Perfect Love

Well, today is Palm Sunday, the anniversary of the day adoring crowds lined the main street into Jerusalem and waved Palm branches in celebration and welcome of their coming King. Ironic that if we did that today we would be arrested, but I digress.. .

The streets and the city were packed with people come for the Passover feast in the Holy City and to offer their sacrifices at the Temple of their God, like a St Paddy’s day parade in Butte MT, only with less beer.

The Israelites were ecstatic because they believed that, finally, here comes the long promised and much anticipated Messiah, the anointed king who would restore Israel to glory and power as God’s chosen people, the one who would overcome their enemies once and for all—at that point the enemy was Rome.

We find John’s eye witness account of this day in his gospel, chapter 12

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

on the foal of a donkey

Their king had come, and they would now overcome all those who persecuted them so. The Romans were oppressing them, their own priests and the Pharisees were taking advantage of them, relishing their power and getting wealthy off of them. Their puppet king Herod was abusing them, the tax collectors cheated them, as did the merchants in the temple courts.

The devil himself was abusing them, everywhere Jesus went he was driving out demons from people who were driven to do horrible things to themselves and others. Jesus delivered people from their demons, their illnesses, and even forgave their sins; giving them renewed hope, loving them when others scorned them. He even raised the dead—surely this is our King, this is our time for glory!

But Jesus had not come to overcome Rome. He came to overcome a much more fearsome and dangerous enemy, death. Death and the fear of death. Jesus came to perfect love. And he did.

Because he was perfect love. Only a perfect love could have, or would have, done what Jesus did—for us. Jesus does not only ask us to keep our eyes on him as we walk the high iron of life, he takes the pain out of the fall if we should miss a step.

In the 1st letter of the Apostle John he writes a lot about perfect love:

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love19 We love Him because He first loved us.

1 John 4:12—20

 

Perfect Love

“Love perfected—perfect love” We find perfect love four times in that section of scripture. What is perfect Love? Well, the short answer is Jesus.

Only a perfect love would have left the Father’s side in heaven, become one of us and taught us what love was even at the peril of his own life.

Only a perfect love would have ridden into Jerusalem on that humble little donkey that day knowing full well that he was a wanted man and would soon be facing a Roman cross.

Only a perfect love would have suffered and died as he did at the hands of those he loved, and begged forgiveness for those who nailed him to that cross.

Only a perfect love could have lived a life in this messed up world full of pain death and sorrow, temptations and seductions, greed and injustice, without ever having sinned.

Only a perfect love could have suffered the injustice of being falsely accused, beaten brutally for no good reason after being betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, mocked and scorned as he suffered a horrific death on a crude wooden cross made from a tree he created.

Only a perfect love could have done all of that without ever having sinned, and knowing that he didn’t have to do it, that at any time he could have called down twelve legions of angles to take him away from the pain.

But that would have been a failure, that would have been selfish, that would have revealed a crippling fear that just did not exist in is heart, because perfect love casts out fear. And not only was Jesus perfect love, he knew he was perfectly loved by his Father and he chose to trust Him—no matter the pain.

And because of all that, perfect love raised him from the dead— perfect love overcame death. God is love, and in him there is no fear. And now that love abides in us, God abides in us.

Because he has given us of his Spirit.

How often do we forget that?

abide in him

Remember what it means to abide? It means to live in, reside in, to remain somewhere. We get to live in God, to live in his love. And his love, his very Spirit, lives in us. We who have confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, have no need to fear, for love has overcome.

It is a love that we can trust infinitely.

Our King has come, and he rules in our hearts–if we choose perfect love.

And by the way, have faith, He has overcome our enemies.overcome praying mother

Thy Will Be Done

 

Jesus’ suffering secured our salvation, he asks that we endure, even in the hard times, and suffer a bit also, taking the path of most resistance, that we may reap the reward we know is coming.

hands

Today the church celebrates Palm Sunday. The day Jesus rode triumphantly and openly into Jerusalem knowing that he was a wanted man. Marked for destruction by the religious hierarchy who saw him as a threat to their traditions. And more sinisterly, their power and status.

Jesus was warned by all who cared about him, ‘you must not go to Jerusalem this year for the Passover Celebration’, and he was no fool, he knew it would most likely be his end. But he went for one reason and one reason only—it was his Father’s will.

Jesus would say; I do only what I see my Father doing. To do that he had to overcome both flesh and demon

Flesh and Demon

If Jesus came to this earth as a man to do one thing, that thing was to do the will of his Father. A mission that would be tested over and over again by his flesh and by the enemy. But Jesus would overcome both, telling his disciples as he had told Satan himself in the wilderness temptation, essentially;  ‘I am not here to satisfy the lust and cravings of the flesh, I am not here to glorify myself and ascend to any earthly throne or position.’

How many of us can say that?

Thy will

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which comes from God”

“To finish His work”? What was the work of his Father? To redeem mankind from its own foolishness that had caused him to forsake the creator in favor of the created. Jesus came to finish the job, to fulfill all that which the law and the prophets had foretold and foreshadowed. To be the seed of Eve that would crush the head of the serpent and to be the new Adam, restoring the life that the first Adam had lost.

What can we learn from this? Oh, I don’t know, maybe that if we want to accomplish the purpose of God for our lives we should seek and obey the will of God. Maybe that obedience to God’s will, will likely bring suffering, but it is worth it and leads to much greater things. Things like overcoming the evil one who thinks he’s so darn clever; seeing those we love get saved; seeing the kingdom of heaven be advanced through us; being glorified in the end—you know, small stuff like that. Stuff that Jesus exemplified and made possible for us by his obedience to the will of God. Obedience even to the point of shedding his blood, innocent blood, so that we could be over-comers as well.

lion

I read something in a fellow bloggers post recently that really struck a chord in me; Pastor Mario Murillo  -he said that most preachers are failing their congregations in these later days in not teaching them that they are capable of defeating the enemy themselves. I agree. We don’t have to depend on elders, preachers, priests or exorcists to defeat the enemy, to cast him from our presence and to end his influence and interference in our lives, interference that can take many, many forms.

One of the enemies’ greatest fears is that the church will wake up to the fact that each and everyone of us who follows the Living Lord, who has received his Holy Spirit, has the power to overcome him and thwart his plans of destruction and death.

James says it quite clearly and makes the point exactly.

 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7—8

The only way to conquer is to submit to God, submit to his will and draw near. You lean in to God, he will lean in to you, then nothing else will matter all that much, the suffering loses its sting and the victory sweet.

How do I know? –How do I know what is God’s will?

The short answer is; Come boldly before him and find out.

draw near

Available now Barbarians in the Kingdom 

It’s time to live your freedom, to live your victory.

book cover

You Are Safe

Behold your King comes, gentle and riding on a donkey-GirlHiding

This week we celebrate Palm Sunday. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that Passover week so long ago he faced seemingly insurmountable opposition— an uneducated carpenter from an obscure village up north, riding right into the teeth of all those who would destroy him. But what his enemies didn’t know was that this was exactly the plan. He was going to conquer even in his defeat, he was laying down his life willingly so that we would not have to.Jesus was going to face his accusers so that we would not have to, he was going to suffer the very wrath of the Father, so that we would not have to.

 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. John 10:17,18

Palm Sunday was Jesus storming the beaches of Normandy to free a people from oppression and to deliver the world from tyranny. A one-man army on a plodding burro going to defeat the powers of darkness who had invaded and perverted all of the earth.

We all want to be safe, we all want to be free from harm and the threat of harm. If you’ve ever felt vulnerable, especially if it has been a way of life, as it is for way too many people— especially women and children— then you know what a desperate and lonely feeling this is. It consumes you, it steals your joy, your sleep, and, it may seem, even your very soul.

I have been in ministry for a long time and have seen over and over again the hurt and fear in a person’s eyes who has had to live this way, victims of abuse at the hands of a loved one, a husband, father, mother, a neighbor, it’s especially hard when it at the hands of someone that everyone else thinks is okay— “They would never hurt anyone.” You may even start to believe that it’s your own fault or that you somehow deserve it.

Lies, all lies! No one deserves to live in fear, you are not to blame for the sins of another and anyone who is causing someone pain is doing just that, sinning. We are commanded over and over again to be motivated by love, to treat others the way we want to be treated, to encourage and bless others. That’s the way our Lord was and is. The only people Jesus ever had a problem with were those who were hurting others and justifying it in his Father’s name.

 “They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:40

It has been a goal of mine in my entire life in ministry whether I was teaching kids in a Sunday school class, doing a Bible study in a jail, teaching a Celebrate Recovery meeting, pastoring a church, or writing a book, that the people who are looking to me for answers—some relief from their confusion and hurt— that they feel safe. No one can feel love if they do not first feel safe. It’s very difficult to accept the love of a God who claims to be our Father when you have never felt the love of a Father figure in this life, if you have never felt safe in the presence of a man, especially if that man is claiming to represent that God. That’s why Jesus came “gentle and humble of heart”— “gentle and riding on the foal of a donkey.”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mat 11:29

We know Jesus had incredible power, he raised the dead, made the lame to walk, escaped mobs who wanted to kill him, calmed a storm on the sea— Jesus could very easily have conquered the Romans and taken the Throne from Herod, the puppet King. But Jesus had come to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday for another reason—to ensure our safety, the safety and security of a relationship with his Father, a Father who is the very definition of Love, a Father whose love was reflected in the gentle strength of his Son.

 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Col 1

Jesus reflects, and gives us access to, a Father in whose hands our hearts are safe. Jesus came to give us Spiritual safety and with that comes emotional healing and security as well— in one fell swoop— we are rescued as we trust our souls to him, as we come to understand the depth of his unfailing love for us.

Jesus, the image of the invisible God, came as a shepherd leading and protecting his flock, strong enough to keep the predators at bay and gentle enough to care for even the most fragile lamb.

Jesus was a strong man who could work wood with his hands before the advent of power tools when everything was chopped, chiseled and planed with blades you had to sharpen yourself. Yet those rough calloused hands could reach out and touch the broken hearted and bring healing even to those the world turned away from in scorn. Prostitutes, lepers, the raving mad demon possessed and lepers, even tax collectors- the hated agents of the Roman occupiers.

Those strong yet gentle hands would hold and bless little children whom others found a bother. Those hands would be pierced as they had the nails driven through them pinning him to a wooden cross hewn from wood with tools not unlike he what he himself used to use in his trade. The hands of the creator become a man, now nailed to the wood of a tree, a tree he had created long before his hands bore the marks of a man’s life of toil— all these things, all the love those hands wrought and expressed throughout his life and the pain they willingly suffered as his life was laid down when his toil was finished— all these things represent and illustrate who his Father— now our Father— is.

A God whose hands reach out to us with love. A God whose hands desire to assure and restore, to comfort and protect; hands that are never raised to us in anger but are always open to give if we’ll just heed his voice and come to him unafraid. Our God is our Father and because of that— You are safe.