Saturday, February 17, 2018

Love week essay #7: Conclusion

All this week we've explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God's love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John's epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Yesterday we explored the difficult concept of loving our enemies.

In #6 we looked at how Love fulfills the Law


The number one topic of songs, they tell me, is love. The world, which does not know love, sings about it. In 1984, Foreigner sang I Want To Know What Love Is. As Wikipedia describes,
The song hit number one in both the United Kingdom and the United States and is the group's biggest hit to date. It remains one of the band's best-known songs and most enduring radio hits... and is listed as one of Rolling Stone Magazine's greatest songs of all time.
When Mick Jones of Foreigner wrote the song, he later described it as one of those things where, at 3:00 in the morning, it all suddenly came to him. He said it 'was like a higher force' just gave it to him in toto 'as a gift'. Later, he attempted to enhance the song in a spiritual way, contacting The New Jersey Mass Choir to perform another version, which also earned numerous awards and lots of radio play.

If ever there was a man of Ecclesiastes howling into the darkness of his soul for clarity on love and meaning of life, this song is it. I sang it myself as an unsaved young women who had the same yearning amid the strong sense of vanity and emptiness. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS I'd sing at the top of my lungs, and I really meant it.

In His grace, He eventually showed me. Love is Christ. God is love. There is no other love that is real, permanent, eternal, and sure as the love of God to His person of the Trinity and to us, whom He has invited into His circle through Christ. The world does not know love. They want to know what love is.

Love is explained and shown in the Bible. Read it. It is shown in answered prayer. Pray it. It's demonstrated among brethren, receive it. It fulfills the commands when you choose it.

Psalm 103 is a song of love toward our God. He is great and worthy of all our love and attention and obedience and praise.


Friday, February 16, 2018

love week essay #6: Love fulfills the law

All this week we've explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God's love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John's epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Yesterday we explored the difficult concept of loving our enemies.

Today we look at how love fulfills the Law. First, the scriptures.

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

As we have looked at previously, love is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. It marks him or her out from the world. Yet we go even further, that the kind of love Jesus expects of us to display is a law-fulfilling love. The two commandments are to love Him, and love people.

But how can God command us to feel something, one might ask. We can't command feelings, can we?Again, as we have looked at previously, love isn't a feeling that comes on its own like the wind and blows away when it wants, leaving us either filled and romantic, or dry and loveless. We have the will to choose to love. We gain that will by adhering to the precepts of the Father, who said to love all, even one's enemies. The will to love comes from the fountain of grace that indwells us, AKA the Holy Spirit.

Now, commandment one is to love the God with all our strength, soul, and mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Love doesn't harm a neighbor. Love protects a neighbor. Love doesn't slander him, or murder him with ill thoughts, or take his wife. Love doesn't harm a neighbor by harboring covetousness over his new car/riding lawnmower/pool. Love wants the best for people, always.

It is upon us to rely on the Spirit, ask the Spirit, pray for the Spirit to cultivate in us Godly desires that squeeze out even the desire for violence against our neighbor, violence even in the form of sinful thoughts, never mind sinful actions. The goal is to love one's neighbor enough so that any desire for harm against him is not even present in our heart.

When we do that, when we love our neighbor as purely as possible, it cycles us back to the first Law, loving God with all our strength,mind, heart, and soul, because we are obeying Him.

Love fulfills the Law.

Now I need to get to work. It seems I have a lot of heart work to do... :) Do you?

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Resources

In this devotional, Alistair Begg wants us to Make Him Glad with our Love

Hugh Binning's book Christian Love is recommended at Banner of Truth Trust, Monergism, Reformation Trust, and other sources. Here is the book blurb-
In this Treatise of Christian Love, the Scottish Covenanting minister Hugh Binning movingly presents the need for Christians to show by their love for one another that they belong to Christ. Basing his remarks on John 13:35, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another, he argues, 'This badge that Christ left to his disciples: if we cast this away on every disagreement, we disown our Master, and disclaim his token and badge.'
Binning describes the excellence of Christian love, demonstrating its nature from 1 Corinthians 13. He gives strong reasons why Christians should love one another, and shows that love is rooted in Christian humility and meekness, after the pattern of Christ himself.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Florida alleged school shooter Nikolas Cruz needs the Gospel as much as any of us do

We've been progressing through the attribute of love as God loves and expects it of His children. It's love week here at the End Time.

I'd planned next week to explore hate. Not everyone's favorite subject, I'm sure, but we've all experienced it, either prior to salvation when were at enmity with God or afterward when we had fleshly flashes of it.

Today, sadly, we as a nation are once again mourning in the aftermath of a massacre shooting. This was the worst kind, a school shooting.

Yesterday alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a public school of about 3,000 students outside Boca Raton, FL. In the recent past we've endured:

February 14, 2018 - Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - Parkland, Florida. 17 people killed and at least 14 others injured.

January 23, 2018 - Marshall County High School - Benton, Kentucky. Two killed and 18 injured.

December 7, 2017 - Aztec Hight School - Aztec, New Mexico. Two killed and shooter kills self.

September 13, 2017 - Freeman High School - Spokane, Washington. 1 student killed, 3 injured.

April 10, 2017 - North Park Elementary School - San Bernardino, California. Adult kills student and teacher, then self. Two others injured.

That is a list of just the shootings within the last year, and of course you and I know there are many more, and not just school shootings. In the aftermath, we see quotes like this one from CNN.
"This has been a day where we've seen the worst of humanity. Tomorrow is gonna bring out the best in humanity as we come together to move forward from this unspeakable tragedy," he said. 
I would disagree, and the Bible would support me on this. It isn't the worst of humanity. It's humanity.  I would disagree, and the Bible would support me on this. It isn't the worst of humanity. It's humanity. It's easy to think of Cruz as an enemy and hate him. But we have met the enemy, and he is us.

The ground of this pure and unspoiled earth became blood soaked shortly after the Fall, when Cain slew Adam. Even prior to that moment, Eve and Adam behaved violently by disobeying God, moving forward in enmity. They broke His one and only command, thus causing the fall of man from his position God had declared as "very good." After that, man has not been "very good" but "very bad". The technical term in Christianity for very bad is "depraved sinner". After the Fall, this became a world of death instead of a world of life. (Romans 5:17).

Ligonier explains our depravity:
So often we are quick to blame others for our failures and shortcomings. We even mask how we do this by employing the "if-only" rationale to excuse our sin. "If only I had been raised differently…I had a better job…you hadn't provoked me…my husband would listen to me…my church were better…." The list is endless and usually contains genuinely flawed people and circumstances that are blameworthy.
But no circumstance, other person, or activity can ever justify my sin. I sin, Jesus said, because my heart is sinful. That is a shattering reality. But we must humbly face it if we want to be spiritually healed.
Alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz shot people because he is a depraved human. But we're all depraved. The difference is that prior to salvation we have no hope of resisting that depravity. Afterward, it is a constant battle, albeit aided by the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit. But it's in all of us. Ask Abel. There is none good, no not one. When the hate against God that's inside us grow to such monstrous proportions one cannot restrain it any more, we unleash it in terrible ways. Gossip, slander, adultery, extortion, oppression, murder. It's all there in all of us.

It is exactly why we need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
Praise God He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. The Gospel is life.


Love Week Essay #5: Loving our Enemies?

All this week we've explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God's love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John's epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Today we'll look deeper into that, loving not only those who are easy to love, or loving who we are supposed to love, but loving those who actively hate us. Enemies.

I'll take a moment here to let you all know something. I enjoy writing, but that's not the only reason I write blogs every day. I process the Word by writing. When I post a blog essay, I'm not telling you all how to be Christian, though there is some exhortation with each essay. Mainly, I am preaching to myself. I don't find it easy to love the way the Bible tells us, even to friends and brethren. I certainly don't find it easy to love enemies. I fail in many ways, every day. So please don't ever think that I have it all together!

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:35).

And again in Matthew:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Barnes' Notes explains:
We are bound to love our enemies. This is a law of Christianity, original and unique. No system of religion but Christianity has required it, and no act of Christian piety is more difficult. None shows more the power of the grace of God; none is more ornamental to the character; none more like God; and none furnishes better evidence of piety. He that can meet a man kindly who is seeking his hurt; who can speak well of one that is perpetually slandering and cursing him; that can pray for a man that abuses, injures, and wounds him: and that can seek heaven for him that wishes his damnation, is in the way to life. This is religion, beautiful as its native skies; pure like its Source; kind like its Author; fresh like the dews of the morning; clear and diffusive like the beams of the rising sun; and holy like the feelings and words that come from the bosom of the Son of God. He that can do this need not doubt that he is a Christian. He has caught the very spirit of the Saviour, and he must inherit eternal life.
It's easy to love those who love us. It's simple to treat others lovingly who treat us well. Jesus said even the Gentiles (who do not know love) do the same.

A Christian's love must be different than what is expected. It has to be different from the kind of love the world is used to. It must be perfect.

But how can our love be perfect? We're imperfect sinners!

John MacArthur here in his sermon Love Your Enemies part 3:
The point is this: you are to be like God.  You say, "Well, that standard is too high."  You're right, and that's exactly what He wanted the Pharisees to know. You can't make it. ... What Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount is the same thing, "Be perfect."  They're supposed to say, "But I can’t be perfect." And that’s when He says, “Right; and if you fall short of perfection, you need a Savior." And that’s where Jesus comes in, and brings to you what Peter calls the divine nature, and makes you like God, a partaker of His nature. Then God, in a miracle of salvation, does for you what you could never do for yourself – be like God. When you came to Jesus Christ, positionally, you were made like God. You were given His eternal life, His righteousness, you became like Him in that sense. And now you need to bring your behavior into harmony with your position.
Oh no! I still can't!

John MacArthur continues:
Listen: a Christian is not someone who keeps the Sermon on the Mount. A Christian is somebody who knows he can't, do you see – and comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness for the sin of falling short, and receives from Christ the forgiveness, and then the power to begin to live these principles. That’s the point of the message.
If that makes you cry, good. It did me. His standards are holy and high, and we can't make it. It makes me cry out Abba! Father! Help me! Help me to love like you would have me do! And He will.



A note about the photo: It was taken by a friend of mine who works with the American Legion, an American veteran, who was in NYC for a conference on the day of 9-11. He took this photo the day after. He gave this picture to me and spent some time telling me how the day was for him and his colleagues. It was an emotional day for all of us, though it's hard to believe it has been 17 years since then. I watched in shock as the towers fell (and knew many were dying at that moment), the pit in the ground in PA where the plane dove in, the Pentagon ruptured and a Navy man who lived in our town was killed inside. Whether it's an individual enemy at work, or a national enemy out to destroy America, and every enemy in between, it is very hard to love your enemies. Yet Jesus did, while He was being nailed to the cross, He pleaded for mercy upon those who nailed Him and wanted Him dead. The truth is, before salvation we were all enemies of God and we all have that depravity in us that wants God dead. Praise Him that before we knew Him, He first loved us.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love week essay #4: Hooked on a Feeling?

Happy Valentine's Day! Here are some famous songs about love for you!

All You need is Love
I Wanna Know What Love Is
Love Stinks
Can't Help Falling in Love
Addicted to Love
Can't Hurry Love
I Will Always Love You
I Just Called to Say I Love You
Love is A Battlefield
I Think I Love You
Psalm 136

Wait, wut? Psalm 136? Yes! It is a tremendous song about God's steadfast love. I wrote about it in Love Week essay #1, here.

The world tries to understand love but the world never will know it unless that seeking person is saved by grace through faith. When we abide in Jesus we can then know love. (1 John 4:8).

Still the world sings songs and wonders where it all went. All too often, We've Lost that Loving Feeling and wonder what to do After the Love is Gone.

We must understand that love is not a feeling, but a position, a decision.

Author Mary Kaasian says in her essay Love is a Choice,
 Although it is often felt in the heart, love is primarily an act of the will. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in the way God loves us. In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words describe God’s love for his people. The first Hebrew word for love, ahab, means: “to desire, to breathe after; to be inclined toward, to delight in.” The Lord God delights in us and is inclined toward us. He desires–“breathes after”–us with affectionate (ahab) love. Although Ahab is an intense word, it’s only used a handful of times with regard to the Lord. There’s another richer, more powerful word that’s used repeatedly throughout Old Testament Scripture to describe God’s love for us: the Hebrew word chesed. 
Chesed speaks of a love that is firmly rooted in choice. It involves loyalty, steadfastness and commitment to a promise. It’s a love that doesn’t depend on the response or behavior of the receiver but rather on the steadfast character and commitment of the giver. Ahab has to do with feelings, whereas chesed implies a mind-set and mode of interaction based on unwavering loyalty to a commitment.
The world will tell us (in its songs) that we are slaves to our feeling of love. We're hooked on a feeling, addicted to love, finding or losing that feeling. That it makes us Crazy, Fools, and love even has its own Power.

All that makes Love its own god.

Only God has as much power as pagans think love has.

We don't love the way the world loves. We who are saved have the ability to remain loving in the Christ-like way because it's a choice in which the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit allows us to persevere. The Gentiles fall in and out of love, find it and lose it, wax and wane within it, because feelings are ephemeral, temporary, and deceptive.

The only love that endures in a pagan is self-love.

A Christian's love is counter-cultural to the world because the Bible teaches us to consciously deny our self-love and focus our love on others, even unto death. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-45-

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Christian marriage between one man and one woman is a major way that God wants to demonstrate His kind of love in the world. He demonstrates in the picture of marriage, the counter-cultural, upside down attitude toward love wherein it becomes a choice and not a snare. When marriages endure through the act of the will and not fail or succeed because we're reflexively responding to a feeling, it's His way and not the world's way.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.a 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body.

Wives, submitting? Husbands loving, even unto death? Yes, because we are members of His body. The Gentile is cut off from His body and therefore thinks that love is a feeling, when it is actually a choice.

Love well today, on this Hallmark holiday exalting the world's version of love. Love as Jesus taught, which is a choice toward others, sacrificial, permanent. Love your friends, wives love husbands and husbands love your wives, love your children, and love your enemies. Because love isn't a feeling, it's a permanent choice in Christ.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-9).



Our Daily Bread

I really liked this morning's devotional from Spurgeon. Spurgeon wrote in the last paragraph. "in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above".

The Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 reminds us of this. In verse 6:11 we read that we are to pray: "Give us this day, our daily bread". The word in the Greek for 'our daily' means "for the coming day, for subsistence", bringing emphasis to Spurgeon's note that we have no store of strength.

Blessedly, the table of bread is eternal, ever flowing to sustain His people. Spurgeon notes that we will "never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy." Like the manna in the desert, sustenance will ever appear, daily.

This Morning's Meditation

C. H. Spurgeon

"And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life."—2 Kings 25:30.

JEHOIACHIN was not sent away from the king's palace with a store to last him for months, but his provision was given him as a daily pension. Herein he well pictures the happy position of all the Lord's people. A daily portion is all that a man really wants.

We do not need tomorrow's supplies; that day has not yet dawned, and its wants are as yet unborn. The thirst which we may suffer in the month of June does not need to be quenched in February, for we do not feel it yet; if we have enough for each day as the days arrive we shall never know want. Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy.

We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day's supply of food and raiment; the surplus gives us the care of storing it, and the anxiety of watching against a thief. One staff aids a traveller, but a bundle of staves is a heavy burden. Enough is not only as good as a feast, but is all that the veriest glutton can truly enjoy. This is all that we should expect; a craving for more than this is ungrateful. When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance. Jehoiachin's case is ours, we have a sure portion, a portion given us of the king, a gracious portion, and a perpetual portion. Here is surely ground for thankfulness.

Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above. It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you. In the word, through the ministry, by meditation, in prayer, and waiting upon God you shall receive renewed strength. In Jesus all needful things are laid up for you. Then enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love week essay #3: Love is not a feeling

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10).

S. Lewis Johnson said of those verses in his sermon The Divinity of Love part 2, "Now, there are three parts to the section. The apostle exhorts us to love in verses 7 and 8, he talks about the manifestation of authentic love in verses 9 and 10,"

God's love is not a feeling, at least, not like we experience love. In human life, love waxes and wanes from fervent to fleeting and everything in between. It is erotic, brotherly, and sacrificial (eros, phileo, agape). Songs are written about love, people die for love, they live for love. Which is all very amazing, because we do not understand it until we are saved and thus experience God, who is love.

SL Johnson again, on the three kinds of love, (eros, phileo, agape)
One of the commentators somewhere to try to bring it down to our level has said the first word that has to do with sexual love, we might say, is all take. And then the second word is the weaker word, is give and take. And then the final one is all give and that is the true biblical kind of love. The apostle uses that third term that is the will of an individual and the expression of his love in a sacrificial kind of way to put it very simply.
At some point God communicated His perfect love for Himself in the form of the Father-Son-Spirit toward His creation and specifically toward His created humans. DA Carson here says,
What is of interest to us for our topic is the way the texts distinguish how the love of the Father for the Son is manifested, and how the love of the Son for the Father is manifested — and then how such love further functions as lines are drawn outward to elements of Christian conduct and experience. These function in various ways. There is space to reflect on only one of them.

In John 15, Jesus tells His disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you" (15:9). Thus, we move from the intra-Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son to the Son’s love of His people in redemption. Jesus thus becomes the mediator of His Father’s love. Receiving love, so has He loved. Then He adds, "Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love" (15:9b–10).
Consider the gift, privilege, and grace of God's love to us. Here, John Gill,
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
As the Father hath loved me,.... As his own Son, and as Mediator, from everlasting; and in time, in his state of humiliation, throughout the course of his obedience, and under all his sufferings; which he testified more than once by a voice from heaven; which he showed by concealing nothing from him as Mediator, by giving all things into his hands, by showing him all that he himself did, by appointing him the Saviour of the body, and making him the head of the church, by exalting him at his right hand, and ordaining him to be judge of quick and dead. 
So have I loved you: Christ loves his as his spouse and bride, as his dear children, as members of his body, as branches in him the vine, as believers in him, and followers of him; which he has shown by espousing both their persons and cause, by assuming their nature, by suffering and dying in their room and stead, and making all suitable provision for them, both for time and eternity.  
And there is a likeness between the Father's love to him, and his love to his disciples and followers: as his Father loved him from everlasting, so did he love them; as his Father loved him with a love of complacency and delight, so did he, and so does he love them; and as his Father loved him with a special and peculiar affection, with an unchangeable, invariable, constant love, which will last for ever, in like manner does Christ love his people; ...
Bless the LORD for His love - of and to Himself among His Persons, and through His Son to us. How grateful we should be that we can know love, for God is love and apart from Him, we know not what love its at any time.

EPrata photo



Love week essay #7: Conclusion

All this week we've explored the blessings of love. We looked at God's love  through the lens of Psalm 136 . We looked at the  m...