Just the Facts, Ma’am?

Hebrews 13:5 NIV   . . . because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Haven’t I heard this forever?  Haven’t I said it over and over again – to myself and to others?  Only now am I beginning to grasp the fullness of the promise in these few words.  Only now do I sense the power in my Daddy’s words to me – and to you.  Of all things, it was the line, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts,” from the old Dragnet TV show that opened my eyes wider.

This line was used on the show by the investigators when questioning some emotional female following a crime.  Predictably, she would provide way more information about people, events, and feelings than was needed, and the professionals had to corral her ramblings by calling for just the facts.

This phrase came back to me in prayer, and I saw this as a major ploy of our enemy.  He pushes believers in Christ Jesus to focus on and speak about only the facts of our current situation.  The tougher the situation, the easier it is to do.  Let’s face it.  Some of the facts can be pretty overpowering and all-consuming, whether it’s pain, disease, lack of money, heartache, overwhelming fear, broken relationships, etc.  The bigger the issue(s), and the more time they require in our day, the more likely we are to speak only the facts – those natural things we see, hear, and feel.

These are the times, however, it is absolutely vital to choose what God says instead.  It is Truth.  God and His Truth supersede any fact we will ever face.  For instance, the verse from Hebrews 13 is an all-encompassing promise from our Abba Daddy – good for any situation and circumstance we face.  Simply, He has promised never to leave or forsake us.  It’s not maybe and it’s not for someday.  It’s an ongoing promise for us who are in Christ.  Now.  And tomorrow.  And every tomorrow to come.

This promise is not given by a human who is prone to break promises.  This is from God: El Shaddai, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Shalom, Emmanuel . . .  He, the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent One, has declared (and He will not lie!) that He will never leave or forsake us.  Will all our troubles disappear when we understand?  No.  But the more we grasp His Truth – beyond all the natural facts – the less power the troubles wield in our lives.

It’s time for us to receive the simplicity and the fullness of our wonderful Father’s promise to us and to declare, “Just the Truth.  Just the Truth.”

The passage in the Amplified version brings out Daddy’s promise even more clearly.  Underlined portions are for emphasis.

Hebrews 13:5 AMP   Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]  [Josh 1:5.] 

Be Careful Little Ears

The title’s few simple words of a children’s Sunday School song have been sounding over and over in my head lately.  It stems from stopping to consider one key word of our Christian existence – gospel.  After all, it’s what Jesus told His disciples to share with the whole world, just before He ascended to heaven.

Mark 16:15 NIV  He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

Just what is this gospel we are to share with the whole world?  In brief, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says the English word gospel denotes the good tidings of the kingdom of God and salvation through Christ and what He did, which is to be received by faith alone.  We don’t have to work to receive or keep salvation.  It is in Jesus Christ and His finished work alone.  This truly is good news!  But, do the messages we hear always sound forth the simplicity of this truly good news?

If the gospel is good news, then it is always totally good news.  The completed gospel of Jesus Christ will stir our faith and bring us into deeper revelation of freedom from condemnation and guilt, with its post-salvation lie of working to make ourselves righteous.  It will always exalt the finished work of Jesus on the cross and expand our understanding of the perfect and unconditional love of our Father for us, which removes all fear.  When what we hear from our pulpits, our fellowship with one another, Bible studies, online ministry, etc., produces anything contrary to these things, we are not hearing the gospel.1  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly2 – because He paid the price for our sin and unrighteousness already, not because He would help us work to become righteous.

The reality of the gospel needs to be the filter for every message we hear, in whatever form the message takes.  Then we can receive only that which Jesus came to give, and discard that which would draw us back into the place from which we were saved.  Confusion will be greatly diminished, and that peace that passes understanding will be greatly increased.

What are you listening to and receiving?  Be careful, little ears, what you hear!

1 Galatians
2 John 10:10

No Strings Attached

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave . . .”

God’s giving was not predicated on the world doing anything.  God’s giving was predicated only on His love for the world.  There were no requirements that we, the world, must do anything before He gave.  Jesus loved in the same way.  He came from Father’s love, and He loved without requiring anything.

What about we, the body of Christ, who have received His amazing gift?  Do we love the world in the same way – without requiring anything of them?  In our witnessing, in our various outreaches, do we require, or at least expect, something of them?  Of course not, we say!  But let’s dig a little deeper.

When we give food, blankets, money, clothing, etc., is it simply offered because of God’s love, or is it offered if . . .?  If they will sit through a presentation of the gospel message?  If they will pay for this “free gift” we offer with their time?  If they will sign up for future contact?  If they will do something for it?  That’s not free, nor is it freely giving.  When we give freely, we might ask if we can pray for them or tell them about Jesus, but we withhold none of His love if they aren’t interested – for He held nothing back.

God so loved us that He gave.  Period.  We didn’t earn it and never could.  He knew that, but He gave anyway, because so He loved us.  He gave even though He knew some would never be interested in receiving what He gave.  He gave anyway – because He so loved us all.

It’s time for the church (followers of Jesus Christ like you and me) to do the same with others.  Let’s begin to give with no strings attached of any sort!  Let’s see the effectiveness of God’s true gospel when we simply give because God so loves.  Period.  Let’s begin right now, this month, with all our Thanksgiving outreaches to help feed those in need.  Take the strings off and just bless the people because God loves them.  When the world is able to see Jesus in His body, His body (the church) will see greater harvest than we can imagine, though that is no longer our goal.

Our goal is to so love the world that we give as He gave – no strings attached.

If / Then

Do you remember anything from geometry class?  Do you remember the phrase if / then statements?   The basic idea in an if / then statement is that when the information following the “if” statement is true, what follows the “then” statement should also be true.  For example, “If a=b, then b=a.”

Relate this to living life in Christ.  My if / then statement is “If God’s Word is working in me, then my life will be changed to reflect Christ.”  This became reality to me recently when I saw the result of God’s Word working change in me – not the result of all my working to change.  It took place, little by little, as I continued dwelling in what the Bible reveals of His amazing love.  At some point, without my notice, His love overtook my limited human love, and began flowing more freely through me.  It was simply God’s Word of love working in me, and it changed my life to reflect Christ more.

I have not come close to completing this course, so I continue to fill up on Christ and His love.  I find, however, that I think about others differently now.  Because of His Word working in me, when the old thoughts about people show up, I realign my thinking with my Father’s thoughts towards them.  Thinking His thoughts changes my words about them.  With His thoughts and words, my actions are also changed, and I’m likely to go out of my way for someone I’d have ignored before.  Isn’t this what Jesus did when He walked on this earth?  It was because He dwelled in the Spirit of God, which allowed the Spirit to work in and through Him as a man.

1 John 2:6 AMP  Whoever says he abides in Him ought [as a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself.

It all comes back to that if / then statement.  If we truly abide in God’s love (for us and others), then Christ will be seen in our lives.  The opposite is also true.  If there is no difference in our lives (in our thoughts, words, or actions), then we must not be abiding in the agape love of God.  If we remain self-centered, judgmental, critical, etc., we do not really know (do not abide in) the reality of God’s love.  God’s love is a life-changer.  Living in God’s love equals a life radically changed.  No radical life change equals not living in and grasping God’s love.

Ephesians 3:17-19 AMP 17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, 18 that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; 19 [that you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

We can never change ourselves to look like Jesus, no matter how hard we try, but God’s Word will change us as we simply dwell in Him.  Likewise, we can never love with His perfect love by our efforts.  Since, however, His love was already poured into our hearts when we were born again (Rom. 5:5), when we dwell in Christ’s love, then the love of Christ will be reflected in us.

What’s Burned In?

Are you familiar with the burn-in effect from leaving one image on certain TVs and monitors too long?  That image is visible no matter what else might be showing.  Kind of like a filter, it distorts what you want to see.

I heard of someone who inadvertently burned the logo of their satellite company into their brand new plasma TV.  It wasn’t just in one spot, however, because the logo moved from place to place all over the screen, staying long enough at each place to leave its mark.  No matter what they try to watch from here on, they see it through the company image.

Let’s think about this from a different perspective.  The same effect happens in us as a result of our personal focus, though the results can be for good as well as bad.

If I give my attention to what the world offers – what satisfies my flesh – the image being burned in is the image of the world.  Though I am a Christian, people will see the world when they look at me, no matter what I hope to show them.  There will be no reflection of Christ when I go through struggles – only more of what they already know.

On the other hand, if I attend to the things of God – His Word, His love, Who He is – His image is burned in, and His reflection will be visible to others even when hard times come my way.  His Word will be what works in me in those times, so that people will be able to comprehend the reality of Jesus Christ.  For the world to believe there is hope for something more in their life, they have to see the hope of Christ alive and at work in me . . . and in you.

Romans 12:2 AMP  Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]

Even if the reflection you currently show the world is a mirror image of itself, this does not have to be permanent.  Jesus Christ is still ready to change you into His image when you believe and apply His Word.  As you choose to focus on the Lord and His Word rather than what the world offers, you will be transformed.  It’s His promise.  The image of the world that has been burned in, and through which people have known you in the past, will be transformed into the image of Christ.

What’s that I see burning in you?