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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Be Imitators

Ephesians 5:1 "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

There are people who spend their lives pretending to be someone else. There are Elvis impersonators and comedians who train themselves to sound like and mimic the expressions famous people for our entertainment. To be successful they must know the people they are imitating. Often for the sake of entertainment comedians will take a flaw in the person and exaggerate it to make people laugh.

The word Paul uses here when he says to imitate Jesus is a word only ever used in the positive sense. It does not mean to imitate superficial habits or expressions or gestures. It means imitate the positive things about Him. It is a word associated with having a mentor. When you have a mentor you try and learn to do the things that have made him or her successful.

Here is my point today and it's pretty simple. Religion tends to be about externals. It focuses on how we dress or what we eat or certain customs we do. Often (sadly) religion becomes much more about what we don't do, don't eat, don't wear, etc... than what we actually do.

One day the religious leaders attacked Jesus because his disciples according to them were not washing their hands properly. These same men were making plans to kill Jesus but were worried about a custom not even found in the Scriptures.

What is my point exactly? My point is if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me "Do Adventists do...?" or "Are Adventists allowed to...?" or "Adventists don't ... do they?"

The implication in the questioning is clear. Adventists are not followers of Jesus they are followers of Adventism. That is my point. Sadly we know far more about religious traditions and rules and habits and cultural practices or taboos than we know about Jesus. In addition these religious practices are too often about external superficial things than about what mattered to Jesus.

Paul makes it pretty simple: Imitate Jesus - walk in love just as He loved.

Remember what Jesus said? "They will know you are My disciples (imitators) if you love each other as I have loved you".

Something is wrong when we can be a respected leader in a religion that professes to be Christian and yet be nothing like Jesus.

Discover Him. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Study Him. Emulate Him. Start today.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Harm Another Harm Yourself

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
 
 
We are members of one another - forgive one another as Christ forgave you.
 
This passage is further developing the concept that God has no intentions of leaving us as we are. He has plans for change and transformation. That may seem obvious but I want us to notice the kind of changes He is intent on making.
 
Every change listed above speaks to relationships. They are changes in how we treat each other. They are changes where others become more important to us than our own well being.
 
We have a very narrow, warped, selfish view of love. We talk about "finding the right person". We dream of a person who will benefit us and enhance our lives. We too quickly cut people out of our lives if their presence costs us anything. We put seniors in nursing homes. We put the disabled in care facilities. We refer the poor to organizations for help.
 
When it comes to religion we think of rules in the context of 'things I must do to please God so I can get my reward'. Again intensely selfish. We fail to realize the 'rules' are simply relationship safety barriers. Lying hurts people and breaks down trust which is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Stealing hurts people and breaks down trust too. Notice too that working to acquire money is not just for self but for helping others. Anger if not constructively and quickly processed to a healthy resolution becomes toxic. It morphs into bitterness and resentment and builds walls between people not easily taken down.
 

There is a popular saying "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me". This is a lie. When I was in Berlin parts of the wall that had divided the city remained as a reminder. Even though they were standing they were full of "scars" where hammers or picks or other hard objects had been used to pick away the concrete. Words of criticism are like hammer blows to the heart and worth of a person. Words of ridicule, words of shame, words of belittling all do their part in tearing a person down. As followers of Jesus we are to speak words that heal.

 The Spirit of God is doing a double work. He is both healing us and trying to work through us to bring healing to others. If we try and take from Him the blessings we want while withholding those blessings from others we are fools and we will suffer since we belong to the same body we are damaging when we hurt others.
 
"And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
 
This is our high calling and He who calls us is able to finish the work in us if we permit Him.

Changing but how?

Ephesians 4:19 "who(those trusting their own feelings and wisdom), being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that yo...u put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."
I feel impressed to stop here and overstate an obvious point. Life is growth and change. This is unavoidable. Every day we are incrementally growing more like Jesus or less like Jesus. Few are the days when we have huge aha moments or spiritual growth spurts. This is why if we are careless we can be growing less like Him every day and not even notice. This is what is happening to society at large. Our love is dying. Our tolerance is dying. Our patience is dying. Matthew 24:10-12 describes how as we approach the end of time on this planet the love of most (in the church) will grow cold.

 It's this general slow decline of morality that can turn something as degrading as 50 Shades of Grey into popular entertainment. A phenomenon that would have been impossible perhaps as recently as ten years ago.
 
How will we avoid this death of love, compassion, respect, etc...? There is only one way: A constant connection with Jesus. I want to end with this point:
 
20 "But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus."
 
Paul is writing to believers. People who profess to be followers of Jesus yet he implies quite openly that it is possible they are not learning about Him at all. There are two ways that it is possible to be a Christian and not be learning about Jesus and becoming like Him as a result.
 
The first possibility is that you belong to a church that doesn't teach Jesus. They may teach rules, they may teach self help, they may teach philosophy but they don't teach Jesus. As a result you're learning human wisdom cloaked as Christianity.
 
The second possibility is that you are ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. How is this possible? By never applying what you learn. It's like learning that drinking water is really healthy and promoting it to others and wearing "drink your water today" t-shirts but never drinking water yourself.
 
"If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." - Jesus (John 13:17)
 
Search for a body of believers that is actually pursuing Jesus and then ask Him to help you follow His lead. Any other path will ultimately lead to unhappiness and death.
 
Jesus. He loves you and He'll never steer you wrong.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

One Body

Ephesians 4:10 "He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
 
He ascended that he might fill all...
 
When you understand what the Bible is saying you can spot a mistake in translation without even looking up what the Greek was. When I read "all things" at the end of verse ten I knew it was wrong because Jesus ascended into heaven to be able to send His Spirit to fill all people and people aren't things. The word 'things' is supplied. It should simply say 'all'.
 
What did He tell the His disciples before leaving? "It is better for you that I go because I will send the Comforter and He will lead you into all truth." It was a direct reference to the Spirit.
 
Then what comes in verse 11? A list of some of the gifts God gives by His Spirit to His people. He gifts some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers. Why does God do this? For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.
 
Let me get right to the point today:
 
 
No individual Christian will ever be a full representation of Jesus. God did not design for some in the church to be Super Christians. That was never His plan. The next manifestation of God's character in the earth is to be made by His body - the church. Each member (incomplete by themselves) plays whatever role Jesus gifted them - filled them - to do, and when they come together and like an orchestra each play their part the result is Divine.
 
There is no such thing as lone wolf Christianity. There is no such thing as any one person in the church achieving "Jesus like status". The design of God was to reproduce the likeness of His Son in His people as a united whole with each filling their unique part.
 
That is how the great controversy between good and evil will end. That is when Jesus will return to claim us as His own. Jesus won His "race" by carrying us and we will win ours by each doing our part to carry each other.

Past Feeling?

Ephesians 4:17 "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness."
 
I was in a conversation recently with a couple and the husband was telling me about welding close to the gas tank of a boat. He mentioned that they filled the tank with gas prior to starting the welding job. As he is telling the story his wife jumps in and says "Why did they fill the tank with gas? I don't know anything about that kind of work but even I know you shouldn't fill the tank with gas when you're welding!"
 
 
Why am I telling you this story? Because her confident opinion illustrates what is wrong with all of us. We don't know but we think we know and we trust our assumptions. The truth is an empty gas tank is full of explosive vapours while a full tank is not. Of course the safest thing to do is drain the tank and fill it with water...
 
Paul says the problem with the Gentiles is that they walk according to their own thinking. People living apart from Jesus aren't on an intentional mission of self destruction. They aren't evil monsters either. The problem is when we live apart from Jesus we are walking blind. We are making decisions bssed on what we think but we don't know so more often than not we are wrong. Sadly wrong decisions create problems and solving problems requires wisdom. Wisdom comes from God. So a person with a problem who lacks wisdom will come up with their own decision (empty the tank) and then the whole thing blows up in their face.
 
The Bible simply says:
 
"There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)
 
 
Jesus longs to fill us with His Spirit. He longs to connect us with His body, the church. Through His Spirit and His body He wants to infuse us with wisdom. He wants to equip us with the necessary skills and tools to make good decisions that bring healing and life.
 
Human wisdom says to fight fire with fire. God's wisdom says a soft answer turns away wrath. Human wisdom says I'm hurting and I need to talk to someone about it. God's wisdom says talk only to the person who hurt you before speaking to anyone else. Human wisdom says I will forgive them when they ask for forgiveness. God's wisdom says go to them and create an environment where they can say they are sorry.
 
If we continue living by our own wisdom we will become so damaged that we can't feel at all. Society today is moving toward that condition. If you sense your heart getting colder go to the One who says "I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" then seek His wisdom.
 
See you tomorrow smile emoticon

Monday, 23 February 2015

Grace for our stubborn ways

Ephesians 4:7
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
 
Yesterday we discovered a small but significant word: One.

 If we are following our One and only Saviour we will go where He calls us to go and do what He calls us to do. This sounds simple but how we struggle. Our will, our ideas, our ways all fight Him at just about every turn. Take something as simple as baptism. There is one baptism. The Bible only speaks of one. Jesus was baptised this way. It consists of a choice made by an adult and involves full immersion under water.
 
Today we have some churches baptizing babies who have no idea what is happening and we have methods ranging from sprinkling to partial immersion to baptism by rose petals. Why all the varieties in something so simple and straightforward? Because we are not very good at following... If we can't even submit to two basic "rules" for baptism (by full immersion as an adult) it is no wonder why Christianity is so fractured. Like Frank Sinatra sang: "I did it my way."
 
This brings us to the first verse we read today: "But to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of Christ's gift."
 
What covered the Israelites while they wandered and waffled and complained and rebelled in the wilderness? Grace. What covered the disciples while they argued with and second guessed Jesus?
 
Grace.
 
Jesus descended to this earth and then took on the role of a lowly servant to make clear the one way. He left no doubt. The path is clear. Then He ascended on high with our forgiveness assured, our sins washed away, and the chains of bondage to sin forever broken. So what's the problem now? Why aren't we following closely and consistently? Why do we still need grace to cover our rebellious wayward wanderings?
 
Why? Because restoration takes time. Our habits and opinions and our sureness that we are right run deep. We, like the disciples, subject Jesus to our understanding before we ever learn to submit our understanding to His one simple way. The good news is that His love is persistent and His grace is abundant and He is longsuffering. I'm not sure about you but I'm tired of causing Him frustration and suffering because of my stubborn will. Help me Father. Help me follow.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

One Way Forward

Ephesians 4:1 "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
 
One. It's a small number. It excludes all other possibilities. When you come to a fork in the road you can only choose one way forward. In these few verses the word "one" is used nine times. All those references refer back to One. Jesus is that One. We are to become rooted and grounded in Him. Whenever Paul begins a sentence with "therefore" he is saying "based on what I just said this is the result".
 
As followers of Jesus rooted and grounded in His love we don't have options. When options present themselves only one of those options is the One option that follows Him. We choose the lowly option because He was lowly. We choose to be gentle because He is gentle. We choose to be longsuffering and bear with each other because He was and is longsuffering with us.
 
In His final counsel to His disciples before He died for us (lowly) Jesus said to them "I Am leaving you with a new commandment. Love each other as I have loved you. The world will recognize and know that you are mine if you love each other as I have loved you." Of course they were about to find out just how much He did love them...
 
Back up though... Just shortly before giving this new commandment they had shared the Passover meal together. The meal you will remember was arranged by the disciples. The first "event" when you arrive at a meal was to have a servant was the guests dusty travel worn feet. The disciples arranged the meal and arranged for the water and towel. Everything was in place. The only oversight was the lack of a servant to actually do the washing. Custom was that in the absence of a servant the person who was "least" in the group would serve by washing everyone's feet.
 
 
They arrived in the upper room and the water and towel loomed in the corner but no one moved. Pride kept every one of them frozen in their spot. What to do? The meal began and still the water and towel remained. The meal ended and still the water and towel remained. Finally Jesus stood up and walked to the corner. Like a servant he got dressed for the role. He took the water and the towel and did the unthinkable. The disciples are in shock. Peter always quickest with words refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet. He may not have been willing to be the "least" but he certainly has the sense to know Jesus is not the least...
 
Study the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You will repeatedly find the disciples fighting over who will become the greatest. You will find them jockeying for position. Meanwhile you find the Creator of the universe and everything in it touching lepers, touching the demon possessed, touching the "untouchables" of society. You find him using his own spit to make mud and touch the eyes of the blind. You find Him laying his reputation in the dust to bring hope to a woman of less than stellar reputation.
 
Once we are rooted and grounded in His love there remains but One path forward... If the One who is above all became servant of all that One path is clear.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Love from ABOVE

Ephesians 3:17 "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
 
Our focus today is verses 20 and 21.
 
 
 
Religion is weak and failing for 2 simple reasons. The first is that we make it about ourselves which is a dead end to begin with. Behaviour modification is useless and ultimately fruitless. As my favourite author puts it: "All our promises are like ropes of sand."
 
Secondly religion when it gets "serious about change" talks about lofty ideals like perfection and holiness. Lofty indeed.
 
Here's the problem. The religion of Jesus's day was all about perfection. They dressed a certain way, they prayed a certain way, they even had rituals about washing your hands a certain way. Yet despite all their detailed attempts at perfection divorce was sky high, the illicit sex trade was booming, anger was rooted deep in human hearts, hatred, prejudice, and racism flourished. People with the Jewish faith couldn't get along never mind loving anyone else. Perfection and holiness indeed...
 
Why? Because true religion isn't about external issues like how you dress or wash your hands. True religion is not about praying a certain way or having just the right beliefs or views. True religion is a heart issue. It is discovering the heart of God for you and for those around you. It's a miracle He does from the inside out.
 
Why? Because we can't even conceive of lofty ideals like perfection and holiness. When we try we quickly write ourselves off or others off as hopeless. We can see how it could be possible not even realizing we can't even see what "it" is. Think about it. Jesus was perfection and holiness and when He came we called Him demon possessed and we killed Him.
 
That's the bad news. I don't like bad news.
 
Here is the good news. When we shift our focus from our problems and lack to His love for us everything begins to change. How much does it change?
 
20 "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
 
How much positive change will He bring to our broken lives if we get rooted in His love? Exceedingly, abundantly, ABOVE. Above what? Anything we can even imagine to ask for. This is why seeking perfection as the pathway to God is completely and utterly hopeless. We can't even picture or imagine His perfect plans, much less achieve them. Not to worry though. Get rooted in His love. Study His life as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Let His love soak in. Ask God to help you see it and believe it. When His love begins to have its effect on you the very life of Jesus will begin to live out in you. It may happen so slowly that you think nothing is happening but others will see it.
Find others who have the same focus - Jesus and His love as the focus of His people. That's the power that will turn the church and the world upside down. Radical love. Hate eradicating love. Self sacrificing love. Wall destroying love. Healing love. Hope inspiring love. Value generating love. Endless, limitless, exceedingly, abundantly, above anything we can dream up on our own love.
The kind of love that makes a hardened Roman centurion confess as Jesus was both dying and forgiving His murderous creation: "Surely this is the Son of God."
 
Love.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Rooted With A Real Foundation

Last day on chapter 3 although we could spend a month on it.
 
Eph. 3:14 "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
 
Are you ready?!! Look at verse 17 again.
 
 
If you went to Sabbath school or Sunday school as a kid you probably remember singing: "I'm going to build my house upon a rock. I need a firm foundation on a solid spot. Then the storms may come and go but the peace of God we will know."
 
If you didn't sing that you almost certainly sang this:
 
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rain came tumbling down
Oh, the rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
And the wise man's house stood firm.
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
And the rain came tumbling down
Oh, the rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
The rain came down
And the floods came up
And the foolish man's house went "splat!" [clap hands once]
So, build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ
And the blessings will come down
Oh, the blessings come down
As your prayers go up
The blessings come down
As your prayers go up
The blessings come down
As your prayer go up
So build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Verse 17 says that the result of having Christ in our hearts, living in our hearts, is being rooted and grounded in love.
 
The Seventh-day Adventist church has always had a long list of fundamental beliefs and it has always been a burr in my saddle. How can so many things be fundamental? Buildings only have one foundation. Even if a foundation is complex and goes deep into the ground to support a large structure something is the base or the bottom.
 
 
Paul states it so plain a child can easily understand. The root and foundation of every Christ follower is His love. That's the only power that will hold us and keep us through the ups and downs of life. It will lift us out of the quicksand of guilt. It will heal us from the abuse and wounds inflicted by others. It changes dry legal religion and/or a list of rules into a meaningful list of caring instructions designed to provide protection, safety, and blessing for those who embrace them.
 
We love God because He first loved us. The person of Jesus is the love of God personified. When Jesus kneels down to whisper forgiveness to a guilty sinner that is God. When Jesus shields a shamed naked woman from her accusers and offers hope instead of condemnation that is God. When Jesus crosses borders to reach out to "heathens" with hope and healing that is God. When Jesus with tears in His voice pleads with the religion hardened rulers that is God. When Jesus silently takes the beatings and false accusations of liars that is God. When Jesus prays while dying "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing" that is God.
 
God is love. His love is the root that feeds the life of every true Christian. His love is the rock solid foundation that makes His followers unshakeable. How wide is this love? How deep? How high? It is beyond knowledge. No matter how far into His love you go it has no end.
 
Now be honest. Have you ever seen your religious life as a continual discovering of the love of God? Has He been your pursuit and your goal? When you attend church or interact with other believers do you get the sense that the purpose, the one big thing that swallows up and consumes everything else is discovering more and still more of the love of God?
 
When you read the Bible are you looking for something or Someone? When you think about your faith do you think about something or Someone?
 
If you want to be filled with the fullness of God, if you want your very being to be His sanctuary then you need His love to be the root and foundation of your entire existence.
 
Ok I lied but not on purpose. Tomorrow we'll spend one more day on chapter 3 in the closing verses.
While we were still sinners in rebellion against God Jesus died for us... LOVE.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Sanctuary For Him

Ephesians 3:14 "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
 
The great Hope of the Christian is found in the promise Jesus made before He left:
 
"Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I Am going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you may be also." John 14:1-3
 
He also described what this place would be like:
 
Rev. 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
 
Understanding more of the Christian hope than most do Edward Mote wrote these words which became a hymn:
 
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
 
Another song writer Randy Scruggs more recently took the theme further, building on what Paul is conveying in Ephesians 3:
 
" Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You."
 
This truth is not new. In 1864 a brilliant woman named Frances Havergal wrote "Live Out Thy Life Within Me." Passionately in love with her Saviour she learned the Greek and Hebrew languages so she could more intimately understand His Word. She memorized all the Psalms, all of Isaiah and the entire New Testament. In her deep study of Hebrew she came to understand that Shekinah, a word used in the Bible to describe His presence means literally "to abide". It was the desire of her life to have Him fully abide in her. On her tomb are these words: "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7
 
Here is the hymn she wrote:
 
Live out Thy life within me, O Jesus, King of kings!
Be Thou Thyself the answer To all my questionings;
Live out Thy life within me, In all things have Thy way!
I, the transparent medium Thy glory to display.
The temple has been yielded, And purified of sin;
Let Thy Shekinah glory Now shine forth from within,
And all the earth keep silence, The body henceforth be
Thy silent, gentle servant, Moved only as by Thee.
 
Yesterday I was asked if I believe that those who believe Him and will be alive when He comes will be perfect. Frankly yes I do but I don't worry about it. That is His work. The pursuit of the Christian life is not some great personal achievement. The pursuit is Him - only. What He chooses to do with us after that is up to Him. Tomorrow we will go deeper still...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Impossible. Right?

There are few passages of Scripture more power packed and beautiful than this:
 
 3:14 "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able... to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
 
God's desire and plan is to reveal His character to the universe through the theater of His church. That's why Paul is on his knees. The thought would put anyone on their knees. My favourite author puts it this way:
 
"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own." (Christ's Object Lessons, 69)
 
Seems crazy, impossible, preposterous, heretical even, yet there it is.
 
Jesus is the riches of God's glory (character). If you have seen Jesus you have seen God. The simple carpenter kneeling beside the sick, eating with the cast offs of society, touching lepers, crossing borders and cultures, respecting women as equals, treating foreigners as friends - this is God.
 
Paul is saying God's plan is to have His Spirit live in us and then live out through us to others. In the Old Testament the presence of God was smoke and fire living in a tent. He was always on the outside and at a distance. Because of Jesus the barriers are gone. Sin no longer holds Him away. We are no longer unclean. The restraining order has been lifted. We are not in quarantine. However we choose to express it or understand it the truth is we are now able to be fully and completely His.
 
His chosen place of residence is no longer a distant mountain top or a man made temple. He wants to be "one flesh" with His people. While we ponder this seeming impossibility tomorrow we'll take the same passage and go deeper. I'll leave you with 3 words: Faith, hope, and love.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Warning: Deep truth ahead...
 
Ephesians 3:8 "To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory."
 
Yesterday we looked at this passage and saw why Paul referred to himself as the least of the least. Today we're going to look at what he said.
 
He introduces himself as one changed by the mystery. He then declares it is his job to reveal the mystery to the Gentile world - a mystery that has been hidden in God since the beginning. Then notice verse 10: The church is to make the mystery known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. The identity of the mystery is simple. It is the character if God as revealed through Jesus. Once again follow the progression of events:
 
I was a Christian killer but God revealed Himself to me through Jesus. I am now making Him known to you because He has been hidden from you. You are going to become His church and make Him known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.
 
Excuse me Paul?
 
Do you remember in Romans 8:38 where we are told that nothing can separate us from the love of God - not even principalities and powers in the heavenly places? The reality is we operate in a realm where we only think about ourselves. It has become so bad that atheism is growing rapidly. Atheism is the belief that we are all that there is. We have stared in the mirror for so long that we can't see or imagine anything or anyone else.
 
The Bible tells a very different story. Not only is there a God but there are untold numbers of angels. There are other worlds. There are angels loyal to God and angels against him. We are even told the split is 2:1. We are told the rebel angels have a leader named Lucifer. The loyal angels have a leader named Michael who is Jesus. We are told a war was fought in heaven. The war is over one issue - The character of God.
 
 1 Corinthians 4:9 says we have become a spectacle - literally a 'theatron' or theatre to men and to angels.
 
In Paul's day theatres were open air semi circle theatres with raised seating. The stage was at the bottom and the seats went up from the stage level in a semi circle often carved out of a hillside. They sat thousands and were places of entertainment. Paul says the church, the believers in Jesus here on earth, are a theatre for men and angels and will further reveal God's character to principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
 
Jesus can take "ISIS" members like Saul and turn them into champions of mercy like Paul. The world is watching. The heavens are watching. Today more than ever the world and the worlds are waiting to see God’s masterpiece - the closing act - the grand finale. They are waiting to see His church rise up and become just like Him. It will literally transform the universe and bring an end to sin and suffering.
 
Jesus said in the context of love triumphing over hate: "Then this Good News of the kingdom (His character of love and mercy) will be proclaimed in all the world as a witness (through His transformed church) to all nations and then the end will come." Matt. 24:14 The last battle between good and evil is about to be fought and the Mystery is about to be fully revealed. What a day, glorious day, that will be.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Rich!

3:8 "To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory."
 
Our past has a way of cutting us down to size. Saul the Christian killer is now Paul the Good News proclaimer but he has not forgotten his past. That is why he often makes statements like the one in verse 8 that he is the least of all the saints. It is healthy to remember the pit Jesus has pulled us out of. It is not healthy to allow your past to determine, control, or ruin your future. Paul does not remember or bring up his past as a pity party or some kind of self bashing. Rather it is to magnify the unsearchable riches of Christ, the love of God. He is declaring to the Uncircumcised who have been told by the Jews for centuries that they have no hope and no worth: "If God can do what He has done for me how much more can He do it for you!"
 

 Since the beginning humanity has been blind to the Truth. Religion was always seen as something we do for Him. Our hope, if we had any, was in our ability to win His favour. The reality that God was always on our side and that "our" included the entire human race was a mystery that was not revealed until Jesus came. So blind, so unaware were we of the mystery of His mercy and grace that we argued with Him. His own family and disciples questioned His sanity. They stood at times in shocked silence at His disregard for gender, for borders, for nationalities, for social class.
 
Paul is saying "Look at me! I am evidence of His great riches of mercy. He has not only accepted me in the Beloved but opened my mouth to speak His praises. He has sent me to you to let you know His riches extend to you also and far beyond."
 
Tomorrow we will go deeper as we explore the role of the church in verse 10. Unbelievable!

Level Ground

Simply beautiful:
 
2:14 "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
 
This is marriage language - the two became one. What two? Well following context it is impossible to miss. Yesterday we read about the Jews and the Gentiles, the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision. How did Jesus do that?! We're talking about oil and water. How do you bring two groups of people together who for centuries have seen themselves as separate and incompatible? The Jews had laws to keep things that way... how indeed...?
 
You have to reframe the picture by telling the truth and by leading by example. Jesus began right away. In His first sermon in the synagogue on Sabbath morning speaking to a Jewish congregation Jesus told a story about Elijah. A true story. When Elijah was hiding from Ahab and Jezebel during the drought he ended up in the home of a widow from Zarephath. Jesus said God sent him there because there was no one in Israel to send him to. The congregation was angry, enraged actually. It would be like telling an American evangelical that Jesus came to America and the only home that would take Him in was Muslim.

 From there Jesus started doing the unthinkable. He started crossing borders. He began healing and helping foreigners. First it was the hated half breeds from Samaria. Then He got really crazy and went to Decapolis and Tyre and Sidon. His own disciples couldn't believe the things He did. Then as he hung dying at the hands of Jews and Gentiles alike He prayed "Forgive them Father, they don't know what they are doing."
 
He did not address two distinct groups. The distinction that existed was manmade, nothing else. Jesus tore down the walls. He made it clear the Jews may have had a special role to play but they were not more special because of it. He said radical things like "To whom much is given, from him much is required" and "The first will be last and the last first".
 
Why in the old testament is there only one miraculous healing of leprosy and it was for the captain of the Syrian army? Why was Jonah sent to Gentile Nineveh with a message from the God of Abraham? Why was Rahab the prostitute rescued from Jericho and Ruth from Moab?
 
Why? Because in Christ we are one. He is the Word that spoke everything into existence and there is only one race, the human race. By fulfilling every requirement of the law Himself, every Jew and every Gentile is perfect in Him.
 
The truth is simple, beautiful, and profound - the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Never permit the thought that there is anything about you that makes you less or more valuable than anyone else.

You were but now you are...

There are 2 key points in today's short passage:
 
2:11 "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by... the blood of Christ."
From a Jewish perspective there are two groups of people in the world - Israel and everyone else. The nation of Israel began with promises made to Abraham and also with the practice of circumcision. A key component in the promises made to Abraham was that someone (referred to as the Seed) would be born through his line and this Seed would bless all the nations.
 
Abraham's grandson Jacob had his name changed to Israel (overcomer) and through his 12 sons twelve tribes were formed and the nation of Israel was born.
 
Personally I believe the rite of circumcision was instituted to remind the nation that this Seed would come as Isaac came - by the will and power of God and not by human strength. Jacob became Overcomer by surrender, not by victory. In God's plan for our healing and deliverance victory comes by surrender not by human effort or strength.
 
Circumcision. It was a uniquely Jewish practice and it's necessity ended when Jesus came because that which it pointed to had arrived. Sadly like all practices tied to religion the practice itself was kept dogmatically as a badge of holiness while the meaning was lost. Jews saw themselves as the only nation rather than the ones through whom the Seed would come to bless all the nations.
 
As a result they were the Circumcision (the Holy, favoured ones) and everyone else (the Gentiles or the Uncircumcision) were at best 2nd class humans and outside of God's favour.
 
Then Jesus came...
 
He plowed through prejudice and blew through borders. He healed regardless of who the person was or where they were from. His love knew no nationalities or limits. Suddenly the Good News spilled over the walls of Jerusalem and flooded the world.
 
Here are the two simple points:
 
Remember where you came from - a slave to desire and without God or hope
 
Remember where you are now. In Jesus you are accepted in the Beloved. You are healed and seated in the heavenly places. You are being crafted by Him to be as you were always intended to be - inherently good. Like Him from the inside out.

A Relevant Letter

Brace yourself:
 
Ephesians 3:1 "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by ...the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power."
 
Granted to a 21st century person this passage is rather vague and apparently irrelevant. We are as it were strangers reading a letter from a man we don't know to people we don't know in a time and place we are not familiar with.
 
It is important to know Paul was first Saul. He was a strict Jew of the sect of the Pharisees. He also had strong ties to Greece and was well familiar with the Uncircumcised Gentile world.
 
As Saul the Jew he hated Christianity. He was actively involved in hunting them down and eliminating them. For the majority of Jews, especially the Pharisees, the Christians were a hated threat to all that was proper Judaism and needed to be eliminated. In Acts 7 and 8 we find Saul participating in the public stoning of Stephen, a Christian leader in Jerusalem. In Acts 9 we find him setting out for Damascus to hunt down more Christians.
 
On the way God does something highly unusual. He stops Saul in his tracks with a vision of Himself and speaks to him audibly and directly. Physically blinded by the encounter he comes away from it a changed man. One moment a killer of Christ followers he is now a follower of the same Christ.
 
For a modern spin you can more easily relate to, he went from being an ISIS leader to a Christian because of his encounter with Jesus Himself.
 
A changed man he has a new mission. To let the Gentile world know that the God of Abraham is their God too and the carpenter's son from Nazareth whose fame reached the known world was God in human flesh. The grace and mercy and forgiveness He provided through His life and death is as much theirs as anyone else's.
 
Radical. From Pakistan to Iran, from China to Washington DC, from Moscow to Sydney and all over the globe grace has been provided in Jesus. Hamas? Yes. KKK? Yes. ISIS? Yes. To all who respond. No borders. No walls. No religious divide. No cultural chasm.
 
"For God so loved the world (all of it) that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him will not die but have everlasting life..."
 
See - this ancient letter is extremely relevant. As hate and intolerance ramps up it becomes all the more so.
 
See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

No Works/Good Works

4 "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
 
Before we spend today mining further into this passage let's review. We are by nature slaves to our desires but God is rich in mercy. With that wealth He gave us Jesus to demonstrate His heart for us and pay the wages we owe.
 
Now we come to the most critical teaching in the Bible. It is counterintuitive and undermines pretty much every religion in the world and shatters most views man has of God. Here it is: (and notice the verb tense)
 
"For by grace you have been saved (healed) by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
 
Saved/healed already? Sitting with Jesus in heavenly places already? I sure don't feel healed. The evidence would suggest that I am far from healed. My desires still try to rule over me and still succeed too often. I don't understand. And faith - but not my own faith? His faith? Faith He has given me as a gift?
Do you remember the definition of faith in Hebrews? Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
 
Do you see it now? God is inviting us to see things from His perspective and offering us the faith required to accept that His view is the accurate one and ours is the illusion. You see when Jesus walked out of the tomb it was finished. Failure was no longer possible. The mission was accomplished. The only thing left was to see who would believe this unbelievable Love. Religion and the unbelieving world tell us we only get what we deserve and we only gain what we earn. It's all about work. Here is what Jesus said about work: "This is the work God requires, to believe on the One He sent" John 6:29

The truth is that God sees you as completely healed and already Home. Look again:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
 
I want you to notice something critical. Verse 9 says our healing and our faith has nothing to do with works. Nothing. Zero. Then verse 10 says we were created for... good works. Now here is where translations fall short. When you look up this phrase and find the literal meaning it is something very different from doing good things. I'm sure some of the worst people in human history did some good things. Verse 10 pulls back the curtain on our true identity past and our true identity future. This phrase "good works" as opposed to simply "works" in verse 9 refers to our nature as opposed to our actions. See bad people can do good deeds for all kinds of reasons but it doesn't mean they are good people. God created us in the beginning to be inherently good. Sin made us slaves to evil desires but that is not our original design. Jesus came and He demonstrated our original nature. He was good from the inside out and nothing and no one could change that. As He was is not only the way we will be but the way He already sees us! The devil has us stressing over how bad we are and God is saying "When I look inside you all I see is my Son and when I look at My Son sitting here beside Me all I see is you!"

 He is even willing to give us free of charge the faith to see the substance we're still hoping for and to see the evidence we can't yet see. Is there any wonder God repeatedly calls His message to us "Good News"? Not patched up or painted over on the outside. Good from the inside out!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Dare

Yes we read this yesterday and yes we'll be reading it tomorrow. :)
 
Ephesians 2:4 "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
 
We were dead but He was rich. So rich that nothing could stop Him. The wages of sin is death so He paid the wages in His Son and when He rose we rose with Him. His victory is our victory. He paid everything, we pay nothing. He did nothing wrong yet we go free.
 
From the beginning this has been a war over His character and we're so obsessed with ourselves that we often miss that. Look at the language here. God is going to take us (has already actually) into the heavenly places and demonstrate to the universe for the ages to come how rich in mercy He really is.
 
In the garden Satan, through the medium of a serpent, smeared His character. He lead Eve to believe that God was withholding better things from her. This was a direct attack on His character. That has been the issue all along. Trust and love are based on character evaluation. We trust people and love people based on our assessment of their character.
 
God's character has been so misrepresented and so misunderstood for so long that without Jesus we never would have had a chance of seeing Him. Paul admits that even with seeing Jesus we only comprehend "through a glass dimly".
 
Human experience reinforced by bad religion has taught us that we get what we deserve and we gain what we earn. In business this is true but heaven is not for sale. Neither is love. If a person's love can be bought it isn't love. God is love and He desires nothing more or less than for us to discover how rich and deep and wide and high His love is and then to respond by giving our love back to Him.
 
You may think "I have no love to give. I'm not sure I am even capable of love" and you may be right, but watch this:
One day at the temple Jesus and His 12 were standing around as worshippers deposited their offerings into the treasury box. A poor woman came and deposited literally almost nothing. It was a pittance. If a person was being paid to count the money it would cost more to have her offering counted and recorded than she gave. Jesus turns and says "She has given more than anyone else."
"Excuse me?! Are you feeling ok Jesus?"
 
Now watch this. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He quoted Deuteronomy: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength."
 
Do you see it? Jesus went on to explain that the woman gave the most because she gave all she had. The 12 looked at the amount, Jesus looked at the ALL. You don't have to have a whole heart to love God with. Life may have shredded your heart and stomped on your soul and left you feeling like you have nothing to offer and nothing to give. Give it to Him. That is all He wants. He wants all no matter how tiny your all may be.
 
Man looks at the outside. God just wants your heart. Dare to gaze into His rich mercy and dare to trust His love.

Monday, 9 February 2015

But!

Ephesians 2:4 "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
 
It is our nature to serve our desires whatever they may be. The socially acceptable desires we serve in the day light and the others we serve in the darkness. Some of these desires cause us to destroy others and ourselves.
 
BUT!
God is rich in mercy. Think about that. You'll never see mercy listed on the S&P 500 but God is rich in mercy. He stockpiles it. The Psalmist wrote repeatedly "Your mercy endures forever".
 
What does He spend His mercy on? He spends it on us. We who like dead men or robots mindlessly serving our destructive desires are the constant recipients of His exhaustless mercies that are new every morning. Why? Because of His great love for us.
 
I have told this story before but it fits perfectly here. When I was in grade 8 or 9 a friend and distant cousin of mine was visibly upset on our bus ride home after school. I moved into her seat and asked her what was wrong. Long story short a group of girls had accused her of sleeping around and called her a slut. The accusations were untrue. What struck me about the conversation we had about it and etched it forever in my mind is what she said about what they said to her. She said "If that's what everyone thinks about me then I might as well be that way".
 
What others think about us affects deeply what we think about ourselves. We live in a culture now that is telling us we came from chance and have no future or ultimate purpose and then we are surprised by climbing rates of depression and suicide and addictions of all forms.
 
If others thinking less of us can cause us to think less of ourselves what might happen if others thought more of us than we had thought of ourselves? Could it affect us? Might it cause us to take a 2nd look at who and what we are?
 
Love awakens love. That is the primary reason Jesus came. He had a message that was too important to send any other way. He came to show us that God loves us. Radically loves us. Demoniac I love you. Prostitute I love you. Lying cheating tax collector I love you. Poor foreign widow I love you. Naked humiliated woman caught in adultery I love you. Samaritan "half breed" woman who has had 5 husbands and is now living in sin with the 6th man, I love you. Crippled man who did it to yourself I love you. Sick man who is weakened by guilt more than by disease I love you. "Evil" Roman centurion I love you. All you who hold hatred in your hearts for others I love you. All you who desire others sexually that you have no right to think of that way, I love you. All you who live on the "wrong" side of the border or tracks or speak the "wrong" language or are the "wrong" colour I love you.
 
He could have sent the message in writing. He could have sent it by a prophet. Truthfully He did both but He wanted to make sure we knew so He came Himself. So radical was His love that His own followers who were supposed to be sharing His love were shocked by it, offended even.
 
Jesus was the walking, talking heart of God.
 
More on this life changing, mind altering passage tomorrow...