Story Time

Jude 20 – 21

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

May I tell you a story today? Recently I attended an event where I met another pastor. He and I began to discuss our ministries and to my surprise I characterized my ministry by saying, “I hang out in God’s love.” I told him that is the most important topic of my ministry. Let me tell you why that is funny.

When I was young, I thought the pastors who preached on love sounded like a bunch of milk toast sissies. I was young, tough and strong. I wanted to hear about a strong God. Then I ran into my pastor for my life, Pat Markley. No one would every call Pat a sissy. In fact, he was a former navy seal. It was no accident that our Father led me to Pat. I needed that image to help me understand that true love is tough and strong. So, though I have learned much since then, I still found myself surprised identifying myself and my ministry in such a manner.

The other pastor immediately began to speak of God’s wrath. Again, a bit funny in that I had just had a conversation with someone else about God’ compassion where I said, “How can anyone know the Father and believe Him to be angry?” We have made great sport about God striking us with lightening when we say something foolish, but I always thought people knew better. Well, this pastor believes it is his job to preach on God’s wrath. This same preacher (perhaps a better moniker than pastor) had just quoted John 3: 16 to me, “For God so loved . . ..” I mean, get a revelation, “God is love,” (1 John 4: 8).

I encourage you to read the book of Jude. It is quite short. Jude does spend 19 verses recounting the history of the wicked and from that this preacher got his message. However, it isn’t until verse 20 that Jude begins to address his audience and when he does direct his words directly to his audience, his message is love. He spends the first part of his book on the historical record, but his conclusion, his actual message comes after the conjunction “but” in the twentieth verse. That is the way arguments are constructed. The prelude is the background against which the message shall be forecast. His message, then, is “keep yourselves in the love of God.”

Our God is love; He is characterized by love. He did not send his beloved son to earth to die a horrible death just so He could pour out His wrath upon us! Come on! God isn’t sending people to hell. His whole thing is saving people from hell. Some people refuse to be saved, and that is their choice. With free will comes the choice to choose heaven or hell. Back in Deuteronomy God told us the choice between life and death was ours to make but His recommendation was that we choose life (Deuteronomy 30: 19).

After that evening and discussion regarding wrath versus love, I came home and read Jude multiple times. I read it and prayed until I was certain Father had ministered His wisdom to me regarding the book. I came away with the conviction that God is love. To know the Father is to know love. My mission is to bring people into the presence of God. In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16: 11). How can His presence be full of joy if He is an angry, vengeful God? To know God is to know unsurpassed love. The more we get to know Him, the more we will see that He is love.

Therefore, my message is simply this, God loves you! He loves you far more than you can even imagine. He loves you more than you love your own children. He wants you saved and living eternally with Him in heaven. Be blessed in the truth.

Merry Christmas

 

John 15: 9

Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; remain in My love.

I will forego the Luke 2 account of the Christmas story this year though I really do enjoy that old, old story. Instead, I want to tell you a Christmas story of my own which, incidentally, embraces my Christmas prayer for you.

My elementary school principal, Mr. Turner, had a beautiful voice, a deep, rich, resonant bass voice. At Christmastime, we would gather in the cafeteria to sing Christmas carols, as well as lively Christmas songs, for there is a difference, you know. Well do I remember those precious moments. I remember with my heart as clearly as I do with my mind, for even in recollecting this story for you, my heart seems to change its beat and I am transported, heart, soul and mind, to that little cafeteria miles and years away.

It was always a time I enjoyed but the thing that makes it stand out to me is the way it made me feel. I vividly remember how close to Jesus I felt in that moment long ago. He was there with us, moving amongst us and the tenderness of a grade school child was able to sense him and enjoy his presence.

Many of my adult years were spent chasing that feeling, but the adult was no longer tender for strength had to replace vulnerability and openness. None the less, I longed for that tender touch of Jesus’ presence and to give him the truest praise of all, the pure, unadulterated joy of simply being with him. I remember how much I loved him and how close we felt.

Every Christmas, I have chased that closeness and it truly seems that I find it easiest to draw nigh unto him in this season. People have their favorite holidays and for many Christians, it is the Easter season. For me, Christmas is when the Spirit is closest and that is probably because my heart searches and yearns, remembering Christmas’ of old. My heart and spirit are probably more open than at other times. Of course, this makes me more vulnerable which means I could be hurt more easily and that is dangerous, but on the other hand, the open heart can embrace Jesus much more easily and fully.

So, my Christmas wish for you is that your heart is open and receptive. I pray for you to be surrounded with people and music who nurture and protect you and who draw you deeper into the presence of the Holy Trinity. I pray for Jesus to touch your heart with his tender yet strong love that you may feel, within your own heart, the depth and passion of his love for you. And, may your love for him and for the Father, be unbridled. Most of all, I pray that you find this love and remain in it all year long.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Unusual Kindness

Luke 6: 35

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great; and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Jesus says a lot in this short passage. It is a summation of the previous several paragraphs. He is giving us a model for living. This is the way He and His Father interact with others. Jesus tells us that God is kind to ungrateful and evil men as a way of showing us that we, being made in the image of God, should behave in like manner.

Anyone can be kind to those who are kind to them, but the life of Jesus calls us to a higher plane of existence. Jesus wants us to be like Him. To do so, we must expect more of ourselves than the simple life that anyone can accomplish. We should aspire to the high life, and that is the life and likeness of Jesus.

We need to love even when it is uncomfortable. We must learn to not only forgive those who transgress against us but also to pray for them; and moreover to pray from a generous and kind heart. We should learn to give generously, especially when there is no hope of a return. It is not a gift if you are expecting something in return. It is an investment. God, on the other hand, gives even to those who hate Him. He would have given His son even if there was only one person on earth and that person hated Him with the full strength of his being. Our God is a loving God, and we are seeking to be just like Him. Therefore, we must give from our heart love, goodness and every good thing, expecting nothing in return but just to please the Father.

The Word is Love

John 1: 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This passage contains a revelation that we would do well to comprehend. We will have a much better understanding of the Kingdom of God if we do. You would really be well served to read the entire first chapter of John. It says that Jesus existed before the world was made and it was through Him that God made everything. Importantly, this chapter teaches us that Jesus is the Word. So, God made everything we see through the Word.

The Word is God. When you understand that you see that if you don’t obey the Word, you are not obeying God. Then one might ask, “How can you obey the Word if you don’t know the Word?” I believe that our society, our American brand of Christianity, has not given the Word of God its proper place of respect. Sometimes we don’t like what it says so we invent excuses to put it away from us. The truth is, though, once you understand the Word, you will find you don’t disagree with it so much. It is very often misunderstanding that has misled you. As you spend time with the Word, and hence with God, you will see love arising.

It is this prevalent fear that God is trying to take something away from people that drives them away from God and away from the Bible. When you, once and for all, understand that God is love, you will embrace God and all that He has to say. God is not judgment, anger or correction. He is love. He is trying to communicate His love to you. God is not threatening or scary. He is love, and He is love all of the time.

If God is love and the Word is God, then doesn’t it stand to reason that the Word is love? Jesus came into the earth as a human being to heal and save a broken and dying world. Love sent Him here. Love required it. Now as you dig into the Word of God you are digging into Him and to all deliverance. Let the Word of God heal you and set your feet on a high place. Dust off that book, not for God but for you.

One and the Same

1 John 4: 17

By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

This is an amazing passage of scripture! It is saying that we are as Jesus. This whole passage of scripture speaks of love. We discover that love abides in us because God abides in us and God is love. That love is then perfected in us and through that love we are just the same as Jesus.

Jesus didn’t walk and talk and act on this earth in his own capacity. He was a witness of the love of God. He lived in that love and with that love and He was in complete unity with the love of God. He walked in love on this earth because He walked in God, and God was with Him through and by that love. It was this love, God’s enduring compassion, that gave Jesus the power to heal the sick and raise the dead. Love called Him and compelled Him.

That same love abides with us and in us. That same love can work miracles through us just the same as it did through Jesus if we will allow it to mature in us. It is that very same love because it is the same God that works in each one of us. Therefore, we can walk just exactly as Jesus did because the same love is at work in us as was in Him. We have the same witness and that is that God first loved us. And now His love is at work in us. We didn’t do anything to earn this love, it is because God chose us.

Now here is your part. Each person must allow God’s to mature within them. Each person must allow love to have its perfect expression through them. It’s not that we really have to do much, but we do need to allow love to have its perfect work in us. We must let go. We must give the Lord permission to work in us and through us. We have to release our selfish aims and ego-based desires. Those are rooted in fear. Release the fear of not having what you want or what you think you need and allow God to raise you to your high, appointed place by His grace and His love.

Love Is . . .

1 John 4: 8

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Love and God are interchangeable. They are one and the same. You cannot know God if you do not know love. If there is not love inside of you, then God is not inside of you either. If you are not walking in love, then you are not walking with God. It is just that simple. The very essence of God is love. It is not a personality trait, not something He has a lot of. It is what and who He is. Verse 16 reads, “the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Here is a revelation for you straight from God. Love is the principle thing. It is what God has been telling us and teaching us about for five thousand years. Jesus left us this one commandment, to love one another even as he loved us (John 13: 34). He only needed to leave us one commandment because the one covers all. You will not hurt others if love guides you. And you will be good to others if you allow love to guide you. Everything that the apostles, Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit have tried to teach us is contained in one word. It is so simple that it has eluded us. Love!

Hey, Christianity is not difficult to understand. It is not complex. It is really quite simple. If you want to be the greatest Christian ever, then be the biggest lover ever. Learn to get outside yourself and be kind, generous and considerate. Get yourself off of your mind and ask what you can do for someone else. You are God’s hands in this earth. Allow Him to bless someone through you today. Get completely wrapped up in love and stop being judgmental and critical. Stop finding fault in others and just give yourself over to loving them and blessing them. You will be walking so deeply with God that your every breath will be a greater infilling of Him. That is a pretty good place to be.

The Love of Salvation

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

Let’s talk about salvation a little bit today. We have all kinds of thoughts and theories about salvation and from many different perspectives. I would like to focus on love today. Dare I? What’s love got to do with it? I think you already know the answer. Absolutely everything.

From where does salvation come? We know that salvation is the product of Jesus’ sacrifice. We also believe that we have a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus’ offering to others so that they may know that the price of salvation has been paid for them? So, here is the question, what happens if a person dies having never encountered a person who told them about the love of God?

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus went on in verse 17 to say that he did not come to the earth to judge and condemn, but rather to save. So, God, who is love, offered his own son as a sin sacrifice for us because that is what love does. Another way of thinking about Jesus’ sojourn on earth is that the entire trip here was so that people would be saved.  If God sent Jesus to earth to save us, doesn’t it stand to reason that He would provide assurity that we all get multiple chances at salvation.  Would God go to such extreme measures and then leave salvation to chance?  Love saves. Love does not condemn. Love doesn’t judge, banish or kill. Those are the things of the thief, not of the Father. God gave everything so that each person on earth might be saved. Let me say this again, “Love Saves!”

So, now let me ask the question again. What happens to a person who leaves this earth having never made a confession for Christ? The answer is, Love saves. God is not dependent on me to have preached this glorious gospel in order for Him to save someone. God did not leave salvation to people. He and Jesus provided it. If you think about it, you realize it is very arrogant of us to think that we are the source of salvation. We tend to think that a person’s salvation is decided here on this earth and because some person preached him the gospel. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for everyone of us telling the good news of our salvation. I just don’t think God has left this important matter to such tenuous circumstances.

I believe in love. I believe in a Father who gave His son specifically to save us. It stands to reason, then, that He has plenty of methods in place to assure that people get the chance to meet Jesus. Who says that has to happen on this earth? Does God not have the means to control the stars and planets? Can He not meet a person in the Spirit or in ascension? Who knows, but we know that God is big. He is not limited to this earth or our corporeal ideas.

I am not saying I believe in limbo, because I know that my salvation is not the product of my right or wrong behaviors. It is because of Jesus and him only. I know my Father well enough to know that if He gave His son to die a cruel death for humanity, He isn’t going to sit on His thumbs and let us go to hell. I am convinced He has His ways to preach the gospel to people after they leave the earth. And why not? Why do we think the whole universe is tied up in our miniscule realm of experience? God is big, the universe is big, and He has ways.

Do you have a loved one who passed away without a public expression of faith? Do not worry. Jesus didn’t die on a cross just to let them pass to eternal torment without introducing himself personally. And when someone meets Jesus face to face, they will make a proper decision for him. Everyone who meets Jesus wants to be with him.

Love saves. It sent Jesus to the cross for salvation. Will Yahweh Father not do everything He can to make sure we all get to enjoy that salvation with Him? What does Love have to do with salvation? Everything, absolutely everything.