"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfections."
The cross is the place where God's love triumphed over the powers of evil. The Father, in His pleasure, chose to send Christ to the Cross. Christ "desired us to be with Him where He is" and chose to lay His life down to "purify for Himself His own special people". When you think of the cross, do you see yourself as God sees you? Yes, your sin sent Christ to the cross. Yes, He is the total sacrifice for your sins. But is that all you see yourself as—a sinner saved by grace? The apostles frequently revealed that God's vision of you in Christ is far more glorious than that.
In the above passage, Paul declares through the Spirit, that if you are in Christ, then you are God's elect and therefore holy and dearly loved--not just loved but beloved or dearly loved. The Father loves you just as He loves the Son (John 17:23). Christ is all your holiness and righteousness (1Cor 1:30) and much more. At your "worst" as at your "best", the Father loves and see you this way. It is not about you. It is all about Him—His love, sanctification, and election of you in Christ. Notice in the above passage that God commands, and seems to simply expect, all of us saints to put on these beautiful qualities of kindness, patience, forgiveness, and love in all circumstances with all other saints no matter the mistreatment we receive. This may seem unrealistic to you. And it will, if you are looking at yourself, your past, your circumstances, or your abilities. But if you look at at God's love for you in Christ, you will see that same love toward all other saints around you, and your heart will overflow with His kindness, grace, forgiveness, and love. Such should be natural and effortless on our part. Paul said that he labored with all God's energy that mightily worked in him (Col 1:29). So what is our problem?
You are His beloved. Do you see that the Father's thoughts toward you are always ones of love, forgiveness and grace, no matter how much you fail or are misunderstood, mistreated or abused by other saints? And those saints who mistreat you, do you see that God's thoughts toward them are always ones of love, forgiveness and grace? Do you really see it? Or, have you forgotten? God's love is true and secure for all His children all the time. But we get to choose whether we see ourselves and other saints through eyes of God's love and grace or through eyes of human performance. God does not empower us to love when we choose the latter, but He does when we choose the former. Why do we fail to love? It is very simple, we have forgotten to see His love. Please don't misunderstand. This does not mean that you have stopped believing He loves you. You need to simply "fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith." Then God's love through you, to even the most obnoxious of saints, will be natural and effortless—though not necessarily painless. The effort should all be God's.
If natural and effortless love seems unreasonable to you, I would encourage you to begin thanking the Father often for the riches you already have in Christ. Let this soak in you mind. You may be surprised at how God will slowly change you without your effort. For a testimony of God's faithfulness to work in the life of a weak brother who began to give thanks, download freely and read Thankfulness and Confession at: http://ccmbooks.org/free-literature/
Next time I hope to write on the way to continual and effortless forgiveness, no matter the abuse.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protests, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
-1 Corinthians 13:4-7
-1 Corinthians 13:4-7
In the 1800's, in a small town in England, in a very poor neighborhood, there lived a kind old pastor, Mr. Robert Chapman, who was well known, even outside England, for his loving and humble character. The church that he pastored for 70 years was very divisive when he moved to that town. As the years passed, he patiently loved these saints and taught them to love one another. Many years later, a short conversation was preserved which gives us a window into the soul of a man marked by unusual humility and love. Let us pay attention to his attitude that we might see higher into the heavenlies.
A Christian man moved to town and joined the church pastored by Chapman. Years later an enquiry was made about that man by someone from his previous church in another town. The enquirer was curious about how Chapman got along with him as the man had been very difficult to deal with. "Chapman replied that he was a valuable brother, a very valuable brother; and added: 'We did not know our need of patience till he came among us.'"
DO YOU WANT TO GROW IN LOVE?
Did you notice Chapman's attitude? He considered the very difficult brother to be God's instrument to reveal the church's need to grow in patience. Chapman clearly learned that lesson of love well, seeing the man as a "very dear brother." Do you want to learn to love? Are you willing to welcome the difficult saints in your life as God's chosen instruments to reveal you need of patience? If not, what does that reveal about your real desire to grow in love? Does this bother you? How wonderful it is that our loving Father is patient with us when we are not so with each other.
Reading about God's gracious work in and through Robert Chapman has been a great blessing to me. The first post on this blog is a recommendation of Agape Leadership: lessons in spiritual leadership from the life of RC Chapman. If you want to grow in love, or become more sensitive to your lack of love, this books would be a great help. You friends would benefit from you reading it, too. The above excerpt was taken from a book recently reprinted entitled: Robert Chapman, by Frank Holmes
"Father in heaven, help us to see the difficult people around us as a blessing from your hand of grace to show us our need of more love. Convict us when we only tolerate them instead of loving them. Please do this soon. Thank you for loving us even when we neglect to love. Amen."
Monday, March 9, 2009
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." -1 John 4:10
"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." -Luke 6:32
TWO KINDS OF LOVE
There are two kinds of love. Natural human love operates on an earthly level of worthiness and performance. It takes little effort to respond well to a person who respects you and gives to you. But, if that person is cool toward you, despises you, or even abuses you, then much changes, doesn't it? But God's heavenly love is not rooted in worthiness. Thus, the love He fills a man with and expects him to overflow with, has no connection to worthiness either.
WHAT GOD SEES
God declares, and thus sees, every believer as pure, prefect, holy, righteous, dearly loved, free from condemnation, welcomed without hesitation, and with all sins no longer remembered. This is what God sees all the time when He looks at every true believer. This is beautiful. So apparently when God disciplines me, he sees my sin withour remembering it. The implication is that God's disclipine is a restoration of, or growth in, my vision to see what He sees. God also declares, and thus sees, all those outside of Christ as condemned, under His wrath, and awaiting destruction, if they do not flee to Christ. God sees people as either 1) dead in sin or 2) alive in Christ and justified freely by His grace (Rom. 3:24). The cross of Christ is a great hope to move a man from group 1 to group 2. In God's vision, the only thing that matters for believers is, "faith working through love . . . and . . . through love serve one another" (Gal. 5: 6,13).
SOURCE OF HEAVENLY LOVE
True faith is a resting in the work of Christ—His death as a substitution for mine. The moment a man is recreated in Christ, he has everything he needs for life and godliness through his knowledge of Christ and has God's great and precious promises (2Peter 1:3,4). From that point on, God calls him to live by that same faith, and not by sight (2Cor. 5:7). And he can do all things through Christ, who gives him strength (Phil. 4:13).
As Christians, we get to choose 1) to walk by faith and see with God's eyes of love and grace, the world and all those around us; or 2) to walk by human sight and judge the world and all those around us (even ourselves) with eyes of performance. This latter way, the way of the flesh, bears ugly fruit: impatience, anger, envy, contentions, and much, much worse (Gal. 5:19-22). The world presses on us to walk this way. Those of the world are trapped in this "trying and striving" and want us to wallow in it with them. Because God loves His children, He disciplines us when we choose the way of performance. The Spirit is quenched, the Christian life "feels" difficult and maybe even burdensome, and relationships grow cool and distant. Onlookers are rarely discomforted by God's holiness in our lives--the cross is hidden to them.
But to walk by faith is to see with spiritual eyes what God sees. This is walking in the Spirit. The Spirit's fruit is: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22,23). Notice that this is not our effort. It is the Spirit's effort, which is limitless. Thus, walking in the Spirit is effortless, though it may be accompanied by pain or sorrow, depending on circumstances. Paul said that he was always sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
Let us be clear about this: that for believers, 1) the only thing that matters is faith working through love (Gal. 5:6), and 2) the Spirit empowers every believer to have this abundant love in every circumstance—no exceptions—if one looks with eyes of faith. The uncomfortable implication is that loving very difficult believers is super easy, even effortless. The burden is on our loving Father to keep His promises. He provides all the energy when we walk by faith.
WHY DO WE GET IMPATIENT OR WORSE?
What do you see when you notice a fellow saint sin in some way? Do you see a person who is: dearly loved by God, free from condemnation, and holy and righteous in His sight? If so, your first reaction should be one of tenderness and grace, with a desire to draw close to remind that dear saint of the cross. Irritation, impatience, envy, avoidance, bitterness, or worse, are all the overflow of noticing that dear saint with eyes of performance rather than faith. You simply forgot to consider all the promises he has in Christ. Christ is all his righteous. Should not we also think Christ sufficient for him?
"The only thing that matters is faith working through love." When a brother sins we should restore him to faith—a vision of the cross. The brother has not lost his faith, he simply has forgotten to use his faith. The world tempts us to restore him to proper human performance or worthiness standard. The standard chosen does not matter.
Which vision will you choose: "Faith working through love" or human performance?
Your life will bear the fruit of your choice: Gal. 5:22,23 or Gal 5:19-21
Sunday, March 8, 2009
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1Thes. 5:16-18
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Civil war devastated the small central African country of Rwanda in 1959-62. For many years the Hutu people had been downtrodden by their Tutsi feudal overlords—a small minority. The Belgian colonial rulers educated, supported and used the Tutsi.
Christian missionaries arrived about 1920 and preached the love of God for sinners to both Hutu and Tutsi. In 1931 God gave a few missionaries and locals such a vision of the greatness of God's love in the cross of Christ, that they began to confess their sins to one another and embrace one another open-heartedly. The gospel of God's grace began to spread rapidly in the power of the Holy Spirit—not just with missionary perseverance as before, but with an overflowing love, joy and thankfulness. Western missionaries began to see Africans as equals. Barriers between brothers came down as vision of the cross grew. Even the hostility between Hutu and Tutsi was overcome as believers rejoiced in the cross.
As independence from Belgium (1960) drew near, the Hutu began to see their opportunity to gain power and get revenge. What were Christians to do as the massacres spread and terror reigned? How could they be peacemakers when faced with attackers carrying axes, machetes and torches? Christians were from both tribes. Who should they help? Most were intimidated by the terror, but a few saints shone the light of Christ brightly. A missionary doctor who was among that first small group in 1931 to be overwhelmed by a vision of sin and forgiveness, received the following letter from one such African Christian in 1961.
"We are all well because Jesus has turned death into victory through the wonderful Gospel you brought to us. You know all that has happened to us in Rwanda. Here, we have had our home destroyed, and after it happened I was beaten for four days and left for dead. But this time was a blessing to my soul. All the time they were beating me, I couldn't help singing and saying, over and over again, 'Jesus be praised.' I kept praying for them very much all the time, and in my heart I was thankful because they said they had nothing against me except the fact that I was a Tutsi.
"Now, in case we shall never meet again before I die, I want to tell you that you and the other missionaries who brought the Gospel to us have done a great work. When I think how you found me in those days, I love you more than you know. Only Jesus knows how much I love you. I know quite well that you did not come for any personal gain or for what you could make out of it, so I want to comfort you in all suffering that may come to you 'even unto death' not to be downhearted; it is not in vain. Jesus will give you your reward. It is I, A. Mandari (Gahini, 2.3.62)."
This is a love letter--love for the torturers, love for Christ and love for the missionary who had shown him the glory of the cross. What an encouragement this letter must have been to the old missionary. Did you notice who this suffering brother was concerned about? We have the same God of all comfort, the same throne of grace to run to, and the same Holy Spirit of power. Do you want to overflow with heavenly love as this brother did? Do I? The lack is only in our vision of God's love. Let us pray often for God to give us together with all the saints a fresh vision of His great love for us—a love that passes knowledge. And let us expect Him to do it.
[Breath of Life: the story of the Ruanda Mission, by Patricia St. John, page 210]
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching."
Pictured below are two of the brothers we encourage prayer and support for in Nakuru, Kenya. Benson Nganga (with the big smile), who directs the Fiwagoh Mission Orphanage Minnistry, was in our home last year. The other brother, Kennedy Nyakundi, a dear friend of his, has spent much time walking in the hot sun to villages to preach the gospel and encourage the believers. In January we sent $100 to purchase a good quality bicycle to speed Kennedy on his journeys. God was not slow in opening doors for Kennedy with the bicycle. Following is from an e-mail he sent January 29. I have clarified it a bit.
Your brother in Kenya,
Pastor Kennedy Nyakundi
Please pray for God to move these brothers (and their co-workers) to preach with great love and boldness. May God add many to his church there. Among these brothers there are still several evangelists who walk to the villages because a $100 bicycle equals two months wages. Pray that God would move saints here to sent money to equip the evangelists with bicycles to speed the gospel on its way. If you want to be part of the answer to that prayer, you can get a tax-deductible receipt by sending your donation to:
Community Christian Ministries
PO Box 516
Moscow ID 83843
Attach a note specifying for Oasis Books-Kenya Orphanage-bicycles
If you don't need a tax receipt you can contact us directly by mail or phone at:
25 W Center
Logan UT 84321
Either way 100% of the donation will go to Kenya.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Here Is Love, Vast As An Ocean
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.
On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
This song came out of the Welsh revival of the early 1900's and is all about God's great love for us. We can sing it in complete honesty even on our bad days, because it is not about our love, but only about his. God has greatly blessed me in my 30 years in his grace in the singing of hymns as prayers and meditations. As such, I much prefer songs that focus on God's glory and his love for me rather than on my love for him. I feel a bit guilty singing about my good points. As we sing songs about him, our minds rise into the heavens in remembrance of his greatness and love. I have not found the piano music for this hymn online or in the many hymnals that I have searched. You can listen to it at http://nethymnal.org/htm/h/e/herelove.htm to hear the tune to learn to sing it.