Love

     God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, caring, forgiving and some occasional foot-washing.
     Our trunk has compartments that contain an inexhaustible amount of all forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can match each recipient with the proper form of love at the appropriate time. 
     When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small was (is) my qualification to be a receiver of such love and how much better my life is now because of that love.

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     The Bible is a love story...not a romance, but a love story none-the-less. It is a story of love freely offered, but often rejected. In the cases where that love was accepted the result was wonderful loyalty, joy and power in each individual's life.
     It is a love story featuring you and me, just as much as Biblical characters.

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     I have grown up with the idea that as Christians we should "Love the things God loves and hate the things God hates."  I think "...and with the same intensity" should be added. This may be an accurate summary statement of being and living as a Christian.
     It seems lately that the intensity of our hating is much greater than the intensity of our loving.

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.

Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 10

When Jesus returned to heaven, what did He take back as souvenirs of His trip here? Five scars and the assurance He had done his Father’s will.

God’s voice is true and relevant whether He whispers (butterflies, gentle rain, a cat’s purr) or shouts (Niagara Falls, thunder, a hurricane). In all things He is saying “I created. I control. Trust me.”

If I refuse to tell others about God’s grace, if I refuse to share what I know about the grace I have received, then I have received it largely in vain.

As a Christian I take comfort in the fact that God always keeps his word. Can others take comfort from the fact that I will always keep mine?

My love for God is proven by my obedience (Mark 12:31). My love for others is proven by my service. Obey and Serve. It seems simple enough, but after sixty years of Christian life I still struggle to do both.

Every problem in my life is an opportunity for me to  allow God to solve that problem in a way that will glorify his name. Why is that so hard to remember?

The most valuable athlete, by word or action, says “Coach, I’m not as good as I want to be. Show me how to get better.” The most valuable employee says the same thing to his boss. The most valuable Christian says those words to God…and means them.

The degree to which I have become holy is indicated by the degree to which I am sharing God’s blessings.

I did not do anything to achieve my salvation but I must do everything in my power to exhibit it every day.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul said the love of God “compels” us. It compelled him to preach  the gospel. What specific day-by-day actions am I compelled to carry out because of His love?

Worshipping Jesus

Having a close, personal relationship with Jesus allows me to hear and respond to music that only He and I can hear. When I hear it I smile and others don’t know why. I move in rhythms and steps they do not understand.  I find satisfaction from dancing enthusiastically when others have not been aware there was any music for us to dance to.

Others may find my behavior a little strange, but Jesus and I don’t care. No one benefits when they criticize me for engaging in our fellowship dance. For some reason they seem to feel that “different” is wrong and praise dancing is somehow irreverent. I never want to disturb the worship of others, but I also never want to avoid Spirit-led activity.

Sometimes our relationship results in praise words rather than worship dancing. At such times I tend to sing too loud and ignore the worship leader on the platform. I may be the only one in the crowd that starts singing another verse when he is finished. I may get carried away and sing the song the way we used to sing it sixty years ago. Sometimes I forget I am not the only person in the room.

But Jesus and I don’t care. I think unison in worship is overrated, anyway.

Psalm 100

Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 8

The blessings God has for me today may be delayed until I share the ones He gave me yesterday.

Jesus loves me so much that He became like me so I can become like Him.

Fear provides faith an opportunity to grow.

When God evaluates my behavior He is easy to please and impossible to satisfy.

Passionless people pray powerless prayers.

Stillness is a part of worship. If we will be quiet while we worship, God will hear us.

I must be aware of the needs of others before I can show them I care about those needs.

Faith should say to God “I will try to do the impossible and accept the uncomfortable.”

If I say “Jesus, I give you all my life to use as you want” I should also  say “Satan, you cannot use any of my life any time for any thing.”

Self-pity is a sin because it is based on the concept that God is not doing as good a job of taking care of me as He should be.

If there’s anyone in this world that I don’t love, I am disobeying Jesus… And disobedience is sin.

God came to us – Immanuel – so we will not be afraid to go to Him.

How Did He Stand It?

When did Jesus know He was going to die on a Roman cross as a common criminal? At birth? At age twelve? Certainly by age 30.

At some point his divinity gave a fore knowledge of his death.  How did his humanity handle this look into a future that promised such pain and suffering? How did He maintain a sense of joy and peace in the shadow of the cross? What allowed Him to laugh, sing, joke and smile during his ministry?

And He did each of those things. Grown men didn’t leave home, family and careers to follow a sour puss. Children didn’t flock to be picked up and held by a grouch. Crowds didn’t contribute their donkeys and cloaks to form a parade for a “gloomy Gus”.

How did He avoid a constant feeling of dread and sadness as He healed and taught the people of Judea and Jerusalem? As he conquered disease and death in others, surely the specter of his own future hovered in the background of his mind.

The answer to the question has to be in his total trust in his father’s wisdom, power and love. Long before Gethsemane his daily mantra was “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42.) He was fully convinced that only by following Jehovah’s will could He provide a way for the human race to be ransomed from the power of sin. He had heard “With him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) as He stepped out of the waters of John’s baptism and He had to die to hear it again.

What am I willing to do each day to hear it from Jehovah God?

 

 

 

Psalm 23

This psalm by the David – the poet, singer and king – is one of the most loved and studied passages in scripture. But I have found that God can take even the most familiar parts of his Word to teach and reassure me.

The last time I meditated on it these six aspects stood out.

Provision…still waters, green pastures and a prepared table

Place………..the house of the Lord

Purpose…….a path of righteousness for His names sake

Peace………..I will fear no evil

Person………the Lord

Protection….thy rod and staff

The Holy Spirit will cause Biblical information to become Spiritual illumination that will lead to personal transformation. How much He will change us through this short look at David’s masterpiece depends on our state of openness.