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Faults and Amazing Grace

August 23rd, 2017

Love sees what others do not care enough to look for.

 “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

Romans 5:20

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faults and Amazing Grace.”

We all have faults aplenty, if anyone is looking for them. And it is not uncommon to recognize faults in others that we ignore in ourselves. The challenge of any relationship is choosing to keep in view the things that first caused love or friendship to be valued. As time passes, it is easy to notice more things that are other than were expected. Those are less numerous and probably smaller than what you might appreciate, but a wrong focus can soon cause another’s graces to seem overshadowed.That’s when you will be tempted to highlight another’s supposed shortcomings, much to their displeasure and the gradual diminishing of your relationship.

When a person seems oblivious to a beloved’s imperfections, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I suggest that God’s love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. How would you otherwise explain this verse? “Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 NIV.

This is the real question. How could God see your sinfulness, and yet love you? Do you ever think that strange? Exceptional? Our humanity waits until love has cause and justification to be offered, but is easily revoked when disappointed. God’s only justification was your need for His love and ample forgiveness. Paul marveled at God grace. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” . . “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Romans 5:20/2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” That kind of love, from God or man, has an relentless power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a young man of wealth and authority, who sincerely asked how he might inherit eternal life. Painful moments after Jesus’ response, he would walk away sorrowfully. The price seemed too high for him to accept. “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Read Mark 10:17-22 NKJV.

Though more than fifty years ago, I vividly remember my Dad’s sermon about “the rich, young ruler.” As a young teen, his words painted an unforgettable picture in my heart of a young man walking away, shoulders slumped with sorrow, and his back turned to Jesus. My Dad’s description has influenced my lifetime, lest anything cause me to turn my back on Jesus’ offer of eternal life. No sacrifice is too great as an exchange for eternal life.

While writing Peter’s memory of the encounter, Mark observed, “And Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV. Make no mistake. Others saw his wealth and position and would have received or rejected him on that basis. Jesus saw more. He saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him, before he chose and even after he chose unwisely. Do not make the mistake than young man made.

After explaining his notable, religious pedigree and his brutal, relentless persecution of the young church, Paul wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,  for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” See Philippians 3:4-14 NKJV/Galatians 1:1-16 NIV. No wonder they call grace amazing!

Today, I pray for you to love others, believe the best of them, and show them grace.

Christian Communications 2017

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God Loves People

November 18th, 2016

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us.” 1 John 3:1

Like a window, a good story lets light shine into darkness.

My thoughts and comments today are that “God loves people.”

God loves people, all people. As a Mom loves her ailing child who needs comfort and healing, God especially loves lost people. Here is how much God loves lost people. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 NIV. His love is all sourced in grace, unmerited favor, with no qualifying effort or goodness of your own. “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were [by works], grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6 NIV. Read Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV.

The Apostle Paul was absolutely secure in his knowledge of the limitless extent of God’s love, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV. Nothing but your own decision can separate you from the love of God. Such a decision would be tragic.

The Bible’s theme is about redemption, the joyful recovery of what was lost. Everyone likes a good story and Jesus was the best story teller of all. Like a window, a story lets light shine into darkness. Jesus told common, everyday stories to illustrate grand, eternal truths. Usually, His stories began or ended with the words, “In the same way, the Kingdom of Heaven is like . .”  The intent of Jesus’ stories was to illustrate His Kingdom.

One of Jesus’ stories, and probably the most familiar and beloved, is all about lost things. Jesus told about a lost sheep, a lost coin, two lost sons, and a grieving father. Read Luke 15:3-31 NIV. The sheep simply wandered away from the shepherd and became lost by no intent of its own. Yet was found because a shepherd cared enough to search for one lost sheep. And then, there was rejoicing that what was lost had been found. A coin was lost because it was unintentionally misplaced and forgotten, until its owner was unwilling for the coin to remain lost, searching relentlessly until she found it again. And again, there was rejoicing when what was lost was found.

A younger son was lost because he wanted to live independently and apart from his father. He sought what he thought would be freedom but found it was poverty and shame, but there was a father who watched daily and waited for a lost son whose return released the father’s lavish love and restoration. And again, there was rejoicing when what was lost was found. Then Jesus’ story ended with the account of an older son for whom there was no rejoicing. The other son never left home, but his anger with his brother had estranged his heart from his father. Despite that son’s angry refusal, his father, “went out and pleaded with him,” to join the celebration for his brother. The father’s celebration was incomplete without him. It can seem easier for a prodigal to traverse the geographical distance caused by his shame than for an angry son to navigate the relational distance from his father. Tragically, he failed to believe or receive his father’s words, “My son, you are ever with me and all that I have is yours.”

Jesus story was about far more than a shepherd seeking a lost sheep, or a woman searching for a lost coin, or a father longing for his lost sons. Jesus’ story is about your Heavenly Father who gave His one and only Son for you, me, and others to be saved. Jesus’ summation was simple and consistent for the sheep, the coin, and the prodigal son, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

“For God SO loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV. When words failed John to explain God’s lavish love, he used a very small adverb, “so,” which well described the indescribable – the dimensions of how much God loves a lost world. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 NIV. That is what we are – children of God.

Today, I pray for you to allow no distance between your heart and your Father.

A SPECIAL NOTE – In the title below, I have included a Link to a recent video teaching, “The Difference Between Lost and Found.” My thoughts expand today’s topic as I recently shared at the Cathedral of Faith, San Jose, CA. The Father’s love is the  difference between lost and found. As an extra treat, my friend and singer, Lillie Knauls, shares a classic hymn, Amazing Grace, as introduction to my teaching. Enjoy . .

cof-lost-and-found

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Communications 2016

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The Nature of Love

June 5th, 2015

“Love always looks for the best.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG.

Love has the power to rescue a ruined life and heal a broken heart.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the nature of love.”

People usually see what they expect to find. If you look for people’s faults you will find them plentiful and with that as your focus you will see little else but faults. We all have enough of those if anyone looks for them. But that’s not what real love does. Love chooses a benevolent focus.

The challenge of any friendship or marriage is how to keep in view what first prompted your friendship and love to be given. If not careful, over time you begin to notice small things that are other than you expected. A wrong focus can cause another’s graces to appear overshadowed by their flaws. That’s when you are tempted to “fix” what you see as the other’s faults, much to their displeasure and the detriment of your relationship. Our humanity seems to withdraw love until justification is undeniable.

When a person seems not to see another’s imperfections or faults, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I would argue that real love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. In the great passage about love, Paul wrote, “Love trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 MSG. You can only love others that way when you “always look for the best.” Love is not blind, but rather looks for what others do not care enough to see.

Otherwise, how would you explain God’s love? “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. God’s only justification was His own love and the depth of your need. Years earlier, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” Love has the power to rescue a ruined life and heal a broken heart. That is the nature of love. “Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11 NLT.

You assume others will ignore your peccadilloes. If you want to be loved, remember, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31 NAS), as well as an irrevocable principle, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV), and you determine the measure of love you will receive by choosing how you will give, “Whatever measure you use in giving will be used to measure what is given back to you.” Luke 6:38 NLT. Sow love extravagantly.

Today, I pray for you to love enough to look for the best in others as they will in you. EDL pix faith hope love

 

 

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Complaints and Compliments

December 15th, 2011

“This man welcomes sinners.” Luke 15:2 NIV

“Jesus took their worst complaint and joyfully embraced it as the highest compliment.”

My thoughts today are about “complaints and compliments.”

As a boy, I remember my Dad teaching me a simple rhyme: “How I dislike the guys who criticize and minimize the others guys whose enterprise has made them rise above the guys who criticize and minimize.” You do not make yourself more by making someone else less. Complaining and criticizing neither wins friends nor influences people.

Criticism hurts! You will find that it is easy enough for anybody to find something or someone to criticize, and many well practiced people do it so effortlessly. I cannot imagine that a critic is ever better for expressing their complaint. Is the person criticized ever better off because of another’s’ criticism? I doubt that would be the usual result.

There is such a thing as constructive criticism, but I think most people experience a lot less of the helpful kind than the hurtful. The Bibles describes criticism that would be constructive and beneficial as, “Speaking the truth in love . . let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:16 NKJV/4:29 NLT. That your criticism is true or that you meant your words in a loving way is not sufficient justification to hurt someone for your own satisfaction.

I suggest that “speaking the truth in love” would better reflect the context of a proven and loving relationship in which the person on the receiving end is historically sure your words are for their betterment even if difficult or momentarily painful to hear. “A friend means well even when he hurts you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder – watch out!” Proverbs 27:6 TEV. It is possible to use the method of a critic even without having the motive of one.

I would suggest that criticism should be measured out sparingly, and encouragement and edification lavished in large doses. Sincere compliments are much better than well intended complaints. The Pharisees always found something and someone to criticize, and especially seemed intent on criticism of Jesus and those disciples around Him. They did not mean their words constructively nor imagine them helpful. “And the Pharisees complained, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2 NKJV. And they were right! Jesus was more often around sinners than the self-righteous. They intended their accusation as the harshest of criticism, “Welcoming sinners!” Unthinkable to these proud know-it-alls!

I find it so inviting that Jesus took the worst complaint against Him and joyfully embraced it as the highest of compliments. I say this on the basis of Jesus’ very own words, “I did not come to call the righteous, but (to call) sinners to repentance.” Matthew 9:13 NKJV. I, for one, am forever thankful that Jesus welcomes sinners; that makes me welcome! At Christmas time, I find great joy in the Angels’ announcement at His birth, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to ALL PEOPLE. For there is born TO YOU this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NKJV. Jesus still is a friend of sinners, and their Savior. And that is good tidings of great joy!

My prayer for you today is that you turn every complaint into a compliment.

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