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The Mirror Don’t Lie

II Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.)

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All of us are familiar with the expression, “The mirror don’t lie!”  I recently made the mistake of going to a different hairdresser and upon looking in the mirror experienced that expression firsthand.  It was not a good cut and the mirror didn’t lie!  After the cut, I kept going back to the mirror, hoping it might somehow magically reflect a different image, but the mirror continued to reflect otherwise.  Day after day I continued to work on the image I saw in the mirror as best I could until lo and behold, one day when looking into that mirror, I noticed my hair had begun to grow a little.  O happy day!  From day-to-day, however, the mirror still reflected the remains of a bad cut.  Some days it didn’t look so bad, but some days it didn’t look so good either!  I finally realized there was nothing I could do about it but just thank God that he causes hair to grow, and to accept the fact that it’s going to go through some unattractive stages while doing so.  God’s word tells us that we, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image of Christ, and that it is the Lord who causes us to grow into that image.  Some days we aren’t going to look so bad, but some days we aren’t going to look so good either.  Like me with my hair, we got a bad cut in life thanks to Adam and our image has reflected it ever since.  We, too, are going to go through some unattractive stages while God, in his grace, causes us to grow out of that image.  The important thing is not to give up.  Keep looking in that mirror and keep working on that hair, until it reflects the image you desire to see.  And don’t worry, we have the best “hairdresser” in the world.  He is a master stylist!  As my hairstylist so graciously said to me when I told her what I’d done, God says to us also, “I’ll get ya fixed up!”

God created man to reflect the inner image of himself.  Genesis 1:17 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  God created man and woman with a specific identity unto themselves and a distinct personality unto themselves, but one with him in the inner image of himself.  God has always intended for the inner identity of man to reflect his image.  A mirror reflects the likeness of a person.  The reflection in the mirror is not that person themselves, it is merely a reflection of the image of that person.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ) explains, “We don’t become Christ, but we become vessels of his nature, character and life.”  Interestingly enough, the definition of mirror is:  “Surface capable of reflecting light.”  We, as a mirror, were created to be capable of reflecting the light of God within.  Scripture tells us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness.”  When Adam chose to disobey God, the light of God’s presence in man went out, and the mirror of man’s heart was no longer capable of reflecting God.  A mirror must have light to reflect an image.  In speaking of those who did not see with eyes of the Spirit, Jesus said, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”  Because man no longer possessed the light of God, his understanding became darkened.  He could only see by the darkness of his own blind soul.  Scripture says of the natural man, “They grope in darkness with no light.”  This is the light that those who have not been born of the Spirit still see by today.  Jesus said of them, “Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?”  We must be careful who we are following today.  Many are not being led of the Spirit, but by the darkness of their own blind soul.  In contrast, Jesus said if you see with eyes of the Spirit, “your whole body will be full of light.”  When a man is born of the Spirit, it’s like turning a light on in a dark room.  The whole room is filled with light.

“Man came into the nature of Adam through birth, and the cross offered the way out through death.”  (Henderson).  In Adam, we got a bad cut.  The only way for man to once again reflect the image of God was for man to die and be born again into the nature and identity of a new man, one that was capable of reflecting God’s image; one full of light.  Jesus was that man.  Scripture tells us, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” and “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”  The “exact representation” of God resided in Jesus as a man.  When we are born again, we are “made alive with him” and become “partakers of the divine nature.”  In Christ our identity changes from one born of Adam (flesh) to one born of Spirit (Jesus.). Isaiah 64:8 acknowledges, “We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.”  God’s word begins with “In the beginning God created.”  Try as he might, man cannot recreate what God has created.  Ecclesiastes 6:10 tells us, “Whatever a man is, God has made him to be, and a man cannot contend with He who made him.”  Nicodemus wisely pointed out, “Surely a man cannot enter into his mother’s womb to be born again!”  Nicodemus was right, a man cannot change his God-given identity in the natural man.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.  You must be born again.”  Only in Christ can a man be born again into a new identity.  John 1:11 tells us, “to all who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  The only way for a person to be a new creation is through Christ.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

The definition of the word identity is:  “Exact or essential sameness.  The condition of being the same as a person or thing.  The condition or fact of being a specific thing.”  The identity of a thing requires exact or essential sameness to that thing.  In Christ, we have been given the exact or essential sameness of Christ’s nature, and it is “as Christ is put on and Adam is put off, that we become living manifestations of Jesus indwelling life and nature in us.”  (Henderson).  It is only as we submit to the new nature of Christ and resist the old nature of Adam, that we once again become mirrors that reflect the inner image of God.  If you don’t want to walk in darkness, you have to turn on the light.  The only way to embrace the new man is to forsake the old one.  To reflect the identity of one, you must forsake the other.  As Jason Henderson points out, “Christ did not die so that Adam could continue living.”   And as T. Austin Sparks so rightly says, “It is shameful and wrong to use the cloak of God’s grace as an excuse for continuing in the nature Christ came to destroy.”  God gave Adam the right to choose to submit his will to him and Adam chose to follow his own will instead.  In contrast, Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”  In Jesus, God provided the man who would do what Adam would not do; the man who would, “do only what my Father tells me to do.”  That is the nature Jesus came to restore in man.  Those who would “choose to do what is right in their own eyes” are still giving place to the nature of Adam.

The identity of a thing requires exact or essential sameness to that thing.  Essential sameness means a person or thing must possess that which is essential to being that person or thing.  Everything God created was created to be and to do a specific thing and given that which was essential to fulfilling their created purpose.  Male and female were created to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  That is still their created purpose today.  God also created man to reflect his image, and that is still their created purpose today as well.  Being born of the Spirit is essential to fulfilling God’s original purpose for man.  Only in Christ can the Adamic man die and a new spiritual man be born in order to fulfill that purpose.  In Christ every race, every gender and every class of people share in the same identity and are given the exact and essential sameness of Christ through the Spirit.  Colossians 3:11 tells us, “In this new creation all distinctions vanish – but Christ is all in all – everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person.”  (Amplified Bible).

I realize there are many people in the world today who feel themselves to be of an identity they were not born with.  I cannot in all honesty understand or explain that, nor do I stand in judgment of those who struggle with it.  God’s word tells us, “We all stumble in many ways.”  We all struggle with the old sin nature of Adam and it often makes us stumble in many ways.  I think Paul, in Romans 9:21 perhaps gives the best advice concerning the issue of a person’s identity in asking, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”  In other words, Paul was reinforcing the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 6:10 that, “a man cannot contend with He who made him.”  I admit I don’t have answers for all of the complicated issues in this life.  In the end, I think it all goes back to that one bad cut that we all need to grow out of, and I do know a little bit about bad cuts!  I know that everyone’s hair grows at a different pace, and it is God who causes it to grow.  Scripture tells us Christ’s body, “grows as God causes it to grow” also.  It reminds me of an old song I used to sing in church when I was a little girl.  “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.  It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.  How loving and patient He must be, ’cause He’s still working on me.”  All those who are in Christ are still growing and God’s still working on that bad cut.  He promises in his word that he will, “finish the good work that he has begun in you.”  In Zechariah 4:6-7 we have a picture of God’s faithfulness to finish the work he has begun in us in Christ.  Zerubbabel was given the responsibility of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  God told him the temple would be built, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  The word of the Lord came to Zerubbabel saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it.”  Jesus is God’s Zerubbabel and we are the temple of God.  He has laid the foundation of God’s grace in us and he, by his Spirit, will complete it.

Oswald Chambers writes, “God wants to bring us into union with Himself, but until we are willing to give up our right to ourselves He cannot.”   Jesus said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  Giving up our right to ourselves, giving up our identity, is the only way to enter into the new identity that God offers us in Jesus.  It seems to me that in a world where so many people are trying to find themselves and their true identity, we’re missing the point.  What a person identifies as isn’t nearly as important as Who he identifies with.  Only God’s grace offers you an end to who you were born into being and a chance to have a new identity; a “new do” if you will.  Only God can give you a new cut and help you grow out of that bad one.  At the end of life’s long day, whatever your identity might be in the natural man, the only identity acceptable to God, is the  life of his son.  As Jason Henderson so wisely observes, “Both condemnation and salvation are determined by the man in whom we are found.  The work of the cross declared only one man alive to God and all others “dead in trespasses and sins.”  All that matters now is which man are you in?”  And if you want to be sure, take a good look in that mirror, ’cause the mirror don’t lie!

THE MIRROR DON’T LIE
One day I went to the hairdresser to get myself a new do
The hairdresser said, “I know just the cut that will really look good on you!”
And so with scissors in hand she began snipping at my hair
And I began to realize it was getting rather short back there!
But before I could say a word the damage had been done
And the image in the mirror was not an attractive one
Every time I looked in the mirror the image was the same
And every time I walked away I hung my head in shame
Then one day I noticed that my hair was beginning to grow
Although as progress goes it was growing very slow
And so I asked the Lord if he would bless the hair upon my head
And to my surprise, this is what he said,
“The problem is not your hair my child, your hair looks just fine
The problem is you are looking at your image, instead of looking for mine
And it doesn’t matter about the cut because I can cause your hair to grow
But it is my image child that you are meant to show
So stop fretting about your hair, your hair will be just fine
Just keep working to make sure that your image is looking more like mine
Till one day when you look in the mirror and take a long hard stare
The reflection that you see will be my own reflection there
And I can find no fault in the image that I see
’cause the mirror don’t lie about what’s looking back at me.”

(I Corin. 13:12 – Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”)

 

Thou Mayest

Genesis 3:12 – The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”apple-3685939_1920

“In the beginning” …. there was blame.  When God asked Adam about his sin Adam blamed God.   It is so easy to excuse our choices by blaming someone else for our making of them, but God knows the truth and he holds each one of us responsible for our own choices in life.  All too often grown children try to place blame for the consequences of their choices on their parents, but Proverbs 5:1 cautions, “A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord and He examines all his paths.”  The paths we take in life for wrong or right, good or evil, are ours to choose and the Lord examines them in full view of our own hearts.  Circumstances in life may dictate what we have and what we are exposed to in life, but how we respond to the circumstances in our lives is ours alone to choose.  A man’s good name is of his own making.

Proverbs 9:12 says, “If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”  A mocker is one who scorns instruction.  A grown child who scorns the instruction of their parent, often wants to blame the parent for the consequences of their own willful disobedience, but God’s word says, “He who scorns instruction will pay for it.” (Prov. 13:13).  We can place blame on our parents for our choices, if that makes us feel better about ourselves, but in the end we are the ones who will pay for them.  Adam tried to blame God for his own scorning of instruction, but God placed the blame squarely on Adam alone.  It wasn’t the woman who caused Adam to sin by offering him the fruit, and it wasn’t God that caused Adam to sin by giving him the woman.  Adam caused Adam to sin.  Blame always looks for excuses for one’s own behavior.  Children still tend to point their fingers at their parents, just as Adam did, and say, “It is your fault my life turned out this way.”  God didn’t buy Adam’s excuses or allow him to point his finger at Him for his choice, and parents shouldn’t allow their children to either.  Blame does not excuse behavior.  Romans 14:12 cautions, “So then, each of us will give account of himself to God.”  When we stand before God it won’t be our parents’ choices that we must give account of, it will be our own.  Each of us will “give account of himself” because God has placed the knowledge of right and wrong within each one of us.  In Romans 1:19, the Apostle Paul tells us, “that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them …. so that they are without excuse.”    The NIV  Commentary of the Life Application Study Bible says, “Everyone has an inner sense of what God requires, but they choose not to live up to it.  If people suppress God’s truth in order to live their own way, they have no excuse.  They know truth, and they will have to endure the consequences of it.”  Children might get away with causing their parents to feel guilty for their choices in life,  but that will not cut it with God.

The character of a person is determined by that person.  Cain and Abel were brothers, both brought up by the same parents, exposed to the same circumstances in life, and free to make their own choices.   Cain chose to murder his own brother out of the jealousy of his own heart.   Scripture says, “So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.”  Blame creates anger, anger creates hate and hate destroys.  The John Steinbeck novel, East of Eden, tells the story of two brothers, much like Cain and Abel, who seemed to be of different hearts growing up.  One brother believed himself to have inherited an evil nature from his mother and blamed his wrong choices in life on her.  Having become a grown man, and heavy with guilt and remorse for choices he had made throughout his life, he desperately desired forgiveness from his father for his past sins.  Upon his deathbed, with the last word he was able to speak, the father said to the son, “Timshel!”  The Hebrew word “timshel” means “Thou mayest.”  It gives a choice.  It is what God said to Cain before Cain killed his brother.  “Then the Lord said to Cain “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but thou mayest rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6). God was telling Cain that he could choose his reaction to his circumstances.  He could rule over the jealousy and anger of his circumstances or he could give in to it.  In speaking the word “timshel,” the father was telling his son that the only thing in life that could define him was his own choices.  The word “timshel” gives one the right to be a man, separate from every other man; to be one’s own person, defined by one’s own actions and not the actions of another.  The word “carries a man’s greatness if he wants to take advantage of it.”  The circumstances of one’s life do not dictate one’s character or the outcome of one’s life; his individual choices do.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.”  A grown person who still blames their parents for their lot in life, has not yet become a mature man or woman in life.  They have not put away childish blame and taken ownership of their own choices.  I can’t help but wonder how God must have felt when Adam pointed his finger at Him and blamed Him for his own choice.  For all the parents out there who have a child that blames them for their choices in life, you can find comfort in knowing that God can relate.  Parents are human and they are going to make mistakes, all humans do, but that does not make them responsible for their grown children’s choices.   Perhaps we all should concentrate more on being blameless ourselves than blaming others, because when it comes down to our own choices in life, “timshel – Thou mayest,” applies to all of us.  Each of us have the choice to be a man separate unto himself, defined by his own choices in life and each of us will one day “give an account of himself before God.”  As much as we would like for it to be so, none of us can blame another for our own choices in life, or the consequences they bring.  Just ask Adam!

BLAME

Don’t point your finger at your parents, blaming them for your own mistakes
For you and you alone choose the course in life you take
It is often all too easy to cast on our parents the blame
But it is you and you alone who create your own good name
Parents make mistakes, one day you as a parent will too
So show your parents the same grace you hope will be shown to you
For we are all just humans to which flaws of nature belong
And blaming someone else’s flaws does not excuse your own
But if you have a parent who has done the very best they can
To help you make your way in life as you have tried to stand
Be grateful that they did and in their efforts see their love
And for the mercy of their prayers, you should thank the Lord above
But if you had a parent who wasn’t there for you
Love them anyhow because God would want you to
And though you may not agree with every word your parents say
Try not to speak harsh words that will never go away
For though your parents will forgive you, because that’s what parents do
The words you speak in anger will one day return to you
And like a heavy stone on your conscience they will bear
Never to be forgotten or washed away by tears
And one day you will wish that you could turn back time
And speak those words of love that you failed to find
Stop pointing your finger at your parents, accusing them of failing you
When every choice that you made was made by only you
Stand on your own two feet and own your own mistakes
Because your parents didn’t choose the path in life you chose to take
Parents are not perfect in all they say and do
And one day when you are a parent you will know this to be true
And hope you never find your child pointing their finger at you

(Proverbs 20:11 – Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.)

Clanging Cymbals

(I Corinthians 13:4 – If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.)child-1439468_1920

Of all the musical instruments that exist, I think cymbals are perhaps the most offensive to the ear.  Considering the above-referenced scripture, I think the Apostle Paul might agree with me.  I don’t think anyone much likes a clanging cymbal.  When it comes to speaking the truth of God’s word without God’s love, we can often come across as clanging cymbals in the ears of others.  Jason R. Henderson says, “God’s word without God’s light can be a very dangerous thing.”  He’s right about that, but I believe God’s word without God’s love can be as well.  Speaking God’s word without God’s love creates the danger of turning people away from Him rather than to Him.  No matter what good we do, no matter what truth we speak, if we “have not love, it profits us nothing.”  In 1 Peter 1:22, we are encouraged to, “love one another deeply, from the heart.”  Every truth and every instruction in God’s word must be spoken in love, otherwise we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal that will only cause others to cover their ears and turn away.

Proverbs 17:5 cautions, “He that is glad at calamities shall not go unpunished.”   I grew up with five siblings.  As you can imagine, one or the other of us was always getting into some type of trouble and the ones who were not, were always quick to warn the ones who were.   I remember catching one of my siblings smoking one day and saying, “Boy are you going to be in big trouble when mom finds out!”  Then, in almost anxious anticipation of the punishment to come, I couldn’t wait until mom found out.  I guess you could say I was “glad at the calamities” that were about to befall them.  I loved my siblings but I took pleasure in warning them of the consequences of their actions, without having any genuine concern for the consequences of their actions.  Those of you who grew up with siblings can probably relate.  I think sometimes we can have the same heart toward warning our brothers and sisters in Christ of wrong behavior.  We often find more pleasure in warning them of their actions than we do grieving the outcome of their actions.  More often than not, like a clanging cymbal, my warnings to my siblings profited nothing but to cause them to turn their ears away from me.  Rebuke without love will always yield the same results, because rebuke without love often comes across a lot like judgment, and judgment only serves to turn people away.  Nobody likes to be at the end of a pointing finger!

We tend to want to root out evil in others while ignoring it in ourselves.  Jesus warned us of this, saying, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  If love is not at the heart of our efforts to remove the speck from our brother’s eye, our efforts will be in vain.  Until we see that a lack of love is a plank in our own eye, we won’t be able to help anyone with the speck we see in theirs, even if what we say is truth.  We need to remember that when we fail to love in speaking the truth, we are breaking the greatest law of all.  Jesus said, “A new command I give to you:  Love one another.”  (John 13:34).

In Psalm 40:10, the psalmist cries out, “I do not conceal your love and truth.” Love and truth go together.  We are not to conceal God’s love when speaking the truth of God’s word, but at the same time we are not to conceal God’s truth while walking in love.  1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  The knowledge of God’s love is not made perfect in us through fear.  That is why “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  If we only warn people of sin out of the fear of God, without telling them of the love of God, then all we have succeeded in doing is creating fear having to do with punishment; kind of like I did with my sibling.  When I warned my sibling that they were going to be in big trouble for their misbehavior, I spoke the truth but I didn’t speak it in love.  Joyce Meyers tells the story of she and an evangelist friend meeting a young sales girl while out shopping one day.  The girl asked what brought them to town and they explained that they were Christians and were in town for a conference.  The girl excitedly replied, “Oh, I’m a spiritual person too!”  During the ongoing conversation, the girl proceeded to use some “colorful” language but laughed it off saying, “I think even God curses sometimes!”  To which Joyce indignantly corrected, “No, God does not curse!”  Her friend, however, gently affirmed, “No, God does not curse, but he still loves those who do.”  Truth and love worked together in perfect harmony that day.

I love going to live music venues, but nothing is more aggravating to me at a live music venue than not being able to hear the words to a song because the music is too loud.  I don’t know about others, but when the music is too loud, I usually end up with my fingers in my ears, just waiting for it to be over.  I appreciate the skill of talented musicians, but their skill is lost on me when they are so loud that they drown out the words of the song.  It takes very skilled musicians to expertly adjust the volume of their instruments so as not to drown out the vocals.  A good musician knows that the instruments are supposed to compliment the vocals, not drown them out.  When people are able to hear the words of the song, it makes the instruments much more pleasant to hear.  Just like truth and love, the one compliments the other; both working together to achieve the desired outcome.  Like a musician, we might be very skilled at the instrument of God’s word, but our skill will only cause people to put their fingers in their ears if we drown out the voice of God’s love.  No one ever turns their ears away from the melody of love.  It is always a sweet, sweet sound in the ears.  To quote the words of Sir Paul McCartney, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.  I look around me and I see it isn’t so, oh no.”  Silly Love Songs was written by Paul and Linda McCartney as a rebuttal to music critics, as well as former Beatle friend John Lennon, accusing Paul of predominantly writing “silly love songs” and “sentimental slush.”  It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies, so I guess Paul proved his point.  People never grow tired of love songs, oh no, but they do grow tired of clanging cymbals.

CLANGING CYMBALS

What right have I to judge he who does not stand
If I be not willing to offer him my hand
What right have I to judge he who in blindness gropes
If I not lead his way and guide him to his hopes
What right have I to judge another in his walk
If I’ve nought to offer him but sanctimonious talk
What right have I to judge if I’ve not shown I care
And born my brother’s burden upon my knees in prayer
What right have I to speak empty words that only judge
and like a clanging cymbal drown out the voice of love
What right have I to judge, indeed have I none
For to stand or fall is given but to one

(Romans 14:4 – Who art thou that judges another man’s servant?  To his own master he standeth or falleth.  Yeah, he shall be holden up; for God is able to make him stand.).

 

Devouring Ourselves

Proverbs 19:11 – It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.

roar-3528376_1920Let me just apologize up front for any toes I might step on with this blog.  I will try to tread lightly, but sometimes the truth can weigh heavy.  I don’t think anyone who listens to the news can help but notice how divided we are becoming as a nation today.  Every morning when we turn our televisions on, it seems some new offense has occurred and some new turmoil has developed.  It’s the world we live in, and I get that.  And I know the world is going to behave like the world.  My concern is that Christians seem to have become so caught up in the affairs of the world today, that they are exhibiting the same behavior as the world exhibits toward them.   We seem to have forgotten that we are not citizens of this world anymore and that “our citizenship is in heaven and we await a Savior from there.”  (Philippians 3:20).  God’s word says we are to be “ambassadors” for Christ here.   An ambassador is an official representative on behalf of one country to another.  We might live in “the greatest country in the world” but we are citizens of and represent an even greater one; one not of this world.  Our only cause in this world, as ambassadors for Christ, is the cause of Christ and we need to be careful of involving ourselves in anything that doesn’t have that cause at heart.

11 Timothy 2:4 cautions, “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.”  We are here to be soldiers for the cause of Christ alone, not the “civilian affairs” of this world, and everything we do in pursuing that cause must be done in such a way as to please our commanding officer.  We are not here to defend some self-righteous cause of our own.  In fact, when it comes to defending ourselves against personal offenses done against us, we are instructed in God’s word not to.  Proverbs 19:11 encourages, “It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.”  We are from a kingdom that says, “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  I am not saying that those who break the law should not be subject to the law, but I am saying that we are not to dredge up any and every offense ever done to us and seek recompense for it, just so we can be a part of some “movement” someone has created.  We need not fear that evil men will get away with evil; they do not.  “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”  (Hebrews 10:30).  We aren’t to seek out vengeance for ourselves, but are to leave it to the one who judges justly.  Jesus did no less.  God sees all, he knows all, and he judges all.  That includes us, by the way, and God’s word cautions, “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!”  (James 2:12).  We must carefully consider just how much a pound of flesh is worth to us, while keeping in mind that we might owe a pound or two ourselves.

As Christians, we must remember that we are from a kingdom whose ways are not the same as those of the world we live in.  I fear we desperately need a refresher course on those ways today.  The kingdom we are from forgives men their trespasses, knowing there is a higher judge who has forgiven their own and who warns, “If you forgive those who trespass against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, your Father will not forgive your trespasses.”  The definition of trespass, by the way, is “offense.”  The kingdom we are from turns the other cheek when someone spites them, knowing the one they serve turned his for them.  The kingdom we are from tells us we must “not resist an evil person” and “if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  And, “if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  We are from a kingdom that says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” and reminds us, “if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”  We are from a kingdom that says, “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God” and “if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”  We are from a kingdom that does not keep count of forgiveness.  The rabbis in Jesus day taught that people should forgive those who offend them – but only three times.  In Matthew 19:21, Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven was enough times to forgive someone and Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven,” meaning that we shouldn’t even keep track of how many times we forgive someone.   God’s word reminds us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  We are from a very different kingdom, with a very different set of rules from the one in which we now reside, and the one who set forth the ways of his kingdom fully expects those who are citizens of it to follow them.

God’s word in James 4:1 cuts to the heart of what causes much of the division in the world today:  “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  We are more prone to take our grievances into our own hands rather than to put them into God’s.  And when we do pray, we pray with the wrong motives at heart.  We pray for ourselves, for what we want, with our desires and our good at heart, not God’s or our fellow man’s.  The motives of our hearts are usually inward toward self, rather than outward toward others.  We wastefully “spend” our prayers on what will please us, not God.  God’s word instructs, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”  (11 Timothy 1:24-26).  Brothers and sisters in Christ bite and devour one another over racial, cultural, gender and political differences almost on a daily basis today.  I have watched as in righteous indignation, demands are made for retribution toward those who innocently spoke words with no deliberate intent of harm or malice at heart.   While it is true that we should be sensitive in the words we speak, we should also refrain from being overly-sensitive to the words others speak, and not try to make something out of nothing.  Song of  Songs cautions, “The little foxes spoil the nest.”  It is often the “little foxes” that cause the biggest problems and we have a lot of  little foxes of offense stirring things up today.  I have watched women grow hostile toward men in response to a “movement” and I have watched men grow hostile toward some women who, in all honesty, are a bit hypocritical in their inclusion of themselves in that movement.  I have watched race turn against race in response to unforgiveness and “keeping record of wrongs.”  I have watched brother turn against brother in response to a political opinion or agenda.  I have watched lives be “devoured” and ruined, all due to a spirit of offense and unforgiveness.  As James wrote, “My brothers, these things ought not be so.”  Galatians 5:15 warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, be careful lest you be consumed by one another.”  The word consume means “to destroy.”  I’d say that just about sums up what we are witnessing all around us today.  Lives are being destroyed.  We tell ourselves we are doing these things to bring awareness and sensitivity into this world, but in truth, the spirit of offense we are witnessing today has only resulted in an overly-sensitive, easily-offended society who live in constant hostility toward one another.  Those who are Christians in this world have forgotten that, “there is neither Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all in all.”  We are not a race, a gender, a class, or a political party.  We, as Christians, are all members of Christ’s body, so in a sense, when we bite and devour one another, we are only harming ourselves.  This scripture reminded me of an old Spanky and the Gang television episode I once saw.  In the show, Spanky and his “gang” had gotten into trouble about some mischief they had gotten themselves into and a man said to them, “If you were my kids, I would punish you good.”  To which Spanky’s sidekick, Buckwheat, replied, “If we was your kids, we’d punish ourselves!”  I can’t help but see a bit of an analogy here.  The devil is roaming about looking for someone to devour while we are just devouring ourselves.

As a nation, we have forgotten that “united we stand and divided we fall.”  Or as Jesus put it, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Our nation is standing on shaky ground today and you can almost feel the shifting beneath your feet.  We are either contributing to the shaking or the steadying of it.  Kind of reminds me of when an earthquake first begins to happen.  It starts with a little shaking, then cracks begin to form, and then the ground opens up and consumes everything into itself.  Another definition of the word consume is “absorb.”  Words are like sponges.  They either absorb people into their hate or they absorb them into their love.   A spirit of offense gives birth to hatred and hatred absorbs others into itself.  Just like the cracks of an earthquake, hatred opens up its mouth and consumes everything into itself.  James 3:9 laments, “With the tongue, we praise the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”  We have become so obsessed with defending our political opinions and personal causes today, that we are willing to bite and devour our very own brothers and sisters in Christ to do so.  But make no mistake, if this is about winning, nobody wins here but the enemy.  James 3:2 cautions, “For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things.  If any one does not offend in speech – never says the wrong thing – he is a fully developed character and a perfect man.”   If we are honest with ourselves, I don’t think any of us have yet reached that “fully developed character” or measure up to being that “perfect man.”  In this day of heated arguments, proud opinions, and personal causes, we would be wise to remember the words of James 1:19, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  Slow to speak and slow to become offended in anger.  If we could only master those two things, what a change we might see in the world around us.  Before we get so caught up in the things we see going on in the world today and find ourselves being more quick to speak than we are to listen, and more quick to be offended than we are to forgive, maybe we need to take a step back and ask ourselves:  “What kingdom am I from and whose rules am I following?  “Is it the devil who is roaming about seeking whom he may devour, or am I doing his job for him?”  “Are we, like Spanky’s old friend Buckwheat, saying to the one who seeks to devour us, “No need to devour us, we’ll just devour ourselves!”

SWALLOWED UP

I awoke one morning and turned on my T.V
To a world filled with turmoil as far as the eye could see
People were arguing passionately over this or that dispute
Some people spoke unwisely and were promptly given the boot!
While others in hypocrisy simply bit their tongues and shook their heads
Pretending they had never spoken words they should not have said
Forgiveness wasn’t offered and no place for compassion was found
And healing words of mercy fell deaf upon the ground
There was so much effort going on to avoid stepping on toes
That no one dared to speak the truth lest they cut off their own nose!
So heavy was the hatred that fell upon the land
That I began to feel a rumble upon the ground which I did stand
The earth began to tremble and the ground began to shake
And then I saw a crack begin to form like a long and slithering snake
It spread from home to home growing wider along its way
And seemed to feed upon the strength of all the people’s rage
I tried my best to steady the ground beneath my own feet
And noticed the cracks began to close with the words that I would speak
I wanted to warn others of the danger we were creating
And that we must stop the quarreling that was causing this great shaking
But no one seemed to listen and no one seemed to care
And no one seemed to feel the need to bow their heads in prayer
For no one seemed to be able to tear their eyes and ears away
From the turmoil upon the T.V they fed upon each day
And then one day it happened right before my eyes
The earth opened up and swallowed all the hatred inside
There was no more quarreling and there was no more offense
And there was no more demanding of rightful recompense
There was no more hate and there was no more strife
And all the things of death were swallowed up by life
There was only peace as far as my eyes could see
When I finally got up and turned off my T.V
And when I opened up God’s word and let it speak to me
All across the land, love was all that I could see.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering.”  (Colossians 3:9-12)

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

What’s love got to do, got to do with it?  What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”  Written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle and recorded by Tina Turner

The song, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” touches on a very valid truth in asking “What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”  There’s a lot of love going on today that is masquerading as God’s love, but is actually nothing more than a love born of our own emotions.  In his book “Not I, But Christ,” Jason R. Henderson observes, “Because our love is usually based upon what we want to be true about something, our desires create our belief, our belief creates our own idea of love.  If we don’t like something, we find a belief to go along with what we do like.”   We want God’s love to serve our own emotionally-influenced flawed love.  “Rather than allowing the nature of God to define our understanding of love, we take our own idea of what love is and allow it to define God’s love.” (Henderson). We then proclaim that this love of our own making, sets the end to whatever the desires of our flesh might be.  The same could be said concerning man’s belief of love today as Paul in Romans 10:2 said concerning man’s belief of righteousness:  They have a zeal for love, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s love, and seeking to establish their own love, have not submitted to the love of God.

Just as the Jewish people, whom Paul was referring to, were seeking to establish their own righteousness, many are seeking to establish their own idea of love today as well.  And just as their hearts might have been very sincere in their efforts to establish their own righteousness, we too can be very sincere in our desire to love; but we can also be sincerely wrong.  Paul encouraged the Galatians that “it is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.”  (Gal. 4:18).  It is fine to be zealous in love, but we must make sure  our love is toward that which is good.  If God’s word says something isn’t good, it isn’t good.  The Corinthian believers were proud of themselves for their tolerance of someone who was involved in wrongdoing in the church, but instead of praising them for walking in love, Paul chastened them for their failure to address the wrongdoing.   In challenging some of our preconceived ideas about God’s love and grace, Jason R. Henderson asks the question, “How wrong are we willing to be?”   I think that is a very relevant question to ask ourselves today, but that question can only be answered by first asking ourselves, “How right do we really desire to be?”

In his book “Epic Battles of the Last Days” Rick Joyner wisely assesses the underlying mistake that is often made between man’s love and God’s love.  He writes, “God’s love is not to be confused with unsanctified mercy, which gives approval of things which God disapproves.”  As much as we might like to think we are walking in God’s love, approval of things which God disapproves is really nothing more than our own unsanctified mercy, producing a second-hand emotion love.  We can trace the origin of this error all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  Author David Platt (Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age) observes, “The temptation in the Garden was to rebel against God’s authority and in the process make humans the arbiters of morality.  In other words, for the man and woman to eat from this tree was to reject God as the one who determines good and evil and to assume the responsibility for themselves.”  This rejection of God as the one who determines good and evil and assuming the responsibility for ourselves continues still today.  John Bevere (Good or God) writes, “Adam and Eve chose to evaluate what was good and acceptable apart from God’s counsel.  They made an assessment from a different set of standards; their own.”  In II Corinthians 9:10, Paul unapologetically confronted believers who were living by the standards of this world, saying, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of the world.”  God’s word still sets the standard of what is good and acceptable, not the standards of the world, not the culture of our day, and not the approval of man.

Oswald Chambers points out the underlying problem with unsanctified mercy in the guise of love.  He writes, “Whenever we substitute God’s perfect desire for others, for our own emotional sympathy for them, the vital connection with God in intercession for them becomes flawed.”  The desire of God’s grace to us in Jesus is not just pardon for our sins, but that the life of his son be formed in us.  As Jason R. Henderson affirms, “We are accepted in Jesus alone, because it is Jesus alone that God accepts,” but at the same time, “Christ did not die so that Adam could continue living in us.”   If the old nature of Adam that still seeks to rule in us, is not put to death by us, the new nature of Christ cannot be formed in us.  Galatians 5:13 explains, “You my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.”  I believe author Francis Chan (Crazy Love) cuts to the core of the truth in the hearts of many today.  He writes, “Some don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin.”  Unfortunately although some may desire for that to be possible, it is not.   Jason R. Henderson explains: “Just like natural light and darkness, Adam and Christ can never mix together.  The presence of the one dispels the other, and in every way knowing the one costs the life of the other.”

Romans 8:8-12 of God’s word explains the problem with wanting to hold on to the sinful nature: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires …. the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.”  One of the definitions of obligation is:  “Indebted for a favor.”  God’s word tells us in I Corin. 6:19,  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”  Unfortunately, in many churches today, the unsanctified mercy of man, that gives approval of things which God disapproves, is standing in opposition to the obligation believers have to the favor of God’s grace.  But those doing so may one day find themselves saying as Peter said, “Who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

God did not intend for his grace to be a means by which we might make exception for the nature of Adam to continue ruling over us and living in us.  God, in his love, by his grace,  made it possible for the righteousness of Christ to be accounted to us and then filled us with the Holy Spirit of truth, in order that the nature of Christ might be formed in us.  This is love and this is the goal of God’s grace.  To desire anything less for ourselves or for others, is not.  So, to answer Tina’s question, “What’s love got to do with it?”  The unsanctified mercy of man’s second-hand emotion love that gives approval of things which God disapproves;  absolutely nothing.  The power of his love transforming hearts, minds and souls into his image, everything!  A. W. Tozer wisely cautions, “The man who is going the wrong way will never be set right by the affable religionist who falls into step behind him and goes the same way.”  We might want to keep that in mind when giving approval of things which God disapproves.  The saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” may be more true than we realize.

Ezekiel 3:2 – “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die.  Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin.  The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

Proverbs 27:5 – “Open rebuke is better than love, carefully concealed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVERTHELESS

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When an act of faith becomes one with the will of God it brings forth the glory of God.”  (Tim Bagwell)

A precious friend of mine recently received a “bad report” concerning a life-threatening diagnosis.  My first response was sadness, disappointment, discouragement and quite honestly, a feeling of hopelessness.  A faithless word that means, “to lose the expectation of a thing.”  But then God reminded me of another word; one that was much more worthy of his glory.  Nevertheless!  A faith-filled word that means, “In spite of that.”  Granted, hopeless is a big word.  It is a word that makes you feel like a grasshopper under the foot of a giant.  But “nevertheless” is a bigger word.  Nevertheless is a God word.  It is a word that takes everything into consideration and still hopes and believes in spite of whatever the everything might be.  Peter used it, Elijah used it, Joshua used it, and Jesus used it; just to name a few.  Each one of them used it in the same context of facing the impossible of a situation, and in the face of it saying: “Nevertheless!”  Scripture is filled with people who in faith, against all odds, dared to hope and believe in the nevertheless of God, and in doing so experienced the glory of God.

Some people look at giants through the eyes of fear and see themselves as grasshoppers.  Others look at giants through the eyes of faith and see the giants as the ones who are the grasshoppers.  The only difference between these two types of people is one word:  Nevertheless!  Scripture records that before Elijah went to be with the Lord, he asked Elisha what he could do for him before he was taken from him, and Elisha replied, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.”  Elijah said to him, “You have asked a difficult thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise not.”  And by refusing to take his eyes off Elijah, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing of God.  Jesus, in similar fashion said to us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to my Father.”  Peter had toiled all day in his own efforts to catch fish and caught nothing, but at Jesus’ command to “let down your nets on the other side,” said, “Nevertheless, at your word Lord” and experienced the overflowing provision of God.  The Israelite people saw themselves as grasshoppers before the giants who lived in the land that God had promised to give them, saying, “It is a land that devours those living in it” and “we were as grasshoppers in our own sight.”  But Joshua and Caleb saw the giants as the ones who were the grasshoppers and said, “Nevertheless do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up” and they experienced the deliverance of God’s hand.  I am reminded of Paul’s words in Corinthians 15:54 – “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  Death has been swallowed up by God’s grace. It no longer has the power to devour us.  The devourer has been devoured.  Jesus, wanting to show the “all things are possible” of God, waited to go to his friend Lazarus, not just to the point of improbability, but to the point of impossibility.  He said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus is dead.  Nevertheless, let us go unto him” and the disciples experienced the resurrecting glory of God.  Afterward, Jesus said to his disciples, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  He tells us the same today.  In Jesus, we are the resurrected of God.  Scripture says he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”  For their sake, that they might believe, he waited until after Lazarus died to reveal his glory.  He did the same with us.  Scripture tells us that we were “dead in trespasses and sins” and  “in due time Christ died for the ungodly,” and that he has, “quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”   God is not controlled by time.  Time never says to him, “It’s too late, there’s not much time left, time is growing short, time’s up.”  Time is God’s servant and he uses it to serve his purpose.  Time exists in him and unfolds in life to serve him.

Every “nevertheless” spoken in God’s word resulted in seeing “the glory of God” and his will being done.  I think it no coincidence that Elisha’s nevertheless evidenced the anointing of God given to us in Jesus.  Joshua’s nevertheless evidenced the deliverance of God given to us in Jesus.  Peter’s nevertheless evidenced the provision of God given to us in Jesus. And Jesus’ nevertheless evidenced that “escape from death” belonged to him and was in him.  Each nevertheless spoken in faith, showed the willingness of God’s heart toward us in Jesus.  The word “nevertheless” isn’t a retreating word in the face of improbability or impossibility.  Those who spoke it by faith saw past the probabilities of what was seen and “in spite of that” dared to believe in the possibilities of what was not. God’s word is full of instruction to us and encouragement of us in what to do in the face of the impossible things we will encounter in this life.  What God wants us to do, what God tells us to do concerning them, really comes down to two words:  “Ask and believe.”  Jesus promises us in his word, “You may ask me for anything in my name,” and then  assures us, “All things are possible to those who can believe.”  I wonder though, would he  say to us today what he did to his disciples, “How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe.”

Mark 2:1-2 records the story of a paralytic whose need moved a group of his friends to action and they brought him to Jesus.  Scripture says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  He did this to show that the same God who had the power and the compassion to forgive our sins, also had the power and the compassion to heal our bodies.  He is both, “the Lord who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.”  I can’t help but consider that the paralytic might never have heard those words spoken by Jesus, and would never have received forgiveness or healing, had his friends not cared enough about him to press through every obstacle that stood in the way of their bringing him to Jesus.  They saw the crowd of people standing in their way and instead of turning back and saying, “It’s impossible,” said, “Nevertheless, we’re pressing through.”  They pressed on until they were able to “break through” to Jesus, literally breaking through the roof to lower him down to Jesus.  That’s the kind of friend I want to be and I think we all want to have.  I don’t want to use the excuse that it might not be God’s will to keep me from stepping out in faith and believing God’s word, while at the same time submitting all that I ask to his sovereign will.   I want friends who, at the risk of being ridiculed,  humiliated, laughed at and scorned, consider my life to be worth the cost and say, “nevertheless.”  People are going to ridicule those who have faith in God to do the impossible.  Jesus experienced the ridicule of men who did not believe in the impossible of God when he went in to heal Jairus’ daughter.  Scripture records that men came to Jairus and said, “Your daughter is dead, why bother the teacher anymore?”  But Jesus, “ignoring what they said,” told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Those who dare to believe in the nevertheless of God must be willing to ignore what other people say.    When they came to the home of Jairus, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly and he asked them, “Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead but asleep” but “they laughed at him.”  And then, Jesus did what seems to be an unusual thing to me, given that all the miracles he performed were done in front of large groups of people, he “put them all out” except for the mother and father and the disciples who were with him.  I believe Jesus put them all out because their unbelief was stealing hope from the girl’s parents.  While the unbelief of one person cannot make void the belief of another, it can have an influence on the belief of others and steal their hope.  The parents’ hope was in Jesus, but the “commotion” of  all the people was stealing the parents’ hope from them.  The unbelief of those in the room could not hinder Jesus’s belief in his Father, but it could influence and steal hope from the girl’s parents.  A thing is only hopeless if there is no hope.  The Scriptures record that when Jesus went to his own hometown they did not receive him and because of their unbelief he “could not do many miracles there except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” and, “he was amazed at their lack of faith.”  Jesus couldn’t do many miracles there because the people’s unbelief kept them from coming to him for help.  It kept them from believing in who he was.  In this way, unbelief can hinder the miracles of God being performed in a person’s life.   Like a contagious disease, unbelief can spread to others and steal their hope. Sometimes we might have to put people away from us that are unable to believe in the nevertheless of God and are stealing hope from people’s hearts.

The greatest kindness we can show a friend is to press through all obstacles that are keeping them from coming into contact with Jesus in their time of need.  We must press through our own obstacles of discouragement, doubt, fear, hesitancy, complacency, pride, hopelessness, and especially what might be the biggest obstacle of all; our questioning of if a thing is God’s will.  We can’t let our questioning of if a thing is God’s will keep us from believing in his willingness.  God will make his sovereign will in a matter known when he is ready, but we must continue to press through anything that stands between our friend and Jesus until he does.  Given the choice, and we are, I would rather do something in faith, than do nothing at all in doubt.  Mary told the men at the wedding feast, “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.”  If she was standing right in front of us today, I have a feeling she would tell us the same thing.  We can rest assured that whatever he tells us in his word is truth and if he tells us to do it, we should do it!   So, instead of questioning whether or not a thing might be God’s sovereign will, I am going to just leave his sovereign will to him and continue doing what his word tells me to do, until he makes that call.  I am going to replace the word “hopeless” with the word “nevertheless.”  I like that word much better.  I think God does, too.  Nevertheless,  I am going to keep on asking, hoping and believing in Jesus. That is my part, that is what he tells me I am to do, the rest is all up to him.  He has given us the privilege to ask in his name, but we must remember that all we ask must be in submission to his sovereign will.  Even Jesus submitted himself to his Father’s sovereign will when asking, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

There are two contrasting references to grasshoppers in Scripture.  In Numbers 13:33, the Israelites see themselves as grasshoppers when compared to the giants in the land, but Isaiah 40:22 declares, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers” when compared to him.  I think I’m going to go with the last one.  All throughout the Gospels, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth.”  It is as if he were saying to us, “If I say it, you can count on it.”  These are Jesus’s very own words.  Because the One who spoke them is Truth, they can be nothing but truth.  Jude 20 instructs, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.”  In light of that I offer the following scriptures, keeping in mind that we don’t control or manipulate God’s word to serve our will, we merely hope, believe, and submit in it to serve his, remembering that everything we ask in his name is “so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

Matthew 18:19 – “Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Matthew 17:20 – “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

John 16:13 – “In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  In that day you will ask in my name.  I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

I John 5:13 – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything (according to his will,) he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

NEVERTHELESS
The hour is late Lord, the time is short
. . . . Nevertheless
The need is great Lord, the hope is small
. . . . Nevertheless
The outcome is grim Lord, the chances slim
. . . . Nevertheless
The odds are against Lord and not in favor
. . . . Nevertheless
The bad report Lord will not waiver
. . . . Nevertheless
I am frightened Lord of all these giants in the land
. . . . Nevertheless
On your word Lord, I will stand
For no hour is too late, no need too great
No time too short, no hope too small
No outcome too grim, no chance too slim
No bad report that will not waiver
No odds can stand against Your favor
No hour says to you “too late”
No giant before you stands too great
For giants are only grasshoppers
Sent to prove the test
Of the faithfulness of Nevertheless
And the greatest Nevertheless of all
Be that before which death doth fall

(May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you”. )

 

 

 

 

Laundry Day

Proverbs 14:34 – Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

people-2590562_1920LAUNDRY DAY

I’m doing laundry today
While children cry, asking, “Why?”
“Did they take my mommy away?”
I’m just a mother like any other
Doing laundry today
Can’t even imagine how it feels
To live in a nightmare that is real
To those on the outside looking in
This world is sometimes not a friend
If I were God I’d wipe it away and start all over again ….
but I’m not him
Me, I’m just a mother like any other
Doing laundry today
As life goes on and no one rights the wrongs
As mothers cry and politicians lie
As tears fall down on fallow ground
As children are torn from their mother’s arms
Yet said to be safe and kept from harm
But at the end of each long day
Innocence sleeps in a gilded cage
Reminders of another time
Much like this one comes to mind
When mother and child were torn apart
By pious men with calloused hearts
When the innocent suffered for the sins of men
And mercy offered an empty hand
And the heartache of their cries of fear
Only fell upon deaf ears
And the only wrong the children knew
Were they weren’t born to me or you

I’m doing laundry today

What else can I do?
I don’t have the power to change this hour
And I can’t make it go away
So I’m stuck here crying my tears
And doing laundry today
Can’t change this world and its collision course
I have to leave that to a higher force
If I could I’d wash it all away
Just put it in the laundry I’m doing today
But we’re living in a broken world
Walking on shards of sin
And there is only one way at the end of the day
To put it back together again
Pick up the piece you’re standing on
And put it back where it belongs
Put back the love your hatred has broken
Put back kind words you left unspoken
Put back division of race and gender
Put back hard hearts with ones that are tender
Put back forgiveness of past wrongs
And leave them there where they belong
Put back compassion for your fellow man
Reach out and lend a helping hand
Put back hope for this world’s despair
Put back God and put back prayer
Put back the pieces of broken love
Bind them with mercy from above
And wash this world with God’s love

Don’t  know if anyone cares what I have to say
I’m just a mother doing her laundry today
But it’s been my experience over time
When fighting the stains of dirt and grime
You have to do the laundry today
If you want to wash the dirt away

 

 

 

 

GNAT-PICK’N, NIT-PICKING

“They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”  (Romans 10:2)

camel-4320_1920(Matthew 23:24 – “You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”).

A gnat is a pesky little thing.  Anyone who’s ever found themselves swatting at one can relate to just how quickly a small thing can become a big distraction.  Jesus once rebuked the teachers of the law and the Pharisees for their obsession with gnats.  He basically accused them of gnat-pick’n, nit-picking.  The definition of nit-picking is, “fussing over trifling matters.”  According to the law, a gnat was an unclean insect and the Pharisees even went so far as to strain their water, picking out the gnats, to avoid accidentally swallowing one.  I’d say that fits the definition of nit-picking pretty well.  As amusing as this might seem however, we might want to hold off on our snickering because there’s still plenty of gnat-straining going on in some churches today.  The Pharisees had classified over 600 laws in addition to God’s laws.  Some churches have accumulated quite a number of them today as well.  There are numerous religions and denominations today and virtually all of them come with their own gnat strainers!

In Matthew 23:25-29, Jesus addressed gnat-straining.  He rebuked the Pharisees for nit-picking the little things, the insignificant things, yet failing to address what he considered “the weightier matters of the law.”   Their traditions and man-made rules had become as important to them as God’s law itself.  They were meticulous about observing ceremonial routines but were lacking when it came to inner purity.  They cared more about looking holy than being holy.  Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy.  I have a feeling he would rebuke us today for ours as well.   Jesus called the Pharisees, “Blind guides,” who, “strained out a gnat but swallowed a camel.”  A camel is a hard thing to swallow!  So is our own hypocrisy.  A camel is a very large animal.  You would have to be blind to miss it, yet we can be so distracted by those pesky little gnats that we do.  We can be just as guilty of concentrating on following ceremonial church rules, while being disobedient in our behavior, as the Pharisees were.  Jesus called this, “washing the outside of the cup, while leaving the inside unclean.”  The Pharisees were extremely diligent about keeping up the outside condition of the temple for others to see,  but failed to see the condition of their own hearts.  Jesus compared them to, “whitewashed tombs that looked beautiful on the outside, but on the inside were full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  That’s pretty harsh, but Jesus didn’t mince words when he rebuked.  A tomb cannot contain life.  No matter how whitewashed it is on the outside, it will always contain death on the inside.  We would be wise to consider the church we join ourselves to.  It’s better to remain outside a whitewashed tomb and alive, than to be inside one and dead!

Another camel Jesus accused the Pharisees of swallowing had to do with their tithing.  They faithfully tithed their tenth in everything, “mint, dill and cummin,” yet Jesus rebuked them for having “neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”   He said to them, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  The things we neglect to do is just as important to Jesus as doing the things we ought to do.  Although they religiously tithed their ten percent, they didn’t bother to help those right in front of them who were in need.  That’s a camel we all need to make sure we’re not swallowing!  They were proud of their religious observances and works, but Jesus accused them of doing everything “for men to see.”  They “loved the place of honor and the most important seats in the synagogues,” yet Jesus encouraged “taking the lowest seat,” rather than seeking a place of prestige.  He said when giving, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  (Matt. 23:3).  My interpretation:  Don’t give with one hand, and wave about it with the other.   Nothing is a stench in God’s nostrils so much as religious pride.  The proverb, “Let another man’s lips praise you and not your own,” is a good rule of thumb when the temptation of exaltation comes along.  And if other men do praise you, make sure they’re not using you as a tool of coercion by which to manipulate others.  Proverbs 16:1 cautions, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”  Not everyone’s motives are as sincere as they might appear to be.   Jesus instructs, “When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt.23:2).   They traded the reward of heaven for the praise of man.  It was not a good trade on their part.  It won’t be on ours either.

You can know if you’re straining out a gnat if you’re more concerned with outward rules and regulations than you are with inner renewal.  In speaking of the Jewish people of his day, Paul said,  “They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:2).  They were sincere in wanting to honor God in their ceremonial observances and customs, but they lacked a true understanding of God’s grace.  Their faith was work-based.  Paul addressed work-based righteousness in the church, saying, “Are you so foolish?  After beginning in the Spirit are you now trying to obtain your goal by human effort?”  (Gal. 3:3).  He rebuked them for turning back to following rules and regulations in order to be acceptable in God’s sight, saying, “But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”  Enslaved.  That’s exactly what man-made rules do.  They, “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” to carry.  Paul puts an end to all this gnat-pick’n, nit-picking nonsense in affirming, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.”  (Romans 10:4).  Being in right-standing with a denomination’s rules is not the same thing as being in right-standing with God, and being in right-standing with a denomination is of little consequence if you’re not standing by His grace.  Strain all the gnats you want, make all the rules you desire, righteousness  (right-standing with God) cannot be obtained through the keeping of the law or following man-made rules.  Period.  End of discussion.  The NIV Life Application Study Bible commentary does a good job of putting gnat-pick’n, nit-picking in perspective, I think.  It suggests, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty, in everything else, love.”  Some things in the church are essential, some are not.  We need to distinguish between the two according to God’s word, while making sure love is the foundation of all we do.  We have to stop being obsessed with straining those pesky little gnats, before we choke ourselves to death swallowing those camels!

GNATS & CAMELS

I once had a pesky gnat fly right into my face
and so I made it my aim to put him in his place
For he could not just fly around doing whatever he wanted to do
flying in my face was breaking all the rules
And so I started swatting at him every time he would come around
until at last my persistence finally wore him down
Having no fight left in him to bother me anymore
filled with pride deep inside I showed him to the door
I was so excited over this battle I had won
and to know that all other gnats to my rule must now succumb
Sure it was a small little thing but it was to me a big aggravation
to which I felt deserving of my utmost concentration
So it was with great surprise to see that camel looming there
and know that to avoid swallowing him I didn’t have a prayer
For with my mouth still wide open from fussing at that bothersome gnat
I ran right into that camel and he took advantage of that
It was a hard thing to swallow but I learned a lesson that day
Be careful you don’t swallow a camel
trying to shoo a gnat away!

(“Blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”  (Matthew 23:24)

 

 

 

 

 

WHY, WHY, WHY DELILAH?

Worldliness:  Unthinkingly adopting the perspectives, values, and attitudes of our culture without bringing them under the judgment of God’s word.  (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words.)

“Satan does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of tempting us to change our point of view.”  Oswald Chambers                                                                            

Most everyone is familiar with the expression, “You’re not from around these parts, are you?”  We usually apply it to someone whose behavior seems a little peculiar to us and is noticeably different from our own.  My husband and I once hosted a student who was from Sweden.  While her behavior wasn’t extremely different from our own, there were a few differences that betrayed she wasn’t from around these parts.   That’s just how it is when you’re in a place but not of that place.  You’re going to be different, and it’s going to show.  I noticed, however, that the longer she stayed here, the more she began to fit in.  By the time she left, she felt right at home here.  1Peter 2:11 refers to Christians as, “aliens and strangers in the world,” even going so far as to call us, “peculiar people.”  We’re not from around these parts, and it should show.

It usually doesn’t take long for us to realize that a person is from another country.  We see it in how they look, we hear it in how they speak, we observe it by what they do.  Their ways are not our ways, their customs are not our customs.  In speaking of the reaction to a believer’s behavior, by those who are in the world, we are told,  “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”  (1Peter 4:4).  You’re going to catch some flack for being a Christian in this world.  In John 14:23, Jesus said of those who believed in him, “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”  I think we tend to forget that we’re not from around these parts anymore. In IICorinthians  5:20, Paul tells us, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”  We are now citizens of the kingdom of God, and our purpose here is to be “ambassadors for Christ.”  The definition of an ambassador is, “a representative or agent of another charged with a special mission.”  Ambassadors live in a country, but they are not of that country.  Paul then goes on to inform us as to what our mission here is, saying, “We implore you on God’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.”  That’s our mission here; imploring others to be reconciled to God through the receiving of his grace.  If we’re living like we’re from God’s kingdom the world should find us a bit peculiar.  If it doesn’t, it could be an indication that we’re beginning to fit right in.  Unfortunately, that happens when we stay in a place long enough.  We begin to slack up a little on the ways and customs of our country and take on some of the ways of another.  In doing so, we can lose sight of who we are.

Samson could tell us a thing or two about “losing sight” of who you are.  Samson was a Nazarite and a Nazarite took a vow at birth to be separate from the world for God’s purposes alone.  There were noticeable differences that separated Nazarites from others.  One of the more familiar differences was not shaving their heads.  This was done as an outward sign of their commitment of separation unto the Lord.   In Christ we are called to be spiritual Nazarites, wholly separated unto God.  While we aren’t required to never cut our hair, we are called to show forth noticeable differences in our conduct that  evidence our commitment to the Lord.  Much like Samson, however, we too face the danger of falling prey to Delilah while living in this world.  The name “Delilah” means, “slack off, ease up, lose intensity.”  The Hebrew definition is “temptress.”  She is the spirit of enticement.  She tempts people to go against the convictions of their hearts by looking for weakness in character.  Samson’s weakness was his attraction to Philistine women,  even going so far as to marry one.  The Philistines ruled over Israel at that time, and God was against them.  Their ways were not God’s ways and Israel was to remain separate from them in conduct, much like we are called to do in the world today.

What ultimately brought Samson’s downfall, and will ours as well, was when the temptation of his flesh began to mean more to him than having the Spirit of God upon his life.  Samson’s downfall began when he slacked off, eased up, and lost intensity of heart toward honoring the anointing of God upon his life.  Once that happened, Satan didn’t have to tempt him to sin, he only needed to change his point of view about sin.  Samson was easily deceived because he wanted  to believe Delilah’s lies.  Once we give ourselves over to what our flesh desires, it’s easy for Satan to deceive us into changing our point of view toward it.  James 1:13 cautions us, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  The NKJV Nelson Study Bible defines full-grown as “bringing a goal to completion.”  Rather than having the character of God, we begin to take on the character of sin.  When Samson’s sin  became complete in him, it began to define his character.  When we give in to sin and begin to take on the ways of the world, it will ours too.

Samson thought he could have forbidden pleasure and still keep his anointing, but he was wrong.  The more he yielded to his flesh, the closer he came to losing his anointing. Sin finally became full-grown in him and he awoke one day in the lap of Delilah to find that his anointing was gone.  Samson’s downfall didn’t actually happen overnight, it was a gradual thing.  Although he returned to Delilah time and time again, God continued to show him mercy and give him strength, so he assumed the anointing of God would not leave him.  It might take a while, but the more we give in to the spirit of Delilah, the closer we come to sin becoming full-grown in us, and to losing our anointing.  The cutting of Samson’s hair wasn’t what made him weak; losing the anointing of God did.  Samson’s strength wasn’t in his hair,  it was in his separation.  When his hair was cut, it signified that he had not remained separate unto the Lord, and it was noticeable.   As a result, the anointing of God upon him was lost.   When Christians begin to take on the ways of the world, it’s like walking around with a shaved head.  It’s noticeable!  And it will cause us to lose the anointing of God upon us.   Just as Sampson’s strength was in his separation from the world, so too is ours, and our enemy uses the same spirit of Delilah against us.  He tempts us to ease up, slack off, and lose intensity for the ways of God, because he wants us to lose our anointing.  He tempts our separation from the world, with the pleasures of the world, because he knows that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” (James 4:4).  He tempts us from being separated unto God, in order to separate us from God.

Samson didn’t realize the anointing of God was no longer on him until it was too late.  He didn’t realize his choice to continue in sin would eventually lead to losing the anointing of God upon his life.  God is long-suffering with us when we sin, just as he was with Samson.  But, the more we continue to sin, choosing the temptations of our flesh over the anointing of God upon our lives, the closer we come to losing the anointing of God upon us.  When we fall asleep in the lap of Delilah, when we slack off, ease up, and lose intensity of heart for the ways of God, it will end up costing us dearly.   Samson not only lost his strength, he lost his sight.  His enemy, the Philistines, gouged out his eyes.  God didn’t take his sight, the enemy did, but Samson made it possible for him to.  When we give ourselves over to the spirit of Delilah, it won’t be long before our enemy robs us of our spiritual sight, also.  When Samson lost his sight, he was put into bondage, led around by his enemy, and used by them to serve their purpose.  When we lose sight of who we are and where we are from, our enemy does the same to us.  Only when Samson confessed his sin and repented of it, asking God to enable him to prevail against his enemy, did God grant him victory over his enemy again.  Judges 16:22 says, “But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.”   I love the hope that is in that one line!  His hair began to grow again, meaning the anointing of God began to return upon him.  When we confess and repent of our sins, God will always cause us to prevail over our enemy, but like Samson, we might suffer in our flesh from the consequences of our choices before that happens.  Samson suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually as a result of giving himself over to the  spirit of Delilah.  If he could speak to us today, I think he would warn us, “Be on guard against the spirit of Delilah.  Don’t slack up, don’t ease up, don’t lose intensity of heart toward the anointing of God upon your life.  If you lay your head in the lap of the world, you might lay down full of pleasure, but you will wake up full of regret.”

In Matthew 25:32, Jesus spoke of another type of separation.  This separation would be done by him at his coming.  He said, “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  John 2:5 distinguishes between those who are in Christ and those who are not, saying, “This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  God will separate those who are his from those who are not, and how we walk in this world will indicate  which one we are.  We are called to give evidence of where we are from.  If we are from his kingdom, God instructs us to “come out from among them and be separate, touch no unclean thing.”  (IICorinthians 6:17).   We can either separate ourselves now, or wait for him to do it later.  The choice is up to us, but in the end the final separation will be up to him.  So, “Why, why, why Delilah?”  Because it’s who she is, and she’s very, very good at it.

 

LAP OF DELILAH
In the lap of Delilah many now do sleep
She has shorn them of their power
and their strength she has made weak
Awaken my Beloved! Of her embrace you must shake free
For she will blind you of your sight and bring you to your knees
Hear me my Beloved and do not be deceived
For I have called you out of this world to be separate unto Me
No, I will not share you with this world and its ways
So you must choose to follow me and my word  you must obey
I have given you great strength, Delilah’s temptations to withstand
And if you will choose to resist her you will find you can
So heed the error of Samson and my words do not forget
“Though you lay down in pleasure, you will wake up in regret”
You do not belong to this world, I have called you to be my own
And I am coming back again to take my children home
But I cannot take you with me if you are holding onto sin
So you must separate yourselves now that I not do it then
But if you will rise up from the lap of Delilah
and your faithfulness to me show
I will restore your strength and cause your hair to grow

(Judges 16:22 – But the hair on his head began to grow after it had been shaved.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love You More

(John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, 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.)

cross-2713354_1920The first and greatest commandment God instructed Moses to give the people of Israel was, “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”  (Deuteronomy 11:1).  In Matthew 22:36-38, when Jesus’s disciples asked him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law,” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest command.”  Loving God with all our heart, soul and mind was the first and greatest commandment of the law, and it was to be evidenced by keeping his commands.  If you tie the two together, the first and greatest command spoken by both Moses and Jesus would read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and commands always.”  We seem to have forgotten the word “always” in that command.   I don’t think God would have said always if he hadn’t meant always.  Jesus, himself, tied the two commands of love and obedience together, stressing, “If you love me, you will obey what I command you.”  “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me,” and “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:15).  We have pitted love and law against one another today, as if one could stand without the other.  Kevin DeYoung, author of The Hole In Our Holiness, writes, “To hate the law, is to hate God himself, who ordained the law to reflect his nature.  If you tell people law doesn’t matter, then neither does love, which is the summary of the law.”  If love does away with the law, it does away with the first and greatest commandment of God in the law, as well as the second, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love is a command of the law.  In Matthew 5:17, Jesus tells us, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, he simply wrote it in another place; the heart, the soul and the mind.  Hebrews 10:16 tells us,  “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Loving others rests upon us loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, because if we don’t love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we can’t love others.  It is our love for him that compels us to obey his teachings, and loving others is a part of his teaching.  When Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my teachings” he was saying, “You will obey my commands out of your love for me.”  Love, genuine love, comes from want to, not have to.  “God’s commands show us what God is like, what he prizes, what he detests what it means to be holy as God is holy.  To hate the law is to hate God himself, who ordained the law to reflect his nature.” (DeYoung).  Jesus was, “the word made flesh.”    His life was to be a reflection of God’s nature to us.   He never broke the law of God, he never did away with it, he reflected it.

We seem to have it a little one-sided today, I think.  We focus a whole lot more on God’s love for us than we do on our love for God.  There’s no doubt God loves us more than we could ever love him.  We only love him because he first loved us, but I think maybe we need to realize it wasn’t meant to be quite so one-sided as it has become today.  Jesus said, “If you love me.”  The proof of love is often preceded by an “if,” because love is in what you do, not in what you say.  It is shown in both commitment and conduct; what you do and what you don’t do.  Jesus was basically saying, “If you love me, you will put me first in both commitment and conduct.  Your focus won’t be on just my love for you, but on your love for me.”  When my daughter was a little girl, we used to play a game called, “Look Into My Love Eyes.”  The one who held the other’s gaze the longest was the winner, and she was always the winner.  She was relentless!  She simply refused to look away.  She won because her focus wasn’t on my love for her, it was on her love for me.  She won every time.  She loved me more.  That’s still the way she loves people today; relentless, focusing her love on others, refusing to look away, loving people more, even to her own hurt sometimes.  That’s how God loves us.

I was watching a television show the other night and one of the actors in the show said to another, “I love you,” to which the the other replied, “I love you more.”  That’s what real love is, loving more.  When Jesus said, “If you love me,” he was saying, “If you love me more than ______, and we have to fill in that blank.  We can fill that blank in with any number of things, but things ultimately come down to self.  We have to fill in that blank every time we love self more than we love obeying his commands.  We have to fill it in every time we put self before someone else.   We tend to forget that Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me.”  Like it or not, Jesus expects us to prove our love for him, just as he did for us.  He made it simple; those who love him, will evidence it by obeying him, those who don’t, won’t.  Love is evidenced through obedience.   A. W. Tozer rightly observed the problem in saying it is not that man will not forsake his sins, but that he will not forsake himself.    What follows the “if” always proves the love.  Love not written upon the heart, will never be able to say, “I love you more,” because love not written on the heart will always love self more.  And according to Jesus, anything less than more is simply not enough.  God knew this.  God never asks us to do more than what he is first willing to do himself.  He knew that if he wanted us to love him more, he had to first love us more.

My mom is 91 years old, and whenever one of her loved ones tells her they love her, she almost always says, “I love you too, but God loves you more.”  She must have said it hundreds of times, and I must admit to never really considering the full truth of it.  She could have just said, “I love you more,” but she chose to point me to God’s love for me instead, because she wanted me to know that ultimately he loves us more than anyone will ever love us.  She couldn’t have given me a better comparison of the enormity of God’s love for me, because nobody in my life will ever love me like she does.  Love is a sacrifice of self for someone you love more, and she did it all her life for her family.  Because God is love, he knew he would have to make that sacrifice for his children, too.  It’s as if he said, “If I love them, ______, and he filled in that blank with Jesus.  Isaiah 52:13-14 tells us, “He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.”  Jesus’ visage and form was “marred beyond human likeness.”  I think Jesus was so disfigured upon that cross that people would look away from him.   They wouldn’t be able to look upon his face or hold his gaze.  And so he won; he loved us more!   When Jesus gave himself to be a sacrifice for our sins, to show us God’s love for us, he was saying, “I love you more.”  And it was more than enough.

I Love You More

When my daughter was a little girl
there was a game we used to play
called “Look Into My Love Eyes”
and try not to look away
As I looked into her sweet little face
I tried so hard to hold her gaze
But she was relentless and refused to look away
Her love was so intense I could see it in her eyes
I had to look away for fear that I would cry
She still wins that game today just like she did before
With a love so intense it says, “I love you more!”
That’s the kind of love we all need to show
because that’s the kind of love we all want to know
That’s the kind of love God has for you and me
And he hung it on a cross for all the world to see
Saying, “Look into my love eyes and hold my gaze if you can”
Knowing all the while that we would never win
Knowing less than more would never be enough to set us free
He gave the more of all his love when he died for you and me
There upon the cross with every stripe that Jesus bore
He said, “Look into my love eyes”
“And see I love you more.”

 

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