Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Counter Conditional Love

I preached this past weekend on Counter Conditional love. You might ask how it is different from unconditional love. Well, I'm glad you asked. If uncondtional love says "I love you no matter what," counter conditional love says "I love you even if its going to cause me pain."

Because counter conditional love is not based on a response, its based on an object: us. We are the object of God's counter conditional love whether we like it or not. We are the object of God's counter conditional love and there is nothing any of us can do about. We are the object of God's love and there is nothing any of us can do to make God love us less than he does right now. Nothing in our past, nothing in our present and nothing in our future. His love is available to us becuase he chooses to love us regardless of what we do.

If God's love for us was based on our response, then his love would be a one chance love. That would be like God saying "I love you and you can accept it or reject it, this is your only chance." God doesn't say that, God says "I love you and I desperately want you to receive it, therefore it is always available."

We are God's prized possession, thank goodness there's nothing we can do to change that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Men's Retreat Teaching (Part 2)

Later that evening on the men's retreat I taught on Numbers 11. The Israelites complain that they don't have meat to eat and say they are tired of the manna. They also claim that they were better off in Egypt.

So God declares that he will give them quail, so much so that it comes out of their nostrils. He gives them more quail than they know what to do with. It ends by God sending a plague on those who had craved meat. They name the place this happened Kibroth Haatavah, which literally means Graves of craving. Their cravings led to the grave.

Often times, when we follow our desires, our cravings, our lusts (lust isn't just about sex) we find death awaits us. It may not be a literal death, but it could be the death of a relationship, the death of our integrity, the death of our identity, the death of a family.

The progression in Numbers 11 goes like this. Their Cravings lead to complaining, complaining leads to self-pity, self-pity leads to trivializing God's blessings, trivializing God's blessings leads to rejection of God's blesssings, which leads to death.

The Israelites voice their complaint about the manna, which means they trivialize this provision from God. The also claim they were better off in Egypt which is a slap in God's face since they were slaves in Egypt. When they trivialize God's blessing of Manna and God's redemption of them from slavery, they trivialize God.

So, there are two applications. First, what do you do with your cravings? Do you simply give into them? That leads to disaster. Do you repress them? That can lead to disaster as well. The right answer is to submit them to God and allow God to direct them to the right places in your life.

The second application is to ask ourselves how we have trivialized God's blessings in our lives. Namely, the relationships that matter most to us. Whether it is our spouse, our children, our friends our co-workers, how have you trivialized the blessing they are in your life. Another way to think of this is to ask this question: how do you treat the people that matter most to you? Do you speak words of truth and blessing and good, or do trivialize them and take it for granted that they are a part of your life. We should bless the blessings God has given us. The best way to avoid trivializing God's blessings is to be thankful for them and treat them for what they are...blessings.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Men's retreat teaching (part 1)

Just got back from a Men's retreat and thought I would share what I learned from the first talk, then in my next post what I learned from the second talk.

The theme of the retreat was Into the Wild: Messages from the book of Numbers. Talbot (the pastor of Good Shepherd UMC) talked about how the enemies of God could not defeat the men of God in Numbers 22-25 by conventional means. So the enemies of God defeat the men of God with distractions. Specifically distractions of sexually immorality and food.

Isn't it true that most Christian men try to live for God and that the enemy cannot steal their heart. So what does the enemy do, the enemy steals their eyes. He distracts them and takes them down a path that meets their greatest cravings, namely, sexual cravings. Its so easy to go down that path, especially when our culture normalizes sexually explicit behavior.

What is distracting you from living the life God wants you to live today? Ask yourself what that is and ask God to give you the wisdom to name it and strength to remove it from your life.