Thursday, February 22, 2018

Welcome to Leviticus

Leviticus – Tom, what were you thinking.

Leviticus—what a book!  You think that it might be in the back of the Bible with the maps and lists of other things.  I mean, it’s just a list of do’s and don’ts, right?

But what if it is not just a list of commands but part of a story?  What if it fits right where it is supposed to fit in the narrative of God’s people?  What if it is a story with most of its roots in Egypt and a conclusion with the Lamb of God on the cross?

The Greek translators named this book Leviticus during translation.  The Hebrew people called it:   Viyikra which means “called out.”  The Hebrews did not title the books of the Torah.  They used the first few words of the book.

Why?  These accounts were passed on in the oral tradition for centuries.  What are the fist words of the book?  “The Lord called to Moses…”

Turn to the alphabetical index in the hymnals and this group look up It is Well with my soul.  This group, I want you to look up When Peace Like a River.

Think of some of the songs you know so well by their intro.  I don’t have a fancy satellite radio that tells me the name of the song and the artist, so I guess.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
Do you have it yet?
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

How about Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin

Who doesn’t know Sweet Home Alabama?  Most know it right away from its musical intro.

Now, some of you may like the Greek titles.  They would indicate that maybe this book is just for the priestly order—the Levites.  Those don’t apply to me.  I don’t have to go out and buy a goat and two chickens to sacrifice because I got a tattoo.  Many of them are just for the priests but most are for all. 

So, let me have a look at your tattoos after the service and I will tell you if you can get off with a couple of birds or you had better save up for a bull.  No, the sacrifices in Leviticus point us to the one sacrifice for all time.

OK, so the Greeks liked title and author—or at least the Septuagint (2nd or 3rd century AD) did—so that’s how we get our modern names, but the Hebrew people knew these books by the first line.
Here’s the list for the Torah

Hebrew                Greek to English           Hebrew Meaning
Bereishit              Genesis                          In the Beginning
Shemot                Exodus                           Names
Vayikra                Leviticus                        And He Called
Bamidbar             Numbers                        In the Wilderness
Devarim               Deuteronomy                Words

OK, let’s talk about the story.  You know it.  God created.  Man fell.  Sin is in the world.  It gets really bd.  Noah and his family are saved from a devastating flood.  Tower of Babel, Abraham called out of Ur and promised descendants, a land, and that all would be blessed through him (his seed).

Abraham-Isaac—Jacob who is renamed Israel and has a bunch of sons.  One of them Joseph is sold into slavery and eventually rises to most powerful man in Egypt.  Only Pharaoh could overrule him and Pharaoh knew better.

Joseph saves his family—which includes 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel.  The other two come from Jospeh and they are Manasseh and Ephraim.  These are sons of Joseph.

Then in the book of Shemot—these are the names of the sons of Israel who went into Egypt.  Shortly after this introduction we find, and there was a Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph.  So slavery begins and last about 400 years.

Along come Moses and Aaron and the exodus from Egypt.  It all went like clockwork, well not exactly.

The people are a mess.  While Moses is up getting instruction from God, Aaron has the people build a golden calf.  That’s not their only transgression, but it’s a biggie.  The whole lot of them are a bunch of complainers who sometimes say they wish they were slaves in Egypt again.

And so we come to today’s verse—two verses.  I’m not starting with a whole chapter or even the first chapter which jumps right into making a sacrifice.  Remember, this book is the continuation of a narrative not an appendix in the back of the book.

Leviticus 11:44-45  (NIV)

 I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground.  I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

The people whom God rescued from Egypt don’t really have the whole picture yet.  God has made them his chosen people.  What does that mean?  Among other things, they were:

·       Given an identity as his people
·       Given a sign in the flesh for the males
·       A land promised to them (all the way back to Abraham)
·       To be a great nation (back to Abraham)
·       Given the law (some already came in Exodus, more in Leviticus)
·       Through Abraham’s seed, all the world would be blessed—Messiah.

So, as we enter into this trip through Leviticus, understand that one of the things that should mark these people as God’s own, would be that they would be holy as God is holy.

You know the story.  They didn’t get 100% on the test.  In fact, there were a bunch of F’s and incompletes.

But as we move forward in Leviticus—Vayikra—keep that in mind.  Be holy as God is holy.        

OBTW—those words apply to us as well.


Love One Another

Read John 15

Think on these three words: 


Someone, sometime ago put together a list of government rules for riding a dead horse.  They were written to show the absurdity of continuing to do things that don’t work.  These tongue-in-cheek rules were devised long before the internet was the ubiquitous form for such distribution, but we are blessed that the list survived, and these golden nuggets are available online.  Here is:

Beating a Dead Horse
Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

However, government bureaucracies often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Saying things like "This is the way we always have ridden this horse."
4. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
5. Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
6. Appointing a committee to study the dead horse.
7. Waiting for the horse's condition to improve from this temporary downturn.
8. Providing additional training to increase riding ability.
9. Passing legislation declaring "This horse is not dead."
10. Blaming the horse's parents.
11. Acquiring additional dead horses for increased speed.
12. Declaring that "No horse is too dead to beat."
13. Providing additional funding to increase the horse's performance.
14. Commissioning a study to see if private contractors can ride it cheaper.
15. Removing all obstacles in the dead horse's path.
16. Taking bids for a state-of-the-art dead horse.
17. Declaring the horse is "better, faster and cheaper" dead.
18. Revising the performance requirements for horses.
19. Saying the horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.
20. Raising taxes (any excuse will do).

And if all else fails:

21. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position

If you have ever worked with federal regulations and standards, some of these might have brought back bad memories that you had suppressed until today.

You might be thinking, this goes beyond the subtle, dry humor that I normally sneak into the week’s message.  You would be right, but the point is valid.  Look at it this way.

God has put on your heart that you are to give most of your garden space this year to tomatoes.  You like tomatoes, but you are sure that squash would do better this year.  So you make a token effort with a couple tomato plants and use every other square foot for squash—some yellow and some zucchini.  You can almost taste them before they even sprout.

You water and fertilize and weed and do all the good gardening stuff that you know to do.  You even pray to God to bless your crop.

The garden grows and then one day you notice that your squash doesn’t look so good.  You notice that there are squash bugs all over your plants.  You wanted to go all organic and so you bought some lady bugs, but the squash bugs came anyway.

So, you resort to chemical warfare and spray and kill the squash bugs.  Then one morning you walk out to the garden to see most every squash plant eaten by grasshoppers.  Many of the grasshoppers are dead from the poison residue, but the second and third wave wiped out your squash crop completely.

You look to the heavens and ask, “God, why did you do this?  I asked you to bless my crops.”

Then you glace at the two tomato plants that you stuck in the ground several weeks ago and then pretty much forgot about.  They are blooming and producing fruit.  In fact, there are some tomatoes that are ready to eat right off the vine tomatoes that might not make it back to the house. 

Of course, there are only 2 tomato plants.  Your garden consists of two thriving tomato plants and a bunch of dead squash plants.

“God, why would you do this to me?”

Then you remember that small voice that spoke to you several weeks ago that said, plant tomatoes

The proverbs are full of reminders that there is God’s way and there is everything elseBlessed are those who seek after and receive God’s wisdom.  They say do it God’s way.

We are blessed when we do things God’s way.  Life is not a series of trick questions, well, at least if you are living it God’s way.  So, what is God’s way in this post-modern world?

Family—it’s not a new concept.  Family is God’s design.  We have our nuclear, biological families and we are blessed to keep them together.  We are blessed to be bonded by our blood.

We also have a family of faith.  These are blood relatives as well, but we are related by the blood of Jesus.  We are blessed to be bonded by his blood as well.

We are all connected.  God the Father is in Jesus the Son.  Jesus is in his Father.  We are in Jesus and he is in us.   The Spirit dwells within us and walks beside us.  We are connected to God in every form and he is connected to us.

We are included in his family.  In fact, we are brothers and sisters to Christ Jesus.  This family comes with an eternal inheritance, so it goes into the cool beans category.

We are also included into a family called the Body of Christ.  We are connected and included in this family.  It is the way we are to live.
Because we are connected with God and with each other and included in this divine family, we enjoy this thing called fellowship—communion—koinonia

That’s the way that we are to live.  Vine and branches are a good metaphor.  No branch is out doing it’s own thing apart from the vine.  When we are cut off, we wither and dry.  When we live the way that we are designed to live, we produce fruit.

Sometimes, we want to live the way that we think is best.  Yes, recite Proverbs 3:5-6 in your mind.  Maybe, we think that God hasn’t been keeping up with current trends, that he has overlooked us—he does have a lot going on—and we need to take care of ourselves, or sometimes we just want to do our own thing.

God has designed the family for us so when we stray from that divine model and ask God to bless us, we get squash bugs and grasshoppers.  When we keep doing things our way instead of God’s way, it is called beating a dead horse.

We do a good job of connecting with people.  We meet them where they are.  We do that, but sometimes we fall short of inclusion.  Connection is a first step.  Inclusion is the next. 

But, not everyone wants to be included.  We are inviting people who don’t want to come and be a part of this wonderful family.  They want independence when God has prescribed family.  They want squash when God has prescribed tomatoes.

So what are we who live in the family to do?  Well, let’s just throw in the towel and take care of ourselves.  We will have more room to sit at fellowship meals.

Doing that is known as making funeral arrangements for your local church.  The church is made for mission.  We are always making connections and seeking inclusion.

People say they know God and have received Jesus as their Savior but want to do their own thing.  They are not ready to receive Jesus as Lord.  They still want to do their own thing.  The problem is that God said, “Let’s do family.”

When you do your own thing, you might have salvation, but you miss out on abundance.  You produce no fruit. You miss out on so much that God has in store for you.  You miss out on what God has designed for you as part of this wonderful family.

You miss out on fellowship.  The Greeks called it Koinonia.  It’s real communion.  It’s family enjoying being family, and, in our case, the family belongs to God.

That’s a diverse family.  Yes, I know that we are all made in God’s image, but that’s still a lot of diversity.  How can you keep such a family together?

Love.  The family not only survives but thrives because of love, especially, the love we have for one another. 

Love one another is the binding fiber of God’s family.  Too often we see fighting and bickering and quarrels and dissension within the family of faith.  If we see those things in people without Christ, we should not batt an eye.  They don’t get it.

Does this mean that we never disagree or have disputes?  No, but it does mean that we value family over selfish desires and we move to reconciliation with all deliberate speed.  Being right is less important that being love and loving one another.

But we do get it, or at least we should.  We should get it when it comes to this love one another stuff.  We are all connected and included.  Why not enjoy the fellowship by doing things God’s way?

Love one another.

I would like to make a special prayer request.  It’s a little on the odd side, but appropriate.  I pray and hope that you will join me, that God engraves three words on our hearts and minds in exchange for removing three others.

Obviously, love one another are the three words that we want etched on our hard drives.  What three do we need removed?

This first word is but and the next two are if only.  These three words have disrupted fellowship more than any others I can think of.

Oh, I would share my love with her, but
I would help them on Saturday, but
I would go sit with him, but
I would reconcile with her, but…
If only she was a little nicer, then I would…
If only he would show a little initiative, then I would…
If only the world revolved around me, then I would…

I will read verse 17 of chapter 15 in John’s gospel once again.

This is my command: Love each other.

I know a little about commands.  I have given and received them, and I will tell you with certainty, the words but and if only are not welcome anywhere around a command.

We need to understand something about our family.  Jesus is our Lord and Savior and Master; yet he has called us friend. 

I have been a man under authority.  When I gave orders, I expected then carried out.  When I received them, they were executed.  Many with whom I gave and received orders were also my friends, but orders—commands if you will—are still orders.

Jesus said:  This is my command—love one another.

This command is the glue that binds our connections and inclusion within the family of faith so that we may know fellowship.  Living out this command to love one another brings us communion that the world does not and cannot know.

This command to love one another is why we are not an exclusive club but an inclusive family.

It is not enough just to connect and invite.  We must have a heart for the disconnected.  We must pray for those who do not know what we know. 

The world thinks that it’s all about money and stuff.  The world has a lot of disciples but does not know the truth.

We know life because we know the truth.  We know fellowship because we live in the truth.  We long for inclusion of those who fight so hard to stay away because we have been commanded by our Lord and our Friend to love one another.

I am tired of giving out food and forsaking fellowship.  I am sick of handing out gospels so long as we remain in the safety of our comfort zone.  I am frustrated with a world full of apathy and ambivalence. 

Yes, you might think with good cause, “You’ve got issues.”

No! I have been given a command—to love one another.  I see so many on the outside of fellowship.  I see so many who resist inclusion.  I see so many that dodge connection because it might lead to inclusion and to fellowship.  That might just destroy the false premises that keep so many away.

So, my prayer for us today is that the Holy Spirit walks before us in the days ahead and softens hearts that need to be fully broken.

My prayer is that we start a conversation, not about going to church, but about knowing life and the one who gives it.

My petition is that God sends us those who are through fellowshipping with the things of this world and that we receive them into the fellowship of believers.

You might nod your head in agreement, but understand that I am praying that we are ready to receive the broken and bitter and hopeless and sometimes helpless who live all around us.  It is important that you understand what I am asking God to do—send us broken people.

Our part is to receive them into our family—really it’s God’s family—with love and inclusion.

We practice love when we reach out and connect.  We practice love when we invite.  We practice love when we help people.  But we don’t have fellowship with those who are on our hearts and minds until we receive them into this family where we can love one another.

Until love is the singular currency, we don’t produce much fruit.

We do a good job of loving one another within this family that we know.  We do a good job reaching out and connecting.  I am praying that we are ready to also love those who have never known true love or fellowship.  I am praying that we graduate to inclusion for the heartbroken, destitute, sick, and those who are now blinded by the god of this age.

I am praying that those on the outside of the fellowship come in, not to pick up some food and go.  Not to just get help with a bill and disappear.  Not to just check out VBS or the Easter Egg Hunt and wait for the next cool thing on the menu, but to become part of the family—to share in the fellowship—to know real communion.

To go from connection to inclusion to fellowship, we must learn to obey one simple command.  That’s our part.  God’s Spirit will send the lost, the discouraged, and broken-hearted to us.  They are coming.

Love one another.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Figurative language in the New Testament...and the dumbing down of the America public

Who hates their father?  Who hates their mother?  What about your wife?

Who hates their own life?  In 2018 that may require mandatory reporting.

If you don’t, then you cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  That’s what the Bible says anyway.  I’m not making this up.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

That’s some tough counsel.  Some translations make it a spectrum of love and hate and say that you can’t love anyone more than Jesus, but most leave the translation with the word hate.

Let’s change gears…

OK guys--men, I’m thinking that either you are not being honest with yourself or there should be way more eyepatches among you.  What? Why?

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I am thinking that I have never met a group that has not experienced lust.  That’s the context of this verse.  Why have we not plucked out our eyes?

Are we not good disciples?

Not everything that seems out there as far as literal application actually applies to all.  At least I hope this one doesn’t.  Jesus was talking to the Pharisees here. 

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

I have been on several cruises and seen some people put away some food on the buffet.  It’s like, “Man, that guy or gal, gluttony does not discriminate, got his money’s worth by day 2 of the cruise.  That guy is coming out ahead just on food.”

But swallowing a camel—really?

Why these extreme examples?  Because Jesus sometimes used extreme exaggeration to make his point.  Today we would call it hyperbole. 

But how do we know that Jesus used figurative language?  

Because he said that he did.  Not too long before Jesus would go to the cross to atone for our sins, he told his disciples that he had been speaking in figures of speech but now would talk to them directly.

They were excited about that.  Some of the metaphors and parables and hyperbole that Jesus used were pretty hard to understand, especially for a bunch of fishermen.

Why is this important?  Why do we need to know that Jesus used figurative language?

Most of us don’t’ want to have to hate our spouse or cut off our hands if we take the last slice of pizza and there’s somebody at the table that is hungry.

Mostly, we need to understand that Jesus used language to go beyond simplistic rules and regulations.  His parables and metaphors and other figures of speech cause us to think at a conceptual level.  They enable us to take his example and explanation and make application in the various circumstances of our lives.

Following Jesus is not just a checklist.  Do this.  Don’t do that or that.  Remember this.  There is nothing wrong with checklists, but they are narrow and limited in application when the governing force in your life is love.  Love liberates you from checklists only if you understand God’s words.

For example, in chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus counsels:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

This only applies to making an offering, right?

What if you were about to teach a Sunday school class?  Should we not reconcile first?

What if it is time for the Lord’s Supper and we examine ourselves and realize that we have been harboring a grudge or need to seek our forgiveness from a fellow believer?

What if in anything that I do—we are a living sacrifice if you will recall—I realize that I need to be reconciled with someone before I can do God’s work anywhere else?
Why do I make these points about language and figurative language and concepts and application?

This country and perhaps the world is in the process of being dumbed down.  We don’t want to have to think things through.  We don’t want to verify facts.  We just want to get a snapshot of information and make our decision or agree with the default decision.

I am going to tell you that I am guilty of this every time I upgrade my software on my computer or my phone or my lawnmower or anything else that thinks it’s smarter than me.  I just click “agree to terms” and move on.  That’s life in the modern world.

But we can’t do this with our most essential instructions.  They must be based in the Bible and we must read the Bible and study the Bible and be literate enough to make reasonable interpretations of the Bible.

Some might be thinking, “Isn’t that what we hired you to do?”

We need to have a hunger for the word of God—the Bible.  And we need to be equipped to understand it.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. NKJV

Try it in the New Living Translation:

Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

We need to have an intimate relationship with our Bibles.  We need to run counter to the culture when it comes to reading and language skills.

Do we believe the verse that the word of God is living and active?  Then our Bible studies are not some religious drill that the preacher is required to endorse by the terms of his contract.


Read in context.

Read seeking the meaning of words that are 2000 or 3000 or 3500 years old.  Some have been around longer passed down in the oral traditions.

Understand your own language and its nuances.  Translators have done their best to preserve the original intended meaning of the God-inspired words from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek with great fidelity into our modern language.

Our language can be a tool or an obstacle.  Our job is to be fluent in our own language. 

Every book in the Bible, except the letters, was likely passed down in the oral tradition.  How did it retain its fidelity?  

That is, how was the 100,000th telling the same as the first 100 telling’s?

Everybody knew the story.  If the teller slipped up, a dozen people would correct him.  Consider the story of David and Goliath.  So, David as he was getting ready to take on Goliath selected 7 jagged stones.

NO!  He picked out 5 smooth stones.

Long ago people were vigilant in knowing God’s word.  We need to know our language and know the Bible to be fluent in God’s word.

Why is this important?

The world is trying to dumb down everybody. 

We are called to be fully equipped for every good work.
So, we must be fluent in our own language and know the Bible.


God is Love


It’s something of a little mantra that I use just about everywhere.  It gets to the heart of so much when it comes to discipleship.

GOD LOVES YOU.  LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  It can get you through the day.  It’s just basic discipleship.  I often link it with three verses that you know well.  Three verses answer three questions.

The first question is how long will God love us and the answer comes from Jeremiah 31:3.  He loves us with an everlasting love.  The Message translation says, God told them, I’ve never quit loving you and never will.  Expect love, love, and more love!

The second question is how much does God love us.  This answer is very familiar to just about every Christian.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

That’s John 3:16-17 if you haven’t caught on yet.

The third question is what are we going to do about it.  Do about what?  This wonderful love that God has bestowed upon us—grace if you will.  What are we going to do about it?

Jesus speaking to his closest friends said these words with hours of his trip to the cross.

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.

That’s John 13:34-35.  Most probably knew that and the other scriptures as well.  You might also have picked up on the fact that when you really want to study love, you find yourself in John’s gospel and his letters quite often.

The main scripture for this message comes from John’s first letter.  This particular pericope wraps together the one God that we know in three forms in just a few verses.

John says:

·       Love comes from God whom we would call Father.

·       We know God’s love because he sent his Son into the world that we might live through him.

·       We know that God lives in us and we in him because we have received God’s own Spirit.  In fact, this Spirit that lives within us is greater than any spirit that is in the world.

We know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We also know him as Creator, Redeemer, Savior, King, Lord, Master, and even Friend.

We know that God is holy, righteous, merciful, eternal, loving, and full of grace.

We know that God is the only true God and that he is a jealous God.  He is not happy when we have a fling with other gods, be they Baal or money or drugs or selfishness or vitriol or ambivalence.

We know that God is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess.  It’s not guessing game.  It’s an assurance of God’s pardon.

God is truth and truthful.  There is no deceit in him.

Let’s use some big words.  God is omniscient.  Don’t call God a Know It All but he knows it all.

He is omnipotent.  He can bring to pass everything that he says he will do.

He is omnipresent.  He is not confined by time or space.

This is an impressive list of God’s attributes.  The Bible is full of his attributes.  It seems that any one of these attributes could encompass God’s fullness, but then we realize that God is even more than one, two, or twenty of these characteristics.  God seems incomprehensible to us; yet, somehow we comprehend his very essence.

We know that God’s thoughts and his ways are so far above ours that they are nearly incomprehensible; yet, we are not left without the mind of Christ and the indwelling of God’s Spirit.  We somehow know God even though we can’t comprehend God, at least all that he is.

For of all the things that we know about God, the one that hits home the most is that God is love.

God is love!

We considered what Paul had to say about love—what it is and is not.  We know there are different types of love—romantic, brotherly, parental, and the unselfish and unconditional love that Jesus demonstrated for us by going all the way to the cross. 

The love that comes from God is intense and intimate, a companion with the truth, and as you have heard me state before—the strongest force in the universe.  Nothing compares to love.

And the apostle John tells us that God is love.  God is love.

We could just affirm this and go on with our lives.  We could say, cool beans.  We could make this a daily Facebook post, but what would happen to us if we recognized how powerful this three-word sentence is.

God is love.

Think of the best day that you have ever known.  It was conceived in love.

Think of the worst experience that you have ever had.  God—who is love—let you experience whatever it was.

Think of the worst boss that you ever worked for—God—who is love—didn’t strike him by lightning.

Think of the political turmoil in this nation.  I don’t care who you think is good, bad, or ugly; too far left or right or just too long in office, or what labels have been attached to them.  God—who is love—permits this course of vitriolic discourse to continue.

We often remind ourselves that God is sovereign and in control, even when most of the world seems to be a total mess.  We have assurance that God is in control.

We like to say that God has a planthat plan would fall under his sovereignty as well.  He has a plan.

We consider the things we see in our world from the perspective of God being righteous and just and the world a place that does not know him.  The judge of the world will do right.

We consider that as the end of the age grows near, people will be less and less interested in the truth.  They will seek out so called godly counselors to tell them exactly what they want to hear.

We can somewhat rationalize what is happening in the world and even perhaps hold on to Jesus is surely coming back soon to assuage our minds of all these things.  But all of these things are ways that we try to explain the imperfection, ungodliness, hatred, acrimony, selfishness, and outright mess that everything seems to be most of the time.  In the middle of all of this, God is love.

God is sovereign and holy and righteous.  God alone may judge his creation.  Actually, he has judged us and found us guilty and gave us a death sentence.  The sentence was executed, but not upon us.  Jesus stood in our place. 

God is just and has condemned sin, but more than that, he is love.  Love took our place on the cross.  Love brought us into right relationship with God.  Love rose from the grave.  Love reigns.

When our day makes sense or has reached the pinnacle of absurdity, either way know that God is love.

When our children make us proud or cause all of our hair to turn gray or fall out, either way know that God is love.

When the bills are all paid and you can still go out supersize that McMeal or when you have to decide between paying the gas or electric bill, either way know that God is love.

Love brought about creation.

Love brought about you.

Love desires all to receive the free gift of life and know life abundant and eternal.

Love reconciled creation to himself through his own blood.

Love lives within us in what we call the Holy Spirit.

Love is the strongest force in the universe.

Love is the source of all good things.

Our very purpose in life comes from love.

God the Father is the perfect image for most of us when we think of creation and eternity and holiness and justice.

Jesus the Son—God with us—helps us know that God thinks everyone of us is special to him.

God’s own Spirit—the Counselor, Comforter, Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit is our continual connection with God.  We are never without God.

We have grown to understand these three manifestations of a single God—the one true God.  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Some people have a little trouble with the trinity.  It’s a difficult theological concept.  We have three Gods but we only have one.  Some people wonder how you can take three Gods and make one true God.

That’s not exactly what the trinity is.  There is one God.  We know the one true God as Father and as Son and as Holy Spirit.  Three persons of a single God are revealed to us. 

We don’t’ see a hierarchy, though Jesus always did the will of his Father.  It’s not like if God the Father and Jesus the Son take a three-day weekend, the Spirit is in charge.  There is not so much thought of being in charge.

I could actually visualize that, at least the picture when Father and Son returned.  “What do you mean you refiled everything according to your where the wind blows system?”

What governs three Gods in one is not hierarchy but harmony.  What governs is love. 

I have preached and prayed about being made in the likeness of Christ Jesus.  I have taught on God shaping us as the potter shapes clay.  It was a good metaphor for God’s Chosen People and a great illustration for each of us.

And we know what is being shaped is our heart.  We know that we are not there yet, but we desire to be complete in love.  We know that this process takes place in a world of disorder.

God is not a God of disorder but of peace, so we are like Christ Jesus in many ways as we navigate life in this world.  Our heart is not quite perfected in love, but we are getting there even as we live in a fallen world, a disorderly world.

Listen again to John’s words.

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world.  There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.

God is love.  God loves us.  God lives in us.

I want to give you the Tom Spence perspective on God’s plan.  Now you need to know, that I can write a plan.  I can write a detailed plan with sections and tabs and appendices and indexes or is it indices, with tabs to the indices and so on.  And that’s just for Gene handing out candy to the children.

I can write a detailed plan, so I can imagine God’s plan for everything—that thing would take half the universe to store even in digital form. 

But the plan that I perceive is a little less cumbersome.  We know that God’s desire is for none to perish, but I don’t think that is the complete plan.  I think the plan is for us to become love as he is love.

Are there some details?  I’m sure that there are, but what I need to comprehend is that all of creation began by the words spoken by Love and my destination is to be love as he is love.

It is a process and sometimes a seemingly impossible process to be accomplished in this crazy world, but I take heart that the God who started everything has already envisioned and provisioned my destination.

When I consider that the Creator of all things is Love himself, I can stay the course even in this messy world because I know that my destination is to be love and be with Love for all eternity.

God is love.  Let’s be like God.