Monthly Archives: June 2019

God is my friend.

We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! -Romans 5:10 (GNT)

The word ‘friend’ is sure one which is tossed about with relative ease these days. I always understood the concept of friendship to involve an amount of time where the person has proven themselves through thought, word and deed to be worthy of the title ‘friend.’ But now, it simply involves receiving a “friend request” from a social media site and responding in the affirmative. To me, there is so much more to friendship than such a casual and occasionally thoughtless act. My friends are those who have repeatedly proven themselves to me to be trustworthy and generous with their time and concern, among other things. I don’t expect them to lay down their lives for me, even though they may know I love them and ‘have their back.’

Despite my lack of concern for God, He still cared enough about me to send His Son Jesus to suffer horribly and die on a cross for me. He loved me before I ever loved Him. We love because God first loved us. -1 John 4:19 (GNT)

The Importance of Love.

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. -1 John 4:7-10 (MSG)

Joyce Meyer has written a whole lot of books. In fact, I believe she is now over 100 in count. One of the books she was hopeful would be a huge seller was a book she wrote on love. However, that book sold poorly in comparison to her expectations. Why is that? Do Christians think they need no further reminders or lessons about the value of love? (I have no idea what the book said, as I did not pick up a copy to read. This is just a comment I happened to hear her make on her program when channel surfing one day). I’m sure that books explaining what God can do for you sell very well. But, isn’t love something we must do for God since He first loved us so deeply?

The older I become, the more I see the value of love and what it does for the believer in the community of God. It is so easy to get caught up in doctrine and differences of opinion regarding theology. Obviously, the evidence for that statement is apparent in the overwhelming number of protestant denominations, catholic and orthodox communions, and assorted spin-offs. While I believe it is very important to study the Bible frequently, it is because I know it helps to strengthen my faith and remind me of what it and isn’t important in this life.

How would Jesus be regarded today? He healed on the Sabbath and even made the radical statement that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He associated with all manner of sinners, including the worst of all – tax collectors! His disciples were hardly people of high estate. Yet He proved Himself to be the Son of God!

What He did for us could not have been done by anyone else. He repaired the damage done by our sin through erasing it with the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. If He could do that for us, showing love beyond measure, how can we not love our brothers and sisters? Sadly, sometimes the coldest, meanest people I meet profess faith in Christ. I know there are certainly times in my own walk that finding Christ living within me would be hard for the careful observer. Thank God that He keeps on forgiving and forgiving. if I could only love a tiny portion of the way He loves us! How about you? Is there room for improvement in your life too?

What It All Comes Down To…

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. – Matthew 22:37-39

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. -1 John 2:7 Throughout God’s Word the message is the same. It all comes back to love. God’s love for people and His desire for all to be saved. His command to love Him first above all things and also to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is nothing new and yet a message that bears constant repeating as it seems to be easily forgotten. Can we think of recent times when we failed to obey this commandment to love people as we ought to? For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. -1 John 3:11

God makes sense.

I live in the same world that every other believers in: a world of hostility (blatant or discrete) toward people of faith. In this day and age of scientific advancements that are unparalleled in human history, it is easy to see where those who do not know God can dismiss Him amidst all of the “science” available that people claim suggests that all of this ordered universe sprang from big explosion long ago. And they laugh at Christianity and the Biblical view of creation? Really? Hmm…

I find it easier to understand how people can have a hard time with Christianity as a religion than the idea of God in general, as we have so many ‘branches’ of it that I get a headache thinking of them all. Some are Catholic — others Orthodox, Evangelical or Protestant. Some are cessationists and others believe the gifts of the Spirit for today. Some take a high view of Scripture and others not so much. Even among those categories I just listed are many divisions. It is staggering.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
 Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of every human being.
-Job 12:7-10 (NRSV)

I think the first thing an individual has to establish within themselves is an allowance that God is. That should be easy enough to realize when one looks at the ordered creation all around us. I think that, even as a little child, I understood the idea of a Heavenly Father who created all that is. Somehow, I also knew that He loved me. Perhaps it was the role model that my parents were. Maybe it was the fact that I was fortunate enough to be called by the Sovereign God of the universe. Whatever the reason, I knew. I have always known. How about you?

Psalm 19:1-6 (GNT)

1 How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory!
    How plainly it shows what he has done!
Each day announces it to the following day;
    each night repeats it to the next.
No speech or words are used,
    no sound is heard;
yet their message goes out to all the world
    and is heard to the ends of the earth.
God made a home in the sky for the sun;
    it comes out in the morning like a happy bridegroom,
    like an athlete eager to run a race.
It starts at one end of the sky
    and goes across to the other.
    Nothing can hide from its heat.

Lord Jesus, Our Pioneer.

pi·o·neer/ˌpīəˈnir/ noun: pioneer; plural noun: pioneers

1. a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.synonyms:settler, colonist, colonizer, frontiersman/frontierswoman, explorer, trailblazer, discoverer “the pioneers of the Wild West”

(courtesy of Google Search)

I have recently begun reading a gem of a devotional that I picked up that a local used bookstore by Brennan Manning. It has proven to be a wonderful way to start my day before leaving the house for the hustle and bustle of the world. Scripture support for today’s reading comes from the Book of Hebrews: For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. -Hebrews 2:10 (RSV). Again, the idea of Jesus as our Pioneer is repeated later in the book of Hebrews: looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:2 (RSV).

Jesus truly is our pioneer. For all of us, the idea of salvation through faith alone as a result of God’s grace and sacrifice in the person of Jesus is revolutionary. He has done what we could not through obedience to the law. The law has served its purpose: it has shown us our need for Christ. Because of Him, we can now settle in the Kingdom of God forever!

Paying the Price

Do not bring on your own death by sinful actions. God did not invent death, and when living creatures die, it gives him no pleasure. He created everything so that it might continue to exist, and everything he created is wholesome and good. There is no deadly poison in them. No, death does not rule this world, for God’s justice does not die.

Ungodly people have brought death on themselves by the things they have said and done. They yearn for death as if it were a lover. They have gone into partnership with death, and it is just what they deserve. -Wisdom 1:12-16 (GNT)

The verses above are taken from a book of the Apocrypha called Wisdom. I really think they sum it up. We are so often quick to blame God for sickness and death, when in reality it is people that have brought the pan of death to this world through their own actions. God loves us and warns us against sinful behavior — which doesn’t just grieve Him, it is self-destructive.

One of the things that the freedom we are afforded by God carries with it is responsibility for our own actions and subsequent consequences. Terrible things routinely happen to ourselves as a result of our poor decisions and actions and also often to innocent bystanders. If we drink and drive, people may be hurt or killed. If we smoke, we may get lung cancer or suffer any number of physical maladies as a result.

Humanity has introduced sickness and death to this world. It began in the story of Genesis and has progressed ever since. It was not God’s intention or design for this to happen. God is truly sovereign, and in His wisdom He has given us what we call ‘free will.’ He has also given us access to His wisdom, should we choose to ask and accept it. The choice is ours. Either way, the cycle of life and death is now in motion and will remain until He deems it time for a change. We have the hope of eternal life, as He has planted the idea of eternity in our hearts.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Lucid Moments.

On the way to work this morning, I had some time to think about a period in my life when I started attending college. I had one of those times I like to refer to as “lucid moments” when I see things clearly, as they really are and not through my sinful, self-centered perception. At least, I think that’s what happens. My life at that point in time was far from what I would call ‘Christ-centered.’ It was more like ‘sin-centered’ to accurately attach a label to it. I was a young man, fresh out of high school and eagerly looking for some place to fit in within a world I knew nothing about. The guidance (I thought it to be ‘nagging’ at the time) of my parents was miles and miles away. My friends from the social circle I enjoyed in High School had pretty gone their own separate ways after high school and I put no effort into keeping in touch with them nor with God, either. So I found a different social circle, one that knew not of God and therefore could not be a voice of conviction to my sin.

Gone were the days of teen fellowship gatherings on weekends and Christian social life that we enjoyed with each other during weekend worship sessions and “mission trips.” Sadly, my Lord Jesus became someone I relegated to only thinking about on Sundays when (and if) I went to Church. I was about as ‘back-slidden’ as I could get. Fortunately, Jesus never relegated me to the unloved. I felt spiritually very much alone and the square peg in the round hole. In retrospect, I believe that the Holy Spirit was working on me the whole time because no matter how much I drank or drugged, or how much of the time I spent pursuing some disgusting perversion, I always felt ashamed and knew what I was doing was wrong. My time in that world led to more and more drugs and drinking and associations with people I definitely would not want to associate with today — unless sharing the Gospel with them! God was calling me to a true and authentic repentance and conversion, yet I resisted. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. -James 4:8

No matter how bad things got — and they got pretty bad — there was still the ever-present voice of God telling me how much He loved me and wanted me to come back to Him. When I was still, there was God. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. -Psalms 46:10

I heard a preacher say that God never sends anyone to Hell that doesn’t want to go there. I believe it; in fact, that is the only way to reconcile the fact that there is a Hell and God is love. The Bible makes Hell sound pretty terrible. What exactly Hell is really like I do not pretend to know and never intend to find out — thanks to Jesus. He makes you that same offer. Believe me, the life of love and peace He offers is so much more than you can know without having a personal relationship with Him.

I know with certainty now that Jesus paid the price for my sin and has given me the unshakable hope of eternal life. My life is changed. I’m in my sixties. I survived the days of my youth and have a great marriage and career. More importantly than anything, I have a Savior! I do not pretend to be without sin, but I do have a deep understanding in my heart of what 1 John 1:9 means: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I hope and pray that this is something that is a reality in your life, as well.

True Repentance.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
-Psalm 51:10-11 (ESV)

If you want to know what true repentance looks like, read the 51st Psalm. There you will see David who is truly grieved by his sin and begging God for forgiveness. He doesn’t just ask that God overlook a single transgression, but that He might blot them all out. David recognizes the fact that simply forgiving a sin along the way is not the answer to his problem; David needs to have a new heart. A clean heart. He needs a “right spirit” renewed in him.

As Christians, we benefit from the wonderful covenant of Grace that includes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin so we may acknowledge it and repent of it, returning to God and the peace that we can only enjoy in fellowship with Him.

Don’t get spit out.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)

A morning devotional I have recently begun reading dealt with some verses from Revelation today that come with a dire warning: don’t get “spit out!” It is easy to say that we are Christians and become pious, looking down our noses on the sinful hoards that inhabit our fallen world with disdain. While we are busy looking at others, we fail to see the fallen, broken state of our own lives. Convenient, perhaps, but painful. What will Jesus say about you when you meet face to face?

Intimate Love.

I love you, O Lord, my strength. -Psalm 18:1 (ESV)

This is not the normal word for love that refers to love as part of a covenant, but instead is a rare verb form that indicates ‘tender intimacy’ (source: John MacArthur).

So often, many of us throw the word ‘love’ around with little regard for its actual meaning. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:8 John used the word LOVE a lot in his writing and most certainly understood what it means (as best as any man could). He made it clear that GOD is LOVE and we are to emulate that love in our dealings with each other: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. -John 13:34 (CSB)

Love is a word often used to manipulate people and fool them into a sense of caring on the part of the person offering it that is both false and self-serving. When we use the word LOVE in talking to [or about] God, how are we using it? Do we mean it? Have we come to have the deep and abiding sense of His love that comes gradually from a humble and grateful heart for what He has done for us? Let us hope that this is the case and that we are not self-deceived. Let us work on loving each other the way Christ loved us. Can you imagine what a witness to the world the Church would be if we were corporately paying attention to this commandment?