Have you ever been driving through the countryside or nearby a local farm and come across the following scene? You must wonder, is the grass really that much better on the other side? This familiar idiom tries to capture the thought that people (or animals) are never satisfied with their own situation; they always think others have it better. When we consider our circumstances, when we compare our experiences with that of others we tend to think that we would be better off or happier on the other side.
Mankind has been struggling with this thought pattern for centuries. In Psalm 73, we are introduced to the thoughts of Asaph and his struggle to “jump the fence” and run free on what looked like the “greener” side of life. He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”. Asaph continues to describes the appearance of a better life, “They have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong. They are freed from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. He sees them (those who have turned away from God) and sees a life “free of care” and prosperity.
It is through the experience and power of God’s love that Asaph is able to stay on the right side of the fence. He describes a moment when he “enters the sanctuary of the Lord”, a place where he is able to ground himself in knowing that without God, those he looks over will one day be destroyed. Asaph makes the choice to enter into a place of worship with the assurance that God is with Him and that God will protect him. “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart… But as for me, it is good to be near God.” The experience of God’s love through the story of Asaph is the same love that God has for us today. Our lives, our “sanctuary” or place of worship needs to be found in all areas of life. Through personal prayer, song, scripture reading, working diligently, serving humbly or building Christ like relationships, we are called to worship God. As we stay connected with God he will keep us on the right side of the fence. God gives us the ability to see clearly that what He has given us is good and what He has prepared for us in heaven is even greater.
With names like Millennium Force, Top Dog Thriller, Formula Rossa, Intimidator 305 and Steel Dragon 2000, these world-famous roller coasters will provide the thrill that extreme adrenaline junkies seek. There are intense drops, twists and turns, incredible speeds and gut wrenching G-forces that push your mind and body to its limits. You might be one of those people who gets excited about being strapped into the seat on one of these giant steel mechanical marvels or you might be like me, the anxious spectator (who likes to keep two feet on the ground) left holding all the bags, hats and loose change until the ride is over.
When I read through the Psalms I get the sense of being on a different sort of roller coaster, a ride that journeys through a wide range of emotions. Through ups and downs, twists and turns and the pressures of life, we get a glimpse into the complex emotions that our creator built into us. Woven into the fabric of the text we can experience the writer’s feelings of joy, fear, anger, disappointment, outrage, gratitude, contentment and more. When we listen, hear, and take to heart the stories shared by the different author’s we are invited into their lives and deep into their hearts. One of the most powerful and emotional moments in the psalms for me is found in chapter 18:6, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Distress, suffering, pain, sorrow, grief, each one of these “places” can bring us crashing to our knees, desperate and needy, searching for God just a David did in this passage.
It has been said that every human emotion is portrayed in some way through the writing of the Psalms. The Psalms are a “go to” for many who need encouragement and direction in their lives; often when we find an emotional connection we can also experience the writer’s response or reflection. One of the strongest themes that help facilitate that connection is that of love. Out of His love for David, God hears his cry for help, He delivers him from the hands of his enemies. Today our God is no different than He was in David’s day, He waits patiently as we persistently try to work things out on our own, he continues to hear our cries, He loves us in all our brokenness, he rejoices when we put our faith and trust in Him. It is His love that will keep us standing with two feet on the ground.
Truth or Dare is the classic party game of embarrassment. A group of people take turns asking each other “truth or dare”? When someone chooses “truth”, they must answer the question truthfully regardless of how embarrassing it is. When someone chooses “dare”, they are given a task to complete. One example might be: Truth, “What is your deepest darkest fear” or dare, “lick the floor”. You must choose one, what would it be?
Let’s play another game – “Dare to live the Truth”. It is a game of life, real life. The object of the game is to live and walk in the truth. What is truth? When speaking to believers, John in his second letter defines truth as living in the knowledge and acceptance of the good news of the Gospel. He talks about living in the assurance of everlasting life through the death, resurrection and forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. Truth is found in love and God is love. In 2 John verse 4 we read “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” We are reminded of this joy in walking (living) in obedience to God’s commands because in the world (those “existing” outside of the body of Christ) individuals define truth in their own terms. In this letter, they are labeled as deceivers, “any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist”. (v7)
Sometimes the truth is hard to face, there are real consequences and hard decisions to make in life when we walk in the truth as John describes. Truth requires discernment, it requires courage, it demands obedience and gives us something to hold on to. When we look past the hard realities of living and walking in the truth, we can experience the same great joy and freedom that John sees in the community of believers whom he is writing to. Contrary to Colonel Nathan R. Jesseps’ (Jack Nicholson) statement in the movie “A Few Good Men”, “You can’t handle the truth”, know that you can handle the truth. God’s word tells us that “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32)
So let’s play the game:
Truth: Do you believe that Christ died for the forgiveness of your sins?
Dare: (Yes) Live out that truth in your life so others will see Christ in you.
Dare: (No) Put your hope and trust in God today, pray and accept Christ into your life.
Have you ever been looking for something and it was right there in front of you? Whether it is the Ketchup bottle in the fridge, the invoice on the top of the pile or solution to a simple question. Often these things are “right under our nose” and for some reason we cannot see it, most often what we are looking for is in a place it can be clearly seen. This is an interesting phenomenon and I am sure it happens to most of us.
There is a message in the book of 1 John that should jump right off the page and hit us in the nose. This is a message that is so important and relevant to our lives that we may at times not see it. John writes, “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” (That is the name of Jesus Christ). In other words, on account of his love for us, we have been saved from the consequences of sin and death. Twice John explains this in his writing, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (3:16). “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so 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.” (4:9-10).
God’s love for us is revealed throughout scripture and it is important to understand that He calls us into a relationship of love and obedience. “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). “This is love for God: to keep his commands.” (5:3). When we focus on these verses it seems so simple, but life in this world has a way of clouding the purity and goodness of God’s love for us. One of the difficult things we live with are the temptations and desires of this world, John reminds us that “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (2:17) God’s love is everlasting, this might be hard for us to comprehend when we go through the trials and temptations of life, and it is easy to say when life is going well. God gives us his word so that we can be reminded of his love, it is a word of truth and we must always remember like John says “God is Love.” (4:16) The answers to life, to knowing and understanding God’s love for us and the love we are to have for one another are right under our nose, in His word.
I enjoy a good demolition project, tearing down walls, smashing things with a sledge hammer, prying, pulling and incinerating the consequent debris. Sometimes I like to dream big, on a much larger demolition scale I was thinking about a wrecking ball. I would love to sit in the operator’s seat of one of these wrecking machines, my hands controlling the swinging action of the massive ball of forged steel as it smashes through concrete, steel, and any other obstacles in its path. A ten-thousand-pound ball of steel has the potential to bring even the strongest barrier to the ground.
Paul’s letter to Philemon describes a different process of breaking down barriers, barriers that rise up in our personal relationships. Much like in Paul’s time, these barriers might include social or economic status, heritage, or even geographic location. Paul writes a very personal letter to Philemon in respect to a mutual acquaintance, a man named Onesimus who was a run-away slave from the house of Philemon. The barriers I am talking about in relationships are broken down by love, a love that is found through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our relationship with Christ. There is a “bond among brothers” in this letter. Paul calls for the barriers of social status (Philemon as master and Onesimus as slave) to be disbanded, “welcome him as you would welcome me… no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother”, brothers in Christ. If you read through this short letter you will find some great insight into what a God honouring relationship looks like, you will see love, trust, respect, confidence and most importantly, Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ loving one another without judgement and without fear, that is a beautiful picture that I hope to see one day. The foundations of the barriers that get in the way of authentic Christ centred relationships are made up of the things of this world, things that focus on us. Exemplified through the life and death of Jesus Christ, the foundations of all our relationships need to be built with one key ingredient, love. Our first love should be for Christ and in the knowledge of Christ’s love for us, when that shines through so then will our love for others. Lives are transformed by love, we don’t need wrecking balls to remove barriers, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome them.
A term of endearment is a word or phrase used to address or describe a person for which the speaker feels love or affection. There are some fairly creative terms that couples have crafted for each other over the years but there are a few classics that we might all know. “Baby”, “Honey, Hon or Hun”, “Sweetheart”, “Sugar”, “Beautiful”, “Angel”, the list could go on. Maybe you’re a little more adventurous and you describe your significant other with phrases like “a tall drink of water”, “my heart and soul”, my better half” or “my soul mate”. If your looking for something fresh here are some ideas from the book of Love, Song of Solomon”.
“I liken you, my darling, to a mare among pharaoh’s chariot horses”. “Your eyes are doves”. “Like a Lilly among thorns”. “My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag”. “Your hair is like a flock of goats”. “Your temples like the halves of pomegranate”.“You are a garden fountain”. “Your navel is a rounded goblet”. “Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon”.
The words found in the book of Songs of Solomon are the exchange of terms of endearment between that of a man and a women, a young couple, a husband and wife who are clearly in love with each other. There is passion, excitement, romance, emotion, and joy found in these words as the characters playfully banter back and forth. Although these terms may not cross cultures and time we can still learn from them today, we can be inspired by the level of passion and commitment that is being expressed in their relationship. Why are these songs or poems included in the Bible? What purpose do they play? To me they are words of inspiration. They are examples and reminders of the passion and excitement that should be a part of our intimate marriage relationships. These words reflect God’s passion and design for a vibrant marriage relationship and in many ways mirrors the love that he has for us. We were created in His image, an image of beauty and excellence that should shine through each and every one of our lives. I’m not an expert in relationships but I have enough experience that I would suggest you stay away from references to mare’s, goats and pomegranates in your next romantic interlude with your spouse.