Love and Wrath

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

There is a lot of chatter about the wrath of God and it never ceases to surprise me. Why are we absorbed with talking about the wrath of God? There is no wrath for those who are in Jesus.

My first thought is this, I want you attending a church that teaches 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” That is the revelation we all need to live in, God is love. God is not wrathful, He is loving. A church which hangs on “the wrath of God” is not going to be primed to lead people into revelation of who God is or how He wants to manifest Himself in our lives.

Today’s verse draws the paradigm for us. We have been saved from wrath by the blood of the Christ. That is the whole basis of the New Covenant. Thank God, we have been redeemed, even from our own stupidity. God didn’t want you under wrath or under condemnation so, motivated by love, He sent Jesus to take our place. Jesus bore every aspect of the curse giving us, instead, peace, joy and liberty. He redeemed us from the curse of the law where there was wrath. You can’t have all the New Testament Good News and still hang on to the penalty of the curse. Jesus set us free from all of that.

The same blood which justified us saved us from the wrath of God. We don’t deserve justification. In fact, doesn’t it blow your mind just a little to even read that we have been justified. Thank you Jesus. So, let’s hold on tightly to the good news of Jesus, our Messiah. Let us cling to the love of God. Forsake the ideas of a vengeful, wrathful God because it was He who sacrificed His only child for us. Wrath didn’t do that. Love did.

If God Loved Me

1 Corinthians 15: 34

For some have no knowledge of God’s wonderful love.

I think this is one of the biggest keys in all of Christianity, that is understanding the love the Father has for each of us. The verse above is Bible so it must be true but even if it was not in the Bible and you had simply spoken it to me, I would believe it.

It is easy for us to relate this passage to non-believers. If they knew of the love of God, we reason, then they would be believers too. My ministry, though, is not to non-believers but rather to the saints. I make this distinction to point out that I think this passage speaks to Christians. I believe few of us, myself included, have yet to grasp the love which God has for us. This applies to ministers as well.

I know this because I too hear the messages from the pulpit which lack the understanding that God is love and that He loves us. I know it applies to the saints because I hear the comments we speak which reveal our heart belief that God does not truly love us. Further, our actions speak even more loudly than words. We do not act like people who are convinced that God loves them. As I wrote about in the Word of the Day entitled Frozen Heart, this is the example of the mind being convinced but the heart unpersuaded. We believe in our minds; our thinking agrees that God loves us. In our hearts, though, we lack the substantive belief that would allow us to rely on His love.

Now that we have identified a problem, the real question is how to fix it. Well, by now we have figured out that we can fix nothing in our own strength. We must rely on our partnership with the Trinity and here is the real heart of the problem. How do we go to God and partner with Him when our heart of hearts doesn’t truly believe that He loves us?

Most often, even when we see an issue like this, we don’t do anything about it for two reasons. The first being what I just identified, we don’t completely trust Him. Secondly, we don’t really know what to do. Our relationship with Him may be that we don’t feel we have paved avenues to Him, but, as much as that feels true, it is not. Jesus told us that he is the way (John 14: 6). Do you trust Jesus? I have known many people who have affection for and feel close to Jesus but have almost no relationship with God the Father. Actually, I was one of those people. There were two things I did which bridged the gap for me. First, I went to God through Jesus. In my visionary capacity, I saw myself walking into the throne room accompanied by Jesus. He took me to God and presented me. It was a very empowering experience. As I watched the scene unfold, I could see the joy and pride on Jesus’ face as he presented me to God. That bolstered my confidence. Then I looked upon the Father and I received the welcoming presence He radiated towards me. His eyes were for me rather than Jesus. He didn’t dismiss Jesus, but His attention was for me. That was significant because even with Jesus in the room, Father gave His attention to me.

In my previously emaciated relationship with God, the only role I played was as a servant. I only encountered the Father to pick up an assignment, a task. As I began to engage with Him, I began to see myself differently. No longer do I enter the throne room and drop to a knee, head bowed, awaiting orders. Now I run and jump in His lap while He carries on universe business. I am the child who enters my Dad’s office or the boardroom while He is working. I am always welcome and always permitted.

The other thing which helped me begin to see God as loving parent was a shift in my visualization. A friend of mine recommended this. Back in the days when I was struggling to find the loving, affectionate part of our relationship she suggested I meet with God in a location that was comfortable to me. So, I met with Him at my conference table. At that time I was practicing law and conducted a lot of business at the conference room table. Being able to talk with Him when He was in my place of comfort rather than in His throne room helped me to be able to talk with Him in a more relaxed manner. Then one day we moved from the conference room to the kitchen table. Very rapidly He became Yahweh and Dad to me. I never call Him “God” now, accept in referring to Him with other people.

Don’t forget to just talk with Him about this subject and also, this is an excellent opportunity to use your two-way journaling. The bottom line is this, if you will give Him an opportunity to show His love for you, He will. It is a top priority for Him. We have to be proactive though. We can’t keep Him at arm’s length, treat Him as a far distant deity and still be able to receive the assurance of His love that we need. If we would learn to pour out our hearts to Him, speaking earnestly and honestly from our hearts, He would be able to lead us into intimacy with Him. I had to begin at my conference room table because that is where I was but that is not where we meet any longer. He will always meet you at your point of need, if you let Him but the initiative and control always belongs to us.

How convinced is your heart that Father loves you? You know it in your head, sure, but does your innermost self feel His affection? Can you wrap words around His love for you or does your internal mechanism choke if you try to speak about His love? Do you know that God loves you more than your spouse, children and grandchildren do? That’s big but you should be able to feel that inside of you so that you are so sure that you would bet anything on it. I hope you will give this some thought today and maybe you can have a chat with Dad about it too. Certainly talk with Jesus if you have any reservations.

Lordly Necessity

Deuteronomy 10: 12

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

First, you can line through the name Israel and write in your name. That is how you should read this verse. Second, please recall that you have to modernize this language. We no longer use the word “fear” the way it was used in this context. A better, more modern word would be revere. You would not go amiss by replacing the word fear with the word love either. God’s first requirement of us is that we love Him. That makes perfect sense doesn’t it. We wouldn’t be part of His family if we didn’t first love Him.

Secondly, we are to walk in all His ways. Selah. Pause and think about that for a moment. What are His ways? What does it mean for us to walk in His ways? Think about a typical day for you. What does that look like? How do you perceive that you do walk as He walks? In what ways do you think your walk and His diverge. I do not think this means walking around preaching all day. I believe it means acting like Him in all of the normal things you do. For example, grocery shopping, pumping gas or being on the job, if God was doing those things, what would it look like? How would He progress through a normal day? Walking in His ways not only means doing the things He would do but also doing every day the way He would do. How are we spending our time? How do we use our words? How do we interact with others? How do we set our priorities and carry out the necessary tasks of life? I would add, are we listening to Him on a minute by minute basis or even on a daily basis so that we can get His direction, His leading so that we can follow in His footsteps?

Love Him! That is the directive. Do we? How do we? Is this a passive verb or is it an action verb? What did the author intend to convey when he wrote that we are to love the Lord, our God?

Finally, we are to serve the Lord with all our heart and all our soul? What does that even mean? First, how do we serve Him? I would suggest that first we probably need to spend some time with Him, ask Him what He would have us do and then listen. Second, it probably has something to do with serving and ministering to His kids. Then the calling upon our lives is to do that thing, whatever it is He shows us, to do that with all our passion, with all our heart, with all our strength. It ends up being the passion of our lives, the driving force.

Our lives are never better than when we are ardently engaged with our divine Father. It is that which will fill you with the greatest joy you can know. Let us, then, endeavor to follow this scripture’s leading. Let’s meditate on it until our spirits understand the meaning of it and then let us pursue the Spirit’s leading with vigor.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Matthew 5: 44 – 45            NET

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

You’ve heard that you are to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and that is a good focus of this passage, but I particularly like verse 45 for two reasons. First, it tells us the reason for the mandate to pray and love, which is that we might be like our Father. Secondly, it teaches us the difference between love and judgment, loudly revealing our Father as one who loves.

After we get saved and Jesus begins to clean us up, it is easy for us to want to separate ourselves from the unrighteousness people and actions we see in the world. Unfortunately, we begin to judge those people and we separate the world in to we and they. This, our Father does not do. He loves the whole world, so much, in fact, that he gave His only begotten son so that NONE should perish (John 3: 16). Speaking of John 3: 16, do you know what the very next verse says? “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” By the way, those were words spoken by Jesus. God sacrificed His only son so that through his sacrifice, the world might be saved, not condemned.

God sent His blessing into this world and it will work for whomever will work according to the way Yahweh engineered it. Sometimes, the unsaved are better believers than we are and thus, succeed to a greater extent than we. This ought not be, but it is. We are too busy fussing at each other and judging other Christians and the unsaved that we fill our churches, and our own souls with doubt and unbelief.

God put spiritual and physical laws into the earth. Gravity is a great example of one of these laws. Gravity works the same on the wicked as on the righteous, doesn’t it? God sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is constantly pouring out His best to anyone who will accept Him. He has also created laws which exist in the spirit realm. They too work for whoever applies them. He told us that whatever we believe, we can have (Mark 11: 23 – 24). He has told us to use our words to create our dreams and even that the power of life is in our tongues (Proverb 18: 21). Yet I find we are still running around spewing all kinds of garbage and unbelief from our mouths. Meanwhile, others are using God’s success system to great effect and they never give Him the credit. We are too worried about criticizing anyone who succeeds and making sure our pastors never have too nice a car to ever live in God’s overflow. We are afraid of being criticized ourselves. That is one of the reasons why so many Christians are so carnal. They look at the church and don’t want any part of it. They want Christ but they find the lifestyle of the heathen more attractive and they find more love outside the church than in it.

I don’t like it and I bet you don’t either. We’ve got to begin to take this gospel seriously. We need to buckle down and become students of the Word and believers. Then we need to do what the Word tells us. We need to commune with God and listen to His voice. We need to let the Holy Spirit guide us without getting all weird about it. Just quiet yourself down and listen to him.

None of us wants to be a part of this mealy mouth Christianity. None of us wants to see the unsaved surpassing God’s people using God’s own system. We are supposed to succeed and then give God the glory. And, we’ve got to stop judging one another and “those other guys.” Jesus said he didn’t come to judge the world so what makes us think we should. God sends the rain on both our crops, so He isn’t judging. He isn’t withholding His blessing. Our judgments are killing us while those we criticize are experiencing faith healing, financial prosperity and loving relationships. It is time we got over ourselves and seriously begin imitating our Father and learning His ways. Love is our mandate. Turn in your judge’s robe for a coat of compassion. Let love and acceptance color the way you think of all people, yes ALL, even those unsaved because God has not separated us into we and them. He is sending His truth to everyone who will listen. He is sending the nourishing rain to whomever will receive. Be blessed in the name and power of Jesus and live this gospel to the full. Receive God’s blessing and share that blessing with others. Let it overflow onto others, the good and the bad.

But . . ..

Psalm 13: 6               Tree of Life

But I trust in Your lovingkindness, my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing to Adonai, because He has been good to me.

How could I choose any verse other than this one after yesterday’s passage? The first part of the psalm details David’s fear, worry and sorrow but as is so often the case, he does not allow himself to languish in anxiety.

The most important word in today’s verse may well be “but.” David tells of all the trouble. He momentarily dwells in the angst, BUT, he says, there is something else which speaks in the darkness. A light which casts out even the darkest shadow. Despite the circumstances, despite the fear and emotional trauma, God is seated on His throne and is well and able to cast His saving radiance on even our deepest gloom.

David knew that God’s lovingkindness trumps all. It even trumps our unworthiness, poor prayers, lack of prayers, heathen attitudes and every other failure. David was able to trust the Lord because he understood love. David had an enviable revelation that love compels God. It will not let Him rest. The Lord’s salvation reaches into the darkness giving us every reason to rejoice. He saves us from every situation, every worry, every fear. David would not allow himself to meditate on the problems. He shifted gears into trust and rejoicing. This was a purposeful act, one which ultimately catapulted him into song. Yes, there are problems out there. Sure, challenges arise but shall we focus our attention on them or remind ourselves that God’s lovingkindness is trustworthy? Shall we fix our eyes on the circumstances or on Jesus? These are not rhetorical questions. We must, like David, make a definitive decision. How shall we color the fabric of our lives, with the music of praise or with despair? Lift up your eyes, my beloved. See the great and glorious there upon your own horizon. Love is beckoning even as it answers your most deep-seeded worries. Let your heart be light for you Father, your real Father, has healing, love and joy in His wings.

Save the Wicked

Psalm 10: 15

Break the arm of the wicked and evil person. Punish his wickedness until you find no more.

This doesn’t seem a very Christian concept, does it? Yet, I wager most of us have felt the emotions articulated by this psalmist. You may wish to read the entire psalm, it isn’t long, in order to get the full flavor of this psalmist’s sentiments. He sees the poor and down trodden, the innocent, taken advantage of. He witnessed the arrogance of the wicked and their boasts that there is no God. No wonder in the last verses he adjures God to “Rise up.”

Why doesn’t God reach out his hand against these wicked people? Why doesn’t he just wipe them from the earth. I perceive two reasons why God does not simply obliterate them. First, He is love. If you know God and know that He is love, then that is always the first answer. Everything He does is colored by love. He wants these people saved rather than condemned. He wants all people to come to the full knowledge of His saving grace.

Second, He wants to give us room to exercise the authority He has given us. It sometimes appears that He is standing far off, but He actually is acting. He is nudging us, through His Holy Spirit, to defend the oppressed. We have been given the victory in Jesus and God’s plan is that we would enforce that victory. We have the sword of the Spirit and another mighty weapon, prayer. God is attempting to grow up His children so that we can take over the family business, now and through eternity. He has ministering spirits standing by, ready for action whenever we exercise our Kingdom Authority. That authority enables us to save the wicked and redeem the persecuted. We are not administrators of hate but rather of love and love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Pull out your sword and defend the weak. Wield your weapons and save the heart which is turned away from God for that is a brokenness that can be repaired by love.

Sacrificial Love

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.

What does this passage mean to you? Here is what it means to me, that Yahweh loved you and me so much that He gave that which was most precious to Him so that you and I would not die, to save us from eternal destruction. He traded His perfect son for us. Not much a bargain you might say. It shows what 1 John 4: 8 says, “God is love.”

Most Christians can quote this scripture, but I would argue that few know what it says. They quote the scripture and then say the most outlandish things. We should understand from this one little verse that everything God has ever done was out of love. He is not interested in sending people to hell. Hello! He sacrificed His son so that not one person would have to perish. Think about that for a moment in the context of life. It’s not just a cute saying. It is Yahweh’s essence, His being. Everything He ever does or says is because He so loves.

Here is one of the craziest things I have ever heard. People say, “God gave me cancer.” Are you kidding me with this? People will say He gave them cancer to make them stronger or improve their lives. I don’t want to harsh you or anyone, because God is love and I must be also, BUT, that statement can only be made by someone who doesn’t know God and who does not understand John 3: 16. See how much sense this makes – God so loved you that He sacrificed His son, gave that which was most precious to Him, so that you would live and not die. Then, having saved your life, gave you cancer. Is there any rationality in that at all? I know we are well meaning but really, sometimes we just don’t think through things very well. God didn’t have to give anyone cancer. We were all dying and on the fast track to hell. His response to tragedy is compassion, not trials. He is love. Love can’t behave in a way that is inconsistent with compassion and kindness. Love doesn’t give cancer.

Think about it this way. Imagine sacrificing your child for someone. It’s really unfathomable, isn’t it but let’s just pretend for a moment. Imagine that you love someone so much that you put your only child on a cross for them. Having done so, are you then going to turn around and give that person cancer? It just doesn’t make sense.

Your Father loves you with an unquenchable, profound love. He never wants any harm for you. He even sent you guardian angels to protect you from harm. Everything He does is to help you, not hurt you. You may find meaning and purpose in trial but the Father’s intention is that you find it through love. It is because He is loving you through those tough times that you find strength. It is the love, not the trial which makes you strong and remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength. That is where Yahweh’s path leads, not unto destruction.

Let’s get our heads tuned in and our hearts turned on. When we do, we will easily make confetti out of these silly ideas. No one will be able to deceive us again. Life and love are in the Father, Son and Spirit. Don’t allow anyone to convince you otherwise!