Prepare Ye The Way!

For the Love of the Spirit

It’s Good To Hear It

God loves you and so do I

Tell someone today.  Don’t wait too long and forget.  The sooner you do it the better and the more often the better yet.  Tell a loved one, an acquaintance, or a stranger.  You don’t need a prologue, but if you think it makes it less awkward you might start with, “I just wanted to tell you . . ..” Or something like that.

Before I forget and while I am on the subject — to all my readers here by chance or design, I just want to tell you that God loves you, and so do I.

michael

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December 19, 2011 Posted by | Love | , | Leave a comment

Praise, Gratitude, and Love

Greetings!

It has been three weeks since my last posting here and a great deal has happened.  I went to a regional conference of my church denomination — American Baptist Churches — USA — and I have moved positively toward bringing ministry to the male inmates of Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail.  I am waiting to hear from the Director of Jail Programs to set up the first trip to the institution.

With two other church members and with acknowledgment of Pastor Liz Emrey of New Beginnings Christian Community, ideas have been floated and are being prayed on and researched for church fund raising events and a committee to plan and organize.

In addition, I am still trying to get the website up for the ministry associated with this blog — Spirit of Love — but am stymied by tragically slow connection speed and connection interruptions.   Please continue to pray for all these concerns as you are moved by the Holy Spirit of the infinitely loving God.

O.K. Announcements are out of the way.  I will turn now to the theme of this article — Praise, Gratitude, and Love.

As I get into the text I would like you to keep in mind three questions;

  • For what am I grateful,
  • Why should I give praise to God, and
  • How does the love of God affect my life?

Praise, Gratitude, and Love

To begin, let’s distinguish between “gratitude” and “praise.”  “Gratitude” is a feeling.  “Praise” is a physical act which springs from the feeling.  If I am homeless and hungry and you give me food, I may feel grateful.  If I tell you how thankful I am and how I believe you are a good person for doing it, then I am offering my gratitude to you in the form of praise.  If I say “God bless you” for your deed, then I am praising you to God and invoking his blessings on you for your love and generosity.

If I feel grateful for nothing, then I certainly will not be offering any praise to God or anyone or anything else for that matter.  All of us have heard the expression, “Thanks for nothing!”  This of course can only be taken to be sarcastic for it is illogical to offer gratitude or praise when nothing is given.

The Ungrateful

Many of us spend much of our lives with a profound lack of gratitude.  So many people in the world either do not have enough of what they  need that it seems that there is very little for which to be thankful.  This ranges from the very worst examples of those in third world countries who are literally starving to death and die in large numbers from infant mortality to rampant diseases made exponentially worse by lack of medicine and health care.  We can understand and deeply sympathize with these unfortunates.  How can we blame anyone living and dying in these conditions for a lack of gratitude?

At the other end of the spectrum, are those people who have access to many of the good things of life in the developed world but still are in misery because they don’t see anything for which to be grateful.  For many decades, I was one of these individuals.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.Lk 6:35 (NIV)

I was born and raised with many of the advantages of life.  I was a citizen of the United States.  I never wanted for food or shelter.  I was healthy and had good access to health care.  I was relatively secure in my person and belongings, as I was protected by a loving mother and father and living in a society that provided protection under an equitable system of justice.  In addition, I enjoyed many luxuries.  My family was not wealthy but neither were we poor.  I wore new clothes and had music and television constantly available.  My family had a car and when I was old enough to drive, I was allowed to drive the family car.  When I could afford one of my own I had my own transportation.  We went on vacations at least once a year and dined out as well as went to outside entertainment events including weekend music festivals.

Yet, from the time I was a very young man until my 50th year, I was profoundly unhappy.  I was saved at an early age and believed in God without question, but I also slipped into alcoholism at an early age as well.  I blamed others for my failure to succeed at anything.  The worse my alcoholism became, and the more my personal problems increased because of it, the more my lack of gratitude increased, until it became nearly total.  I failed to feel gratitude or give thanks for anything that God provided me, because I mistakenly believed that God had given me nothing.

When I truly reached the point where I had next to nothing, when even my physical health and sanity were deserting me, I reached back out to God.  I was down to the very last thing for which I truly could be grateful at that point in a very miserable state of existence, and that one thing was the Love of the Holy Spirit.  Even then I did not cry out with a feeling of gratitude.  It was more a cry of final desperation.

The SPLIT SECOND I made that cry and pleaded with God to remove the demon and the disease, the love of the being who allowed his own son to be tortured and killed for my sake reached into my chest and yanked out the writhing blackness that was rotting me inside.  Body, mind, and soul were at near death.  The moment of the black departure was followed immediately by an inrushing of incredible brightness and love and outrushing gratitude.  I shouted HALLELUJAH! It was my first expression of praise to a merciful and gracious God in decades.  It was certainly not to be my last.  From that day nearly five years ago to this, I praise the Spirit that loved the wretched, sinful man I was enough, to step down from his place in paradise and rescue me.

(to be continued)

Praise, Love, and Gratitude: Part 2

October 20, 2011 Posted by | Love, Praise | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Praise, Gratitude, and Love: Part 2

(continued from Praise, Gratitude, and Love: Part 1)

Praise, Gratitude, and Love: Part 2

Grateful

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.  (Ps 100: 4-5, NIV)

My gratitude at the divine relief I received that day was instantaneous.  My spirit overflowed with the Spirit of Jesus and I was transported into ecstasy.  I did not feel so much as though a great weight had been lifted, as I did that a consuming blackness had been taken.  It was a physical release.  The total mental surrender was shortly to come.

Now, when I first thought to write this article I sat down and made a long list of all the things for which I now feel grateful and for which I now give daily praise to the Spirit of God.  A laundry list is not now required.  There a few things I want to mention here, but it is enough to say at this point that ALL good things can be grouped into one package.

Of the items the two most important are,

  1. Life, and the
  2. Love of the Holy Spirit.

Both of these things are offered to me.  Except for the act of being born, I am free to accept or reject either one.  As for my life after birth, I am free to continue living if I do nothing to shorten it beyond my normal and biological life-span.  I am free to end my own life through an act of suicide, health destructive lifestyles, or (and most importantly) the rejection of the second offered gift.  It is ONLY through the acceptance of the love of God, that I can accept the life that comes as a byproduct.

Praise

Oh Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet; all flocks and herds and beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8:1-9

What is it to praise the triune God?  It is to praise him as you love him; with all your heart and all you mind and all your soul.  It is to welcome the Holy Spirit into your heart with arms wide open and let that loving Spirit sing from the depths of your own soul all the glory that is due to the One who is responsible for your life and salvation.

We praise him with humility.  We praise him with sincerity.  All the goodness of the earth and the heavens belong to him and it is he that bestows it all upon his creation; all of humanity.  For all that comes from his riches that he gives to the righteous, we praise him.

We praise him with arms uplifted and hearts wide open.  We praise him with our gifts and sacrifices.

We praise him with music and with our voices.  We praise him with our witness of his great love.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.  Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

PRAISE THE LORD!

Psalm 150

This is what it is to praise God.  These are some of the many ways to praise him.

Why do we praise him?  What it is it about the Holy Spirit of God through his son Jesus that inspires us to praise him so?

It is

Love!

For all the gifts and blessings from God that we experience in this life, none are possible if there is not first love.  There is no way that a being of such power as God could have any mercy toward such a sinful and potentially evil race as humanity if he did not love us.  I am not talking about the kind of love humans hold for their personal possessions or pets.  I am talking about the kind of love that humans feel for their own offspring.  And even the greatest unconditional kind of love that comes from the best parents towards their children does not come close.

I have children of my own and I do not believe that there is anything they could do or say that would cause me to stop loving them.  But is my love so great that I would sacrifice one of my own children to rescue any other of my children?  Is my faith as great as Abraham’s?

Abraham was told by God that through his son Issac a great nation would be founded and then commanded Abraham to sacrifice Issac as a burnt offering.  Even though Abraham loved his only son greatly and even though Issac was still just a boy and was not even close to fathering offspring that would beget a nation, Abraham, without question, set out to fulfill the commandment to sacrifice his own son.  Upon the mountain, Issac said to his father, “Father, here is the wood and here is the fire.  Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?’  Abraham replied, “The Lord will provide.”  He then tied Isaac to the altar and raised the knife for the sacrifice.  It was only at that point that the Lord stayed his hand. (Gn 22: 1-18).

The Lord did indeed provide.  On that day of Abraham and Issac, he provided a ram caught in the thicket near the altar.  Centuries later he provided his own son nailed to a cross on another hill called Golgotha.  Once and for all the matter was settled.

God in his infinite faithfulness and unconditional love sacrificed his own son so that anyone, who through faith believed in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, could be united in the spirit with him — the Father.  Regardless of the quality of our own love prior to the moment of the acceptance of his love, his love is extended to all of humanity.  He gives to all his children his faithful and unconditional love.  Even though we may not even love ourselves it is available.  Once it is accepted it becomes inevitable that we will return it.  We return it as love to the one from whom it came and as love to all the rest of humanity.

It is the final commandment to love one another as we now find that the Father, through his Son, loves us.  The magnitude of his love provides the blessings and the gifts for which we praise him.

May you receive the love of the Holy Spirit.  May you receive the salvation offered by Holy God through his Holy Son, Jesus the Christ.

Maranatha!

October 20, 2011 Posted by | Love, Praise | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Love Is: Part II

Greetings!

For new readers, welcome to Spirit of Love.  For returning brothers and sisters, thanks for coming back.  Since the last post, the blog has signed up a couple of subscribers and we have some comments given in the few posts published so far.  We have also added a new link.  You may find the link and the comments in the right sidebar.  As a brand new blog, I am pleased at the number of visits it has received so far and the encouragement given to the endeavor.

Love is: Part I

Love Is: Part II

In Love Is: Part I, I discussed the genesis of Love.  Through a reading of I John chapter 4 and the Gospel of John chapter 13, we discovered the specific identity of Love, That is, that God is Love and vice versa.  They are one and the same.  Without God there is no genuine love and without love God, by definition, cannot be present.  It was also seen that the agent of Love in the world is the Holy Spirit that was given to the world after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

In this post I will examine the characteristics of love.  For our text I will use the often quoted book of I Corinthians, chapter 13 (NIV).

Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth speaks in chapters 12-14 of the presence and proper practice of the Gifts of the Spirit.  In the 13th chapter he tells the church that the gifts must be used in love.  Unless they are practiced in love, for which we have already identified then nature, then the gifts become impotent.

verses 1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Here Paul tells us that all these gifts and others that are given to us by the author and supreme being of love, must be delivered with love for others or they are useless.  To make his point he speaks in extremes. EVEN speaking “in the tongues . . . of angels,” is fruitless and amounts to nothing more than a loud and annoying noise.  EVEN giving everything we have to the point of sacrificing ourselves to persecution by burning at the stake gains nothing if the sacrifice is not made in love.

What comes to us only by the Spirit of Love can only be used for the service of our brothers and sisters if it is given in the same spirit in which it was received.  To illustrate this Paul goes immediately on to tell the church at Corinth (and US) what the exact characteristics of this love are.  He states the qualities of love in both negative and positive terms.  He tells us what love is as well as what it isn’t.

verses 4-7

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never ends.  Besides its perfection in quality it is also infinite in duration, and it surpasses the gifts of the Spirit.

verse 8

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Paul concludes his definition of love, and so do I, with what I believe to be one of the greatest verses in the bible.

verse 13

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

This concludes a two part examination of Love as it is defined by its nature and by its qualities.  We have discussed and discovered

  • That the nature of Love is God.  In this context we may replace the word God anytime we see the word Love,
  • That it was the sacrifice, resurrection and ascension of Jesus that caused the delivery of the Holy Spirit into the world.
  • That Love is experienced and given to the world through the Holy Spirit,
  • That it is present in specific gifts in the lives of men and women to glorify and spread the itself among all of humanity, and
  • That we are commanded to love one another as we have been loved.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Love | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Is: Part I

Brothers and Sisters,

Once again I welcome you to this blog and pray that you will receive this message with understanding and wisdom that comes from the Love of God through His Holy Spirit that was given to us by the sacrifice of Jesus who is the Christ.  It was by the sacrifice and resurrection of the body of Jesus and His ascension into heaven that the Spirit was enabled to come into the world so that we might become possessed of the Spirit and joint heirs of the Glory of God with our brother Jesus.

For this message I will reference scripture as it is given in the book of I John chapter 4.  My text comes from the New International Version translation.  You may, of course verify my reading of the scripture through whatever translation  you have at your disposal or you may follow this link, Bible Gateway.  You may find the same link in the right sidebar under “Blog Roll.”

Love Is

God.

First John chapter 4 tells us in verse 8 that

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

He says it again later in verse 16 but as a complete sentence all by itself.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.

In the fourth chapter of this book the word “love,” “loves,” or “loved” appears 26 times (in the NIV) in just 21 verses.  This is phenomenal.   First John speaks of God’s love for us and of our love for God and for one another.  John makes it very clear that our love for one another and for God is secondary for His love for us.

So God is Love, and it follows logically from this that the reverse is also true, that Love is God.  That is, as a perfect being who existed before the world was created who is not only the essence of love but is love itself, that when we say that love is present in its true characteristics, then we are also affirming the presence of God.  One is indistinguishable from the other.  There are those who deny the existence of God and/or the divinity of his son Jesus, but that does not mean that love cannot be present in their lives, for Gods love is universal and is available to all who will accept it, be they believer or not.

But John also makes clear that those who do NOT love, do not know God.  God may be (and is) present in the world universally.  His love is available to everyone know matter where or when they live.  The test is whether this perfect love is within them.

John says also that this love is a direct product of the Spirit and that this is possible because of the resurrection of Jesus.

verses 9-10

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us . . ..

Finally, in verses 20-21

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And [Jesus] has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

When we obey God’s commands we show our love for God and we are told in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13 verses 34 and 35,

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

This was immediately after Jesus washed their feet and told them as he washed their feet so they were to wash the feet of others.  As Jesus did for them so were they under obligation, out of his love for them and their love for him, to do for others.

I hope we now see what the true nature of genuine love is.  It is God and is experienced by his Spirit living in us sharing its perfect love.

In a future post, I will discuss the qualities of love and how it is expressed in sharing it with one another and in our relationship with the Spirit itself.

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Love | 4 Comments