C = L

1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 3

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

This passage reminds me a bit of Jesus’ brother, James, who said his faith was demonstrated in his works (James 2: 18). Paul essentially says, “I will show you my Christianity by my love.”

There is one true sign of Christianity. That is love. The world is waiting for a sign from Christians and this is it. When love is shown, God is glorified. Everywhere love is shared, God is shared. This is the true test of our faith.

Someone commented recently about how a mutual acquaintance always seems grumpy and in a bad temper. Yet, I know this individual to be camped at the church. He is very involved in church activities and service yet when he leaves the church, he seems to leave his faith behind. He would never be characterized as a gentle, kind, loving person. One wouldn’t say, “There goes the love of Christ.” He is not alone though. We can all think of folks who profess their Christianity but seem to have no love or kindness for others. They will spout theology all day and try to impress you with their Bible knowledge but to borrow from the book of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2). No one is listening. If they don’t see your love, they will not listen to your speech.

Christianity (C) equals love (L). If not love, then not Christianity. Christianity is the dedication to following Christ. Love required Christ to sacrifice his life. This is how we came to know love (1 John 3: 16). It is, likewise, how the world will come to know Christ and see that we are his followers. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13: 35). You see, love is the evidence that something has happened within you. Without love, there is only philosophy. We can espouse our religious philosophy but without the evidence of Christ-like love, it is all vanity. Though we loudly, and even eloquently, pronounce our theology, I imagine Paul saying, “Show me your theology and I will show you my love,” knowing that his love trumps our philosophical, theological banter.”

If the truth were to be told, you could have weak theology but win thousands of people to Christ if you have love. So many people think they have to learn the Bible in order to witness to others but that is all wrong. We don’t learn scripture for them. We learn it for ourselves. All other people need is love. They will figure out the spiritual part if we show them the path and that trail is paved with love. Grace, mercy and love are the gifts God gives us for others. A kind, caring heart and gentle words are the tools of evangelism. Your words are not your witness; your life is. If we are always grouchy and ill tempered; if we are harsh with others, who is going to want to follow us? Who is going to be attracted to our God? This passage from Paul is some of the most important language he wrote. He wants us to acknowledge that love is the key. If we don’t have love, we are that clanging symbol that no one wants to be around. It doesn’t win anyone to God. In fact, they will probably run in the opposite direction. Our great spiritual deeds and faith do them no good. What’s equally alarming is that Paul says that even though you have mountain moving faith, it will do you no good if you don’t have love.

Our today and our future are bound to love because God is love. Love is the essence of our faith. If you don’t have love, then you don’t have the essential part of Christianity. It really is that simple. We may have scars and injuries that effect the way we relate to others, but we also have Jesus who has born our injuries. We must take those things to Christ and receive his mercy, grace and healing so that we can venture forth in the courage of love. Without demonstrative love, our Christianity fails. Christianity equals love. Without love, there is not Christian faith. Take your heart to the Father, to the master healer, and ask Him to conduct a physical. Receive His love so that you have love to give away. Let His love penetrate the deep places of your heart.

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” As followers of Christ we are ordered to love one another. If we profess to be his disciples, then we must live out his directive in word and deed. This is not elective; it is the prime directive. Let love become your theology.

Convinced

Psalm 52: 8 – 9              TPT

But I am like a flourishing olive tree, anointed in the house of God. I trust in the unending love of God; his passion toward me is forever and ever. Because it is finished I will be praising you forever and giving you thanks. Before all your godly lovers I will proclaim your beautiful name!

Yesterday I sent you the first seven verses of Psalm 52. I thought you needed to see how David finished this song. Not only is it beautiful but in the face of adversarial persecution, he stands in the love and the grace of his heavenly father.

The first seven verses have more to do with the wicked people and how God will deal with them. This second part is about us, those of us who put our faith, not in the work of our hands, our wealth or our righteousness, but only in the “unending love of God.” When David turns to thinking of himself his thoughts are filled with God’s love and his love for God. Praise and thanksgiving come immediately to his awareness. His trust is in that love, knowing that God’s love is not only unending, but also passionate. David had a real, palpable awareness of God’s love for him and it altered his life. I so look forward to hearing him sing his praises to our beloved Father and I am going to go stand beside him and join in. I imagine I will never experience any greater joy than I will in that moment. My God is so worthy, and it is an honor to get to praise him.

In this earth, we too can trust in God’s love the way David did and it will protect us. It will keep us calm in the midst of the storm. Even when your Saul or Doeg threatens, God will keep your peace. He will guard your heart and soon you too will be singing your praises to the Beloved One.

I wish we understood how much Yahweh loves us. I wish we understood how real the force of his love is. I wish we all understood how to stand in trust, leaning on our faith in that love. David was hounded and persecuted relentlessly yet a song was never far from his lips, praise in his wake. He says with confidence and conviction that though persecuted, “I am like a flourishing olive tree, anointed in the house of God.” Can you picture what image must have been in David’s mind when he wrote those words? Doeg did evil and of course it pained David. That is why he sought the Spirit and poured out this psalm. However, at the end of the day, David saw himself flourishing under God’s blessed anointing. He saw himself planted in the house of God where his roots went down deep and drew nourishment.

I am very grateful David gave us this psalm. I hope you will find comfort in it. Let all our enemies be on notice. God will rip them up by their roots, but we will be firmly planted in the garden of the Lord, enjoying his anointing.

Show Me

John 14: 23

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.

I don’t know where I first heard it said but this statement has always stayed with me, “Don’t just tell me you love me, show me.” That is what I hear when I read today’s verse from Jesus. Don’t just tell me you love me, show me by keeping my word.

Many people identify themselves as Christians but then there are some who are actually trying to live the Word. Now, that is an entirely different matter. Keeping Jesus’ Word means that first you need to read it. Okay, we lost a few there. You guys read the WORD of the Day every day. You are doing something that we can’t get a lot of “Christians” to do. That is to partake of the Word every day. This is a first step. One cannot keep Christ’s Word if they don’t first take it.

By “keeping” his Word, Jesus meant that we should do what his Word says. If he says, “Fear not” then we must learn to trust in him. When the Word says, “Pray without ceasing,” we have to become people who pray, and often. We are told to roll our cares over to Him which must mean that we should not “take” care. Do not judge and forgive your enemies aren’t suggestions but rather requirements of love.

“If you love me, he says, “you will keep my word.” So, we must challenge ourselves to learn what his word says and then do it. I am not trying to convince you it is easy to follow the word but we have him to help us and all things are possible with him.

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.