Archive for July, 2011


perfect love

What one biblical principle do you grapple with more than any other?

The first issue we have to deal with in answering this question is that of perfect love. The Apostle John explains, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) It is completely natural for those of us striving for sanctification to struggle with spiritual principles as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), but it is a reminder that we have not yet attained the “perfect love (that) drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) whenever something the Bible teaches us causes us to worry, fear or doubt. What we are talking about here is the apprehension that God either is not enough (doesn’t have the time, resources or know how) to meet our need, or he doesn’t have the will to meet our need and so he’s going to leave us swinging in the breeze.

That is where the issue lies for most of us. It’s not that we don’t believe God has the ability to meet our need, we’re just not sure he will. The bottom line is this – we don’t trust God to do what’s best for us. In other words, we question his perfect; (i.e., complete) love for us.

Which leads me back to my original question. Perhaps the most challenging of all Scriptural principles for me to live out on a regular basis is found in Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him to act.” David then adds, “do not fret.”

The temptation for me is to look around at my circumstances and pray as if God is completely unaware of what’s going on in my life. I explain to him the problem I am faced with and then outline all the possible negative outcomes if he fails to act in a timely and appropriate way. Of course, all of this is based on my timetable, my limited understanding of the situation and, ultimately, my desire to be in control.

David had learned the secret to all of this, however, as he reveals three Psalms later: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1) Paul states it like this in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

God really does love us and because of his great love we can trust him.


i’m learning

The Scripture states emphatically that “Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:17 Message)

Does that include the setbacks, disappointments and difficulties?

Paul seemed to think it did. He wrote in Philippians 4:11-13: “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” (Message)

Did you hear what he was actually saying? Everything in this life – the times of abundance, when everything is going our way, as well as the lean times, when it seems like we are existing from moment to moment – is a means to God’s end. What is that end? For us to learn who we are in Christ.

Too often we define ourselves by our possessions or our present circumstances. That is the problem with the prosperity movement, we become “absorbed with the things right in front of (us). (Rather than) Look(ing) up, and be(ing) alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. (We must) See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:2 Message)

Paul encourages his readers not to define themselves by their possessions or circumstances but, rather, by their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He then goes so far as to suggest that everything that happens in this life, both the times of abundance and the times of lack, are used by God to teach us who we really are in Christ and, subsequently, where true happiness comes from.

I don’t know about you, but I still have some things to learn about this. On occasion, my sense of contentment is still affected by what’s happening in my life. However, by God’s grace, I am learning to look for God in both the pleasant things of life and those which are not, so that I can be content in Christ alone.


the spirit searches

Buried within the wonderful promises of 1 Corinthians 2:6-12 is a somewhat troubling statement that reminds us of the probing and penetrating ministry of the Holy Spirit – “The Spirit searches all things” (v. 10) – my motives, my attitudes, my desires, everything. Like a high-intensity spotlight the Holy Spirit illuminates everything that is in my heart (and yours as well). He accomplishes this by laying the unchanging truth, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ, like a measuring stick beside my inconsistency and calls me to repentance and a greater dependency on his life-giving power.

That is the troubling part. God is on a quest to make us like his son, Jesus. As the old saying goes, “God loves us so much that he accepts us as we are, but he also loves us so much he refuses to allow us to stay that way.” That’s what Paul had in mind when he reminded the Ephesian believers that God’s goal was for us to be “mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) Now there’s a challenge!

It’s much easier when we simply compare our inconsistency to that of others; then our sin doesn’t look as bad, or at least it looks normal. This is why the Corinthian church was warned against “comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” (2 Corinthians 10:12)

The only proper standard of measurement is Jesus Christ and that is what the Spirit of God continually points toward. It is true that he is the Comforter who is called alongside of us to help and encourage us, but he is also the one who points out the inconsistency in our lives (John 16:8) and challenges us to accept the grace of God that is able to change us. He produces in us an unrest because we know that God has so much more for us to do and, more importantly, be, and then he empowers us to attain those promises of transformed living. That is why David was moved to pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23, 24)