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Perfect Love

In order to define ‘perfect love‘ we need to ask the right questions, but If we’re starting off with, What is perfect love?” rather than, Who is perfect love?” we are on the wrong track and may come to an errant conclusion.
 
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but PERFECT LOVE casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:15-18, emphasis mine)
 
Perfect Love
 
Perfect love is Jesus. When we grasp this, the burden is no longer upon the Christian to reject fear, but rather to yield to the only One who can cast fear out, Jesus Christ. Our passage also says ‘fear has torment,’ in other words, those living in fear are tortured by it. Think about that: there are Christians in our midst being tortured not by men, but by emotion.
 
In contrast we see the images of Christians actually being tortured; heads being violently tortremoved, bodies drowned in cages, tossed off building tops, or burned alive. These videos often show us characteristics that one would not typically associate with fear, but reveal a calm and peace that surpasses all natural understanding that can only be attributed to God’s indwelling presence. There is no doubt a burden involved with these horrific events, but I submit to you it is a light burden because of Jesus, the Perfect Love that casts out tormenting fear.
 
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
 
Christianity is Hard
 
There are of course Christians who struggle with the notion of yielding to Jesus in order that He can cast out fear. Perhaps many of us wrestle with it to one degree or the other, myself included. However, those who struggle with the doctrine, but then pronounce, “Being a Christian is hard!” have crossed a triple line: they’re distrusting God, adding to the Bible, and calling God a liar. In a word, it is blasphemy.  This sort of blasphemy won’t keep you out of Heaven, but it will make your Christian walk miserable.
 
“All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.” (1 John 5:10)
 
Choose to Trust
 
Rather than making the erroneous and discouraging remark [that] being a Christian is hard, choose to take God at his word.
 
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
If you are tempted to fear, or are facing any temptation, trust God that He will show up at the precise moment of your need and reveal to you the way to escape, remembering that your ability lies not in your flesh, but in the Perfect Love, Jesus Christ, who dwells within you.
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Everyone must submit to governing authorities. (Romans 13:1a)

God calls us to submit to our leaders and the laws of the land, assuming that they do not violate God’s ordinances. We are blessed in that our forefathers established laws whereby the citizenry can arm and protect themselves, and if need be, overthrow their leadership if they should become corrupt beyond repair. In other words, and as it would pertain to Romans 13:1-7, Christians need not feel guilty about owning a gun and/or having to use it.
 
So while it is true that [O]ur battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,’ (Ephesians 6:12) and that we’re called to love and pray for our enemies,’ (Matthew 5:44), it is also true that every once in a while, and thankfully not that often, deadly force is both required and permissible; we are not required by law to wait for a well-trained militia or policing agency to defend ourselves. We can [wait] if that is our desire, but we do not have to. 
 
Every violent situation is unique, but you get the picture.
 
All that is to say, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, and you’ve exercised your right under our laws and leadership to own a weapon for the purpose of defense of life or nation, do not for one moment believe God is displeased with that choice. It is possible to love an enemy, pray for an enemy, and yes, kill an enemy if the situation warrants such action.
 
In such a situation would there be sadness? I would say that undoubtedly there would be, but being sorrowful is not akin to being sinful under these circumstances.

There is plenty more to say on gun ownership, gun laws and safety, prayerful preparation, and the like, but we’ll leave it there for now.

 
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:1-7)

Our Days Are Numbered

Job 14:1-6 and Psalm 139:16 teach us that God has determined and numbered our days before we were born. In other words, God knows exactly when we’re going to die, which begs the question, “Is there anything we can do to change or prolong that date?”
 
I believe there is and I’m slightly dogmatic about it because God has said that if we walk in obedience and keep His decrees and commands, He will give us a long life (1 Kings 3:14) and if we honor our parents, we may live long in the land (Ex 20:12). When we consider that God is omniscient, knowing the beginning from the end, we can trust that He has factored in our obedience, or lack thereof, before He chiseled our obit day in stone.
 
Taking it a step further I believe we can prolong our lives if we stop smoking, doing drugs, and abusing alcohol, and start exercising, eating right, and taking care of our bodies, because God, again knowing all future events, has factored in both our harmful and beneficial behaviors, before we were born. That is to say, our favorable activities and obedience to God are not merely things that may improve the quality of life in the time we have been allotted, but rather things that God has considered in determining the length of our lives.

Of course we must also remember that God considers things we know nothing about that may result in a long or short life, and Godly obedience and healthy living are not the sole factors that decide how long we live.

Don’t Be Law-less

When we are sharing the Gospel we must include the Law in our conversations. Our listeners need to see their guilt, their helplessness, their depth of sin, their opposition to God, and their only solution in Christ Jesus. They also need to know the consequences of their sin, but we will leave that for another post.
 
The Law and it’s Purpose
 
1) GUILT: “The law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19)
 
2) HELPLESSNESS: “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:20)
 
3) ANTI-GOD: “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.” (1 John 3:4)
 
4) SIN-FILLED: “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin.”(Romans 7:7a)
 
5) SOLUTION: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
 
Do not make the mistake of sharing a squeaky-clean Gospel – merely saying that Jesus died for our sin is not enough. People need to know what sin is, accept their guilt, learn the consequences, recognize their inability to do anything about it, and acknowledge that Jesus is their only solution for their sin problem. I have seen data that shows that when we omit this information, 80% to 90% of people who received Jesus eventually reject Him and return to their sinful ways.

Can You Handle This?

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
When you are in the midst of a trial, have you ever heard someone say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” You want to smack them, don’t you. The truth of the matter is that quaint expression is not in the Bible. People think it is, and they will quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 as their proof text, but they’re only presenting half of the passage, “God…will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able,” and they omit the second part.
 
But There’s a But
 
And an important but it is. The rest of the verse reads,

“But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
 
Who makes a way to escape? God makes the way to escape and if God didn’t make the way to escape, we would not be able to handle the temptation. Therefore, a more accurate rewording of the passage would be,

“God won’t give you more than HE can handle!”
 
What Would Paul Say
 
The Apostle Paul would never have uttered, “God won’t give me more than I can handle!” How can we be so sure? Because he said this instead:
 
“And (God) 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. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
 
And again Paul comforts us,
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
 
If we were able to handle trials and temptations in our flesh, Jesus would not have told us to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses. (Luke 9:23). And did our Savior ever say, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; YOU have overcome the world.”

No! He declared that He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

 
Fact: God wants humility and desires that we present ourselves as empty vessels. King David understood the principle, for he wrote:

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” (Psalm 70:5)
 
So let us abandon this foolishness that God won’t give us stuff we can’t handle. That notion is ridiculous and contrary to Scripture. When we find ourselves in a trial or a temptation, look to God for He alone has provided the escape!

A Promise For Whom?

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
 
If you move in Judeo/Christian circles you have heard this verse quoted by pastors, politicians, and proselytes more than a few times, especially in times of regional tragedy or national sorrow. Although an encouraging portion of Scripture that strikes a harmonious chord with all true believers, let us be mindful that it is primarily a directive and an admonition from God.
 
A Promise to Israel
 
Cite the verse or post it on social media, and it won’t be very long before some imperious theologian, qualified or amateur, chimes in that the verse is contextually a promise for Israel and not for the United States or any other nation. Well, we can’t argue the point; it is a conditional promise that God made to Israel.

Here’s the entire account in the New Living Translation:

 
“So Solomon finished the Temple of the LORD, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.”
 
God continues:
 
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father.”
 
God’s final warning:
 
“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-22)
 
For the Church or Not?

Clearly, both contextually and historically, these words of God were for Israel. So the question then becomes, is God’s wise counsel and warning applicable to us today, and more specifically, are they applicable to the Church? The answer is, of course they are.

 
First Things First
 
When God said to King David, “One of your descendants will always rule over Israel,” it was a ‘now-fulfilled,’ prophetic reference to our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is the integral part of this equation, and because Christians are grafted into the vine that is Israel, the verse applies to the church. There is no question about it: if Christians, as in the warning to Israel, abandon their namesake Christ Jesus, and disobey His decrees and commands, we will be uprooted and rejected. 
 
“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
(Romans 11:17, NLT)
 
Healing for Israel Only?
 
No one in the body argues that if believers anywhere or at anytime, humble themselves, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, that God will hear those prayers, and forgive their sin. The issue with some folks is the implication found in the final portion, ‘that God will heal their land.’ 
 
Let’s back up. What does God mean when He says that He will heal their land, and what’s wrong with the land that it needs healing to begin with?
 
For starters, God cursed the land back in Genesis because of Adam’s dirty deed, but arguably that is not what’s being referred to here. However, and as it pertains to our scriptural reference, God said, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people,” (2 Chronicles 7:13).

In other words, on occasion and for varied reasons known and unknown, God allows turmoil, and God-allowed turmoil is not unique to Israel. Therefore, when God says He will heal the land, and when Christians apply His promise to the land they happen to be most closely associated with, it is a proper application. No one is saying anything more than that and certainly no Christian I associate with is suggesting that the United States is somehow replacing Israel as the apple of God’s eye. That notion, along with replacement theology in general, is a sick interpretation of the Bible (a discussion for another time, perhaps).  

 
Simply put, and as it pertains to the Vine of American, if folks who are called by His name, get off their high horses and humble themselves, if they would pray and seek God’s face, His guidance, His equipping, and His power, and if they repent from their wicked ways, then God will hear us; He will forgive us, and the turmoil of the land will be healed. Take note: the agnostics, the atheists, and the followers of false gods and idols don’t have to do anything! The admonition is to the church alone. If we would just start acting like the church, that is to say, in a God-prescribed manner, the promise will come to pass.
 
And the Naysayers Say…
 
“It’ll never happen!”
 
And of course they cite Biblical prophecy that God’s wrath is ultimately going to be poured out on America and the rest of the world. I get that and cannot dispute the prophetic and specific inevitability of those words. However there is another element that cannot be disputed: we do not know God’s timetable; we do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that we should abandon every good work and wait for His return. The mere thought of that is absurd and dare I say, blasphemous. God would never have us reject our Christian duty! Never!
 
So with that, let us humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, and see what God will do! To ignore God’s warning is to reject God Himself.
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