Force for Good

Hebrews 10: 24

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

That is a new thought but worth pondering. How do we encourage others so that their lives become expressions of love and good deeds or goodness? We are meant to be inspirational. Isn’t that something? Our lives are not only about us. They are about the impact we have on others and the effect that impact creates in them for yet other people. But to call it by another name, we are forces for good. We purposefully do good to others and stimulate them to do good to still others. And while I haven’t thought about it exactly in these terms before isn’t this still the story of a seed? 

Jesus asked, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?” (Mark 4: 30). He answered the question by telling the story of the mustard seed. So the kingdom of God is like a seed. This is one of the largest, most profound and yet overlooked messages in the Bible. Let me repeat it, the kingdom of God is like a seed. So, if we wish to participate in the kingdom, then we all must become farmers. If you are not sowing seed then you are not taking part in the kingdom of God. We sow into other people’s lives. That is the first step to stimulating others into acts of love and kindness. But the message of this scripture isn’t necessarily about what we can do to inspire others but rather that we should give consideration to how we may stimulate others. In other words, this is supposed to be a subject of thought and prayer. This would be a good question to put before the Lord so that we can find out his thoughts.

One might also see in here a domino effect. If we do good unto others and motivate them to love and good deeds then it seems reasonable that they will inspire others, and on and on. One seed produces a whole plant which might represent all of the people in your life. The fruit of the plant has many, many seeds within it. So each of the people in your life has an abundant opportunity to sow seeds themselves which ultimately leads to many seeds of love and good deeds being cast abroad. From one seed, a seed as small as a mustard seed comes many thousands of acts of love and goodness. Ponder, consider how we might encourage each other to love and good deeds. Perhaps share your good ideas on our blogsite. If we share a little and encourage a little maybe very soon we can cover the area in a garden like Eden.

The Character of God

Galatians 5: 22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

We saw yesterday from 1 John 4: 8 and 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8 that God’s essential nature is love. Today’s verse reveals the characteristics of God’s personality. As you look at them you can see that first is love but moreover that all the rest flow from love. The best way to get the full revelation of this verse is to put “God is” in front of each word i.e. God is love, God is joy….

These characteristics determine how God behaves and how He interacts with others just the same way as our personality traits predict how we will behave. So, God is always patient with us, always loving, kind and gentle. He exercises great self-control. Most of us can testify to the latter one.

Conversely, we can know what God is not by acknowledging His qualities. For example, we can deduce that God is not unkind or unfaithful. Can we not deduce a great deal more though? He is not cruel, vengeful, harsh, intolerant, hateful, spiteful or mean-spirited. He is all things which are good and none of those traits which are painful to us. He is ultimate goodness and kindness. He is neither over-bearing nor a punitive spirit. His intent, therefore, is not to punish us but rather to guide us with loving hands. And He is not scary. He is beautiful. He is warmth and sunshine.

We can know the Father of all personally, intimately and as we do we perceive greater and greater levels of His great kindness and affection. He is completely predictable in His goodness towards all creation. He loves us.

The Essential Nature of God

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes al things hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

God is love. It is His essential nature; what He is, what He is made of. Love is not an attribute of God, not one of His characteristics. It is the substance of who and what He is. We cannot separate love from God but many people, even those of the church, have lost the certainty of that statement. We understand with our minds that God is love but in our hearts we still hold onto a God who is vengeful and wrathful.

When we combine the two verses for today we get an accurate picture of God. God is patient, God is kind, and is not jealous; God does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; He does not seek His own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes al things hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.

Our God is the perfect parent. Love drives everything He does. His love is sacrificial and unselfish. He is everything we want in a friend, spouse or parent and He is all those to us. He is perfect love. There is no fear in His presence because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18). Our God who is mighty in deed is as gentle as a lamb. 

We really must get a deep revelation of this lover who is our God. We need to hold deep within our hearts the absolute truth of the Father’s love for each one of us individually. There is no power until there is this abiding truth within us. Your Father loves you absolutely and unconditionally. Meditate on that until you cannot be swayed. Then you will soar with wings as eagles.

The Original Premise

Psalm 103: 8

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

This is a song written by David. David was (and is) a friend of God. He walked and talked with God and because of that he knew Him better than most people. David certainly put God to the test but he also learned to trust God for his every need. The importance of this is that we can feel assured that David is a very good candidate to speak about the nature of God. He experienced God’s forgiveness even before Jesus paid for the sin of the world. He witnessed God’s strength and power. When it comes to describing God, though, David leads off with compassion. Jesus was compassionate. There are no less than thirteen places in the gospels where Jesus either teaches about compassion or is moved by it.

What does this really mean to our lives though? The bottom line is that God is love. His way of interacting with the world and with each of us is through love. It’s who He is. As you listen to church people you sometimes hear discussion of a wrathful God or a vengeful God. However, when He is discussed by the people that have known Him best, like Jesus and David, He is always described in terms of love. That is God’s essential nature. He abounds in lovingkindness and is slow to anger. What we sometimes do, though, is to super-impose our scar tissue onto Him. When we believe ourselves to be vile creatures then we create an image of God that is angry and prosecutorial. In contrast, when we are able to look at God outside of our own filters and lenses then we see Him as He is, loving and kind. And believe me, when a person begins to see the Lord, our God and Father, by His true nature, all things in that person’s life change. A critical nature can change in a moment. A harsh person may put on the robes of graciousness. One who is selfish and self-centered can at once become a person who puts the needs of others first. 

This is our first and foremost meditation, that we ruminate on the goodness and kindness of God; our prayer – that we may know the love of God. This is the first issue. Once we come to an understanding in our hearts, rather than our minds, that God not only is love but that He loves us individually, then truly all things do become possible.  One can never understand the Bible if they do not first understand the original premise of the book – that God is love. It is, therefore, imperative that the Bible teachers to whom you subscribe have an integrated understanding of this first principle.  If they do not, their teaching will be skewed.

Grab this concept with both hands. Make it your own.  It is the only rightful foundation for a relationship with the Father.  Anything else will cause you to misfire. Our God is love and it is with love that He communes with us. I pray, let His love saturate your being, may it be absorbed by every cell of your body.  Amen.

And the Victor is…?

1 John 4: 18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 

When we receive a full revelation of love we will no longer have fear. We will also find that anger, resentment and other powerful negative emotions disappear because the truth is that those negative emotions are based in fear. We are afraid of losing face, afraid of someone taking advantage of us and so on but when love becomes perfected in us, we will have no consideration for those things. Trust will prevail, an unyielding trust in God’s willingness and ability to take care of us.

We often find it difficult to live in this unbridled trust. Too many of us hear judgment and recrimination in our imaginations of facing the Lord but that is only because our revelation is still being exposed. We fear punishment for our shortcomings because we have not fully embraced the truth of who God is and what Jesus has done for us. Perfect love casts out fear because when we allow that perfect one to explode within us then we see only grace and beauty. Even when we botch things, His face shines on us as a proud parent who thinks we are awesome despite our mistakes. He takes us gently in His hands to teach us so that we don’t err again but this isn’t out of anger but rather out of love. He wants to save us from making the same mistakes over and over again. Then as we learn to trust Him we get better at hearing His instruction before we act and then we don’t have to make as many mistakes in the first place. He leads us so that we place our feet on the right path rather than rambling around in the brambles.

We need not fear punishment. We need fear no thing because our God is not a God of fear. The author of fear lives in hell and he is a defeated foe. All fear belongs to him but Jesus has already cleaned his clock so we need not have any part of him, including his infamous weapon of fear. Love conquers fear. Always has, always will. That is what today’s verse is really saying. With God alive inside of us we do not have to endure the enemy’s tortures. So, focus on the love. Meditate on love. Look up love scriptures. You will find that love is your strength and the mightiest weapon of all.

Empowered To Love

1 John 4: 19

We love because He first loved us.

Do you ever wonder why more of us Christians don’t exhibit the kind of love that we read about in the Bible? It is not because we are bad people. There are people who truly love God and who are trying to live the life that they think God has called them to and yet they remain judgmental, critical and don’t really express love … and, to some degree, this describes most of us. Why do we find it so difficult to live in love and to accept one another in the spirit of Christ within us?

The answer is actually pretty simple. We have not yet realized His great love for us. I am an observer of people and I and a seeker of truth and for many years I have watched Christians and tried to figure out why there is so much disparity in our Christian experience. God loves us all the same, doesn’t He? Christ died for each one of us as if we were the only person in the world. So why do some people have a closer relationship with Him than others? Why do some exhibit so much more of His grace than do others? The answer seems to be that some have a much fuller revelation of His love for them. When you embrace that kind of love, then everything becomes safe. You no longer have to be guarded. God has validated you and spoken into your heart, “I love you just as you are and you are beautiful in my sight.”

You see, I think far too many of us have our eyes on ourselves instead of on Him. We look in the mirror and see all of our faults and mistakes. If we could, instead, turn our eyes upon Him and focus on how much He loves us our lives would be transformed. When a person discovers that God loves them through and through with a love that is beyond human comprehension then we begin to relax and receive the grace that He has afforded us. We no longer have to prove ourselves. We no longer have to promote and elevate ourselves. We can actually enter into a childlike acceptance of His love and then of ourselves. When you believe, truly believe that God loves you then it is easy to devote yourself to Him and to a relationship with Him. When you do so, then He finally is able to release Himself to you. You become a receiver. The next thing that happens is that you become gracious and kind to others. No longer do you have to scrap for respect and honor; God the Father pours it out on you. You become a giver of the grace that He shows you. I’m telling you, those who are immersed in and persuaded of God’s abounding love towards them are able to give from the depths of their heart. As a matter of fact, they pour themselves out like water. They amaze me in their kindness and oh, I pray that more of us can come to a full realization of the love of God.

No matter how many times I tell you that Jesus would have gone to the cross even if you were the only person on earth; no matter how many times any of us are told of the great love the Father has for us, it is all an insubstantial drop in the bucket compared to His great love. Only when we encounter the Father personally and allow Him to minister that message directly to our hearts will we come to understand the depth and breadth of His devotion to us. The good news is that we can be facilitators of such a revelation. God is awaiting us right now. Any moment that we turn open hearts and upturned faces to Him He greets us with outstretched arms. The power is in our hands. We can know the love of God but we must initiate that encounter. We must open the door and let Him in. He will never invade your space. His covenant is too important. He will not violate our free will, so He is waiting for us to call to Him. Just simply tell Him that you want Him to reveal the depth of His love for you and then let your heart be open to His ministrations. He will fill us all. This I know. There is nothing more sure than God’s great love towards us and there is nothing more predictable than that few of us have fully embraced this revelation. Let’s all go into the deep water and allow Dad to fill us to overflowing with His goodness and His love. Knowing that God loves us enables us to love others and that is something we can all live with.

Murderers We?

1 John 3: 15 – 17

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Tighten your seatbelt. The apostle John is going to take us on quite a ride today. He is teaching on love. He starts by convicting a good number of us as murderers. And no murderer, he tells us, will inherit eternal life. The life of the eternal one does not abide in us if we hate anyone because the eternal one is love. It is logical but what a revelation. Then he contrasts Jesus with those who hate in a demonstration of how love behaves. Hate kills but love lays down its life for the other. And, as if that isn’t strong enough, John goes on to say that we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren too.

If eternal life is living in me then love is abiding in me and love lays down its life for another. The eternal life in me necessarily means that even though I lay down my life, I will yet live. So, there is more here than mere mortality. There is more to this than laying down my mortal life. Let me put it in Paul’s kind of phraseology. If I go to war for my countrymen and lay down my life but have not love, then I am nothing and useless. So what is going on here? It is the love in my heart that is important not my acts of martyrdom. I could martyr myself in my family situation continually from some need to feel victimized rather than out of love. Then my actions, rather than being lovely, are repugnant. Still, there is more here because we still do not reach the difference between laying down our mortal life like Jesus did and laying down our everyday life, which he also did. You see, the laying down of one’s life is not measured in heartbeats and breath alone. There are people, you can think of some, who lay down their lives daily for the brethren, for you and me. You may have some in your own family who consistently put aside their wants, desires and plans in order to meet the needs of others. And I do not refer to people who do this in a dysfunctional, unhealthy way. We are talking here about people who have a revelation of God within them and seek to live out of his will, his love and his power. These are the true children of God. You might be one of these.

Then there are the rest of us and John addresses us in the next verse. Verse 17 says that even though we have the worlds goods we don’t part with a thing even when we have the opportunity to bless others. I heard a minister say one time that she has set a minimum tip amount. No matter how lousy the service nor how inexpensive the meal, she tips well. Now, why would she do that? She has a revelation of the love of God. She is seeking to bless people, not punish them. Your message will preach much louder from a position of love and grace than it will out of selfishness or recrimination. I had a problem right here and I will admit it. I thought a tip was a reward for having given exemplary service. This minister, though, sees it as an opportunity to bless someone. Which of us is closer to God’s heart?

But here is the thing that really amazes me about today’s passage.   John begins by declaring that people with hate in their hearts are murderers and then ends talking about giving. What is going on here? Has John just linked the love of God and His living in us with us being generous givers? I will let you answer that for yourself but I certainly am having a moment of pause (selah). I kind of want to run out and give something away. The church has gone from every one selling their possessions and meeting each other’s needs (see Acts 4) to a group of tight fisted, fear controlled counterfeits. I don’t want to be that way. I want Acts 4 kinds of moves of God so I think that must mean that I need to be an Acts 4 kind of Christian. Where has our charity gone? Why are we no longer generous? To where has our love flown?

The only thing I know to do is to get on our faces before God and ask him. He must reveal to each of us the condition of our hearts and how we can fill our proper place in Him. The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that His answer will involve love and generosity. Will we hang onto our worldly possessions and add annually to our trove at the cost of our souls? I don’t think so. I think we only need see the truth and we will all respond appropriately. And I believe that John has shown us truth.