Saturday, June 16, 2012

Loving, Forgiving, Father God

I love to see posts from people discussing the nature of God and extolling His gifts, mercy and grace to us. Those posts that tell of His never ending love, His abundant grace, His compassionate and all-encompassing forgiveness which has no end. My heart and soul cry out in praise and adoration when I see the direct results of God's influence in those lives and the manifestation of His boundless mercies toward any person.

Conversely, my heart is broken when some of those people do not apply the very virtues they highlight and exalt which God has shown to them to every person on the planet. They somehow believe that God only loves, forgives, cares for, is compassionate to, understands, accepts, satisfies, heals, gives loving-kindness to, renews, is the righteousness for and sovereign of those who believe exactly the way they do.

As human beings, we sometimes get into the mindset that our way of thinking or believing is the ONLY correct way to believe/think. I guess it makes people feel they are part of an exclusive club or somehow better than the average Joe. But, it is pure arrogance to believe that we, and only we, hold the truth of the goodness, mercy and grace of God to the exclusion of anyone who doesn't agree with our philosophies, guidelines and rules.

I literally cringe when I see, or hear, those from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas holding up signs or screeching how God hates "fags" and how God is punishing the US military men and women in foreign wars because He is punishing this nation. While their beliefs are Biblically based, they have taken scripture out of context and/or misused scripture. One of their mistakes is the belief that God will punish an entire nation. While God did, in fact, punish the nation of Israel in the Old Testament for certain acts or the lack of action, the basis of that punishment falls under the Law of Moses, which we are no longer under. When Christ rose from the dead and offered salvation to us, He made salvation an individual action and relationship. Look through the Old Testament, even, and you will see where God only brought destruction on other nations when they attacked Israel, not for the action or inaction of a few of that nations people.

Too often, today, we are trying to apply Old Testament and/or Law of Moses formulae to our lives today. That makes me shake my head and want to ask people, 'what part of the Law being fulfilled do you not quite grasp?'

Each and every person on this planet, today, will have to stand before Jesus on the throne of Judgment and answer for our actions, inaction, attitude, idle words, sins of commission, sins of omission, obedience, faith and love. I firmly believe the very first thing Christ will ask upon our stepping up to the throne of Judgment will be, "how well did you love?" The point is, however, that we will not have to answer for anything that others did or did not do nor for how well others loved or did not love. Only one specific type of individual will have to answer in any shape, form or fashion as to others. That individual type is a pastor or leader in the church. And even then they will not have to answer for the sins of their congregation unless they taught that congregation to sin and based that teaching upon their knowing misinterpretation of God's will.

Jesus gave us a NEW commandment, which if you really think about it, encompasses all the original 10: "love thy neighbor as thyself" or "love thy neighbor as I have loved you." If we were to be obedient to that new commandment, we wouldn't lie to or about another person because we love them as we love ourselves; we wouldn't steal from them because of our love for them; we wouldn't murder them because we love them; and the list goes on and on.

The most basic truth of this entire matter is this: we cannot see into the hearts of any other person therefore we cannot judge them. I know many who will counter that Jesus told us to judge by their fruits, and oddly enough, it is those who are judging others to condemnation who will use that argument, however, they're not judging people by their fruits, they're judging them by their actions. The fruits we are to look for in that statement of judging another are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we stand in judgment of someone based upon what we perceive to be the sin in their lives, we're not looking to see if they love others, whether they are peacemakers, kind, good, faithful, gentle and of good repute. If we were to look at each person to see if those fruits are manifesting in their lives, we would be unable to pass any kind of harsh judgment on most.

We need to get back to the basics, which are: loving one another as God has loved us, forgiving one another as we have been forgiven, helping one another in time of need and most importantly treating each and every person on the planet the way we, ourselves, want to be treated. As Galatians 5:23 says, "against such there is no law."

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Return of The King of Kings

I once heard a Christian say they couldn't wait until the rapture so they could basically gloat and say, "I told you so!" At the time I sort of agreed with them, but it was only a half-hearted agreement.

In that moment when the trumpet sounds and the eastern skies are split wide open to reveal the triumphant return of my savior and King, I don't think I'll have anything on my mind other than rejoicing in His presence and utter, complete and overwhelming joy. I seriously doubt that I will have time to think about those in my life who have ridiculed my belief in the return of Christ Jesus. But, if I do have time to think of it, there will be no sense of "I told you so," but rather, I think there would be a sense of sadness and disappointment that those people will be seeing the truth revealed only to realize that they have missed out. The utter horror they will experience in that moment that will be faster than the blinking of an eye will be so all-consuming and devastating. I cannot feel anything but sadness for them that they will witness the truth before them only to realize that they have missed their chance.

When I think of what I would feel toward those who will not rise to meet Jesus in the clouds, I stop to think of God's heart and how He will feel knowing that so many of those He has loved and called have rejected Him. Each and every one of us knows the hurt, pain and ache of rejection; now just imagine the depths of those feelings in the very heart of God who took on flesh and came to earth to live and died an excruciating and ghastly beating followed by one of the most horrific deaths known to man: hanging on a cross. He did all of that so that each and every person might enjoy the eternal life and love that we will experience in Glory. The best part of that everlasting life will be living in the presence of the living God for eternity without end.

I have loved ones who have passed away that I have no doubt are waiting for me in Heaven, and I have loved ones who have passed away whom I am completely unsure whether they are spending eternity in Heaven or hell; according to what I know, unless they made a decision for Christ in the last hours or days of their life, they are not basking in the light of His love, but I don't know what decisions they made in those last hours and minutes of life. I know that if they did, in fact, call on Him, even with their last breath, then they are forever by His side in Glory. If not, then they are experiencing the most horrible of all torment: the complete lack of the presence of God.

Much has been made over the years and centuries about the horrors of hell: fire and brimstone; the fire that is never quenched, the gnashing of teeth and the other torments that are mentioned not only by the apostles and prophets, but by Christ, Himself. Yet, those will not be the worst torment for those who are cast into utter darkness. That very term refers to the complete lack of God's presence, and that would be the most horrendous fate that I could ever imagine.

As the remaining signs prophesied in the Bible come to pass, as the day draws nearer and nearer to the splitting of the eastern skies, I hope and pray people will respond to the call that God is extending to them. And I admonish all of us to remember that we are not called to be smug or gloat to think about those who will get a wake-up call on that day; we are called to work diligently so that they will be able to fly away in the sweet by and by.