Because I Love

The day before the first Christmas Jesus and Michael were visiting.

Michael...Are you going to earth tomorrow?

Jesus...Yes.

Michael...Are you sure you want to do that?

Jesus...Yes.

Michael...Isn't the earth still full of anger and hatred and cruelty?

Jesus...Yes.

Michael...Do you think they might misunderstand you?

Jesus...Yes.

Michael...They might even ridicule you and beat you.

Jesus...Yes.

Michael...They may even try to kill you.

Jesus...Yes.

Michael...Then why are you going?

Jesus...Because I love  (insert your name here)

He Forgave

He said "Don't," but I did.
He said "Do,", but I didn't.

He said "Stop," but I kept going.
He said "Keep going," but I stopped.

He said "Give," but I kept.
He said "Keep," but I spent.

He said "Go," but I stayed.
He said "Stay," but I went.

He said "Louder," but I stayed silent.
He said "Be quiet," but I shouted.

He said "Now," but I waited.
He said "Wait," but I did it anyway.

Over and over I sinned.
Over and over He forgave.

And that is "Good News"!

Loving Others ?!?!?!

Loving other people is dangerous. Loving other people can cost us time and money. Loving other people can cause us to travel to frightening places and spend time with frightening people. Loving other people can result in us being with “others” when we would rather be with “our own.”

For children of God, is loving other people a command or an option? Mark 12:31 answers that question for us. And that love for others is to be demonstrated by doing  and sharing,  not just talking and preaching. It expects us to love individuals, as well as groups.

Such love is impossible for us to achieve and maintain unless we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The “filling” will provide us with the desire to love and the “led” will  show us how to love. When we feel we are unable to do either of these we need to emulate the love of Jesus and daily choose the life-style described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.

If, for some reason, we want to measure the extent of our love, we need to go to that passage and substitute our own name for the word “love.”  (Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.) Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we don’t yet love like Jesus does, He loves us anyway and the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us.

 

 

Repentance and Forgiveness

God offers to both forgive and forget our sins so we may be restored to a right relationship with Him. This offer comes as a free gift because He loves us, not because we have earned it.

Before we can take advantage of this gift we must have an attitude of repentance toward our sins. We play no role in the offer of forgiveness, but we must do our part in the application of it to our individual lives.

We cannot repent of our sins unless we are aware of them. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit creates such an awareness within us and shows us our need of repentance He is not trying to crush us under a load of guilt. He is trying to help us reach a position where we can receive the Father’s forgiveness.

The prodigal son (Luke 15) and the adulterous woman (John 8) were each aware of their sins and thus each received forgiveness through God’s grace. The prodigal’s older brother and the woman’s accusers remained unforgiven until they recognized and repented of their sins.

So when a passage of Scripture or a sermon causes us to feel guilty, we must refuse to be angry and resentful. We must not start the internal rationalizations that blame others for our shortcomings. Instead, we must praise God for his efforts to further sanctify us by allowing us to travel down a hallway called Grace through a door name Repentance into a room labeled Forgiveness.

With gratitude and humility we need to make this journey every day.

LAW-LIVING vs GRACE-LIVING

We rejoice in the fact that we live “under grace” rather than “under the law.” We feel that law-living, with all the “thou shalls” and “thou shall nots,” would be a demanding, dreary existence. By contrast we see grace-living as warm, comfortable and full of joy.

We thank God for the fact that we live in a post-resurrection period rather than the era characterized by the Mosaic law and the interpretations it spawned. But grace-living is as difficult as law-living.

While law-living had  hundreds of specific requirements, at least each person knew exactly what was expected.  His religious duties were outlined in detail. Everyone was expected to meet the same requirements. By contrast, grace-living requires each of us to constantly seek and find, within the framework of scripture, God’s will. Grace-living for me may not be exactly the same as grace-living for you. And we celebrate this flexibility.

The Mosaic law was first given to a group of people who had no training or experience in developing their own society and culture.  They had been slaves for many generations. The law-living required of them had societal and sanitation aspects, as well as spiritual considerations. The commands of the Torah were only the ABCs of Gods revelation of himself. Jehovah 101 if you will.

By the time Jesus was born, God expected the Hebrew people to be ready for a more personal, detailed expression of His character and nature. Jesus was the advanced course given by a Father that longed to be known and understood by those He loved. This explains Jesus’ statement in John 14:9 “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”

Jesus did not cancel the ABCs of earlier times. He expanded them and built on them. He expects us to follow the “Thou shalt love” commands of Matthew 22:37-40 just as rigorously as the rabbis of his day followed the Mosaic law.

Christian Repentance

Public repentance (which preachers often call for from the pulpit) may be more difficult for a Christian than for an unsaved person. This is especially true when that sin was something that directly damaged another person. Such behaviors include adultery, character assassination, robbery and fraud.

A Christian is usually aware an action is sinful before he does it, but he still chooses to do it. He ignores God’s teaching. He knowingly breaks God’s laws. On the other hand, the unsaved may not have been aware of God’s prohibition of a specific action. He had no moral compass to ignore. He can often truthfully say “I did not know it was wrong.”

When the Christian faces his sin He must say “Forgive me, Father. I knew I was sinning and I did it anyway.”  The unsaved can approach God with “Forgive me. At the time I really did not know I was sinning.”

A Christian is likely to face public embarrassment in his social circle when he confesses and repents. The unsaved person faces no such condemnation from his friends because to them he was only doing as expected.

Our prior knowledge of good and evil may make repentance after salvation more difficult than our original repentance at the time of our salvation. If we had assurance from fellow Christians that they would be as forgiving and accepting as our Father, repentance would be much easier.

Jesus accepts us each time we return to Him and acknowledge our sins. He instructs us to accept our brothers and sisters just as quickly and completely. He will give us the ability to do so as we lean on Him.

Valued by God

To me the term “…poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3) means total humility, admitting that on my own I can do nothing (John 15:5.) God loves me regardless of my lack of talent, beauty, skills or possessions. In God’s system I have great value. I am a child in his family adopted through the death of Jesus on the cross.

In the world’s system a thing like this is unheard of. We are taught that we must do something or be something or have something before we are granted the status of “valuable or important.” But God says “You are valuable to me exactly as you are right now.”

Should we ever wonder how valuable we are to Him all we need do is look to the cross. Jesus died there to buy my eternal freedom from the consequences of my sins.  God’s grace means love without accomplishment. It seems to be a crazy system, but it is the way God does things and I sure am glad.

God’s Active Love

God’s love for us is, and always has been, more than emotion. His love is so great that He had to put it into action to give us a demonstration so bold and decisive we could never doubt it or ignore it. That demonstration was, of course, the gift and death of His son.

What if God had said “I love you, and when you get your life cleaned up I’ll adopt you and allow you into my kingdom,” but had not sent Jesus?

OR

“I love you and I’m sorry you are hurting. Hang in there. Be sure to call me if I can be of any help,” but had not sent Jesus?

OR

“I love you and I understand your fears. Just remember that I’m in control of your future. I’ll always be close by if you need me,” but had not sent Jesus?

Such platitudes are well meaning, but we need much more. Without the gift of Jesus as proof of God’s love our religion would be empty and ineffective in helping us deal with the trials of life. As his children and representatives on earth, we must help others by going beyond words and demonstrating our love to those who are hurting. Just as our Father shows His love for us, we must show our love for others.

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Sometimes I think God does not solve the problems of those I am praying for until I am ready to be used by Him as part of the solution. God frequently says “Don’t just sit there and pray. Pray, then get up and DO what I lead you to do.”

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I John 4:21 says “He who loves God must love his brother also.” If I do not love others, especially other Christians, my love for God is stunted and limited. How do I know I love them? I want to help them.

Train of Life

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents. We thought they would always be with us on our journey. As we got older we realized this was not true, but it was still painful when they stepped off.

During our subsequent ride we have been joined by many significant people. Siblings, children, grandchildren, spouses and friends made the ride more enjoyable. Some of them have already vacated their seats, causing us feelings of extreme loss.

Still the trip continues. Joys, sorrows, expectations, successes and failures have passed through our car. Each has left a permanent mark on us.

Our major responsibility is to live in such a way that we bring joy, peace and satisfaction into the life of those riding beside us.

The biggest question on this journey is not knowing just when we will be forced to vacate our seats and disembark. When this happens to me I hope there will be at least a few moments of sorrow when my fellow passengers will share comments such as “I’ll miss him” or “He was a good traveler.”

Until then I wish you “God speed” as He continues to guide and protect us.

God’s Forgiveness

I sin. Every Day. Sometimes my sins are by commission. Sometimes they are by omission. But they are still sins. Some of them I’m aware of. Some of them I never recognize. Some are accidental. Some are intentional.

But I do not have to ask God for forgiveness. All my sins – every one of them – were forgiven when I became a Christian seventy years ago.  This included sins past, sins present and sins future.

This calls not for a  request of “Please forgive” but an affirmation of “Thank you, Father.”  My attitude toward his action is eternal, massive gratitude and devotion.

That forgiveness guarantees me a place in heaven where I will spend eternity praising Him. It also permits me to have an earthly relationship with Him that includes peace, protection and power.

This is a total gift. His grace precludes any action on my part.  And that, my friend, is GOOD NEWS.

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Jesus told the parable of the man who was forgiven a big debt by his master but would not forgive a friend of a small debt. Basically the man would not pass on something he had been given…forgiveness.

Is it a misapplication of that story for me to apply this to myself and the salvation I have been given? If I do not help others find the salvation I received as a gift am I displeasing my Master the way the ungrateful servant did his?