Only Designed for Love

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

All About LoveEverything that has ever been made was made for a specific purpose. Can you think of one thing in your life that you own that doesn't have a purpose? We own cars to get around, work and shop. We have kitchens because we need to eat. We have beds because we need to sleep. We buy tools because we need to make and fix things. We have lights so we can see in the dark. Everything in our lives and homes has a clear purpose or we wouldn't have it. And yet, the one thing that seemingly has no clear purpose or function in life is human beings. So, if you ask people what their purpose or function in life is all about few have any clear and meaningful answer to give you. If you doubt that just try asking someone sometime about this issue and be ready to be amazed at the lack of answers you will receive.

How wonderful then that the Lord has a simple and easy answer to the question of our specific function and purpose in life. You see the Lord designed human beings for the singular purpose of receiving and giving love. That's it! The Lord just wants us to enjoy His love and share it with others because God is love (I John 4:8). This ability and need to share love is the foundation of the Bible and the Lord's purposes in the world today and forever. It is that foundation of love that is behind the Lord Jesus Christ telling us about God's greatest commandments for our lives in Matthew 22:36-40 where we hear,

"Thank You"--Heaven's Incredible Witness

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Pilgrims Give Thanks-As our Thanksgiving Holiday is celebrated this coming Thursday, November 28, we pause for a moment to reflect on the incredible meaning behind every "Thank You" that has ever been said. It turns out that a "Thank You" is one of the great witnesses to the Lord and the Gospel message that could be given. And the interesting thing about saying "Thank You" is that we all say it to someone, whatever we believe. So if you follow the real source and meaning behind every "Thank You" you end up in the loving arms of the Lord. Let's take a brief look at a typical "Thank You" in this week of Thanksgiving and see how it literally opens the door to see the Lord, Heaven and His love for the world.

You see, the Lord has hard wired Himself into our lives in a way that is almost unseen or unknown by people through the simple words "Thank You". As an example, if a person opens the door for us at a typical store or restaurant most of us would say, "Thank you!" We thank them because they didn't have to do it for us. We are wired to say something in response. Honestly, it's hard not to say something and just walk by and give the person holding the door a "cold shoulder". Lots of people don't open doors for others, so it makes those who do all the more special. You might say that opening the door for someone is an expression of grace. It is an underserved, gracious gift that people are not required to do. In addition, it is also a real joy to open that door for someone else. If we stop and think about it, it may even be a greater blessing to open the door for others than have it opened for us.

What Makes People Beautiful to God?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Breastplate GemsMore time and money has been spent by Americans trying to find a beautiful life than just about any other culture in history. At one time the ancient Greeks chased this notion of beauty, but their search would be tepid in comparison to our beauty seeking world. Everywhere you look there seems to be an obsession that is focused on  the pursuit of the beautiful. It is virtually a part of everything we see in magazines, advertising, stores, clothing, homes, and movies. Everything we see seems to have been designed with this beautiful image in mind. After all, who is attracted to "ugly" things? So, it seems that our world is being driven by this hidden search for beauty. 

The problem, however, with seeking this beautiful image is that we are never quite sure we have found it. The world's definition is always changing to something different at a moment's notice. As a result, multitudes of people are left empty chasing this illusive dream of beauty, whatever it is, and more than a few just give up altogether.  Some even see themselves as ugly and end up with low self-esteem, depression or worse. Untold millions of people are medicating themselves today because they feel they cannot arrive at this myterious standard of beauty and perfection they have come to believe is important.

Have You Found Your Father?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Dad-SonOn this Father's Day weekend, it is a good idea to stop and reflect about fatherhood and how that institution has shaped our lives and society for good or bad. For some people Father's Day evokes a warm feeling toward their fathers as someone that was a key person in our lives for the good. For others, Father's Day may be an emotionally charged day full of conflicting and often painful memories. Over the course of my ministry, I have talked with 100's of people about the issues and challenges in their lives. This experience has led me to see that it is almost impossible to have a good start in life without a healthy relationship with your father. The vast majority of broken and hurting people I have talked to over the years often had serious issues with their fathers. Perhaps that explains why the majority of men and women in prison today grew up without a father or had a bad relationship with the one they had.

As a result, if you were to make a spiritual diagnosis of society today much of it could be connected to fatherhood issues. When you remove fathers or change their role in society you fundamentally transform people's lives for good or bad. That is exactly what has been happening during this last generation. It surely would be no exaggeration to say that fatherhood has been under a major attack for a long time now and it is getting worse all the time. Part of the reason fatherhood is under attack is as a result of our sexually confused society and the absence of any role or place for a father. Lately, it seems that fathers are sometimes not even needed anymore. Their role as providers and leaders of the family unit has been replaced by working mothers, the government welfare state and new reproductive technologies.

Are Christians Really New People?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

New HeartOn the Eve of a New Year, as we look back on 2018, most of us realize how fast the year has gone. For some of us 2018 was a great year of blessings, while for others it had many challenges. For most of us 2018 was most likely a year of blessings and challenges. But as we head into a New Year, the most important thing for everyone to see and understand is how the Lord is working in our lives. No matter what happens in the New Year, the ability to see God at work in our lives is the one thing that will give us perspective about the ups and downs of life. If we know what God says about us as Christians we will better be able to weather the challenges we may face in the New Year.

Many Christians today lack Biblical perspective about their identity in Christ as Christians. They often fail to see what the Lord says about them, so they end up being left with unbiblical feelings, regret over their sins and circumstances they cannot understand. This lack of Biblical discernment about our lives in Christ can rob us of living out an amazing identity and life with the Lord. It can also leave us empty and discouraged at times and down in the dumps with the fallen world. If this has ever happened to you, you are not alone. Be encouraged friend because it happens to just about every Christian at one time or another in our lives and the Bible is full of examples from others that went through the exact same thing.

Education or Indoctrination?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

GraduatesFor many Americans, the month of May is often connected with millions of students graduating from high school or some sort of higher education program. Many of us reading this blog may even be attending such a graduation for a family member or friend. Graduation can be an exciting time for people, filled with emotions that often mark a "rite of passage" for many of us. Graduations offer us a chance to look back on our achievements and a time to start looking ahead to where we might be going. And while Americans are spending billions of dollars each year to get an education, it has become increasing important to ask ourselves what people are really learning. The reason we need to ask this question is because it increasingly seems that our schools, colleges and universities are doing less and less basic educating. Instead, what has clearly been emerging since the 1960's is that our young people are being indoctrinated more and more with a culturally driven agenda that is often opposed to political conservatives and Christians that eliminates the real pursuit of knowledge and truth.

If we are honest with what is happening today, we would have to say that many of our schools are being run and dominated by a very small group of people that carry a progressive worldview that is directly opposed to the Lord, the Bible, the Church and this Nation's founding principles. And while the purpose of getting an education is to pursue knowledge and truth about life, it seems that a massive wave of political correctness has seemingly taken over many campuses in this Nation where even raising an opposing opinion can be dangerous. The once valued concept of schools providing academic freedom for their teachers and students is vanishing. Instead of allowing schools to be a place where ideas are discussed and tested in the real world, students are protected from life and reality with strictly enforced school policies that define "hate speech" or how someone not using the proper gender pronoun might have a problem with "micro aggression." Under such an environment one must wonder how much "educating" is really going on anywhere these days.

Have You Ever Given Yourself Away?

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Bride-Groom-SunsetAll of life is about giving on one level or another. We spend our lives giving to people each day. We give to people at home, work or school. And yet, while many may not realize it, all of this giving to others is just a dress rehearsal and practice for giving ourselves to the Lord. The best place to see that going on is in the story of marriage between a man and woman. This past weekend, my beloved daughter got married. I had the privilege of giving her away to her new husband. Both of them had the joy of giving themselves away to one another. The story of giving our lives to another, as seen in marriage, is the narrative of how the Lord gave Himself away for His Bride on the Cross.

Now if you look at our society today, it seems increasingly harder for people to give themselves away to anyone or anything. Ours is a society that fears commitment and sacrifice. Ours is a culture that is dominated by the self. So, the idea of completely giving oneself away to another out of love and altruism seems hard to find. That problem extends far beyond marriage to every relationship. Instead it seems that many people are more conditioned to seeing how much they can get from others. Sacrifice and giving of one's life to and for another is foreign.

Has Someone Stolen Your Bible?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Family Christian ClosedRecently, a story broke that should get everyone's attention in the Church world. That story was the closing in late February of Family Christian Stores, the nation's largest chain of Christian book and merchandise stores after 85 years in business. The announcement will affect more than 3,000 employees at more than 240 stores around the nation. For many, a story like this is "no big deal." After all, in an age of Amazon.com and less serious reading by the public, one might not think too much on this story. Few would think that such a financial bankruptcy pointed to an even deeper spiritual one in the Church. You see, what we are watching today are signs of a major spiritual decline in the American Church and a movement away from Biblical foundations and literacy.

From the beginning, the Bible has been the cornerstone of Christian Faith and discipleship. While Bibles may have to be smuggled into some nations today, just about every American has access to as many as they want for a low price. The problem that has come up in the last 50 years or so is that our consumer driven culture has created a demand for millions of other books about the Bible and the Christian Faith that are being promoted and read instead. And while some of this is good, we are beginning to see the downside of the Christian consumer world we have created. Instead of reading and studying the Word today, many Christian consumers are lost in a sea of shallow, pop culture books and literature. Many of these books are written by famous celebrities and mega church pastors that are about the latest spiritual fashions and fads that tell their audiences how to lose weight, deal with a difficult person, become a better parent or how to be more successful and blessed. Instead of just reading and studying the Word and hiding it in our hearts, we have been buying Bible verses for our refrigerator magnets and wall hangings.

Are You In a Fake Relationship?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Real FriendshipOne of the most interesting words that have emerged in our culture in the last year or so has been the use of the word "fake." The word came out of the last Presidential campaign. The word was used to describe the chaos that was created by the media, in which few seemed to really know what was genuine or fake news. This movement away from reality and truth to the counterfeit and fake is at the heart of a growing spiritual climate going on today. This emergence of the "fake" has begun to transform everything in our world from Presidential elections to our relationships with others and even the Lord Himself.

A generation or so ago, most people had some idea of what was meant by a friend. Back then, when people used the term "friend" they meant something by it. It normally meant you knew someone, spent time with them and had developed a relationship with them that you valued and was worth something to you. Back in the "good old days," friendships were often connected to people you could count on to do something for you or even would be willing to make a sacrifice for you when the going got tough. Real friends tended to stick together and defend one another through the ups and downs of life.

The Glory of Male and Female

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

MaleFemale
One of the most confusing stories I have seen in recent memory is the sex change of Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist, Bruce Jenner, from a man to a woman.  Bruce has now become Caitlyn. The face that once was the picture of masculinity on the Wheaties’s cereal box is now seen as a woman adorning the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. This shocking turn of events has the world buzzing with a host of stories and discussions that continues to create confusion about the whole of idea of what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.” 
 
This gender chaos has been building for the last 40-50 years, ever since the gay community started to redefine our sexual standards. Just a few years ago people were identified as “heterosexual” or “homosexual” and that was about it. Somehow we might have guessed that those two labels would prove a little too restrictive, so a third category emerged, “bisexual.” But even that third category puts people in a box. With the recent rise of transgenderism, as we see with Bruce Jenner, it appears to increasingly be wrong to label anyone “male” or “female” with any sexual preference.

Back to Basics

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Bible And Sword"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified". I Corinthians 2:2

What is the Gospel? Who is Jesus? What is the Christian Faith all about? What is God trying to say to us? What should we be doing in the Church? These are but a few of the questions that every Christian should be asking themselves from time to time. If we cannot answer these basic questions, we are not going anywhere in the Christian life and we may lead others astray.

Over the years, I have come to see that there are many answers being given to the above questions. I never cease to be amazed by some of the answers people give when asked to define the Christian Faith. Some people believe Christianity is largely about living some sort of better moral life where we try to become better human beings. For others, the Christian Faith is a cause that helps us transform the injustices of life. A growing number of people see Christianity as a great tool to make them more prosperous, blessed and successful in life. If you really stop and think about it, there are almost as many ideas about the Christian Faith as there are people. Every person tends to shape the Faith and our Lord into their own image on some level.