Of All the Commands, This is Perhaps the Hardest One to Follow

Commands from leaders have come and gone throughout history, but this one really stands out: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13 NASB) Think about Leaders and commands.

The word of a reigning monarch is a life and death matter. Artaxerxes could sentence someone to death just for asking for an audience with him. There were the Caesars who passed themselves off as deities and in their power sentenced hundreds of thousands of prisoners and Christians to death; there was Adolph Hitler, who orchestrated the Holocaust, and Stalin, who commanded that dissidents be “purged” from society. There have been despotic leaders throughout history whose commands led their followers to commit acts of war, atrocities, and mayhem. There have been countless commands from Kings and tyrants which only spread fear and dread among their followers.

If you were given absolute power over the entire nation, and could do whatever you wanted to without fear of penalty or reprisal, what sort of commands would you issue? (And before you answer that, remember that Winston Churchill said, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) You might start out as a benevolent dictator, but be careful: Leaders tend to gravitate to orders that are self-interested, or that benefit themselves. (Just look at Congressional perks and programs!)

Even in the name of religion, there are those who misuse power for evil purposes. There have been cult leaders like Bob Jones and David Koresh who gave commands which led followers to their doom. There have been religious leaders who asked for money, or other men’s wives, or who commanded their followers to commit suicide; there are religious leaders today who command their followers to strap on a bomb and commit both murder AND suicide…

Of course, leaders also pass laws AGAINST all manner of crime. Our legal system penalizes people for doing wrong So, when you read what Jesus commands, it kinda sets you back on your heels for a minute. This commandment from Jesus is remarkable not only in his time and culture, but in all times and in all cultures. As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I guess he could command us to do anything, and we’d ultimately have to submit. But get this: He commands us to love one another. “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” You heard him. Love one another today. And I guess pretty much every day! And by the way — if you are reading this, I love you, and I just prayed for you this morning. Boom!

The King of Kings came down to earth and walked across His land
Without the Secret Service or a military band…
He dressed in humble garb. There was no scepter in His hand.
His sermon was his life. He wasn’t digital. He had no Brand,
But we still hear His great commandment, just the way He planned.
It’s short and to the point, not very hard to understand:
“As I have loved you, Love each other. This is my command.”
The world will fall. Will Fall. But Jesus and His words will stand.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Love and The Deepest Theology: Four Dimensions of God’s Love

We talk about our perception of three dimensions around as we look at height, width, and length, but we all know there is more to it than that… How tall is beauty? How wide are feelings? Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Way back in the day, Job was confronted with them in one of the earliest written parts of the Bible: “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9)

During Job’s discourse with the Almighty, God reminds him of the nature of the universe. We have boundaries and limits; God doesn’t. We think in terms of dimensions; God transcends them. It is that way in the physical universe we touch, see, and inhabit, and it is that way in the spiritual dimension that inhabits us. We are made in God’s image, and whatever passions, values, and emotions we experience are reflections of Him–although as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13, we see them incompletely in this world, as though “through a glass, darkly.” In that chapter Paul acknowledges the importance of knowledge and giftedness, and discusses the importance of hope and faith, all of which could be considered as the deep things of God, and reflections of his character. He ends by saying this (v 13): “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The end of theology is not proofs or precepts, and it is not about knowledge or discourse: it is about the way GOD LOVES YOU.

Have you really considered the depth of God’s love for you? Take a moment and reflect. Do you feel loved today? You should. God loves you for who you are, and who you were meant to be. He loves you consistently, relentlessly, passionately, completely—enough to send his own Son to experience death on your behalf. Bask in God’s love today, and remember that it’s higher, deeper, broader, and longer than you can imagine!

Four Dimensions of Love

How big is love? How strong, how tall?
Do we see love as far too small?
Our broken view of broken love
Can’t take the concept far enough—

Considering all that Christ has bought,
Could love be bigger than we thought?
Imagine love, the way you dreamed,
Romance and passion, all redeemed!

See love reflected in God’s face,
And feel it in His warm embrace.
For God so loved us, every one,
He sent His precious, only Son

To come and revolutionize
The depth and width, the lows and highs
Of love—so broken on the street—
In ways so intimate and sweet,
That in Him, we are made complete.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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The Four Dimensions of God’s Love: Height, Width, Depth, Length

In yesterday’s post I challenged you to look in John 3:16 and see the four dimensions of God’s love that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 3:17; Take a moment now and read John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”)
Now ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? How deep? How long? After you have paused to reflect on that, make a list of the four dimensions–height, width, depth, and length–and jot down how John 3:16 applies to each one. Then compare your thoughts to my observations below:


How high is it? It is infinitely high, defined by the character of the one who extended it: GOD. It comes from above us in every way. It is purer than what we call love, more committed, more personal, more selfless, more complete and more complex than our earthly perception allows. Isaiah 55:9 says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Think higher than Everest, higher than the heavens, and beyond the vast reaches of infinite space…
You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above; Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…
How wide is it? It is so wide that it includes EVERYONE. Every color, creed, culture and character is under the span of God’s amazing love. “God so loved the WORLD (Yes, Grace is available to everyone) so that WHOEVER believes is saved…” Romans 10:13 says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
2 Peter 3:9 says, “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.” God’s love is as wide as every person who ever had a choice.
No need to hide from love that cannot be denied, It changes who you are inside, And ultimately you become His bride– And not just you but everyone who believes, receives, Yes every. One. So if you wondered: that’s how wide…

How deep is it? It is so deep that God spared no expense and paid the ultimate price to extend it. He gave his ONLY begotten son. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap. It cost God his Son; it cost his Son his life. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) God is not an automaton without feelings or emotions, and yet the loving, jealous, passionate God allowed His Son to experience the cross in MY place. Read that sentence again. Seamlessly together for eternity past, they separated. The only perfect and unified force in the universe tore itself apart for us. Without any guarantee apart from their own character that everything would go as planned, Christ died. That, my friends is DEEP.
How LONG is it? The verse concludes with, “So that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING life!” How long is THAT? There was a song from 1957 by Johnny Mathis where he said he would love his girlfriend “until the Twelfth of Never. And that’s a long, long time.” EVERLASTING is longer than that. A thousand, ten thousand years from now, we will all be somewhere, perhaps remembering when we first opened our hearts to the four dimensions of God’s love. I hope that you and I will be still be experiencing those four dimensions, and we will just be getting started.
There they are: John 3:16, the four dimensions. You are welcome.

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above; Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…
That love is in God's Character, reflecting who He is;
So if you wonder just how high it is, remember this:
The love is higher than the sky, as lofty as the world is wide--
Don't hide from love that cannot be denied, 
It changes who you are inside, and ultimately you become His bride-- And not just you but everyone who believes, receives, Yes every. One.
It's as wide, you see, as Calvary, and that's how it was done.
God made the ultimate payment at a cost that was infinitely steep;
Salvation may be free, my friends, but it was never cheap:
He sacrificed His only Son for us. His love is deep.
That love will live beyond this world, forever and a day:
The love that's higher, wider, deeper than these words can say.
The love of God will far outlast the words within this rhyme:
Beyond the twelfth of never, friends! (And that's a long, long time!)

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Restoration for the Smitten Suitor and the Unfaithful Wife

Sin threatened to destroy the relationship between the Smitten Suitor and the wayward bride. Only one thing could bring them Restoration. The Book of Hosea is one of the most unusual and interesting in the Bible, and it tells a story about love and restoration that will expand the boundaries you have about both of those things.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’”. (Hosea 2:14-16, NIV). Hosea’s prophecy compares Israel to an unfaithful wife who committed all manner of adulterous acts. The Lord is her wounded husband whose passion cannot stem the righteous indignation and judgment that she deserves. And yet in the middle of his anger and grief, these verses remind us that God has something else in mind for his wayward wife: restoration.

He not only promises to restore their relationship, he intends to woo her and speak tenderly to her. Just as I am often startled by the Old Testament promises of swift and certain judgment by a righteous God, I find myself equally surprised by this picture. God is the passionate and loving husband who has been cheated on and lied to, embarrassed and hurt to the core by his wife’s infidelities. Israel has stopped worshipping the Lord and started giving her affection to other things, like money, status, control, or power. Israel has forgotten her first love and traded it for shallow pagan ritual and illicit unions. They are estranged, and their relationship cries out for restoration. Let me make two observations: First, God is an emotional God. I think we sometimes feel like He is enthroned remotely, dispassionately over the universe, but remember: we are made in his image. We tend to think of God as a Judge; He thinks of us as a beloved spouse. The emotional winds that blow through us are shadows of the powerful emotions the Lord feels. He loves us wildly, completely, and powerfully, which leads logically to the second point: God’s love for you may be far deeper than you realize. It’s not a theological construct, it’s not a Bible verse. It’s not even a religious love story told on a grand cosmic scale. It’s a romance about betrayal and restoration. God is a lover smitten with His beloved; even when she betrays him (and, oh, she betrays him all the time!) He is reaching out to call her back. He plans to allure her, to shower her with affirmation and gentleness, to speak tenderly to her. The Lord will woo her with grace when He has every right to destroy her with judgment… He says that he loves her SO much that he will forgive her unfaithfulness and restore her as his one true bride, even though she hurt him so deeply. Say, when’s the last time you cheated on God?

 

We think of God as in command, 
Enthroned out in some distant land,
The Righteous Judge who now condemns 
The actions and the hearts of men.
And yet He sends us tender notes,
And fills His word with loving quotes,
Reminding us that His great love
Could never be expressed enough.
No matter what you think you've heard
Look deeper through His written word,
And then perhaps you'll make a start
To see what's written in His heart.
Look deep and see how much He feels!
You'll find that He's head over heels,
And even when you run away,
He'll woo you every single day.
Discover, when you've gone off track,
Your Lover always wants you back.
Listen, now: His love is strong.
His love erases every wrong, 
So listen: you can hear His song
Wooing you back where you belong...

 

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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The Equation that Changes Everything in the World

There is an equation that John uses to describe the nature of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and it is simple but surprising. The equation is this:
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16, NIV) John claims that God is love. This makes sense from a Biblical view, and it aligns with what Jesus taught—that love is a distinctive which identifies those who follow God. You know how an equation works, right? X = Y means that everything on one side of the equation equals the other side EXACTLY. They are interchangeable because they are equal.

And “God is Love” is not the only equation in the New Testament. Consider this: we are designed to be complete only in relationships, and relationships are only complete when they run on love. The equation is, two people become one flesh. Husband equals wife. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one”. The equation is, Jesus equals the Father. When John says, “God is love”, he is saying that love is God’s makeup—it is the essence of His personality, his character, and his being. What He does is motivated by love and is an expression of love. God cannot commit a purely selfish act. When you flip that statement around (which you can always do when you juxtapose two equal objects with a verb of being, and it will still be true), it says, “Love is God.” John is saying that not only is God characterized by love, but that EVERYTHING loving is from God. Whatever love you encounter in this world comes from God—there is nothing loving apart from him or without him. We experience love in many forms, and probably every one of those forms is valid, as is anything that we perceive as love. There is a mother’s love, there is love in friendships, and there is the love we have for puppies and little children. There is deep, abiding love, romantic, mushy love, and there is even sexual love between a husband and wife (yes, God created sex, and in way more than fifty shades!). There are all manner of other kinds of love we feel or encounter or touch in this life. None of them would exist without God. Some of them may seem to us to be disconnected from God, but if you look closely I think you’ll start to see in them a glimmer of God’s presence, or a fleeting glimpse of his character. And the more you look, the more you’ll see that they couldn’t exist without Him, that there is no real love apart from God, because God is love, and love is God. Good thing to think about the day after Valentine’s Day.

To my lovely wife: you’re the love of my life!
To my family and friends, may our love never end!
Just remember this stuff, when the going gets tough:
Love is God; God is love, it all comes from above:
And everything loving you happen to see’s
A reminder that God lives in you and in me:
Love’s what He gives us, and calls us to be…
Just in case I haven’t said it enough,
What you say: Love is God. What it means: God is love.

Go love somebody, and go feel loved today. Then thank God that you just saw Him where you weren’t looking before!

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Fearless Love Enables You to Dance Like Nobody’s Watching!

Would it be good for you to be fearless? John thought so, and I know he went through a number of dangerous situations. All of us probably have moments when we’d love to be fearless, although there are certainly times when it might not be such a good idea…

“By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.…” (1 John 4:17-19, NIV) On this day we tend to think a lot about love. There are a lot of notions about love, aren’t there? There is love of things (I love my car/house/video game), love of appetite (I love chocolate/beer/steak), love of animals, love of others (friends/family), romantic love, selfless love, summer love, endless love. Songs reflect that diversity with titles like “Love hurts”, “Love is a Battlefield”, “Love is a Wonderful Thing”, “Bleeding Love”, and “Love is All you Need”. Love gets intertwined with all kinds of things in media and culture, so we allow it to have many definitions, most of which are not love at all. Sometime we can clarify what something means by stating its opposite, and most would probably say that the opposite of love is hate. Here in these verses, John infers that the opposite of love is not hate but FEAR. I don’t know that I ever think of it as the opposite of fear. What does John mean by that? Perhaps that true love is dependable. True love gives absolute confidence. For one thing, he watched Jesus up close for several years, and if you think of it, none of the Gospels ever says, “Jesus was afraid”. John noted Jesus’ courage and understood its source. In John 13:1 one he makes the observation that Jesus, “having loved his own who were in the world, loved them unto the END.” To quote a praise song, John observed first hand that “your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me”. He says that love casts out fear, and the one who fears is not perfected (matured) in love. We can test that in a way by saying it in reverse: fear casts out love; but those who embrace love are fearless. Tell, me, are you fearless? What are you most afraid of? I kinda think John’s point is that since God’s love protects us in something as big as the Day of Judgment, all the rest of our concerns are really nothing to be afraid of by comparison. You don’t need to control things to be secure. You need to realize what love means in your life. Look up and be glad about how much God loves you today. Then, take a deep breath, ignore those little insecurities, and be “dance like nobody’s watching” fearless!

 

Love for some is just a sport, perhaps a game of chance;
Love can be chemistry that sparks a new romance,
With someone that you like a lot, the spark is real, the kiss is hot,
You both decide to take a shot and vow to give it all you've got!
But even love with such high hopes can end with a broken heart,
With bitterness that lovers feel when they are split apart.
If we describe the kind of love that goes out on a date,
Most of us would say the opposite of love is hate.
But I had never thought of love the way it's written here:
John says that the polar opposite of love is FEAR.
He says God's love is something we can all embrace with surety,
The Father's perfect love can give us freedom and security.
If you embrace the fearless love that God has given you,
How would your life be different then? And what would you go do?
Consider that. Consider that His love will cast out fear,
And you can dance like no one's watching. Yep, you read it here.

 

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Many things Cause us to be Separated From the Love of Christ; What’s the Most Obvious One?

At one time, Saul of Tarsus hated Christians, so he must have hated Christ as well. But something changed for Saul, and he grew to believe that he could never be separated from the love he found in Jesus Christ:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). Paul was confident that no power or opponent could separate him from Christ’s love.

It is a powerful thought in a world where it often seems like love can let you down, and it comforts me to know that God’s love will never be taken away from me. There are things in life that call us away from love, whether they are on social medial, in politics, or from haters or the media or bigots, or just bad drivers. It is easy to allow oneself to be separated from the love that Christ taught. I have found, though, that over the course of my life it has not been external influences or agents of evil that have pulled me away from the love of Christ, but something far more insidious and closer to home: ME. I have been separated from the love of Christ by my pet sins, my selfishness, and the pull of temporary gratification. Oliver Hazard Perry once proclaimed victory by saying, “We have met the enemy and they are ours” .His words were later humorously misquoted by the comic strip “Pogo”: “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Are you ever like that? Like Paul doing the evil he did not want to do, or Esau trading his birthright for a pot of savory stew, I have often been the one who chose to step away from the secure and endless love I find in Jesus to pursue something tawdry or temporary. How foolish we are, to step away from the joy and security of the warm, passionate, eternal love of Christ to experiment with something selfish, limited, and fake. Tell me: what is it that causes YOU to step away from Christ’s love for the cheap thrill of a temporary fix? Chemicals? Credit? Comfort food? Golf? Bragging about your kids? Beer? Fifty Shades? That big promotion? Living in the bigger home? Paul would tell you it’s not worth it. Step back into the welcoming arms of Jesus, and make him a priority. Enjoy the comforting “love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You won’t be separated. And you won’t be sorry!

The Apostle Paul had seen it all, had traveled far and near;
He spoke with Kings and Pharisees without a lick of fear.
He had been beaten, whipped and stoned, and knew all kinds of pain,
But said, "For me to live is Christ; For me to die is gain!"
He stood before the judge, and was condemned to prison twice,
But claimed no power could separate him from the love of Christ.
If Paul could make that statement after all that he'd been through,
Then it's a powerful testimony. I believe it too.

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Sit a Little Closer to the Fire

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV) This whole verse seems hopelessly out of date in some ways. It claims that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, when it seems like Christianity is less accepted and more under attack than it has been in years; it talks about reverence and awe when our culture enjoys coffee and flip flops in church, and we better be out of church in time for the big game; and it says that God is a consuming fire in a world full of distractions, temporary relationships, and instant gratification. Let’s make some observations about it and see if it still applies… 1) Whenever you see a “Therefore” in Scripture, you should look back in the passage and see what it’s there for. The writer of Hebrews quoted Haggai 2:6, reminding a repressed and skeptical people that no matter what their political circumstances, God still had a covenant with them and was still going to exercise His will: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory…” The nations will be shaken, but not God’s plans. Remember what God has promised and take heart. 2) He says we should be thankful. All revival begins with thanksgiving. Having a posture of thankfulness assumes humility before the giver and an attitude of gratitude. Have you given thanks today? 3) Worshipping God should involve reverence and awe. What we wear to church doesn’t really matter, but when was the last time you truly experienced reverence and awe in worship? Step out of your timed church service boundaries and your concerns about where to go for lunch and allow yourself to be steeped in the majesty and splendor of an Almighty God. Remember that He loves you and is jealous for you. The writer of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” 4) God is jealous for you in the way a mother is jealous for her child’s safety, and the same way a husband is jealous for his dying wife’s health. He is loving and possessive, and we should remember that. And finally, this: 5) If God is a consuming fire, then why are we not consumed? Is it He that is not hot enough or bright enough? Or is it that we just don’t WANT to be burned? Perhaps we selfishly reserve our passions for ourselves, refusing to be burned and thereby consumed. Consider this: if to avoid consumption, we stay away from the fire, then we also miss the warmth, the illumination, and ultimately the passion in being truly inflamed… Is God not warm enough? Bright enough? Perhaps you are sitting a bit too far from the fire…

fire

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

 

Abba’s Children

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7, NIV) In the grand drama of the cosmos, man was created in God’s image to be share in all that God made. He created man as a member of the family, someone who could walk with Him daily and call Him Abba, the affectionate form of Father that most closely equates in our culture to “Daddy”. Adam and Eve were his children. Man was placed in the garden with a covenant that had one stipulation: do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve broke that covenant and were separated from all of God’s goodness. Like the prodigal son, they selfishly tried to take their inheritance early and ended up outside the family and far from home. Those who once walked daily with the Father now walked alone, and their actions brought a curse not only upon themselves but also upon the creation in which they labored. The very fabric of existence was torn, and no amount of effort by mankind could repair it. The story of the Bible is the story of how God redeemed His children from the curse and adopted us back into His loving family. The curse resulted from the breaking of the covenant by men; so only a man could provide justice before a righteous God. Sin was the deadly enemy of man, separating him from the Father and bringing death and corruption into the world. Only a redeemer untainted by sin could triumph over it. Because its wages are death, sin affected all of mankind both physically and spiritually. This passage from Galatians offers assurance and hope. First, it assures us that God has always had a plan, and that plan has always been bent on restoring us to His family. It says that God sent his Son at “the set time.” The appearance of Jesus was no accident, and he was sent by the Father. Second, He was born of a woman, so that he might redeem those born of women. Third, He satisfied the law, so that he might save those cursed by the law. He provided not only a physical solution to sin, but a spiritual one as well. His words were not the random ramblings of a Jewish wise man, and his claims to be one with the Father were not blasphemy but fact. He was unique in all of history as being the one qualified to counteract the curse and mediate our adoption back into the Father’s family. Because of Jesus Christ, we are all able to be God’s children once again, walking with Him and calling Him “Abba” (Daddy). Read the words of Jesus sometime and see how often he depended on his Father, talked with his Father, and walked with his Father. See the affection and intimacy Jesus had with “Abba”. When is the last time you loved on the Father, and talked to Him not as the Awesome God of the universe or as the somewhat intimidating Righteous Judge, but as your Daddy? I’m pretty sure he sent His Son so you could do just that. Crawl up into God’s spiritual lap today and sit there for a while.

The Right Kind of Revenge

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, NIV) As Paul illustrates what love looks like, he paints on the canvas of human relationships. There are a few subtle points in this passage that are important. A loving person, Paul says, does not repay evil for evil. As he encourages us all to live at peace with those around us, he agrees with what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? ” (Matthew 5:44, 46 NIV). We are not to seek vengeance when we are wronged, and we can achieve justice by leaving things in God’s hands. Peace is impossible where people seek vengeance. Gandhi reiterated this when he said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Paul encourages us to “leave room for God’s wrath”. This is a striking statement in the middle of a chapter about love, and one of the subtle points that are important in this passage. God’s wrath is a fierce and righteous thing. It is never capricious or frivolous, but always just and appropriate. We can depend on it. It addresses wrongs and ultimately (rightly) punishes those who harden their hearts. In C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the great lion is portrayed as loving and kind. But the characters who know him are filled with respect, and even somewhat afraid of him. He is civil and majestic, but fearsome and dangerous. When they describe him they always say, “Oh he’s not a TAME lion”. God’s wrath is something pure, far above our petty motives and selfish ways. Romans 12 says we should allow HIM to administer perfect justice instead of attempting to straighten things out ourselves. SO what does that look like for you? I drive a LOT in traffic (in my job, on vacation, traveling, whatever) and I am a fairly assertive driver on a road filled with timid, distracted, or just plain selfish people. Of course I myself am a GOOD driver. As a result I tend to be critical of other drivers, and even offer commentary on their lack of skill, concentration, and judgment. My entire family has noticed this through the years, and it is an area of my Christian walk where I have often been less than loving. As I have gotten older, I’ve made some progress behind the wheel, and have at least become a bit less outwardly demonstrative toward the distracted drivers around me (which means: I don’t purposely cut them off, make unnecessary hand signals, or run them off the road) but I haven’t really lived in peace while driving. I am trying to apply Romans 12 to my driving, so I can exemplify a different attitude in the car. (Some days good, some days still not so good…) I’m not sure that letting someone merge when it’s not their turn will “heap burning coals” upon them, but I could at least offer good in response to evil and trust God to provide justice. I’m making a commitment here to try to be a more charitable and peaceful driver. SO… what’s YOUR application of Romans 12? What keeps you from living at peace with others? What frustrates you about your enemies? Get out there and overcome evil with good. God says He will take care of the rest.