Love and Obedience: Inseparable Friends.

For a Bible study/memory competition this summer called the National Bible Bee (click Here for more information) I've been studying John 13-15. As I was studying John 14 a truth seemed to just jump off the page at me. In John 14:15, Jesus is talking to his disciples and says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I believe that this verse holds the key for a deeper and more consistent relationship with God. Many people today believe that they can have love without obedience. The problem is that love and obedience are two inseparable friends. If you try to have one without the other you will have neither. An attempt at love without obedience equals liberalism. An attempt at obedience without love equals legalism. When one truly loves Jesus they cannot help but obey him. Obedience is impossible without love, but when we truly love we cannot help but to obey. Judas and Peter are two excellent examples of the difference a heart of love makes when one is trying to obey. Judas tried to obey, but eventually betrayed Jesus in the most cruel manner. I believe that this heartless betrayal occurred because Judas was trying to obey without any true love. Peter, although he also fell and denied Jesus, rose again to new heights of victory because he was following Jesus out of an heart of love. 1 John 4:19 states, "We love him, because he first loved us." Jesus is our example of love. We can have a heart of true love if we ask God to give us his true love.
So here are a couple things to remember. 
A. Love and Obedience cannot be separated.
B. Obedience can only be achieved out of a heart of love.
C. Love comes only from God. 

Let us go on our way with true love, and obedience will always follow.
Denver Bontrager
(photo credits- Denver Bontrager)

Editors note- When your younger brother is finishing high-school and only has some work to score and re-score before he is DONE, you help him with the scoring, and he writes your blog post!


Nova Scotia

Psalm 19

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.
2 Day unto day uttereth speech,
and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

3 There is no speech nor language,
where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line is gone out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

 5 which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven,
and his circuit unto the ends of it:
and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart:
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever:
the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned:
and in keeping of them there is great reward.
12 Who can understand his errors?
cleanse thou me from secret faults.

 13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright,
and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord,
my strength, and my redeemer.



       "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of tohe mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (I Corinthians 4:1-2).  God tells us to be faithful- to serve Him IN SPITE OF life's challenging circumstances.  John 14:15 says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments."  Faithfulness is love in action.

       Someone once said, "Cheating is easy. Try something more challenging... Like being faithful."  The Bible gives us some great examples of ordinary people who remained faithful to God in the midst of challenging circumstances.  One of these examples is Daniel.  Daniel 6:10 gives us the following account of Daniel- "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime."  Oh, for a few Christians who will decide to serve God REGARDLESS of their circumstances!  

       II Timothy 2:1-2 says, "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."  We don't need more TALENTED people in our churches- we need a few FAITHFUL people! 

       The story is told that Andrew Jackson’s boyhood friends just couldn’t understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson’s friends said, “Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now.”  Another friend responded, “How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn’t they usually say three times and out?”  “Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat—he would never stay ‘throwed.’ Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner.”

       Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”


Making America Good Again

       Psalm 33:12a says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;"  I am thankful to live in America, and I definitely believe in American exceptionalism.  However, I believe we are an exceptional country not because we are exceptional people; rather, I believe we are an exceptional country because we serve an exceptional God.

       There is a wicked spirit of pride that pervades America today, and here is what it says- 'We can make America great again, because we made her great in the first place.'"  Friends, no human being can make us great again, because it wasn't humans that made us great in the first place.  Alexis de Tocqueville said it best- “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”  Today, we have ceased from goodness (faith in God, and righteous living), and thus are rapidly losing our greatness.  Here are three things that I believe we need in order to "Make America Good Again."

       First, we need to start praying. (II Chronicles 7:14). We say that it is terrible that prayer has been removed from our schools, and it is terrible.  But which is worse, the ungodly removing prayer from the schools, or Christians neglecting prayer in our homes?  The founding fathers prayed to an Almighty God for deliverance, protection, and wisdom; why are we so proud that we think we can fix our problems ourselves?

       Second, we must start living with purity.  Proverbs 13:34 says, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."  John Adams said this- "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."  America will never be right again, until we become righteous again.

       Third, we have to start praising God again.  Psalm 35:28 "And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long."  John 12:32 says, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."  May our lives, homes, churches, and government once again be filled with true praise, as we glorify God with our thoughts, words, motives, and actions!
       Alexis de Tocqueville said, "Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”  America will only become "great" again, when she becomes "good" again; and she will only become good when born-again Christians start living right and sharing the Gospel!


Three weeks and counting!

       Three weeks ago, we left on our summer tour.  And while it has been a great trip and we have seen God do some incredible things, I sometimes find it hard to stay focused on the tasks at hand- home is sounding very appealing right now!  Recently, though, my sister Allison shared with me a great quote that she came across- "Don't count the days, make the days count."

       Wow, how true that is!  And yet, it can be EXTREMELY hard to actually implement!  So I got to thinking- are there any examples of people in the Bible who lived their lives like this, and if so, how did they do it?  Here are a two examples I thought of.

       David.  Despite being anointed king of Israel when he was young (Josephus puts the age at ten, most modern historians at 15), David didn't actually become king until he was about thirty!  And even then, he was only king of Judah- it would be seven years later before he began to reign over all of Israel! How did he stay focused on the bigger picture during those years of waiting?  The answer is found in Psalm 37:4- "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."  When we focus on the Lord, His desires actually become OUR desires, and we can be fulfilled in serving Him!  And it is amazing how many of our original desires He gives back to us in the proccess!

       Joseph.  When it comes to making the most of a waiting period, Joseph may be the greatest example ever of someone who found joy and fulfillment in the midst of what appeared to be absolute nothingness!  Most of us would grow bitter at God if we were placed in Joseph's shoes, but Joseph didn't.  How did he continue producing good fruit, even when it looked like God had forgotten about him?  Joseph never lost sight of the plans God had for him- of the purpose God had for his life.

       So when we are tempted to murmur and complain because we are tired of a certain situation or phase of life, let us remember to "Make the days count, rather than counting the days!"

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (Jeremiah 29:11)



"10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;" (Ephesians 6:10-18)

       Yesterday, I preached a sermon entitled "Stand." Here are three things that we must have in order to stand. 

1.  Armour.  In Ephesians 6, verses 11,13, and 14, we are told that we need the armour of God in order to stand.  Obviously, the armour of God is a longer study than I could write about here.  However, I believe that many Christians are missing pieces of this armour, and thus falling prey to the devil.  Oh, for a generation that once again realalized that we are in a battle, and that God has given us all the protection we need, if we will just avail ourselves of it!  (On a side note, many "professing" Christians have never donned the "helmet of salvation."  They have never been born again; therefore, they won't last when the fighting gets hot.)

2.  Belief.  12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.  (II Timothy 1:12-14).  Why did Paul stand?  He knew what he believed.  Think of it is way-  "No one ever stands for a cause they don't believe in."  And as Christians, it isn't just a belief or a faith- we have THE faith!  Paul didn't say that he had kept faith, or some church denomination's faith, or that he had been a person of faith, or that he had finished his journey of faith- he simply said "I have kept the faith"!!! (II Timothy 4:7)

3.  Conviction.  "And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?" (I Samuel 17:29).  "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."  We must become men and women of conviction, purposing in our own hearts to "just do right."  Most battles are not won or lost on the battlefield, they are decided long before that.  The preparation, the planning, the determination, the conviction- this is what will bring success! 

       Recently, I was talking to a man before one of our concerts, and he asked if I was going to do a good job.  I told him that I would try, to which he responded, "I have a sign on my computer that reads, 'Don't try- just do.'"  As I later reflected on what he said, I realized that many Christians spend their lives "trying" to do right, while a few simply "do" right.  Which kind of Christian are you?

                                                       "If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything."

Are You Willing to Suffer?

      Hello, friends!  Our family recently embarked on our summer tour, so I decided to start blogging again in celebration of leaving! (Just kidding!). Seriously, though, it is easier to blog on the road than on the farm, so I have decided to do a weekly post during this trip.  And since I sometimes get the opportunity to preach at the churches we sing at on Sunday mornings, I have decided to convert some of my sermons into blog posts. (This is called killing two birds with one stone!). So here is the thought for this week.

       "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me."  (Philippians 1:29-30)

       When I read these verses recently during my Bible time, the thought that struck me was this- it is impossible to separate belief from suffering.  The Word of God clearly teaches that these two go hand-in-hand.  Why is it, then, that so many sermons are preached about the goodness of God, trusting God in the hard times, having faith, believing that God will come through; yet we seldom preach about endurance, hardship, persecution and suffering?  I believe that a big reason is this- suffering is NOT popular in America.  We are the most pampered and lazy generation to walk the face of the earth in A LONG TIME, if not ever!  And simply put, we don't like suffering!  

       Friends, it is time we quit worrying about what others think, and start considering what God has called us to!  There are Christians all around the world who are being tortured and killed, and yet we refuse to take a stand for marriage, life, morality, and the Bible- simply because someone might be offended or make fun of us!  

       In reality, though, the world is crying out for something real and tough and strong- something worth standing for.  The world has tried money, immorality, and entertainment, and they have found that none of that satisfies!  Will we be a good example to them and endure suffering as a good soldier?  Christian, you will stand and give and account before God one day- will you be able to say that you took a stand for Him during your time on earth?  

       I close with 2 Timothy 3:12 "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."  Today, let us ask ourselves- "Are we included in all?" If so, why aren't we experiencing any suffering? There is only one answer- "we aren't standing anymore."