Agape Love

Posted: October 9, 2018 in Thoughts on God

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 ESV

I hear this a lot in Christian circles that it’s un-Christlike to not “like” someone. Well that’s a bunch of hogwash.

All of us have different personalities, and it is unrealistic that you will “like” everyone, or be in relationship with them.

There are four Greek words for love, two used in the Bible specifically: phileo and agape.

Now, phileo is a deep friendship type of love. This would be those people you hang with, your besties, the people you actually like to be around and “click” with. The other type of love is agape.

Agape is a willful love, a purposeful love of the heart and the mind, that shows kindness in spite of whether or not you “like” someone. Hence, it’s a stronger love.

It was agape love that drove Jesus, not because He liked people or what they did, quite the contrary.

He liked a few close friends. He chose willfully to show kindness and mercy to even His enemies, those who profaned Him. It was agape love that kept Him on the cross so that His enemies could become sons and daughters.

We are told, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32) This is agape love, that you willfully show kindness, even when you don’t “like” someone; that you willfully forgive, even when you don’t feel like it.

This purposeful agape love, therefore, makes it possible to “love your enemies and do good to those who misuse you” even when you don’t “like” them. If you’re struggling with this today, draw on His strength and His power!

Father, give us Your love in order to truly love those who treat us badly and show kindness to those who despitefully use us, in Jesus’ mighty name

An Assault Worth Making

The Apostle Paul, like most preachers, used illustrative metaphors from the culture around him. In his letter to the Ephesians, he referred to the “full armor of God.” It’s interesting to note that he was a subject of the Roman Empire and that the armor he was used to seeing was that of the Roman Army.
He lists those armaments as things like shields, breastplates, swords, and helmets. If you study the Roman military garb, you might notice that everything with which they were equipped was meant for a full frontal assault. None of their gear prepared them for retreat. Running away was not a viable choice.
Of course, Paul was comparing their battles to the spiritual battles we all face on a daily basis. The obvious take from this is that we are to meet our spiritual foe face on. Cowardice and flight are not included in his recommendation to struggle against “rulers and powers of this dark world” (Ephesians 6:10-17).
I was reminded of this last week when Judge Brett Kavanaugh gave his opening statement before the Senate Judicial Committee. He had just born the brunt of several accusations–any one of which, if proven, could have ruined the stellar reputation he had built up over several years of service on the bench. He “marched” into the Committee-chamber like a man on a mission. As the old saying goes, “He was not there to take prisoners.” There was no “quit” in him.
Regardless of what you think of the Judge and how he treated his accusers, his action in that hearing was an object lesson on how we should handle our spiritual battles. His was a war of words and political maneuvering. Ours, on the other hand, is one of virtue and the will to do right.
We are often called the “Army of God.” There’s an old hymn that fleshes out that term. It’s entitled, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” While a lot of people don’t like the warlike attitude of that song, it certainly is in keeping with Scriptural principles.
Paul urges us to fight “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” That’s actually quite scary when you stop to think about it. Still, that is our calling. Standing idly by or running away doesn’t appear to be a workable option. When we’re confronted with evil in this world, we are to do battle.
Jesus once said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Gates are built as a defensive measure. Jesus’ implication is that we will storm the gates of Hell itself. If you’re afraid to fight, just remember; Jesus is there with you.

Enter the land

Posted: October 2, 2018 in Thoughts on God

giving thanks to the Father, who has… rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:12-14, HCSB)

This is my favorite time of year. The temps are cooling off, the lattes are flavored with pumpkin spice, the leaves crunch under foot, and the smell of autumn is in the air. It’s harvest season for the farmers in my area. And this year my mind is swirling with thoughts of one harvest season that proved to change history forever.

The Feast of Weeks

It was the spring of AD 30, and folks were coming from far and wide. It was the time of the wheat harvest in Israel, and that meant it was time to celebrate the Feast of Weeks.

To give you a little background, Pentecost (as it was called in Jesus’ day) was strongly tied to the Jewish Law of Redemption. The Law of Redemption states that when a land-owner goes broke, sells his land to another, and becomes a servant-for-hire in a foreign land, an eligible “near kinsman” living in Israel may purchase his land back for him so he may return, debt-free, to live and work on it (Lev. 25:23-55). When Israel gathered for the Feast of Weeks every year, they were commemorating when God brought them, as a people-group, out of Egypt and slavery, made them a real nation (at the giving of the Mosaic Law), and began the process of restoring to them to the land he promised Abraham he’d give them.

Independence Day

So it was AD 30, merely 7 weeks after the cross of Christ. And it was finally time for all of humanity’s plight to be reversed!

See, in Eden, humanity became broken, sold her land to another, and ended up a servant-for-hire in foreign territory (Rom. 3:23, 5:12, 6:6, 7:14).

Sound familiar?

Friends, this is what the cross was about! Jesus, acting as the “near Kinsman” of humanity, purchased her with his blood, freeing her from exile and slavery to the Darkness. And on Pentecost of AD 30, the Holy Spirit came to earth and offered every human a new law (written on hearts, not on stone) to make her a new kind of people (the kingdom of God), and to dwell in her homeland of promise—Jesus’ own glorified vessel (Rom. 8:2, 2 Cor. 3:3, Heb 8:10, 1 Pet. 2:9-10).

Amazing, no?!

What This Means for Us

Incredibly, what this means for you and I and anyone who believes in Jesus as the Savior—the Kinsman Redeemer—of the world, is that we—the Kingdom of God—have access to live from Heaven… even with feet still planted on earth. We can now abide in Christ himself!

Are You Living in the Land?

So this harvest season, I leave you with a question: “Are you living from the Land Jesus died and paid for you to live in?”

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you automatically do. It simply means that by faith you now can! Take time to consider this question. And remember, you’re already connected to Christ by his Spirit. You need simply to rest, by faith, in this true reality.

Head and heart

Posted: October 1, 2018 in Thoughts on God

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9 ESV

Our God is eternal, transcendent, infinite, and all manner of awe-inspiring adjectives. But each of these still do us the simple service of describing the many facets of a wonderful fact: God is. He exists and has being in and of himself. He does not depend on anything outside of Himself, yet all of creation finds itself completely reliant upon Him.

This same God, whose thoughts and ways are as far above ours as the “heavens are higher than the earth” (Isaiah 55:9), will never be fully grasped or comprehended by the minds of men.

Dr. Elmer Towns succinctly summarized this in commenting that as “sincerely as finite man attempts to understand theology, he encounters the infinity of God — he cannot comprehend every part of its teaching.”

This does not mean, however, that He cannot be known.

He has doubly revealed Himself to us through His Word, written and incarnate, and in each of these we discover a depth that will never be fathomed or fully searched. However, God does teach us who He is by engaging both our heads and hearts through Scripture and His Son.

Men have written masterpieces and works of genius that have captivated us for hundreds of years, but they have never captured “infinity,” something that has strata of eternal, transcendent truth. A beauty of the Scripture’s truth then is its practical engaging of our minds interwoven with the infinite mystery of how he exchanges our “heart of stone” for a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

The truth of His Word has been expounded and explained for thousands of years, yet it stands un-exhausted.

Author A.W. Pink described that “the most familiar passages will yield as much refreshment at the thousandth perusal as they did at the first. The Bible has been likened to a fountain of living water: the fountain is ever the same, but the water is always fresh.”

Scripture’s infinite and unfathomable nature mirrors its Author, and reveals that Jesus, the Word incarnate, is the source and life of the eternity found in the pages of Scripture. God’s Word will stand forever.

Approach Scripture with a proper sense of awe, but also, the realization that God has made Himself knowable to you.

How far is too far?

Posted: September 17, 2018 in Thoughts on God

“Everything is permissible”- but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 ESV

The church in Corinth was struggling with their newfound freedom in Christ, and with that they were asking a question that Christians have been asking for years “What can I get away with and still call myself a Christian?”

Instead of giving them a nice little list of Christian rules, the Apostle Paul tells them they are not asking the right question. Instead of asking the infamous “How far is too far?” question, Paul challenges them to ask this question instead: “What can I do to benefit others? How can I intentionally seek to help others, even at the risk of some of my freedoms?” It is a totally different question. It is a question that can change our lives.

Ask yourself this question right now: How am I setting up other people to grow in their relationship with Jesus?

That is the heart of what Paul was saying to the Corinthians and it is still applicable to us. Yes, we have a freedom in Christ. Yes, we have the right to eat, drink and be merry. We even have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What would it look like if we were willing to sacrifice those freedoms to benefit others?

It is so profound that Paul uses the word “seek”, because it implies being intentional with your actions. When you played Hide and Seek as a kid and you were the “seeker”, you were very, very intentional at seeking (or else you weren’t very good!).

What can you do today to intentionally seek the good of others? What can you do today to help someone grow closer to Jesus?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV

You know, cell phones that vibrate on silent mode are not really that silent at all. I say this because it happened in church not long ago, a cell phone buzzing away on the pew in front of me. And then the caller left a voicemail. I am sure of it.

I’ll admit it. I am unusually easily distracted and was sucked from listening to that sermon and all my attention was on the cell phone. I thought it was humorous, until I recognized how those little bings and buzzes coming regularly from MY phone distract me even more.

“Bing!” A follow on social media – I click. And click. And click. No more new news, no more new emails, I’m all caught up. A small, five minute distraction…or was it fifteen? How much time have I spent with the Lord today?

So I ask, what gets our focus? “What is seen” or “the invisible God” (Col. 1:15)?

Scriptures teach, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8) so let us seek His counsel above all and let the silly things the world has to offer fall to the wayside.

Lord, help us to avoid the worldly pitfalls that distract us from our faith, and embolden us to daily find intimacy with You.

9/11, How quickly we forget

Posted: September 11, 2018 in Thoughts on God

Hebrews 12:25-29

Seventeen years ago, the United States of America experienced a massive surprise attack by terrorists. Our people were shaken by the realization that the country is not as safe as we once thought.

Of course, it grieved us to learn of the events that occurred and the lives that were tragically lost. But at the same time, the horrible situation led to some positive outcomes. For example, our nation unified and people served with courage and selflessness.

One of the biggest benefits, I believe, was that many of us realized our great dependence upon God. Safety in this world is an illusion. Sadly, the peace and blessings we’ve experienced in America have led to much complacency and self-dependence. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our forgetfulness and into reliance upon Jesus Christ.

Just listening to the news these days can rattle our sense of well-being. There is always something unsettling taking place. But as believers, we should look at life from a resurrection perspective. We are children of the living God, not people who seek security only in the natural, secular world. Our hope and refuge is firm: Through Jesus Christ, our relationship with the Lord is eternal. Everything else we possess could be destroyed in a moment.

Worldly circumstances—natural disasters, wars, and assorted turmoil—may have an effect on everyone, but they can’t control the believer’s heart. Let your hope rest in Christ alone. Only by finding security in the arms of almighty God can you endure times of uncertainty.