We Love Condemnation: But Who is Going to Judge the Judges?

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17 KJV) Institutionalized Christianity has a long history of condemnation, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, and from the Church Lady to Westboro Baptist.

Judged By Whom?

When unchurched people are asked why they don’t go to church the #1 answer is “I feel judged when I go there.” In the name of Jesus, folks who call themselves Christians have condemned Muslims and Mormons, Denominations and Democrats, homosexuals and heretics. Now, I’m not saying those folks are all immune to judgment by a righteous God, because ALL OF US are going to give account before Him.

So, none of us is immune to condemnation. We’re just not supposed to heap it on each other. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

condemnation

The only sin you should ever get concerned about is your OWN. If you are sitting there reading this thinking, “Yeah, but, what about that group?” or, “What about those other guys?”, then you have the wrong perspective about sin.

God’s Tolerance Is Different Than Ours

The Bible teaches clearly that a Holy God cannot/will not tolerate sin, and that sin will be judged. Since sin and death cannot abide in the presence of the Living God, unresolved sin will be left to its own devices. In essence, it will judge itself. Those who reject God’s provision for payment will bring death and separation from God upon themselves.

Sin by its very nature requires condemnation because it brings death. Since God is Life, He is diametrically opposed to sin. He cannot tolerate sin because it brings His polar opposite into His creation.

As Paul says in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” I definitely believe that the Bible teaches about sin’s penalty and the righteous judgment of a Holy God. But in John 3, when Jesus told Nicodemus why he came into the world, he ruled condemnation out of his mission statement. (And yes, I know he condemned the hateful self-righteousness of the Pharisees, but whenever sinners were brought before him, he offered grace. You can look it up!)

To Condemn or Not the Condemn?

Apparently Christ does not condemn, he only saves. Repeat that. Remember that. In a world full of blame, finger-pointing, criticism, and condemnation, Christ does not condemn. I bet most of us still focus on the theology of right and wrong, and we focus on God as the Righteous judge. Curious, then, that His only son didn’t come as a judge but as a Savior.

Read John 8 sometime. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a demon possessed Samaritan (racial slur) he said, “I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (John 8:50-51) God didn’t send his Son to condemn, but to give life.

As John said, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” If you were ever a sinner, if you have ever wronged someone else, or if you have ever been less than godly: remember that, and be grateful; remember that, and be gracious.

Pointing the Wrong Way

In a world of polar hate, where almost no one budges,
Who is going to heal the scars, and who will judge the judges?
You can look at other folks and judge them for their sin,
But in the end, your condemnation will not help you win.
Point out someone else’s sins, but know that when you do,
Three fingers there upon your hand are pointed back at you!
Christ told Nicodemus, though the world might be depraved
He came, not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved.
Take a hint from Jesus when the shallow world condemns,
And offer love instead, because you know… love always wins!

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

Mary Obeyed the Message and John Wrote About the Word. You?

Ever since I became aware enough to consider such things, I have always thought that the first few sentences of the Gospel of John are possibly the most significant sentences ever written in Western civilization. They tie Jesus of Nazareth to the Ancient Hebrew Scriptures, to Greek thought and philosophy, and to the vast boundlessness of eternity in the space-time continuum. If the arrival of Jesus was a historical event, then John connects the cosmic dots about who Jesus was and why he came.

A Word to the Wise

Just before Christmas we said that Mary heard a word from God, quoting the word of God about the Word of God… John said it this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-5, 14 NIV)

When Mary said, “Be it unto me according to thy word”, John’s amazing prologue characterizing Jesus as the Word, or the logos, had not yet been written. In this opening paragraph to his gospel, John says that the Word was eternally preexistent, was with God and indeed was God. This Word was the Creator and the source of all life and illumination in the cosmos. John says that the Word came and dwelt among men, who could see its glory.

John

The Word of the Lord

The concept of men receiving the word of the Lord was fairly common in the Old Testament. God’s Spirit moved among men and imparted His words to the prophets, gave instruction, and prophesied about things to come. (Think: Elijah and the prophets of Baal, or Jonah preaching to Nineveh.) God’s word appeared or was given to men for a task or a season, but it was not an abiding presence on the earth.

For instance, 1 Samuel 3:1 says that “the word of the Lord was scarce in those days”. At other times men like Abraham (Genesis 15:1, “The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision”) and Moses, who was “commanded by the word of the Lord” (Numbers 3:16, 51) encountered God’s word in life changing ways.

The prophets were moved to speak because of it. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah” (1 Kings 18:1) and Zephaniah 1:1 attributes his prophecy to the word of the Lord. There are well over 200 references to the word of God in the Old Testament, so John’s reference to the Word was not unique in Jewish Scripture; but the idea that the Word could become an actual person and dwell among men was entirely foreign to the Hebrew mind and heritage.

Wait, John Claimed What?!

By introducing Christ as the Word, John makes some astounding claims about a man who he knew well– someone he hung out with, traveled with, and observed at close range for at least three years. He walked long hours with Jesus, heard him preach, and saw him in action. If Jesus had been insane or a mere charlatan, John would have known it.

If Jesus had been a failed prophet who was crucified and then disappeared from the scene, then John would have had no reason to write a word about him… But as we know, John wrote those familiar words in 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.”

Would John have placed all his hopes on a fraud? Think about those whom you know intimately, the folks you joke with or party with; chances are you know them far too well to equate them with God, or to ever consider actually calling them God… Yet John did exactly that with Jesus. Why do you think he did that? Answer THAT question, and I bet you’ll answer a whole bunch of other ones…

The Writer


Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!
Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be?

Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…
But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

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

The Gift that keeps on Giving: Better Than Jelly of the Month!

It’s that time of year that we leave Christmas behind, isn’t it? Gifts have been unwrapped (and exchanged), gift cards have been redeemed, and we are putting away Christmas lights and decorations until next year… Here’s the thing: don’t stop celebrating the season when the season is over!

Why Christmas?

When you think about it, for many of us Christmas was all about giving and opening gifts! It is a tradition that goes back to the gifts of the Magi, which were presented to Jesus as a young child sometime after he was born. Some folks relate it to Saturnalia, a pagan Roman festival which pre-dated the birth of Christ, and which was supplanted by the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Since people gave each other small gifts during that winter festival, the custom was appropriated by early Church Fathers. (Although some Christians today refuse to celebrate because of those early roots, but I say, why let the devil have all festivals? It’s ok to celebrate the birth of Christ and give gifts!) Which gift was your favorite this year?

gift

The Gifts of the Magi, and Some Others Worth Mentioning

We give each Holiday season to commemorate the actions of the Magi in Matthew 2:11: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Gifts are a wonderful part of our Christmas celebration. But as you start enjoying the presents you received on Christmas, remember that there are gifts, and there are GIFTS:

There is the gift of life. There is the gift of love. And then there’s this: “For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, KJV).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV).

“But the free GIFT is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the GIFT by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto many.” (Romans 5:15, NIV)

“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.” (John 3:16, KJV)

It’s About Living

No matter where you are and no matter what your circumstances today, never forget that Christmas is not about toys or things. It’s about a new history being made. It’s about new life. And it’s about a new KIND of life. To me, eternal life is an attitude that not only transcends time and space but it begins here and now! I like to think it is what Gus McCrae meant in “Lonesome Dove”. He said, “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you LIVE.”

gift

This new year, don’t limit Christmas gifts to a single day. Celebrate it all year long! Embrace life wherever you are. Live with an awareness of the gifts that matter. Don’t get so caught up in your new iPhone that you miss the greatest gift of all! Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Rhyme

Sing Hosanna, peace on earth! Celebrate the Savior’s birth!
As Angels sing, Rejoice with them! This baby, born in Bethlehem,
Made every earthly power shift, and offered us His matchless gift.
Give “Peace on earth” and spread “Good Cheer”! But tell me, if this isn’t clear:
Since Jesus showed that “God came near”, why celebrate just once a year?
Don’t take your faith from Christmas nights and pack it away with the Christmas lights!
In winter, summer, spring, and fall, open the greatest gift of all—
At home, abroad, at work or play—Celebrate Christmas every day!
Whenever you recall this rhyme: it’s Him, it’s you, it’s Christmas time!

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

Love and The Deepest Theology: Four Dimensions of God’s Love

If Everybody Knows It, Why Doesn’t Everybody DO it?

If you really want to define love, you can read the verse that everybody knows, 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.” This verse describes all of the dimensions of love– how high it is, how wide, how deep, and how long.

We talk about our perception of three dimensions around as we look at height, width, depth 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 all of 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)

four dimensions of love

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.

Deeper and Longer Still

We are made in God’s image. 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 one of his best-known passages, Paul points out that there is a gap between our temporary world and the spiritual one.

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 upon that. 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. He did it for everyone, and He did it forever. 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

Nick at Night: The Most Important Conversation in History

The Pharisee Who Took a Chance

“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1-2, NIV)

It has often been speculated that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because of the risks involved. If the ruling council saw his actions as supporting or endorsing Jesus, it could have had serious consequences for him. Nicodemus could have been thrown off the council, or at the very least endured criticism and persecution.

On the other hand, perhaps he went at the council’s request, and was there as an intermediary to try to get a fix on Jesus and report back. But the fact that he went at night suggests that he was avoiding public scrutiny, and was not there on behalf of the council. If that was the case, then he was risking ostracism, persecution, and the loss of his social (and vocational) position in Jerusalem. Since he took such a huge chance, perhaps he was just an honest man seeking the truth about Jesus.

Nicodemus at night

Most Important Conversation: Really?

Whatever his motives, this talk with Jesus became arguably the most quoted and pivotal conversation in all of human history. It certainly contains perhaps the best-known and most quoted Bible verse. From this brief encounter we get “born again” (v 3); “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit” (v 6); and the fact that the Son of Man must be lifted up (v 15). And from this brief conversation, we get this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (v 16).

If you’ve never read that verse before, read again and think about what it means. It’s the verse everyone knows, and the most quoted verse in the Bible. It rocked Nicodemus’ world, and it changed his life. From the snapshots we get of Nicodemus later in John’s Gospel, a story of transformation emerges. In John 7 he subtly advocated on Jesus’ behalf in the Sanhedrin. He was still on the council, but flies in the face of the overriding hatred of Jesus.

The Rest of the Story

And then this: We see Nicodemus again in the terrible aftermath of the cross, helping to take down Jesus’ body to prepare it for burial (John 20:39). He has stepped out of the shadows of night to identify with him even when it no longer seems to matter. By performing this service, Nicodemus indeed places himself in the crosshairs of the Sanhedrin as a dangerous nonconformist. He risks his life and his reputation to identify with Jesus the crucified “criminal”.

This conversation from John Chapter three obviously meant something to him. The real question is, however: what does it mean to YOU?

Nicodemus

Late at night, he smelled the alleyways;
Secretly, he stalked the truth in silence.
Darkness fouled his progress with its murky haze;
The echoes whispered softly, and with violence…
The Inner Council would not see his coming here
As anything but blatant heresy;
His heart beat faster as he walked along in fear,
A lonely and conflicted Pharisee…

He paused before the doorway, now unsure,
Should this conversation even start?
He wavered now, so righteous, so impure,
Listening to the beating of his heart…
The quiet night created space for him to doubt;
What would happen to him if they knew?
What penalty awaited him if they found out?
Should he be here? Or run? What should he do?
He froze in fear of who he’d meet behind that door;
Confused anxiety almost made him run,
But Nicodemus knocked because he wanted more,
And Jesus smiled and said, “Come in, my son”.

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

The Mystery of Gifts: Perhaps the Worst Day Ever Was the Best Gift Ever

Everybody likes getting gifts! (Well, yeah, there are the bunny pajamas in A Christmas Story, but all of us like getting something to unwrap). Jesus had this to say about gifts, so let’s unwrap it together, shall we? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11 ASV)

Think About Gifts…

There are a couple of thoughts that jump out of this verse. First of all, if you are a parent or grandparent (or an Aunt or Uncle, or a passionate pet owner who loves a furry family member!) think about how much you love your child. I mean, stop and think about that. You picture them fondly in your mind. They have traits that endear them to you. You love them!

gifts for dad

Over the course of a lifetime, there are numerous gifts that you give them, whether it’s at Christmas or birthdays, a wedding or graduation, or even tooth fairy money…There are countless small sacrifices you make, from giving them the last piece of cake, to going without that new car or washing machine in order to pay tuition. There is the gift of time, the many gifts of teaching them to eat with a spoon, to use a potty, to ride a bicycle, to read, to imagine, and to dream. Have you ever stopped to think that when God calls us His children, He thinks about us in all of those same ways?

Do Gifts Really Cost God Anything?

Perhaps because we see God as omnipotent and self-sufficient, we tend to minimize the idea that He really actually sacrificed anything to give us gifts. After all, He is GOD. But when you start with the cross, the very real weight of God’s Fatherly love for us should surround us like a hug.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son…” It surely cost the Living God dearly (in ways we cannot fathom) to suffer the separation of sin and condemnation in our place, and to experience the death that was meant for us. Actual death. Real cost. Real Grace.

There are countless other ways that God’s gifts to us must cost Him something. Imagine what it’s like to be omnipotent. Now imagine God giving free will to his wayward kids. He didn’t HAVE to; he could have created beings without choice, without the option to reject you or hate Him. But instead He created potentially disobedient, willful, deceitful, selfish beings who pursue false and lesser gods.

Throughout every generation of men, God has dealt with children who ignore his gifts while they play with the paper and the trash…Has God quit being passionate? Stopped being jealous? Is He sitting in heaven watching us on cosmic TV eating popcorn, the wheels set in motion as He passively watches our rebellion play itself out? NO!!

How Many Thank-You Notes Have YOU Sent?

He is our Father, still loving us, giving us daily gifts of love and wisdom and comfort and possibility. Our Father in heaven is engaged with us DAILY, just as we should be engaged with Him. And His gifts are incessant, immeasurable, constant, and real—even when most of us ignore most of them most of the time.

Oh sure, we acknowledge mountains and flowers and sunsets from time to time, but we take so many things for granted, things like breathing and family and relationships, like our capacity to experience love, and peace and joy… All of those things are gifts that God gives us because He is our Father, gifts that we fail to recognize or appreciate. Over the course of a lifetime, God has given you many gifts. Have you opened them? Do you appreciate them?

gifts from God

More Than a Pair of Socks

Secondly, let’s talk about the nature of God’s gifts a little bit. I have sometimes thought, “Wait a minute! God doesn’t always give me what I ask for! I’m having some rough times, and life isn’t always easy or smooth. Maybe God has withheld his gifts from me.” Then it occurred to me. Perhaps God’s economy in giving gifts is different than mine… Have you ever gotten a firm “no” from God on one of your requests, accepted it, and found that later on something better than your request came along? Or perhaps in the midst of stress or difficulty, you suddenly found a peace about it that helped you cope?

Maybe a trial that stretches me is actually a better gift than something that gives me temporary satisfaction. Maybe difficulties that call me to seek God ARE the gifts that he is actually giving me while I sit around waiting for some reward, or comfort, or beneficial circumstance. Perhaps the ultimate gift, other than grace, is the Father’s comforting presence when bad things happen. Perhaps the bad thing is the good gift. That kinda makes sense. After all, the worst thing ever for God was the best gift ever for me.

Many Gifts, One Conclusion

I look around my world and see
The things which God has given me,
From mountains’ grandeur on the heights,
To stars that bathe the sky at night.
A thousand countless gifts each hour:
The delicate beauty of a flower,
The marvelous canvas of the sun
Who paints the sky when day is done.
The glorious leaves that turn each fall!
Amazing presents, great and small,
So many, I can’t count them all!
Yet God gave me capacity
To see them, or choose not to see…
Just look around. What do you see?
If you can’t feel His presence,
Start by looking at His presents.

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

Four Dimensions of God’s Love: Height, Width, Depth, Length

A Deeper Look at Four Dimensions

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.”)

four dimensions of love

Now ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? And 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?

How high is it? God’s love 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?

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…

Plumb its Depths

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 His own character that everything would go as planned, God sacrificed his Son and Christ died. That, my friends, is DEEP.

Don’t Forget How Long

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 because I know 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 of God’s amazing love. You are welcome.

Love in Four Dimensions

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 extends beyond 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:
God 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 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

Four Dimensions, Deeper Love: How God Loves You Back

In Ephesians, Paul mentions the four dimensions of God’s love as if everyone knew about them; so tell me, have YOU ever thought about the four dimensions of Christ’s love? In his book of superlatives, Paul talks about where God’s love is planted, and what it looks like. Even if you think you have love all figured out, his description is a revelation that will push your boundaries and redefine your limits!

four dimensions

Why Four?

In this eloquent prayer for his friends in Ephesus, Paul expresses the fervent hope “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18 NIV).

In this passage from Ephesians Paul calls out the four dimensions of God’s love. Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Have you ever truly grasped the width and length and height and depth of the love of God?

In this world, our perception of God is limited. We look at Him through a finite lens, and even when we think we see Him as majestic and incomparable, perhaps we are leaving something on the table… First Corinthians 13:12 confirms: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Paul claims that there is more to love than we see, and that it has dimensions that go beyond our perception.

The Shemah

Paul’s definition of love is steeped in the Hebrew Shema, which reminded believers to love God with every means at our disposal: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Jesus quoted that passage in Matthew 22:37 when challenged to give the greatest commandment.). So do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind? Have you grasped the four dimensions of God’s love?

In this life we dabble about with romantic love, we cherish motherly love, we love our friends, and of course we love animals and food and possessions and things. And we talk about God’s love… But Paul’s picture of love suggests that God’s love is infinite and powerful and amazing: perhaps we can broaden our perception.

All Means All

First, he says that we need to be ROOTED and ESTABLISHED in love. This suggests going deeper, taking nourishment, and transforming like a seed does when it gives life to a new plant. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Paul says that when we connect with love’s transforming power, we will see the dimensions of God’s love. Read a verse you’re familiar with, John 3:16, and think about the four dimensions of God’s love: “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.” The verse that everybody knows contains the truth and power about God’s love that everybody should grasp. Look in John 3:16 and ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? And how deep? How long? They’re in there. Read that verse and make a list. Go deeper.

Love in Four Dimensions

Paul tells folks in Ephesus (and also tells the rest of us)
That perfect, Godly love will start with Jesus dwelling in my heart.
The love of Christ Paul mentions, he defines with four dimensions,
So awesome they can make you weep: it’s wide, and high, and long and deep!
Investigate what that must mean. Read John, the verse is 3:16,
And make a list right there beside: how long, how high, how deep, how wide?
It’s there, if you go deep enough: the four dimensions of God’s love…

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

Writing YOUR Story: It’s Time for YOU to write ME!

Why have I been writing these posts for the last 3 years? Maybe because “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV) The Bible is an amazing book, and it makes some powerful claims about Jesus. Those claims are either an incredible lie or they are absolutely true. There’s really no middle ground.

I have been writing these posts because I believe those claims are true.

The What of Writing this Blog

It has been about three years since I started this daily devotional, and I have a confession to make. Writing these posts every day is hard. It has required a commitment that I honestly didn’t know I had. I am not a “discipline guy”. I am a creative, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Throughout my life I have been a sporadic Quiet Time guy rather than an every-day-journal kind of guy.

From the beginning of this endeavor, I have followed a few simple rules. 1) The first year, I was going to try to produce or edit one every day; 2) I wouldn’t follow anyone else’s menu for Scripture reading or devotionals (which explains why it has been pretty random in terms of what passages it addressed when); 3) during this last year I have gone back through to do some editing and add a poem to every single post. And 4) I would write for an audience of one (Him) and make applications for the reader who needed them the most (me).

The How of Writing this Blog

In doing this have tried my best to keep my posts organic and to allow them to come naturally through my own reading and experiences during the year. While I certainly reflected the good preaching I have heard and authors I have read, the poetry, commentary, errors, reflections and conclusions in my writing have been mine. ( I have tried to be Biblical, not political, and I hope that has been the case in my blog… That has been hard to do in our current political climate.) I wanted to begin every day with the Book that has changed my life in the hope that you, too, could gain a deeper appreciation of its depth and subtlety.

I consider the Bible to be (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16) inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. If you have been keeping up, during the past year we have had a chance to look more closely at Easter and the Passion week. Along the way, we followed Jesus and his disciples chronologically in “real-time” over His last week on earth.

Did You Notice?

We were able to start in Genesis and go through every book in the Bible, discovering some great stuff about God in the Minor Prophets along the way. We dove into Christ’s genealogy, looked at historical and political underpinnings of His birth. It was fascinating to explore the revolutionary way He broke down social and religious barriers in a world full of them.

We looked at some of Jesus’ teachings, and I know I came away more impressed than ever at His wisdom and insight. I have reflected on travels in Israel and been exposed to the land of the Bible. Personally, I have tried to compare the teachings of Jesus to our culture and to my own behavior.

Who Wrote this Blog

Trust me, ya’ll, I am not writing as an expert or someone who has it all figured out. I have made tremendous mistakes in my life and committed egregious sins. My own choices have literally blown my life up a couple of times. Full disclosure, I have deserved to have that happen even a couple more times. I still made mistakes, but I was surprised that my failures did not become public knowledge so that EVERYONE would look down on me.

And to be clear, I made these mistakes and committed sins AS A CHRISTIAN, not as some pagan who had rejected God and His values. The one constant (besides my own failures) in life has been the relentless application of grace. I have experienced forgiveness and God’s love as seen through the lens of the Bible, and personified in the person of Jesus Christ.

writing about Jesus

Surely I’m Not the Only One Who Feels This Way…

If Jesus was who He said he was, then He is a man worth studying. He is a leader worth emulating, and a God worthy of worship. It is my prayer that you would take an honest look at Him and see those conclusions as evident and logical. If you have read along for any length of time this year, I would LOVE to hear your story, and would really appreciate it if you do one of the following.

1) Share one of your own insights or applications in the comments (which is easy, come on just jot something down!), or

2) PM me with your story or comment as you feel appropriate. I would really REALLY like to hear from you, so take a minute NOW and reply or respond. I honestly don’t expect to get many replies, but it would be really cool if a bunch of you would surprise me and tell me a little bit of YOUR story! Tell me how you met Christ, or something you have learned lately… If you want to tell me you disagree with everything I’ve written, that would be OK too! If you are too busy to write a long story, then please respond with a short sentence or a one-word comment.

writing

Feedback

I have taken comments and feedback to heart, and a couple of people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to invest more time in writing poetry with each of my posts. So I’ve done that over the last year, and started closing every blog with a poem. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite poem or if any of the verse has meant something to you.

(My secret dream is that somewhere unbeknownst to me, some pastor uses one of my poems in a sermon because it captures something of the message he preached that day!)
I’ll close with one of my favorite poems I’ve written, one that reflects on John and the impact his writing has had on me:

The Writer

Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!


Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be? Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…

But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

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