THE RETURN TO GOD’S PERFECT LOVE

(Genesis 2:25) Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

(Genesis 3:7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

From the last verse in Genesis chapter 2 to the 7th verse of chapter 3, a significant change came over Adam and Eve.  They began with no awareness of being naked; and then when their eyes were opened, they were ashamed and felt the need to cover themselves.  In the beginning, Adam and Eve only looked through eyes that saw good.  After the fall, their eyes were opened to also see evil.  The events of verses 1-6 in chapter 3 tell of their fall into sin.  With sin came self-awareness. 

Self-awareness has tainted the way we see each other and the way we love each other. Before sin came into the world, we were other focused.  We could love without thinking about ourselves.  Love in the pre-sin world was a pure love, a Godly love.  The kind of love God still gives to us, his perfect love.  But fallen man’s kind of love is infected by self-awareness. 

When we return to God through Jesus our Lord, he gives us his Spirit so we are empowered to fight against the sinful nature, yet it is a continual fight.  Selfishness, judgement, hatred, and unforgiveness get in the way.  We are born with a sinful nature into this world of tainted love.  We are trained by those around us to follow the selfish tainted ways of loving.  Yet there is hope for retuning to God’s perfect way of loving.

 We can trust in the hope of that day when Jesus will come and take us home to a place where perfect love again prevails.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this hope, (1Corinthians 13:8-10) “Love never fails.  But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears”.

FAITH

(Hebrews 11:1-3) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). This verse from Proverbs has been a pillar of guidance for me throughout my Christian life.  I have come to understand that to do what this passage directs is an act of faith.  Today I’d like to look into faith.  Hebrews chapter 11 is called the faith chapter because it focuses on faith.  The first three verses give us a great definition of faith.  Faith is simply believing in what we don’t see.

The Bible, from beginning to end, is given to us to assist in building our faith.  It tells us what existed before us and what exists in the unseen world.  Our journey begins with faith, just a little faith, and that faith grows as we seek the God who is unseen.  He touches us in our inner being, and we experience his presence.  We find joy and new life as we grow in our knowledge of him.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.      Here in Hebrews 11:6 we read about this process of starting with a little faith, and God rewarding us in a growing relationship with him.    As our faith in him grows, we approach the place where we can trust in him with all our hearts and surrender our understanding to him. 

The Message translation states our Hebrews 11:1-3 scripture like this, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”  Growing in trust and faith in our God is a quest all believers share, and this quest is filled along the way with rewards from the God who loves us.

 NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL

(Matthew 26:39)  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus’ prayer, like everything he spoke, is full of insight into who he is, and what he wants us to be.  He is wholly human.  He suffered like we would if we were facing an immanent and horrible death.  I wonder if I could, under those circumstances, finish my prayer with, “Yet not as I will, but as you will. 

The thought came up that Jesus is also wholly God giving me an excuse why I might not be so trusting.  Then I remembered Abraham and Isaac.  In Genesis chapter 22 we have the story of God testing Abraham.  Verses 1 and 2: Some time later God tested Abraham.  He said to him, “Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied.  “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 

Abraham then demonstrates his trust in God by carrying out God’s command.  The story climaxes just as Abraham raised the knife to end his son’s life. God stopped him, and provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac.

Abraham was willing to say, “Not as I will, but as you will.”  And Abraham was wholly human.  So, I have no excuse.  Jesus wants me to trust God, my Father, in all things.  Can I do it?  I hope so.  I have the provision of his Holly Spirit living in me.  I‘m determined; I will do it!  Help me Lord!  Not as I will, but as you will.

GOD’S KIND OF LOVE

God’s love is other oriented. God’s love is self-denying.  I’m relying simply on what Jesus demonstrated on the cross to make these statements. Jesus thought about us. He put our need for salvation before his own needs.

God’s love is personal. As Jesus ministered with his disciples, he knew each one of them individually. They were intimately involved in Jesus’ mission.

Today we are recipients of God’s kind of love. He continues to look to us and our needs. He knows us personally and draws us into his family.

1Peter 1:17-21 MSG, Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no after-thought. Even though it has only lately – at the end of the ages – become public knowledge, God always knew that he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 6

Romans 12:11-13 (MSG) Don’t burn out; keep yourself fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

There are many self-help books addressing the problem of Christians burning out, but self-help is misguiding. I think that being, “alert servants of the Master,” is a key to avoiding burn out. Servants do what the master has instructed them to do. So, I ask myself, “am I doing what Jesus instructed me to do, or am I doing what I think I should do?” The Lord has given us each the gifting and ability to do what he asks us to do. If we step out beyond that we are likely to burn out.

I think it’s important to always be aware that living the Christian life is first and foremost living in faith. Trusting all things to Jesus brings us great freedom from striving. Jesus did all that was necessary for our salvation and eternal life. It is done; it is finished.

God’s Spirit has come to us sealing us for eternity. And his Spirit is working within us to bring about a heart of love. Our main work is simply to surrender to him and trust him.

GOD’S GIFT FOR YOU

John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not parish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Christmas is a celebration of God’s love for his creation. His love is so deep that he gave his Son as a gift to us. With his advent, the Son brought to us eternal life.

John 3:18, Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

If you don’t believe then you’re condemned. However, the gift still remains before you. Reach out and take hold of Jesus, and you will have eternal life.

There’s a great fog of lies to hide this great and eternal gift from you. Just reach out in faith, and the fog will begin to clear. Jesus will be there to draw you to him.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 1

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

In Romans chapter 12, the Apostle Paul provides true insight into living the Christian life. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, has done an exceptional job of translating this passage into modern words. So here it is for us. This is how we should go about living the Christian life. As you study through these words, let me highlight what I believe are very important points.

“God helping you” You can’t live a Godly life without God’s help. Jesus died because we couldn’t do it ourselves, and we are in continual need of his help as we walk through our daily life.

The second point is related to the first. “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” When we become a Christian, God takes over and directs our life. That is if we let him. Too often the pride of man rises up in us, and we find ourselves saying, “Look what I’m doing for God.” It’s not about what we do for God; it’s about what he’s doing in and through us. It is about trusting him and surrendering our will to him.

Chapter 12 of Romans has much more to tell us. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of this in-depth passage on living the Christian Life.

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent. The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject. If he did he would forfeit his right to rule. When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short. Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself. He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom. As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory.

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom. Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away. In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness. The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader. Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us. We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom. Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king.

I’d like to leave you with this thought. It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live. Two choices exist. You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think the choice is that simple.

A FATHER’S DISCIPLINE

I love this post from several years ago. It is not only encouragement for us in our relationship with God, but an example for earth bound fathers. We can see that discipline takes patience, love, and help.

I came to the realization today that God has me in a tight spot with no wiggle room. I can’t wiggle myself out of this situation. The only thing I can do is trust Him. I have a tendency toward self-reliance, but I can’t think myself out of this one. God knows me so well. I chuckle at myself as I realize that God has infinite patience. He can wait me out. I am slowly surrendering.

As I ponder this quandary, I recognize the Father’s touch. He loves me enough to work in my life. He is disciplining me. I then remember the words of Hebrews 12:5-6:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

The God of the universe is taking time for me! He loves me enough to discipline me. I can’t take this lightly.

 

I now have a choice. I can humble myself and learn the lesson, or I can resist and gain nothing. Surrendering to discipline is not easy. Verse 11 reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Yes, I concur that it’s painful, but the verse continues, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I hope I can stick it out. I will definitely need His help.

 

I pray by God’s mercy and grace that I will learn this lesson. May my heart be humbled and encouraged, so I might reap the fruit of this lesson and gain what the Father intends for my life.

SHOW ME YOUR WAYS LORD

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4&5)

This week, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 25. In this psalm, David expresses his trust In God, and explores what it means to follow God. Those of us who make decisions from a Godly perspective are often thought foolish by worldly standards. David asks, “Do not let me be put to shame.” But, David knew that those who follow the ways of the world will eventually be put to shame.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 25 were part of a worship song we sang many years ago, so those words are very familiar to me. However, I never spent much time thinking about the words, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” David articulates, in these words, the desires of all God’s children. Show me, God, how it’s supposed to be; guide me and teach me.

As I reflect on my years of following the Lord, they have indeed been learning his ways and seeking his path for my life. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in this favorite passage:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28&29)

My human nature continually fights against this rest that Jesus offers, but I stay in the battle, for I have this burning desire. I want to know his ways and learn his paths.