The Mysterious Love of God

It is one thing to talk about how much we need God to save us. It is quite another to talk about how much He wants to save us.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

My need may be big, but the need I understand. We don’t act like we have been created to act. We sin. We don’t think like we have been created to think. We lust, covet, hate, etc. In other words, we sin. We don’t love like we have been created to love. We ignore God, blame God, and generally devalue God. We sin. No wonder Jesus had to die! We have an incredible need. A need that I do not have the facility to overcome. I don’t have the ability to change my nature. I certainly cannot change the past and undo my wrong. I need someone to make it right! It is impossible for me to do it. I need Jesus.

Yet, the second question is even bigger. Why? Why does God want to save me? Why does He want to take my sin upon Himself in Jesus? Why does He want to trade Himself for me? It can’t be my goodness. I have none. It can’t be my great brains, abilities, or strength because He doesn’t need any of it. It can’t be that I add anything that He lacks because He lacks nothing! That is the definition of what it means to be God. He has no lack in His person, perfection, power, or glory. I can add (especially in my sinfulness) nothing to Him. So, I am left with the question: why?

This is what Paul, Peter, John, and the other followers of Jesus understood as well. There is nothing we bring to God that would win Him over to save us. Instead, there is simply something in Him that does it. He loves. He loves us. It isn’t an earned love (like the beginning of a romantic relationship). It isn’t a needy love (like a lonely person who reaches out to others). No, God’s love is an intentional love. It is who He is. And, it is a sacrificial love. His love is willing, not because we deserve it but because He chooses to shine His love on us, to sacrifice even Himself for us. We can’t say, “Of course He loves us, look at the cool people He gets.” Instead, it is absolutely astounding that He would love us. So, Paul says, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

I notice that word ‘compel’. It speaks of an act that so affects someone that it forces a response.

I notice that word ‘compel’. It speaks of an act that so affects someone that it forces a response. We usually mean coerce when we use the word compel. We use it with things like shackles, rope, and handcuffs. Yet, at other times we use the word ‘compel’ to talk about actions that just bring out a response that we cannot control without denying who we are (like crying at weddings or cheering when our team scores a touchdown). This is the ‘compel’ that we see here. Paul was so moved by what God had done for him in Jesus that he was compelled to now live for Jesus. What a glorious love that would lead such a One to die to make us alive! What type of love is this? Has it moved you too? There is no better time to think of it than right now. May we think deeply about it and never miss its glory…

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Sunday at the Fair

Calvary Baptist Church is going to the Warren County Fair! Our Sunday worship service will be at 8:30 AM at the Warren County Fairgrounds. The service will be held at the Friends of 4H/Bill Riley Talent Search free stage right between the Rabbit barn and the Lester Building. This service will include a time of praise, a time of prayer and a clear declaration of God’s Word.

Details

Calvary at the Fair

When: Sunday, August 1, 8:30 AM

Where: Free stage at the Warren County Fair

Who: Open to anyone!

Fee: Free! (there will be an offering bucket available for Calvary folks to give as God leads)

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Truth and Trust

Have you said in your heart or heard a friend say, “I just don’t feel that God is very close to me.”? In that moment, although we may not realize it, we are wrestling with who to believe – our feelings or God. I think it matters who we believe!

Let’s think today about that word ‘feel’.  In a world that proclaims that we should follow our feelings, we have almost been trained to make our feelings what determines our decisions.  In other words, “feeling” has become truth.  So, what happens when what God has promised doesn’t mesh with how we feel today?  I wonder how many who have put their faith in Jesus struggle with who to believe.  The question before us many times is – will I believe what I feel and act on that, or will I believe what God has said or promised and act on that.

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

Consider this when going through a really hard time or struggling with a particular sin.  The Lord has said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah31:3) and, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  He has promised this.  He has declared it throughout His holy Word.  Yet, don’t we sometimes ‘feel’ as if God is far away from us?  Let me be clear, all of us go through times when we feel that way.  We see even some of the heroes of the faith feel that way.  What is the difference those heroes and us?  They did not make decisions by what they felt.  They made decisions based upon what God had said. Did they still feel alone? Did they still wonder what God was going to do? Yes! Yet, they acted upon what God had promised. That is the key of faith.  That is the path of biblical hope.  That is where we find joy.

We find victory as we trust God’s promises. Trust is not a simple feeling.  It is a profound choice.  It is a choice to believe even when we feel differently. God has declared his love for you and me.  He has demonstrated it on the cross.  We are now invited to trust Him.  There are times when we won’t automatically feel loved.  Yet, will we be ruled by what we feel or by what is true? Here is the awesome promise – by trusting God’s promises in faith we will discover that God has been there all the time. Does it matter if we trust God in this way? Yes! It makes all the difference!

Something to think about,
Pastor John

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How Our Sin Reveals God’s Glory

“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

Sin reveals God’s glory. That is quite a statement. Did I say sin? Yes, sin. It isn’t exactly a word we think of when we think of God’s glory, is it? When we talk about God’s glory, we usually focus on the parts that also encourage us. We usually focus on how great His love is for us. We think about how big God is and yet He has time for us. We usually avoid thinking about our sin in relation to God’s greatness or God’s love. In fact, we are tempted to run completely away from the topic of sin when we want to think about the love of God. We might be afraid of making people (or ourselves) feel guilty and worthless. We might think that thinking about sin will make God look more vengeful rather than loving. However, we must be wary that in our desire to emphasize God’s love that we overlook the truth that our sin reveals about God: that forgiveness is the proof of the marvelous depth of the love of God.

Consider a human picture: a mommy or daddy has been telling their child that they are loved. They smile at them, they take them fun places, and they hug them every night as they tuck them into bed. At first, everything is wonderful. Then comes the terrible teens. The child is now disrespectful, resentful, and disobedient. They are willful, selfish, and hurtful. Yet, mommy and daddy still show love and affection. There are still smiles. They still go with them to fun places. They go to the child’s concerts, science fairs, ball games, etc. The parents even seek to continue to give hugs and affection (as much as the teen will let them!) Their love is constant. Then, one day, the teen wakes up. They are now 23 years old. As they come out of their adolescent stupor, they look back on the years of their parents’ love. They don’t just see their parents love, do they? There is a context. It is the context of their misbehavior. That context shows them what love means. That context shows them how much they begged for their parents to stop loving them, and their parents refused the offer. The love came anyway.\ Knowing that, they now know what kind of love to give in return. They know what kind of love to give their own spouse and children. They know how to love.

This is what I realize as I look at what the Bible says about sin. It isn’t a description of how bad we are primarilly (isn’t it just like our adolescent spirits to make it all about us?). It is about God! God’s love. God’s willingness to reach out when we reject Him. God’s unending call to the world that ignores Him – I love you. I died for you. I smile on you. I call you my own.

In a book that is filled with challenges to Christians to get off the fence and stop sinning, the Apostle John marvels in this, “See  how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 John 3:1) After all the challenging words about how sin cannot coexist with faithfulness to God, John never stopped marveling on the love of God. The sin could not drown out the glory of the love of God. The love shone all the more brighter through it. We may not see it because of the blindness of sin, but when our sight returns may we see as clearly as they did this glory of God’s love in the midst of our sin.

So, next time you read about or hear a sermon on sin, remember these words:
What wondrous love is this
O my soul, O my soul
Would cause the King of bliss
O my soul, O my soul
To shed His own blood
For my soul.

Something to think about,
Pastor John

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Making a Difference for Eternity

I don’t know who said it, but I know that our world seems to live by this axiom, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” However, we all know that it isn’t our stuff that makes a difference.  Just look at the people in your life that have made a difference in you… It wasn’t their stuff that made that difference.  It was their heart.  It was how they loved you, and it is what that love called them to do in you.

How often to this the Bible points! Paul, speaking to the Thessalonians, declares that he remembers something about them.  He doesn’t mention their wealth (cause they had none).  He doesn’t mention their stuff (the same reason).  He mentions their faith, their love, and their hope. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)  In other words, they were living out their faith, putting love into action, and showing their hope.  Their life as Paul lived with them made an impression on him.  He remembered it.  In fact, he constantly remembered it!

Paul’s statement points us to this conclusion – if we really want to make a difference in the lives of those around us for eternity, then we must have a lived out faith, an active love, and a visible hope.  If our faith, hope, and love are all realities that other people can see in our life, then we can truly make a difference.  Isn’t that what the people around you need from you? Is it what they see?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Jesus-Minded Enough To Make a Difference

“I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” – Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (9:23)

Think on that for a moment. Paul, who is our example in so many ways of the Christ-minded person, had at the back of his mind that he wanted to make sure that His life was in the right place with God.  I learn so much from Paul’s heart about my life with Jesus!

Here are 3 lessons:

Lesson 1 – Keep the message and person of Jesus constantly before me.  This passage in 1 Corinthians shows me that Paul was constantly asking, “How can I show or live out Jesus in the life of this person I am with.  If the person was Jewish, Paul asked that question.  If the person was Gentile, Paul asked that question. If they were a king, Paul asked that question. If they were an unknown, Paul asked that question. Who they were didn’t keep Paul from asking how he could shine for Jesus. He was always asking the question.  I need to be asking it too.

Lesson 2 – Live on purpose, not on accident.  The vast majority of the time, we see Paul acting, not reacting. In how he treated people, Paul chose to put the gospel first. When Paul spoke of all the impressive things in his life, Paul chose to lose them rather than lose Christ. (see Philippians 3)  In fact, Paul strove toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  His life was far from accidental.  He lived on purpose. I need to live my life purposefully, not as a reaction to other things.

Lesson 3 – Live today preparing for tomorrow. Paul wrote to Timothy to prepare himself like a soldier. He wrote the same thing to the church of Ephesus (Ephesians 6).  The image of a soldier is one of preparation. They do not train for a battle that they can see today. They train for the battle they see coming and for the battle they cannot yet see. They are prepared. When I think on that, I often wonder, “Am I really preparing for what I am going to face in the future, or am I preoccupied just with the urgent of today?” I know that Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow so we have to guard against preparing becoming a smokescreen for worry. However, if I just pray and read my Bible to satisfy my felt needs of today, am I really becoming ready as a soldier of the cross?

Paul doesn’t just show us some pie in the sky uber-spiritual understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Christ’s teachings changed Paul’s day to day living. That is what I need to do. I need to chase after the truths of Jesus and live them every day. These 3 lessons are a commitment to making that a reality.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Kingdom Thinking Every Day

Think about this verse –

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Our lives can glorify God. The things we do can glorify God. That means that the things we do can point people to God.  The question is not, “Can I glorify God?”  The question is, “Will I seek to point people to God by what I do?”  Those are two totally different questions.

The first question ponders if there is a separation between ‘God’s stuff’ and ‘my stuff’.  The second has already settled that.  The second question asks if we will decide to make what we do point people to God.  The wall between the ‘God’s stuff’ and ‘my stuff’ has been torn down.  Now, we are considering how to use those things that we are doing to point people to God.

“We are taking every thought captive to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:5

How do we do it?  We do it by, as we are told in God’s Word that, “we are taking every thought captive to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  This is how we do it… We keep asking, “How can I use this encounter to point someone to Jesus?” Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Don’t worry that you might have do it differently as you mature in the faith. Just start now. Start asking how Jesus can be shown or glorified as you make decisions. As we on purpose take captive how we think, the repeated practice of letting Jesus be boss of our thinking will be like exercising a new muscle group. The more we exercise it, the greater power and greater stamina that muscle group has. So it is with the practice of making Jesus the boss of our thinking. The more we do it, the more natural and helpful such thinking will become. We choose to glorify God and take every thought captive to the Lordship of Jesus decision by decision. Did you know that you can do that in everyday life choices? You can. It isn’t just in the ‘God stuff’ that we can share the hope of Jesus or bring Him glory. It is every day. How will you do it today?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Will We Start?

How does a person become a great pianist?  How do people become great ball players?  How do people get good at a foreign language or pottery?  Yes, all take work.  Yes, all take a measure of skill to start with.  However, regardless of skill or natural giftedness, all require that a person begins.  It may seem simple, but I would guess that we all could do some things that we just have never started at.  I could collect stamps, but I never started.  I could raise butterflies, but I never chose to start.

Interestingly enough, when we think about following Jesus the same truth must be acknowledged.  No one, not matter their ability or giftedness followed Jesus well if they never started. Starting is key.  We must start!

We read in the book of Hebrews:

13 But encourage one another every day, as long as it is still called “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we keep the beginning of our commitment firm until the end, 15 while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”

Hebrews 3:13-15

This passage urges us to encourage each other to not put off responding to Jesus “today”. There are two big reasons for us to start today in whatever way that Christ is calling to us. First, responding to Jesus now is a sign of a soft heart. He warns that a symptom of a hard heart is dismissing Christ’s call to us. So, let’s start today. The second big reason we should start today is that saying we should start is not the same as actually starting. Procrastination gets us nowhere. It doesn’t make us better at anything. It certainly doesn’t help us grow in faith!

Many of us wish that we were better at praying or had more scripture memorized.  Many of us who believe in Jesus wish that we were better at evangelism, or were more involved in ministry.  Isn’t starting the key?  The great men and women of faith all started somewhere.  Years of following shaped and cultivated them.  But, all of them started!

What about us?  Do you want to know more scripture? Start today!  Do you want to be a prayer warrior? Start today!  Do you want to witness for Jesus? Start today! If you feel led by Christ to do something, don’t put it off. Start today! As they say in those advertisements for junk that we see on TV – why wait, start today!

The Hebrews passage urges us to finish well. We are told to keep our commitment to the end. If we never start, how will we ever finish?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Rising to the Challenge of Those Who Came Before

Yesterday was Memorial Day. It is a day that we remember in this country what those who have gone before us have done. Our service men and women show us that freedom is worth it. It is worth fighting for even if one will never get to use it again.

Think on that for a moment. Many of our soldiers give their lives to protect someone else’s freedom. They won’t get to use their own because they have given up their life! How precious freedom is to them. They believe… so they act.

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

– Hebrews 11:13

This is not just something we see with our soldiers. This is also the life of the faithful believers in Jesus before us. The book of Hebrews tells us, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (11:13) The faithful before us lived believing that following God, even when He asked them to wait until Heaven to see His glory, was worth it.

I am from Missouri – the show me state. The faith of those who have come before us challenges me to believe without seeing. Their lives declare that Jesus is worth it. Their lives also ask me, “What is my life declaring?” What about you? What does your life declare to those around you? Does it declare that Jesus is worth following with your whole life?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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A Disciple or a Fan

Let me tell you a story of two children… Young Bobby wants to be a great soccer player. He watches soccer. He has posters of soccer players on his walls. All of his video games are soccer video games. He even sleeps with a stuffed soccer ball. Young Sarah also wants to be a great soccer player. She too watches soccer. She has posters of soccer players on her walls. She gets up every morning before school and kicks the soccer ball into a net that will bounce it back to her. She works with her coaches every day after school to improve her skills. After practice she runs, does other work outs, and then heads back to her home practice area after finishing her homework to drill whatever new skill her coach has shared with her. Which young person is on the path to becoming a soccer player?

Our empathetic nature wants to say that both young people are on the path. However, unless he changes course, Bobby is on the path to become a great fan of soccer and not a great soccer player. Bobby has not yet understood what it takes to move from fan to player. Sarah, on the other hand, has accepted the work involved. She not only desires to do something in theory, she also has embraced what becoming a soccer play in reality. Do you know anyone like Bobby? They talk about wanting to do or be something, but they haven’t really embraced what it will take to be it? Do you know any Christians like that? Are you (and I ask myself this question from time to time) like that?

When Pastors talk about living for Christ, some folks respond by saying, “That’s easy for you, Pastor, you don’t have to face my boss, family situation, or work conditions.” Would it shock us to know that most pastors today are very aware of the struggles, temptations, and opposition Christians face when they try to live for Jesus. No, your pastor may have not stumbled in the exact same way or faced the exact same temptation that you have; but the scripture is clear that all of us (including pastors) face similar temptations and struggles (1 Corinthians 10:31). So, it isn’t a lack of understanding that causes both men and women of God to encourage us to live wholly for Christ. Quite the contrary! Instead of a position of ignorance, those saints who urge us to embrace the high calling that is being a disciple of Jesus do so exactly because they know it is hard. They also see so many that seem surprised by just what is necessary to live for Christ. Personal holiness, sharing Christ, personal discipleship, and living consistently are not always easy or simple things to do.  They take effort.  They take effort over and over.  Sometimes that effort yields immediate results.  Sometimes that effort is a lot like planting seeds.  All you see is the work you did, but there is no obvious or instantaneous result. I wonder… are we willing to do the work that doesn’t yield immediate results?  Does it discourage us?  Or do we acknowledge that it is part of the process? Are we ready to do what is necessary, or do we balk at the effort?

Farmers know that it is all part of the process.  Sowing is sometimes needed.  There is no getting around it.  A wise farmer will not resent the process.  He will not reject the prospect of needing to plant seeds and cultivate soil.  He won’t just quit in May because the ground is hard or the weeds seem to be winning.  No, he will work because he knows the process.

Do we?  Do we who believe in the Lord of the harvest understand the process of the harvest?  Do we know that tireless effort that appears to have no result is exactly what is needed?  Do we understand that we must plant and cultivate and weed before we see the growth?  Do we give up in the May or early June of our relationships (either with God or with others) and never get to August or September?  What will we miss if we do? How will we ever see the harvest unless we do the work?  Never give up!  Be willing to do what is needed and what we are called to even if it is hard. Prepare yourself now to become the disciple Christ calls you to be.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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