follow me on TWITTER

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

the love of God

Humanly speaking we cannot wrap our brains around how much God loves.  Furthermore, we cannot explain sufficiently to anyone how His love works and how we are changed by it.  What we can explain is how we have experienced God and His love.  No one can refute our testimony and our experience.  That is what we need to share with others.

The older I get, the more I seek God, the more incredible His love grows to me and the more I realize that I do not understand or grasp how great it really is.  I have shared with you several times some of the overflow of my study to preach.  Today I share with you some lines from songs that give us a little picture of our God’s great love!

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

(from The Love of God by Frederick M. Lehman)

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

(from How He Loves by John Mark McMillan)

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
and purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

(from My Jesus, I Love Thee by William R Featherstone)

Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging
Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet
Your love is a mystery, how You gently lift me
When I am surrounded, Your love carries me

(from Hallelujah by Brenton Brown and Brian Doerksen)

Wonderful so wonderful is your unfailing love
Your cross is spoken mercy over me
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart can fully know
How glorious, how beautiful you are…
You've opened my eyes to your wonders anew
Captured my heart with this love
'Cause nothing on earth is as beautiful as you

(from Beautiful One by Chris Tomlin)

That is only a few songs and a few of the thoughts that are running through my head and heart.  When we grasp God’s love, things change inside us.  Things also change in the way we deal with others.

It really is incredible to watch as a person is overcome by God’s love.  That person begins to give that love to others.  That love flows freely and brings all types of freedom.

May we be known as people who are consumed by and giving our God’s endless and unfailing love!

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope,

Monday, June 29, 2015

more of real #LoveWins

Let all that you do be done in love.

Romans 12:9  NASB
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

I finished up the series LOVE WINS at The Community Fellowship on Sunday, and this week I hope that share some things that God is working on in my heart and in my understanding.

One of the things that love, real love, shares is the lack of hypocrisy.  Conditional love is hypocritical because it changes with situations, feelings or one of thousands of other things.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

We prove we are disciples of Christ when we love others.  This is not easy.  But when we choose to love others, we are honoring God and bringing pleasure to the one that really matters.

Love unlocks freedom in our lives.  That freedom can be taken in lots of directions, yet God kind of love frees us and others rather than putting people in more bondage.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Love is a choice.  It has always been a choice that God gave us.  We can accept His love or reject it.  We can love others or reject people.  God’s kids are implored to keep themselves in God’s love.

Jude 1:21  NASB
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Love is a state of being verb AND an action verb.  Real love is attached to action that proves that love.  Jesus did this by dying on the cross for us.  We do this by giving people hope and life.

1 John 3:18  NASB
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

Jesus offers eternal life and abundant life to those who accept Him.  Let action characterize your love for God and love for us.  Our heavenly Father began that love, keeps real love and allows His love to flow.  We can stop that flow, but that means we taint or change it to something other than God.

1 John 3:1  NASB
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

1 John 4:17  NASB
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.

God’s love gives us freedom.  May our lives help others be freed by the grace of God!

Friday, June 26, 2015

do something together

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

This week I had the honor of spending time with the some of the students from our church that were part of the SBCV’s Fusion mission camp.  Our team was connected with Church on the Avenue in Richmond, VA to impact their community.  They did yard work, prayer walked and prepared for a huge block party that will happen tonight.   Pray for the success of this event!

Fusion mission camp involved students from several different churches that served across the Richmond area.  Some worked in backyard Bible clubs, some worked with block parties, some cleaned yards… and the list goes on.  Much was accomplished by these 150 students and their leaders.

Back at home on our new campus students from three local churches (Christ Church, New Life Community Church, Hope Presbyterian Church) have been working hard each morning this week to help our facility get ready to be used.  Their hard work has helped a great deal.  These teens have also lead Bible clubs in a local park.

Our students were part of a camp that had a theme of “do something together”.  Both of these groups have done something together and have stories to tell about what God has done in their lives and to those around him. 

By working together much can happen in a very short period of time.  The Bible study and worship times were built around the story of Nehemiah and his leading God’s people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days.  Because all the people chose to work together they were able to do much more than anyone thought possible.  Not all of the people were skilled labors, like the students working at our new campus or those at mission camp, but still each group got much done. 

In fact some of the impact of these students won’t be seen until we reach heaven.  Salvation and Spiritual growth often reminds me of a spider web.  Such a web is made of many strands with each one touching and helping the other be stronger.  When we serve, reach people, share our story, be kind, many lives will be touched by Christ.

It takes all of us to accomplish great things.  I think almost daily about our back2school outreach that is about 5 weeks away and see how a large group of people from many different churches can do much when we choose to do things together.

Who will you partner with?  What will you seek to accomplish?  God will use your heart, your passion and your connecting with others to make a big difference for many, many people!

John 12:26  NASB
If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

love expressed

NOTE: I am still with our teens who are at camp this week, and I am sharing devotions from great people who inspire me.  Today’s come from Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church.  The original can be found at THIS LINK.

Do you ever look around and think to yourself, “Is this all there is to life?” Do you ever feel a hunger, a discontent, a yearning for something else? An intense longing for more?

There’s a reason for that. It’s because you were created for something more. You were created for a greater purpose. You were created to be a worshipper.

It’s not a question of whether or not you’re a worshipper, because every single person on earth is a worshipper. The question is: “Whom or what are you worshipping?”

But what exactly is worship? The simplest and most accurate definition of worship is “love expressed.”

In order to worship God, you must first have love in your heart, but you also have to express that love. If it’s not expressed, it’s not worship. Deuteronomy 11:1 (NKJV) instructs us to: “love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.” So many times we think we’re supposed to serve God and do a bunch of stuff for Him. The truth is, however, the greatest thing you can do is love God.

When Jesus was asked what the first and greatest commandment is, He said it’s to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:28–30). Why? Because if you don’t love God, you won’t serve Him. But if you do love God, you’ll serve Him.

Have you ever looked at someone else and thought: I just don’t love God as much as he does. I wish I loved God like he does. For many years, I felt that way about my wife, Debbie. Right after I got saved, I’d look at her and think: Debbie just loves God more than I do. I want to love God as much as she does.

Let me tell you two things about why some people love God and express their love for Him more than others. Number one is: love grows. I got saved when I was 19, and Debbie got saved when she was 9. She’d already been walking and talking with God 10 years before I got saved! She’d already gotten to know Him as a person, and I had just met Him. I’ve come to learn that the longer you know God, the more you’re going to love Him—your love will grow.

For those of you who have children, did you love your baby the first time you held him or her in your arms? Of course! As the years have gone by, do you love your child less, the same or more? More, right? You don’t think you could possibly love them any more, but with each day you do. Why? Because love grows. The more time you spend with someone—the more you get to know them—the better able you are to communicate heart-to-heart.

The second thing about love is: love leaks. Ephesians 6 tells us Satan is always trying to shoot arrows at us. He tries to shoot arrows through your heart so that he can get your heart discouraged, depressed, hard or bitter. He does everything he can to shoot an arrow through your heart so your love for God leaks. If your heart is going after something other than God, you’re in trouble! Are you looking at someone else and thinking: Gosh, that person really loves God. I don’t love God that much. If so, check your heart. It’s not that you have a bad heart—because God has given you a new heart—it’s that you’ve allowed other things to steal your love for God.

If you’re married and you never express your love, your marriage will wind up in trouble. But if you regularly tell your spouse: “I love you, and I’m so in love with you,” and then you express your love—not only through things you say but through things you do—you’ll have a strong marriage. You can’t say to your wife: “You know, I told you I loved you 40 years ago. If it ever changes, I’ll let you know.” That’s not good enough. You have to express that love. You have to consistently keep that love alive. And the way you keep it alive is by expressing it. This applies to your relationship with God as well.

Worship is simply communicating your love to God and God communicating His love to you. You were created for more—to love and be loved. The angels weren’t created for that purpose; we are the only ones God created to receive His love and give His love back to Him.

So express your love today and worship!

So what can I say, what can I do, but offer this heart, O God, completely to You. -- JOEL HOUSTON

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ten reasons to rejoice. But mostly, just one really big reason.

NOTE:  I am spending some time at our youth camp this week and will share a few devotions from others.  Today’s is from Pastor Joe McKeever that I met several years ago.  He is an artist, leader and preacher.  I believe you will be blessed by some of his writing.  Today’s original post can be found at THIS LINK.

The coach walks up and down the sideline in front of his players.

“Get your heads up! All of you!  Take those stupid towels off your head!  Let’s show some courage around here!  The game is not over yet.  You’re not defeated until you quit fighting.  Lift up your heads!  Look like champions!”

The disciples had returned from a trial run in which they had practiced preaching the gospel of Jesus.  Since the time would come when Jesus would be absent and they would be doing this “for real,” the Lord wanted them to get a taste of what to expect.

They returned sky high.  “Lord! It was wonderful!  We saw miracles.  Lives changed.  People healed. It was great!”

Jesus agreed.  “You’re right.  In fact, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

“However,” He said, “I do not want you rejoicing because of such.”

“Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you. Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

It wasn’t that He didn’t want them joyful and excited.  He loves overflowing praise and exuberance in His children.

He just wants it based on something more substantial than the latest results.

The Lord knew what the disciples were going to find out. The days would come when they would return empty-handed from their preaching missions, their evangelistic trips, their revivals and door-to-door visitations, and their overseas outreach.

To be sure, there would be times of great successes and glorious testimonies. But at other times, they would return empty-handed, with no glowing stories, no big numbers, no sparkling testimonies of victories.  Sometimes they would do well to get out with their lives, and sometimes they didn’t even manage that.

If their joy resulted from impressive victories and big numbers, it would be constantly fluctuating.  Sometimes they would be happy in the Lord and overflowing with praise, and at other times, their spirits would be dragging, their hope vanished.

The Lord Jesus wants none of that.

He wants His children joyful from beginning to end. “In Thy presence there is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy….” (Galatians 5:22).  “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Joy. There it is.  Joy is the constant refrain of Scripture.

C. S. Lewis famously said, “Joy is the business of heaven.”

God’s word is consistent on this subject.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Hours before He was arrested and went to the cross, Jesus told the disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He’s about to go to the cross and experience the worst thing imaginable, something so horrible we can only imagine, a prospect that caused His body to sweat drops of blood. And yet, look at Him here, cheering up the disciples.

The plain fact of the matter is the Lord wants His children always believing and trusting and knowing the important things are settled and everything else is all right. We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

No hanging heads. No towels draped over our sorry heads to disguise our disappointment and hide our tears.

“Lift up your heads! Your redemption draweth night!” is how the psalmist put it.

Rejoicing “because your names are written in heaven” means a thousand things, these among them…..

–Your salvation is secure.

–Your hope is steadfast.

–Your future is settled.

–Your faith is well placed.

— Your focus is upward and eternal.

–Your troubles are temporary.

–Your joy is constant.

–God’s promises are sure and certain.

–Jesus’ word is dependable.

–God’s enemy (and yours) is out of luck.

–You will live and die with a smile on your face. People will come away from you saying, “He’s either a nut or he knows something.”

Stay with me a moment longer, please.

Do not miss the implications of the Lord choosing as the basis of your joy that “your names are written in heaven.” 

Wishing to anchor our joy to something more dependable and more constant than the up-and-down vicissitudes of this life, wanting to secure our joy forever, and intending to settle the matter for all time, Jesus tied it to our salvation.

The strong implications are that you are saved forever.

Implications, nothing!  It’s there, plain as the nose on your face.  (Is “explication” a word?  He wasn’t implying anything, but was as explicit as it’s possible to get!)

If we can be saved one day and lose it the next, then get it back the next day, then He chose the wrong figure of speech.  The way some of God’s children believe about the temporariness of salvation–that “one little sin can send your soul to hell,” as I’ve heard it put–makes you wonder what it will take for them to start believing in Jesus and quit taking counsel of their fears.

The Lord Jesus actually thought that the born-again would live forever. “They shall never perish.”  “Neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand.”  “I give unto them eternal life.”  “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”

We pitiful humans.  We resist believing that salvation is of grace and keep wanting our works to play the starring role in this divine production.  Or, we play a little mind game with ourselves that says: I know we are saved by grace and Jesus  paid it all, but if I sin after being saved, I’m lost again.

If that’s true, if one sin or a certain number of sins undoes what God did in Christ as a result of Calvary, then no one is secure in Christ, no salvation is settled, no forgiveness is permanent, and we are all in big trouble, and Jesus’ death settled nothing.

It’s time to start believing Jesus, people.

I love what some woman told Pastor Tim Keller upon realizing the gospel of grace for the first time….

“I know why I want my morality to save me.  If I’m saved by my good works, then like a taxpayer, I have rights.  I’ve paid into the system and God owed me a good and decent life, and there is a limit to what the Father can ask of me. But if I’m saved by sheer grace, then my life belongs to the Father, He owes me nothing, and there is no limit to what He can ask of me.”

Sheer grace.  That’s it.

Sheer grace or we are in a mess of trouble, children.

But, rejoice. Your names are written in Heaven.  In blood, actually. The blood of Christ.

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:57).

Now, let us go forth in joy.