Archives for the month of: April, 2016

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Toby Keith, country music singer/song writer, reveals the philosophy of life for many people in one of his hits. The song. I Wanna Talk About Me, was his seventh Number One single. The opening lyrics are

We talk about your work how your boss is a jerk
We talk about your church and your head when it hurts
We talk about the troubles you’ve been having with your brother
About your daddy and your mother and your crazy ex-lover
We talk about your friends and the places that you’ve been
We talk about your skin and the dimples on your chin
The polish on your toes and the run in your hose
And God knows we’re gonna talk about your clothes
You know talking about you makes me smile
But every once in awhile

I want to talk about me
Want to talk about I
Want to talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, you, you, you usually, but occasionally
I want to talk about me

For many people life is “all about me.” The philosophy of Selfism insists that love of self is the greatest love of all. Therefore a person’s self interests trumps everything else. This is one of many faulty philosophies upon which people build their lives.

One day when Jesus was responding to questions a lawyer asks, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  What is the organizing principle around which to order my life?

Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” He was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema, the basic tenet of Judaism. Every Hebrew child is taught this from earliest childhood. Every devout Jew recites it twice every day.

This is the basic and first commandment of Jesus and of God and of life. We are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and spiritual emotions, with all the strength and vitality of our inner lives, and with all our brains and human brilliance.

Jesus continued by quoting Leviticus 19:18 saying, “A second commandment is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, Jesus suggests that we are to love our neighbor as deeply as we look out for our own welfare. To value others as much as we value ourselves. To focus on the needs of our neighbor as much as we focus on our own needs.

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Jesus combines the two laws into one moral law. Neither law was to stand on its own; This is similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember the Golden Rule? (Matthew 7:12) “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”

To love the Lord your God with all the energy you have and to love your neighbor as yourself is at the core of Jesus’ teaching. The cross of Christ, the most important symbol of the Christian faith, has two dimensions: a vertical love to God and a horizontal love towards our neighbors.

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Jesus said all the law and the prophets hang on these two basic interconnected commandments. It is as if Jesus said, “This is all Scripture in a nutshell; the whole law of human duty in a portable, pocket form.”Indeed, it is so simple that a child may understand it, so brief that all may remember it, so comprehensive as to embrace all possible cases. And from its very nature it is unchangeable. It is inconceivable that God should require from his rational creatures anything less, or in substance anything else… (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown)

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We are called to love not only those who are like us or those who “like” us. Love for neighbor is not hormonal or simply emotional. It has to be intentional and will seldom leave you in a state of ecstasy.

 

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We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4:16,20,21)

Love of God and love of neighbor is more than a statement for a bumper sticker. They are not abstract concepts and cannot be separated. They are the principle on which a person can organize their life.

Jamie Jenkins

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Last week I was at the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level making it the lowest body of water in the world. The lake, about 50 miles long and 11 miles wide, is bordered by Israel and the West Bank to the west and Jordan to the east.

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The Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. It is almost 10 times saltier than the ocean which prevents the existence of any life forms in it. It is fed by the Jordan River from the north and is over 1200 feet deep. However there is no outlet and more water evaporates from it than flows into it creating valuable minerals and salts.

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The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. In the Bible, it is a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world’s first health resorts (for King Herod the Great). It has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.

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Just north of the Dead Sea is the town of Jericho, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back 11,000 years. The city’s site provides evidence of the first development of permanent settlements and thus of the first steps toward civilization.

Lent- Jericho

According to the biblical book of Joshua, Jericho was captured from the Canaanites by Joshua but archaeologists have not found evidence of the town of Joshua. Ruins identified as such in the 1930s were later identified as older. A nearby site has revealed a Hellenistic fortress and the palace of Herod from approximately 14 BC. Stories of Jesus’ ministry in Jericho include the healing of blind Bartimaeus and his encounter with the “wee little” man, Zacchaeus. Nearby is where Jesus was tempted immediately after his baptism in the Jordan River.

Last week I and a group of folks from Atlanta ate lunch at the Temptation Restaurant. It is located near the entrance to the excavations of the biblical city of Jericho.

Over the years of visiting the Holy Land we have watched the restaurant owner’s son grow from childhood to become a young adult. As we prepared to leave after a delicious meal (and a little shopping) this young man presented my wife and other women with a bouquet of roses.

Upon returning to our hotel in Jerusalem my granddaughter inserted one of those roses into a plastic bag and sent it back to Atlanta in a note to one of our friends. Four days letter  after returning home to Atlanta, the rose was still alive and our friend passed it on to one of her friends with serious health issues.

Faith, Hope, Love

Love shared from the lowest geographical point to a very low physical and emotional point in one person’s life. “  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13). Love knows no boundaries.

Jamie Jenkins