help? These are the burdens of Christ and the burdens of the world—which are truly more burdensome?

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that even Jesus’ lighter load is impossible for us to carry. But God never asks us to do something that is beyond our means. John writes, This is love for God: to obey his commands. John would not tell us this if such a thing were impossible. And it’s not impossible. When Jesus lives in us, His forgiveness lives in us, His strength lives in us, His wisdom to walk in the paths of God lives in us. When Jesus lives in us we can obey God’s commands, because it is Jesus within us, the Holy One of God, who does what is right and good. Paul writes in Philippians 2:13, it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

When Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light, He meant that the yoke is easy and the burden light because He helps us in carrying them!

How do you know that you truly love God and your fellow Christians? You know it by the evidence of Jesus’ works in your life. When you give instead of take, when you thank instead of complain, when you forgive instead of brooding, when you give God the glory instead of taking the credit for yourself, you demonstrate that Jesus lives in you. And when Jesus lives in you, you live in God, and His love becomes an essential part of your life. It is that love that helps you to see that God’s commands are not burdensome--they are light, because your Lord Jesus is right there with you, helping you to do His will every day.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable (Leviticus 20:13).

Most people are naturally repulsed by homosexual behavior. Yet there are a growing number who believe that if gays or lesbians want to get married, what’s the harm? Why is it that so many have come to feel this way? Why do some people accept an activity that our bodies were not designed to do?

Joseph Goebbels once said that it you repeat a lie often enough and vigorously enough, people will come to accept the lie as truth. Over the past few years, there has been a concerted effort to portray homosexual behavior as ordinary, just another way for people to express themselves. Gay and lesbian characters are featured in high-profile television shows that enter millions of homes every week. In some schools, children are required to participate in sensitivity training so that they will be accepting of homosexual behavior. We are told that if we are to be loving to all people, we must accept them just as they are.

But is this true? Jesus loves everyone, but does He accept us just as we are? If the Lord does not have expectations for our behavior, then why were we given the Ten Commandments? If Jesus does not look for change in the lives of His followers, why did He tell the people to do two things: repent and believe the Good News (Mark 1:15)?

What does God say about homosexual activity? The Bible is clear—homosexual activity is sinful, repugnant to God. God created Adam and Eve, not ‘Adam and Steve.’ God’s first command to the prototype family was be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:22); this command is, by nature, impossible for a homosexual partnership to fulfill. In Leviticus 18:22, God’s word says: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. In Romans chapter one, gay and lesbian acts are named as unnatural; and 1st Corinthians chapter six warns that lovers of homosexuality will not find a home in the kingdom of God.

God loves everyone, but He hates the sin that corrupts us. God hates sin so much that the sinner must die; but God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die the sinner’s death in our place. Jesus suffered to rescue us from God’s anger at our sins—we dare not respond to this great act of love by continuing to embrace that which led Jesus to the cross. We must exchange our love of sin--any sin--with love for Christ.

Monday, April 09, 2007


"I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel (Malachi 2:16).

Why does God hate divorce? You have to understand what marriage and divorce mean to Him.

God designed marriage to be an earthly illustration of our relationship with Him. The Bible often speaks of Jesus as a bridegroom and we, His church, as His bride. Jesus has described the event of our joining Him in heaven in terms of a wedding celebration. Ephesians chapter 5 contains an often-used wedding text that uses this imagery.

When we think of marriage as an earthly picture of our relationship with Jesus, what then does divorce communicate? Divorce is a public testimony that the relationship is hopeless, that reconciliation is impossible. From God’s perspective, divorce paints an ugly picture suggesting that when our relationship with God breaks down, reconciliation with Jesus our bridegroom is impossible—there is no longer any chance for forgiveness or a return to happiness.

This is why God hates divorce—it sends the false message that God’s forgiveness cannot forgive every sin, cannot heal every broken relationship. Earthly divorces carry terrible emotional consequences—but the consequence of a divorce from our bridegroom Jesus would be much, much worse. Earthly divorce results in a chain of damaged relationships and economic privation, but divorce from the Savior of mankind has an eternal result of life lost to hell. This is why Jesus does not want anyone to be divorced from Him!

Jesus did allow divorce, but only because we are sinners who make bad decisions—and even then, our Lord established tough guidelines—divorce only for being the victim of infidelity or abandonment. Our Savior expects us to do everything possible to avoid divorce. It starts with careful, prayer-led consideration of which fellow Christian you will marry. It involves making Jesus a part of your daily life together, in joint worship, devotion and prayer. And it requires a willingness to forgive, just as in Christ you have been forgiven for every one of the many ways you have hurt your heavenly bridegroom.

Divorce is not God’s way—reconciliation is. And so Paul can write, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The shroud of death--ripped away!

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine--the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:6-9).

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

There’s no doubt about it—Easter is the best holiday in the Church Year. Easter is what the other 364 days are all about. Everything that God has done for us—creating the world, giving each of us life, even coming to live among us at Christmas—all of this is pointless without the rescue from sin, death, and hell that is our gift because of Easter.

Isaiah committed his prophecies to paper hundreds of years before the first Easter, but because of the grace of God, he was given a clear look at the wonder that was to come. In just a few stanzas of poetry, Isaiah beautifully sums up what Easter is all about.

The mountain of the Lord Almighty is Mount Zion, the mountain where Jerusalem and the Temple of God were built. It was on this mountain that God destroyed the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations. That shroud is a funeral shroud, the shroud of death. And God destroyed that shroud through the giving of His only Son, Jesus Christ, who died to make sure that sheet was torn from us forever.

Sin prevents us from seeing God. Sin is like a sheet that we pull over our heads. Have you ever looked through a sheet? You can still see, but only very poorly. The sheet prevents you from making out much in the way of important details. That is what sin does to our ability to see spiritual things. We know that there is such a thing as right and wrong, but we are often unsure of which is which. Is it okay to steal a loaf of bread if it is to be used to feed a starving child? Is it okay to get an abortion if the child will be born with significant health problems? Because of the sheet of sin that obscures our vision, it can be very hard to see what is right and what is wrong, with the result that we fill our lives with bad decisions, decisions that anger God.

Because sin causes us to anger God, it becomes our funeral shroud. God is holy, and He expects us to lead holy, blameless lives. God reveals His expectations in the Bible, and He tells us to live our lives according to it. But because of the sheet of sin that covers us all, we cannot read and understand God’s word perfectly, and we end up living disobedient lives because we either misunderstand His will, or we just give up trying to see what God expects of us. Because of sin blinding us, we end up acting against God, and God has said that no rebellious sinner can have a place in the kingdom of heaven. The sheet of sin thus becomes a funeral shroud for us, because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

But our God is a compassionate God. He created us because He loves us and wants us to live with Him forever. So God determined to remove the shroud of sin so that we can see Him clearly and stop angering Him; He did this by sending His holy Son Jesus to take away the shroud of sin.

Jesus tore away the shroud of death by dying in our place. Jesus took the sheet of our sin and wrapped Himself in it; Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us. God punishes sin by sentencing sinners to the tortures of hell; with our sins covering Him like a shroud, Jesus suffered our hell on the cross. Because Jesus was punished for our sins, we are freed from punishment; Jesus has served our sentence, and God the heavenly Judge allows us to walk free from an eternity of punishment in hell. Because of Jesus, we are spared from a death that that lasts forever.

Jesus has ended for us the curse of eternal death in hell, but what about the inevitable physical death of our bodies? When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, He proved that death is not the end of life and love; rather, for we who trust in Him, death has been transformed into a doorway that leads from this shadowed valley of sorrows into the plains of everlasting life, which are bathed in the warmth of God’s ceaseless love. By rising from the dead, Jesus proved that all our sins have been forgiven—there is no anger left in God for those who repent and put their trust in Him. And by rising from the dead, Jesus proved that He has the power to restored the dead to life—which means that all who trust in Him can be absolutely sure that physical death is not the end of life, but only the beginning of life the way God intended it to be—free of selfishness, free of hatred, free of betrayal, free of fear, free of isolation and loneliness, free of need and want. Life beyond the grave will be lived forever with God, and we cannot imagine how wonderful it will be. All we can know for sure is that Jesus said, Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be (John 12:26).

Jesus has swallowed up death forever. True death is eternal separation from God, eternal separation from love and belonging and being cared for. Jesus has taken away the funeral shroud of our sins; Jesus has made death nothing to be feared. Death no longer lasts forever—it is but the briefest moment, when we leave this tortured life and step into the presence of our Savior in heaven. And because Jesus has ended the fearful threat of eternal separation from God and life and love, our tears can be wiped away. When we attend a funeral, we don’t cry as if we will never see our dear one again, because we know that he or she has only gone on ahead, and in a short time we will catch up to them. Jesus dries our tears that are shed over death by comforting us with the hope that a funeral is not "goodbye", but "see you soon, in a far better place."

We as God’s people have been a disgrace. He created us to do good works, acts of worship and praise to God, and acts of love and care for each other. Because of our sin-filled lives, we have dishonored the God who made us. But God removed the disgrace of His people when Jesus died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins; when we look on our sins with disgust and ask in faith that Jesus have mercy on us, God credits us with Jesus’ righteousness; He looks at us as if we had never sinned. Paul writes in Romans chapter 4, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness...The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice of love for us, God considers us righteous; Psalm 103 says, as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. And because God, for Jesus’ sake, regards us as pure, we are no longer a disgrace to Him—through God’s mercy, we are the kind of children that He created us to be, children of God. Through His death and resurrection on Mount Zion, Jesus has removed the disgrace of sin from His people.

This Good News cannot help but transform our lives. When we know that Jesus suffered hell on the cross for us, our hearts are warmed with thankfulness for such a tremendous gift. And as thankful love of Jesus is kindled in our hearts, we become horrified with our own corrupt behavior, and ask Jesus’ help in resisting the temptation to add to the list of our sins. As forgiveness becomes a daily part of our lives, we are moved to forgive others when they wrong us, instead of holding a grudge; and when we do wrong, we learn to swallow our pride and ask for forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we see the need to spend more time with Him in worship and study and prayer; with the sheet of sin torn away, we want to seize every opportunity to see our Lord clearly. With the fear of eternal death removed, we do not worry so much about how much fun we can squeeze out of life before we die, but instead we consider how to enjoy the quality of life that God gives His children, and how we can share that quality of life with others. When those whom we love approach the time to leave this life, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves because of the loss we will soon experience, we can instead offer words of forgiveness, words of comfort, words of love to help them through their fear and prepare them to meet their Savior. And when our own death looms near, we can have a peace in our final hours that calms our fears and gives hope to those who will survive us.

Truly, the great blessing of Easter redefines our lives. With all the good that comes to us because of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf, we cannot help but sing the praises of our loving God. And I can think of no better words of praise than those of Isaiah: "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Living together

Trust in the LORD and do good (Psalm 37:3).

More and more these days, couples are choosing to live together. For some, the reason is financial—these are often widows and widowers who want to be together, but feel they cannot risk the loss of government benefits that happens when two senior citizens get married. Others view living together as a trial period, a ‘test run’ to see if marriage would be successful. Still others cohabit with no intention of ever getting married; some have seen their parents go through a painful divorce and consequently fear marriage, while others want the freedom to sample different intimate relationships without restriction.

Co-habitation before marriage does not guarantee a successful long-term relationship. In fact, study after study have shown that living together before getting married dramatically increases the likelihood of eventual divorce. Co-habitation tries to mix elements of a single lifestyle with elements of a married one; once such couples finally go ahead and get married, it is far too easy to carry elements of a singles’ mindset into the marriage, weakening the commitment to life-long partnering with one person. Living together is no replacement for a long, carefully considered engagement.

Co-habitation is not a good alternative to marriage, either. People want security from their relationships, assurance that when tough times come they won’t be left to face things alone. Co-habitation can offer no such assurance; after all, the whole point of living together is to be free to go when the whim strikes you. No one who co-habits can be sure that when money runs out or health starts to fail, that they will not find themselves abandoned and alone. It is only in marriage that a commitment is made ‘for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.’ Only people who have sincerely made lifelong pledges to each other before God can have the security that we all desire.

It all comes down to trust. Do you trust your heavenly Father to care for you? Do you trust your Lord to guide you in choosing the right person for a life-long commitment? Do you trust God’s Spirit to help you find satisfaction in marriage even during the tough times? If you trust God, you don’t need to live together because you fear losing welfare benefits; if you trust in your Savior, you don’t need to fear a future where love has gone away.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Your soul-mate

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30).

Have you found your ‘soul-mate’? Do you believe that somewhere in this world, there is a soul that will fit together perfectly with yours? Do you believe that souls come in matching sets, each complementing the other’s strengths and compensating for the other’s weaknesses?

If you do believe in soul-mates, I apologize for having to burst your bubble, but Jesus’ words in Matthew contradict the whole notion of souls being paired together forever. While speaking about the new unending life that we can look forward to following Judgement Day, our Lord says: At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Jesus is clear. Marriage is for this life only—the unique bond of matrimony ends with the grave.

The notion of soul-mates is actually destructive for marriages. Think about it. No one is perfect; the Bible reminds us that we all are sinners. Since we are all sinners, every marriage will go through times when the sins of one spouse make the other person miserable. The Christian should not be surprised when this happens; instead, he or she knows that Jesus equips us to offer forgiveness and continued love. Peter writes, love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

But what of the person who hopes for a soul-mate? During a period of disillusionment, she might conclude that the man she married isn’t really her soul-mate—she made a mistake and married the wrong person. Since her soul-mate is still out there somewhere, the solution is obvious—she needs to free herself from this marriage and resume her search. Do you see how the belief in soul-mates can break up marriages?

And yet, in a sense each of us does have a soul-mate—His name is Jesus. A classic old hymn begins with the words, "Jesus, lover of my soul." Jesus is the only one who is a perfect match for us. Only He can make us shine at our full potential; only He can compensate for our inadequacies. Only He can love us perfectly and completely. Jesus is the lover of your soul—He proved it by going to the cross for you, so that your sins could be forgiven and you could live with Him eternally. Only Jesus deserves the title ‘soul-mate.’

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