Divine Love

Romans 13: 10

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

A friend of mine brought up a very good point recently; one that deserves more than a mention. The substance is, how does love behave. I draw on the teachings of Bill Johnson in answering this.

There is much hurt and anguish in the world. Yet, purportedly, God loves us. Why, then, is there so much hurt? Why do bad things happen to those whom the Lord loves? My friend, Lynn, brought to my attention that some churches teach that God does not do these “bad” things to us, but that He does allow them. Not only does that sound schizophrenic but also just sick at a nauseating level. Is this Divine Love, to sit and silently watch as evil doers lavish all modes of hurt upon us? If this is the measure of Divine Love, then what shall we expect of human love?

This is where I draw upon an analogy given by Bill Johnson. What do you think of a parent who abuses their child? It is abhorrent, is it not? It is below human norms, below human decency. It is bestial at best. Now, what about a father who sits idly by and watches someone else defile his own child. Is he not a repugnant, sub-human specimen? Can you say that Father loves his child? Is he even sane? Bill Johnson pointed out that not only is this parent socially aberrant, but he is also legally and criminally negligent. In other words, human institutions would punish the father who “allows” harm to come to his child. We would want to eject him from our congregation, yet we believe, somehow, that our Heavenly Father, the one who created us, and whom we praise could be so apathetic as to stand by while someone harms His child. Is He no better a father than a human we would reject and scorn?

To say that our Beloved allows evil to befall us is to attach all those same negative adjectives to Him that we would for a negligent human parent. Our Father is not mentally deranged, nor in any measure insensitive. He is the epitome of a loving parent. When I shared with you recently about how stressed people are and gave the example of someone who verbally attacked me, my Mom called asking who she needed to beat up. That is a parent! They go to the mat for you. They risk life and limb for their children. Are we to say that our Heavenly Father is less loving and protective than our earthly parents?

Anyone who believes that cannot know Love. Love will never allow harm to another. Love is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, if you will allow me that small paraphrase. In other words, Love is the culmination of everything Yahweh Father has ever said and done. This ball of dirt we live on is here because of Love. The air in our lungs was sourced by Love. It is irrational and bordering on insane to believe, much less teach, that our beloved Father allows bad things to happen to us intentionally. But then, if we blame Him, we have no need to search for an explanation closer to home.

Believe me! Your Father loves you with a love that is beyond anything you have ever experienced in the earthly realm. He grieves at every bruise and empathizes with every tear. Take my word on this, but not for long. Take the time to come to this conclusion on your own. Follow me in faith until you can explain to your own heart the madness of mistrusting the one who loves you most. Search for the truth and you will come to know, beyond any argument, that God is Love. He is the lover of your soul. He is the strong tower you can run into, not the ignorant spectator. Be informed in the depths of your spirit that God is good.

The Excellency of Brotherly Unity

Psalm 133

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, as on Aaron’s beard, the oil which ran down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for the Lord commanded the blessing there – life forever.

I took today’s title directly from the caption of today’s psalm of King David. This is the theme of our present and ordained by God to be so. How amazing is it that we should fall upon this psalm at this time? Well, if you have worked with God for a while, you know He is prone to such “coincidences” though, I have to say, it still never ceases to surprise me a bit. This one is especially loud.

With apologies to our readers from outside the United States, this message may be uniquely American. As I sit here writing this, it has only been two days since President Biden lauded this same value as the theme for our country. Of course, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love springs to mind. Just imagine, a city named itself for the Greek word which means love between and among human beings.

God is love (1 John 4: 8) so everything which is of God begins with love. If it does not, then it is not of God. If we cannot differ in ideas but agree on ideals, we are not operating in the love of God. Regardless of what you think of our current president, without regard for whom you voted, I want to be on record saying, President Biden is in the will of God as he speaks of unity. Those are not the President’s words; they are God’s, and we should praise the God of our hearts that our president is hearing the voice of God. And we, if we have any Christian love left to us, we should pray FOR him every day. The capitalization is to remind you not to pray “about” people or pray your will but rather to pray “for” them as God would have you pray.

What I wish to create in you is a heart and spirit of celebration. We can unite, if we choose, as “One nation, under God, indivisible.” We once thought those values so essential that they form the backbone of our Pledge of Allegiance. It is time we all, again, as children, pledge our allegiance to serving as a national brotherhood, led by and dedicated to God, indivisible. That we might be that bright shining city on the hill so that all nations shall see the glory of God in this place. My heart of heart cries out that this will be the legacy we leave and the image we show to others. United under God. Shining in and by His grace. Amen.

Cleansing Waters

Genesis 6: 17

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Was the flood an act of grace? Does that sound like a ridiculous question? I received a comment mixed in with the prayer requests this week. The author was perplexed at how God could “kill” so many people especially since murder is a sin. It set me to thinking and hence the question I first posed.

How would you analyze this problem? Well, I began by knowing that God is love. If you believe the story of the great flood is true, then do you also believe 1 John 4: 8, “God is love”? I do believe God is love, that His very essence is this thing called love. I also believe that He can do nothing apart from His essential self, love. How, then, can this loving Father have been responsible for the great flood?

I believe it was an act of grace and as you study the Bible, I think you will see more of this. The earth was in bad shape. In fact, it was on the brink of catastrophic destruction. When Satan rebelled and was cast from heaven a host of angels went with him. Later, these spiritual beasts decided that human women were beautiful and so visited earth and fornicated with human women. The result was a race of people who were violent and evil. They killed off many of God’s people and rained havoc in the earth. They would have destroyed everything God created, including humanity, had God not intervened. Only by destroying life on earth could He save it. Therefore, it was because God loved human beings that He sent the flood.

What do you think? Can you see how grace, love and mercy forced God to act in a dramatic fashion? Had He not acted, none of us would be here today as the entire human race would have been wiped out.

When you try to figure out God and the events in the Bible, look for love. The love signature will always reveal the truth of these events.

In Conclusion

Ephesians 4: 15

But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ.

Here is the conclusion of Paul’s soliloquy. This verse of Ephesians 4 could well be called the topical sentence of all that comes after it. The verses which we have examined hang on this verse. This represents the theme of the chapter.

We are all supposed to be growing up into Jesus Christ himself. We are not only to grow into an image of him, but we are actually supposed to be growing up as part of him just like the branch is vitally integrated into the vine. This is our work as accomplishing Christians. We are supposed to be growing up. Christianity is more than a salvation prayer uttered once. It is life and it is a total way of life. It is Christ.

There are two essential elements that we need in order to grow into him as we should. They are not a mystery. They are in the verse above: love and truth. Only through love and truth can you grow into the integration with Christ that God has called you to. God is love (1 John 4: 8) and Jesus is the truth (John 14: 6), so of course we cannot do without them. You are going nowhere without love and truth.

Jesus said in John 15: 1-2I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes (cleanses) it, that it may bear more fruit.” That means you either bear good fruit or God prunes you away. And when you do bear good fruit he nurtures you so that you can bear even more good fruit. See please that truth is the true vine. Makes sense right? Love is the vine dresser. You must abide in truth, thereby abiding in Jesus (John 15:4) and you must allow love to guide your growth.

It all makes sense when you see it this way. The rest of the verses in Ephesian 4 follow from verse 15. Of course, we must keep our mouths from all unwholesome language. Of course, you are kind and gentle because love is kind and gentle. And finally, it all makes sense and becomes easy. If we will allow truth and love to guide us all day every day, we will become well-watered branches lovingly cared for by the Holy Gardener. Every other verse of the Bible folds in here. In this concept is your every need met, your healing, your protection and of course your salvation and redemption. It does not have to be difficult to understand any longer. Where there is love and truth, there is the real first family, the family of God.

No Grief Please

Ephesians 4: 30

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

There is continuity in Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians. He begins at a basic place; redemption. Paul tells us to put on the new self that was won for us through Christ’s victory. He continues through the other verses we have looked at building upon each preceding verse; the foundation being Christ himself. Paul teaches us about truth, anger, righteousness and the tricks of the devil. Then he instructs us to keep our mouths from speaking anything except that which is edifying. No sooner does he give us instruction about the way we use our language than he tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. In other words, we have the ability to grieve the Holy Spirit and one of the quickest and easiest ways to do that is to speak in a way that is not consistent with truth (which is Jesus) and love (which is God 1 John 4: 8).

We must begin to take these things seriously. The Lord is showing us that it is important to Him that we guard our mouths, that we treat each other kindly, that we act in ways that are becoming of the children of God. Really now, none of us wants to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. That is a horrible prospect. But we don’t take these other instructions of God seriously at times. We say any stupid thing that comes to our minds. We say unkind things about others and we even lie. Even if you are telling the truth, if it does not edify then it should go unsaid lest you grieve the Holy Spirit. Do you really want to cause our God and Father grief? Then begin to take seriously His instruction to you. Don’t take the Bible as just printed words on a page but instead see the living, breathing Word of God. Take His word to heart and let it change you. Let it guide and instruct you.

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.

Salvation Cometh

Psalm 34: 22

None of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalm 34 is one of the truly great psalms of David and in running a search, I find I have written on it several times, especially verse 10. I have never, however, written on verse 22 before. As I read Psalm 34, I found so many great messages and fabulous verses but what of this lonely verse here at the end of this great psalm? Does it have anything to say to you today? Here is what I heard as I read.

Our God is all about rescue and salvation. You have only to read the rest of the psalm to realize that. We talk a lot about John 3: 16 but I don’t think we understand it. I don’t think it has ever penetrated the fibrous matter of our hearts to lodge itself in the tender nucleus where love resides. God so loves every single person on this planet that He allowed His son, His dear and precious child, to be mutilated, beaten and ultimately killed so that not one of us should perish. He sacrificed His beautiful, perfect child so that all the wretched people of this planet could escape that which was due each of us, eternal torment in hell. This is no small thing. It is a lynchpin of Christianity. Ultimately, though, the act of giving the sacrificial, unblemished lamb is not the most important aspect of Christianity. It is merely an obvious outcome when we finally come to understand 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” You see, when you understand 1 John 4: 8 then John 3: 16 becomes a necessary consequence of who God is. It had to be this way. It’s not a decision. Because God is love, He really had very little choice. He is compelled to rescue those whom He loves. All that is required is that we call upon Him. He cannot, and will not, violate free will. He gave away the power of choice but when you realize that He is moved by compassion you further understand that everything He does is driven by love and love requires Him to rescue you, even from yourself.

This verse from today’s psalm or 1 John 4: 8 is the ultimate salvation scripture. To my way of thinking it is better than John 3: 16. It is because God is love that He sent His beloved. It is God’s driving passion that everyone should enter heaven and live out eternity with Him. He has plans upon plans for getting people into eternal blessing. Jeremiah 29: 11 tells us that God has good plans for us, plans for our well-being, not our destruction, plans for a future and for hope. He has a plan in place to save us from calamity. That is our Father.

People have a very skewed sense of salvation and condemnation. What’s worse, the church even, or especially, has confused Him as the God of condemnation, the God of damnation. That couldn’t be anymore wrong. How hard is it to understand that He is love? When He poured Himself out into the earth, love entered in and love acts a certain way. It saves and nurtures. It is neither vindictive nor critical. God knew what He was getting when He chose us. He isn’t crazy or stupid. He has always had a plan for our ultimate happiness.

So, if you are worried about someone who died without you knowing whether they made a declaration for Christ or not, worry no longer. God has plans to get us into heaven. I am not saying there aren’t wicked people who will choose hell rather than redemption. Unfortunately, there will be some who burn but when doubting those Thomas’ and miscreants see Jesus face to face, they will fall in love with him just like you did. What happened to Thomas once he saw Jesus? He believed, didn’t he? So, fear not. Trust love to find a way. Trust love to rescue us out of the most dire circumstance, even our own doubt and unbelief. Trust God who is your true parent, the lover of your soul.