Approval of God


From Pastor’s Desk: 2-25-18

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. – Luke 1:30-31 (NIV)

Mary was an amazing woman. Think of the situation — a 13 to 15 year old virgin is told that she has favor with God. Favor? She will be pregnant and have to convince her fiancée that she was not unfaithful. She will have to endure the gossip that will follow her for the rest of her life concerning the birth of her son and the timing of her wedding to Joseph. Yet God DOES give Mary favor; He reveals to her the unique role that she plays in God’s purposes and she embraces that role, even though it will come at great personal cost. Christmas is a reminder that our story—including all of the difficult parts—is never truly understood until it is seen in the light of God’s story. (Dave Whitehead, Senior Pastor, GraceNYC.org, Author of Making Sense of the Bible)

***

A good thought to remember when you know you are in the perfect center of God’s will, but, at the same time, you are smack dab in the middle of adverse circumstances.

I think a good point of the story is to not seek approval from anyone but God. People cannot see the beginning of your calling, nor can they see the things you have undergone to get where you are today. But, as one song says, “If you could see where Jesus brought me from to where I am today, then you would know just why I love Him so…”

Ofttimes it escapes us that Mary lived, probably all her life, under the shadow of her “illegitimate” birth, as people were more than likely the same then as now. Some would never be convinced that her pregnancy was miraculous. Some would never understand how Joseph could even begin to forgive her, much less continue in the relationship with her. Some would, I think, go so far as to invoke the “law” on her, which is, taking her out and stoning her to death.

No, we don’t really stop to think how severe the ordeal she must have endured to birth the Son of God.

Some people don’t really stop to think how severe are your ordeals, though you are in the center of God’s will, producing that which only God knows will be the outcome of such ordeal.

Be content to know in your heart that you are in God’s will, doing whatever He, not others, dictates to fulfill His plan for you.

Sunset over Mountain Range

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That’s Love


From Pastor’s Desk:
 
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 NKJV
 
***
 
We did not love Him first. He loved us when we were unlovely. Romans 5:8 tells us that “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We did not chose Him, He chose us. As John 15:16 puts it, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you…”
 
How many of you can remember life before Christ? Did you know you were lost until the glorious light of the gospel illuminated the sin within, and made you aware that you were lost? Were you seeking God? Most likely not. Oh, as every man does, we were seeking something but had no concept of what or who we were seeking. It was in that state of spiritual darkness, where we then abode, that Jesus was seeking us. The Bible says, “…the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11). “Which was lost” was you, me, and all mankind.
 
“In this is love … that He loved us … and sent His Son…” There is no greater concept of love than found in John 3:16-17, the Golden Text of the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” This is not just a concept of love, it is love, as conveyed in the following Scripture. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
 
Out of the love of God comes the awesome truth that God, because of His love for the world, sent His Son as a propitiation for the sin of the world. The Greek word for propitiation is ἱλασμός hilasmos (hil-as-mos’): atonement, that is, (concretely) an expiator: – propitiation. Jesus paid the only price that would appease the wrath of God toward sin.
 
God sent, Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus ascended, and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father forever making intercession for you and me.
 
That’s love!

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Love One Another


From Pastor’s Desk:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 NASB

***

From among the first recorded family comes the reality that love is not inherent within human beings (Genesis 4:1-8). When things go askew from the way we think they ought to go, love is the farthest thing from our mind and heart. Because God did not accept Cain’s sacrifice, but accepted Abel’s, Cain grew angry and killed Abel. Was he really so angry at Abel? In reality, he was angry with God, but God being who He is and Cain being who is was, he certainly could not take his anger out on God, so he chose to retaliate against Abel instead.

How often is anger at someone, or something, we cannot contend with directed at someone, or something, else? One example would be that of a man who is under much pressure at his place of employment, but can’t do anything about it, and takes his anger out on those at home, sometimes to a level of abuse. Or how about the wife who is angry at the husband, but cannot effectively contend with him, and goes searching for someone else with which to share her discontent and anger and travels a road that leads to devastation. The list of examples would be long.

Let’s get over into the church realm. Your brother or sister angers you, but because of their status and your status, you cannot, indeed dare not, retaliate against them. Others are drawn into the “feud” by gossip about the situation, and pretty soon you’ve got not a feud, but a full-scale war going in the church that could easily split the church because someone doesn’t “have love for one another.”

Jesus said the commandment to love one another is one upon which all others are hung (Matthew 22:37-40). Paul wrote that without love we are nothing but a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1). He closes chapter 13 by saying, “…now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (verse 13).

Talent, charisma, ability, capability, knowledge, intellect, ingenuity, any or all of the Gifts of the Spirit, anything we might accomplish in the kingdom? None of these matter if we don’t “have love for one another.”

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Not a Difficult Choice


From Pastor’s Desk:
 
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV
 
***
 
The Golden Text, the focal point, the exact center of all truth of Scripture, and the reason for the plan of salvation. It embraces the design, initiation, implementation, sustenance, and fruition of the plan of salvation. It has no boundaries for “whoever” can have everlasting life. There are no restrictions, for the Self-existent, Eternal God is the One who loves, and gives His only Begotten Son out of that love.
 
Notice, however, that as marvelous as the truth is, it does not eliminate choice. “Whoever believes” signifies a choice of perishing or not perishing, of having eternal life, or not having eternal life.
 
When you stop to think about it, it’s really not a hard choice to make. Heaven or hell! Eternal life or eternal damnation! That’s the choice!

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The Way of Love


From Pastor’s Desk:

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NKJV

***

Taken form the “Love” chapter, these verses are but an excerpt from all the good things love does, and doesn’t, do. In a world where the concept of love is so drastically misguided, these verses tend to, if we will allow, draw us back into reality of what love really is. Dictates of society would have us think of love in such a shallow way that is so far from the truth.

Whether we consider phileo (brotherly, or man-kind) or agape (godly) love, the principle of the verses apply. There are just some things that genuine love does not produce. The things that it does produce most times are gained from great effort. Then you have to factor the concept that most folks think of love as a feeling. While not contending, or disagreeing, that there are feelings involved in love, it misses the point. There are times when one does not “feel” love, but is commanded to love anyway, i.e. choosing to love because of vows made to someone.

It is my belief that homes would yet be in tact if one or the other had chosen to love instead of leave. The problem is that the issue arises where one does not “feel” what he/she felt earlier in the relationship. So, instead of choosing to love and work through the issue, it is easier to leave. That, however, is an erroneous idea that is definitely not easier, but leads to much misery among all involved.

In order for relationships to remain adhesive, love must suffer long and be kind. Whether in the biological family or the church family, schisms are inevitable if love wanes, or is left wanting.

That is, of course, what the devil desires. A thesis could be written on how society is a designed attack against real, godly love that holds people together. Without going into specifics, just take a look around you.

Chapter 12 closes with, “…yet I show you a more excellent way.” That way is love! The opening verse of Chapter 13 then begins with, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”

One thing that is important about feelings is that people can feel godly love. And they can feel when you don’t have it!

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Spiritual Gifts Negated


From Pastor’s Desk:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging 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, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV

***

It is so amazing that there are so many people that “operate” in the Gifts of the Spirit, yet soon after exhibit traits of which love is at the bottom of the list if on the list at all. Some folks don’t really realize that all they do “spiritually” is negated by the fact that they do not operate in love.

Dr. Tim Hill, Church of God General Overseer recently said, “You can’t be more spiritual than you are Scriptural.”

I was on the way to writing much more, but I think I’ll just stop right here and let you, as one man I knew used to say, “Chew on that a while.”

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A Worthy Commendation


From Pastor’s Desk: 3-26-23

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 2 Thessalonians 1:3 NKJV

***

Selah; pause and meditate on that. If the Apostle Paul was our “Overseer” today, could he say the same about us? Are there signs that our faith is growing exceedingly? Is there such a display of love for each other that we could receive such a favorable commendation?

If not, what has happened? Is the clamor of societal distractions so loud and the enticements so strong that the principles of Scripture can no longer be heard? Those two precepts mentioned in the verse doesn’t come automatically. For instance, faith comes only through the word (Romans 10:17). Loving each other is of such significance that Jesus said that all the other commandments hung on it (Matthew 22:37-40).

It will take a lot of awareness, determination, and effort to be in a place to receive such a commendation. But the rewards of doing so is absolutely worth it.

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