Like Father, Like Son

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:8, 10–14, 17, NIV 1984).

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36, NIV 1984).

My Musings – These verses are loaded!

Compassionate – A sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  (1 John 4:14, NIV 1984).  It was more than a desire to alleviate our sinful state that compelled the Father to allow His Son to bear our sin and shame on the cross.

Gracious – Unmerited divine favor given to mankind for their salvation.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV 1984).  Unmerited, not earned.  Not something you can work for.  It is a gift, freely given, freely received, if we are willing to accept it.

Slow to Anger – Lacking in readiness, promptness, or willingness to display His displeasure and judgement.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9, NIV 1984).  When He returns, those who have not repented, who have not accepted Christ will be judged and bear the full weight of His wrath.  But because He is reluctant for this to be the case for anyone, He delays to allow the unsaved more time to consider.

Abounding in Love – Abundantly supplied goodness and kindness.  A steadfast (not subject to change) love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16–17, NIV 1984).  It cannot be more abundant than for Him to send His only Son.  It cannot be more steadfast, that when we betray Him in sin, He still loves us enough to redeem us.

As High As the Heavens Are From the Earth – How high do you suppose that could possibly be?  Scientists estimate at least 93 billion light years (and still expanding).

As Far As the East Is From the West – No matter how far east (or west) you travel, you will never reach the west (or east).

From Everlasting to Everlasting – Enduring through all time.  No matter how far back in time you go, there was never a time He did not love us.  No matter how far into the future you go, there will never be a time when He stops loving us.

My Advice – How could you possibly turn away from such love? Why would you want to?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

Joy In Sharing

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My Musings – “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” (Robert Louis Stevenson).  Giving to those in need is “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

A Fragrant Offering – Be mindful of Christ and imitate how He gave of Himself.  “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1–2, NRSV 1989).

An Acceptable Sacrifice – Give sacrificially.  “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  (Mark 12:43–44, NIV 1984).

Pleasing To God – Give cheerfully, without reservation.  “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – First, picture yourself in the same situation whenever you see others in need.  Then decide how you can be of help. “Love has no meaning if it isn’t shared. We have been created for greater things – to love and to be loved. To love a person without any conditions, without any expectations. Small things, done in great love, bring joy and peace. To love, it is necessary to give. To give, it is necessary to be free from selfishness.”  (Mother Teresa).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Steve Persson’s sermon on December 1, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

 

Desperately Seeking Human Kindness

Screenshot (1513)My Musings – “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”  (Harry S. Truman).  Do it out of the kindness of your heart.  Do it simply because there is a need and you can help.  Do it for the Master.  But do not do it for the praise of men.

My Advice – The picture above could be you or me.  Care like you would want others to care if it were you.  For “what good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14–18, NIV 1984).

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try

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My Advice – Our commission is clear, we are to go into the world a preach the Gospel. This is our “prime directive.”  But all to often, people will not care who we know, until they know how we care.  Not just about their all important eternal destiny, but about their temporal concerns as well.  Jesus is being very clear in His instructions here.  Instructions that He takes very personally.  What we do or do not do for others, we do or do not do for Him.  How credible can our concern for a person’s eternal well-being be, if we have no concerns for their current well-being?

My Advice – We must not be so “heavenly” minded that we are of no earthly good.  The “law of Christ” is to love our neighbors and we love ourselves,  and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Chance or Choice?

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My Musings – Many envision God as He appears to be depicted in the Old Testament as a God of wrath and judgment. In contrast, others tend to have an impression of God from the New Testament as one of compassion and grace. But God does not have a personality disorder nor has His nature changed over time (“I the Lord do not change.”Malachi 3:6, NIV 1978). God has always loved and continues to love mercy. At the same time, His Holy nature demands that He act with justice. These qualities are not contradictory. They are, in fact, quite compatible. Reconciling His love of mercy and His Holiness that demands justice is the grace bought and paid for by the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, God is able to pardon and forgive the repentant sinner. But when the heart is not penitent, God cannot pardon and will condemn.

My Advice – “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6, NIV 1978).  An Old Testament verse on God’s compassion and grace.  “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8, NIV 1978). A New Testament verse on God’s wrath and judgment.  God’s “scales of justice” do not balance a person’s good works against their sins.  Rather justice depends upon which side of the scales one “falls” on, grace or wrath.  Where one “falls” is not matter of chance, but rather a matter of choice.  Grace is available for all to choose.  For those who do not choose grace, only wrath and judgment remain.  One must choose wisely.

 

Good Neighbor Sam

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My Musings – As was usual in His parables, Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head with some surprising twists.

Pleading His Case“Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NIV 1978).  The question implies a works-based salvation (“what must I do?“) So, unlike the fairly straightforward answer given to Nicodemus, “you must be born again,” Jesus asked the legal expert what he thought.  “He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV 1984).  Jesus’ response appears to imply that a works-based salvation is indeed possible – “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28, NIV 1984).

Seeking A Loophole – Apparently the legal expert felt he could love God sufficiently (all his heart, soul strength and mind – really?), but might have a problem being a neighbor to some, since his only question was “and who is my neighbor.”  (Luke 10:29, NIV 1984).  Notice his question was who should be his neighbor, rather than who he should be a neighbor to.  To drive home this point, Jesus told a most unlikely parable.

Examining The Crime Scene –  “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30, NIV 1984). The road to Jericho was called the “bloody way”, with winding roads and hidden turns, where robbers often laid in wait concealed in the rocks.  A dangerous route.

The (Un)usual Suspects – “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:31-34, NIV).  Priests were Levites descended from Aaron.  They served the higher duties in the Temple.  Of course, not all Levites were descended from Aaron and were not priests.  As a result, they served in lower functions in the Temple.  But both would have been expected to have compassion, but they did not.  Samaritans were “half-Jews” of the northern kingdom who had inter-married with Assyrian colonists.  They were despised by “pure-bred Jews.”  The Samaritan was an unlikely candidate to have compassion on the injured man (assumed to be Jewish), but he did.

The Cross-Examination – Jesus turned the legal expert’s question back on him. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36, NIV 1894).  It must have been hard for him to reply, “the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).  He couldn’t even use the word Samaritan.  To bring this parable up to date might have included a Catholic priest, an evangelical Christian (ouch!) and a Muslim or an illegal alien.  Guess which one would have compassion in the updated parable?

The Verdict – “Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Attainment of eternal life is not a matter of scrupulously following the rules. “Do this and you will live” is more rhetorical “if you could do this you would live.”  The lawyer appeared to understand this because he sought to limit its application and find a “loophole.”  And so do we all.  But all is not lost.  Jesus became a “neighbor” to us to bring salvation.  But we should still have compassion and be a neighbor to all.  Not to gain salvation, but to imitate the Master.  “Go and do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?