Monday, February 28, 2011

The Person who Loves God is the one whom God recognizes.

1Cor. 8:3-13 NLT 
   3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.    
   4  So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. 5 There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. 6 But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life. 
   7  However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. 8 It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. 
   9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 10 For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge” —eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 11 So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. 12 And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. 13 So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

There is a huge principle in this passage that reveals a truth about holy living. Living holy is all about living in the power and presence of our most holy Lord and God-- THE God. There is none other than God. And our Lord is God, and our Holy Spirit is God, who now resides within us as He promised through Jesus two thousand years ago. People often ask me is it is all right for a Christian to do this or do that-- things that are not specific to the directives in the Bible. There is the matter of consuming alcohol. The Bible does not tell us not to but many evangelical Christians make it a church guide or rule to abstain. Yet Jesus made wine in the Bible as a miracle, some tell me.  The issue is not to drink it because alcohol is inherently bad.  The issue is to consider how my use of the alcohol might impact another.

Paul said that strong believers all knew there is only the ONE God and that all false idols were nothing but sticks and stones. So eating food that had been a part of a barbecue to honor that stick or stone was nothing to him, not a problem at all.  It did nothing harmful to the meat to barbecue it in front of a stick that some people were calling an idol. He was free. Paul went so far as to point out that for us who are in Christ, "all things are lawful." The caveat, however was that though lawful for us, not all things are expedient. Then Paul pointed out that there are those who watch us and are influenced by what they see us do. They will feel free to engage in things they think we are engaging in. So, if the weaker brother or sister saw us eating that idol-worship meat, he might wrongly conclude that it was OK to worship a false God along with worshipping a real one. He might not even bother to ask us about it and, thus, our example would lead someone in a negative path.

God used this passage in my life when my children were young to convince me that it was not expedient for me to drink alcohol. It would not be a sin for me to drink it, but it was not expedient. Why? Because alcohol is the cause of the most crime in our world. Because alcohol is the single influence that destroys most families in our society. Thus, should my children see me use this dangerous substance and should they be among the percentage of persons biologically attuned to addiction to this substance, my influence could destroy their life. Knowing this, and choosing to exercise that particular freedom anyway-- that would be my sin.

The same is true of many other things that there are no actual scriptural prohibitions about but that faithful Christians choose to exercise restraint over. The good news is that the most destructive behaviors are covered in scripture, We all know about the adultery, fornication, stealing, violence, murder, dishonoring of parents, etc. We all know about keeping God first and foremost and doing His will ahead of our own. We all know about it-- though we may not be as faithful in living by those standards as we might wish.

By turning this scripture around in our lives and embedding it, we can extract the principal that Jesus taught. He taught us to do all we do in ways that glorify God. He taught us to treat other people the way we want to be treated, regardless of how they actually do treat us. He taught us many things and went one step further. He actually made it possible to invest His Spirit into our nature so we could receive the power to live by His standards rather than the world's standards.

Your servant in the Love of God

Friday, February 25, 2011

Honor God with Your Whole Body

1Cor. 6:9-20 NLT  
   9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 
   12 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 13 You say, “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.” (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. 
   15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! 16 And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” 17 But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. 
   18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

I overheard a conversation about how terrible the society was these days. Then the conversants proceeded to identify the violence around the world, the obsession with perverse sexuality, the obsession with addictive experiences and such. It occurred to me that what they were discussing was with us always. Since the fall humanity has lived as a fallen race. We have fallen into sin. Sin is the obsession with self over God. Anything the individual desires becomes first, regardless of who it harms or of whether God wants it or not. In fact, God is left out of consideration totally. But these are not the actions of Christ-followers, are they?

They should not be, though we certainly have to recognize that our church pews are filled with people claiming Christianity but engaged in the same behaviors as those lost in the world. And this was the case back when Paul wrote the Christians at Corinth in AD 60. They had come from a very fallen people as well and they struggled with residue of their fallenness in their church, just like we do in our churches today. Yet they dared to claim they were more spiritual than others who were Christians. Anytime you or I find ourselves reporting ourselves as better, somehow, than another brother or sister, we must watch out for an attack upon our Spiritual life has begun. We are not to look at how much better we are or are not than another. We are simply to look at what God requires of His people and seek His grace so we can live that way. And we should seek His grace so we can coach others to live that way-- doing so in unconditional love. The key is that we must honor God in all we do.

Your servant in Christ's Grace

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Continue Building on the ONE Foundation-- Jesus Christ

1Cor. 3:11-20 NLT 
   11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. 12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. 
   16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 
   18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,
     “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20  And again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”

I stopped into my favorite barbershop today to get a haircut. Two of my barber friends were going at their usual heated discussion, while trying to cut customer's hair. They were animated and emotionally reciting the virtues of the Catholic faith as the 'only' faith, versus the protestant faith, particularly evangelical brands of protestantism.  One customer, who had just finished telling the barber (and us) that he had nearly died in the hospital last month, made a telling response!  "Now I know I am alive and well-- when I can come into a barbershop in America and hear an enthusiastic theological debate!"  All laughed and the two debating barbers went on.  As I paid for my haircut and waived to my three barber friends, the one who had cut my hair waived back, while the other two were pointing their clippers at each other shouting over one another. I shuddered to think what any non-believing customers waiting there might be thinking about us Christians who can't seem to get our unity straight and who insist on tearing each other down. Truth is, neither of my friends were correct. There is not a Catholic or a Protestant foundation. There is not a Baptist or a Presbyterian foundation. There is not a Nazarene or a Methodist foundation. There is just Christ-- the ONLY foundation!

We get ourselves into trouble when we expand the definition of the body of Christ beyond what we clearly read in scripture. We may not add qualifications to membership in the body of Christ that Jesus and the Father did not create. There is just faith in Christ alone, that He is God, is Savior, is Lord over all things, united in the Holy Trinity with the Father and the Spirit. There is just trust and obedience to Him alone, not to religious leaders, labels, or laureates. God's 'temple' is not at any particular street corner or in any one of our homes or identifiable church buildings. God's temple is in the world-wide collective heart/minds and souls of all those Christ-followers who totally trust in Him alone. 

While my barber friends had stacked up reference books and pamphlets to support their never-ending debate positions, the wisdom of humanity does not stand up against the fire of testing. When we accept and rely upon Scripture and God's Holy Spirit alone, then we find true wisdom. When we simply present Christ, crucified, died, resurrected, and ascended, and returning again to collect His church-- then we do well.No need to debate or argue, to shout or gesticulate. Just tell Christ's story alone and allow the Holy Spirit to do the convincing and convicting. We are not convincers-- we are just the tellers of the story. God is the convictor and convincer.  God is the one building the church. Sometimes he uses us but usually that is just because he is kindly permitting us to have a role in the process. We are the workers being sent at His bidding into the harvest fields. Go in peace and cooperation with others of the body, not in conflict.
Your servant in Christ's Call

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No one can lay any foundation other than. . . .Jesus Christ.

 1 Corinthians 3:1-11 NLT
   1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? 
   5  After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. 
  10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

God has ordained all members of Christ's body-- the Church-- to become humble servants to others and bearers of Christ's image as a testimony to the Christless world. The enemy of God, however, has tricked us into competing with each other. We try to out-promote other churches. We accept people to leave one church and attend ours because they can increase our numbers and donor base, perhaps. Ministers, church leaders, church members all can be misdirected by the enemy's evil and become like these new believers in Corinth. Paul reminded them that they were still carnal, trapped in their sin nature centering on pride and arrogance. Their very church affiliation was the false idol they worshipped. Some worshipped at the name of Paul's Class. Others worshipped at the name of Apollos' Class. The ones thinking they were most spiritual claimed to be of Christ, though they looked down upon the others, revealing a very non-Christlike nature within them.

Pride, arrogance, and self-importance have no place in Christ's followers. We are to ask the Lord to help us become selfLESS instead. We are to promote Christ the Redeemer, God the Forgiver of all sin, the Holy Spirit, the nature of God willing to plant Himself within us and influence our new growth until we look, talk, and act as Jesus did and live for God's purposes rather than our own. Rather than allying ourselves with one or another of our pastors or preachers, we must align ourselves with Christ. Instead of promoting the name and organization of the particular local congregation where we are fed and equipped for ministry, we should promote ministry of the Name of Jesus Christ to everyone who does not yet know Him. Rather than criticizing the leaders and members of that 'other kind of church' we should be rejoicing that they are, like us, redeemed from sin and ready to be commissioned as God's workers.

How about you this morning? Are you yet controlled by that sinful nature of pride where names and organizational personalities are concerned? You don't have to be, you know. You can be set free from all sin, if you would just ask the Lord to do that for you and fill you with His Spirit. Are you building your new life upon the foundation of Jesus Christ alone?

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ

Monday, February 21, 2011

It was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit

1Cor. 2:10-16 NLT 
   10 [I]t was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 
   13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For, “Who can know the LORD’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Read this passage slowly and carefully. Realize that here we have internal evidence for our belief of the Bible being inspired directly by God's Holy Spirit. In verse 13 Paul tells the Corinthians--who were disputing things he had taught them and was writing them--tells them that the words he used were given directly by God. Paul was being a prophet in that he spoke words God gave him. He did not shade meanings or soften impact to meet political correctness expectations of God's opponents. He told it like God said to tell it. That is how we must speak when we share the scripture with others. The scriptures are not to be tampered with or shaded to become more palatable to non-believers. They are what they are and they say what they say. When we speak Scriptures then we are speaking the mind of God.  Other religions cannot say that their scriptures are the mind of any other deity they may declare. Only in Judeo Christian heritage do we have the written Word of God speaking His mind to all humanity (vs 15).

God's Spirit shows His obedient followers the deep secrets. Non-believers reading the Bible will probably not see what you and I see in the same passages and pages, even when we show them. Until they come to a point of faith believing in Christ, their eyes will not be able to fully penetrate God's message in the Bible's pages. Should they pray for faith before reading, then God will respond to them as He does to us. But without such a step, the pages of the Bible do sound sort of foolish to them (vs 14). One other thing to notice in verse 14 is this. Why are you fretting about how non-spiritual people might evaluate you? They cannot evaluate you because they cannot understand you. You can evaluate them because you have the Spirit of God to guide your evaluations, but they are not capable of evaluating you. Think about that. It should bring you great peace.

Your servant in Christ's thoughts

Thursday, February 17, 2011

No mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him!

1Cor. 2:1 NLT 
   1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 
   6 Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard,  and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Humility-- this is a hard lesson for believers to truly internalize. It seams that pressure comes upon us, even in our Christian living, to 'stand out' or to be noticed.  It seems that if we are preachers we want to be known as 'great preachers.'  It seems that if we are teachers we seek to be recognized as 'great teachers.' It seems that if we are leaders, we want our name known far and wide. We have a hard time going through our Christian responsibilities and remaining unknown, unseen, unregarded except by God. Paul, by volume of his writing and missionary outreach was arguable 'the greatest apostle' yet he called himself "the least of the apostles."

He describes to the believers at Corinth--who were having a distinct problem grasping and applying the concept of humility-- he described to them how humble his approach was and then explains why he did not wax eloquent as he might have were he addressing an assemblage of statesmen. His mission was that The Holy Spirit, who knows each person's heart, would speak through him. Oh my, that is my prayer when I preach, pray, or chat with someone about Christ and Christian living. Lord, let my message and my preaching be very plain. Rather than using cleaver speech, may I rely only on You in me to speak to others about you (V 4 paraphrased).  And, Lord, when I am with mature believers, help me to speak wisdom that reflects the mystery of God's plan revealed through Christ. (Verse 6 paraphrased).

We speak thusly with each other because the world's rulers do not understand what we say unless they, too, are indwelt with God's Holy Spirit through their unconditional faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must try to share Christ's wisdom with today's rulers, however, because they make decisions that impact millions of people. And if they continue to make decisions informed by sin and arrogance, then they will do harm. Should they discover the peace of Christ then they will discover that they, too, are in store for themselves a joy that exceeds their largest imagining. We must minister to all who do not know Jesus, until they turn or we are taken home. That is your mission in live. How is the mission going?

Your servant in Christ's message

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish

1Cor. 1:19- 29 NLT 
   19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 
   20  So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 
   24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.  25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. 
   26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

The news and TV information shows these days are filled with passionate presentations for and against how nearly everything is being run from city governments through states, to the federal levels and all other organizations in our society. No matter what is done by whom, somebody of import seems to be against it and others of import seem to be pushing it. Conservatives bash liberals and liberals bash conservatives. Intellectuals bash nearly everyone who disagrees with them for not being as well informed or intelligent as they and the common folk make fun of the intellectuals as disconnected and disaffected with reality.  East-coasters and west coasters each bash the folks in the middle and the ones in them middle bash both coasters.

All claim to be speaking from a point of wisdom. And all of these folks bash the Biblical wisdom that any Christian dares to present into the discussion. But it is when we speak from a true Biblical perspective that we begin to approach true wisdom. Want to know "the wisdom of God?"  Check out this passage carefully. When you know Christ, then you know the wisdom of God and only then. Real wisdom only comes from God. None of us who think we are wise are truly that unless we have humbled ourselves before the Savior and Lord of the Universe, accepted His grace to cover our sin and shame, and internalized His teaching about how we live and relate to the world around us.

When we step into God's grace and walk in His wisdom that we seek from him daily through prayer and the Scripture then we will find wisdom. Then wisdom will gently overtake us and fill us throughout. Rest in His wisdom today.

Your servant in Christ's grace

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

By the Authority of our Lord. . .Live in Harmony With Each Other

1st Corinthians 1:4-13NLT
   4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9 God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
   10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” 
   13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!

Spiritual pride is a terrible enemy to the members of the Body of Christ in all local churches. Anytime we start thinking that we are 'pretty cool' as Christians go, then we are in danger of falling into the trap of pride. It will ensnare us and destroy our good testimony that came by faith in Jesus Christ alone. We deserve NO praise for anything we do-- it all goes to God because HE made the good possible in us. When another praises us we should reflect that glory back to God.  It sounds as if Paul is complimenting the Christians at Corinth here but he was not. They had written him that they were better in faith than he and knew more about Christ's truth than he did. So, Paul responds in humility quoting their own words, but then later he catches them in their own prideful trap by pointing out their gaping sinful failure as a church.

When our church IS functioning properly, it is only because "God has enriched your church in every way." God gives us spiritual gifts for the purpose of our work in the Kingdom to which HE calls us daily. He equips us with these spiritual gifts. If you feel called to a task you can trust on faith alone that God will grant you the various gifts of abilities you will need to make the right kinds of things happen when you wait upon His time table. You can trust that HE will "keep you strong to the end. . . ." Why?

We in the churches that honor Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, King of the Universe, Mighty God, Everlasting Father--we are in partnership with God. Can you believe that? God has invited us to be his Jr. partners in his firm-- the Kingdom of God.  He has entrusted us with important tasks, and called upon us to walk in his ways, imitating Christ as we go.  Therefore, among us in the body of Christ there should be unity. 

So gently Paul closes the trap from verse 1-4, and points out that pride, arrogance, hostility, and such unchristlike emotions have sullied the reputation of Christ's body there in Corinth. But Paul does not shame them, rather he simply teaches them more about the unity to be derived when we are properly joined to Christ and to each other.

How can you reinforce Christian unity with someone where it is needed today?

Your servant in Christ's unity

Monday, February 14, 2011

To take a gift to the believers there.

Rom. 15:25-33 NLT

   25 But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. 26 For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. 27 They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially. 28 As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. 29 And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together. 
   30 Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. 31 Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem. 32 Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. 
   33  And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.

Paul was the Christian World's first country hopping missionary. Everywhere he went God planted the Church and believers left in his wake. The geographical center for 'The Church' was in Jerusalem.  Believers were moving about the known world, sometimes facing trials but more often thriving. Yet believers in Jerusalem were under the thumb of the Jewish rulers and their political counterparts among Roman government. They were starving because the were being locked out of food and employment by their faithful stand for Christ.

God moved the gentile believers around the growing church of Christ-followers to reach out with compassion to their Hebrew brothers and sisters in Christ stuck in this terrible situation. Thus God replaces the social safety net that the Temple was to Jews with a social safety system collected voluntarily from compassionate Christ-like hearts around the world to sustain those of the body in greatest need. That practice has not been lost in the 21st century Body of Christ. There are physical needs today around the world that God calls us to address in His name and love. We are the hands and feet of our Lord here on earth. When you see someone in need what do you do? Do you think to ask our Lord whether He would have you show some love and compassion? Do you judge the individual for perceived past poor decisions leading to their circumstance?  When you hear of someone in the church you attend suffering a great need, do you ask the Lord if he has a role reserved for you to play in that brother or sister's life?

Paul urged the Roman Christians to join him in serving the needs of the Christian poor in Jerusalem. Where is your Jerusalem? The World Wide mission movement has been fueled through the faithful generosity of Christian Churches from America across the last two centuries but it was first sent to us by Christians in Europe. Then it became our turn. Sure there were mistakes made and money was treated as power rather than a source of Christian compassion. Sure there are 'Christian' projects in this nation and others where 'power' is the real goal and not compassion. But isn't God still calling you and me to be faithful with our resources and share compassion with the needs of others? I think so. Why not pray about that right now, today, and seek what the Lord has for you to do?

Your servant in Christ's Faithfulness

Friday, February 11, 2011

I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me

Rom. 15:13-221 NLT
    13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
   14 I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. 15 Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace, 16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. 17 So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. 18 Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. 19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum. 
   20 My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. 21 I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.”

Paul, the Apostle was responsible for a vast portion of what we call the New Testament. Also, he and close friends were the ones spreading the good news about Christ in places were other believers tended not to travel. Paul was called to this, but he was not alone. Others were as well but did not follow through nearly as much. We have the same issues today. Some women and men are faithfully teaching the Gospel wherever they go, sharing faith, and listening for the Holy Spirit to guide them to new fields where there are hearts made ready by God to hear the truth of eternal life.

Most believers quietly go to work, come home, go to work, come home, attend a worship service on Sunday, perhaps a Bible study on occasion, but are they sold out like Paul was to carry good news wherever they go. Notice in vs 13-14 he writes people he did not know and had never met but writes as an intimate friend. He encourages them to realize their full state of goodness received by faith in Christ. He reminds them of their need to teach each other. I have to stop and wonder if I am willing to teach my brothers and sisters who might wish me to do so. How?  By God's Grace (vs 15), that's how. Paul took no credit for anything he did-- and he did quit a lot!  He credited God's grace and power to make it all happen. He would tell you that all he did was to follow as obediently as he possibly could. He mentioned his enthusiasm for the positive results his ministry was having (vs 17) but follows with the recognition that it was all cause by God and none at all by Paul (vs 18).

There are preachers with well known names who gravitate to large congregations paying high salaries. There are church members who are powerful business persons, famous educators, or skilled organizational leaders who allow themselves to gravitate to those same large churches with big budgets and lots of activity going on. All the activity is usually by a paid staff ministry person and done TO the membership rather than with or through them. Paul would not want to come to those churches. Verse 20 reveals his hearts desire-- to go where no one had preached or ever heard of the name of Christ and be one to bring them their first taste of the world's greatest good news. There were-- and are-- many who just love to come along and build on what another has done and to be known for doing it more successfully than the past person. But Paul wanted to be the ground-breaker, the soil preparer, the seed planter.

How about you? How about me? What do we want in regard to where we do "ministry?" Are we willing to where the ground is hard and to rely upon the power of God to prepare the way? Are we willing to be tent-maker ministers, working by day to earn our living and by day and night to share the good news? Are we willing to turn off our TVs, put away our skis and other toys, set aside our list of home projects and ask God where we should turn to share good news? It need not be Africa or South America, you understand. It just might be right there on your block? It might be at your nearest Starbucks or other meeting place?  It might be in a small church of 50 struggling believers waiting for someone to come and cast a vision for them to become empowered by Christ.

I pray you are as challenged by this passage as I am today.

Your servant in Christ's service

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you

Rom. 15:1-12 NLT  
   1  We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. 
   5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
   7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. 8 Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. 9 He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote: “For this, I will praise you among the Gentiles;  I will sing praises to your name.” 
   10 And in another place it is written,  “Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles.” 
   11 And yet again, “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles. Praise him, all you people of the earth.” 
   12 And in another place Isaiah said, “The heir to David’s throne will come,  and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.”

We've been discussing how Paul advises the Christians in first century Rome to live holy lives by the power of God's Spirit in them. These God-inspired passages are the heart and soul of Christian living. The ideas continue in today's verses from chapter 15. It is essential that Christ-followers who are strong in their faith act in sensitive ways to new believers who are just learning the faith. It is important that we guard against being perceived as having airs of superiority about ourselves in contrast to the others around us. Now sometimes they will feel that way anyway out of their own guilt but more often than not, insensitivity by experienced believers moves them to feel that way. We must be careful not to say things that seem to sound like criticism or rejection. There must be no time when our words are taken as ridicule by another. We should not have to tell others that we love them because our actions should speak of that love in measurable ways.

Building others up-- that is what we are called to do, never to tear them down. It is not our responsibility to humble another person. If one needs humbling, in God's time HE will take care of that. And then we must be around to help pick up that humbled brother or sister and strengthen them with wisdom. And when insults come our way, we can let them pass from us to the Lord who is truly living within us and through our actions. When we don't think ourselves to be prominent or important to others then it does not matter if they do or do not recognize us. What need have we of their recognition when we have already received the supreme recognition from Creator God-- who saw fit to begin to live within us and remake us into His image.

Just like Christ accepts us, loves us without reservation or limit, and nurtures us, so we can do to others. Why? Because Christ is in us and wants to do that for them but through us. He wants to reach out to them in love using your hands, my feet, your mouth, my heart, your compassion, my perseverance. I think we should embrace all that the Lord wants to do through us, don't you?
Your servant in Christ's Acceptance

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So why do you condemn another believer?

Rom. 14:10-23 NLT  
   10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,  “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD,  ‘every knee will bend to me,  and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” 
   12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. 
   14  I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. 
   20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

After laying down the essential foundation for Christian living, Paul hits us with the ultimate question. Paul reminded us that Christ died rose again in order to bring us all into alignment with the will of God and with His nature as well. Then he asks  why we condemn other believers or look down on others who are alive to God and dead unto sin? Is it because we doubt they are believers? Is that our call? If they claim to be believers then should we show love to them as we would to  believers? Even if we disagree with their politics or philosophy, so long as they do not oppose Christ, should we not love and bless them?

The point in this passage is one of the foundational principles of the very Kingdom of God-- that this kingdom is a matter of "living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." The Kingdom of God is populated by people who have become empowered by God to serve Christ by showing to others the very attitude of Christ-- unconditional love. Thus, among Christians there is to be harmony. Even when there is strong disagreement over policy and procedure, there is to be harmony. When one perceives that harmony is being injured it is the responsibility of that very one to reach out again and promote unity whether he/she is responsible for the disuniting influence or not. When we aim for harmony they we will always be building up others. Religious policies and church traditions must never become issues that tear apart the body of Christ or cause weaker believers to stumble. We must always remember this kingdom is not about me but about HE and His love of others.

We can begin this day asking God to help us in living according to His will and for His Kingdom purposes.

Your servant in Christ's Kingdom

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue

Rom. 14:1-9 NLT  
   1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. 
   5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.

Paul, known for coming out his Pharisaical background where judging others was the way of life, brings a new message to God's followers through Christ, in first century Rome. The whole area of judging and finding reasons to look down upon (condemn) others is an outgrowth of arrogance.  Think about it. When one thinks that another is not living as s/he should then one is tempted to envision him/herself as being a step or two above that person-- as better than that person. But God did not call us out of sin to think of ourselves highly. He called us out of sin and even gives us the ability to deny sin's power over us so that we will live humbly and serve others, calling them from sin as well.

Where new believers are concerned, we are not to think of them as lower than us (or higher either). We are simply to love and serve their needs. We are to teach them when they are ready for teaching (but not before). I used to be a classroom teacher of small children. I could not teach a child to read a book like 'War and Peace' when they were still learning basic phonetic sounds and the alphabet. They were not ready. So, the new believer may not be ready to understand the 'finer points' of theology that has grown up around our belief systems. We need to let The Holy Spirit raise them up to readiness before we try to teach them about our theories of theology. And even then we must be careful to teach ONLY what the Bible teaches and leave room for differences where legitimate differences among God's well-meaning people clearly exist. So the doctrines of eating or not eating, meat or veggies, sabbath Saturday or sabbath Sunday-- the Lord's Day, special holidays or all days are worship days, holding the Lord's Supper or serving communion and doing it weekly or quarterly, all are places that are not essential for true faith. Honest believers disagree on these and many other such items. Your task and mine, is to prevent such disagreement from causing division between us and the other. And if it is we who first perceives the division then it is we who must make the re-unifying effort in reaching out to the other in love.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

Rom. 13:8-14 NLT
   Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. 
   11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

At our list look we were talking about  the power of Christ's love filling the lives of all who believe in Him. We were to take actions that freed us from debt except for owning love. We must recognize that we can never REpay all the love that has been shown to us by God through Christ our Lord. Instead we should 'pay it forward' by continuing to show love to others-- even unconditional love to those who have harmed us or whom we find unpleasant. How can we know we are loving them? We can know because see wish no harm to them, nor seek to cause them pain or difficulty in any way. We seek to bring them blessing instead.

Paul told the first century Roman Christians that the time of the 'day of salvation' would soon be there. He advised them to remove dark deeds of the past like they would dirty clothes and dress in 'shining armor.' That shining armor was right living, according to 13:12. We have a choice, according to 13:13, to "live decent lives for all to see." We have choices to NOT participate in darkness,and all of the excesses mentioned in verse 13 and that are so indicative of today's culture. We have the option dress, instead, in the "presence of the Lord Jesus Christ."  We have the choice to NOT think about evil desires-- we can dismiss them by the power of Christ in whom we choose to clothe ourselves.

Right living-- the thing that humanity always says it seeks but most rarely find-- is there before us to receive by faith through God's grace alone. Have you availed yourself of it yet? Are you continuing in it still?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Friday, February 4, 2011

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law

Rom. 13:1-10 NLT  
   1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. 
   6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. 
   8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

Paul was writing to new believers in Christ who lived at the heart of the World order, the capital city, Rome. Recently, while visiting Washington DC I had a sense that everything there was about ORDER. Even the demonstrations were planned and tightly controlled. Centers of social governance are all about order and have mechanisms for those who bring disorder. We may wonder that right now as we watch on our televisions about the disorder and rebellions being fomented all over the world. One news person, last night, was overheard to say "it's as if the world has gone crazy, like in one of those horror movies!" Disorder is certainly a form of horror.

Yet God's people are not to be people of disorder, but of peace and of order. Even when there are evil rulers giving the orders for the order, without that order there would be nothing but chaos. God had Paul write that we must submit to those rulers, even the evil ones-- except for when they prevent us from serving God. And then, we must not become proponents of disorder. We should not be hurling rocks and firebombs at national buildings, causing harm to people and property. We must simply, and quietly just do what God commands and accept whatever consequence that the evil state might bring our way. For all that is in God's hands. In the mean time, says Paul, "pay your taxes." 

Paul goes further, saying that we should pay off all our debts. What a powerful and challenging thing to say to us who are awash in credit-card debt and out of control spending habits. Even our national government has adopted these terrible habits and is spending our nation into disaster. Nevertheless, you and I can trust the Lord to help us and we can make sure that we "owe nothing to anyone" other than an obligation for mutual love. Paul brings the conversation back around to love. We are to love our neighbor. Not only if our neighbor is a sibling in our faith, but if they are next to us and are in need. That was the lesson Jesus taught in answer to the question of who is our neighbor. Our neighbor is the person within arms reach of wherever we are and who is in a need that we have a capacity to relieve.

We fulfil all God's famous commands when we 'love our neighbor.' We won't steal from, lie to, sexually abuse, or covet from someone we are loving as Christ loved us. Who is your neighbor just now, today? How are you loving your neighbor today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Conquer Evil by Doing Good.

Rom. 12:9-21 NLT  
   9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
   14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 
   17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 
   19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
     “I will take revenge;  I will pay them back,” says the LORD. 
   20  Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap  burning coals of shame on their heads.” 
   21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

What a wondrous description God gives us here, through Paul's instructions, regarding what it would look like when we 'really love' others instead of pretending to do so. It starts with our tight grasp of what truly is good, as we are guided by God within us. We reject lethargy in our service to God serving others meaningfully and with energy. Instead of it being something we feel 'constrained' to do, we will live to love others because we desire to do so. Others we meet-- especially those who say they are in the body of Christ as we are--we will bless and encourage, never judge, condemn, or criticize.  OOPS, there I go meddling again!  That old criticism bug seems to get us misspeaking about others much more than we might like to admit.

Sometimes others will cause us harm-- intentionally or inadvertently. If we are lead by love then we won't seek retribution in any form at any time. Nor will any unfortunate turn of affairs for our tormentor bring us joy. We will play for their blessing despite how we were treated by them. We leave vengeance in the hands of God, where it truly belongs. None of us knows enough about others to allow ourselves to become vengeful. So we live honorable, and repay evil with good because we have sought to hold on to 'good' (vs 9). There is a religion in the world that seeks to spread itself by killing adherents to other religions especially Christians. They claim that as being a good thing but no one agrees with them.  The 'good' that Christ leads us to do is not going to be challenged by others, they will see it as ultimate good.  In these ways we conquer evil with good rather than evil conquering us, as it does adherents to that other religion. Hate of others is antithetical to God's love. We are to only hate what is wrong, but not the people-- the deeds themselves. Hate only the deeds and love and be a blessing to the people, even those who harm you.

I pray you can find a way today to ask the Holy Spirit to bring this true love life style to full power in your life starting today.

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Give your bodies to God. . .a living and holy sacrifice.

Rom. 12:1-8NLT  
   1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 
   3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. 
   6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Here is the key-- giving ourselves over as a sacrifice to God that lives for His purposes-- brings the greatest satisfaction possible. More than living for our own personal preferences, giving up self brings rich fulfillment and does so for an eternity. Self will only marginally satisfies for a moment however.  We can only please God when we give up self. And we can only have the power to do true good when we allow God's power to do it through us. Then He changes us into something new and different from what our fallen human nature produces within us. Even then we cannot think we are good in and of ourselves-- merely that God lives within and is in the process of making us like Christ.

Paul next engages in describing how the body of believers in Christ functions like a human body-- in concert and collaboration for common ends. Because we have laid down the self-will of human nature and allowed God to build up sacrificial harmony within us we can then function together for God's greater purposes rather than for our individual ones. One of the signs this is true is when we are able to live in positive cooperation with other believers in our local congregations or among larger groups of Christians without bringing conflict. Then we each begin to exercise uniqueness in ways God equips but that are necessary for the common good of the body of believers. Then we can serve selflessly. Then we can teach well. Then we can encourage positively. Then we can give generously. Then we can led skillfully. Then we can shower appropriate and sincere kindness upon others with a genuine interest in their welfare. Are you able to exercise the 'special function' that God's Spirit is calling you to do and equipping you among other believers to do?

Let today be another such day of peace and humble service in Christ's love for others then.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?

Rom. 8:31-39 NLT
   31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 
   35  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 
   38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans Chapter 8 has to be one of the most packed-full box of sweets that the Bible contains. Verse one reminded me that I am free from any and all condemnation. Verse 28 reminded me that all the things I face have a purpose in God's will and they all converge in a greater Good somewhere sometime, regardless of how difficult they seem at a point in time. Now we see in verse 31 the wonderful truth that because God is for us, no opposition we might ever face should ever disturb us for it is nothing in comparison to God's support.  Verse 34 brings us back to the truth that we are beyond condemnation when we are in Christ. Verse 37 tells us that we have overwhelming victory!

Then there is verse 38-- Oh thank you Lord Jesus for having Paul write verse 38! Paul gives us a list of horrendous forces: angels, demons, fears, worries, powers of hell, powers from the sky or the earth, etc. He says that nothing in creation can ever separate us from God's love of those, not one nor all of them can possibly separate you or me from the Love of Christ. That love has been forever cast upon us. And we have accepted it--at least for now we are accepting of it. I shudder to think that some in the body of Christ could choose to separate themselves from Him. God won't let go of them easily but when they choose to turn back into self and sin, they risk a terrible risk. I don't know, for sure, if that could happen but the Word seems to suggest it so I know just one thing. I don't want to risk that risk. I want to remain in prayer that God will help me to stay strong in His love and His will. How about you?
Your servant in Christ's love
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