Divine Power

1 Corinthians 13: 2        Amplified Bible

And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).

Here is Paul’s understanding of the love commandment. Now I would have thought that operating in the prophetic gifts, having faith that moves mountains, and having all knowledge would be pretty good evidence that one is a foremost disciple of Christ. Many people have pursued the power and the gifts of God but God would rather we pursue His heart. He says, pursue Me and the power will come. So we each have to set our hearts to seek God with all that we are. When we seek God we will find love because He is love. Paul says that without love we are useless nobodies. Wow! That is strong language Paul! But then again, what would you say that we are without love. Again, God is love so if we are without love then we are without God. The measure of cooperation we have with God is revealed in the measure of love we exhibit. So people can know the condition of our hearts and if those hearts really are right with God by the love we express externally.

God’s love has a purpose in the earth. It is to call all people unto Himself. He does this by extending grace and mercy and by meeting the needs of His children. And He uses us, His disciples (?) to accomplish both of these. God blesses me abundantly and then I get to be his hands in the earth to meet the needs of others. He uses us to dispense grace, to show mercy. In truth, love is the real power of God. You’ve heard it said, “Love is the most powerful force in the universe.” It is true. It was love that conquered hell and the grave. It was love that gained the keys and set every captive free. Without love, Jesus would have stayed in the ground. Do you see that? There is nothing more powerful so if we really want to have the power of God flowing through our lives then we need to get a potent revelation of love. 

All we need to do is open our hearts to our beloved Father. When we open our hearts we experience the two way flow that really is our calling in the earth. God fills our hearts with himself and then out from us flows the living river of His grace. We will naturally want to bless others and show kindness of God. I understand that many of us are afraid to open our hearts for fear of getting hurt but we must learn to trust Him, even with our hearts. He has power that He wants to fill you with but He fills the heart. If you will let Him fill you there will be plenty of expression of His power flowing from you. Look at the life of Peter, John or Paul and see what love can do.

Christ’s Disciple

John 13: 34 – 35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

This is a familiar bit of scripture. It is called the new commandment, the one commandment, or the love commandment. It is another thing too. It is the entire discipleship class. Or let us say it is the answer to the final exam. If you love one another, if you demonstrate the Jesus kind of love for one another, then you have passed the discipleship class. 

Much is written about discipleship and many churches even offer discipleship classes. It seems to me that Jesus offered a discipleship class too; it was the observance of his life, of course, but he sums up the whole thing with one little sentence. It all boils down to love. I sure wish he had said the evidence of a true disciple is faithfulness, diligence or perseverance in the faith, but he didn’t. The only way anyone will identify me as a disciple of Christ is if they see the love of God issuing from me. The apostle Paul said that without love, anything else, everything else is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3). He got it. He understood Jesus’ message.

Stating it a different way would simply be to say that Christianity is: “loving one another as Jesus loves us.” That’s it. You can take every book on theology ever written and boil it down to that one sentence. There is your entire thesis in one sentence. I wish it was as easy to live it as to say it. 

The Apostle John said it this way, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4: 20 NIV). In other words, if I do not love my brother, then I am not a disciple of Christ. To be more accurate though, Jesus said that we must love one another as he loves us. That is to say, if I do not love others as Jesus loves us then I am no disciple of his; not a follower of the way (Jesus); not even really a Christian which means one who follows Christ.

What kind of love is this then? “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3: 16).  It is a sacrificial love. It is others centered, putting the needs of others above my wishes. That is a tall bill to fill and I cannot do it in my own strength. In fact, it is in the surrender of my strength that I can do all things. But guess what, Jesus couldn’t do it in his own strength either. That is why he sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. None of us can do what God has called us to do in our own strength that is why God empowered us through His abiding presence living inside of us. We must live through the presence of God in our hearts. Jesus allowed the father’s compassion to flow through him. We don’t have to be super heroes. We just have to allow our abiding in Christ and his dwelling in us to be expressed. We learn to let go of our desperate grasp and to let God flow out of our inner being. It is a hard thing to do when we are still wedded to our flesh but as we learn to live out of our spirits we will find it increasingly easy and joyful. When Jesus told us to live this way it was because he had a revelation from God that we could. His early disciples did and we can too. As we are transformed through the renewing of our minds we discover a radical trust of God inside of us and that trust empowers us to let go and live beyond the means of mortal man. We will soar on wings as eagles and nothing, by any means, shall be impossible to us. It is the power of love.

Love and Truth

1 John 4: 7

God is love.

John 14: 6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.”

There is an intersection between truth and love. Perhaps a better analogy would be of a cord or rope that is made by twisting several threads together. Love and truth are a part of one whole. They go together. There can be no truth apart from love because Jesus is the truth and God is love. They must go hand in hand.

I have been learning this lesson the hard way for quite a number of years now. I hope I now have it. Because I have always valued truth so highly I thought other people did too. In my paradigm there is no knowledge without truth. I didn’t want to be wrong so I was willing to accept the truth. I have lived in a world where I was happy to be taught something outside my present reality because I was in search of truth and knowledge. I could be corrected because I was after actual truth, not just my version of it. I have learned, though, that most people are not like me. Most of us have a real investment in being right. And many times we are happy in our delusions and misinformation so we don’t thank a person who teaches us otherwise. We certainly don’t applaud them for correcting us. 

Truth apart from love does not set people free. I labored under the delusion that truth alone will set people free but that is not what the Bible says. It says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). You see, it is only the truth that you hear that will set you free. People will only be able to receive the truth when it is spoken with love. So before we try to correct people, we must first love them. I wish we could just speak the naked truth and people adopt it and change but it just doesn’t work that way. Our criticisms, verdicts and censures are preventing the truth from being heard. We are preaching the law of death, judgment and condemnation when we ought to be preaching the message of love and reconciliation. The law kills. Only love sets free. 

No matter what we think of another person’s lifestyle, even when it seems clear that they are in violation of Biblical principles, there is only one approved approach and that is to love them. We have created a society where few people really feel like they fit in. I am shocked by the number of people who tell me that they have felt like a square peg in a round hole. I look at them and think they fit but they have lived in a system of condemnation rather than acceptance so that they don’t feel approved. They constantly feel abnormal and rejected. It is so easy to identify what we believe is someone’s fault, sin or error. Why do we find it so much more difficult to applaud what they do right? And besides that, why can’t we love them just because they are children of God? Maybe our damage is showing. 

I had a situation where someone I knew was involved in adultery. I had the worst time trying to accept them because they continued in the adultery. I mean that one is on God’s Top Ten List. I could point to it and say, “I know that is wrong.” It turns out, though, that it was not my job to pass judgment, even in the case where the Bible was clear. Only Jesus has been given the right to judge. My job is to love. I mean, read the book. How many times did Jesus tell us not to judge but rather to love others? So the bottom line is that no matter how much we disapprove of another’s way of living or their actions, it has not been given to us to correct them. Jesus has given us the job of loving every single person on this earth. This is what I call “Adult Christianity” because this isn’t easy but we who want to be mature must grow up in it. We must do what is difficult. We cannot judge a person into Christianity but we sure can love them into it. Love is the greatest power there is and it draws all people unto itself. If you want to abide in truth, you must first abide in love. Truth without love is just dressed up condemnation and rejection. Let us not be masters of that. Be known as a person of great love. That is a high and worthy ambition.

Do You Love Me?

John 21: 17

“Simon, son of John Do you love Me? Tend My sheep.”

I have pondered for several years now what it means to be a Christian? We come in so many varieties and place our values on different things. Where is the commonality that makes each of us Christian? Are we simply behaviorists, each with our own list of what a Christian “should do?” If so, which of us has the right list? Truly, most will recognize that we can easily produce a long list of Christian behaviors that we think every “true” Christian will perform. And yet, even as we produce our list out of our heart bubbles the cautionary declaration that we are professing law rather than a covenant of grace.

I have heard people refer to others as not true Christians or not really a Christian even though the person of whom they speak has said the saving prayer and attends church. What are they saying then? I think they are saying there is something about that person’s behavior that makes one doubt that their heart has been touched by the power of Jesus. Perhaps the speaker believes there is a lack of transformation (Romans 12: 2). So apparently some people think that having once said a prayer of salvation is not sufficient for actually being saved and wearing the coveted mantle of “Christian.” These people would, again, seem to be behaviorists. They believe that our Christianity should be recognizable through our behaviors. In this way of thinking transformation is key. We must be remade in the image of Christ. That would make us true Christians.

I do not disagree that we should be transformed. Reading the Epistles of Paul clearly leads us to that conclusion. The problem with this position is two–fold. First, the test of our Christianity is still completely external. Paul talked about our being transformed but we must be transformed on the inside. In other words, Christianity is not something that happens on the outside of us, it happens on the inside and transforms us from inside out. Second, as long as we are judging behaviors we will always have the problem of whose list of do’s and don’ts is correct.

As I pondered this question the Lord revealed the answer to me and it is profound in its simplicity. That which makes us Christian is that we love the Father and Jesus whom He sent. The marker which identifies us as Christian is not the salvation prayer or anything else which may be seen with the physical eye. True Christians are marked in their heart. Theirs is a heart which loves God. David wrote “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139: 23). As this epiphany unfolded before me I said, “Okay Father, you can search my heart and see if I truly love you.” But still unsatisfied I asked another question. “How, Father, shall I know that I really love you?” Can I search my own heart? Can I believe what I think I see there? Perhaps I am only projecting what I want to see. How can I test this transformation to determine if it is real?

His answer was so short, sweet and so profound. “Tend my sheep.” Wow! The foundation of Christianity turns out to be simple. A Christian is one who loves God and the Christ whom He sent. We know that we love God not by a goo-goo feeling within us but with a love for His sheep. I don’t deny that feeling of love for God but Dad says that is not the way to know that our love for Him is real. The way we will know that we have truly been transformed in our hearts is that we love His kids. The transformation of our hearts will surely been seen on the outside but this is the manifestation form that it should take, that we love God’s kids and bless them. So it is not that I go on a mission trip that is important. That again is the behaviorist view not taking into account the condition and motivation of my heart. I may go on the mission trip because I believe it is the thing to do, I may believe that “good” Christians do missions. I may choose a mission trip out of a works mentality. All of this is rot and putrefaction to God. When, however, my heart longs to go somewhere to aid others out of love for them then I may see that yes, transformation is affecting the place where God lives, my heart.

This transformation of our heart should affect us every day. If I go on three mission trips this year but am not kind and generous to my friends and family I might wonder if this is a true transformation or only a façade. Have I become a giver by nature or am I still tight fisted? Are my thoughts continually on me and the things I want or has my heart learned to think about what I can do or give to another. The measure of my transformation, the foundation of Christianity is my tending of the sheep. 

Romans 12: 2 says that through our personal transformation we may “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is love which leads us. So in the end the proof of whether or not I am a true Christian turns out to be pretty simple. Am I tending God’s sheep?

Enemies of Love

Psalm 139: 20

For they speak against Thee wickedly, and Thine enemies take Thy name in vain.

This verse strikes me as outlandish. David is talking with God and says that people speak wickedly against God and that His enemies profane His name. Well, let’s start with speaking against God. We know it is true that people speak against God but honestly, doesn’t that just sound insane? I mean, think about it for a moment, why would anyone do that and what would they say. Then it struck me. Even Christians say horrific things about God. They talk about God making them sick and beating them up. They develop all kinds of theories that sound pretty spiritual but in the end is a bunch of bunk. They speak wickedly against God. And you know what; it makes me kinda crabby to hear it, probably because I used to do the same thing. I thought God was the one that caused my knee injuries and the good Christians I was around at the time said that it would make me stronger. Well, it made me strong alright; so strong and so stone like that there was very little tenderness left. In fact, I was so strong and so fortified that I couldn’t even hear or feel God. Perhaps, it wasn’t God afterall. Why would He do something that would ultimately separate me from Him? Is He stupid? I don’t think so.

And then there is the part where David talks about God’s enemies. Really, God has enemies? Who in their right mind wants to be an enemy of God? You see, the problem here is that we just don’t understand God in the least. God is love. He doesn’t just love people; He is love. You are made up of flesh and bone and He is made of love. So how in the world can anyone be an enemy of love? Okay, that is ridiculous. People get all philosophical about God and reason out all of these wonderful ideas but in the end they end up sounding like idiots because at the base of it all they are speaking against love and it takes an idiot to speak against love. The truth is that they are afraid. They are afraid that some kind of responsibility will fall on them if they acknowledge their father. They may have to start being nice to folks or extending some generosity. Oh heaven, He might ask them to become givers and bless some other people. It is just a fear based philosophy and anything that has its root in fear is corrupt and corrosive. 

I want to be a friend of God and I want people to know that He is nice. Maybe if we talk nice about God people will get a revelation. Perhaps if we demystify God and help people understand that He is here with us and available for a one on one relationship they will see Him as more than a vain philosophy and connect with love. We can pray that love will fill them and minister life and joy to them. I think that would make the world a much nicer place for all people.

The Power to Change

Romans 12: 2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

I was driving today when this verse popped in my mind. The thought that came with it was that we are not to transform ourselves but rather to allow ourselves to be transformed. Look at this verse from the Good News Bible: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” You see, we are not in charge of changing ourselves. We can’t. We haven’t the power to change but God can transform us into the beautiful image of us that He sees when He looks at us. 

Did you know that when God looks at you He sees the butterfly rather than the caterpillar? He sees you beautiful, glorious and when we spend time with Him His perception of us begins to rub off on us. Jesus is truth and God, our Father, has sent truth into the world to free us from every bondage, even the one of having to change ourselves into something worthy of love or of acceptance. You are already perfect. Jesus made you so. Okay, so sometimes the old man inhibits the full expression of that perfect creation within us but that outward expression does not change truth.

I tried for years and years to change myself and I was never successful but then the hand of Jesus touched me and through his love and acceptance I began to manifest the new person that he created within me. Okay, sure, I am far from the perfect expression of his love inside of me but if you knew the old me you would see the miracle of his grace at work. 

We can have the very best intentions and us the force of our will but the truth is that we just do not have the power to change ourselves. Without Jesus I can do no thing but with him all things are possible. That is why this verse does not tell us to transform ourselves or to change but rather to “be transformed.” This is the state of being rather than doing. In other words, allow yourself to be changed which is done through the renewing of your mind. Renew your mind with God’s thoughts, with His wisdom and that will transform you. Allow Him to shine the light of His love on you and you will change. God’s love, His truth are the forces which created the earth and everything in it. So, when we allow that love and the truth to touch our hearts and minds we, then, are just naturally and comfortably transformed into the lovely person we were created to be. It is a matter of allowing Him to be God, allowing Him to minister His love and acceptance to you.

The hard part of this is that you have to open your heart and allow God in. You also have to give your mind the food of renewal. What is that? It is the Word of God. The Word has transformative power in it because it is truth. The easy part is that God does all of the transformative work and it is painless because His transformation tool is love. When you really discover that you are not damaged goods, then you will no longer fear God seeing the real you. You won’t feel the need to hide anymore. He knows you better than you know yourself and He loves you. He even knows the person inside of you that you have not allowed to manifest yet. 

Won’t you let Jesus touch your heart and allow God to minister His great love to you? If you will open your heart and mind you will find that you never again need worry about changing. His touch will bring out the beautiful you that everyone else knows is in there. Allow yourself to “be” transformed. Renew your mind and allow love to have its perfect work.

Grace, Love and Fellowship

2 Corinthians 13: 14

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This is Paul’s closing in his second letter to the Corinthians. He is sending his best wishes, hopes and prayers to them just as many of us do in the closings of our letters. The best that Paul can come up with is what he includes in his prayer for them. I find it interesting which gift he associates with each part of God. Paul would have known each part of God intimately and would have been very aware of the gifts of each of them. He would have known what flows from each of them and by and through this we can know what personifies each of them and what we can expect from each of them. 

God is love. We’ve heard it over and over again but so many times we fail to really appreciate that love is God’s substance; his very nature. He is made up; constructed of love and it overflows him. He has love in abundance to give each of us.

Grace flows from Jesus. His sacrifice has bathed us in grace. His grace covers us. His pardoning grace has saved us and made the way for us to bask in the love of the Father.

What of the Holy Spirit? What can we expect of him? We can expect to fellowship with him. We can hang out with him, talk with him, receive instruction and inspiration from him. Paul would not have prayed that the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with the church at Corinth unless it was attainable. We are living in a new age. We are living in the age of the Holy Spirit. He is here for us in ways that were not possible in any previous age. Because of the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has been sent to us to make his abode with us. He has come to lead us, guide us, and teach us.

May the grace of the Lord, the love of the Father and the intimate presence of the Spirit of God fill your day and your life.