Friday, January 31, 2014

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Greatest Love Story You Will Ever Know

The Greatest Love Story You Will Ever Know

          What is the greatest love story of your life?  All of our lives, each of us  seeks that one true love that we hope will become the all consuming passion that is the very essence of what sustains us for the journey of our lives.  As a child, it begins as we are nestled in the glow of love that is poured out towards us from our parents, at whatever level of capability they have within them.  Some of us have experienced that love to a greater or lesser degree than others, not because we are more or less loveable than anyone else, but simply because we are all flawed human beings and our ability to love or be loved by another is limited by the flaws of human nature. There are those who were greatly loved, but never received it because something within themselves was broken. They never could learn to recognize love when it was offered, making them also less capable of giving love to another.  Our perception is our reality even though it may not be based on fact, but based on a flawed ability to perceive and receive what is fact and truth. 

          I think that’s part of what we need to understand from the scripture that states the condition of the human heart; it is dangerous to trust in it alone.   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.”(Jeremiah 17: 9)  Because we are born with a nature prone to sinfulness, our heart can lead us astray.  It is the unschooled heart, not submitted to the ways of the Lord, which can lead us to veer off the straight and narrow path.  In this broken world, to see one of the greatest examples of the deceitfulness of the heart, one has to look no further than the ever increasing numbers of divorces and immoral relationships in which mankind indulges.  Set your inner alarm to go off the next time someone offers you advice to “follow your heart, and you’ll make the right choice to do the right thing.”  Look at how many married couples were absolutely positive at one time that they had found the one true love of their life. Later, for whatever the reason, they found themselves in an unhappy, and seemingly, unloving relationship from which they were desperate to escape.  So, it is drastically evident that ‘following’ our heart, passions, or emotions is not really the way to go, or the apparatus to use as a compass to guide to truth or what is good and best for us.  Instead, it may only lead one into an ultimately fatal philosophy such as, “There is no absolute truth of right and wrong; therefore, if it feels good, do it.”   It is this flawed practice of following your heart, or your own opinions, which has opened the door to believing the lie instead of the truth.  The one valid compass to truth is the word of God which is disclosed to us through the Holy Spirit.  The Bible tells us that Jesus is the word of God made alive in the flesh.  Jesus said that He only did that which His Father showed Him and told Him to do.  When we really listen to the Holy Spirit as we read the scriptures, He makes the word come alive in us.  Remember when Jesus arose from the dead, He appeared before many prior to His ascension to Heaven.   One such incident occurred as He appeared to men as they walked along the road to Emmaus? (Luke 24: 13 – 35)  They didn’t recognize who He was at first.  Later, they reflected and said to one another how their hearts had burned within them as He had been talking with them?  It is that same glorious glow of warmth that fills our soul as we spend time in God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to hide the word of God in our hearts.  It is through this process that God gives unto us a ‘new’ heart, one that is being trained to listen to the voice of God instead of listening to the old flesh nature, the voice of the world, or Satan.  When we begin to realize how sweet those times are, the Holy Spirit draws us back to the word time and time again to drink from those living waters.  It is then that we begin to understand what Jesus meant when He said; if we would but drink from His living waters we would thirst no more.  After we’ve eaten a meal, at first we feel full and satisfied, but later begin feeling hungry again.  Whereas, when we eat and drink from God’s word, what the Holy Spirit has placed within us stays there and continually brings nourishment to our souls.  I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been for the apostles to be able to walk and talk with the Lord, and actually reach out and touch Him.  But since there was only one of Him, the number of people that could be near to Him at any one time was limited.  Now that He has returned to the Father, every believer has the presence of His Holy Spirit, not just by our side, but actually living and dwelling within us at all times.  When we turn to the word of the Lord, we are opening our mind and heart for the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our understanding and speak directly to us.  Through the Spirit and the word, we are able to hear the voice of the Lord speaking.  He is our ever present teacher and guide, our one on one teacher, counselor, and comforter; the One who leads us into ALL truth, little by little, day by day. We are “be being filled.” 

          He not only creates within us a new heart, He is giving unto us a new mind, a whole new way of thinking and seeing things, out goes the old, in comes the new.  He really is at work within us to create in us a whole new being.  We are still ourselves, but it’s like we are being taken back to the Garden of Eden before the fall of mankind, and He is remaking us more and more into the image of God to be the person that God had originally designed us to be.  This gradual restoration is one proof to us that Jesus is neither a pie in the sky, nor a sweet by and by God.  He is the ever present, here with you now God.  Yes, the job of making us anew will not be completed until when we see Him face to face, but He has already begun His work in us in the here and now.  We, those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, are truly a ‘work under construction.’ We are being recreated by the Master’s hand, not just the top guy, nor the supervisor, apprentice, or laborer, but The MASTER.   Everyone knows that when something is under construction there is a lot of chiseling and reshaping going on, knocking off a sharp and ragged edge here, and smoothing off a corner there.  Sometimes it can be rather painful, other times the work is done gently but with acute precision.  In the end, when it’s done under the hand of the Master, the final result is a great masterpiece, a true work of art, bringing glory and honor to the One that created it.  When people come to admire such a piece of art, they don’t say “O look how beautiful it became all by itself.”  No, they come to give praise to the miraculous workmanship of the one who made it.  So, when any one looks at you and me, and sees something to be admired and appreciated, we can direct them to the One who has made us so and say, “What He’s done for me, He’ll do for you.”  People waste so much time and money going to a plastic surgeon that only has the skills to change and reshape the temporal and outward appearance, a shallow and superficial change.  It should be far more desired to be placed under the skillful hands of the Lord who works from the inside out, creating something of eternal and lasting value.  Wow!  How awesome is that!  In the meantime, while I am still so very imperfect,  I ask you forgive me, not excuse me for my imperfections, but to forgive me, for you see I am still a work under construction, and the Lord is not yet finished with me. 

          Everyone is looking to some other thing or person to do that which only God can do.  If we refuse to look to God our Creator, we will look to any and every other direction.  Why do we think that people are forever following every new guru, false teaching, false teachers, false gods, etc.?  If we won’t believe in the One True God, we will accept and believe in anything and everything else that comes down the pike. 

          Man has within him a center, or dwelling place, that is meant to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Rejecting God means the same thing as setting out a vacancy sign welcoming Satan and all of his demons to walk right in and set up house keeping in what they will call their new home and place of residence.  They then claim ownership and have dominion over you.  You have no real freedom, for scripture tells us that freedom only exists when we have the Lord.  “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”(II Cor: 3:17) Looking to anything else but God, may bring a sense of momentary satisfaction but always turns out to be shallow and unsatisfying.

          Looking at the outward appearance of our lives, may often demonstrate what we have given place to in that room within which is supposed to be God filled.  The rich man, apart from God, keeps trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment by acquiring more and more things.  He has filled his God center with the false god, or idol, of materialism.  He soon finds it’s not enough, and still unsatisfied, he has to have more and more.  The more he gets, the more he wants.  Greed and avarice have taken root and are now growing by leaps and bounds.   Others may try to fill their God room with immoral sex, leading to pornography addictions and debauchery of every imaginable kind.  It’s an endless and unsatisfying circle.  Still others, in their incessant search for the meaning of life and spirituality, may declare “I have looked for god and finally found her; it is me!”  They have determined that there is no need for the Cross for they have no need of a Savior.  Ah yes, Self!  Now that is a good idea; place her on the throne in what is supposed to be the God center, but now is the Self Center!  The life of the Self centered person is often marked by a string of broken hearts with few, if any, lasting relationships.  Being so filled with themselves, they rarely have room in their hearts for anyone else.  Thinking of others is more often done from the following attitudes: “What can I get or take from you?”  “What have you done for me lately?”  “I didn’t bargain for this when I agreed to enter this relationship.  I’m just not happy anymore, and it’s entirely your fault.”  Everything is all about me, myself, and I.  The very idea of doing something for someone else, without regard to how it will be of benefit to them selves, is an idea that is truly alien to them.  Very often, they become bitter people, left all alone in their old age because they have alienated anyone that ever tried to reach out to them with love.  Bitterness, selfishness, rejection, and a whole host of their other friends have walked in and set up house keeping for the duration.  Just about anything and everything can become an idol, like money.  It’s not money that is evil, but rather the love of it.  When money or anything else becomes your supreme interest or focus, you have given it the place in your life that was meant to be for God.  Nothing, no person, thing, or place can take the place of God.  Solomon got it right in the book of Leviticus when he was exploring the meaning of life.  Apart from God, all is vanity and life has no meaning.  Like a song I have heard, life without God is like a train ride.  You get on board when you’re born and depart when you die.  You have gone from this earth and there is nothing left that has any lasting value.  Life only has eternal and lasting value when God is within you to make it so.  With God, the end of the train ride is continued on a God provided vehicle, perhaps the wings of an angel, transporting you to your final destination to be with Him in Heaven.  That which was done through you to glorify God will continue to exist, for it is God within you that has produced anything of eternal value.  Did you get that?  You and I don’t want to miss that little tidbit of information.  It is NOT what man has done; rather, it is that which God does in and through man that produces anything of eternal value.  There it is again; we look not to ourselves, but direct others to God, the source of all good things.  Only God is worthy of praise.  Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!!! Apart from God, there is nothing worthy of praise. 

          Why do we wonder then when lives, filled with things other than God, so often end in ruin, depression, bitterness, and perhaps even suicide.  We could go on and on with a litany of lists of idols that mankind will seek to fill their God room with, refusing to fill it with the true God that created it there in the first place.  God gave the command for us to love Him first and “have no other gods before Him” for a reason.  God did, does and always will love us.  He loved us first.  No one had to command Him to do so.  We can’t do anything to earn or destroy His love for us.  The only thing that removes us from the presence of His love towards us is our rejection of Him, which is also our rejection of His Love.  Can’t we see?  The rejection is our doing, not His.  He said that He didn’t want anyone to perish, but that all would come to the saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Spiritual death is far worse than the physical death of our body.  He loves us, and He alone knows what is best and right for us.        

          The heart of man, unless it is made new through the process of being born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, is so hardened, or rebellious and stubborn, that we will never humble ourselves and accept God’s right of authority over and in our life.  Man’s pride, just like Satan, will insist on having things his own way.  You and I both recognize that same old pride thing that tries to rise again and again within us, even now when we know better.  Sometimes I still hear that inner voice, you know the one you ‘don’t’ want to listen to; the one with the arrogant, know it all attitude which says, “You can’t tell ME what to do!”  Thankfully, now that I belong to Him, because I am His and He is my loving ‘Daddy,’ He will not let me get away with it.  He will do what my Mama used to say, “I’m gonna jerk a knot in your tail!”  Okay, I know that’s not the kind of thing God would really say, but it’s a pretty good analogy of what He would and does do, not because He’s an angry and tyrannical god, but because He’s a loving and “just” God.  If a loving earthly Father cares enough to discipline his child, how much more so does my Heavenly Father.  Discipline is never a feel good happy thing to experience, but the outcome is worth it.  Without it, we would all be self centered, unruly, spoiled brats with no respect for authority of any kind.  OOPS! Did I actually say that in these days of political correctness?  YEP, I dare to say it again and again, “Respect for Authority!”  Thank God, He gave me parents that loved me and used their rightful position of authority over me to train me up as a child should grow.  I’m not saying, look at how good I am; I’m saying look how good they were.  Perfect? No.  But I value what they did in my life.  I can honestly say, the times I went astray, causing harm to myself or others, were when I veered from what I had been taught was right.  My Daddy was strict and firm.  Praise God, my Mama was not one who undermined the authority of our Dad.  She didn’t rush in to rescue me from that ‘big ole bad Daddy.’  She was more often the counselor who, though more gentle than Daddy, was still supportive of him.  Neither of them was more interested in being my “friend” than in being my parents.  I might not have liked it then, but I love them all the more for it now.

          Too many parents today are more concerned about whether their children are going to love them, instead of concentrating on loving their children enough to discipline them properly.  In a way, that is evidence of their self love. The big “I”,

I might not be loved if I discipline my child like she needs to be.  Instead, the attitude should be, because I love my child, I’m going to discipline her regardless of how she might feel towards me.  As parents, that’s a vital part of our job description.  Hey, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t learn this because I did everything right as a parent.  Sometimes you learn because you did it wrong, and then had to go back and take a refresher course, hoping that maybe next time you’ll be a bit wiser.  Doesn’t it just get you when you keep doing something the wrong way time and time again before you finally stop to ask Him; “Lord, help me out here, what am I doing wrong?”   Thank God, sometimes He taught me directly through His word and other times He would send a wiser and more experienced person to help me out.  I did learn that it’s important to make sure the source of counseling is Christian and not secular.  Boy! The source that did not know God or any of His principles; what a mistake that was!  But that’s a story for another time.

          Remember, God has loved us first, and His love never wavers, it is constant and unconditional.  He never had to ‘learn’ to love us.  We are the ones that have to ‘learn’ to love Him.  We are the ones who have to ‘learn’ to trust, to believe and not doubt, to follow and not stray, to listen and obey.  He loves us more than we love ourselves.  He is all knowing and His wisdom and understanding is infinite, while ours is finite.  Knowing all of that about Him, wouldn’t you think it should be easy for us to lay at His feet all of our self will, surrendering our lives totally to Him, willingly letting Him have full reign to direct all of our ways - thoughts, words, and deeds?  Yet that is exactly where the conflict abides, a constant struggle between the will of our old nature, and the call to be a servant unto Him.  It is a struggle because of our human frailties, yet He has not left us alone to fight that battle on our own.  He has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to lead that we may follow, to be our strength when we are weak, and to enlighten our understanding and give us sight to see where once we were blind.  It’s a process, a life long journey through which He is always present and will never leave or forsake us.      

          He never promised us ‘happiness’.  Happiness depends on conditions, situations, or happenstance.  Happiness is fleeting, fickle and undependable.  The very thing that we ‘think’ makes us happy one moment, may make us very unhappy the very next moment.  Instead, He promised to give us joy to be our strength, and peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of the worst circumstances, conditions, and situations.  It is that joy and peace from the Holy Spirit that enables us to proclaim “whatever my lot, He has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

           It is only when we invite Jesus to be our Savior that He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell that God room within us.  Yet even then, learning to trust God and give Him full reign within us is something that we are reluctant to do, for we are ever warring against the old flesh nature within us.  It is this constant struggle that we see expressed by Paul in Romans 7 when he said that he keeps doing that which he knows he shouldn’t do, instead of doing the things that he knows he is meant to do and should do.  God always has to perfect that wrinkle within us, and He will continue to do so as we yield ourselves to His will.  Too often we find our selves saying, “Hey God, how about handling this part of my God room only.  I’m sure I can do the rest of it by my self.”  Before you know it, we find ourselves at the very edge of the cliff, or maybe tumbling all the way to the bottom of it, before we are willing to humble ourselves before Him, repent of our sin, or disobedience, and ask for His forgiveness.  He is so merciful He spreads His loving grace over us like a warm and cozy blanket, gathers us up in His arms, and sets our feet solidly back on the straight and narrow path.  When we sincerely confess our sin, He is quick to forgive.  He knows the intent of our heart.  Sometimes when we say, “I’m sorry,” we are not sincere, but in reality we are only sorry that we got caught.  That kind of ‘sorry’ does not lead to true repentance our change within us.  The Bible says we must “sorrow to repentance,” a true state of sadness that you hurt the one who loves you more than anyone else. We realize that we have caused our Lord to grieve. He knows the trouble we’re headed to and the harm we’re are bringing upon our selves through our own rebelliousness and disobedience.  If we truly love Him, we will turn our hearts to Him to let Him know how sorry we are and ask not only for forgiveness, but also the strength not to fall into that same pit again.  I know how badly I felt when I disappointed my earthly Daddy.  I hated that feeling.  That relationship helped me turn more to God for His help to become the person He has meant me to be and to do that which is pleasing unto Him.  It’s not a “have to do” thing.  It’s not with the attitude “I better do or not do that because if I do ‘God’s gonna get me for that.’”  Rather, it’s with a heart felt love towards God that wants so much to demonstrate love for Him through obedience, because you ‘WANT TO,’ not because you have to.  After all, isn’t part of love thinking about doing what makes the other person happy?  It’s moving in that attitude of being God centered, not ‘me’ centered.  Of course, God’s love is always pouring out towards us; it is only blocked when we ourselves block the entrance of the door to our heart.

          We are His children; He is our God.  He is our good Shepherd; we are His sheep.  We are not fatherless children that grow up as ungodly, undisciplined, lawless, spoiled brat beings.  Because He is our loving Heavenly Father, He is also a just God.  His justice will not let us go without chastisement and correction.  A loving earthly father will discipline his own child to teach him the correct way.  The child must learn God’s ways to be equipped to live life without having to constantly suffer as a result of wrong choices, decisions, and actions.  Yes, God is a God of love and justice.  We can not have the loving part without the justice part.  That’s why, even after we have been forgiven, we still have to suffer the consequences of our poor choices or poor behavior.  If the chastisement and consequences were removed, what would be the incentive for us to make corrections and learn to choose to do and be that which is right and good in the sight of God?

           “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”(Mark 12: 30)  Remember, God has loved us first.  No one had to force Him. No one had to earn it.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love if we are found in Christ Jesus.  “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38, 39)  God’s love is not fickle, nor does it grow greater or less over time.  He pours out His love towards us freely and willingly at all times.  We never have to worry about whether He might decide to walk and away and leave us because we got older, fatter, or even because we blew up and entirely lost our temper with Him.  Remember, Jesus was a human on earth and is well aware of all our human frailties.  He knows that our righteousness is worse than filthy rags, so He gave us His righteousness through His shed blood on the Cross.  Now, when the Father looks at us, He sees us cleansed white as snow. He sees us through the covering of the righteousness of Jesus.  He sees us through His mercy and grace.

          I have an absolutely wonderful and loving husband.  He is the love of my life.  I can not praise God enough for blessing me with such a loving and caring husband. He and I are only human with human imperfections.  We have come to realize that, as much as we loved one another when we were first married, our love for one another has grown stronger and deeper over the years.  Sometimes we look at one another with amazement when we consider how much we love one another.  We are well aware that putting God first in our lives has been the very element that has magnified our love for one another.  We praise Him from the deepest part of our souls for making that so. 

          In contrast, we know that God’s love towards the Sheep of His Pasture is far greater than any earthly love, for His love is without limit or boundaries.  Both of us look to God to proclaim that His love towards us is our greatest love story.   It is true that no one can out give the Lord.  Also true is it that no one can out love the Lord.  He is the greatest Lover of our souls, the Lifter of our heads, our Redeemer, our Comforter, our Provider, our ever present Help in time of trouble, our Hiding Place, Hightower, Fortress, Physician, Shield and Buckler, Savior, Lord, our ALL IN ALL.  There are no words that can truly and fully describe how great His love for you and me is.  

          If you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I pray that you will invite Him into your heart.  Confess that you are a sinner in need of Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord.  He is quick to forgive, merciful and full of grace.  He is wonderful and marvelous. He will send you the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to indwell you and stay with you closer than a friend.  He will disclose unto you the truth and power of the word of God.  He will never leave you nor forsake you. With His magnificent and glorious love, He will restore you and make you whole.  His love has no end.  Open your heart to Him and you will find the Greatest Love Story you will ever know!


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