Indebted To Love

Although pilgrims in an alien land, we still must depend on those offices and laws that are part of this land. We own property according the rules that govern. We have the privileges that enable us to freely go about our daily business; although some of the these are being threatened. According to the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 13:1-7 we must, while citizens here, live in respect and obedience, knowing that all is under the rule of our mighty God and King; and all things work for good to those who are His. Many Christians have problems with paying taxes and respecting those who rule over us. If we look back to Matthew 17:24 and Mark 12:13-17 we get a clear picture from our Lord Jesus Christ of this duty to earthly authorities.

In Romans 13:8-19 we see the great debt that we owe. This debt is much greater than any physical debt that requires our respect and our money. The comparison takes us beyond the scale of even our nation’s debt. To owe nothing but to love each other seems a simple thing; and an easy thing to do. But, when we contemplate the true meaning of this debt we see that it is a debt that we cannot pay. We are not able, even as Christians, to love, as we ought. The first commandment, “to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength” is the commandment that we all break.

As I meditated on these verses after hearing our pastor’s sermon on this passage there was a realization that the love that we owe is like money that we don’t have.  To love as we are commanded to love requires a source beyond our own ability, is exhaustive, and one that supplies us every moment, every day. This only comes from a heavenly Father who loves, through His Son who came to give us this love, and His Holy Spirit who works this love through us supernaturally.

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New Love, True Love,
There is much in this world that is called love. The sons of God exhibit a different love that the world can never know except as they see it in us. We truly love, as we know this love, received by the power of the Holy Spirit. The new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26) are filled with this love.

In Christ this love is the expression of eternal life. It is the living water springing up within us to everlasting life. (John 4:10, 14)

By the birth of the Holy Spirit love, it is the flow of rivers of living water. (John 3:3; 7:38-39)

How can we not love, if we are recipients of God’s love?
The power of the gospel that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:16-17 is the power that saves us from the power of oppression, anger, and hate. The obedience of faith is the proof of God’s saving power ~ proof of our salvation ~ working in and through us. The righteousness that comes by faith expresses itself in all that we receive, beginning with the first fruit of the Spirit ~ Love.

The power of the gospel was first expressed in the omnipotent love that transcended the heavens and the earth; coming down in the form of God’s Son. Giving Him as our means of new life, through His righteous life and perfect obedience, we receive in faith the power of this love to love as He loved. It is not our own. We cannot pay what we do not have. “To love” begins with loving God and “loving each other.” He was writing to the Roman believers. Only believers can understand and express this love.

Resource
We must examine our resources. Many buy, in extravagance, things they do not have money to pay. We think, perhaps, that we have the resources of love that are commanded of us when in essence our hearts are bone dry, lacking the resources that we need.
It grieves my heart to think that those who claim the love of Christ, His suffering and His sacrifice show no sign of His love in their hearts and lives.

We are called to His Word to daily receive the abundance of love that is needed to live in this world. It is the resource that will lead us through this wilderness to the Paradise that is promised to those who are loved of God.

Do you know this love? Do you testify to it daily in your relationship to the heavenly Father? Does this love flow from a new and daily replenished heart and soul? Do you love freely in Christ; or do you hold resentments against others?

Paul in the latter part of this chapter points out the need to awaken; to cast off the works of darkness; to put on the armor of light. He lists the natural character of the citizens of this world, including quarreling and jealousy, which are the opposite of faith and love.

But, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (vs.14)

 There is a difference in the nature of the world and the kingdom of God. The love of Christ is the proof in us ~ Christ in you, the hope of glory ~ the witness of God’s love in us, that we are born of His kingdom. Love is His nature and practice in this world in preparation for the next. Both John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 speak of this love.

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,”

 “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

 Dear Father, prove your love to us, in and through us. Make the light of your love the brightest, the greatest, and most powerful thing in each of us. This true love would light up this world. Thank you for the power of your love in us, through us, and to others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

“O, The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus”

Sheet Music

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Not Enough Time For Me

sand-clock_thumb[1]The original thought was, “There is not enough time for me to write all that I want to write about God’s love, His goodness, His mercy and His grace. Even if I lived to be a hundred, time would not be adequate.”

The words “not enough time for me” stood out, as a meaning beyond what I was originally thinking. And here’s the meaning. If I am to serve Him, and fulfill His purpose for my creation and redemption it will take all my time. There is no time left for me if He is to do all His will and complete His work in me.

Jesus, in response to Mary when she and Joseph found Him at the age of twelve, conversing with the religious leaders, said, “Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) He knew His purpose for being here, in word and deed ~ “to proclaim and bring to reality the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43).  He had only thirty-three years, yet every minute counted for our justification, sanctification and glorification.

Wasted Time
As I experience these last years and see how close I am to the end of this life there is a stark realization that a lot of my time has been wasted on me. But, the Lord has been gracious to fill my life with the needs of others, not leaving much time for me. Even in my weakness He is able to make life count for Him. Nothing is wasted, but He will bring all to His own glory, as we realize the true joy in service to Him and others.

He is continuing to teach me to be content with what He is doing in my life and the lives of others, though I wish I could do more. I am still learning what it means to lose my life and to have true life.   Anyone who has been born of His Spirit can witness that writing about Him, proclaiming His kingdom, praising Him and serving is never enough. We long to see Him, to serve Him, and worship Him without hindrance from anything in ourselves.  What a glorious day that will be.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Mark 8:35

Heavenly Father, thank you that you will complete the work you have begun in each of us.  In Jesus’ name I thank you and praise you.  Amen.

The Foot of the Cross ~ Ground Zero

Scan 142190000As Jesus was crucified the Jewish leaders looked up and ridiculed Him. He looked down and said, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.” By His death He was proving how desperate was man’s condition, with no means of escaping His Father’s wrath, except by a sacrifice given on their part. The purpose was that through Him a pardon would be provided, and eternal life given to those who would believe the “good news” (the gospel) and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

Even as the Jews were in that day thinking they were privileged just by being a Jew, there are people, Jew and Gentile alike, who do not believe; who are blinded to their own sin. Jews, then and now, still hold to their own traditions, thinking that they have the advantage over other nations without the need of a Savior. There are even those in the church, having grown up with Christian parents or with an infant baptism, who are lacking the righteousness by faith that is required for salvation.

Abraham, the Law and Circumcision
In Romans 3 Paul continues to drive home the point that all stand condemned as sinners under the wrath of God. He has stressed the depravity of all mankind; the power of this depravity in oppression and sin, to the extent of denying that which is natural to all mankind. Now Paul addresses the Jews in particular who suppose that their advantage of being children of Abraham, having the law and circumcision, exempts them from the need of faith.   Although Abraham was their “father,” the “father of faith” to whom the promises of the everlasting covenant for all nations was given ~ who came before the law and circumcision ~ they are relying on their position as Jews for their status before God. They are depending on their own righteousness; yet they proved that none could keep the law.

Paul is saying, “No, having the law and circumcision will not save you from your sins, and the wrath of God.” “There is none righteous before God.” “All have sinned” and fallen short of the expectations of God; none can keep His law and live up to His righteousness and glory. Only one has done that; and in so doing able to give His life a ransom; dying so as to be a propitiation for our sins; appeasing the wrath of God, and so taking away the death penalty that we justly deserve.

He is continuing to build upon the necessity for faith in the gospel; the good news is to be believed. God’s word is to be accepted as true. Jesus’ life, His sacrifice, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father are all His work on our part. No matter how hard we try we can never keep the whole law; but He did it on our behalf. Faith in Jesus Christ and His work on our part is our means of laying hold of His righteousness, our justification and our eternal salvation.

The law is meant to show how far we are from the kingdom of God. The rules of His kingdom are more than anyone here on this earth is able to keep. The law convicts us of our sin, which Paul said was meant to be our schoolmaster until Christ came.

imagesimagesThe Law and the Gospel Now we have the law and the gospel, the bad news and the good news. (My notes on the Book of Romans as our pastor is preaching through it are meant to help me to sort out the gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ; what it means to me; and how I can document what I am still learning of the phenomena of the Christian faith; a phenomena that requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, and none of my own.)

The work of God’s Spirit is to use the law to convict us of our sin. Had we been there in Jesus’ day we would have been part of the multitude that shouted, “Crucify him.” As a Jew we would have probably mocked Him and spit on Him. But, now we also have the gospel, which the Holy Spirit uses to convict us of the forgiveness and righteousness that is ours in Jesus Christ.

imagesThe Cross ~ The Ladder
The power of the gospel brings us to the foot of the cross, the place where man is stripped away of all pretension, pride and unbelief. In Christ we see the righteousness of God given to us, “justified by His grace as a gift; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26

In Luke 12:49 Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” On the cross He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus’ work on the cross brought to shambles every idea that man has concerning his own righteousness before God. Our good works become ashes at His feet.

Jesus told Nathaniel that because he believed he would see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (John 1:51) The first rung of that ladder for us is faith. In response to His revelation and regeneration (new birth), with a new heart we come in repentance to the cross of Jesus Christ believing the good news of our righteousness in Him. There is where His blood, His life, covered all the sins of those who believe in Him.

There, when we realize what took place, we will as “all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle” leave the ashes of our own ideas and works. We will in humility, as they “returned home beating their breasts” live in the reality of what our sins cost our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We will not, as some, throw out the law; but, by His grace, we “establish the law” as God’s first means of our understanding the need for the gospel. We see it as God’s rule for life, the standard of His kingdom, which He is building within each of us as He is conforming us to the image of His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ ~ that image, that standard, will be complete and perfect when He brings us into His final glory. Now, it is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path as we continue in obedience of faith toward our final goal in Christ.

Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We praise you for your law on which we meditate day and night, seeking your kingdom and your righteousness that is in Christ, by faith in Him alone.  Thank you for the authority of your word commanded in us by the power of your Holy Spirit, shining that light into our hearts, convicting us of our sin and the salvation that by grace is given to us.  Thank you that it does not depend on anything we can do, but that all has been done in Christ for us. Open our hearts to Him, today.  Let us see Him; enable us in humility and faith to follow and obey.  In Jesus’ name I pray and praise you.  Amen

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The Path to Glory

The path to heaven and eternal glory with God, which is presented by some today, is unreal.  Even in the name of Christianity most of it is only “hype.” Another four-letter word that I see plastered all over the Internet describes how people feel about what they read and hear.  The apostle Paul used the word “dung” (which is more graceful) to describe the things in this world, things that have no link to heavenly things, but are simply earthly.  Compared to the real thing they are but waste, worth nothing.

But in order to get past the earthly, and the dung, we have to address it.  It is a reality.  We have to see it for what it is, and know how to deal with it.   How do we know what we are dealing with, and how do we get through it.  It is all part of the understanding of the path that God calls us to.

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory
by Christ Jesus,
after that ye have suffered a while,
make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
1 Peter 5:10

The path to glory, by some, is paved with good intentions.  When the veneer cracks and crumbles they and their followers, like the Kohathites, (Numbers 16:32) will be swallowed up.  They want people to be a part of their ministry and so they make everything inviting; promising comfort and ease in joining their ranks.  Some hope for others a good life and try to make it look easy for them.  They have not yet understood, nor can they lead others in this path.

This path is not a “glory path” here on this earth. God, our heavenly Father does not promise us a path back to the Garden of Eden, but one that leads to Gethsemane.

Hidden and Narrow

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,  because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”
Matthew 11:25

It is a hidden path.  Only those to whom the Father reveals the Son and draws them to Him will find the path. (John 6:44-45)  It is always in following Him that He leads us to it.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate,
and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction,
and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life,
and few there be that find it.”
Matthew 7:13=14

The path begins through a gate so slim that we can take nothing with us.  More so, there is a compression of all that we are that enables us to get through.  Humility, faith, and repentance empty us of our baggage, and shrink us to the size we need to be.

It is a narrow path.  This is the path that Jesus describes to his disciples.

He says that only a few will come to Him. The multitudes won’t lead us to it. The crowded path leads to destruction. The path to glory is not a wide path, but one that we most often will have to walk alone; not that others are not on the path, but there are times when they will not understand what we are dealing with or going through.  We may be too slow for them; we only get in their way. For the most part, only Christ can understand and lead us through.

Not Our Choosing

It is never the path we would choose for ourselves.  We would choose the easier way, but if we are to follow Christ it must be His way or not at all.  This is why many cannot find, know, or walk this path here on earth.  We must know our calling in Christ to be one of suffering and sacrifice for His name’s sake—for “righteousness’ sake.”

It is a walking path, not a bike lane or busy highway; we have no vehicle, only feet and body for the endurance; for proving of His own grace and power in our perseverance.

What God teaches us is — the path to His glory is difficult.  He has said it; and His saints are witnesses to the fact and experience that it is a struggle to endure the pains and trials of the Christian life.  It does not get easier as we get older; we simply require more of God’s grace and strength.

Steep, Rocky, and Dark

The path is steep, sometimes turning like a spiral, leading round and round, onward and upward. It is rocky; it seems that things are literally thrown into the path.  There we stumble and oftentimes we fall—right into the dung. There are times when it seems that we cannot take another step; our arms get so tired; or when we can no longer walk, the wheels on our chair get bogged down and won’t turn.

It is sometimes dark, with only the Word of God as a “light for our path, and a lamp for our feet.” It can lead to the mountains, where the sky is the bluest; the air is the freshest, and the aroma as heavenly as the very presence of God.  Other times it leads to the valley, or through a tunnel where all that we have is a glimpse of light at the end; other times we are led into a cave where all is black, and the only thing we can do is sit still, and wait.

Unless you are on the path that we describe, and you know the purpose in all your struggles, and striving, stop and examine where you are.  Stay with us for Part 2 to look at the promises that are posted on this path to encourage us and bring us gracefully, triumphantly, and gloriously into the presence of God, the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, here and for eternity.

“Confirming the souls of the disciples,
and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Acts 14:22

Capsules and Nutshells

Certain pills when swallowed can cause death.  Are there capsules that contain the ingredients for life?   Is there simple meat “in a nutshell”  that when eaten, cause us to want more?  Are there concentrated truths in God’s Word that establish a pattern, and prove our salvation?

The writer of the book of Hebrews said that God had spoken in the past  through the prophets, but in the last days He had spoken to us through His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

“There are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.  (John 21:25 ESV)

Jesus’ said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Here are a few time-tested words from the Lord Jesus Christ.

                   “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  Matthew 6:33

                    “If you abide (continue-KJV) in my word you are truly my disciples,

                                     and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

                   “Pray then, like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”  Matthew 6:9

                   “Ask the Father….for the Holy Spirit.”  (See Luke 11:9-13)

His Spirit is the “living water” that dissolves the capsule of His Word, and spreads the contents through our hearts and into our lives.  His Spirit is the power of God to break open the nutshell and reveal the meat of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep us seeking, abiding, praying, asking for more, and growing thereby—for the Father’s glory and our joy.

Chrysostom ~ concerning God’s Word:  “It is not the word of man, but of the Holy Spirit, and the least syllable of it contains a hidden treasure.”

Father, open our hearts to receive the truths and life that are in your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In His name we ask.  Amen