THIS IS a place for us to break bread and fish in fellowship. This is a place for us to eat the bread and drink the wine of communion with Jesus our Lord. Here we share the love of Christ through sharing our hearts, our loves, our hopes and dreams, our struggles and trials, and troubles and cares. Our purpose here is to share conversationally, so we will remain open topic. We will remember that Jesus came to break bread with us, and serve us that bread, and was raised up to draw all to himself. A bruised reed would He not break nor a smoking flax would He quench. What He made us for, is a relationship, an intimacy with Him. One place to carry that out is in fellowship in the Spirit with brothers and sisters of that same one Spirit. We can even share favorite music and vids. Make yourself a cup of coffee, make yourself at home and say "Hi".

Monday, November 15, 2010

What is Love?: God's Perspective

Again, on our social network site for our favorite charity, sponsoring some of the world's poorest children, we have a discussion group, which discusses many of life's challenges, usually in relation to God or the Bible; or maybe the other way round, talking about God or the Bible in relation to many of life's challenges.  This past week's entry from "C & A" was about love.  Following is my comment, followed by my description of a friendly objection from "T", followed by my reply.  Names are abbreviated for privacy:

Thanks for this post "C" and "A"!

I've thought and prayed about this since it was posted.

Jesus, in what I think of as His "Last Will and Testament", said "Abide in Me, and I in you, ...for you can bear no fruit unless you abide in Me." The Gospel of John 15.

Beloved, what manner of Love has the Father bestowed upon us that we should be called "the children of God"....Beloved, NOW are we the children of God, but it is not yet apparent what that will look like. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
I John 3 ('epistle' or letter)

Ok, here is what I think, in fact I'm convicted to my core:

Beloved, it is imperative that we know who God IS. Only, Only by knowing Him intimately, can we hope to be like Him at all. Only in knowing Him can we begin to conform to His image. Only in there can we fulfill the purpose of our creation. We were created "in the image of God" imago Dei. How can we be image bearers, if we do not know what the true God looks like? This is why Theology (the study of God) is central to who we are - not necessarily college or seminary training, but definitely being intentionally vested in getting to know Him.

If God is all about glorifying Himself, if not getting embarrassed by the people called by His name, is paramount, if getting a good return on his investment is high on His list, then I think Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway) , and Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) should be excellent image bearers, because they have glorified themselves, they separate themselves from people who embarrass them, and they get a very good return on their investment.
Beloved, I submit to you that the God you and I know is eternity away from that image:

I Corinthians 13 describes love. For years it sounded like another endless, impossible 'to do' list to me. That is until I understood that I Corinthians 13 is really a picture of Jesus, and Jesus being the Express Image of the Father, I Corinthians 13 is a picture of Eternal God.

As I wrote, if God is self absorbed and self serving, always about "glorifying God" then we have no shortage of people bearing the image of god on earth.

We read in 1 John that God is love. If this is true, what does He look like? My friend Bobby Grow    likes to say that the Trinitarian God is "shaped by His love": It is within this dynamic, wherein the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and the Father and Son love in the communion of the Holy Spirit wherein He freely chose to create a mirror of Himself in His image who might further reflect His love for the other; and in so doing created a community of creatures who find their greatest delight and purpose by loving Him — through Him — and by loving their neighbors. [Posted at EVANGELICAL CALVINIST  (see sidebar for link), November 2010.][I apologize for using your name without permission Bobby.  I figure like the politician, or was tat "Citizen Kane"? said "I don't care what the press says about me, as long as they spell my name right."]

You see, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been forever about loving each other. Here, let us get a I Corinthians 13 working definition: Love is other absorbed, not self-absorbed. Love is always, me concerned with what is best for you, not me.

Jesus said:

I do nothing on my own account, but as my Father has taught Me, I speak these things. And He that sent Me here, is with Me: The Father has not left me alone, for I do always those things that please Him. John 8

That is being totally enthralled with someone else. Then, love is, as "T" wrote: For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are enthralled with each other, God is Selflessly committed to us as well. He loved each of us so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die on our behalf. And Jesus loves His Father, and us so much that He walked out His vicarious life, and to the cross with JOY. It is God’s nature, again, His joy, to have done this gratis – no strings attached, and in fact any requirements would be contrary to the true nature of God. So we can only receive from Him by faith, as a hungry little child opens his hand to receive a bowl of rice.

Nothing in my hands I bring,

simply to thy cross I cling,

naked come to thee for dress

helpless look to thee for grace,

foul, I to the fountain fly,

wash me Savior, or I die.

Augustus Toplady 1740-1778 from the Hymn “Rock of Ages”

[ADDENDUM: As full disclosure, ironically, Dr Toplady would probably disown about 50% of my theology here, as He was a "Federal Calvinist, and one of the first publishers of a version of TULIP.]

It is imperative that we know so well our frame of dust, and our penchant toward sin, that we can never be fooled into thinking that we are righteous, or in any way merit any consideration. We must become so well aware of His Sinless Holiness, and His selfless, NO strings attached, no holds barred love, that we will as much as possible, never again doubt His Holiness, or His selfless love for us, and our security in Him. If we love, out of obligation to love, is that love or chains? Is it acting out of our duty [and for our own security]?

We, at long last settled as being secure in Jesus’ love, through no merit of our own, are now free to love back. Oh. We will be hurt and tested: “If He really does love me, how can He allow this in my life?”, because He loves us and wants us to mature in our faith in Him, to grow to be adults in the Lord. As we become sure that He is securing our lives unto life and unto eternity, no matter what, then we can begin to take chances to love others with abandon: “They can’t really hurt me, I’m in God’s hands.” This does not mean we write a blank check. Jesus never did, but gave freely, lavishing His love with discipline according to that person’s long term best interest.

Beloved, in learning that our God and Savior are really love personified, that God is motivated by selfless love, we over time become confident in Christ, that He perchance really loves us, and really has our best interest at heart, even when we reject His counsel. I believe that, as we begin to know Him well, we begin to reflect Him better and better, because we see Him as He is: a selfless giver of love: Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. You see, this is not compelled by commandment, but by reflection, by imitation.

Beloved, a son who has been nurtured by, and is secure in his father’s love, sees his father’s work and says “that’s the kind of man I want to be”, and imitates the works that his father does, not for fear of loss, or being found not to be a true son, but out of a simple desire to be like his father, and to please his father. Although Eternal Son of God, Jesus became a man child, He learned about His father in Heaven (just conjecture, but Joseph must have been a fairly decent image bearer himself) through Scripture, preaching, his 'parents' and godly neighbors. The Holy Spirit led Him along as well [understatement of epoc proportions]. He grew in wisdom and stature. He loved and revered His Heavenly Father perfectly, and wanted to be just like Him. The Holy Spirit helped Him to fulfill that all of the way to the cross and death, out of love for His Father, and us.

Sealing the end of this? Beloved, unlike Dorothy, of The Wizard of Oz, the answer is not in you, the answer has never been in you, through perseverance, trying harder to be good, disciplining yourself. These efforts become part of the process, but Beloved, your purpose for being here, your purpose for ever having been created, is to receive God's love freely, this is your joy; and to bear His image, as selfless giver of love. The answer is always and repeatedly looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, through Scripture and prayer to again and again become so well acquainted with Him, and the love He intends to lavish on us, that everything we can give, or stand to lose, are nothing compared to that love.


[NOTE: To this comment, my trusted friend and Sister "T" objected that she was "a little offended" that I so much discounted God guarding His glory, and defended His right and duty to defend Himself.  The following is my reply:]
Yes "T", I believe that you are using the correct usage of "glory", while I'm using a less thoughtful or more careless one.

Still, there is a nuanced difference in interpretation: for example, when Jesus prayed "Father, glorify your Son [why?], so that your Son may glorify you." Again, son is ultimately interested in the Father's Glory.

Father and Son are eternally committed to guarding one another's honor. That's just one example; others, not so clearly in service to other, may seem to be self-service.

There's a number of ways to go about this.

A guy at work says "well you know they found Jesus' bone box [ossuary]".

I don't know if you've heard this one, but archeologists have found an ossuary identified as containing someone named Jesus, and a couple of Marys (or they were in adjoining ossuaries). Anyhow, to claim that this is Jesus our Lord offends me greatly, because Jesus’ bones are nowhere on Earth. As the First Fruits of the resurrection, His bones are part of His resurrected body in Heaven. I'm offended because it is a lie, moreover, I'm offended because it makes Jesus out to be just a man. I'm offended because it is contrary to the true Glory of God. So that is me, filled with the Holy Spirit, viscerally moved to defend the honor of my Lord and God.

Also at church one recently said “I wouldn’t be surprised if, when we get there, God says that we all got it wrong: Christians, Buddhists, Muslims etc.” What!?! You mean Jesus didn’t die for us, rise again the 3rd day according to the Scriptures? You mean as The Word, He failed to reveal the Truth of God? You mean as the Express Image of the Father, He was no more valid then the Qur’an? In times like these I don’t know whether to suffer in silence or rage: “What the sam hill did they teach you in Sunday School!?!”. On that day, I suffered. That same day another one said “I would like to think when we get there, Jesus will be just another guy on the street.” My heart sinks. I digress.

“The Glory of God" is not defined or judged by man's judgement. When Jesus prayed that the Father glorify the Son, He was praying that the Father carry out His plan for the next 3 days. This included being betrayed by His friend, another friend denying that he knew Him, and all of His friends abandoning Him. It included trial as a false prophet by His own people, being spat upon by the unclean gentiles of all people, and tortured, and executed a traitor's execution. It was scandalous that the blameless Son of God should be treated this way, and yet this is what He prayed for. Later in the evening, He would pray that this cup be taken from Him, “Yet not my will, but thy will be done”.

Paul's instructions are.....instructive:

So if there is any encouragement among you, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, and being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or deceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each look not only on his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Who though in the Form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of the Father.

Philippians 2 Yeah, so much for Jesus being just another guy on the street. Yes!!!

So there it is: Humility, care for others, guarding the truth and The Father exalting the Son. It all has a consequence: Glory. Because everything that God does is glorious.

I'm having trouble bringing this back around. Maybe if I relate the type of thinking I'm opposed to: God is sovereign. God is sufficiently powerful to do anything He wants, I agree. Likewise, He can prevent anything He hates. Some define sovereignty as God controlling everything. They argue that everything that happens is done specifically for the Glory of God. This is where I’m offended. Auschwitz, the rape of Nanking, people sexually assaulted in church, etc. This is the consequence of a fallen world that God warned Adam and Eve against. Now, I understand that He will work all things for good to those who love Him, and this will fall out to His glory, but to understand that He planned the sin and suffering for His glory, I believe, reverses the purposes of God. God hates sin, and the Son of God Himself suffered for the Glory of God. I believe He Loves, and this falls out to His unimpeachable “Glory!”. His Father is just, and merciful, and truthful, and this falls out to His unapproachable “GLORY!”. God redeems the consequences of evil, which only evil itself produces in this world, glory be to God. That is said As If glory was value added. The truth is, God is glorious, and “Glory” defined is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is Glory personified.

Jesus died for all creation, for all of the sins of the world. “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.” God so loved the world... that whosoever believeth in Him…

So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in concert, created. God’s magnum opus was Mankind, created in the image of God, Male and Female created He them. He watched in sorrow as Adam rejected God. Then Father, Son and Holy Spirit, out of love for creation and mankind, set the wheels in motion to redeem mankind, and creation. In the fullness of time, The Father sent the Son on His mission, on the wings of the Holy Spirit, who caused Mary to conceive the Promised Seed. The Holy Spirit was the Anointing in Whom Jesus walked as a man [Theanthropos God-Man] in His vicarious life. My point being that, each person of the Trinity always serving the Other, and always bent on redeeming creation, and that, by the way, to present a spotless Bride to the Son. On the cross, having suffered the righteous wrath of His Father, He cried triumphantly “It is finished!”. This is the culmination of the “carnal union”: Jesus, in the incarnation, took on all human flesh vicariously, to pay for all the sins of the world. The “spiritual union” takes place as each individual believes in the Word of God, that He was sacrificed for their sin, resulting in the union of believer and the Holy Spirit.

I think of the Glory of God like the Hymn “How Great Thou Art”, you know: how beautiful and awesome His creation is and all that. But what brings me to true worship, is

"when I think, that God His Son not sparing,

sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in,

That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing

He bled and died, to take away my sin.

Through the lens of Isaiah 53: Creator God is the suffering servant. The scandal is that Glory is in the willingness of the Son of God to be completely humiliated in the sins of the world: even the sins of those who never will repent. Likewise, in our suffering, we ask where is Jesus in this? The answer is He was on the cross.

So what I will stand by in my more than “nuanced difference” is that God is always a jealous God. Father always jealously guards the Glory of His perfectly obedient Son. Son jealously guards the honor and glory of His righteous and just and loving Father (e.g. the cleansing of the temple). Holy Spirit in concert with Father and Son supports God in His work and convicts the world of sin and convicts and comforts His children. And (hopefully) His children, convicted by the Spirit, as you were "T" in your reply to me , jealously guard the Honor and Glory of God.
What is left are those who although partakers in the carnal union, in that their sins were expiated on the cross, still reject the Son of God. What is left for those who have rejected the Salvation that the Son purchased for them on the cross? Gospel wrath! In the final judgment, responding to those who stumbled at the Rock of Offence, who rejected God’s son, who died for them, The Father will take those who were not resurrected in the first resurrection, and remove them eternally from the presence of God, and put them in the place of everlasting punishment.

At that point there will be no more sin in Heaven nor the new Earth. The Glory of the Lord will fill the Heavens and will be the source for Heavenly light. The Bride will forever worship God, in sinless purity.
I hope this helps. I'm grateful that you objected "T". It's sooo good to hear someone defending the Honor and Glory of God. I hope this is more clear. If this still doesn't pass muster for you, please let me know.

In the Peace of the Lord

Your Brother

[Italicized comments in square brackets are addenda for this blog]

MY STORY and Prayer

The following is a copy of my testimony (lightly edited) as given to my friend on a social network associated with our favorite charity.  Her story had moved me deeply, and I felt compelled to offer her the only gift I had - the Eternal love of  God.   I can not express how grateful I am that this has already moved someone.   If someone else stumbles in here in need, hopefully, they too will recognize the immeasurable, incomparable love of Jesus, and trust Him:  

Dear M.,

I wanted to share with you my story.

As a kid, I often heard about God and Heaven and Hell. I trembled. My grandmother would often repeat "Jesus Loves You", but I didn't know who Jesus is.

As a senior in high school, I heard the jocks talking about a jock friend of mine, Mark, being a "Jesus freak". That sounded strange, so I went to Mark after school to ask him what was up with that? He chuckled and said "they called me that?"
He then told me what he had been sharing with them: That Jesus was sent from God to live out His life as a man, and then die on the cross for the sins of the world. In John 3:16 Jesus Himself is quoted saying "For God so loved the world that He gave His one unique son that whoever believes in Him (you may substitute "trust" for believe) will not perish but will have everlasting life". That day I trusted Jesus for my salvation. Over time I came to understand that He died for all of my sins, past present and future, And as such, I would never have to doubt that all of my sin was forgiven. None-the-less doubt I did. I was beginning to believe, to trust that Jesus truly loved me. But that was just the beginning. It takes time to really trust that He intends to order our lives to the greatest possible impact for time (this life) and eternity (the life to come).

In college, when my high school sweetheart jilted me, I felt the Lord had closed important doors for the life I had planned. I rebelled BIG TIME. I left the Lord, I apostacized.  I rejected Him and the Faith. I shook my fists at Him. I probably literally said "you don't exist...". I know I said "I hate you". Well, our Father knew me better than that. He knows a child's tantrum when He sees it. A child says "I hate you" and runs away from home, does the parent stop loving them?

The Lord walked right along side me unseen, through the sin and filth for about 4 years.

The Lord did lead me back. It was slow and low key at first, but He has been at work in my life every moment. For many years I had lingering doubts about His love for me. "Why would He love me? I'm so sinful. I'm such a failure." The pieces didn't come together. I believed He loved me most of the time, but because "the Bible tells me so".

Recently, as in this past year, I have found the pieces I needed to put this to rest as much as possible for my weak, sinful, frame:

We have known that God Is Father Son and Holy Spirit. We know that Jesus has been with the Father forever: John 1 says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the same (Word) was in the beginning with God."
This "Word' is the expression, the revelation of God. God who is in Heaven, reveals Himself through the son (Jesus). I think it's John Chapter 14 Jesus says "if you have seen me you have seen the Father." That is because Jesus the Son is the Father's expression, His revelation of God. What God wants you to know about God, He has revealed through Jesus.

Jesus Said "God is Love". This is a basic statement of WHO God is. God is not a "what", but a "Who". God has always been, forever and ever and ever. However old creation is, God is forever and ever before that.
If the One God was a singularity, God, who Is Love could have only had self-love for eternity before creation. Okay M., here's the thing: Father Son and Holy Spirit have been together forever - ONE GOD, THREE PERSONS. It's a mystery. It has not been an eternity of self-love. The Father has eternally loved- been enthralled with the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son has eternally loved, been totally devoted to the Father and the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit has forever loved the Father and the Son, and Has been about communicating (communion) that love Father to Son, Son to Father.

So God is eternally Loving directed toward others -forever. God Is Love.

God determined not to keep that love to Himself. He created us, to "Spread that Love."
He created the Heavens and Earth, and said "It is Good". He created Adam and Eve and gave His approbation "it is good". He set them in a beautiful garden because He loved them. He gave Adam Eve, because He loved Adam and Eve, and as an illustration for Jesus' love for His bride. Jesus' bride is His church, which He created, died for and will one day wed in eternal intimacy (it is a mystery as the Apostle Paul declares).

There was something forbidden in the Garden (a literal fruit? we don't know). God warned Adam and Eve not to have this. The temptor came and offered Adam and Eve the opportunity to be free of God's restrictions so they could decide what is right and wrong on their own (a lie). By taking the forbidden [fruit] they decided to reject God. That's what happened to all humanity - we rejected Him. In that day we died eternal separation from God, who is life.

So He sent His Son to live as a man - still God but completely human, to live Adam's choices over again. The deceiver came again, offered Jesus to be his own God. Jesus rejected all offers. Even when the people wanted to make Him an earthly king He rejected their offers. He had one objective one mission one purpose - to do the will of His Father. Why? because of duty? because of fear? Because God is Love, because Jesus loves the Father and always does His will. Because God so loved the World (me M., and You!) that He gave His only Son that whoever trusts Him, not themselves, not their own strength, not their own righteousness, whoever trusts Him alone, believes on Him puts their faith in Him, will have eternal life. That is why He suffered inconceiveable pain on the cross, and the curse of all of humanity's sin, because He Loves the Father, and He Loves us. In the 2nd garden, the garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixtion Jesus prayed, "Father, if it is possible to take this cup from me...none-the-less not my will but thy will be done".

A couple weeks maybe before the garden, when Mary and Martha's beloved brother Lazarus died, Jesus waited a few days to show up. They were distressed because they knew their Lord could have healed Lazarus had He been there. Martha came out to meet Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died". Jesus said "Your brother will rise again". He then said to Martha:

I Am the Resurrection and The LIfe. He who believes in Me, though he dies, yet shall he live. And He who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?
Then do you know what He did? (You have to read the whole story, it is very moving),
In order to prove the veracity of the claim He made above, He raised Lazarus from the dead! John Chapter 11.

He Is the Resurrection. He promises to resurrect (bring back to life physically) all who believe in Him and die. He Is the LIfe. He gives eternal life (not life on probation) now, to all who believe in Him. Why? Because He loves us. He won't force Himself on us. Anyone who chooses to reject Him may go their way - without life (spiritual life), and without eternal life.

He gave us The Holy Spirit to make us spiritually alive, and to comfort and to guide us, and as an earnest, a surety, as collateral. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. That means that we who belong to the Lord are His, lock, stock and barrel. To reject us, He would have to forfeit His collateral.
[ADDENDUM]  Scripture says that one reason the Holy Spirit is gtven to reside within our hearts, is to show that God has fully secured us for His own, that He could never reject us or lose us, because we are sealed with the Spirit:  To lose or reject us, He would be rejecting His own Holy Spirit. 
No matter, He wouldn't anyhow because He loves us. He has forever. M. He knew you, when you were being formed in your mother's womb. I look at my wee granddaughters and ooh and ah, (I was oohing and ahing at K's baby yesterday, a grandfather's perogative :O )))the Lord was doing that to us when we were still too small to sonogram. He loves His creatures and wants us to receive His love. People get wrapped up in "you must serve God and love Him and obey and...." You know what M? My Lord isn't all twisted up about that. He knows, He Knows that if I am honest about my own sinfulness, my own unworthiness, (He's good at making us aware), and if I begin to learn how much He has done for me, to bring me to Him again and again, I will begin to really believe that He really really loves me. I begin to abide in Him which reinforces His love for me every day. Why? Why does He Love me? Because. Because that Is Who He Is. He loves me because He is that wonderful. So now I become more and more and more aware. And I could not withhold His love from you if it was 11:48 and I had to get up at 4:15. It is and I must. But no, I must tell you how wonderful He is and how much He loves you. I wish I had a thousand times ten thousand opportunities to tell people just as I'm tellling you now, because I love Him (I blush to say it because I still fail Him daily) because He loves me so much.

I can't try to tell you how it works out, but in some weird way my tough times, and Him walking with me through them, only endears Him to me more.

Oh He doesn't give me everything I want. Often, very often, I think He doesn't give me everything I need (like sleep). He judges my needs from an eternal perspective.

I just want you M., to know that He is there, that He loves you, and is ready for you. Ready for you to do... nothing. Just trust Him. "Yes Lord, I believe You. I trust what you have told me in your word." He will respond to you. The first thing He will do is wrap His arms around you and welcome you home. I did not sense that until years later. I just know it's true. At the same time He sends Eternal God the Holy Spirit into your heart to give you communion (intimate communication) with God the Father and the Lord Jesus (still one God, three persons) and to comfort and to guide you. He will guide you through the scriptures, and through brothers and sisters who are part of your new family but have been walking with Him a while.

Because He loves us, He has promised us "these works that I do, you will do and greater than these, because I go to the Father." So now we have the gift to go to our family our friends and neighbors, and our children around the world [Note to outsiders: our favorite charity is a child sponsorship which supports very poor children, one on one around the world, through their local church.  My wife and I sponsor a little girl in Haiti named Barbara, and a little boy in Guatemala named Erick.  More info available in the "Birthday" side bar]  and offer them ETERNAL LIFE, because we know the One who created us, and redeemed (bought us back) and we know that He loves us and will forever FOREVER be with us.

The Lord Jesus Bless You M. and everyone else who has read this.

Jesus Loves us because God is Love, and He has been loving us forever and ever.

In Jesus' Name