What is powerful? Nations will talk about their military might. Others may speak of heavy equipment that moves earth or lifts massive weights. We might think of tornadoes, hurricanes, and flood waters. All of these certainly are powerful. However, yesterday I experienced again the most power force on earth or in heaven. The power of love. Yesterday was the final service I conducted at my congregation, followed by a wonderful luncheon. The church was full of dear members, family, and friends. Emotion was certainly there, but the power was the power of love, of God’s love, that enfolded and bound each of us together as one. All other powers are simply forces that work on the outside of a person for good or ill. Love changes hearts and shapes lives at the deepest part of ones being. Jesus had changed all of us who were gathered, as He has changed countless lives through two thousand years since He walked this land. People search for love in many places, but too often find only poor counterfeits or pain. Our God is love, and He is continually extending Himself to us. The shed blood on Calvary’s cross is the most powerful, life-giving, loving act there is. And it was given and shed for you. Come.
On Jan 10, 2019 1:13 PM, "IRVIN STAPF" <istapf> wrote:
My most sincere thanks to all of you for your love and prayers. It is now 4:45AM. I am in my room and have slept for the past 7 hours. I am not in any discomfort except that my mouth is dry. I’m sorry to make this such a personal message. I don’t like being at the center of attention, but there is a real witness to the Lord’s goodness here. I love the Lord’s sense of humor! On the wall facing my bed is a white board with the names of the nurses attending me, and the plan for the day. When I awoke a little while ago the very first name I saw was that of the Charge Nurse – JOY! God is so good. Not all circumstances or outcomes are good, but that doesn’t change the goodness of our gracious Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I will say rejoice." My love, and above all God’s love to each of you dear readers. Stay blessed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My most sincere thanks to all of you for your love and prayers. It is now 4:45AM. I am in my room and have slept for the past 7 hours. I am not in any discomfort except that my mouth is dry. I’m sorry to make this such a personal message. I don’t like being at the center of attention, but there is a real witness to the Lord’s goodness here. I love the Lord’s sense of humor! On the wall facing my bed is a white board with the names of the nurses attending me, and the plan for the day. When I awoke a little while ago the very first name I saw was that of the Charge Nurse – JOY! God is so good. Not all circumstances or outcomes are good, but that doesn’t change the goodness of our gracious Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I will say rejoice.” My love, and above all God’s love to each of you dear readers. Stay blessed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Scottish pastor by the name of George Matheson experienced a time of extreme mental distress. It was in this time that the words of this hymn were brought to his mind.
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
That is what I was saying yesterday about the depth of love God has for each of us. It is not a feeling we can manufacture. It is not something we can earn or in any way deserve. It is the very nature of God to whom we can humbly come. It is a love that changes us drawing us deeper into all the Lord intends for our good. It is a love that has been demonstrated in the most extreme way on a Roman cross.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Know that that love is there for you today.
Paul writing to the Roman church says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,… (Romans 8:16-17) We certainly like that statement of assurance that in Christ Jesus we are children of God. But the three dots following “Co-heirs with Christ” mean that Paul’s statement doesn’t end there. He follows that by saying “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” That part we don’t like very much. Our suffering adds nothing to our salvation. That is already complete in Christ, but it does recognize that we are in a sinful world and have a responsibility of helping to share the burdens this world places on others. Christ’s command was to love one another as He has loved us. Loving as He loved is painful at times. We are not in this life just to get everything we can and have the easiest life possible. As Christians we are called to walk beside those who are hurting, supporting them as best God give us the grace to do.
Hurricane Florence is battering the eastern coast of the U.S. There were necessary preparations and evacuations in the Carolinas. There will be a great cost and effort to rebuild after the storm passes. Tragically, some lives may even be lost. Whether natural disasters or trials cause by the sinfulness of man, we are faced with the truth that we live in a fallen world. Yet it is a world into which God has come with His redeeming love. It’s hard to see that love in the midst of the storm, but it is there. It is seen in the lives of people who give aid. Ultimately, it will be seen in the fulfilled promise of God making all things new. At one of the most critical and frightening times in the lives of His disciples Jesus said to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(John 14:27) We may lose property. We may even lose physical life. But we cannot lose the love of God who will make all things new.
Why do we work? A rather simple and obvious question. We work to provide the things we need to live. After all, Paul said that the one unwilling to work should not eat.(I Thessalonians 3:10) So we need to work to earn money for the necessities of life. But I think there is more to it than that. I know some jobs are drudgery and one just put in the hours for the pay check. At times that is necessary. But it is hoped that one can find pleasure and satisfaction in what they do. Let’s think beyond the pay check to the service one is doing for the good of another. Extend this to our relationship with our Lord. Do we work for Him, doing good works, acts of kindness, and seeking to live a moral life, only so that we can stay of God’s good side and be saved. Or do we live our life with Him because of what He is, and the depth of love He has given us is so great that we want to share it. Apart from any money, gain, or reward there is joy in being able to provide something good, and see the change because of it in another’s life. We love because He first loved us.(I John 4:4) And maybe we can see our own daily work through the love of Christ as seeking to provide something good for another.
We had the opportunity yesterday to visit our son-in-law’s naval base and tour the aircraft he works with. As with much of military hardware it is a massive and complex piece of machinery. It had systems for surveillance and powerful weaponry. Everything about this system and others we saw portrays power and ability. These are necessary systems in a dangerous world. It just strikes me how much in contrast this is to the message we proclaimed last week. The truth that we are a helpless people in need of the redeeming love of our Lord. Of the two we believe this is by far the greatest of the messages, and the one that has eternal and not just temporal value. In spite of the present need for the first, we seek to live out the love of Christ in daily actions, and long for the time when this physical power will no longer be needed.
Today is an interesting combination of designations. It is Ash Wednesday, and it is also Valentine’s Day. One sacred and one secular. But thinking about them both as God’s gifts, they do emphasize a depth of love God intended for the people of His creation. Valentine’s Day emphasizes romantic love. Within its right boundaries romantic love is a wonderful bond given to a man and woman in the covenant bond of marriage. Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten Season sharing again the depth of love God has for mankind in providing the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our cleansing from sin, and the restoration of our relationship with God. Love, true love that is willing to sacrifice for the good of the beloved, is displayed in both the secular and the sacred expressions of this day. So if you receive a Valentine’s card, or the cross made with ashes on your forehead, know that the true and only source of love is from the One who gave His life for you.
We know there is a difference between having to do something and wanting to do something. This certainly applies to different areas of life, but I am particularly thinking about our relationship with our Lord. We do acts of charity. Why? We go to church. Why? Do we do these thing as a duty to God, to gain or add to our assurance of salvation is some way? In parables about God’s Kingdom in Matthew 13 Jesus talks about being a part of God’s Kingdom as a treasure, and a pearl above all costs. But Scripture also tells us that this treasure is to great to be bought. There is nothing we can do to earn it. Rather, it is given to us as a free and unearned gift of God’s grace. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….”(John 3:16) The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ has purchased our salvation and given it to us as a completely free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. This is an overwhelming gift for you out of the deepest of love. When we are loved in that way we want to draw ever nearer to the source of that love, which then begins to be a part of our whole being. We have been completely freed from trying to please God, and earn our salvation. We do the same acts of charity, we go to the same church services, but with a new motivation, and a new joy, as the love of God flows in and through us. Nothing is perfect on this side of the visible Kingdom, but, in Jesus Christ, we have been given the “love that will not let us go”.