16 Nov 2015
Does it mean [Christ] no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?… I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away… Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
We read about God’s love, but sometimes it’s hard to feel it. Bad stuff happens. Families fall apart. We get so overwhelmed by fear and pain, plus the difficulty of our own situation, that we begin to doubt that God’s love exists. We ask: Where is God? Has He abandoned us like so many others have in our lives? Does it mean He no longer loves us when tough things happen?
Remember the night some of you got busted and the madness of county jail? Or the shame we felt after walking up in someone else’s bedroom? Maybe we did drugs to take the pain of shame away. Do these things make it impossible for God to love us? The apostle Paul asked that same question. We should memorize his response because Paul declares that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Our sins can’t. Our past can’t. Our being in jail can’t. Our estranged relationships can’t. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Think about it. If Jesus didn’t come down off that cross, if He didn’t leave us hanging when He was suffering the most, why would He abandon us now? Jesus’ love is solid. We can count on it.
13 Jul 2015
Artist Hieronymus Bosch, in his three-paneled painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, c.1503-1504, depicts, in the second, main panel, the joy, lusts and delights that humans enjoy during a portion of their lives. The third panel of the triptych depicts a dark vision of the punishments of hell. Death and destruction follow the sins of man as humanity is forever trapped in a cycle of torture and torment. The strange animal-like creatures now feast on human flesh, swords and daggers slice into the hapless victims and figures, gray with sickness, defecate and vomit trapped in their perpetual agony. More than a few people reject God for this reason: “I could never believe in a God who is so unloving that He sends people to Hell.”
On the surface, that sounds like a reasonably good excuse to walk away from God. Our more comfortable concept of God is that of loving Father and gentle Jesus. Some of us had horrible father’s who never said they loved us and always were punishing us. So the idea of a vengeful father pointing a finger at us saying, “Ha-Hah…to late for you, you blew it…to Hell you go”… not only makes us uncomfortable, but it brings back bad memories.
But, it is exactly the fact that God delivers Hell, or Cosmic Justice, if you will, that makes it possible for us to forgive when we are betrayed. It allows us the luxury of extending mercy to people who have wronged us in evil and harmful ways. It is the fact that God presides over the Supreme Court of Justice in the Universe that makes The Reconciliation Commission possible in South Africa. It is God’s justice that gives the families of Newtown Elementary School and Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston the grace and strength of forgive and move on with their lives without constant anger and bitterness towards the criminal, their situations. That Hell exists is critical to peaceful living among neighbors.
This sounds counter-intuitive. How cold God’s wrath towards the wicked be a source of solace and the principle that drives peace instead of war and revenge? Here is how and why!
If we lived in a world where evil was unchecked and crimes were never punished, we would feel depressed and angry all of the time. If we thought we were powerless over the wrongs done to us and the injustice perpetrated against us, we would either stay angry or grab a gun and seek revenge. The vicious cycle of violence seen in the Middle East is evidence that this is true, but also a dead-end. But God says very clearly in Romans 12:19 (NLT), “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD.” Because God’s ultimate, Cosmic Justice will prevail, we can step aside, forgive and KNOW that evil will be punished… criminals who do not accept Jesus will face Almighty God and pay for their actions. This fact allows us to forgive, to live in peace and be free from the monster of revenge.
Hell and God’s Cosmic Justice should not alienate us from God, but rather we should thank Him for His justice and live with the peace that comes from knowing He has our backs!
27 May 2015
The most encouraging news that anyone could ever hear is the message that “God loves you.” Just exactly why that is so heartening lies in the Bible verse, Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Note that this verse doesn’t say Christ died for us AFTER we stopped gambling, whoring, swearing, looking at pornography, yelling at our wives, cheating on our taxes and/or our husbands. No! It says, “While we were still sinners…”
Jesus meets us where we are. Whether that is in the human septic tank of lust, greed or murder. He has very low standards for acceptance and we should all be glad that He does. So often we are feeling guilty about our lives and the obvious sins that we commit. The devil uses those feelings of guilt to make us feel unworthy of God. The devil whispers to us, “God could never love a sinner like you.” Or, “Do you know what you’ve done…don’t even think that God would forgive you.” But, this verse proves to us that the devil, as usual, is lying to us.
Jesus came to heal the sick. He came to bring good news to the prisoners and the poor. He ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and riff-raff. And, He came to pay the price for my sin and yours.
Now, when we fully understand the sacrifice and love of Jesus, do not be coy or glib about what that means. It does NOT give us a license to keep on sinning and living a life contrary to God’s commands…feeling that Jesus will simply forgive us. Once we believe that Jesus is who He aid He is, we must change our course…REPENT…and begin to live a life in honor of His sacrifice and love.