Walk In Love…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Our verse today continues on the theme of love as the full expression of what it means to walk with God.  Paul opens up this passage with the exhortation to “follow God’s example” of what it means to love. And I especially like that Paul preferences that we should do so “as dearly loved children.”  To me, knowing that we are beloved and cherished by our Heavenly Father is the greatest motivation we could have to emulate His love.  And we know experientially that agape love He has poured out to us through His Son … our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The way of love we are to exhibit has been defined by the merciful love we have received in Him. As we have noted before: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) So, I want us to look at our verse in the larger context presented:

Ephesians 5:1-20 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note how Paul contrasts walking in the way of love with our former conduct as unbelievers. Before we encountered the love of God through Jesus Christ, we were unable to walk in perfect love. Paul illustrates this and provides us with practical, concrete examples of the tension between light and darkness … between love and the absence of love.  Just as light exposes the darkness, so the love of God exposes the behaviors we exhibit as humans that are unloving, unkind, and therefore, unholy. We are enjoined to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly walk in the way of love. Christ Jesus demonstrated the sacrificial love the Father has in mind for each of us to imitate. And He challenges believers with this spiritual standard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) James and Peter weigh in on this instruction as well: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Cf. James 3:13) And, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22)

Although love is spiritual, it will always express itself in the physical or natural. God, the source of all love,  Love is the outcome of faith … the fruit of the Spirit.  Indeed, every fruit of the Spirit is rooted in love. The Apostle John affirms for us:

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

20 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. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

2 John 1:6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I just feel impressed that the Spirit of God is very concerned that we as believers not only hear the command to walk in love, but to make it actionable in our lives. As I have shared before, God saved us … created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) Thus, we have been saved to serve! This is His call on the life of every believer! We just need to be obedient as opportunities to share the love of God with others present themselves. And as the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews advised: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….” (Hebrews 10:24) Yes, being the love of God in this world is the responsibility and purpose of the Church.  We are called to be the physical expression of God’s love to the world … and I pray we will do so with intentionality as we see the Day approaching….

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Filled With Love…

Psalm 119:64 (NIV)

The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

I appreciate this verse and its reminder today.  When we see what is happening in the world, it is difficult to see how the earth is filled with His love.  Yet, the love of God is ever-present if we would but look for it. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:11) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) All these verses declare the love of God for us … and we receive His love through Christ Jesus.

As the Body of Christ in this world … His love fills the earth through us! We must follow His command: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) What a great challenge for us to fulfill!  Yet, we are able.  We are equipped.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) And, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) So I hope we will look at the work before us with confidence and zeal.  God brought us into the world and saved us to serve for such a time as this!  Let us be faithful to the call … aligned with His will! I pray you and I will be looking for our divine assignments each day to reveal the love of God with every person we encounter….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Peace Through Faith

Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed with life or the distresses going on in the world right now, I encourage us as believers to keep perspective.  God, the loving Father who created us, knows what is going on with His people.  And He will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him – who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) And so, we need to trust in God … more than we trust in government or man-made systems to resolve our situations. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying in this regard. To be sure, God will use His people to address and engage in the suffering that occurs in our fallen world, but God’s people are aligned with God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven … and I believe that is the major difference.  When we rely on God … when we take refuge in Him … when we trust Him for our needs … His supernatural power is released! Yes, the Spirit of God works in and through His people to accomplish His will….

1 Corinthians 12:4-12 (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as he determines.12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Romans 12:3-18 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the othersWe have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people who do more menial work. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

You see, living in this world is the will of God. And though it is fallen because of sin, God wants us here to achieve His purposes according to His own counsel and will.  And I believe the greatest purpose our Father has in mind is relationship with the special creatures He made in His own image.  All other creation was spoke into existence in the beginning. But God purposely “made” us from the dust of the earth. Our human existence is differential and intentional.  As David reflected:

Psalm 139: 13-18 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, that I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

And so God invites us to trust Him.  Because when we put our trust in Him, our minds become steadfast … we rely upon the truth of His Word.  And we experience something great in our inner being.  We call it “peace”.  We call it “rest”.  We call it assurance, confidence, and steadfastness.  We call it “faith”!  Indeed, Christ Jesus was sent to this world by the Father to bring us to faith … a saving faith … a serving faith.  And this is what Jesus commanded, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

God is Love! Love is how God works! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And our work, our labor of love, is to serve as the Body of Christ in this world.  Being Jesus to others is HOW God works all things for the good of those who love Him … for those who are called according to His purpose.  We need not fear; rather, we need to be courageous in these times and days. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)  Let’s use these gifts to make a difference in our chaotic and fallen world! For God will keep us in perfect peace … complete peace … whose faith is fastened on Him….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

To Live Is Christ….

Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

We have an interesting statement from Paul this morning.  What does it mean “to live is Christ and to die is gain?” Well, let’s look at the entire context and gain some insight.  We need to remember, that Paul wrote this letter while in prison … in chains.

Philippians 1:19-26 (NIV)

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

To live is Christ – This simply means that everything you do in this life should be for Christ. If you go to school, it’s for Christ. If you work, it’s for Christ. If you get married and have a family, it’s for Christ. If you serve in ministry, play on a team, whatever you do, you do it with the mindset that it is for Christ. You want Him to be exalted in every aspect of your life. As Paul taught in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” The reason this should matter is because by exalting Him with your life, you can be intentional and create opportunities for the Gospel to go forward. When Christ is exalted in your life, it can open the door for you to share Him with others.

To die is gain – What could be better than living for Christ, being salt and light to this world, and winning people to the kingdom of God? As crazy as it sounds, Paul asserted death is better. Look how Paul stated it in Verses 22-24: “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” If you can really grasp what Paul is saying here, then you will truly understand the meaning and context of Verse 21. For Paul to keep living would be beneficial for the Church and everyone else to whom he ministered. He could keep serving them and be a blessing to the Body of Christ. (That’s to live is Christ). 

I think we should bring into the context the sufferings Paul endured. Remember Paul was in prison when writing this letter; and with all of the challenges and suffering he faced, Paul probably felt that as great as it is to serve Christ in this life, it was better to die and go be with Christ forever. Yet, I think even this supposition should be balanced with what Paul stated in Verse 20: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”  Do you see the hesitation? This is not doubt, but there is always an element of fear.  It is really a prayer for “sufficient courage” that Christ would be exalted in his body, whether by life or by death. He does not want to be ashamed either way; rather, Paul wants to be bold in either situation that might transpire under the circumstances. So this does not mean you should want to die, it just means that your ultimate desire is for Christ to be exalted in you whether by life or by death.  Indeed, we are to die to sin, and we have to understand that physical death for a Christian is not the ending, but the beginning of a new experience to be in the tangible presence of Christ in eternity.

Anyway, these are provocative thoughts; and I encourage you to look further into your own sense of what it means to live for Christ Jesus and to die for Him.  My prayer is to align with Paul … to hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness (courage), Christ will always be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Love of Another Kind…

Romans 12:3 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Our verse is a reminder to be humble as we exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Church.  I would like to reprint the surrounding context (entire chapter) for us because it clearly articulates what Christian behavior should look like.  This is so important if we are to have a relevant and credible voice within the current cultural struggles going on in our nation and around the world.  Although we are not OF the world, we are certainly IN the world … and with great purpose: to be light in the midst of darkness! So, yes, we are to be engaged in building the Church … the Body of Christ in this world … to be a refuge of truth and grace!

Romans 12:1-21 (NIV)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of youFor just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with the faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in loveHonor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Quoting Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Quoting Proverbs 25:21-22) 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

To me, Verse 21 is a great summary of how we are to respond to the spiritual battles taking place right before our eyes.  Do not be overcome by evil!  If we (believers) respond with hate, we are vulnerable to being overcome by the evil confronting us. But if we respond with truth and grace, we are empowered to overcome evil with good.  For all the hate and evil that Jesus endured, He never responded with hate.  Even on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Cf. Luke 23:34) Yes, Jesus challenges us to be radical … to do the unexpected … to be merciful:

Luke 6:32-36 (NIV)

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

So I think Romans 12 can be a wonderful guide for us … a template for self-checks on our behavior and conduct not only for our relationships with fellow believers, but also for our relationships with non-believers.  Let us not think more highly of ourselves because we belong to Christ; rather, let us give thanks that by grace He has saved us through faith to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And He has empowered us with His Spirit to be salt and light in this world … to engage with those who live in darkness that they too might receive the gift of repentance and come to the knowledge of God. How I pray that we will not be overcome by the prevalence of evil … but that we will overcome evil with good.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-control.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Ephesians 5:25-26 (NIV)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word….

I hope all those who are fathers and grandfathers enjoyed a Blessed Father’s Day!

As we finish this week of examining the gift of fatherhood and the roles that men have been ordained by God to fulfill in His Kingdom … we turn our attention to the position that afforded us the honor and privilege to become a father – the role of husband.  The relationship that a husband and wife … father and mother … have with each other greatly influences the role each partner plays in the development of their children and the capacity of their children to fulfill the 5th commandment of God – “Honor your father and mother.”  If the relationship between parents is unhealthy, strained, uncivil, fractured, or out of balance, the fall out upon the minds and hearts of their children is inevitable.  I’m not talking about the natural disagreements that arise in the course of normal human relationships (for we were all uniquely created). These are generally negotiated and resolved within the bonds of love.  Rather, I am speaking to the visibility of a relationship that no one would characterize as honorable or pleasing to God … where unity has been lost or displaced with self-centeredness, covetousness, worldliness, bitterness, malice, etc.

Now, I realize there are many human factors and dynamics that enter into the covenant relationship of marriage; but my thoughts today are directed at men and our God-ordained responsibilities for the union of our bodies with another.  And I believe the inspired wisdom that Paul brings to our attention here should direct the approach of our hearts to the covenant of marriage.  After all, God made a covenant with those whom He chose for salvation … and gave to His Son, Christ Jesus, to receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.  He has been faithful to us; and that truth, in itself, should dominate the heart of every man to whom God has entrusted the precious gift of a woman to have and to hold from this day forward.  Men, when two became one flesh, we made a vow … we made a covenant with our wives to be united to our own souls … and to be faithful to them in all things.  If you can receive it, then I ask you to consider this: If there is a schism in your marriage relationship … then I encourage you to look intently into your own heart and soul. Why? Because I believe there you will find something that you can change or correct …  actionable steps … spiritual surgery to foster the restoration, healing, and strengthening of the intimacy you both were created to experience.  Yes, whether we realized it at the time or not, we made a promise to be like Jesus in our relationships with our wives.  And whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Indeed, that is the standard that the Apostle Paul is exhorting us to achieve here….  Let’s look at it further in context:

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, having cleansed her by the washing with water through the Word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Cf. Genesis 2:2432 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The passage begins with this instruction: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The text and the context are absolutely clear! The foundation of the covenant relationship we share with our wives is out of reverence for Christ Jesus. Did you see it? “Reverence for Christ Jesus!” You must see this truth and it must abide in your heart more than anything else!  You cannot love your wife in the manner God has ordained for you if you do not have reverence for the One who created you and redeemed you and commanded you: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  How did Jesus love you?  Unconditionally! Sacrificially!  Yes, if you and I (men) want marriage relationships that our children will see as genuine … the kind they will readily respond with honor for their father and mother, then we as the heads need to self-examine our hearts.  As David (a man after God’s own heart) wrote in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Let there be no doubt: True love for our wives begins and flourishes with our reverence for Christ Jesus!

And while Paul speaks to women about their responsibilities in the covenant of marriage, I truly believe that he wants to emphasize the God-ordained role of the man to LEAD the relationship.  And he uses the relationship between Christ and His Church as the metaphor and example to help men understand this critical mindset.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” The text does not say, “similar to” the way Christ demonstrated His love for His Body.  No, it instructs: “JUST AS!”  The pattern and the example have already been demonstrated.  The question for us, men, is whether we intend to identify with what Christ has revealed to us and to emulate it in our marriages?

The profound mystery Paul referenced is found in the inspired narrative written by Moses and recorded in Genesis 2:18-24 – where God creates a woman from the man to be his helper!

Genesis 2:18-24 (NIV)

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

I had never thoughtfully considered this passage until now … and I am flooded with thoughts and applications of the metaphor Paul uses when he states, “But I am talking about Christ and the Church.”  Think about it. If Christ is represented by Adam and the Church is represented by Eve; then the pattern of the woman taken from the man makes sense.  The Church, the body of Christ, was formed out of Christ Himself. Another perspective is that God brought the Church to His Son to be His helper … even though His helper came from within Him. Jesus is the Head of and united with His Body … just as Adam and Eve became ONE flesh.  And as Christ determines how His Body should function, so men are charged with the functioning of their marriage!  I can see it in my spiritual mind … but it remains a profound mystery.  Like many things, I can understand “how” this makes sense … but like many things, I do not understand “why” this makes sense.  But the connection points me to the greater weight of the parallel that has been drawn for me: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  Just as I am united with Christ and abide in Him … so I too am united with my wife and she abides in me.  And because she abides in me, I am responsible for her … just as Christ is responsible for His Body.

Well, those are my thoughts as this Father’s Day comes to a close.  As I survey all that is going on in our nation and our world; the more I am convinced that many of the problems we face are the consequences of innumerable men not fulfilling their God ordained roles of Provider, Protector, and Priest.  We have been called to be the leaders of our homes! And the first relationship in which we exercise that authority is within our marriages.  It is the foundation of all enduring relationships that will follow. We have to get that one right … if we want to have relationships with our children that will lead them into their own covenant relationships with God … and eventually their own spouses and children. Oh, there is so much more that could be said here, but I will end with this time-tested observation – the greatest testimony and the best gift you can give your children is a Christ-centered marriage. Why?  Because your children will learn that the most intimate relationships they will ever experience in life begins with reverence for Christ Jesus.  And in my estimation, that gift is absolutely priceless.     

Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. ~ Proverbs 9:10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Not Of This World

Philippians 3:20 (NIV)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ….

I love our verse today because it relates a truth that we need to remember in our walk of faith – this world is not our home….  As always, let’s look at the surrounding context:

Philippians 3:7-21 (ESV)

But whatever gain I had (in the devoted practice of Judaism), I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ21 who will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.

Here, Paul explains how his devoted practice of Judaism established upon the Law of God (as He revealed it through Moses) had an incorrect understanding of how God wants His people to enter into relationship with Him.  RELIGIOUS practice and rituals had become a “works based” approach to fellowship with God until Christ Jesus was sent to the world to bring the light of love and spiritual intimacy as the “way” to abide and rest in the Father.  Paul shared, “Indeed I count EVERYTHING as loss because the surpassing worth of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Verse 8) The word “knowing” used here connotes a deep, intimate relationship and the idea of being devoted, faithful to that relationship. And from that relationship, the concept of “work” changes.  Work becomes “servant oriented” as in “to serve” the one to whom you have aligned your devotion.  I think of John 15:5 where Jesus asserted, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  This is the essence of “knowing” Jesus … abiding in Him.

And I think this is the context in which we should examine our Verse of the Day.  When our relationship to Christ Jesus deepens … as our devotion to Him matures with understanding … we will come to a realization that the world is not our home.  Yes, it is where we dwell … but it is not where we abide.  Our citizenship … our place of domicile is Heaven!  We are just temporarily “out of the country” in which we were born.  I love how Jesus articulated this for us in His priestly prayer recorded in John 17:

John 17:6-21 (ESV)

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

What a powerful prayer offered by our Savior and High Priest.  And within His prayer we see what Paul, the Apostles, and other disciples learned: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” When we are born-again of the Spirit of God, our citizenship is transferred from earth to heaven.  And from there we await the return of our Savior … our King … our Lord Jesus Christ.  So if you have the opportunity, I encourage you to read the Parable of the Talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 or the Parable of the Ten Minas recorded in Luke 19:11-26.  Though we have become sons and daughters of the Father, Ephesians 2:10 explains what God has purposed for each of us:  “ For we are God’s handiwork (workmanship), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So I believe these parables afford us greater insight into the purpose for this relationship we have received IN Christ Jesus.  We are created to do good works … to serve in the Body of Christ (His Church … the called-out ones) with the spiritual gifts and talents that the Holy Spirit has distributed to each one just as HE determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

Indeed, when we abide in Jesus Christ … we WILL bear much fruit – the end result of our good works of service.  In John 15:6-9, Jesus said, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” And, so, as I read ahead … the rest of John 15 … I realized how Jesus opened the eyes of His disciples (and our eyes as well) as to what this “abiding relationship” with Him entails.  Notice how Jesus shifts the relationship from “servant” to “friend” on the basis of His love.  Let’s read it:

John 15:9-17 (NIV)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

What Jesus has made known to us is this: God is Love! (Cf. 1 John 4:8-20) God demonstrated His love to us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) We demonstrate our love for God in this: We keep (obey) His commands. (Cf. John 14:15) And He said, “This is my command: Love each other.” (Verse 17) But the love Jesus speaks of is not a facade of love … or the distorted love of the world. No, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” (Verse 12) His definition and expectation for our obedience set the bar extremely high!  Why would He do that?  Why would Jesus challenge His “friends” to “lay down their lives” as He did?  I am reminded of what the Apostle John wrote: “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, you and I have a cross to bear as well.  And, perhaps, this brings more insight into this teaching: “When He had called the people to Himself, along with His disciples, Jesus said to them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple, must deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow Me.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; and Luke 9:23)

So I will finish with the remainder of John Chapter 15 because I think it is quite connected to all the message of love and the events we see unfolding in our nation:

John 15:18-27 (NIV)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Cf. John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (Cf. Psalm 35:19; 69:4) 26 “When the Advocate (Holy Spirit) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The “Platinum Rule”

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We just talked about this yesterday.  Message unchanged….  There is a definite call to humble ourselves and to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think … as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Cf. Romans 12:3) This reminds me of when Jesus taught His “Sermon on the Mount” and said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Cf. Luke 6:31) Perhaps, a “Platinum Rule” should read: “Treat others in the same manner that God has treated you in Christ Jesus.”  I think that raises the bar a notch….

We need to remember that God has been more kind, more gentle, more longsuffering, more patient, more forgiving, more compassionate, and more loving towards us than we ever tend to be towards one another; yet, we are made in His image and called to live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) So this brings me back to two key passages:

Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

It is only by the Spirit of God living within us that can ever hope to attain the godliness He desires within each of us.  And a person does not receive the Holy Spirit except that he/she believes in Jesus Christ … placing their faith in His life, death, and resurrection for the assurance of this gift. As Peter affirmed (and I often quote): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And indeed, we need the power of God to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with one another.  I can see no other conclusion for a believer … a child of God.  As John emphasized in His epistle: “Dear friends, let us love one another … for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and know God.” (Cf. 1 John 4:7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Love and Forgive

Leviticus 19:18 (NIV)

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

This is a very familiar verse … but do we really pay attention to what it says?  Do we practice what is commands? Notice the text says “anyone among your people.”  Do that mean within our church?  Or community? Or country?  In the context of the Old Testament, I believe this would have referred to the nation of Israel or the community of fellow Hebrews.  They were called to love another as fellow citizens and heirs of the covenant.  By implication, Christians, have a similar command to love another within the community of believers (brothers and sisters). (Cf. 1 John 3:16; 3:23) And so it follows, love does not seek revenge or hold a grudge against a fellow believer.  Love goes beyond what our human nature … our sinful human nature … would seek to do when we feel wronged, harmed, or otherwise disrespected….

Paul shares with us “the more excellent way” to relate with one another:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

What I sense is this really all gets down to the issue of forgiveness.  And we need to examine how that manifests itself in our relationships with one another. Knowing our own imperfection and capacity for disobedience … our propensity to sin and miss the mark … our insensitivity to grieve the Holy Spirit … and yet we ask the Lord to forgive us our trespasses.  Are we so self-righteous and better than others that we are unwilling to forgive someone who wrongs us … who wounds us … who is insensitive to our feelings?  Jesus has some strong words for us in this regard:

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

And consider the parable that Jesus shared in Matthew 18:21-35 – especially His commentary on the parable found in Verse 35.  I firmly believe this is an area in our walk … in our journey of faith … that can become a major stumbling block for wholeness and healing in our own lives.  The bitter roots of anger we often harbor against others at work or at church, or yes, even within our own families are destructive to no one but ourselves.  And worse … we separate ourselves from the compassion of God we all need and pray to receive.  And comparing the sin(s) of another to your own is a futile exercise.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)  Consider these strong words of caution from the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:14-17 (NKJV)

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or godless person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

Well, I just sense that there is a need for us to examine forgiveness.  We need to forgive others and we need to forgive ourselves as well.  The Apostle Paul had much to share in this regard, so I will end with his exhortations:

Colossians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Husband – Man of God

Ephesians 5:25-26 (NIV)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word….

I want to continue our focus on men. We have looked at their responsibilities as fathers; and now we look at their responsibilities as husbands.  These are roles that God has ordained for men to fulfill in His creation; notwithstanding there are men God has called to be single….  Our roles as men are not determined by the fathers we had (have) or the cultures in which we live (lived).  Who we are as men was designed by God our Creator; and He has revealed this to us through His Word.  We have seen where our roles as fathers have been compared to the relationship of God the Father to His own children.  Here in this verse, we see a comparison of our relationships with our wives to the relationship of Christ Jesus had (has) with His Bride … the Church.

The role of men in the marriage relationship appears to be one of leadership – in the sense that there is an imperative for the man to spiritually guard and guide his wife as Christ leads and protects His Church.  As Jesus is the Head of the Church (His Body), so are men ordained by God to be the head of the marriage relationship. We are to serve as protectors, providers, and “priests” over our marriages and our households in all righteousness and holiness.  And while this role is associated with the male and with his given authority, the key word here is “love”.  We are to love our wives just as Christ loved His Church … namely, in the same spirit and attitude with which Christ Jesus gave Himself for us.  We are to serve our wives with humility and grace … even as we see these qualities evident in the lordship of Jesus Christ over us.  Men, look for a moment at the example we have been given to emulate in our marital role:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature (in the form of) God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature (the form) of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

While this passage speaks to the condition of our hearts and minds in all relationships; to me, it is especially applicable to the “mindset” men should have in their marriages. We should not consider the ordained authority we have been given by God as men to be used to our own advantage; rather, we are to be humble servants to our wives … not selfish or ambitious or full of self-pride.  We are to look to the interests (physical, emotional, and spiritual needs) of our wives even above our own.  Yet, I’m pretty sure if we have not attended to our own needs (especially spiritual), we will probably lack the capacity to be effective in the leadership roles of our marriages.  Meaning, if we are not spending time with the Lord in regular prayer and study of His Word, we are not going to be equipped to fulfill our God ordained roles as men … husbands … and fathers.

So, men, I encourage each of us to routinely practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, bible study, and to put on the full spiritual armor of God (Cf. Ephesians 6:11) … so that we can be the men of God we were designed to be.  Through healthy and sound marriages, we will be more effective in the provision for and protection of our families. To do so, we must always be connected to the Head … our Lord Jesus Christ.  For Jesus said we must abide in Him and He in us … because apart from Him we can do nothing.  (Cf. John 15:4-5)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!