How Far Does Love Go?

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” 1 Corinthians 13.13

It is a little clearer in this translation: “So now faith, hope, and love abide; but the greatest of these is love.” Every time I read the words of this verse, I am overwhelmed with the meaning of the word love. Simply translated it means, “No matter what you do to me, I will seek nothing but your highest good.” Let me begin by saying this is the kind of love that God has for us. No matter how we respond to Him, He always has our best interests at heart. He never reacts to what we do. He always acts in love. I realize this is a difficult truth to comprehend, but once we grasp it, it changes the way we look at God and the way we respond to others that we say we love.

Do you think marriages would be different if we responded toward each other in the truest meaning of this word love? How many times have we done something out of spite, anger, or disappointment when we should have responded in love? I can here the naysayers now, “But you don’t know what they did to me!” My response is, “it doesn’t matter what they did to you, no matter what they do to you, real love says you will seek nothing but their highest good.”

Do you think our churches would be different if we responded toward each other in the truest meaning of this word love? How many times has another church member offended us, or snubbed us, or said something untrue about us, or any other hurtful thing? “They don’t deserve to be treated any differently!” Really? I wonder if loving them would make a change in their response to us? I wonder if loving them would bring a spirit of unity to our churches that would literally amaze the world who is watching? It’s just a thought! And it isn’t even my thought. It is God’s thought and that’s the one that counts. Just my thoughts …

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Not “Will I Suffer?” But “I Will Suffer!”

Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” 1 Peter 4.16

Suffering – everyone is familiar with it. No one likes it. At some point in time in our lives, we will all experience it. As a follower of Christ, I must never assume that because I am God’s child, I will never have to deal with suffering. In this verse Peter assumes that every one of us will suffer. So the issue is not, will I suffer, but how will I handle suffering?

let him not be ashamed … ” There is no shame in suffering. Suffering is not always a punishment by God because we have done something that displeased Him. I believe far too many of God’s children assume that if they are experiencing suffering, they must have done something wrong and God is punishing them. This was the same assumption that Job’s friends made. Job must have done something wrong or God wouldn’t let all these bad things happen to him. You and I simply need to remember that we have no way of knowing what God is doing in our lives behind the scenes and when suffering comes we can trust Him.

“ … but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Can we give God glory in the midst of our suffering? The apostle Paul wrote: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul wanted his “thorn in the flesh” to go away, but God said, “No”. So Paul said, I will “glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Can you and I make that kind of statement? I certainly want to. That is my prayer in suffering. Just my thoughts …

Afraid? Really?

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Psalm 56.4

I remember sitting in a classroom in junior high school and when I should have been doing my homework, I was reading the words of Psalm 56 and the words of this great Psalm have stuck with me throughout my lifetime. Especially helpful are the words of the verse above. Consider them with me.

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust … ” As David pens these words, I can almost picture him sitting watching his sheep and thinking about all that God has done for him in his lifetime. His heart cries out, almost involuntarily, “In God I will praise his word … ” It seems to me that he is thinking, “How could I not praise Him? He has already done so much for me.” I find myself thinking those same words. God has already done so much for me in my lifetime.

And then we read these words: “ … in God I have put my trust … ” Sitting out there in some pastureland all by himself, with just his sheep, who else did he have to trust? God was all he had. Can I suggest that we never know if God is enough until He is all we have? There are days when we look around us and think, “I really am all alone. Is God even here?” and then we get the calm assurance through the Holy Spirit that yes, God is “here” and He cares more than we know.

These last words have special meaning to David: “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Saul wanted to kill David. It is pretty tough to keep a king from doing whatever he wants to do, but David’s heart reminded him, you do “need to fear what flesh can unto (you).” You and I need to remember that simple truth too. Just my thoughts …

Listen to God’s Question!

And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” Genesis 3.9

I began reading the Bible through again today and as I read this third chapter of Genesis, I was again intrigued by God’s question to Adam. We know the story here about Eve being seduced by Satan and then Adam partakes of the fruit and sins too. Then they have a new awareness of their condition – they are both naked – and they an effort to cover their nakedness by their own means. We haven’t gotten very far from that mentality today. We still want to handle things our own way – a way that is in no way lke God’s way.

But back to the question that God asked Adam, “Where art thou?” We must never see this as God asking a question to which He did not know the answer. The question here was for Adam to know where he was because God already knew. Can you remember your parents asking a question something like, “Do you know what you did?” or “Do you know where you are?” They already knew the answer, but they wanted us to be sure we knew the answer.

Do you know where you are with regard to God’s purpose and plan for your life? Are you in the seeking mode? Do you really want to know as this New Year begins? Once we discover God’s purpose for our lives, then life takes on new meaning. We are no longer attempting to carry out our purpose on a daily basis. We have submitted ourselves to God’s purpose, knowing it is far superior to any purpose we may have in mind. God does not take pleasure in hiding His purpose and plan from us. Quite the contrary, He wants us to spend time in His Word and with Him, allowing our lives to bring Him the gory that is due His name. Just my thoughts …

A Child WAS Born! Merry Christmas!

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9.6

It would have been a rich experience to be sitting with Isaiah when he penned these words. “Unto us … ” Was he thinking, “Me?” What are you thinking as you read these words? “Unto me?” Wrapped up in these words is the totality of God’s love for sin-sick mankind – including you and me. The day He was born is not nearly as important as the truth that He was actually born.

Whatever form it Isaiah acknowledged the reality that God had a Son and His Son was coming into this world to do what only God could do – address the question of sin. Sin in whatever form it appears breaks the heart of God. And His Son was the only perfect sacrifice who was qualified to meet the demands of this Holy God.

His name shall be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” Is there any way that you or I can quantify this word wonderful? Knowing that God is wonderful and having any concept of how wonderful He is are two different concepts. Counsellor – have you ever come to God with a problem He did not understand or did not know how to handle? The answer is an obvious no! He is the Wonderful Counselor. He is without doubt The mighty God. He does not see problems because He is the solution to our problems. That is quite a Christmas present.

The everlasting Father – some reading this have a father who is still alive. Others have already lost their father to death. BUT we have this Everlasting Father. He is not going away – ever. But this Christ is also The Prince of Peace. Does this world need peace? Do the hearts of men need peace? The answer to both questions is yes and Jesus is the Prince of Peace! Merry Christmas! Just my thoughts …

Crucified? Really?

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2.20

How many times have you read that verse? Maybe you memorized it at some point in your life. Is it possible that since we know it so well, we gloss over it when we read it or quote it and fail to be moved and convicted what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us here? As long as MY life is still all about ME, there is no crucified life. I just go on living each day as I did the one the day before. But the plea in this verse is for me to NOT live the life I want, because I am dead to that life. I am being called to live a NEW life that is found only in the substitution of His life for mine. Do you see the words, “not I, but Christ …”? THAT is the key, the pivotal point on which this new life must be lived.

The motivation for such a life is found in these words: “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Christ’s love for me and His sacrificial death in my place should be all the motivation I need to live the crucified life called for here. Let’s not try to argue with God that we somehow have a better plan. Let’s not stiffen our will against His will, thinking that if we can just hold out long enough we can win. Knowing that Christ lives in me is motivation enough to allow Him to live His life through me. After all, that is what the Father wants this world to see – His Son glorified through me (and you). Just my thoughts …

Mercy Is NOT Overrated!

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51.1-2

When I read this account of David coming to God and pleading for mercy because of his actions with Bathsheba, I am reminded of what you and I enjoy in our walk with God in this age of grace. God’s mercy is already ours because of Calvary. THAT act of mercy guarantees the ongoing extension of mercy to us throughout our earthly lives.

David describes God as a God of lovingkindness. It would be difficult to separate the gift of mercy and the quality of lovingkindness. You and I are certainly the recipients of God’s lovingkindness. We both know that we have not done anything to earn it but we could not live without it.

As we continue reading David’s words, he asks to be “washed” and “cleansed”. Washing is that which is necessary when something that is supposed to be clean is dirty. For example, we need to wash our hands before we eat. We use the word “cleanse” when we are talking about cleansing a wound. We want to make certain that everything that needs to be removed from the wound has been removed.

How should you and I look at these requests of David? We can be thankful that he came to God and did what he needed to do in order to maintain his fellowship with God. We can also be thankful that washing and cleansing are somethings that are provided for us in our salvation experience. After we are saved, when we sin, we don’t need to be saved again but we do need to confess our sin in order for our fellowship to be restored. Let’s be grateful today for what we have in Christ. Just my thoughts …

Where Is He When I Need Him?

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart: and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34.18

We have a world that is filled with broken-hearted people today. Sad to say, we have churches that are saturated with broken-hearted followers of Christ. Some have broken hearts because of life issues that have crushed them. Some have broken hearts because they think God has deserted them – left them to face whatever this issues is, alone. But the verse quoted here puts that issue to rest: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart … ” is it possible that in our pain we erect a wall in an attempt to keep out more pain? If we do, that wall blocks our sense of God’s presence. It does not block His presence, but rather our sense of His presence.

You have heard people say, “It doesn’t SEEM like God hears me when I pray.” Or perhaps, “Where IS God when I need Him most?” my answer to that is the words of the psalmist: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart … ” Please consider these words from the opening verses of this Psalm: “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear there, and be glad. 3O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34.1-4) When you and I are able to understand, at least in part, how MUCH God CARES, we grasp a small sense of these words: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart … ” Our humility (our contrite spirit) before the Lord gives us far more insight into His presence, His purpose, and His power, than anything else we can display. Just my thoughts …

What a God! What a Gift! What a Sacrifice!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3.16

Before I had graduated from Bible College, I was called to serve in a church in Arlington, TX. I was the music director (we call them worship leaders today [lol]). Shortly after arriving there, one of the teachers of the 2-year-old children came to me and said, “Bro. Burton, I would like for you to visit my class this Sunday and hear something from my 2 yr. olds.” I said, “I will be there.” When I walked in, she said, “Children, let’s show Bro. Burton what we have learned recently.” And they began reciting John 3.16 – perfectly. Not only was she proud of them, but I was so thankful that they learned this powerful truth at such an early age.

How do we measure the dimensions of the word “so” here in this verse? The love of God for this world was not greater than His love for His Son, but He loved His Son so much and knew that NOTHING else but His perfect sacrifice could satisfy the righteous demands of the law to completely pay for the sins of the world. Such great NEED and such great DEMAND could only come together in the place we call the “place of the skull.” What the Roman government thought they were doing was putting to death someone who kept the multitudes stirred up. But what they were really doing was carrying out God’s plan to give “his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

God planned it. The Roman government thought they orchestrated it. God the Son willingly carried it out, and God the Holy Spirit became a reality to believers as a result of it. Oh my dear friend, God GAVE. Have you RECEIVED? Just my thoughts …

What Was Mine Became His!

Who his own self bare our sins I his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2.24

This opening “Who” here is a direct reference to Christ, who is mentioned in previous verses. The encouraging truth for us here is that He (Christ) bore OUR sins in His OWN body on the tree (cross). While this death was substitutionary, it was none-the-less a death that I should have suffered, BUT He took it for me. Because of His death, we are now rendered “dead to sins.” The only problem for so many of us is that we STILL live as if we are under the control of sin. 2 Corinthians 5.17 says: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” If old things are passed away and all things are become ne, why do we still want to hang on to the detrimental things of the past that create failure after failure? Paul writes in Romans 6.6-7: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Now folk, that is either true or it is not! We need to LIVE like it is true because it is.

Just an observation about these last words: “by whose stripes ye were healed.” Some may want to apply these words to physical healing, but if that is the case, then why isn’t every true believer free from ANY kind of physical malady? I believe the healing here is what God does to my spiritual life because of what Christ did to give me a spiritual life. Just my thoughts …