REJOICE!!!

Joel 2:23 (NIV)

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

Rejoice in the Lord your God! As I read that phrase … my thoughts wandered over the past several weeks and months.  I had to ask myself, have I rejoiced in the Lord my God?  In the midst of trials and troubles … as pandemic restrictions and cultural chaos continue in our nation and around the world … have I stopped a moment to intentionally rejoice in the Lord? The word rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight.  I have to admit that I have not “felt” great joy or delight lately when I look at the tribulation in the world around me.  But maybe that is the point.  Perhaps, I’m looking at the wrong things.  Maybe my focus should be on something that does bring excitement, joy, and delight to the heart….

The Apostle Paul urges us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” And I love the context in which we find this encouragement:

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsWhatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I think there is a message here for us.  Do not be anxious about anything; rather, we should take our cares and concerns to God in prayer with thanksgiving. One might ask, “Why with thanksgiving before you even know the outcome or answer to the prayer?”  Well, think about what God has already done in your life….  Consider His faithfulness!  He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Yes, we should think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.  We should set our minds and hearts on God and the love He lavishes on us through Christ Jesus!

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Quoting Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Oh, we have so many reasons to rejoice in the Lord!  From A to Z we can rejoice in Him:

Rejoice in His abundance.

Rejoice in His anointing.

Rejoice in His atonement.

Rejoice in His authority.

Rejoice in His baptism.

Rejoice in His beauty.

Rejoice in His blessing.

Rejoice in His calling.

Rejoice in His comfort.

Rejoice in His compassion.

Rejoice in His covenant.

Rejoice in His creation.

Rejoice in His cross.

Rejoice in His deliverance.

Rejoice in His discipline.

Rejoice in His election.

Rejoice in His encouragement.

Rejoice in His eternal life.

Rejoice in His faithfulness.

Rejoice in His forgiveness.

Rejoice in His freedom.

Rejoice in His gentleness.

Rejoice in His gifts.

Rejoice in His glory.

Rejoice in His grace.

Rejoice in His healing.

Rejoice in His holiness.

Rejoice in His intercession.

Rejoice in His intimacy.

Rejoice in His justice.

Rejoice in His kindness.

Rejoice in His kingdom.

Rejoice in His liberty.

Rejoice in His life.

Rejoice in His light.

Rejoice in His longsuffering.

Rejoice in His love.

Rejoice in His mercy.

Rejoice in His name.

Rejoice in His omnipotence.

Rejoice in His omniscience.

Rejoice in His peace.

Rejoice in His presence.

Rejoice in His promises.

Rejoice in His protection.

Rejoice in His provision.

Rejoice in His purpose.

Rejoice in His quiet.

Rejoice in His redemption.

Rejoice in His restoration.

Rejoice in His resurrection.

Rejoice in His righteousness.

Rejoice in His sacrifice.

Rejoice in His salvation.

Rejoice in His sovereignty.

Rejoice in His testimony.

Rejoice in His truth.

Rejoice in His unity.

Rejoice in His victory.

Rejoice in His wisdom.

Rejoice in His word.

Rejoice in His yoke.

Rejoice in His zeal.

So, perhaps, we should spend less time on what we see … and rejoice in who we know.  He is everything that matters most.  So, again I say, Rejoice!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

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!

God Is Love.

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

I think most people today just really have a hard time understanding and accepting an eternal truth God has been speaking into His creation – HIS LOVE!  There are folks who give little thought to our Creator much less His Being or His nature.  But the Apostle John, an eyewitness and beloved disciple of Jesus, shares with us His encounter and experience with the love of God. Let’s read our verse in the surrounding context:

1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 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.

So what we find here is the foundation on which love itself rests: GOD.  We cannot see love any more than we can see God, but we see the purpose of love and how that is manifested in our human experience. We cannot see love any more than we can see the wind, yet we can observe its effect and know that it is just as real as something we can see. My point is that we might need to understand love more as a spiritual phenomenon rather than a physical one. Why?  Because the Word of God declares to us both truths about the nature of God: God is Spirit (John 4:24) and God is Love (Cf. 1 John 4:8,16). These are the core of His Being and what the Father has chosen to reveal to us. Oh, I pray that we will come to the knowledge that love is to become the core of our own being in Christ. Read Verse 17 again:This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”

Yes, love is completed … it is perfected in those who become the visible love of God in this world. As the Body of Christ in this world, we are appointed to be like Jesus. We are conformed to His image through the power of His love for us.  As Verse 19 above asserts: “We love because He first loved us.”  Until we encounter the love of God through Christ Jesus, we cannot complete His love in the world. Perhaps this is why Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The blood of Jesus atones for us … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And, “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.” (Romans 12:1) Without faith in the finish work of Jesus on the cross, we will not come to know or embrace what He taught us: “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Indeed, we know love when we know Jesus….

So, I will pray over us (as Paul did the Ephesians) that the love of God sent to abide in us through His Spirit will bring us to the fullness of love that He desires to be completed in each believer:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Like-Minded…

Philippians 2:1-2 (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.

Although Jesus has called us out of the world … believers are authorized and commissioned to be in the world as His Body.  We, the Church, are saved to serve … to be the eyes and ears, hands and feet, heart and mind of Christ in this world.  In order to fulfill our role, Paul admonishes us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world; but rather, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Cf. Romans 12:2) And so, our verse today reminds us that being united as believers in Christ changes us and how we relate to one another. What we have received from Him is to be shared in a spirit of unity through the bonds of love and peace. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3) The Apostle Peter urges believers to be like minded … to be sympathetic … to love another and to be compassionate and humble just as our Lord Jesus. (Cf. 1 Peter 3:8) Whatever blessings we receive through abiding in Christ Jesus, we are to share those same blessings with others.  Unity is a testimony to our faith, and God the Father is glorified through the fruit we bear. (Cf. John 15:8)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3:28

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Life Preserver…

Psalm 119:93 (NIV)

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.

We fight this battle all the time … the struggle with doubt … the sin of unbelief.  We question if there is absolute truth … truth that we can fully trust.  And it is easy to succumb to the influence and demonic lies of the enemy … especially when we observe a world in chaos and where the suffering of people abounds. We might ask, “Where are you, God?” “Where are you when we need your help?” And if we neglect to consult the Word of God for answers to these questions, we will reach wrong conclusions and continue to wander in anxiety and fear.

Our verse today affirms that the Word of God is the source of all truth … truth that is able to sustain and preserve our lives.  We are advised to read it often … to memorize it … to implant it in our minds and hearts. For when we know and embrace its certainty, we will not be swayed or distracted by the uncertainty that we experience in this world.  As Jesus affirmed, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Cf. Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3) So, where is God now in our time of trouble? David declared this truth: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Cf. Psalm 46:1) Yes, God is ever-present! He has said, “Never, will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Cf. Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 1:5) I am reminded of what Paul wrote concerning the love of Christ as the anchor for our faith:

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

35 Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Think about what Paul is saying here. We are to expect challenges and hardships to occur in our lives. They are inevitable as long as we live in this fallen world.  But none of the things that God allows under His sovereign will diminishes His love for us. They are used to develop and strengthen our faith in Him. I think above all things, we need to trust the love of God! If we ever doubt His love, we make ourselves vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.  We will not always understand how God works in our lives or in the circumstances that He allows, but I believe we can be assured that whatever happens is in accordance with His perfect love. And that is why we need to know the Word of God … to know His will for us … to receive the salvation He has provided through His Son, Jesus. In Jesus, our lives are preserved for eternity! Indeed, Jesus is the ever-present help in time of trouble.  We simply need to cry out to Him. As David wrote: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Cf. Psalm 34:17)

One Final Thought:

How God delivers us from our troubles may not always be how we think He should do it.  It is not up to us to make God’s decisions for Him nor should we even desire to do so.  We do not have His knowledge or the ability to know eventual outcomes. Remember, only He knows the end from the beginning.  And so we have to trust that whatever happens is in accordance with His loving will for us who love Him.  That is what faith is all about. That is why it is important to know His Word … for by it our lives are preserved.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Ah, Sovereign Lord…

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

Sometimes when we are feeling powerless … when we feel the world is out of control … when we fall into despair or hopelessness; we need a reminder that God is in control.  The Prophet Jeremiah gives us a word of encouragement that our Heavenly Father is sovereign … He possesses supreme, ultimate authority, power, and dominion!  As Jeremiah notes, the Sovereign Lord … the Almighty God … is Creator of heaven and earth!  He created all things, and by His will they were created and have their being. (Cf. Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11) So there is nothing too difficult or impossible for Him!

If we truly believe God is sovereign, then why do we become anxious? Why do we fret or worry about the turbulent times in which we live? Jesus told us not to be anxious about our lives; rather, He challenged us to have faith in God … to believe Him … and to trust in His love. He taught us to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and then all of the things that He knows we need for life will be added to us. (Cf. Matthew 6:25-33; Luke 12:22-31) And it is that KINGDOM … established under the sovereignty of a loving Father that we are challenged to seek and enter. So, if we waiver to believe the One who created us in His own image and for His own glory, how will we ever come to trust that He will take care of us and our needs? And then another question comes to mind: Why would we ever impose “limits” on what Almighty God has promised to do or how He determines to exercise His sovereign will? Do we really think that we have that ability?  Yet, when we attempt to diminish the sovereignty of God over us; this act of human arrogance inhibits the exercise of faith as well as ability to receive the fullness of all that God has given us for life….

I’m going to express a thought here that might provide an explanation to this conundrum. My thought is that we tend to suppress the power of God in our lives because we continue to question or doubt the depth and sincerity of His covenant of love with us. And I surmise this doubt most likely stems from the knowledge of our own sinfulness … our lapses in holiness … our failures and imperfection. So we judge ourselves to be unworthy of God’s love, and this self-condemnation is fueled by our sense of guilt and shame because we have transgressed His covenant. So the Accuser, Satan, seizes the opportunity to oppress us because he wants to fully convince us that we are not worthy of God’s love … not worthy of His forgiveness … not worthy of His provision for our lives. And if we continue to listen to that voice, we will become anxious and fearful as we lose sight of God’s covenant of love with us. We attempt to hide our disobedience; to make our own covering for the guilt and shame; and then withdraw ourselves from the holy presence of God just as Adam and Eve did. (Cf. Genesis 3:1-11)

If this is a place where you or I should find ourselves, then I pray we would remember the TRUTH that the Sovereign Lord has declared in His Word. For Jesus told us that Satan is a liar! (Cf. John 8:44) So, here is the truth about God’s love we need to embrace: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:4-5) “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Indeed, we must hear and embrace the voice of truth in order to know that all things are possible with God…. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul, when praying for the church at Ephesus, shared this perspective for believers:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Indeed, it is imperative that we comprehend, along with all believers, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  It is necessary to know this love that surpasses knowledge … so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God … so that He may abide in us!  For when we are filled with all the fullness of God, His power is at work within us … enabling us to keep His commandments and to abide in His love. (Cf. John 15:10) I firmly believe that when we abide in the love of God through Christ, we will not question or doubt His love for us. Therefore, we will not be anxious about our lives or His desire to give us the Kingdom (Cf. Luke 12:32); rather, His love will strengthen us to accomplish even more than we could immeasurably ask or imagine. Yes, when God’s fullness … His power … is at work within us, we will be bold and courageous! We will not be anxious or doubt! We will not be timid or live in fear! Instead, we will advance the Kingdom of God – which is the purpose for which we were called to salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen….

Remember, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1:6

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!

The Love of Christ

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We have studied this Verse of the Day in recent weeks; so I will just put a larger portion of the passage out there for our consideration.  It really becomes a beautiful prayer of Paul for the Ephesian believers; and I like the deep messages it conveys regarding God’s purposes and Christ’s love. 

Ephesians 3:7-21 (NIV)

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Him (Jesus) and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Indeed, each of us is a servant of the Gospel by the gift of God’s grace … through the working of His power.  We may not feel qualified, but His grace indeed qualifies each of us.  Through the CHURCH, God intends for His wisdom to be made known – to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  You see, your life of faith in the Body of Christ impacts the heavenly realms as much as it does here on earth.  What God has accomplished IN Christ Jesus our Lord is what we have been called by His grace to declare … with our mouths, but more importantly, with our lives.  And so Paul prays for believers to be strengthen with power through His Spirit in our inner beings.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) It is through the power of His Spirit that we know the deep love of Christ … a love that surpasses knowledge … a love that imparts the fullness of God to those who believe in Him!

Yes, to know the love of God through Christ Jesus is the greatest grace of all!  It is available! It is receivable! It changes the hearts of those encountered! God is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine.  Yes, we are more than adequately equipped through His grace to be servants of the Gospel!  Christ Jesus dwelling in our hearts is more than sufficient!  So, I pray we will let the intent of His great love empower us for service….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!