Friday, October 19, 2012

LOVE DEFINED - Part One

Christ taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength…and to love our neighbor as our self.  Seems simple enough, right?  But when we unpack these commandments of God, we find a treasure trove of meaning that compels us to properly define the word LOVE

Mark 12:28-31 - One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'  "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The word for love here, agape (agapao) is used in the New Testament to describe the attitude of God toward His Son, John 17:26; the human race, generally, John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 and to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, John 14:21; and to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude toward one another, John 13:34, and toward all men, 1 Thessalonians 3:12; and to express the essential nature of God, 1 John 4:8.

Biblical Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in obedience to His commandments. 1 John 5:2-3 tells us “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  A self-centered life is the negation of love to God.  Christian love, exercised toward our neighbor (mankind), is not an impulse from our feelings, it does not always agree with our natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom we have some affinity.  Love seeks the welfare of all, Romans 15:2, and does no wrong to any, Romans 13:10; love seeks opportunity to promote the highest good for God’s Kingdom and to all men, and especially toward the fellow believers, Galatians 6:10.

Love can be experienced only from the actions it prompts. God's love is seen in the gift of His Son, 1 John 4:9-10. This is not the love of affection, that is, this love was not drawn out by any excellence in its objects.  In Romans 5:8 we see that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  This was an exercise of God’s divine will in deliberate choice, and consistent with the very nature of God Himself.

Love was demonstrated perfectly among men in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:2 indicates that we are to walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. This love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Galatians 5:22.  Part two of this topic (in my next post) will deal with “loving-severity” (i.e. love involves the difficult and, often, unpleasant aspects of discipline, correction and even judgment as He and we attempt to employ wisdom in discerning where on the scale of kindness and severity (Romans 11:22) we must properly operate). This lays the foundation for understanding some of the Divine actions we “normally” have difficulty reconciling with love and, therefore, are inclined to dismiss.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A GRAIN of WHEAT


Jesus tells us in John 12, verses 23-26, that "…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.  If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”  What does Jesus mean with these words, and how should we apply this truth to our lives?
This is not salvation by works! This is obedience, even unto death…death of my selfishness, death of my agenda in lieu of God’s agenda and His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven; and this, regardless of the cost to us.


Jesus was teaching two elemental truths here to His disciples: 1) His imminent and glorious atoning death on a cross and resurrection from the dead would bear much fruit for God’s kingdom, and 2) Christ was calling people to discipleship…to follow Him.  One truth reveals the greatest happening in human history, and the other reveals our appropriate and right response to God’s redemptive provision to mankind.
Jesus consecrated Himself fully to the work of God on this Earth, even unto death on a cross.    Christ’s death and resurrection led to glory and life not only for Himself but also for others.  God publicly demonstrated His displeasure with sin through the sufferings of his sinless son …Jesus Christ.  Christ's suffering was a real and meaningful substitute for the punishment humans deserve for our sin.  Christ is telling the disciples in this passage, that He must die in our place so that God can forgive our sins when we repent with faith.  On this basis, God is able to extend forgiveness while upholding His righteous laws for the highest good of His Kingdom and His created order.
The teaching is clear…if we seek after the perishable things of this life on Earth; if we do not seek Christ and follow His example and His teachings…we will lose our spiritual life and we are eternally separated from the God who created us.  If, however, we divest ourselves of all that is of this world only, and we prepare and equip ourselves for the great calling of God…to be Christ’s disciples to reach the nations with the gospel of God’s Kingdom and work with God in His implementation of redemption for mankind…then we will gain life eternal, and the Father will honor us as we serve Christ in this way.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap

REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, 2012

Mitt Romney represented himself and his political ideology in a very sound manner. Romney spoke clearly and, for the most part, directly to the President while President Obama often compiled layers of words that rambled into a vague, poorly communicated idea, finding it undesirable to maintain connection with Governor Romney during the communication process. As with debate formats of this sort, details, such as President Obama indicated Governor Romney lacked, are difficult to unpack (how many pages was the Obama healthcare package?). Regarding direction, ideology and general agenda, Romney communicated confidently and clearly, alluding to accomplishments as Governor whereas Obama was vague, rambling and only able to manufacture references to imaginary successes based on the juggling of figures and “facts” surrounded by almost four years of a poorly handled presidency.

By way of commentary, I must say that Romney’s America is more consistent with the American exceptionalism of which we’ve benefitted as American citizens than is the deep seated change associated with Obama’s America. This particular presidential election is, more than any recently held, an ideological matter. In brief, the Romney candidacy is stressing reduced control and interference by the federal government while President Obama assumes high levels of federal control is desirable and instrumental in curing America’s ills. There have been shards of this perspective in the Democratic Party in the past but not to the extent we now see, and in some measure, experience (and will to a greater measure experience in a second Obama term). More than this, President Obama represents a hybrid democrat. There are ideological influences well outside the commonly held demoncratic approach toward building America. This is not your father’s democrat. Though, I must admit, this was not greatly evident in this debate focused on domestic and economic issues, there is a greater global connection that influences Obama decisions and policy. This is an ideological matter that, in my humble opinion, will prove detrimental for this nation.

Finally, I think it is safe to say that America has never achieved perfection in its efforts as a nation and Mitt Romney is not to be touted as the perfect candidate who will usher us into such an age. However, the reality that lies before the American public is an oval office occupied by Romney / Ryan or Obama / Biden. I trust the reality of the character and quality of these two men, biding for this great leadership position, will surface and the clarity needed to make the healthiest decision possible will, in fact, present itself through this and the two upcoming debates.