Sunday, January 30, 2011

This is not your promise

Genesis 17.20-21
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

“This is not your promise”

He is seventy-five years old when God tells him to leave his homeland and to go to a place where “I will shew thee.” Now, I fully realize that in those days, seventy-five was not looked on like seventy-five is today, but he was still a man in his old age. He was one hundred seventy-five years old when he died. He is considered the patriarch of the Israelites, the Ishmaelites, and the Edomites.

At seventy-five, he does strike out with nothing more than a promise from God. He finds a promised land and is the founding father of the nation of Israel. He receives a second promise from God in that He would make him a great nation. Genesis 12:2-3 tells us “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

This was the promise of God. The Word tells us that God is not slack concerning His promises as some men count slackness. (2 Peter 3.9) He will perform every good work He begins in us. (Philippians 1.6) the word ‘perform’ here is ‘epiteleo’ which means to ‘fulfill completely’.

If God makes the promise, it will come to pass.

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bore him no children. In order for there to be a nation there had to be an heir. To this end, Abraham and Sarah take matters into hand and Sarah gives her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham, to bare him a child. As soon as Hagar conceives, Sarah despises her. She deals hardly with her. Hagar flees into the desert. The angel of the Lord finds her at a fountain in the way of Shur. He entreats her to return to Abraham and Sarah. He tells her that she has a son inside her. He will be the father of a nation. She will call him, Ishmael, which means, “God will hear” because the Lord had heard her cries.

Thirteen years later, Abraham is ninety-nine years old, and the angels of the Lord come to him to tell him that he will conceive a child with Sarah. They tell him that in one year’s time Sarah will give him a son. This is a marvelous story about God and His promises.

The angels continue after giving Abraham instructions concerning his forth coming son, Isaac. They tell him that Ismael will flourish and conceive twelve princes. He will be the father of a great nation. “BUT my covenant will I establish with Isaac.”

“Abraham, this is not your promise.”

Ishmael is the son (product) of your human effort. Abraham, your promise will not come by your reasoning or your efforts. Your promise will come from God.

Spiritual blessings come from God.

With the proliferation of ‘prosperity ministries’ it is easy to become confused and gage our spiritual level by outside indicators. These ‘prosperity ministries’ preach serving God as a means of monetary gain. They talk about seed money’s.

The anthem of such ministries is that God wants us to prosper. God wants us to be rich. If we are not prospering, if we are not rich, then we must be missing the boat spiritually.

“If God isn’t prospering your wallet, then maybe you need to send some ‘seed money’.

This is not your promise.

In the book of 1 Timothy 6.5, Paul tells us that anyone supposing Godliness is a means of gain is destitute of the truth. The word Paul uses for ‘destitute’ is ‘apostereo’ which means to ‘keep back by fraud’. Paul is telling Timothy, in his letter, that those that preach godliness as a method of gain are holding back the truth by this fraud.

Here is a doubled edged sword, so to speak. It is God’s will that we prosper. John wrote in his third epistle, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” John uses ‘euodoo’ when he talks about prospering. This means to have ‘help on the road’. He is not saying that we will enjoy riches in this life. He is saying that it is God’s will that we have what we require here to make it to the next world. As the matter of fact, John goes as far as to say that we should have the help we need as our soul prospers. Jesus spoke in the book of Matthew that we are to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

After listing many of the basic needs that seem to capture our time, Jesus further states that we are to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” He did not say that we would be rich.

Let me emphatically state: I am not telling you that a rich person cannot be saved or that a poor person has any advantage in the salvation category.

I am aware that the Bible tells us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Looking at that scripture and applying it narrowly to our general knowledge today, it would appear to state that a rich man cannot be saved. However, upon deeper study, we find a startling fact.

In Jesus’ day, cities were protected by great walls. The strength of the wall was only as strong as the gate. Therefore the gates were fortified. When the night would fall, the gates were closed and protected. Any movement into or out of the city was by a much smaller gate to the side of the main gate. This smaller gate was called the ‘eye of the needle’. It was sized so that a camel could still go through it, but only if it were carrying nothing. In order for the camel to go through the eye of the needle, it had to be stripped of everything it was carrying. In this, no one could come or go with anything to cause harm to the city.

The rich ruler that came to Jesus seeking the way into heaven learned he had to give all he had to the poor and take up his cross and follow Jesus. It is not a sin to have. I have heard it wrongly stated many times that money is the root of all evil. Money is not the root. Love of money is the root of all evil. Solomon says that the man who loves money will never have enough. It is not what we have that is wrong; it is what we have between ourselves and God.

This is not our promise.

There was a certain rich man that had good grounds that brought forth plentiful. The story tells of no crime in this. There was no finesse charged. There were no claims of embezzlement. No one was charging theft in this story. There were no mentions of ill means of gain. It was simply the mixture of good ground, good seed, good farming technique, and a good harvest. Up to this time, the certain rich man was charged with no wrong.

What will I do? He asks. I know, I will tear down my barns, and I will build greater barns and there I will bestow my fruits and goods. Then, I will say, “Soul, take ease. Eat, drink and be merry.”

Thou fool, this is not your rest.

This is not your promise.

This is not the barometer of your spirituality.

This is not the fuel gauge of the Spirit filling.

The Word says that this is not of works. It is not of self. The promise was made on spiritual conditions. It is not determined by qualities of natural disposition.

Some will tell you that it is all in the dance and the shout. It is all spirit expression and little substance. They will tell you if you cannot shout the victory, then you must have ventured away from God.

I agree that we should never be far from our victory shout, but there are times all of us will walk through a dry valley.

The shout and the dance; this is not our promise.

“This” is not in the dance. It is not in the shout. It is not even in the tongues.

2nd Peter 2 tells us of those that speak just for speaking sake. They talk loudly, making great boasts, using swelling words. They talk about liberty. However, they were the bondservants of corruption. They were like wells without water. They used high sounding phrases to cover an evil life. They are like clouds that promise rain and then are driven away by strong winds, leaving the fields dry and parched.

This is not your promise.

There are cultists that try to convince us that it is in their dogged determination to a cause, however misguided, that will take them to heaven.

Our promise will not come by the efforts of human hands. Our promise will also not be taken away by the efforts of human hands.

Abraham and Sarah rushed the promise.

The promise will come in its time. It will never be early. It will never be late. There is a time for the promise. There is a place for the promise. All of our efforts will not rush the promise or cause it to be fulfilled early.

This is not the time.

This is not the place.

We have not yet arrived. We have not yet made it. We do not need to sit in our rocker with our feet up and say, “Soul, be at ease.”

The fringes of the promise are never to be mistaken for the promise itself. We cannot afford to be at rest in our spiritual lives. We do not need to rest in the stories of yesterday or yesteryear.

Our stories of healings need to be today stories. Our stories of deliverance need to be today stories. The blessing needs to come today. The shout needs to be heard today. The dance needs to happen today. The world needs us today.

There was a time that the disciples came rejoicing because the devils were subject to them. Jesus tells them, in Luke 10.20, “Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” What is He telling the disciples here?

This is not your promise.

The promise comes from God. He is the author and finisher of our faith. Mankind was devoid of hope, devoid of any means of bringing salvation. Within our hands were no means to save us.

We were without; without God, without hope, without salvation, without deliverance. We had nothing until God made a promise unto all men.

God did not promise that I would be wealthy. He even said I might labor in poverty and obscurity. He did not say that I would always be shouting and dancing, but he did promise that I could make it out of this world amassed with confusion.

Out of the jumble of voices today, there rings a voice of clarity. There is a voice dripping of promise.

This is my promise.

There is rest that is promised

There is a way that is promised.

There is a refreshing that is promised.

“Abraham, my covenant (promise) will I establish with Isaac.”

Jesus, the promise from the foundation, not made by man, not produced by man, not established by man, and not founded on man. It is a better covenant founded on a better promise.

This promise is not based on financial status.

This promise is not founded on my joyful exuberance.

This promise is not locked into me determination.

This is a promised based on God’s character. It is founded on God unchanging, unwavering Word. It is locked into His marvelous majestic name.

He will bless our efforts, but this is not our promise.

We have the promise of riches in glory.

We have the promise of the joy of His ever abiding presence.

David faced Goliath armed with a promise.

We have a promise. We face each day with a promise. We face each night armed with a promise.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Dream Again

Genesis 37.19
And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

“To Dream Again”

Genesis 37.11, 18-20;
11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

Genesis 45.26-46.4
25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father,
26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.
27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:
28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.

1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac.
2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:
4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.

Joseph was next to the youngest son of Jacob/Israel. We have talked previously about the use of names to convey character in the Bible. Jacob’s name meant “heel grabber” or “supplanter” It signified his deceiver nature. When he made the change, his name was changed to Israel, meaning “one who has power with God.” In these scriptures, you will see both names used at times. The usage is significant.

Joseph was the son of Rachel. Jacob made for Joseph a coat of many colors. Joseph had dreams. In one dream, Joseph saw him and his brothers binding sheaves in the field. His sheaf arose and stood upright. The sheaves of his father and brothers stood round and made obeisance to his sheaf. His brothers hated him “yet the more.” In another dream, Joseph saw the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars. They made obeisance to him.

11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Observed – Shamar – to hedge, to guard, to protect, to keep.
Sayings – dabar – a word, a matter, as spoken of

Jacob kept the dream. He held it in his heart and in his memory. Joseph gave his family his dreams. His brothers despised him, but his father held them dear. Joseph’s dreams became Jacob’s dreams. Jacob was no stranger to dreams. At Bethel, he had a dream/vision of the ladder reaching into heaven and God standing at the top. Jacob was a dreamer as well.

There came a time when Joseph’s brothers were tending to the flocks of sheep in Shechem. Jacob sent Joseph to check on them. When Joseph arrived in Shechem, his brothers were not there. A man told him that he had overheard them say they were going to Dothan.

Verses 18 through 20 recount the words and malice of his brothers, as they saw Joseph approaching from the distance. Their anger/envy spurred them to do in that moment actions they may not have done otherwise and even reconsidered later.

Interestingly, the word compound used to describe Joseph was ‘Ba’al Chalom’. It was two words. There was no Hebrew word for ‘dreamer’, therefore they called him (literally) the owner of the dream.

We will kill him, the brothers plotted, and then we will see what will become of his dream.

In our own history, men have tried to stop the dream by killing the possessor of the dream. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in what appeared to be an effort to silence his dream. Countless and faceless others have died throughout history in the effort of their killers to stop their dreams.

We are Ba’al Chalom
God has given us a dream. He has given us a vision. This vision is the fuel for our fire. It is the inspiration for our walk. Acts 2.7 tells us, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Satan desires to destroy our dream – even with the blood of the owners if that is the only way. He tried to end the dream on the hill of the skull. On Calvary he thought he had stopped the dream with the death of Jesus Christ. Not many days hence, however, the dream appears to Mary at the tomb. Later, on the road to Emmaus ..

On that road there were two travelers. One was Cleopas. The other was unnamed and unidentified. For the sake of now, let that second traveler be us. They were both followers of Jesus. They were walking away from the dream. They were walking away from Jerusalem. They were walking toward their old home. It is three days past the crucifixion. Without doubt, their mind had to be on the events of the last few days.

It was on this road, away from the dream, that Jesus joins them. He finds them discouraged, down, depressed, and despairing. Their hope is nearly extinct. The scripture tells us that as they walked they talked about the events that had transpired. While the walked and talked, Jesus came to walk with them. Their minds were clouded that they did not recognize him. Jesus asked them why they were so sad.

“Are you a stranger,” Cleopas asks, “Are you not aware of all that has happened in Jerusalem? Do you not know of Jesus, a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people? Do you not know how the Chief Priests persuaded the people to have him delivered to death? We thought He would be the one..”

See the dialogue of the one who has lost the dream. “We thought he would be the one to deliver us.” The seeds of doubt have fallen on their soil, turned by the plow of events not understood. The ground of belief they stood on in days past was shaken. What was once firm was now scattered with rocks to cause their walk to be halted and unsteady. Such is the walk of those whose dream has been taken. It does not matter whether the dream dies because of the death of the dreamer or merely the loss of faith in the dreamer. The result is the same. Their walk is a walk of uncertainty. Confidence is replaced by questions. “I know,” is replaced by “I thought.”

To the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Calvary was the end of their hope. It was the end of the dream they held. Their heads were down so they did not see the savior approach. Their walk was slow to reflect their spirit. Their comments decried their doubts. The road was between Jerusalem and Emmaus, but it might as well have been called ‘the road to despair.’ There on that road, the road of despair, the road of the dreamless, there, they met Jesus. It is there that Jesus travels. The writer of Psalms 139 said in verse 8 “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” Where will I go that God cannot find me? Where will my life take me that God is not there? He is there in the clouds of my exhilaration. He is there when my despair and failure take me to the depths of Hell.

In verse 25, Jesus opened the scriptures. Let me tell you who is he:
From Moses, He is:
· The promise to Eve (Genesis 3.15)
· The promise to Abraham (Genesis 17.6-7)
· The Paschal Lamb (Isaiah 53.7)
· The Scapegoat (Leviticus 16.10)
· The Brazen Serpent (Numbers 21.9)
· The Star and the Scepter (Number 24.17)
· The Smitten Rock (Isaiah 53.4)
He is:
· Immanuel (Isaiah 57.14)
· The Child Born to us (Isaiah 9.6)
· The Good Shepherd (John 10.11)
· The One ‘who bore our grief’ (Isaiah 53.4)
· The Branch (Isaiah 11.1)
· The Heir of David (Isaiah 11.1)
· The Ruler from Bethlehem (Micah 5.2)
· The Lowly King (Zachariah 9.9)
· The Pierced Victim (Isaiah 53.5)
· The Smitten Shepherd (Isaiah 53.4)
· The Messenger of the Covenant (Malachi 3.1)
· Our Savior and Redeemer (Isaiah 63.16)

As they approached the city, He went to go away. They prayed that He would stay with them. As He broke bread with them, their eyes were opened. Once He was recognized and their doubts dispelled, He vanished into ‘unseen-ness’. The dream came in. They left at that moment and returned to Jerusalem. The distance between the two was approximately 7.5 miles. Though the scripture does not record their demeanor on the return journey, I have to imagine that it was a remarkable difference than their demeanor on the trip toward Emmaus.

Without the dream, they walked slowly and trudgingly.
· Their every step was weighted by their doubts and fears. (Have you been there?)
· Every step was an effort to place in front of the next. (Have you ever walked a walk where every step was filled with the wish it were the last?)
· They walked with their heads bowed by their burden. (Have you felt that weight?)
They walked like the dreamless masses we encounter every day. They have no real root except in the shallow surface of this world. Their moods controlled by how their favorite teams did in last night’s game, or how the stock market fared today, or who spoke to them or didn’t speak to them in the elevator this morning. Their future is the next vacation or long weekend. Their dreams are a future uncertain retirement. Their dreams are limited because they are earth bound and contingent on the whims and winds of this world. (The Bible tells us the Satan is the god of this world and we saw in the ‘Job’s House’ lesson how Satan cares for those things that are his.)

The return trip to Jerusalem was vastly different. The dream was alive. Their hope was beyond this world. There was a spring in their step. There was a light in their faces. The burden was lifted. Their heads were held high. The dream was alive again.

The dreamless cannot understand the ‘owners of the dream.’ They do not understand our optimism that goes far beyond ordinary optimism. They do not comprehend our hope that goes beyond this world. They cannot fathom our trust in an unseen personal Savior. While we face the same financial uncertainties and the same sicknesses and diseases, we maintain a sense of hope. They cannot grasp this. The dream lives within us.

Jacob lost his dream. He lost it in the blood drenched garment belonging to Joseph. Sorrow clouded his vision and obscured the dream. To Jacob, all of Joseph’s dreams died with him. However, God was not finished. Too often we finish before God does. We live in the TV generation. Characters and problems are introduced and solved in an hour. We microwave our meals in a fraction of the time it takes to cook them. We are an impatient generation. If God does not answer in an hour, we are ready to change channels. Though unseen, the dream continued. Jacob could not dream, the dreamer was gone. The Ba’al Chalom was gone.

Time passes. Joseph advances in position in his new land. The events that occur in this time will make several Bible Studies. Time comes when Joseph, by interpreting the king’s dream is in charge of the storehouses. There is to be a famine in the land. There will be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Joseph has the Egyptians save one-fifth of each year’s harvest to be stored for the day of want. It is in these years of want that the brothers of Joseph come to buy grain. In time, after the brothers revealed the change of their natures in their willingness to be lost to save Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, Joseph revealed himself to them.

He sent word with them to his father.
Genesis 45
Vs 25 .. He is called Jacob
Vs 26 .. He is called Jacob
Vs 27 .. He is called Jacob
“..The spirit of Jacob their father revived.”
Vs 28 .. “And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.”

‘Israel’ dropped into obscurity during the sorrow. When it is revealed that the dreamer is still alive, his spirit revives. His hope, once dead, is alive again. The hope is alive. The dreamer is alive. The power came back when the dream came back. “Without a vision, the people perish.” In chapter 46, God speaks to Israel in a dream and tells him that he will become a great nation and Joseph will put his hands on his eyes. This is a reference to dying. God told Jacob that Joseph would be with him until his death. The custom was that the favored son would perform the last offices of affection by closing his eyes in death. On his death bed, the father would take the hands of his favored son, kiss them, and place them on his eyes, his face, and his mouth, and say, “now I die.”

Jesus will be with us always, even unto the end. We have this promise. It is part of our dream. When I close my eyes in death, I will not be alone. His hands will cover my eyes, my face, and my mouth. My dream will carry me to death and beyond.

Let me dream again.

When my heart is becoming hardened, let me dream again.
When my faith is failing, let me dream again.
When my strength is low, let me dream again.
When my desire is weak, let me dream again.
When my heart is broken, let me dream again.
When I have no right, when hope has escaped me, when I am covered in sorrow, when all seems lost, let that dream shine through. Let me dream again.

Have you lost your dream?
Deliverance, joy, victory, what have you lost?
The two on the road to Emmaus, the dream came home with:
· Communion with God
· Time with the Word
· Meeting Jesus at the table

Will you dream again?

Will you meet him at the table (altar)?

Will you become the Ba’al Chalom again ?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Eye Trouble

2 Kings 6.15-17
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Eye Trouble
Let me give you a piece of background. The king of Syria was warring against Israel. He took counsel with his servants and set up camp in a particular place. Elisha warned the king of Israel to where the king of Syria was camped. Time and time again Elisha warned the king.

Eventually, the king of Syria called his servants to him. He questioned them as to which of them was secretly on the side of Israel. Someone had to be telling of their plans. His servants told him that Elisha, who was a prophet of God, told the king of Israel what things were spoken on his bedroom. The king of Syria sent his armies to take care of this situation.

Here is a great story about the saving, keeping power of God. For this study, however, I am more interested in the condition of the servant. He didn’t see the armies that were encamped round about them. He saw the armies of Syria. When the prophet prayed and his eyes were opened, he saw the right vision.

Revelation 3.14-18
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

God said, you don’t even know you are wretched. The Greek is talaiporos. It means to be ‘enduring a trial.’ God told them that they didn’t even know they were enduring a trial.

Have you ever had a trial and didn’t know it?

According to this passage, those at the church at Laodicea, were doing just that. I know what you must be thinking, because I thought the same thing. HOW can I be going through a trial and not know it? When we think of trials, we think of hardships and troubles. The clue is in the rest of the passage. They said they were rich and increased with goods. They thought they had need of nothing. I have seen Christians endure poverty and remain true to God, and then, when they get a little wealth, they fail Him. It is easier to trust God when there is no one else to trust. It is easier to rely on God when there is no other avenue for help. Sometimes, prosperity is a harder trial to endure than poverty. The Scriptures ask the question: What does it prosper a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

He went on to say they were miserable and didn’t know it either. The Greek word is eleeinos, which means pitiable. They were to be pitied. They stepped high, proud of their wealth, and didn’t know they were to be pitied by those around them. Do not be envious of the wealth of sinners, but rather pity them for the object of their trust.

They were also poor. The Greek word is ptochos, which means to crouch, as a beggar. They were also blind (tuphlos) and naked (Gumnos.) Blind refers to opaqueness. It is a condition where things are not seen clearly. One may see images or shadows, but the trueness of the image is obscured by opaque vision. Naked refers to being nude or exposed.

Here was a group of believers, which, because of their blindness, could not see their condition. They thought they were to be envied, while in truth, they were to be pitied. They thought they were rich, but were poor in the riches that mattered. They saw themselves as lifted up, while God saw them as crouched like a beggar. They were in the midst of a trial, and didn’t even recognize it.

This is definitely a case of severe eye trouble.

Ephesians 4.18
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Blindness in Ephesians 4.18 is Porosis in the original text. It means hardness or blindness. It denotes stupidity or callousness. This is a willful blindness by inaction. They do not see because they do not look. God says that in times past, He winked at ignorance, but now calls men everywhere to repent. Ignorance is simply, not knowing. God said there was a time when He would give exception to those that did not know, but that time is past and now he calls all men to repentance.

This bring to mind an argument of those that say Jesus cannot come for His Bride yet, because the Gospel has not been preached to all the nations. I don’t know if you have heard this argument or not, or if you ascribe to it or not. Allow me to point out a few couple things:
1. Acts says in the 2nd chapter, as it recounts the initial outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the inhabitants of the upper room, that it was noised abroad. In verse 5, it tells us that there were dwelling at Jerusalem, devout men out of every nation under the heaven. On the day of Pentecost, when Peter stood with the twelve, and delivered the sermon that pricked the hearts of the hearers, this message was preached to every nation.
2. Every person does not have to hear the Gospel. At some point in everyone’s life, God will strive with them. They will accept or reject that striving. They may be in a church service when it happens. They may never set foot in a church service and it happens. Every one of mankind will hear the voice of the Savior calling to them at some time in their life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” The Spirit draws men everywhere.

Therefore, Jesus can come at anytime.

Here again, is eye trouble.

There are several causes of temporary blindness. There is a blindness of darkness. We have all heard the saying, “you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.” The lack of light causes this blindness. It causes us to stumble across the room, feeling along the wall, looking for the light switch.

I recall a tour I took once through Mammoth Caves. The tour guide explained to us that absolute darkness only occurs in two places. One is the bottom of the ocean, and the other is deep on a cave. He told us we were going to test the theory about being so dark you literally couldn’t see the hand in front of you face. He asked us, when he turned off the lights, to put our thumbs on our noses and wiggle our fingers in front of our faces, to see if we could see them. The lights went out. A couple seconds later, the lights came back on. There, in the light, was a group of adults, all with our thumbs on our noses, wiggling our fingers. It was quite the humorous sight.

The Scripture tells of the god of this world has blinded the eyes of the lost so they will not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. The Greek is tuphloo which means to obscure. Satan obscures the gospel by distraction. His desire is not your best interest. He seeks to blind you.

Let us take a few lines to look at some natural eye conditions and how they can relate to our spiritual vision as well:

How do our eyes work?

Light reflecting off of an image enters the eye and is refocused on the retina. Our brain perceives these images and tells us what we see. (Extreme over simplification)

Myopia: Nearsightedness
Hyperopia: Farsightedness
Presbyopia: Loss of elasticity of eye tissue (usually around 50 years old)
Aniseikonia: Images produced by each eye a different size
Diplopia: Double vision

Proper vision is to perceive the right relationship between objects, near and far. This is true in natural and spiritual vision.

Luke 6.41-42
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

Hyperopia: Farsightedness
An abnormal condition of the eye in which vision is better for distant objects than for near objects. It results from the eyeball being too short from front to back, causing images to be focused behind the retina.

There are those that focus on the past sins of others and cannot see the events of their own life clearly. This is the case in both those doing the wrong and those doing the right. Luke spoke about seeing the small sins of others while being unable to see the large sins of the person looking. They can tell you everything everyone in the church is doing. They can point out the faults of every minister. They can see every misstep by anyone around them. However, when it comes to seeing their own shortcomings, they cannot focus clearly.

Asaph wrote in Psalms 73, that he was focused on the sins of others and nearly lost his own footing. He could not step surely until he was about to slip. His focus was wrong. He saw the prosperity of the wicked. He saw the fatness of the sinner. He was envious of the foolish. UNTIL he went into the house of the Lord.

The vision corrector is the Word of God. When we put on the glasses of God’s Word, we can see more clearly. His Word refocuses the actions of others, the events of the day, the trials and the hardships, the prosperity of our own lives, and the end of days. In his Word it all comes to clarity.

Myopia: Nearsightedness
A vision condition in which close objects are seen clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred. Nearsightedness occurs if the eyeball is too long or the cornea, the clear front cover of the eye, has too much curvature. As a result, the light entering the eye isn’t focused correctly and distant objects look blurred.

There are those that can only focus on today. They cannot see the big picture. They cannot see the end of this walk. They are bi-polar Christians. Their walk with God is only as strong as their walk today. They do not have long range faith. If times are good, they are strong in the Lord. If times are bad, they are weak. They are buffeted about by every wind of doctrine. They are tossed to and fro, by their circumstances.

When Moses sent 12 spies to spy out the land of Canaan, they came back with varied reports. Ten of the spies came back with stories of great walled cities, men of great stature, and a land that would eat them up. Joshua and Caleb came back, seeing the same cities, the same inhabitants, the same land, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.”

Joshua and Caleb saw the land through the glasses of the promises of God. We have promises to take us to the end of the race.

Obstacles are what we see when we take our eyes off of our goals.

As long as we face the sun, we will see no shadows.

We need to have the proper focus. We need to see the right relationship of our trials. Trials bring us closer to God and increase of faith. We have to be able to see beyond the trial to the victory ahead.

Presbyopia: Loss of elasticity of eye tissue
There are those in the church that have become rigid. They are hard and unmovable. The Spirit of God can’t get them out of the pew. They are set in their ways. Now, there is nothing wrong with being established in the Word and rooted in the truth. However, that steadfastness should never become a reason to become unmoving. God is looking for those that came still be moved by His Spirit.

There are times when His Spirit must sweep over us and guide us, correct us, move us, and lead us. Jesus spoke to one group and asked them why they transgressed the commandments of God after the traditions of men. It might come as a shock to some, but the way you have always done it is not always the way it should be done. There must always be in us, a willingness to learn from the Spirit and Word of God.

Aniseikonia: Each eye producing a different size image.
Translated from Greek, aniseikonia means "unequal images". It is a binocular condition, so the image in one eye is perceived as different in size compared to the image in the other eye.

In the natural, this has devastating effects. It destroys our perception of depth. We cannot tell what is close and what is far away.

We have a natural eye and a spiritual eye. Each of these eyes produces differing sizes of images. What the natural eye sees as important is seen differently by the spiritual eye. We, as children of God, need to understand the importance of seeing things through the spiritual eye. We must be led by our spiritual eyes. We cannot equate the importance of the spiritual with the importance of the natural. The body tells us that we need to eat. The Spirit tells us the fasting feeds our souls.

Diplopia: Double vision
Diplopia may also result from failure of both eyes to point at the object being viewed, a condition referred to as ocular misalignment. In normal vision, both eyes look at the same object. The images seen by the two eyes are fused into a single picture by the brain. If the eyes do not point at the same object, the image seen by each eye is different and cannot be fused. This results in double vision.

The Word tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. My pastor, when I attended church in Massillon, Ohio, told the young ladies in the church to use caution in choosing a boyfriend or husband. He told them that a man that cannot be faithful to God will not be faithful to them. Samson was double minded. He was used mightily of God, but sought to live in the sinful world as well. This proved to be his undoing.

We cannot serve God and Mammon. No man can serve two masters; He will love the one and hate the other. He will cleave to one and reject the other.

Samson had eye trouble. He looked into the land of the Philistines. He sought a woman there. Love follows look. If we do not gaze on the products of the sinful world, we will not be enticed.

David had eye trouble. At a time when he should have been leading his armies, he was on the roof of his palace. He saw Bathsheba bathing. He was in the wrong place looking in the wrong direction.

Peter had eye trouble. He took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink into the waves.

Eye trouble leads to heart trouble.

Where are you looking?

Where is your focus?

What is your focus; your center; your hub; your nucleus?

Eye trouble leads to heart trouble.

Heart trouble leads to gate trouble.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Love: Part Twelve (Conclusion)

The Conclusion: Love never fails

1st Corinthians 13.8-10

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Love is an essentially indescribable emotion. When you ask a person to describe love to you, they will usually tell you how love acts. They will describe how it makes them feel. They will tell you what it does. We tend to look for the tangible evidence to explain the unexplainable. We can describe in vivid detail how a person acts when they love us. We can recognize the actions of love in others. However, when asked to describe love itself, the emotion, we will drop back to the actions. We will lean to the attributes to explain the emotion.

In this study, we have looked at a list of attributes of love. It is by no means an all inclusive list of all that is love and all that love is. It is a list of what love should look like in our lives. It is a list of characteristics that our love must manifest. It is the miter that our love is to match, cut for cut. As I stated earlier in this study, love is the irreducible minimum of the presence of God in our lives. It is the utmost that humanity can express. It is the minimum that God expresses. It is obvious, when you look at the title of this study, that it is never simple when you say, love.

Together, we have traveled through the scriptures related to the attributes Paul listed in 1st Corinthians 13. We have learned of the long suffering aspect of real love. We have viewed the kindness of love. We have come to understand how love does not envy because it rejoices at the good fortune of others. We realize that love is not rash nor does it seek to elevate itself. Love behaves properly in all circumstances. Love does not seek to appease its own desires. We see that love is not easily provoked. It does not celebrate in wrong doing, but it does rejoice in the truth. Finally, we see how love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Paul concludes, as we must also, the love never fails.

Our God is a permanent God. His Word tells us that He never changes. He never ends. He is from everlasting to everlasting. His word also tells us that God is love. Therefore, love never fails. Love never ends. Love outlasts my faults and failures. Love outlasts my doubts. Love outlasts my inadequacies

As important as this aspect is, and it is another attribute of God’s love as well as a conclusion of the scriptures listed before, Paul addresses the issues of the church at Corinth in his conclusion about love.

The church at Corinth was a proud church. They were proud of their ability to declare the prophetic word of God. They were proud of their ability in language. They were proud of their knowledge. Paul said that prophecy was going to cease. Prophecy was going to end. Love was not going to end. There will be no need for prophecy in New Jerusalem. What we know in part now will be known in full then. There will be no need for someone to declare the mysteries of God.

In Heaven, we will all once again speak the same language as it was before the tower of Babel. We will speak to God in His tongue and to each other in God’s tongue as well. There will be no more need for tongues to edify or communicate the hidden hurts of the heart. All of those will be washed away. Physical pain comes from a corruption in the body; in a member or internal organ. This corruptible flesh will put on incorruption. There will be no more physical pain. Therefore there will be no need for the Spirit to make intercession for us with groaning that cannot be uttered. Mental pain is caused by some corruption in the mind. Emotional pain is caused by some corruption the emotional center, whether it be conveyed as the heart or the brain. These things will all be wiped away by the hand of God as we are transformed on that day; when our mortal puts on immortality; our corruptible puts on incorruption; when death is swallowed up in victory.

Paul tells then churches at Corinth, where they put great stock in their knowledge, that knowledge was going to vanish. As the light of a star will be over shone by the light of the midday sun, so shall our human knowledge be in the light of the knowledge of the ages. What we knew in part, we will then know fully. We, grasping at the sparkles of gifts, and powers, and information, will see, in the wisdom of the ages, how futile our squabbles and debates were.

In this, prophecy will end, tongues will cease, and knowledge will vanish, but, when all is said and done, love will still be there.

I love talking to the elderly. While I am not as young as I was, I am not as old as I will be. Even now, in my 50’s, I love talking to the elderly. When they talk, they talk about what is important. They don’t remember all the fancy or luxurious car they once owned or drove. They don’t dwell on the houses and lands they may have possessed. They don’t go on and on about the jobs or careers they once had. Those things fade. The things they talk about are the people that they have loved or have loved them.

Time has washed away the feigned importance of all those things. What has weathered the storm; what has survived the tide; what has made it through the fires of age; are the ones in whom they invested their love. The status symbols of youth are sitting, rusted, in the vast wasteland of unimportant memories. The careers and knowledge that once seemed to define them have withered in the blazing sun of age.

Paul said, when I was a child, I spoke like, acted like a child. When I grew up, I stopped being a child. I know that our children are the lights of our lives, they are the stars which shine in our skies, but they had to grow up. Children are selfish (not yours I know, but mine were.) Children are given to sudden outbursts. Children are known for temper tantrums. Children are easily distracted and therefore a tad bit unreliable. Children have value systems that are a bit askew.

Paul, in the midst of righting wrongs and dealing with squabbles in the churches of Corinth, told them to grow up.

He told them that this thing was about a love that will never fade; will never wither; will never pass away; will never fail. It is not about how many converts you have in your bag. Even though it is imperative that we evangelize the world, it is still not all about have many converts we have been instrumental in procuring. It is not about how many Home Bible Studies you have held. It is not about how many times you have led the choir. It is not about how much you have given to the church. It is not about how much you have prophesied. It isn’t about how much you speak with tongues. It is not about the many charities you support. It is not about giving your body to be burned to save others. It is not about how much knowledge you possess. It is about the love that is shed abroad in your heart.

Love is eternal. It is everlasting, it never ends. It continues and continues and continues.

Not all love is permanent.

There are different kinds of love. We have spoke about them in several Bible studies. There is ‘phileo’ love and ‘eros’ love.

‘Eros’ love is based on need. It is expressed in gratification. It is represented by the physical love we have for others, whether within the boundaries of marriage or not. ‘Eros’ love is not wrong, in and of itself. It is the place where it occurs that sets the right or wrong about it. Within the bonds of marriage, this type of love is acceptable and expected, between husband and wife. It is when it is expressed outside the marriage bed that it becomes sin. The Word tells us that when lust is conceived, it brings forth sin, and when sin is finished, it brings forth death. The word for lust, ‘epithumia’ means a strong desire or longing. It has both good and bad connotations. It is lawful for one spouse to long for the company and physical touch of the other. However, ‘eros’ love is not permanent.

‘Phileo’ love is based on performance. It is the give and take love we encounter most often in this world. As long as you love me, I love you. As long as we share our common bond, our love is maintained. It is the beginning basis of friendship. We share this when we have something in common with another. We work at the same place; we shop at the same market; we love the same restaurant; we have a common interest. It is based on the performance of each participant. How many friends have disappeared once they left the common place where you were both employed? Their friendship/love was performance based. It is not eternal.

‘Agape’ love is different. It is a deep unconditional spiritual love. It is difficult for us to fully comprehend. The greatest example of this type of love was Jesus Christ on the cross. You could have been there and beheld Christ on the cross and still not comprehend the depth of his love. We have trouble grasping this type of love. Our minds see the sacrifice and reason why it took place. We know the words. We can recite them. “For God so loved …” We read and quote these words for His word as if we really understand them, when it is futile for us to believe that we do. Even more unbelievable is that this never ending, unexplainable, unable to be comprehended, love is available to us through Jesus Christ.

It is little wonder that our finite, limited brain thinking has trouble comprehending an infinite limitless love. It goes beyond our ability to understand. We see how some parents are able to love beyond measure a wayward child and we get that dumbfounded look. We can’t see the nearly unbreakable cord of love that exists between that father or mother and that child. Yet, God says that a mother’s love will fail before His love will fail.

It is this love that established grace. It is this love that established a place where our sins are hidden and we can stand in the presence of God. it is this love that continually calls to fallen mankind . It is this love that, though trampled on by doubt and rebellion, still reaches out to man. It is this love that compels God to knock on the door of the hearts and lives of sinners, beguiled and captivated by the glitter of Satan’s temptation. It is this love that draws us to Calvary.

It is this love, which we do not have to understand, that leads us in our daily lives. It is inseparably mingled with the blood He shed on the cross. It is inseparably linked with his will. This is the love at which men marvel. This is the love of which we grasp to comprehend, yet never fully understand.

We cannot wrap our minds around a love that never fails and never ends. Ask me about a love that is conditional and I can talk to you all day. Ask me about a love that wanes and we can carry on long and detailed conversations. Ask me about a love that falters and I can fully grasp that. ,ask me about a love that will go to certain heights and certain depths, but cannot and will not go to the ends of the earth, and I know about that kind of love.

Do not ask me to explain the love that never fails. In this study, in all its parts, in the sum of words totaling over thirty thousand, I have not even begun to justifiably describe or explain the love that God has given to us.

It does not fail, because it suffers long with us. It does not fail because of the kindness it possesses. Love does not fail in that it is not envious of the gifts and talents of others. It does not fail because it does not act rashly. It does not fail because it is not built up in itself. It does not fail because it does not act incorrectly. This love does not fail because it does not seek its own. It is not easily provoked. It does not fail because it is not weakened by thinking evilly of others. It does not fail because it does not celebrate evil but rejoices in the truth. This love does not fail. It bears all things. It believes all things. It hopes all things. It endures all things.

When all else will fail, it will not. When all our accomplishments are crumbled to dust, His love will still stand.

Long after our deeds are forgotten, His love will still be enduring.

Long after our doubts have been passed, His love will still be there.

Love will never end.

The creator of mankind does not sleep nor slumber. His love is always on call. It will not fail. It will not end.

Think of the one you love the most, and His love far exceeds that.

I do not possess the knowledge or verbiage to adequately express how enduring His love is.

Prophecy will end. His love will not. Tongues will cease. His love will not. Knowledge will vanish. His love will not.

Time will fade into an eternal oblivion. His love will not.

Over six billion people inhabit this world He created, and still His love knows your name and where you are right now. While we may be able to count the number, we cannot get a handle on the reality of that number, and yet, His love can call each one.

There is no other way to explain it. His love does not know how to fail. It is never a consideration. Love does not have a plan ‘b’ in case plan ‘a’ fails.

The stars in heaven fade. Love will outlast them.

On earth, we seek and invest in things we think will last, but the moth and rust corrupts them in time. Love does not fade or lose its luster.

1st Corinthians 13:13 “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”

We put much stock in our faith and the hope we have. These things will be gone some day. There will be no need for faith or hope. Love, however, will always be.

Love never fails.

Without faith it is impossible to please God; and without it, we cannot partake of the grace of Jesus; without hope we could not endure, as seeing him who is invisible; nor bear up under the afflictions and difficulties of life: but great and useful and indispensably necessary as these are, yet charity or love is greater: Love is the fulfilling of the law; but this is never said of faith or hope.

By faith we receive from God; by hope we expect a future and eternal good; but by love we resemble God; love is the image of God in the soul.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love: Part Eleven (Summary)

Next we begin to see the summary of what the writer is telling us about love. He has lain out specifics and very clear imagery for us to understand better the nature and works of love. Now, he takes all of these and balls them into this tight summary. All of the things we have seen and heard about love to this point can be placed into categories falling under the next four statements made about love. I will go farther and say that they can be brought into two sets of summaries. I will try to keep them condensed in this eleventh installment in this series.

  • Bears all things and endures all things

Love bears all things. It does not crumble or buckle under the weight of humanities doubts or reason. Logic cannot break it.

There used to be a game sold called “The Last Straw.” It featured a camel that had two baskets linked across its back. The object of the game was to add straws one at a time per player until the ‘last straw’ broke the camel’s back. When enough straws produced enough weight to collapse the camel and the humps touched, the player adding the last straw was eliminated.

Love does not break under the load. Love bears all things.

Under the Law of the Old Testament, there was ‘an eye for an eye’ remuneration. If someone stole your lamb, they owed you a lamb. If someone destroyed your crop, they owed you a crop. This went even as far as a life for a life. If a person killed someone unintentionally by accident, the family of the slain had a right to take the life of that person. There were cities of refuge to which one could flee for sanctuary. Inside a City of Refuge, the accused was safe from the revenge of the family as long as the judge of the city lived and as long as they stayed within the limits of the city.

That was the old law. That was the way then. Now, Paul tells us that we have something new. We have a new covenant. This new covenant is not inscribed on tables of stone. It is written in the fleshly tables of the heart. (2nd Corinthians 3.3) There is a new motivation.

There is a new method of dealing with loss. Matthew records the words of Jesus when He told the followers, that if one strikes you on the cheek, you are to turn the other cheek to be struck again. This was intended to be understood, both literally and figuratively. The figurative understanding is what I want to look at right now. It simply means that if someone wrongs you in some way, you are not only not to retaliate, but are to put yourself in the same position to be wronged again.

In one place in the scripture, Peter is talking to Jesus and asks if someone wrongs him, is he to forgive seven times even? Jesus tells him, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” What was Jesus telling Peter? In this new covenant, there is a new law. There is a new ruler. Our hearts and lives are to be ruled by love. We are governed by a love that bears all things. This may seem overwhelming at a casual glance, but then we must understand that Jesus also tells us the He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. How can we bear it? We can bear it because our hearts are governed by a love that is able to bear all things.

The word used by the writer is ‘stegei’ which means ‘to cover’. The Word tells us that love will cover the multitude of sins.

Why is love long suffering? It is because this love covers the wrong. It keeps the resentment out like the roof covers the house and keeps out the rain. This covering we have as a protection against the weapons of the enemy of our soul.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul exhorts the believers to put on the whole armor of God. He tells them to do this that they may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand. He tells them to have their loins girt about with the truth and to have on the breastplate of righteousness. (love rejoices in the truth.) their feet are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. (Love does not behave itself unseemly.) Above all, they are to take the shield of faith. (Love believes all things) Take the helmet of salvation, he further urges, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [John 1.1] He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. [1st John 4.8])

This love we have as a protection and a comfort. It stands between us and the world.

Mathew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Violence begets violence. When we encounter the world of the enemy, we are not to meet it with violence. We cannot defeat our enemy by becoming our enemy. God acknowledged that He was sending us out as sheep, and that we were going to be in the midst of wolves. He did not, however, send us out without a covering and a weapon. Love, unfailing, unwavering, unending love is our covering and our weapon. We will not convert the world by force. We will not win the lost by trickery or deceit. We will reach our world because we are governed by His love. It is this love that bears all things. It is this love that covers all things. It is this love that covers our sins. It is this love that must shine through us to a world that is groping in utter darkness. This love is the light set on the candlestick. This love is the city set on the hill that refuses to be hidden. This love is the light that will draw all men to it. This love that bears all things is what they need. This is what the world is seeking, whether they realize it or not.

This is what they are looking for in the bottom of the bottle. This is what they are seeking in the cylinder of the hypodermic. This is what they are searching for in relationship after relationship.

This love covers all things. Thereby, it is kind, does not envy, does not act rashly, or react harshly. It is not puffed up. It is not running to do harm. If it sees the faults of a brother, it is quick to bring it to them in a spirit of reconciliation and not to publically demand judgment.

This love will pass by and put up with injuries, without indulging anger or cherishing revenge. It will be patient upon provocation. It holds firm, though it be much shocked. It sustains all manner of injury and ill usage, and bears up under it, such as curses, slanders, prison, exile, bonds, torments, and death itself, for the sake of the injurious, and of others; and perseveres in this firmness.

This and more is why this love will ever be kind. This love we have as an insulator against the harsh and rash reaction of the flesh. We are all flesh. We will contend with this flesh in some manner as long as we are alive. Paul spoke in his letter to the church in Rome that in his flesh dwelled no good thing. He further told them that the will was present but how to perform that which was good was not. (Romans 7.18) he spoke of the constant warfare within his body and soul. We will be human until we are taken home, by death or by rapture. It is then and only then, that this corruption will put on incorruption. Then, this mortality will put on immortality. Until then, we have His love to carry us through. It is this love, His love, that we are to exhibit to the world.

Love endues without complaint. Some will suffer, but not without giving full acknowledgement to the depths of their suffering. Love does not complain about the suffering of humanity in as much as love believes it is working all things for its good, according to the Words of the love giver. Paul spoke about his thorn in the flesh, which he prayed about thrice, but came to accept it was his to keep him from becoming exalted. He never claimed to like or enjoy the condition, but did accept it by the love he bore, and endured it without constant complaining.

1Pe 5:8-10

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

For this cause we suffer with grace through love.

Job 13:15Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

The love, living in my heart, will bear and endure all things. In all that he bore, Job remained true to god in his love and integrity. He did not buckle under the load.

  • Believes all things and hopes all things

We live in a very cynical society. The prince of the air has so robbed this world of trust that no one trusts anyone else anymore. Everything is taken with a grain of salt. I heard a quote some years ago, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” These seem to be the watchwords of modern man. We, as Children of God are baptized into a love that believes. This love casts out doubt. If we have this love, we have this belief. If He loves us, and if He said it, He will do it.

When we have this belief in our God, it cannot help but ‘slop’ over into all our other relationships. This love causes us to trust. There is an acronym I created years ago based on the word ‘trusting’.

Truly * Relying * Upon * Something * That * Isn’t * Naturally * Given.

This trusting doesn’t mean that we believe all falsehoods or anything said to us. It does mean that we don’t naturally disbelieve everything. We give the benefit of the doubt. There will be times, no matter how carefully you plan that you may find yourself in a place where what is happening can be totally misconstrued. I was driving the van for the church once when I went to the hospital to visit one of our members that was there. The hospital had very limited parking at this time and there was none available in their lot. I parked across the street at a metered parking spot and proceeded with my visit. We talked a while and had prayer. I left the hospital, crossed the street, got in the van and left.

It was some time later that the word got back to me that someone was wondering why I was at a bar in the church van. Now, it was not likely that I would have been at a bar and less likely that if I was going to sneak out to a bar that I would drive the church van. Upon further inquiry, I found that the day in question was the day I visited the hospital. It seemed that the parking spot I chose on the street was in near proximity to the entrance to a bar. Someone, knowing the van and that I was driving, assumed that I was at the bar (I guess not taking into consideration that it was during the afternoon. I don’t even know if the bar was open at that time.)

God’s love, of which we are partakers, gives the benefit of the doubt. God’s love, if exhibited would have taken me to the side and asked rather than tell the tale with the slant on wrong doing. Love rejoices not in iniquity. Love rejoices in the truth.

Dad used to say that our feelings sometimes determine what we believe. If we hear a bad report about someone we don’t particularly care for, we are quicker to believe it. “I always knew they weren’t what they claimed.” However, if we hear a bad report about someone we love, we are quicker to defend. “I don’t believe it. There must be a simple and logical explanation.” The love of God is shared equally in both situations. Will there be times that we will be fooled? Oh, yes, there most certainly will be times like that. I quote dad again, who used to say, “I’d rather be taken a few times than be cynical about everyone.”

Love refuses to believe the bad until it has no choice. Then, love seeks to restore rather than reject. Love seeks to reconcile rather than exile. Love seeks to embrace rather than to turn away. The word tells us that if we see a man overtaken in a fault we are to restore them.

There is an old saying, “once a thief, always a thief.” How wrong is it to label a person because of some wrong action they took at one time in their lives? Love looks beyond the wrong and sees the soul that needs God. Love looks beyond the label and sees the potential of a testimony. I heard someone say, and it bears repeating here, “Don’t mistake the man for the moment.” In some weak hour, in some weak moment, we all might slip. How would we feel if we were forever labeled by some error or mistake in our lives?

In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul further tells them that they (we) are to bear one another’s burdens. Job’s comforters came with accusations rather than comfort. Surely, you have committed some great sin for God to allow this to befall you.

Love believes no evil. There is a difference in believing something and knowing something.

For this belief, love rejoices in the truth. Love finds the good. Love does not entertain the evil that might be the motive, but rather believes there must be a reason beyond the evil that once lived in our own hearts.

The Word tells us that we have an anchor. An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, which is used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current. The anchor does so much more than just keep the ship from drifting while safe in the harbor.

When we think of an anchor, we most commonly think of the anchor attached by chain to the ship itself, however, the point to which the ship anchors in port, the immovable point, is also an anchor. The differences in the two are probably best summed up by the name of each. The anchor stored on the ship and attached by a chain is a temporary anchor. The immovable point to which a ship is secured in port is called a permanent anchor.

Heb 6:19Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;”

This love hopes all things. This love attaches us to the anchor. This love, shed abroad in our hearts, ties us to the secure and steadfast point. The Bible tells us that our anchor is both sure and steadfast. The word for ‘sure’ is a compound word. It incorporates the negative article ‘a’ coupled with the word for ‘fail.’ The Word tells us that our anchor is unable to fail. The love in our hearts is the attachment to our anchor.

Love hopes that all will turn out well. This must also refer to the conduct of others; and it means, that however dark may be appearances; how much so ever there may be to produce the fear that others are motivated by improper motives or are bad people, yet that there is a “hope” that matters may be explained and made clear; that the difficulties may be made to vanish; and that the conduct of others may be made to “appear” to be fair and pure. Love will “hold on to this hope” until all possibility of such a result has vanished and it is compelled to believe that the conduct is not susceptible of a fair explanation. This hope will extend to “all things” - to words and actions, and plans; to public and to private contact; to what is said and done in our own presence, and to what is said and done in our absence. Love will do this, because it delights in the virtue and happiness of others, and will not credit anything to the contrary unless compelled to do so.

This wonderful, all encompassing love which we have in our hearts and lives will bear all things; it will believe all things; it will endure all things; it will hope all things. It will suffer long and remain kind. It will not envy, or act in haste. It is not full of itself and will not behave badly. It is not vain, nor easily provoked. It neither thinks evilly nor rejoices in that evil, but it celebrates the truth.

There are many lanes and avenues to following Christ. I do not, in this study, seek to diminish any of them. They all have their place of importance. I do not wish to diminish the need for repentance, or baptism, or Spirit infilling. They are all vital. However, Paul stated in the beginning of this part of the letter, that if he does not have love, it counts for little.

1st Corinthians 13.1-3

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Without love, the rest is a moot point.

Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1st Corinthians 13.8)

Next: The Conclusion