Tag Archives: love

God – the Nature of the Creator

In our emotion-based Christian culture, we often picture our God as a kindly old man who emotionally loves us no matter who we are and what we’ve done. We’re told to imagine ourselves crawling into His lap and cuddling as we talk to Him. This is a dangerous and misleading picture!

Our God wants to be reconciled with the mankind He created and who walked away from Him 6,000 years ago. But make no mistake: we are to fear our God as we answer the call to a two-way relationship born of obedience out of faith, “I will be yours if you will be mine!

Let’s look at that ‘fear’ after glancing at some of the characteristics or nature of your God who is a jealous, just, merciful provider and protector of those who are His.

God is jealous: He wants to be our only God

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.—Nahum 1:2-3.

 

God is just: He will keep His promises despite any ‘feelings

The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. —Deuteronomy 32:4.

 

God is merciful: The promises He keeps as a just God bring life

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. —Luke 6:36.

The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. —Psalm 145:8.

God is protector and provider and forgiver of the righteous

“But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’” —Jeremiah 7:23.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1John 1:9.

God is judge of all

Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. —Acts 17:29-31.

Another destructive misconception in today’s Christian culture is that God is ‘not of fear’. However, that claim comes from a lack of understanding and by taking a biblical text out of context. It’s true that we have no need to fear a man when we have the Spirit; however, we are to fear God and with good reason.

  • Fear of God and Christ (i.e. Luke 7:16, Acts 13:16, Romans 13:7, 2Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:12, 1Peter 1:17). This healthy fear is represented by the Greek word phobos (Strong’s G5401); it indicates alarm, fright, or terror.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. —2Corinthians 7:1.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling —Philippians 2:12.

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth —1Peter 1:17.

  • This next ‘fear’, phobeō (Strong’s G5399), comes from the one we just covered, and it basically means to ‘be in awe of’ or revere. Examples of its use can be found in Luke 12:4-5, Romans 11:20-21, Acts 5:10-11, and 1Peter 2:17.

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!—Luke 12:4-5.

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. —1Peter 2:17.

Your just God is willing to protect, provide, and forgive when we respond to His call through faith and action. Believe. Repent. Love through charity and obedience. Fear in a healthy fear the nature of your God Jehovah and live!

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2016 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

In Loving Fairness (previously “Apocalyptic Misquote: God is Love”)

In our feel-good experiential Christian culture, I’ve often heard said, “God is Love!

Actually, God IS love; however, this ‘love’ is grossly misunderstood. And, the common misunderstanding of the love that God is and does lends itself to a dangerous and pervasive view that anyone in His good favor should never suffer and will have anything they want . . . Please see my earlier blogs titled “God has a plan for me!”, “I can do all things Through Christ”, “No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” and “In Jesus’ Name” in Apocalyptic Misquotes Parts I, IV, and VI for more information related to this prosperity Gospel and spiritual rock star mentality so prevalent in churches today.

This misunderstanding is based on 1John – 1John 4:8 and 16 in particular. The first thing we must do is understand the context of John’s comments about God being love. The next thing we’ll do is explore the meaning of that ‘love’, which you’ll learn is consistent, appropriate action – not emotion.

The theme and context of 1John Chapter 4 boils down to a fair and just God that will judge the world and save the righteous. This text serves as a reminder that our actionable love, which is obedience to Jesus’ commandments out of our faith, mirrors God’s just nature and is the basis for our coming salvation. Here’s a breakdown of the verses.

Verses 1-6: Differentiating ourselves from the world.

Verses 7-17: God is actionable love. He has promised a savior for mankind and kept His promise.  We should be like Him and actionably love one another because He has done the same for us as we abide in Him and He in us through the Spirit.

Verses 18-21: A sobering reminder that actionable love born of our faith is critical to salvationrescuing from God’s judgment to come. Being nice, feeling spiritual, belief alone, or having lots of knowledge about the Bible kept private are of no use to God, our Christ, or the Church.

I keep mentioning ‘actionable’ love, which is based on the Greek agape and agapao (is love and action born of love). Nowhere does Scripture or the New Testament Gospel or letters suggest God is ‘nice’ or that we should be that way. With the exception of a few uses of a Greek-based phil love (i.e. Philadelphia – brotherly love), the only ‘love’ you’ll see related to God and our Christ is actionable, non-emotion-based, agape/agapao love. This is one that equates to, “I’ll treat you appropriately despite how I feel.” Instead, we’re to be fair, kind, patient, repentant, self-controlled, etc.  Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like the actions (fruits) shown by those who belong to God and, therefore, have the Spirit as they abide in God and He in them . . .

So, God is love because He has treated us appropriately and kept His promise to send a savior despite the way He has ‘felt’ toward mankind at times throughout history. He is just to save and to forgive when we are in covenant with Him as so many of the New Testament letters show. Please see my earlier blog titled, “True Love” for more background on the kind  of love God had and has for us, and we should have for each other.

Act fairly, justly, kindly, and consistently as our God also has done for us . . . and live!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Being Nice is, well, nice . . . but Kindness is the Commandment!

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. —James 2:14-17.

But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. —Matthew 21:28-30.

A smile or nice word may make the initiator and recipient feel good. But being ‘nice’ or tickling peoples’ ears by saying what we think they want to hear does nothing for obedience to our God or Christ’s commandments. And that’s what matters.

Instead, love others with the love of our God and Christ – the kind of love that exclaims, “I’m going to do the right thing by you despite how I feel” – the Greek ‘agape’ love. Smile or not. Wax eloquent in speech or spew words dripping in honey . . . or don’t. Regardless, act out of faith and honor your heavenly Father in true worship (i.e. self-control of your body) and your fellow human through benevolence. After all, that’s how we’ll be judged in the last days.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’” —Matthew 25:34-36.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XII “Nothing can separate us From Jesus!”

Misquote: Nothing can separate us From Jesus!” This misunderstanding hinges on taking Romans 8:35-39 out of context and paves the way for dangerous doctrines. Here’s the abused reference:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? . . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:35-39.

Actually, WE can separate ourselves from the love of God (which is action – not emotion!) through disobedience and our own lack of faith-born action.

To understand and apply Paul’s intended message, we must answer these questions:

  1. “Who was Paul speaking to and in what context?”
  2. “What is the ‘love of God’?
  3. “Who are ‘we’ who can’t be separated from God’s love?”

Let’s tackle the question regarding Paul’s audience and the context of his letter to the Church in Rome first. Paul was speaking to both Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) believers, and the overarching theme of his letter was the gift of salvation and eternal life to those who choose to follow, being led by the Spirit. This theme included a reminder that nothing can keep the righteous from God’s mercy and protection. Here’s a breakdown of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter.

Chapter One: The righteous live by faith; all others will experience God’s judgment (v.17-18).

Chapter Two: More about the judgment of the righteous, who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” will attain eternal life (v.7) and the unrighteous who practice evil and will suffer God’s wrath.

Chapter Three: All – both Jews and Gentiles – have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Righteousness isn’t attained through works of the Law (note: this is a reference to the Law of Moses and NOT ammunition to claim that belief needs not result in action!).

Chapter Four: More about righteousness through faith (not works under the Law).

Chapter Five: The gift of redemption through our Christ. Also included is a reminder about what the faithful may need to endure and the growth that comes as a result: “. . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; . . . through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (v.3-5).

Chapter Six: God’s grace offers no leeway to continue in sinful behavior. We are to be obedient and not sinful (see “live by faith” in Chapter One; “doing good” in Chapter Two; perseverance in Chapter Five, etc.). “. . .  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed . . .” (v.16-17).

Chapter Seven: Comparing and contrasting the law of God and the law of sin.

Chapter Eight: No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By the way: the way ‘in’ is used implies that there’s no distinction between us and our Christ with regard to our behavior . . . “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (v.9)  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (v.14)

Next, we need to define the ‘love of God’ the righteous can’t be separated from. This is the action-based agape love made manifest by God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. It has nothing to do with emotion and is the same kind of ‘love’ we’re told by Jesus to have for him and our God through obedience (John 13:34-35 and 14:15-31, James 2:14-26, and many others). This is the ‘fruit’ resulting from the Spirit at work in the lives of the righteous. No obedience to God and Christ’s commandments, no Spirit. No Spirit, no fruit . . .

Finally, although it should be clear now, let’s look at ‘who’ can’t be kept from God’s saving grace. As we saw in several chapters climaxing with Chapter Eight, they are the righteous – those who are led by the Spirit, live by faith, do good, persevere, and are obedient to our God and Christ. They don’t practice sin and aren’t those who only believe and yet don’t act.

In summary, these early chapters of the letter to the Romans establish a baseline of righteousness and unrighteousness and introduce the choice that can bring life. Those who choose to accept God’s gift of redemption through an ongoing covenant by being will be rescued from God’s judgment to come, and nothing can change that. Conversely, the unrighteous disobedient (including those ‘believe’ but are inactive) will experience God’s wrath. Be righteous and live!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part X

“God is Love!”

Misquote: God is Love!Actually, God IS love; however, this ‘love’ is grossly misunderstood. And, the common misunderstanding of the love that God is and does lends itself to a dangerous and pervasive view that anyone in His good favor should never suffer and will have anything they want . . . Please see my earlier blogs titled “God has a plan for me!”, “I can do all things Through Christ”, “No Weapon Formed Against me will Prosper” and “In Jesus’ Name” in Apocalyptic Misquotes Parts I, IV, and VI for more information related to this prosperity Gospel and spiritual rock star mentality so prevalent in churches today.

This misunderstanding is based on 1John – 1John 4:8 and 16 in particular. The first thing we must do is understand the context of John’s comments about God being love. The next thing we’ll do is explore the meaning of that ‘love’, which you’ll learn is consistent, appropriate action – not emotion.

The theme and context of 1John Chapter 4 boils down to a fair and just God that will judge the world and save the righteous. This text serves as a reminder that our actionable love, which is obedience to Jesus’ commandments out of our faith, mirrors God’s just nature and is the basis for our coming salvation. Here’s a breakdown of the verses.

Verses 1-6: Differentiating ourselves from the world.

Verses 7-17: God is actionable love. He has promised a savior for mankind and kept His promise.  We should be like Him and actionably love one another because He has done the same for us as we abide in Him and He in us through the Spirit.

Verses 18-21: A sobering reminder that actionable love born of our faith is critical to salvation – rescuing from God’s judgment to come. Being nice, feeling spiritual, belief alone, or having lots of knowledge about the Bible kept private are of no use to God, our Christ, or the Church.

I keep mentioning ‘actionable’ love, which is based on the Greek agape and agapao (is love and action born of love). Nowhere does Scripture or the New Testament Gospel or letters suggest God is ‘nice’ or that we should be that way. With the exception of a few uses of a Greek-based phil love (i.e. Philadelphia – brotherly love), the only ‘love’ you’ll see related to God and our Christ is actionable, non-emotion-based, agape/agapao love. This is one that equates to, “I’ll treat you appropriately despite how I feel.” Instead, we’re to be fair, kind, patient, repentant, self-controlled, etc.  Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like the actions (fruits) shown by those who belong to God and, therefore, have the Spirit as they abide in God and He in them . . .

So, God is love because He has treated us appropriately and kept His promise to send a savior despite the way He has ‘felt’ toward mankind at times throughout history. He is just to save and to forgive when we are in covenant with Him as so many of the New Testament letters show. Please see my earlier blog titled, “True Love” for more background on the kind  of love God had and has for us, and we should have for each other.

Act fairly, justly, kindly, and consistently as our God also has done for us . . . and live!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of this and other related topics, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Next week, we’ll look at more great examples of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next misquoted or misunderstood topic: “Jesus can’t come back until we evangelize the world!

Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

I’ve often heard said, “Words are cheap!”  Well, I’d go one step farther and say that words are absolutely worthless unless supported by actions related to those words.  Don’t believe me? Check what the apostle James had to say about this:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? —James 2:14-20.

Jesus taught us that true love is actionable – agape love. This is how we prove our ‘love’ for our Christ and it’s how God loves us:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” . . . Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” — John 14:15 & 23.

This is also how we’re supposed to care for and treat others of our faith despite how we feel (e.g. Matthew 22:35-40). In fact, we’ll be judged by our obedience:

  • The obedient: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ —Matthew 25:34-36.
  • The disobedient: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ —Matthew 25:34-36.

Are you a believer or a follower? Destined for hell or heaven? Glutton or servant? Leave the ranks of believers, which include demons according to Scripture, and become a follower and live!

True Love . . .

True love is an actionable one not based on emotion. We usually associate a mushy, warm, down-in-our-gut emotion with love and often mistake that lustful desire or fondness for true love. These feelings are necessary in many human relationships or situations; however, the foundational love we’re to exhibit is related to action. Let’s take a further look at these variations of emotion and actions often called love.

The Bible refers to love in three primary ways: (1) lust or desire; (2) fondness for a person or thing; (3) love not based on emotion but unconditional charitable action that comes from moral compelling. The two types of love based on emotional feeling are lust (or desire) and fondness. Lust is more short-lived than fondness, but both can fade as our feelings change. The latter type of love isn’t based on emotion and is purer and longer-lasting than the first emotion-based loves.

The Holy Scriptures reflect the following three major variations of love in these Greek root words:

  • Epithumeo or epithumia for lust (examples include Matthew 5:27-28; Ephesians 2:1-3)
  • Variations of phil (as in philanthropea or Philadelphia) for fondness (i.e. Mark 10:17-22, Titus 3:3-5, Hebrews 13:1, etc.)
  • Unconditional, non-emotional love – :Agapao (Strong’s Greek G25): a verb representing morally-compelled action we’re to take as in, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” —1John 4:7. And Agape, a noun representing charitable manifestations that can occur because of compelling agapao love as in, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” —1John 4:7.

So, being ‘nice’ isn’t what God desires – it is actionable love that honors Him and treats His creation appropriately despite how we feel.

‘Feel’ or ‘do’ – which identifies you?