Love – God’s Greatest Weakness?

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. 2 Corinthians 13:4

Weakness – dfn. lack of physical strength; lack of power, influence or strength of character; a weak point in a system or somebody’s character. (Source: Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

Can God be weak? Is it possible for the great God of glory to exhibit any weaknesses? Or can God “choose” to be weak to achieve a much greater purpose and cause? One thing is certain and one thing we all agree upon is that love is weak. Love does not operate from a position of power or strength. Love assumes the position of weakness, giving instead of taking and being the recipient of pain versus the one causing the pain, And the list goes on. That stated, how do we respond when the Bible says that “God is love” (I Jn 4:8,16). If God is love and love is weak then what does this say about God’s person, nature, being and character?

As we probe this a little further we will find out that God does and always has a plan. And His plans are perfect. And His plans have always centered around one goal and purpose – to show all of creation how magnificent, how wonderful and how glorious He really is (Ps 145:10-11, Is 6:3, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11). And we will discover that this whole subject of weakness has an astounding ending. Let’s dive into this a little.

 The Progressive Works of God

In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth in a miraculous display of creative power. We know that, but what we sometimes forget or do not think about is that these acts of creative power were not conclusive.  After each day of creation God said that “it was good” six times (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21 & 25). The number ‘six’ is the number of man, the number of incompletion. This tells us something. It tells us that God had something else planned that would supersede His “good”. What is that? The answer is: God’s ‘best’. God said that His acts of creation were good. What God did not say was that He was “finished” with His work of creation. It would take 6,000 years before He would say that his work of creation on earth was “finished”.

God’s way of revealing His character and will through HIs sovereign acts and ways is progressive in nature (Is 28:10, 13). His plans unfold the way photographs were originally made. Photographs used to be formed after light-sensitive photographic paper was immersed a chemical bath called a “developing solution” after being exposed to a light source projected through a film negative. Images would slowly emerge over the paper’s surface while the solution swished over its surface until the entire scene photographed appeared. Such is the revelation of God, a step-by-step progression of events unfolding to culminate into the complete understanding and knowledge of all that God is.

Progressive Steps – A Man, A Family, A Nation & A World

God’s first step in revealing His character and nature started with a single man, Adam. Adam, the first created being made in God’s image was his first choice to begin exposing who He was through communication and fellowship. Adam failed in fulfilling all that God planed for him because of disobedience. So, as God always does, He moved on. God then chose a family to work with and continue to unfold his perfect plan and will. The man was Noah and he found grace in the sight of God (Gen 6:8). The Lord worked through Noah and his family to preserve a remnant of mankind from judgment (the flood) looming over earth’s inhabitants. After Noah and his offspring fulfilled their God-given role He moved on to something bigger – a nation.

The Lord chose the people of the nation of Israel (through the faith of Abraham) as the next step to reveal His will. The Lord started what would be a journey of almost 2,000 yeas to prepare a people who would glorify Him and be a witness of his power, mercy, goodness and grace to a darkened world. Again, the plan fell short of its intended expectations. Israel would eventually become divisive, indifferent to the ways of God and fall into relative oblivion amongst the nations of the earth.

After failing to achieve perfection yet again, God in his last and final attempt to fulfill His perfect plan decided to take matters into his own hands. This final plan would supersede all others in scope and power and go beyond the limitations of human futility, family frailty and national hostility. God’s final and perfect plan would encompass the entire world and involve all of Heaven, including Himself!

But God faced a dilemma. Because of the nature of this final plan Heaven could not be its launching pad or its  operations center. Why? Because this plan demanded a part of God that He had up to this point not revealed. This final plan demanded God’s total and complete commitment of His love and forgiveness only attainable through profound weakness. And He was up to the challenge.

Earth – The Manifestation of God’s Greatest Weakness, The Perfection of God’s Magnificent Power

Heaven is a place of eternity and timelessness where demonstrations and exhibitions of God’s glory, might and power are in full display. Heaven is not a place for weakness. When God determined it was time to manifest and reveal the most glorious aspects of His character, nature and being He would have to do it at some other place and in some other form. And He did. It is the place we know as planet Earth. God designed earth for two  purposes; to heal the breach of sin in Heaven (Lucifer’s rebellion) and on earth (Adam’s fall/man’s sin) and to reveal to all of Creation the glory of of His character and manifestation of His greatness weakness – His love. To gather together IN ONE “all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10).

He began the process on earth as a child in the “likeness of sinful (weak) flesh”:

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Luke 1:30-33

God himself stepped beyond the curtain of Heaven’s glory and power to become weak, weak like you and me.
However, he did it unlike you and I. He became flesh and lived without committing sin. Jesus was truly the Lamb of God. Perfect. Sinless. Blameless. Guiltless.

First we need to ask a question: Was Jesus really weak?

He became sin who knew no sin (Is 53:12; II Cor 5:21)
He laid down his life so others might take their life up (Luk 22:19-20; Rom 8:32; I Jn 3:16)
He chose death so others might have live (Joh 10:15-18)
He became poor so others might be rich (II Cor 8:9)
He relinquished his God-given power so others might be empowered by it (Mark 5:37-39; Joh 7:37-39; Acts 1:8, 2:38)
He was a lamb before a merciless company of fearless beasts (Is 53:7; Mark 15:32)
He was speechless and defenseless while being falsely accused (Mark 15:3-5)
He loved and forgave the who betrayed him (Mark 14:18-21Luk 22:47-48)
He loved and forgave all who hated him and were ashamed of him (Luk 23:34)

Can we conclude that Jesus indeed chose weakness over power? Is that not how true love is supposed to work?

God’s plans are foolproof. If he fails to accomplish something one way, He will always have something behind the scene that will come through when needed.

Satan thinks he has it all figured out. He believes his dominion over the world is unchallengeable, his death threat forever intact and his plan of deception and destruction over mankind unequaled. Being the father of lies (Joh 8:44) he is the chief deceiver,  deceived and dead wrong.

There is one thing Satan never experienced in Heaven nor will he ever understand about God. And that is: God’s weakness and the profound love of God birthed in that weakness. Satan and his hordes of fallen angels are  completely dumfounded by continually being defeated by the power of God’s love. God’s love has the capacity (unlike any other agent known on earth) to attract the human soul beyond sin’s gravitational pull and cause it to fall in total surrender before its Creator. As one lady radio announcer phrased it: “God’s love is the most compelling force in the entire universe”. It most definitely is.

And here is how. God’s power is perfected in weakness:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

The word “strength” in this verse is the Greek word “δύναμις” [dunamis] which is translated into English as “force” or specifically, “miraculous power”. The word “dynamite” is derived from this same Greek word. What does this all mean?

This tells us that God, in the most infinitely weak form possible, came to this earth in the “likeness” of sinful flesh to perfect His power. God became infinitely weak through his death on a cross so that He might become …………. infinitely powerful! So powerful in fact that Jesus is now worthy to receive all of the fullness of God’s glory, might and honor – “even in him” (Eph 1:10). Now that is something to get excited about.

From “It Is Good” to “It Is Finished” – Jesus, Our Seventh Day Of Eternal Rest

As mentioned at the outset, God said after each act of creation the words “it is good” (6x). This tells us that God had one more act of creation to perform – an act to bring everything full circle and complete His final, perfect plan waiting to unfold from the beginning of time.

According to God’s Word one day with the Lord can be 1,000 years or 1,000 years as one day (2 Pet 3:8). Therefore it is not coincidental that Jesus Christ appeared on earth exactly 6 days (6,000 years) after God’s work of Creation. God in the Old Testament rested on the seventh day from His work of creation (Gen 2:1-3) and also reserved this day for mankind’s physical rest (Mar 2:27). In the New Testament, Jesus offers those who believe and trust in him a new life with a new beginning (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus can be seen as the seventh day from creation offering mankind the gift of eternal ‘spiritual’ rest (Mat 11:28-29; Heb 3:11, 4:9-11; Rev 14:13). The Lord completed or finished His final creative week of seven days when Jesus fulfilled the Father’s perfect will.

What was that final act or work of perfection God needed to perform?

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John 4:34  

God’s perfect will was to manifest Himself in weakness as the Son (flesh) of God on earth to offer salvation to a fallen world through his sinless blood and give the hope of eternal rest (life) to those under the power of sin and death by the god of this world. It was through this sacrificial act that God revealed to the world the most magnificent and profound nature of His person being – His deep, profound love.

The death of Jesus Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God and Savior of the world was God’s seventh and final ‘work’ that fulfilled the Father’s will and ‘finished’ His creative plan on earth:

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. John 19:30 

In conclusion, God’s perfected power is expressed and manifested in the form of the God-man Jesus Christ. Jesus is the embodiment of that perfected power and rules “at God’s right hand” in the seat of Heaven having all authority and power over all of Creation (Rev 1:12-18). All because of weakness and all because of love. God’s love. For God is love.

Be Blessed & Be Free in Jesus’ Name. Amen

(Credit: Photo of baby & finger)

The Past – Our Biggest Enemy?

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

Is there one thing that will disqualify anyone from making it to Heaven aside from committing blatant sin? The scripture says that nothing can separate one from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Is that true? Is it really impossible to be separated from God’s love?

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Romans 8:38

But, what about the things not mentioned? Is something missing in the list? The present is mentioned and so is the future. But, what about the past? The Apostle Paul does not include the past as something that cannot separate one from the love of God. That means the past can. Our past is more powerful than we might imagine. Let’s take look into this.

The past is a powerful thing. It can be a well of pleasant memories of our childhood with family and friends. It can bring back thoughts of places we have been and experiences we have encountered. On the other hand, the past can be a difficult place to navigate. In fact, the New Testament writings when referring to the past many times paints it with colors from a dark, foreboding palette: (Rom 11:30, Gal 1:13, 23; Eph 2:2-3, 11-12, Phm 1:11, I Pet 2:10). These actions of the past are referred to the Apostle Paul as “dead works” (Heb 6:1 & 9:14), acts we all have committed of which we are ashamed and not particularly proud.

Why is this? When reminiscing about the past why do we tend to concentrate on the negative and not the positive? It is as if an internal switch defaults in the down position. This is no doubt a result of the law of sin resident in our members (Rom 7:23-24). So, when dealing with the past we come out of the runner’s block in life already disadvantaged because of the law of sin that seeks to always overrule our spirit (Gal 3:3, 5:17) that includes sinful thoughts and past sinful actions.

The Past & Who Is In Control? 

The past is also peculiar and somewhat enigmatic. The past on one hand can control us, yet on the other, it can be something else. What? The past can be something that only we manipulate that no one else can. Not even God if we so choose. We can be its arbitrator, judge or liberator. We cannot always control our present and less so our future. However, we can control our past by awakening it and repressing it at will. We can “bring up” the past on one hand and forget about it on the other – at will. Our will. That is control fueled by self-centered power. We can take ownership of the past because in doing so we can willfully control it. It is a piece of us that hinders and stymies the work and will of God in our lives because by manipulating our past we are in control and not God. And that is a big problem. A problem big enough that Jesus gave a warning:

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62 

Looking back (to the past) disqualifies one for kingdom work. It is a disqualifier and debilitating. Is this a hopeless situation? No, not with God. Because Jesus offers us new life, a new future and new beginnings. The key is to relinquish the past and move forward, by faith and trust in the Lord and in His word. Jesus came to heal us of our past – past mistakes we have committed (and we have all done them), past failures (even those), things done in the past to us, unpleasant thoughts from the past, all of these things Jesus can and is willing to give us victory over. Yes, he certainly can. And then we have the enemy to contend with in all this which brings us to the next subject. 

The Past & Oz Behind The Curtain

The enemy knows how powerful your past is. He understands that if he can interject or resurrect past unpleasant thoughts into your mind (yes, the devil has the capacity to do that – 2 Cor 10:5) he can at worst control you or at best stymie your spiritual growth and development.

Before we go any further, it may be in order to get a better understanding of this adversary we are dealing with. Demonic spirits are past-bound spirits with no hope and no future. Demonic spirits were in the past a part of God’s angelic heavenly host. They partook of the wonders and splendors of Heavenly glory (Jude 1:6). No more. They rebelled, were kicked out of heaven and driven to earth as fallen creatures (Rev 12:7-9). Their only hope, their only means of even the slightest relief before their final destination of eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev 20:10) is to latch onto another God-given spirit that does have hope and a future. And that God-given spirit lives in you. The devil and his cohorts find relief by accusing, oppressing and possessing humans who have a spirit with hope. What is their diet? Dust (Gen 3:14). What are you made of (Gen 2:7)? This explains the conflict. 

So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. Matthew 8:31 

God created swine (pigs) for a purpose and for a reason. They are farm animals and make good pulled pork and bacon. And even a pig retains its original God-given purpose. Fallen angels did not. They are dead spirits. Devils even seek to find relief possessing a farm animal living under God’s provision and favor. Okay, let’s move along.

The enemy completely understands he cannot control a person with a “made up” mind, a mind focused on God, His Word, totally surrendered to God’s will and unequivocally trusting in God’s person. The devil has lost the battle with that individual who lives no longer in the past and lives instead in the promises and hope of His Person and Word. A believer set free from the shadows and vestiges of the past is unstoppable when infused with faith, hope and love. This is not the case for those bound by the past, those whose lives are directed by its sinful reminders whether true or untrue. This is a place where the Creator of the heaven and the earth does not want you to be for he came to heal and set you free of your past:

In Conclusion

Left untempered and unrestrained, our past may be our biggest enemy. By God’s grace and His promise of new life, the past can be a distant memory God has healed and made whole. But, someone may ask, “You don’t know my past? You do not know what I have experienced in life, the things I have done or the things done to me”. No this blogger does not. But, there is someone who does. Jesus experienced more shame and pain than any other human that ever walked this earth. And Jesus can be touched by your pain and shame because he has been there (Heb 4:15). Someone made the following statement: “Get yourself a good prayer life because no one understands your pain better than God”. 

The enemy wants your hope. The enemy wants your future because he has none. It is said that the devil does not care about your past or your present, he just wants to steal your future. Don’t let him. Jesus has something more powerful for you than what a future-less, hateful and destructive end the enemy hopes for your life. What is it? It is the New Birth of water and Spirit (Joh 3:1-15 & 7:37-39). A new life, a new beginning and a entirely new bright future eons away from your regretful past.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

And Samson

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Samson.

Every child who has ever attended Sunday School knows all about Samson. What child’s imagination does not get sparked by his mighty exploits? From the setting afire the tails of a skittish skulk of 300 foxes (Judges 15:4-6), the killing of 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15:15-17), ripping out single-handedly the gates of the enemy’s fortified city (Judges 16:3), and the breaking of ropes as if sewing thread (Judges 15:12-13, 16:11-12). Purely fantastic fodder for the imaginative mind.

And God had a divine and outstanding mission planned for Samson before his birth:

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.

Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:

For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Judges 13:3-5

Samson had it all. From the beginning he had both Heaven’s anointing and destiny imprinted upon his soul. Samson was called to deliver Israel from her enemies the Philistines. And to a degree he did.

Moreover, Samson was both one of the most enigmatic figures ever recorded in the Old Testament and Samson was also one of the most tragic figures recorded in the Old Testament.

And Samson.

The Pillars

If we could go back in time ourselves and embrace the imagination of a child we just might see what God possibly saw in the last scene of Samson’s life:

But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Judges 16:21

There he is swarming within all of the theatrics and drama of life. A pitiful figure Samson is. Where his laser sharp and dark piercing eyes once were are now scarred and disfigured eye sockets. Where freedom once allowed the man to tromp over his enemy’s heads in vengeance, he is now bound like an animal in a parade of mockery.

Let us also imagine and wonder how the Lord perceived this. How did God feel while looking at this pitiful scene? It had to have broken His heart. The God of Glory had to have wept and mourned for Samson. The promises. The anointing. All the hope vanished in a moment. Only a heart-less king and ruler would respond otherwise.

But, God is God and not man.

And Samson.

And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Judges 16:26

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29

Perhaps in Samson’s mind thoughts of his troubled past interlaced with divine thoughts of future hope and glory. And maybe he uttered these words:

“Lad, let me feel the pillars. I cannot see them, but just let me feel them because I know a God who still performs miracles. I’ve seen Him do them in my past, and by God’s grace and mercy, He can do it again. Because I know a God who is still in the miracle-working business.”

He was physically blinded, but somehow Samson miraculously sensed pillars in the room, and one more important pillar, a spiritual one. The pillar of his God was also present, for his one true Pillar of truth had not forsaken him and gave him renewed hope exactly when he needed it most.

And Samson

Maybe you were wondering by now why the repeated, maybe even disruptive repetition of the phrase “And of Samson”? (the word “of” is not in the original Greek) Here is why:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Hebrews 11:32

Nestled on the wall of Heaven’s Champions of Faith as recorded in Hebrews Chapter 11 is a most unlikely person. He was perhaps God’s most colossal failure. He stumbled. He fell. He embarrassed himself, he embarrassed Israel and He embarrassed Jehovah God. So why would God care? Why would the Lord waste more time and divine resources on a fallen hero? There is one reason:

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. Hosea 11:9

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

When man would say: “Let’s move on. Done deal. The damage is done. No damage control in the world can rectify this situation.” Heaven says: “Not so fast“.

Hopeless? In “the world”, yes. In Heaven, absolutely NOT.

For God is God and not man.

Man may, but God never extinguishes even the faintest glimmer of hope or faith in anyone. A raging forest fire can be started by one small spark. One spark of faith and hope in a heart can be the beginning of new life in impossible situations and when facing insurmountable odds.

It was one last spark that changed Samson’s world. And one last spark was all Samson needed:

Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Judges 16:27-30

Samson’s final act was his very best. Up to this point in his life is it not mentioned where he ever prayed. But, here we see Samson prayed to his God. And his God heard it.

Because of his prayer and faith in God, the Lord honored it, gave him the victory and saw fit to place his name on His wall of faith. Samson got a piece of the wall and became one of God’s pillars of faith. His name is nestled right smack in the middle of the godly and victorious company of Gedeon,  Barak, Jephthae and Samuel.

Why? Because the faith Samson exercised at the end of his life simply pleased God. For without faith it is impossible to please Him.

The Lord took the crumbling wreckage of the pillars of Samson’s life and transformed them into a pillar of faith for all of time and eternity.

It is not over until God says it is over. And God is still in the miracle-working business. Our God is the Master of turning Messes into Masterpieces!

God is God and not Man.

And Samson.

Be Blessed!

More Than A Feeling

If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

God’s word is a window into the very mind and heart of God. In fact, God magnifies His Word above His name (Ps 138:2). It is easy to allow the Word to take a backstage role in our lives. Why? It takes work and effort to search the scriptures and make them the centerpiece of our being. The Apostle John gives some insight into this thought:

And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. Revelation 10:9

On first inspection the word is sweet, enlightening and glorious. But upon digestion,  assimilation and prolonged residence in one’s life, it will be discomforting and contrary to the whims and the wild nature of the flesh. In short, the living Word of God does not always “feel good” in our lives.

Where are we going here? It is important to put feelings into their proper perspective.

Feelings are at best a catalyst for good, and at worst, ignorant and deceptive for the beginnings of error.

We live in a culture defined by the “touchy-feely”. Our society operates on-demand. Give it to me now. Not in 5 minutes, not in 5 seconds, put it in my hand or within my line of sight RIGHT NOW! Why? Because it feels good. And we like to “feel” good.

Unfortunately, this mindset has meandered and crept its way into our perceptions of love, specifically, God’s love. And this is our launching pad. God’s love has little to do with feelings. Let’s take a look into this.

God’s Love & God’s Word

According to the word of the Lord, God’s love IS ALWAYS in concert with obedience to God’s word. Sometimes love is convoluted with two feeling-based fruit of the Spirit; joy and peace. How does one know if they embrace joy or peace? You feel” it. How else can you define the presence of them? You feel and sense peace and you feel and sense joy.

But, God’s love, the Greek word ‘agape’, is not about feelings.

Agape love is more about actions and reactions to life than it’s about feelings in life. The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth devoted exclusively to love (agape) pinpoints this assertion:

Longsuffering, kindness, envy-less, selflessness, modest (vs. 4), gracious, humble, even tempered, innocent thinking (vs. 5), non-judgmental & God-seeking (vs. 6), trustworthy, faith-driven, confident, determined (vs. 7). I Corinthians Chapter 13

Where do you find feelings in this list of love characteristics? These spiritual graces are not produced by feelings. They come through persistent obedience and leading by God’s truth (Word) and Spirit. Jesus has much to say on this:

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings … John 14:23-24

The New Testament scriptures (KJV) translates the Greek word agapē (ἀγάπη)- sacrificial love, a love feast, as either the English words love or charity, 144x. Of those 144 scriptures, 53 verses include the word “faith” along with the word agapē. Faith cannot be separated from God’s love.

The world has perverted into a feeling what God originally intended to originate from faith. Belief in God’s Word:

Romans 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

And faith is energized or made effective by love; through the Word of God:

Galatians 5:6  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Worketh: Greek ἐνεργέω (energeō) to be active, efficient: effectual, be mighty in. (Strongs)

“… but faith coming to effective expression through love”. (Wuest)

The analogy being: God-focused faith is the bullet, God’s love is the gunpowder.

The world’s formula for love is based on supply-demand marketing strategy. Love is projected as a fragile and fleeting consumable sustained with products and services.

This is not God’s design. Rather the truth is, God designed love to have its roots solely in Him, not as a consumable, but based on a condition. The condition being a heart in total and complete surrender in obedience to His word. What is the result? Knowing God for who He is. And who is He?

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. I John 4:7-8

God is love.

More Love, Less Control

The broadcast on the evening radio last week could not have been more timely. With these thoughts about love lingering and swirling around during the home commute, the preacher said:

The more in love you are with someone, the less control you have over your life“.

The minister went on to say he was just fine living the life of a bachelor. But, when this particular lady entered his life (now his wife), things began to change. He began to loose control over his life. To the point of total loss that he might gain faithful love.

More love, less control:

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:42-44

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:12-13

The more love, the less control.

God is love. It’s more than a feeling.

Be Blessed!

Hacked Heart – Part I

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:4-5

Computer hacking and hackers in general are subjects not unfamiliar to our world. The advent of Internet-accessible computer systems that crunch, transmit and store personal and financial data has birthed a dark and slithery offspring known as cyber crime. It is estimated that in this year (2019) the cost of global cyber crime will reach $2.1 trillion. As the numbers indicate, someone is being hacked.

The purpose of this post is not about data breaches or computer system vulnerabilities. Rather to bring to light the fact that one of the most guarded and secretive places we think we possess – our heart, is not impervious to inspection or as sanctified as we might believe.

Our human hearts are hack-able, by either good or evil.  There is a backdoor (if you will) embedded in each of our hearts that is open for inspection by our Creator and by evil. Let’s dive into this a little bit.

Impersonation – Satan’s Most Lethal Weapon

If I can impersonate the data, I own the data” were words spoken by a cyber-security expert at a computer data security conference. Before the room’s acoustics had time to smother and extinguish the word’s last echo, it came immediately apparent there was a deeper meaning to be gleaned here and the reason for choosing the training session.

The point the speaker was making is a computer hacker’s goal is to construct his malicious code in a manner that an innocent host computer will be fooled into “believing” (if you will) that its insidious, destructive payload is benign. The computer under attack accepts the foreign code (i.e., malware) as if it belongs, accepting it as its own. When this happens nothing can stop the impersonated data from taking total control over the computer and adjoining computer systems.

Applying this concept on a spiritual level, If the devil can implant a thought of his into your heart, he can takeover and commandeer your heart. He now has access. Your heart has been hacked. The thought that was initially foreign to your established neural pathways has now made you think that his wicked thought is now your thought. This is what happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Talking Serpents Anyone?

From reading the Genesis account of Eve’s interaction with the serpent one might conclude this was not the first encounter she had with him. Why? When was the last time you engaged in dialogue with a talking serpent? The Bible up to this point gives no indication that any of the other animals or living creatures possessed vocal qualities, particularly a language understood by both Adam and Eve.

So the assumption is Eve could have been acquainted with this one-of-a kind creature many times in the past, who unlike all of God’s other creatures, had an uncanny ability to verbally communicate. In any event, her dialogue with the serpent was no surprise to her. The serpent somehow eroded her apprehensions and assuaged any fear concerning his strangeness. Sounds like things have not changed much on that frontier. Let’s move along.

The modus operandi of the hacker is to work slowly, stealthily, and persistently in stages until the target’s vulnerabilities are discerned and numbed into accepting a malicious payload.

The serpent’s first hurdle was to trick Eve into believing that talking creatures were not so strange after all. He apparently succeeded on that front. His next plan of attack was to inject Eve’s heart with lies to produce doubt concerning her own faith, which snowballed into calling her husband’s integrity into question and ultimately the authority of God’s word.

What were Eve’s vulnerabilities? The same ones we battle daily. Her flesh:

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. Genesis 3:6

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:16

Eve was deceived by lies and then both she and Adam became offended and shamed in the process:

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1 Timothy 2:14

Eve’s heart was hacked by impersonation, an impostor hacked her heart with lies. And the hacker has not missed a day’s work since. Anyone whose heart and mind has not been enlightened by the light, hope and truth of the gospel is living with a heart hacked by the god of this world:

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. II Corinthians 4:3-4

Wounds of Offense

And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. Acts 24:16  

This verse always seemed perplexing and left one wondering of its full meaning as it is another one of the Apostle Paul’s amazing, thought-provoking and spirit-inspired passages.

While sitting in Bible school several years ago, the instructor (a well-established pastor who is invited to speak internationally, so he knows his subject matter) quoted this very verse and proceeded to unravel its meaning in a profound way. In a nutshell, this is what was conveyed.

The Greek word ‘conscience’ here is συνείδησις (suneidēsis) which means: co-perception. This concept of co-perception is very important.

Suneidēsis is a prolonged form of συνείδω (suneidō) which is broken down as:
Sun: denoting union; with or together + eidō: to see, to know: – be aware, behold, perceive, understand.

In essence, the coalescing of a thought in our mind operates like a reverse prism by bringing together two (the ‘co’) converging reference points – our thoughts or perceptions and another reference to determine how we reach a final conclusion on a matter.

This is where offenses come into the picture. An offense is defined as: (1) a thing that constitutes a violation of what is judged to be right or natural, (2) annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principals. (source: New Oxford American Dictionary)

How is this ‘offense-free’ conscience Paul speaks about attained? Well you guessed it, God’s Word:

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. Psalms 119:165

When our mind uses the Word of God (law) as the reference point in that thought prism, our perception at that point is pure, untainted and Holy. However, when something else replaces or personifies God’s Word (either evil or fleshly, carnal thoughts/ patterns – strongholds) we forfeit peace and become offended.

This is what happened to Eve. Satan impersonated God’s Word (truth) with lies, she then believed Satan’s word was her own and likewise caused her to become offended, shamed and doubt God’s word.

It is the work of impersonation. It is the work of an impostor; a foreign agent has infiltrated enemy lines, donned himself with the familiar garb of its unsuspecting citizens who have graciously granted him mental asylum.

The enemy is a master of disguise and deception. We know this from the scriptures:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. II Corinthians 11:14

This is evidence of the crafty, stealthy, transformed angel of light impostor.

This is why one must search the scriptures to hide and protect God’s word:

Psalms 119:11  Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

In where? In the heart.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Ephesians 6:17  

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12  

The impostor attempted to execute the same hacking campaign against Jesus that he successfully leveled against Eve:

And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Matthew 4:3

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4  

Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Matthew 4:7  

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. Matthew 4:10 -11

He failed. The word of God is the hacker’s greatest enemy and will stop him in his tracks every time.

Coming up next: Heart Hacked – By Good. Instead of being hacked by a lie, we will look into being hacked by something far greater and more powerful – Hacked Heart’s by God’s love.

Be Blessed!

Who Am I?

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14

(Note: the following  is an excerpt of a thought/message presented in a service at a Nursing Facility/Convalescent Care Center in Baltimore County, MD on Sunday March 24th by this blogger)

Who am I? The question related to identity we all ask. What is my purpose in life? What is life? Does anyone care? If so, who really cares?

We must come to a complete understanding of our worth and value in life to move beyond our present circumstances (however good or bad they may be) and reach the full potential God has for our lives.

Who cares? God cares. He cares about you. Let’s look into this.

You Are Destined To Give Glory To God

We must, it is imperative that we comprehend and come to a complete understanding of God’s value for life in general, and in particular the value God places upon our own life.

A transformation takes place when we get to the place of total surrender to God – at that point our life is no longer dear to us, but now of infinite value to God. The closer we get to God, the less we value our own life and the more our life is valued by God.

Why is this? Two words – God’s Glory

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.  II Corinthians 6:19-20

“A life totally surrendered to God totally glorifies God.”

That no flesh should glory in his presence. I Corinthians 1:29

One writer penned the following words: “God’s glory is important to Him”. Your life was destined from Creation to give glory to God. Period. Then what is the problem? What divides or separates us from bringing this glory to our Creator? The answer is simple, but oh so devastating – Sin.

Sin is the one element of our nature God will not brush off or overlook. Sin separates, it divides, it brings death:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James 1:15

Sin entered Creation’s story in the Garden of Eden and continues on to this day. Ask Adam and Eve about being separated from God. Ask Cain their first son. Ask Achan who along with his family was stoned to death (Gen 7:24-26). Ask King Saul. Ask King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Ask Judas. Sin always leaves behind a bitter trail of remorse and pain.

But, there is hope. Where? Hope is found in His hands.

Read His Palms – They Tell Your Story

But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:14-16

What is graven on the palms of the Lord’s hands? Nail prints. For who? They are for you. That is how much you are valued. This is who you are. Your life is very, very important to God:

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Luke 24:39

The God of Glory went through the pain and agony to be permanently engraved with the value of your life imprinted on His hands. In eternity, there will be only one with a scarred body. The Bible tells us that God’s people resurrected from this life of dust, bone and death will one day be given a glorified body:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: I Corinthians 15:42-43

But, there will be one in Heaven whose hands will tell the story of a distant time and of a distant place. The palms of God will remind Him of the price He paid at a place called Calvary where He showed the value he placed on those created in his own image – You.

Read His palms for they tell your story – they are proof of your worth and your value to Him.

Be Kind To Your Heart

It could be that there are times when God is just plain “fed up” with our mistakes, our failures, our shortcomings, our sin and decides to annihilate the whole mess. What holds God back from pouring His wrath out on a world gone mad, intoxicated by sin?

One thing. His palms.

O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

In wrath remember mercy. The great God of mercy and love looks at His hands and perhaps says to himself – “I can’t destroy them. I’m reminded of Calvary. I’m reminded of going to a cross and shedding my blood for them. My palms remind me of how much they are loved and valued. In my wrath, I am reminded of my Mercy”.

God knew before the foundation of the world that the only lasting thing that will change us is love. There is a God and Savior who loves you with an everlasting love. Be kind to your heart. His palms tell the story of who you are. You are of great value to Him.

This is who you are destined to be – in His hands, redeemed by His blood and near to His heart.

The Cobblestone Effect

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. Romans 7:21

Have you ever  rode a bicycle on a cobblestone path or road? Or driven an automobile on a street paved with cobblestones? It is an unforgiving, frustrating and bone-jarring experience to say the least. The harder and faster you want to move over cobblestones , the slower and harder it is to move at all. It is an exercise in futility to attempt to defeat and counteract its resistive forces . When traveling on cobblestones, you simply must take your time and endure the ride.

The gist of the cobblestone effect is this:

“Increasing efforts to move forward and faster invoke increasingly opposing forces to resist you”.

Or in essence, “the force of resistance is directly proportional to the effort to push; increasing the force to push, results in generating inherently  greater forces that resist”.

This  is a phenomenon known as the cobblestone effect and has real-life application. This is going somewhere. Let’s take a look.

The Cobblestone Effect

The City of Baltimore is a wonderful town rich in American history. I live there and travel its streets to work five days a week. And if the truth be told its roads still leave one with an authentic, nostalgic 18th century experience. Cobblestone-like streets are very much in vogue here.

And you can normally pinpoint a driver acquainted with the nuances of Baltimore’s byways and roads – they can be spotted as those driving up the road like slalom skiers, weaving and crisscrossing in their lane to avoid potholes, mogul fields of warped, elephant-like skinned sections of asphalt  or the misaligned, lopsided manhole covers that rudely mimic the feel of cobblestone.

How does this relate in a spiritual application? What relevance does this all have for an individual wanting to get closer to the true and living God? Immensely relevant.

The cobblestone effect is an effective tool in satan’s arsenal against the human soul and often a weapon of choice. Why? The enemy’s goal is to invoke frustration and futility while one attempts to seek the goodness and blessings available in God. We don’t have to be reminded that satan hates everything and anything where God is involved.

God is life. God is for growth. To satan, the only thing secondary to destroying life is to thwart or impede its growth – to throw continuous roads and paths of cobblestone in your life for the purpose of frustration, fatigue or even eventually just plain giving up in pursing the face and will of God. Can you relate?

Why not quit? Why not “throw in the towel”? Why not keep pushing and enduring long nights of loneliness and frustration?  One word:

Progress.

You are making progress over life’s cobblestones and onward to things with eternal significance as long as you don’t give up and stop moving forward!

Rise Above It

Outside of completely stopping or renting a hovercraft, the only way to minimize the cobblestone effect in life is to lighten your load and rise above it. How do you do that?

First, slow down:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,(Ephesians 5:15)

Next, let someone help you pray, carry your load and burden:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:1-2

Lastly, give it to Jesus:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.(Matthew 11:28)

But, there will be times when we need something more. We just cannot do it ourselves or with the help of those around us. What then? Jesus shows up walking above the cobblestones and just lifts us and carries us above it all:

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalms 73:26)

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. (1 John 3:20)

In Conclusion

We find in our journey through life that it is often a path lined with cobblestones; events, situations, encounters,  thoughts and experiences that “do not line up”, are disjointed, not level (‘not fair’ – anyone?) or seem bewildering to our natural minds. Could it be God has ordained it that way? Has God intentionally framed and ordained our fragile life on earth so that we walk humbly, carefully and attentively? Jesus never told anyone whom he healed to rise up and run. But, he did tell them to “walk” and keep moving forward (Mat 9:5, Mk 2;9,  Lk 5:23).

And it is interesting to note what will be found at the end of this life as we stand before God. Is the Lord so cold-hearted and cruel that He would line the street of Heaven with one of earth’s most dreaded surfaces – cobblestone? Not hardly:

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. (Revelation 21:21)

Jesus once turned water into wine. He is also able one day to turn our streets of cobblestone into a street of pure gold – if we keep pushing forward! Be Blessed.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. (Isaiah 59:19)