Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

Author: Dan Beaty (Page 1 of 18)

There, But By The Grace Of God Go I!

Have you ever wondered, “What was I thinking?” Probably the craziest time in my life was my teen years. I had a wonderful Christian mother and was also surrounded by sincere believers in Christ. That, however did not stop me from doing stupid things, like shoplifting, vandalism and even breaking into a store to steal from others. By God’s grace, yes, HIS GRACE, I was eventually caught and punished. Several weeks of incarceration halted my life of crime, but it would not be until several years later that I would return to the wonderful life that Christ had planned for me.

To this day I do not understand how I could have hurt my mother so. How I could embarrass my family and shame myself after all the good things I had been taught and the examples I had seen?

This experience has taught me to be cautious of how I look at others. If God had not intervened for me through the justice system, through supportive family, friends and teachers, what direction my life might have taken? These are things for which I cannot take any credit.

However this cautiousness in itself does not satisfy my concerns for the situations we as a society, a community are in. If I look at a young person whose main activity in life is exploiting other young people by hooking them on addicting chemicals, or if I see the devastation that another young man causes through terrorism, yes, I can say, “there but by God’s grace go I.” Under the same circumstances of course, that could have been me. While this realization may help me, does it help anyone else?

People need compassion and empathy, but they also need the truth. They need direction, like the direction I received as a teen. I fear that in our day we like to take the easy way out. It can be very difficult to find the balance between compassion and lovingly telling the truth. We have to start somewhere. We cannot walk in everyone elses shoes, but we do all have some things in common. We have all sinned and have come short of the glory of God. We can all receive forgiveness and restoration through faith in the work that Jesus accomplished for us in His death and resurrection.

When I remember how obstinate and hard-headed I was as a teenager, I can understand how our youth might be motivated to do stupid things as well. At the same time, my hope is that they do not have to make the same mistakes. This may sound hard on my part, but if they do make these kinds of mistakes, I pray that God’s grace might provide for the helpful kind of discipline that I received back then!

Perhaps you could join with me in praying for the necessary wisdom to reach others with compassion and faith. These are so needed in our time.

True Freedom

What is true freedom?

In my lifetime I have known individuals who had fewer possessions than I have but had more freedom than I did. I have known people who had poorer health than mine, but more joy. At the same time I have been in difficult situations while being engulfed in perfect peace. Could it be that true freedom is the ability to live above one’s circumstances? Could it be that this kind of freedom could help a person actually change their circumstances?

What about the prisons of jealously, envy, hatred and lust? Is it possible to be enslaved by your own money, power, possessions and popularity?

Back in the sixties I thought that freedom meant freedom from responsibility. That is not what I am talking about now. I have at times taken upon myself too much responsibility. I do need to be free from that. And yet being responsible for my family is truly fulfilling. I would not want to released from serving my family and my community, as long as I understand that all things are not under my control.

Sometimes I would like to be free from this fight for personal freedom! What do I mean? well, it is tempting at times to give in to my weaker nature and drop out. Let everything around me fall apart, like it seems to want to anyway. I can dwindle away the hours on Youtube and try and forget about the important things. Then I become a prisoner of my own laziness.

The opposite happens when I push aside my passive tendencies and remember what our great and wonderful Savior Jesus did for us. His obsession was to set everyone free. A part of Him resisted the fight as well, but He overcame. His freedom was found in the Father’s will. He said that doing the will of His Father was like food that nourished Him.

Freedom from myself and my selfish desires is the ultimate goal to me. I will even go so far as to say that God wants you and I to know the freedom that Jesus enjoyed. His joy was in pleasing His Father but also in liberating others from spiritual and physical bondage! He did not travel around telling the sick and the poor to accept their circumstances. He preached to them about the Kingdom of God which is a realm of spiritual and physical freedom! He healed their minds, bodies and their souls. He said those who believed in Him could do these works and even greater.

If we fight to gain total freedom in Christ, this promise could be true for us as well!

Could There Be More?

Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than working, playing, eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, surviving for the next day? Could there be something else? We can at times get so busy that we never stop to think, or wonder if we are just following everyone else. Is there a reason we are here? Or did we just happen along as an accident of nature? And if nature is guided by some evolutionary principle, why is that so?

The search for meaning is not a new one. A shepherd boy who later became King of ancient Israel had a question for His God. As a shepherd he might have looked up at the night sky many times in amazement. Later he wrote this down and it has been preserved for later generations as the eighth Psalm in the bible.

Psalm 8:1
LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
NIV

David was not one to think that the universe was an accident or that it came about by chance. He quite naturally wondered why, not just why the universe existed, but why humans inhabited it. In his lifetime he had come to believe in a Creator God, who thought of him and cared for him. His relationship with his god was a personal one. It was so strong that even as a boy he could face a 9 foot tall warrior with his sling shot. His trust was not in his skill however. He believed the God that he and his fellow Israelites worshipped would stand with him to the victory!

If we were honest with ourselves, I believe we would admit that we know down deep that there is more to life than many of us realize. Jesus made famous this basic principle: We are here to love the Lord our Creator and God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I used to think that was simple and practical. Eventually I learned that God really wants to connect with us in a powerful way that actually empowers us to love. This love is supernatural. It restores us to our original purpose of bearing God’s image and bringing glory to His Name!

Light Of The World, Chapter Fourteen: The Promised Peace

My generation came after the end of world war 2 and during the end of the US involvement in the Korean Conflict. After Korea there was generally a time of peace and prosperity in America. We had emerged from this period as a major world power. Later when the government began sending our young men to fight in Vietnam, many in our generation did not see our involvement there as justified. By the late 60’s antiwar protests began along with the equal rights movement.

As a teenager I was impacted by the hippie movement that spread from California to my area in the Midwest. Peace, Love and Freedom were major themes of that time in the hearts and minds of many of us. Songs were written and played on the radio about “A New World Coming.” The Beatles sang on the first world-wide satellite broadcast, “All You Need Is Love.” The time was ripe to question the value of killing one another with the ever increasing effectiveness of modern technology. This was not the first time in history when people became sick of war, but this movement definitely gained greater momentum than those before it.

Sixty years later the dream of a new world full of peace, joy and love has been all but forgotten. Conflict persists among nations, races, cultures, religions, neighborhoods and families. War did not seem to make sense in the 60’s and it still does not make sense today. How can the human race continue to fight in its inherent inclination for self interest but not see that this tendency actually leads to its own self destruction?

Can peace loving people do anything to change this situation?

Well, in my opinion the first thing we must do is to reject the despair that creeps in as we consider these issues. Our God is a god of hope, not despair. (Romans 15:13) In the preceding chapters we have looked at the amazing and important connections between the Hebrew bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, and our New Testament. The Old Testament tells the story of the children of Abraham, who settled in a land to be called Israel. It also tells of the future of the entire world, and how the nations who did not descend from Abraham in a physical sense will later be connected to this same family. This will come about by the life, the ministry, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a native of that land.

You may have heard of the greeting used by Jewish people even today. I was told as a boy that “shalom” meant both “hello” and “goodbye” in Hebrew. It is used in a similar way that we say “hello” and “goodbye” today, but the word in Hebrew is literally “peace.” “Shalom” is a way of pronouncing a blessing of health, happiness, safety, prosperity and peace to a friend in both meeting and parting. It is about much more than just the absence of war. It harkens back to the time before sin entered into the world, before paradise was lost. In the garden, Adam and Eve were at peace with God, with one another and with nature. There was no death, no disease, no war.

Outside of the garden, it was only a matter of time until war broke out. Their first born son killed his own brother, and violence continued to increase from that point forward. In the New Testament letter from James, he asks this question:

James 4:1-3
4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
NIV

The peace that God promises is one that includes health, happiness, safety and prosperity, but it is a peace that first must begin in the heart. The real source of war is in our struggles for things other than God Himself. Only He can satisfy our most basic needs. Our separation from Him and our resistance to Him will always result in discontent. The Beatles were right when they said all you need is love. Sadly, this knowledge did not save them from the conflict that broke them up. Jesus Christ came to repair the breach between God and humanity. He accomplished this by absorbing all of our sins and putting an end to them on the Cross. Those who trust in His sacrifice for us and trust Him with our lives can take part in that promised peace. Being reconciled to God they also gain the capacity to love in a way that is beyond normal, selfish human love.

The enemy who started the trouble long ago was defeated by Christ on the Cross. Unfortunately he does not seem to realize this and sometimes we do not realize it as well. He continues to mislead people into doubting God and His love for us. He manages to pit us against one another instead of facing our own inner failures. When we do see our own failures he tries to press us into despair instead of trusting in God to heal us and empower us toward victory.

God has provided for us a full suit of armor that we absolutely must utilize in Christ’s victory. We must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! We must stand in the Truth, covered with His righteousness, walking in the Good News of peace with God, protected by the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, holding in hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Finally it is prayer in the Spirit for one another that holds us together and strong! (Ephesians 6:10-19)

In this current age, many seek to gain peace through compromise. This could be due to a sense of insecurity. With God on our side and within us we are secure. We have nothing to prove and no one to please but Him. His love is one that keeps us in the midst of misunderstanding and disagreement. He loved us when we were His enemies, and He challenges us to love our enemies! How can this be? It is impossible for us, but all things are possible with God!

Jesus gave us a peace that the world could never give. Now He wants to make of us peacemakers, who will be identified as the very children of God! The Peace on earth that was announced at the birth of Jesus begins in us, but it does not end there! In these writings I hope to inspire to you a great vision and a great hope based on the Word of God! Will you participate in it?

Micah 4:3-4:
3 He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
NIV

A vision of this time that lays ahead of us can and should embolden us in His purpose for us. We are designed by God to be the makers of peace and the light of the world. (Matthew 5:9, 14) Will we answer the call? Will we give ourselves to it?

Paul wrote about this mission in his letter to the Philippians chapter 2, verses 12-16.

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
NASB

Amen!

 

Light Of The World, Chapter 13: The Forgotten Priority

There are usually a number of reasons for any given book to be written. One of my reasons, I must admit, is that I love sharing the Gospel with others! In fact I am as energized when I write about it as when I first heard it! God has done and continues to do wonderful things through His creation. What a terrific future He has planned for us all!

Yet there is another even more important reason for my writing. Earlier on I mentioned the principle of the paradigm shift. There is a great and needed paradigm shift taking place among the people of God today. For many centuries our focus has been mostly on our needs. We need forgiveness from our sins, and Christ has provided that for us in the Cross. Please don’t misunderstand, we should never diminish that in any way! Much of the New Testament was written to demonstrate the wonderful love and grace of God that is revealed in Christ! Yet, the message that Jesus brought concerning the Kingdom of God is often either ignored or misunderstood. I thank God and am greatly encouraged that more believers are thinking about life in the Kingdom of God today. We are in the beginnings of a great paradigm shift in the church of Jesus Christ that will have a powerful impact on the rest of the world! It is time to focus on what God Himself is after!

After I first read that Jesus instructed His followers to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I began to see this theme everywhere in the bible. The apostle John wrote that Jesus was the Word made into flesh, human from, which existed in the beginning and created all things. (John 1:1-14). So we know He was active in Genesis and all the way through to Malachi in the Old Testament. What was He saying then? How do all these writings relate to what we so appreciate in the New Testament? The paradigm shift that I am referring to involves our understanding how the purposes of God as revealed in the Old Testament connect with the many fulfillments noted in the New Testament. Going further, we will see how the Old Testament prophecies can also enlighten our understanding of the New Testament prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled!

So far in the Old Testament we have learned that:

God created humanity to be a reflection of Him, to multiply, and to rule the earth.

But our ancient parents disobeyed, and brought a curse upon themselves and the whole earth.

So God began to work through individuals like Enoch, Noah and Abraham in the process of restoring His original blessing.

He called out Abraham and chose him to raise a family that will worship Him and eventually bless all the families of the earth.

Abraham believed God. He even obeyed God’s command to offer up his only son. When his son was spared we received a picture of God instead providing His only Son as a sacrifice for all mankind.

When Abraham’s descendants found themselves in Egypt as slaves, The LORD sent Moses to deliver them. Moses would foreshadow Jesus, who would save the world from the slavery of their own sin.

Then came the shepherd David who had a heart after God, He would eventually shepherd all the 12 tribes who descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God promised to raise up from David’s descendants an even greater king over Israel, even Jesus, the Messiah, or Anointed One.

Eventually, Prophets like Isaiah and Daniel would begin to describe how just God would bless all the families of the earth through the children of Abraham. Through Christ He would establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. It is my conviction that these events are crucial to our understanding of the new testament. Together these writings can bring about a paradigm shift like the one that took Israel from focusing on themselves and on to the view that God had plans for all people of the earth. Today He is shifting our focus from getting people into our churches so they can later go to heaven. He is calling us to Kingdom citizenship and to bringing others into a life of righteousness, peace and joy right here on this earth. As we look for His future appearing, we are advancing with Him and declaring His Lordship over all today! God gets what He desires and has planned from the beginning. In turn we receive a purpose for our existence and the satisfaction of being part of His plan!

Before the coming of the promised Messiah, Israel would be divided into 2 kingdoms. Both would be defeated and ravaged by other nations. The survivors of the southern kingdom would be taken back to Babylon. During this time they would struggle to maintain their identity and would learn to treasure the Word of God that had come down to them from the beginning of their existence as a people. This was the period where the faith of the prophet Daniel was tested and that his relationship with His God was vindicated. He was the only one of the king’s counselors who could tell him what he had dreamed and could give him the meaning of the dream as well. The interpretation of this dream is very important to us today. It will no doubt inform us in our understanding of Jesus, and His mission in the Gospels.

Daniel 2:31-45:

31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue — an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.

37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron — for iron breaks and smashes everything — and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.

41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

 

This is an amazing account of the history that took place from Daniel’s time up until the time of Christ. Babylon was represented by the head of Gold. The chest and arms of silver depicted the Medio-Persian empire which invaded Babylon. The conquests of Alexander the Great came to spread the Greek culture over an even larger area. In the dream his domain was seen as the belly and thighs of bronze. Finally, the Roman Empire is described in the statue as the legs of iron with feet of iron and clay. We know from the bible and from world history that as Rome had risen in power it became consolidated under one man, namely Caesar Augustus, around the time Jesus Christ was born.

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands — a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
NIV

Now let us jump forward about 400 years to these words recorded in the Gospel according to Mark:

Mark 1:14-15:

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ” The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
NASB

So what are we to make of all this? It seems obvious to me and evidently it was obvious to many in that time, that Jesus was expecting to see fulfilled what was written in the prophetic book of Daniel concerning the Kingdom of God. Certainly the timing was right. They were in the period of the forth kingdom. My question is this: Was He wrong? Did God fail to fulfill the expectation of Jesus? Were both John and Jesus wrong about the timing of this event? Let’s move ahead in the New Testament to find out!

Great numbers believed John or at least hoped that he was speaking for God. Many came out to hear him and to be baptized by him. Soon after, Jesus began working miracles and calling the nation to believe, repent and follow Him. He explained that the miracles were a sign that the kingdom had come (Luke 10:9). At the same time He rejected all attempts to take the kingdom by physical violence. In fact He demonstrated a power that was the least expected. His power was in the spiritual realm, not in the physical. His authority was of the highest of all, the very One Who brought the material universe into existence! He would command evil spirit to leave their victims. He would command diseases even to flee. His mission was not to destroy lives but to save them!

At the root of all the corrupt kingdoms of this world there is but one source: sin. All who desired to be free to live in this new kingdom could simply come to Jesus for deliverance. Each heart would be transformed from a selfish, sinful heart to one that loves both God and humanity. The kingdom, or reign of God is established IN THEM! (Luke 17:21, Philippians 2:13). Everything Jesus taught was concerning this kingdom. He urged His followers to see the immense value of living free and sharing the good news of this freedom in the kingdom! It was more valuable than all earthly treasures. By seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we gain heavenly treasures while still here on earth, and our earthly needs will be supplied! Matthew (6:33).

It was important then and it is yet today important to seek Christ whole-heartedly and without hesitation or reservation. These conditions make room for the full power of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, our behavior and the world around us! We are here to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world! This is how the Rock that was cut out of the mountain crushes all evil kingdoms — from within! The Lord Jesus Christ is that Rock (Romans 9:33, 1 Corinthians 3:11, 10:4, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:4-8) For two thousand years this Rock has been crushing the evil that lives within us. This kingdom was demonstrated first in some simple believers who knew Him as absolute Lord over all. They faced the most powerful rulers of the world and defeated them with their faith! Yes, many of them were murdered for simply not denying His Lordship. Their murderers have been long gone and their power has dissipated, but these heroes of faith stand victoriously with Christ to this day!

The Kingdom of Christ has continued to expand from a small number of believers in an obscure part of the world, to the untold billions who know Him today. The full impact of His work in their hearts is yet to be seen, but it is as sure to come as the dawn of a new day!

 

 

 

Light Of The World, Chapter Twelve: The Promised Dominion

In previous chapters we have looked at many of the foundations that were laid in the ancient scriptures of the Hebrews, known to Christians as the Old Testament. Jesus declared that the completed bible of His day was unbreakable. Paul His apostle said these writings were “breathed by God” and were profitable, having many things to teach us. (Matthew 5:17-18, John 10:35, 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 15:4). When one trusts in Christ and receives the Holy Spirit, it is not too difficult to begin to see and understand how powerful these words can become to us. While to some they seem like dead letters on a page, to us they reveal the very heart and will of God for the world!

Scholars from the very first centuries have understood the connections between the old and new testaments. Many of them knew that Jesus actually came and fulfilled many of the promises of the old testament by dying for our sins and overcoming death for our victory. Hundreds of years ago, many of them also saw that God had further plans for His creation. Since then, for various reasons, Christian pastors and teachers have become focused more on the very important issue of personal forgiveness. Today however, more people are becoming concerned about the world around them, and wonder what God intends not only for His people, but also for this very planet that He created. They are finding that the new testament prophecies cannot be fully understood without the context from which they were written, and the backdrop of the old testament.

For as long as I can remember people have started at the last book of the bible, The Revelation, and have tried to predict what will come upon the world in the near future. This approach can stir up much excitement and interest. However, the entire bible has much to say about the future of humanity. Knowing more of the whole bible can give us a better understanding of what this one highly symbolical and figurative book is about. Our approach then is to slow down, and to patiently allow God’s great plan and purpose of the ages to unfold before our eyes! God’s method is “precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isa 28:10 KJV). We would do well to accept His methods!

If you agree with the content of our last chapter, and desire to fight off the gloom and despair that tries to defeat us, I encourage you to take the promises of the Old Testament seriously. It is in the opening verses of the bible that we learn about why we are here. God created the earth and everything in it. Then at last He created humans to rule over it and to care for it. Have you ever struggled with the fact that we have lost that dominion?

In a 1971 song by the rock band, The Doors, Jim Morrison expressed this sentiment:

Riders on the storm,
Riders on the storm,
Into this house we’re born,
Into this world we’re throne,
Like a dog without a bone,
An actor out on lone,
Riders on the storm.

Could it be that his concept of a helpless, meaningless existence led to the reckless lifestyle that led to his death at 27, shortly after recording this song?

Without a connection with our Creator our existence can seem meaningless. We can easily waste the short time we have seeking pleasure or possessions in an attempt to fill the void that can only be satisfied by Him. Even we as Christians can secumb to feelings of despair and hopelessness — if we give more of our attention to the ideas of unbelieving politicians and entertainers than to the living Word of God!

No, God created us and this universe for His glory, goodness and love. We are not prisoners of our own lusts and slaves to our own instincts. What was lost in the fall was restored to us in Christ! The writer to the Hebrews reminds us this with these words and with a quote from the 8th Psalm of King David:

Hebrews 2:5-12 NASB (Earth Subject to Man)

5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying,

“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? 7 “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; 8 YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…”

Yes, Christ is the Second Adam, Who fully is the image of the invisible God. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:1-3). In Adam we all die, but IN CHRIST, we are all made alive! In Him we can be restored to our rightful place of dominion over the earth, to rule and reign with Him. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:6) First we must understand that the way up is down. That is, we must follow the example of Christ in His humility and servanthood. Only as He sanctifies, sets us apart unto His pure motives and character can we be trusted with this authority. (Philippians 2:1-13). We are not called to reign in oppression, but to reign in life and blessing! (Romans 5:17)

Certainly much of this is in the future, but we can see already in the Early Church, believers possessing power over demons and diseases. Knowing who we are and our purpose in Christ is the first step toward living the full and abundant life! Believe it!

It is time that we quit embracing our failures and begin to take hold of our victory in Christ! Lord I believe but help me overcome my unbelief! As you consider these promises, I sincerely hope that many of you begin to sense that you were created for more than mere survival, mere existence. You have not been thrown into this universe, you have a destiny to fulfill in Christ! We can barely comprehend that now, but He is calling us all forward, upward and onward into that destiny in Him!

Courageous Love

Have you ever had a moment when you became overwhelmed with a greater awareness of the pure Love of God? It seems clear to me that more than a few hymn writers have experienced this, like Frederick Lehma who penned “The Love of God.” You might remember the chorus:

“O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
the saint’s and angel’s song.”

He recalled an experience in his youth while growing up in Iowa:

“One glad morning about eleven o’clock while walking up the country lane, skirted by a wild crab-apple grove on the right and an osage fence, with an old white-elm gate in a gap at the left, suddenly Heaven let a cornucopia of glory descend on the eleven-year-old lad. The wild crab-apple grove assumed a heavenly glow and the osage fence an unearthly luster.” This was more than an appreciation of the beauty of creation, for he became so captivated by the presence of God that he was filed with overwhelming joy and praise to Him. The love of God that engulfed him that day is expressed in this beautiful hymn.

Many such stories have been recorded where individuals were struck in a point in time with this sense of the wonderful, all-embracing love of God. We have come across them in songs, poems and personal testimonies. When we hear of the experiences of others, we can even share their joy as they remember and try to describe them. In years past, a portion of time was set aside in many church services for people to tell their personal stories of God’s goodness. How encouraging and uplifting were these times! Fortunately, in our time, many gatherings of small groups can still easily offer opportunities to share these kinds of testimonies.

From the biblical record and from my acquaintances I have learned that these experiences among believers is not all that uncommon. No two stories are identical but each one communicates that the personal presence of God is real to us. The earliest leaders in the church were known to remind their fellow believers of those precious moments in God’s presence. The believers were also urged to continue in His love by prayer, worship, fellowship and meditation on the scriptures. Paul specifically prayed that their awareness of the love of God would continually increase. In view of the wonderful and eternal purpose that God has for His church, Paul wrote these words:

Ephesians 3:14-19:

“14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
NASB

He also states these facts relating to believers in Christ:

Romans 5:1-5:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
NASB

At this time there might be some reading this that struggle with doubts and fears. Maybe the love of God seems distant, so distant that you can barely remember the time when He poured His love out upon you and within you. If so, I urge you to believe these words and to reach out to Him for a fresh outpouring of His love through a fresh infilling of His Holy Spirit. All He asks of you is that you humble yourself before Him, confess your sins and failures unto Him and believe Him for healing. Ask another believer to pray for you and with as well. Draw near unto Him and He will draw near unto you. (James 4:6-9).

Foundational to Christian belief is that we cannot live righteously on our own. Foundational also is the fact that we can through trusting in Him live full, godly and righteous lives in Him! Everything He has taught us about life is summed up in one word: love. We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, Romans 13:9-19, Galatians 5:14). We can only do this because He has put His love into our hearts. This is the New Covenant, where God is working within us to will and to do His good desires. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, Hebrews 8:8-12, Philippians 2:12-13).

For the past several years, peace seems to be getting further and further from us. Strife in general has increased to the point that people cannot even drive on the highway without being overcome with “road rage.” The tension between political and religious views during my lifetime has reached an all time high. I don’t know about you but I find all this very discouraging. Evil is real and cannot be ignored. How do we deal with it in light of the love and grace of God that we know? How do we avoid getting caught up in all the hatred and strife that we see all around us?

This has forced me to remember the importance of real, divine love. John and his brother James were given a nick-name by Jesus. They actually wanted to call fire down from heaven upon their opponents as did the prophet Elijah. Jesus called them the “Sons of Thunder” because of their brashness. He had to remind them that He had come not to destroy lives but to save them! (Luke 9:56). How often do we even forget that He taught to love our enemies, to pray for them and to even do good to them?

The amazing thing about this story is how John would later change. After Herod executed his brother James, one might expect him to become even more revengeful. In fact he would suffer many forms of injustice in his life time. The main difference would come after the ascension of Jesus when John was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8) The love of God was poured out in his heart by the Spirit of God! Now he would be known as the apostle of love.

He later wrote:

“7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

The love that Jesus and His apostles spoke of is not the same love that most people mean today when they speak of love. The ancient Greek language actually had 6 different words for love. In the bible “phileo” is used in reference to friendship, but “agape” is used in the context of God’s pure and unselfish love. In our modern times the Greek word “eros” would best describe the love that people experience when they “fall in” and “fall out” of love for one another. It is an emotion for sure, but it is fleeting and usually more sensual than phileo.

Some people are realizing that agape, this deeper, more unselfish love can be tough. This is the kind of love most found in the bible. God corrects those He loves. God offered His only Son as a sacrifice for sin because He loves the world. This is that love that He has poured out upon us. This is the love that through Him has filled our hearts! Do you believe in the power of God to fill you with love, divine love for everyone? Remember those who sang that old, old song, “Give me that old time religion, it makes me love everybody, it’s good enough for me?” They believed it!

When we allow the love of God that is in our hearts to work, we are challenged to “speak the truth in love.” Yes, there are a great number of voices in the earth eager to “speak the truth” with the wrong motivation. Maybe the goal is to humiliate the opponent. Maybe it is to simply win in the court of public opinion. Sadly, I fear that even in the Christian media there can be a financial motive. The more clever we can be, the greater the audience, the more influence one can gain, and along with it a more comfortable life. But at what cost? The result is often more division and strife in the world. We all lose.

At times love is gentle, and at other times it must be tough and even face rejection. The important thing is a clear conscience toward God that is void of offense toward humanity. If God so loves the world, then that must be our desire. Jesus said that the children of God are to be peacemakers. This requires a costly love, and a willingness to take risks. It comes from a perspective that is higher than my own. It is God’s perspective. It is a love that is rich and rewarding. It can and will be rejected. It can cause me personal pain, but love and service are a reward in themselves.

This is a love that dwells in the Kingdom of God and seeks to advance the righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit in the earth. It is a love that drives out the fears that bind us, and liberates us to live courageously for Christ. May God continue to reveal His love and express His love through us today!

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