SQUEEZE!

The Bible teaches that without the charity or love of Christ living in and through us we are A BIG ZERO with the rim kicked off.  How is that for starter’s?  First Corinthians thirteen defines, “the grace of love…even love to God, and love to Christ, and love to the saints, which is a grace implanted in regeneration by the Spirit of God.” (Gill).

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”

The times I hear this passage most read is usually when people are vehemently debating (how ironic) over whether the spiritual gifts still operate in the church or it is the romantic passage of choice at many wedding ceremonies (again how ironic).

No matter our claim to purest doctrine, deep spiritual experiences, miracles, growing churches and community involvement if we do not have charity, we are in serious trouble.  I am not writing while feeling good about myself (just the opposite), or because I took out my neighbors garbage, did the dishes for my wife or volunteered to help my church.

I am writing this because I was home all day with a blood pressure monitor courtesy of my cardiologist. It was going off every half hour squeezing my arm while I drove, sat on the couch, ate dinner and it makes you think. It is at first interesting, then it is inconvenient, then annoying. It will be doing this all night, even as I write this article.

I think the Lord monitors us in some way through his Word and presence. Maybe you too will share a squeeze in your heart reading this article.

When that squeeze comes on spiritually, at first you wince and say, “Thanks Lord, I get the message.”

Then you are saying, “Ouch, OK Lord, I copy that.”

The day goes on and he squeezes your heart again and “I heard you the first fifteen times Lord!”

Finally, you almost are crying saying, “Please STOP Lord, you are killing me.”

When Paul says without love “he is nothing” and he “amounts to nothing” (1 Cor 13:1-3) it is DEVASTATING.

And I can feel the squeeze…

That means that in spite of all Paul has accomplished, he is nothing and what he does is meaningless if there is no charity in what he says and does.

This may not seem profound or deep but it is more like theological surgery and I am bleeding, bad.

Why did God have to put that in the Bible?

It really upsets us, it hurts, it makes us think we are poor in charity as we should be and everyone is right about us.  He does not excuse our personality or nationality. He does not waive the obligation to love psychologically because of our dysfunctional lives.

We all think we are so loving, and WE ARE NOT. We love the way we think we should love, but we do not get off the hook that easy because the love or charity Paul describes is a character sketch of Christ.

Squeeeeeeze.

If this is a joke, then what is the punch line? To love like Jesus loved people? Isn’t that unreasonable to ask of us?

Why didn’t he just say to be generous or sacrificial was enough?  How about knowledgeable about the Bible and theology as the apex of spirituality. Impressive miracle-working power or great faith-that sounds godly!  How about being a martyr burned at the stake?  We want some goal, some motivation and we even charge admission to teach people those things in religious circles today, but love is not like that. You cannot be trained and educated to get it, you cannot make it happen.

SQUEEZE!

Charity or love has to be the hardest virtue to claim because it is at its highest expression only when you love others who do not reciprocate it, and not only do they not return it but they are sometimes hostile, bitter and mean even when you love them. After all, that is the love of Christ.

The Bible teaches “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,  endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13:7ESV). Oh come on now! Are we talking about human beings here? How is this humanly possibly?

Some very smart church people, teachers and pastors say, the Holy Spirit gives you the love. Really? I know some want to give me a doctrinal lesson on positional and experiential sanctification. right now but let me ask, Do WE really have the Holy Spirit? Is it really a gift to love? Or is this fruit or character? Does this mean when I was converted to Christ I got all the love I needed for others? I think not. It is possible the seeds for that love were planted in a true believer in Jesus? Ok so where is the grove after all these years?  If I give you piece of fruit from the supermarket that is fine, but it is after you eat it that it has served its purpose and is gone. If you do not eat it it can go bad.  But if I have a garden or a fruit tree in my yard that is another thing.

Now I am thinking about what Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  (Matt. 7:16-20ESV).  Jesus says people are like walking trees. Like a tree that produces fruit so is our character. ” I read somewhere that character is “the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.”  

A tree is not cannibalistic or “tree-balistic” (I made that word up) so it does not eat its own fruit.  Others eat of its fruit. What if we thought of our lives in this way. What we say, and do is like feeding others with health or disease. Now I know Jesus was speaking of false prophets in that passage but what if without love we are false prophets. That is frightening.  Without love we are a diseased tree, with unhealthy fruit.

Squeeze!

It is the definitive mark of Christian maturity. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Cor 13: 11ESV). Love is the sign of Christian manhood or womanhood. Healthy fruit trees must grow over time. Fresh spiritual fruit is not something you can microwave, it cannot be theologically flash frozen and you cannot borrow it from others, no matter how many DVD’s, CD’s and MP3’s you purchase or download. I do not need another book or video-what I need is this Christlike love.

For those who say they can never pray that long because they run out of things to pray for…let’s change that right now.  The love of God in Christ is to be lived out in the Christian life. This is the earmark of Christianity and without it you are probably not a Christian.

Oh Lord, we feel the squeeze, let the seeds of this Christlike love finally grow in our hearts!

© 2012 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.

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Yes, there is a Lenten season, Stephen.

My son, asked me what Lent was. At that time, I could not give clear answer so I researched it and…this is what I came up with for my scholar son and buddy.

What is Lent? No one has told you? Or is it something you think only Roman Catholics do? Did you know that Anglicans ; Lutherans ; Methodists  and even some Presbyterians celebrate Lent as well.

No, I am not going back to Roman Catholicism, nor encouraging anyone to do so. No, I do not believe works contribute anything to your salvation. I am Protestant and I love my Roman Catholic friends even though I do not believe in many things they believe.

Why are we such snots about things such as tradition? What is the deal? What are we afraid of being normal Christians?

I think it is fear of being extra-biblical or legalistic perhaps, but I have to confess there is way too much ignorance of the rich Christian tradition that systematically helps us with understanding scripture.

I have called myself Catholic and part of the universal church and you should see how people raise their eyebrows when this simply confesses that I adhere to the Apostles Creed

Many of you see no need for celebrating Lent and some are adamant against it and I respect that.  I know some make fun of people with ashes on their heads (a practice as a sign of mourning and repentance) and there are of people who just are “nominal” church goers who just do things out of ritual with no thought. I am glad we do not have anyone like that in our churches (snicker).

Here is what I have found and I hope it proves helpful for the interested parties.

Lent is a very old Christian tradition that can be traced before or around the legalization of the Christian faith in the edict of Milan around 313AD.

The word Lent comes from an the Anglo-Saxon word Lencten, and German word Lenz and Dutch word Lente. The words actually mean length or lengthen because during the month of March and the season of Spring the days become longer. The word Lent can even mean Springtime or March.

From various dictionaries and all, the idea of Lent came from a much longer word  (no pun intended) Quadragesima, “fortieth” (Cuaresma) and is the Christian observance of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. According to the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting and prayer in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.

Thus, Lent is described as being at least forty days during the Spring.

It is that simple.

Christians in the West celebrate Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday and Eastern Orthodox Churches call it “Great Lent” and it begins on Clean Monday. There is also the day before Lent which is  Shrove Tuesday in Great Britain (which comes from a word “shrive” meaning to confess) where people eat pancakes before Lent begins because pancakes have fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during strict Lenten celebration. There is also Fat Tuesday where we have the Mardi Gras insanity which true Christians should avoid because the idea of getting sin out of your system by sinning it up, is a deception and unbiblical.

In my humble opinion, there is a double standard among Protestants because they reinvent tradition instead of embracing it. The popular,  “Forty days of Purpose” is one example. David Mains has the very helpful, “Fifty Day Spiritual Adventure” and some encourage spending twenty-one days of January in fasting and prayer.  

Lent is a time of self-denial and repentance and contemplation on the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes the gospel is a lifestyle for all Christians but I am glad we have this tradition in an increasing anti-Christian society.

I will be spending Lenten season reading through the four gospels and if possible reading them several times as a discipline during this season. I encourage you to let the Word of Christ dwell in your richly and learn more and more about the Jesus of the Gospels, in the Bible-the real Jesus.

Lent is an old Christian tradition where we learn about the biblical Jesus. No gimmicks offering changed lives, bigger churches after forty days. We only have to promise Jesus and that is the greatest promise we can make.

©2016 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

Married to Christ

Let these words heal your heart today, right now, think and ponder them as fresh bread  and cool water being freely offered to you in the freeness of the gospel of Christ!”DON’T YOU REMEMBER when you were first being DRAWN BY YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER

and JESUS BEGAN TO WOO YOU to himself?

Tell me oh man, Tell me oh woman!

DON’T YOU KNOW OF A TIME

when

THE BLESSED SPIRIT OF GOD STRIPPED you of the fig-leaves of your own righteousness,

HUNTED YOU OUT of the trees of the garden of your performances,

FORCED YOU FROM the embraces of your old husband the law, and MADE YOU ABHOR your own righteousness, as so many filthy rags?

CAN YOU REMEMBER, after a long struggle with unbelief, Jesus appeared to you, as altogether lovely, mighty and willing to save?

AND CAN YOU REFLECT UPON A TIME, when your own stubborn heart was made to bend; and you were made willing to embrace him, as freely offered to you in the everlasting gospel?

AND CAN YOU NOT WITH UNSPEAKABLE PLEASURE REFLECT

On some HAPPY MOMENT

Some

CERTAIN POINT OF TIME,

In which A SACRED SOMETHING (perhaps you could it not then well tell what)

DID CAPTIVATE AND FILL YOUR HEART?

SO THAT YOU COULD SAY,

In a RAPTURE OF HOLY SURPRISE,

and

ECSTACY OF DIVINE LOVE

“MY LORD AND MY GOD!”

“MY BELOVED IS MINE AND I AM HIS!”

“I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES”

OR

“MY MAKER IS MY HUSBAND!”

(Rev. George Whitefield).