Archive for the ‘Thoughts on God’ Category

Second Chances

Posted: October 28, 2018 in Thoughts on God

I found the article below about second chances, and felt the need to share it. Enjoy, and have an amazing Sunday.

 

We should rejoice in the fact that we serve a God of multiple chances. One thing that is true for everyone is that we’ve all failed God. We have all fallen short. God is not obligated to forgive us.

25 Important Bible Verses About Second Chances

In fact, He shouldn’t forgive us because of how short we fall compared to His perfect holiness. Out of His grace and mercy He has sent His perfect Son as the propitiation for our sins.

When is the last time that you thanked God for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Every day that you wake up is another chance graciously given to you through the pain, the suffering, and the powerful blood of Christ!

Quotes about second chances 

  • “[When it comes to God] We can’t run out of second chances…only time.”
  • “Every moment of your life is a second chance.”
  • “I was born again and feel as if [God] has granted me a second chance in life.”
  • “If God gave you a second chance…don’t waste it.”
  • “You’ve never gone too far that God can’t redeem you, restore you, forgive you, and give you a second chance.”

Jonah is given a second chance

We all remember the story of Jonah. Jonah tried to run from God’s will. We try to do this as well when we desire our will over God’s will. Jonah ran. He backslid. God could have let Jonah go his own way, but He loved Jonah too much to allow him to remain on the wrong path. It’s so awesome that God loves us so much and desires to use us. He doesn’t need us, which makes His love even greater.

God went out of His way and caused a storm to get His child back. Jonah was eventually thrown overboard and swallowed by a huge fish. From inside the fish Jonah repented. By God’s command, the fish spit Jonah out. At this moment, God could have just forgiven Jonah and that could have been the end of the story. However, this is obviously not what happened. God gave Jonah another opportunity to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. This time Jonah obeyed the Lord.

1. Jonah 1:1-4 “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”

2. Jonah 2:1-9 “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.”

3. Jonah 3:1-4 “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. 4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Samson is given a second chance

Sometimes we are given second chances, but we have to live with the consequences of our previous failures. We see this in the story of Samson. Samson’s life was filled with second chances. Although he was greatly used by God, Samson was flawed as we all are. The sin of Samson that we all point to is when he told Delilah that his hair was the secret to his strength, which she later used to betray Samson.

Eventually Samson’s hair was cut while he was sleeping and for the first time he became powerless to the Philistines. Samson was subdued, shackled, and his eyes were gouged out. Samson found himself in a place that he has never been before. While the Philistines were celebrating Samson prayed to God. He said, “Please, God, strengthen me just once more.” Samson was basically saying, “work through me again. Give me a second chance to do your will.” Samson wasn’t trying to get out of his situation. He just wanted to walk with the Lord.

In Judges 16 verse 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” God in His mercy answered Samson. Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood and he pushed upon them. The temple came down and Samson killed more Philistines than he did in his death than he did when he was alive. God accomplished His will through Samson. Notice that by his death Samson overcame his enemies. We overcome worldliness and sin by dying to self. Mark 8:35 “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

4. Judges 16:17-20 “So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” 18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. 20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you! He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”

5. Judges 16:28-30 “Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”

When we are given another chance

I’ve noticed that we are sometimes put in similar situations. I am not saying that God puts us in temptation. What I am saying is this, we are given opportunities to bear fruit in an area we have failed in before. There have been situations in my life where I feel like I failed. However, down the line I’ve been put into similar situations. Although I might have failed the first time, the second time I bore better fruit showing maturity in Christ."Every moment of your life is a second chance."

Second chances reveal a God who is sanctifying us and conforming us into the image of Christ. He loves us too much to allow us to remain infants in Christ. He is faithful to mold you and build you up. The question is, are you growing?

There are so many great saints who failed the Lord in the Bible, but they got back up. When you sin, use that as an opportunity to grow in the Lord. Pray for God to conform you into the image of Christ. You might be put in the same situation down the line. Just like Jonah, you are going to be given a choice. Obey or disobey!

6. Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

7. Matthew 3:8 “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

8. 1 Peter 2:1-3 “So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

9. Colossians 3:10 “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Second chances are not a license to sin 

Real Christians struggle with sin. Sometimes you might fail more than 3 times. However, do you remain down? If you’re using God’s grace as an excuse to indulge in a sinful lifestyle that is remaining down. Evidence that you have truly put your trust in Christ for salvation is that you will have new desires for Christ and His Word. Once again, some believers struggle more than others, but there is a desire to be more and there is a fight.

A true believer should see more and more progress against sin. Over the years there should be growth in your walk with Christ. We will never be able to comprehend God’s love. His love is too deep. If you are a Christian, then you have been forgiven by the blood of Christ! Do not live in condemnation. His blood covers all of your sins past, present, and future. You are free! Run to Christ and enjoy Him, but what you should never do, is take advantage of His love.

10. Proverbs 24:16 “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again, but the wicked stumble into calamity.”

11. 1 John 1:5-9 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[a] sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

12. 1 John 2:1 “My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One.”

13. Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

14. 1 John 3:8-9 “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

Salvation is a second chance from the Lord. 

Before Christ I was broken and living in sin. I was hopeless and on my way to hell. Christ gave me hope and He gave me a purpose. As I was reading the Book of 1 Kings I realized how patient God is. King after king did evil in the sight of the Lord. Why did God put up with continuous evil? Why does God put up with continuous evil now?

He is holy. There is a huge gap between God and man. It is incomprehensible how holy God truly is. In spite of all the evil that’s going on He came down in the form of man for people who wanted nothing to do with Him. He walked among us. God was spit on and beaten! His bones were broken. He bled in an unfathomable way. At any moment He could have called down an army of angels to destroy everything!

Don’t you get it? Jesus died for you and me when we wanted nothing to do with Him. We were in sin when Jesus said, “Fatherforgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” In spite of our evil, Jesus died, was buried, and resurrected for our sins. Through His atonement on the cross we were given a second chance. He took away our sin and now we can begin to experience Him.

God has given us the right to become His children. We deserve nothing, but He’s given us everything. He has given us life. Before this all we knew was death. Why is God so patient? God is patient with us because God (so) loved us. Don’t reject the gospel. Put your trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

15. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

16. Romans 2:4 “Or do you disregard the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?”

17. Micah 7:18 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”

18. John 3:16-17 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Giving others a second chance

Just as God is patient and forgiving, we are to be patient and forgiving as well. Sometimes forgiving is hard, but we have to understand that we have been forgiven much. Why can’t we forgive for small issues compared to the forgiveness that God bestowed upon us? When we pour out grace upon others we are becoming like the God that we worship.

Forgiveness does not mean the relationship is going to be the same. We should do all we can to seek reconciliation. We should forgive people, but sometimes the relationship should end especially if the person willfully keeps sinning against you.

For example, if you have a boyfriend who keeps cheating on you, this is not a healthy relationship that you should remain in. We should use godly discernment. This is something that we should diligently pray to the Lord about.

19. Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

20. Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

21. Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

22. Matthew 18:17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

One day there will be no second chances for you.

There are people in hell who pray to God, but their prayers are never answered. There are people in hell who ask for water to quench their thirst, but their request always falls short. There is no hope for those in hell nor will there ever be hope. There is no way out because there are no exits.When it comes to God] We can't run out of second chances

Most people in hell thought that they would get right with God. They never thought that they would hear the words, “GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!” If you reject Christ He will reject you. Get right with God. Repent and put your trust in Christ alone for salvation. You don’t want to die without truly knowing the Lord.

23. Hebrews 9:27 “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

24. Hebrews 10:27 “but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume all adversaries.”

25. Luke 13:25-27 “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.” Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”

The currency of love

Posted: October 27, 2018 in Thoughts on God

In Jesus, God came as a poor man, lived as a poor man, and died as a poor man. He is good news to the poor. And as such, Jesus cared deeply about the impoverished.

Being What We Believe

What we do with our beliefs is as important to Jesus as what we believe. Jesus is about complete commitment to loving him and others. Jesus loves belief-filled actions, as his saying to a wealthy young man shows: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV). The man walks away sorrowful. Jesus then says his famous:

“Truly I say to you that with difficulty a rich person will enter into the kingdom of heaven! And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

Jesus’ disciples then ask, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looks at them and says: “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (>Matthew 19:25-26). Jesus is not suggesting it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, or be saved—He is saying it is only possible with God. And for God to enter a person’s life they must be open to Him entering.

Many of us are just like the rich young man. Out of one side of our mouth we speak allegiance to Jesus, but out of the other side we’re speaking allegiance to the trappings of wealth. I know, because the rich young man asks the same questions I would ask. Look at the events that prompted Jesus to make his statement about the wealthy:

“And behold, someone [the rich young man] came up to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do so that I will have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why are you asking me about what is good? There is one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments!’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘Do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed. What do I still lack?’” (Matthew 19:16-21).

Jesus is clearly frustrated and perhaps even offended: “Why are you asking me about what is good?” The man is asking the wrong question. He doesn’t ask how he can follow Jesus, or what it means to be a disciple—or what good thing he can do for the world on behalf of a good God. He asks, “What must I do so that I will have eternal life?” If we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t that the question many of us are asking God today? Jesus is unsatisfied with that question.

Eternal life (salvation) is God’s great gift, but it’s meant to be a gift that prompts action. It is meant to give us purpose.

When I was confronted with the reality of the story of the rich young man, I again asked another question that he asks: “Which [commandments]?” Jesus cites to the man all the relational Ten Commandments, and in doing so, basically implies, “All of them.” The man tells Jesus he has observed these and then asks, “What do I lack?” It is this question that gets to the root of the issue. Jesus tells the man that he lacks self-sacrifice for others—he lacks giving to the extent that it is painful to him. He lacks an ability to put aside his wealth for the sake of the gospel. Wealth is meant to bless others—plain and simple (see Genesis 12:1-3 for an example). It is not for hording, and it will—if not given up, when God prompts you—keep you from fully experiencing the blessings of God.

But do not fear, fret, or worry—instead, pray. Remember: “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

What Jesus Would Say to Us Today

Put simply, when we apply Jesus’ sayings today, they look like withdrawing from any relationship, occupation, event, or thing that stands between you and following Jesus—permitted that you can do so while still honoring the commandments Jesus tells the rich young man to keep: “Do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:18-19).

Jesus has called us to join him in His work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.

Jesus’ Currency and “Owning” the Problems of Poverty

The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice and His currency love. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other.

The more I reflect on the problem of poverty—and what Jesus had to say about it—the more I realize that we own the problems of the impoverished as much as they do. Our inactions have created many of them. We—all of us—are at fault for the state of our world. But we can also join Jesus in changing the state of our world.

If Jesus believed that belief is about action, why don’t we? Why have we not dedicated ourselves to bringing true discipleship and love to others, when it’s what Christ told us to do? What good is belief without it offering true hope?

God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for Him—what is He calling you to drop for Him? This is Jesus’ view of the economy. He envisions what the world could look like and calls us to join God in the process of making that vision a reality. It’s about exchanging the currencies of this world for the currency of love.

Would you believe there are some secular sayings that sound so religious people often believe they came from the Bible?
These pieces of presumed Christian “wisdom” can sound biblical on the surface, but a closer look at Scripture will show you that some of them are actually far from the truth of God’s Word.
Here are five sayings that are NOT a part of Scripture:
1. God helps those who help themselves. 
I’m sure you’ve heard it and possibly even said it to encourage someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get it done. But this verse is not in the Bible. And its premise is not true. To the contrary, God helps those who admit they can’t help themselves.
Scripture is loaded with examples of God calling weak, humble people who would have been inadequate for the Lord’s work without His enabling strength. Scripture says that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. And Paul states “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV).
Furthermore, James 4:10 tells us “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” If God helped those who helped themselves, that verse would read: “Show yourself capable and God will come along and help.” Many times those of us who believe we can help ourselves don’t feel we need God and therefore, we don’t rely on Him. God wants us to admit we’re helpless so we can start depending on His strength to get us through situations. That is faith.
2. God won’t give you more than you can handle. 
I think we’ve all said this at one time or another, primarily to comfort another believer or even an unbeliever who is struggling with something or fearful that something bad might happen. But this verse does not exist. And this statement doesn’t hold true. God will often give us more than we can handle so that we will depend on Him to carry the burden for us.
Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV), and Matthew 11:28-30 tells us to come to Him when we are weary and take His yoke upon us so we can bear a load that is too heavy to lift ourselves.
I believe we get the idea that God won’t give us more than we can bear from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which tells us “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” That verse tells us God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist. But He will allow us to struggle beyond our capacity in other aspects of life so we understand what it means to surrender and allow Him to carry the burden for us.
3. We are all God’s children. 
Here’s another one that sounds true.  And although God is the Creator of all, He is not the father of all. Romans 8:9 clearly tells us “if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” 
Jesus said those who are apart from Him are children of Satan, the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and Romans 8:15 tells us when we receive God’s spirit we have received “a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” God adopts us through our surrender to Christ Jesus. Therefore, a more accurate saying is: We are all God’s creation, but we are not all God’s children.
4. The sinner’s prayer. 
As I was discipling a young believer, I asked her if she had ever said “the sinner’s prayer.” She read it in the discipleship material we had in front of us and then asked me where it was found in the Bible. “Well, it’s not. It’s implied,” I said.
This is a tough one for us because we want to point to something in the Bible that someone needs to actually say in order to be saved. However, Romans 10:9-10 says “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” No wordy prayer involving the words “repent” or “confess” or asking Jesus to “come into our hearts” exists in Scripture.
What we do find, however, are short heartfelt cries for God’s mercy, including: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), and “Lord, I believe” (John 9:38).
5. God works in mysterious ways. 
This might be one of the most quoted sayings of all time when it comes to God.  The only problem is that it isn’t a verse in the Bible. Yes, God does work in ways we don’t understand, but this saying is most likely a simplified paraphrasing of two verses.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 says,“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” And Jeremiah 33:3 reads, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” In this case, it’s not that this saying is wrong, it’s simply not in the Bible.

I’ve never heard anyone say they wish for fewer, less-meaningful relationships. Each one of us longs to be more connected, more deeply, with friends. And this is because God made us for true friendship.

What does the Bible say about friendship? Perhaps more than we may have thought. The theme of friendship weaves through the whole storyline of Scripture, climaxing at the cross of Jesus Christ and stretching out ahead into an eternal future of true friendship. It also gives us the practical wisdom we need to cultivate it well.

Here are ten insights from the Bible to help us recover true friendship.

1. The first problem in the world was not sin but solitude.

At each step of the way when God created the world, he pronounced that everything was “good.” But then once he created Adam, a statement startles us: something is not good. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). This was before the fall — before sin had entered the world. Adam was not yet complete; he needed community.

What does this show us? Although our deepest problems are sin and idolatry, our first problem was social isolation. Therefore, even today, in a world filled with society, Proverbs warns that the one who “isolates himself. . . breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1).

2. Friendship is a whole-Bible theme.

The Bible tells the story of the creation, fracturing, and ultimate restoration of true friendship—friendship with God and also with each other. In the beginning, Adam and Eve enjoyed the fullness of friendship. But their sin led them into hiding (Gen. 3:8), and we’ve been hiding behind our own fig-leaf masks ever since.

Yet God is restoring true friendship. He restores friendship with himself, as he did with Enoch and Noah, who “walked with God”—a Hebrew expression of friendship (Gen. 5:24Gen. 6:9). Abraham was called “a friend of God” (Isaiah 41:8). Moses spoke with God “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex. 33:11). He drew near to all who called upon him with true faith.

And then Jesus came as the great Friend of sinners, befriending all who trust and follow him. He came to lay his life down for his friends (John 15:13-15).

Now all those befriended by God are brought into communities of friendships in the church. We can now befriend others as God in Christ has befriended us.

3. Proverbs is a practical guide to forging true friendship.

Proverbs gives us wisdom for navigating the complexities of our relationships. And it doesn’t just address relationships in general, but also friendship in particular. For example, it teaches us what to look for in finding true friends (Prov. 13:20Prov 22:24-25). It shows us why loyalty is so important for cultivating friendship (18:24; 19:6; 27:9–10). It also shows us the one thing that is most damaging to this kind of relationship: spreading secrets (16:28; 17:9).

4. True friendship is more like a covenant than a contract.

We often treat relationships as consumers: we befriend for the benefits we receive. But like a contract, when the relationship doesn’t give us the goods we want, we leave.

But the Bible shows us that real friendship is more covenantal than contractual. Proverbs teaches us about “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). It commands us, “Do not forsake your friend” (27:10). It warns us about the fickleness of fair-weather friends: “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend” (19:4).

5. Friendship thickens church community.

Studies show our culture’s increasing social isolation. We are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic.

But what if local churches felt like countercultural communities of spiritual life and love? Every church is equipped with all the resources needed to be a community of thick relationships. This is our heritage, after all: The book of Acts portrays the church as fulfilling ancient ideals of friendship (Acts 2:42-47Acts 4:32­-35). The apostle John refers to fellow believers in churches as his “friends” (3 John 15). Every local church can be a surprising and welcoming counter-cultural glimpse of true friendship.

6. Friendship is the goal of the gospel.

Christians rightly think about salvation as forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But it is more than this. Jesus gives all who trust him the privilege of being his friends (John 15:14–15). And what is eternal life, after all? According to Jesus, “this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He rescued us to forge an intimate relationship with the triune God (14:20–23). God forgives us that we might share in his triune fellowship of love forever.

In the new creation we will enjoy true friendship with all other believers. Our future is a world of friendship.

7. The cross is history’s most heroic act of friendship.

Jesus wants us to view the cross in terms of friendship. On the night before he died, as he explained the meaning of the cross to his disciples, Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The cross is certainly an act of substitutionary atonement, where Jesus bore the wrath of God in our place. But it is also, very personally, a relational act of friendship.

Through his death, Jesus expressed the deepest love for his people. He did not die for an unspecified humanity; he died for specific people. He died for those he considered his dear friends.

8. Jesus is our truest friend.

Many Christians hesitate to call Jesus a friend. But Jesus doesn’t share our hesitations. And it matters to him that we embrace this. He invites us to understand our relationship on terms of friendship (John 15:12-17). We may need to exchange an either-or false dichotomy—“Jesus is our King, not our friend!”—for the biblical both-and: Jesus is our glorious king and our greatest friend.

9. Friendship shows the world that we belong to Jesus.

When this lonely world of broken relationships sees churches filled with friendships—imperfect friendships, to be sure, but relationships filled with true repentance and forgiveness—then they will know that something has come from above. They will see that our talk of Jesus as the friend of sinners is real.

That’s what Jesus said in John 13:35: “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And later in this same conversation, Jesus defined this “love for one another” in terms of the mutual love of friends. He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (15:12). And how has he loved us? “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). This is how we are to show the world that we are Jesus’ disciples: when we love one another as he loved us, namely, with sacrificial friendship.

10. Friendship––with God and one another––is our greatest joy.

The apostle John wrote to believers for a purpose: “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:3-4). According to John, vertical fellowship with God + horizontal fellowship together = completed joy.

Our greatest joy is found in our fellowship with God and one another. This is why Jonathan Edwards said that friendship is “the highest happiness of moral agents” (Works, 23:350). According to the Bible, our chief happiness is in fellowship with the triune God and all who trust him.

The Bible gives us everything we need to recover a greater vision of true friendship. It shows us even our feeblest of efforts at forging friendships echo a more glorious reality—every friendship is a small and imperfect echo of the triune God, who made us in his image to enjoy friendship forever. Friendship didn’t come from us; it came from God. And he gives us everything we need—through his word and his Spirit—to cultivate it well, for the glory of God.

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.