Christianity 201

May 2, 2018

Extreme Love

While preparing an article for a book industry blog I edit, I came across the name of Pastor Ray Bentley, founder of Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, California. The two devotions which follow are from his blog. Click the titles to read each at source, and then if you have time, navigate to other devotionals posted there.

Extreme Love, Extreme Living

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”— 1 Peter 4:8

Extreme love. Love so great that it makes up for not just a few sins—but a multitude! And you know, we are not forced to live in this extreme stratosphere of love. We are invited.

Jesus initiated extreme love.

First He taught His followers, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15: 13); then He did it.

As He hung on the cross, He had few friends left to witness His suffering.

But He hung there anyway. He died for his friends, and for those who hated Him, who misunderstood His purpose, and who were lost in sin and hardness of heart. “While we were still sinners,” He died for us, so that we can know love. We are invited to experience it, to live it, to demonstrate it in our own lives.

Love is the most potent emotion and power in all of creation.Love motivated Creation, forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life for mankind. Abundant love, when accepted gratefully, gives us abundant lives, full of purpose, meaning, sacrifice, and ultimate love.

Hebrews chapter eleven is a partial list of daring individuals who chose to live in extreme love. They are as varied a group of people as you will ever encounter, and they laid the foundation for our faith.  

They were judges and farmers, rulers and prostitutes, prophets, and parents.

They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, escaped the edge of the sword; their weaknesses were turned to strength; they fought battles, and saw their dead raised to life.

Some were tortured, some faced jeers and flogging, others were chained in prison.

They were stoned; they were tortured; they were put to death by the sword.

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. They lived in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

They were commended for their faith…and God declared that the world was not worthy of them.

Now that’s extreme living.

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” —Amy Carmichael


Love Experienced

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” —1 John 4:8

The apostle John simplified everything when he stated, “God is love.”

But we can misunderstand that love. You might regard your relationship with God as an invitation you once answered when He knocked on the door of your life and you let Him in. Now you’re a Christian. Simple.

But don’t let that be enough. We’re not supposed to just start going to church, put a Bible on the coffee table, and figure, OK, took care of that. I’m right with God.

That’s not love experienced!

A life that knows true love is filled with a multitude of invitations, because of the nature of love. Love is a living relationship that never remains exactly the same, but grows deeper, more intimate, more secure. We can never get enough of it, and we will never come to the end of it, because God Himself, the Author of love, is infinite and His love knows no limits.

Every day, in a variety of ways, the Lord comes knocking on the door of your heart. Through circumstances, people, new opportunities, a change of venue, the beauty of nature, and sometimes heartache and tragedy—God gives us the chance to experience and live with His love in a new way, everyday.

Don’t miss your daily invitation to grow deeper in God’s love.

Seek Him in His Word.

Look for Him in the faces of the people around you.

Accept the hard things, as part of what makes you a deeper, more compassionate person.

Give the love God gives to you away freely, abundantly, wisely, and with a grateful heart.

November 29, 2014

The Dash of Life

This appeared on The Journey, the blog of Jim Williams. Click the title to read at source. Either way, be sure to click the link contained in the article to read the poem the article refers to.

The Dash of Life

We are born. We live. We die.

We each have an individual journey to travel. The journey we are on is personal and along the way we support and encourage others.

It is the journey between birth and death; the experience of life on earth.

The poem written by Linda Ellis called The Dash carries a very sobering message. (you can click on the link to read)

We can dash through life without passion or purpose. Or we can journey through life by faith with passion and purpose.

When you die, there will be two dates on your tombstone, the day you were born and the day you died; but the little dash between them is what’s really going to matter, that’s your life!

We can meander through life without rhyme or reason; result unknown. Or we can journey by faith with God’s direction; eternal destination secure.

The Bible calls this journey a race of faith.

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV)

This passage gives some principles to consider on this journey:

1) Look to those who have journeyed well.

The author is specifically referring back to what he just wrote in chapter 11. Chapter 11 is full of faith filled life stories of those who have successfully finished their journeys of faith.

We can look to Abraham, Moses, Rahab and many others who journeyed ‘by faith’.

God gave us these life records as ‘witnesses’ to help us along the way.

The stories of these people, and so many more, are recorded for our benefit. God Himself has preserved the accounts so that we could benefit from their testimony and learn from their experiences. We have a tremendous resource in the written word of scripture.

2) Lay ‘aside every weight.’

Athletic runners, who are serious about their sport, consider everything about their attire including their clothing and shoes. It is important that they carry as little weight as possible to maximize their performance.

It would be ridiculous for a runner to strap on a 20 LB weight and expect to run at their best. But so many of us carry extra baggage without expecting that weight to hinder us. We try to run this race of faith while we carry heavy weights of financial debt, bitterness or fear. We try to walk the journey of faith while we carry in our back pockets the failures of our past and the unfair expectation of others. We insist on holding worry as a badge of honour and pride as a coat of arms without expecting it to affect us. We carry burdens that we ought not carry and they hinder us in our journey.

Folks, It is important to chuck the weight of these kinds of things so that we can journey with passion and purpose.

Jesus said,

‘Come to me you who are weary and heavily burdened. I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28-30)

What is He saying?

‘Let’s do a trade. You give me your heavy burden and I will give you a light one, easy to bear.’

Now, doesn’t that sound good?

3) Avoid the snare of sin.

A snare is an interesting trap of a hunter. For it to be effective the prey should not realize the danger until it is too late.

Sin is exactly like this. Sin seems ok, harmless and even attractive.

The truth is sin ensnares, entangles, destroys and kills.

One of the problems with sin is that it is so enticing.

Eve discovered this in the garden of Eden. The Bible says that Adam and Eve were in the garden enjoying the blessings of God. God told them not to eat of the fruit of one tree. When the serpent tempted Eve to take of the fruit and eat of it the scripture says that it was seemed good to eat & pleasant to the eye. She ate of it and then enticed her husband to eat of it as well. Everything seemed ok until the trap was sprung. The sin seemed pleasant to eye until it ensnared them and they lost everything. (Genesis 3)

Sin is like that. Sin ensnares. Sin entangles. Sin destroys. Sin kills.

Gossip seems harmless. Talking about people, spreading rumour and slander seems like fun until it is done about you. Remember that those who will gossip with you will gossip about you. Gossip ensnares and destroys lives.

Drinking to excess seems ok. Everyone is doing it and it can be a lot of fun, right? It seems this way but truthfully, it ensnares and destroys. These verses in Proverbs 23 speak about its enticing nature. It says that although it goes down smoothly it bites like a poisonous viper. It can lead to poverty, mockery and violence.

Pornography is attractive and harmless right? NO. It may seem enticing but it can lead to impotency, destroy marriages & families. It debases the dignity of women, empowers human traffickers and objectifies people. It’s a perversion of what God meant to be a blessing in the confines of marriage.

We have all been ensnared by sin; everyone.

The good news is that Christ can set us free and empower us to lay it aside.

4) Don’t quit.

The Hebrews author writes, ‘let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.’

This is an important point. Never give up! We ought never to quit. We ought not to give up.

There is an old saying that goes like this: ‘Quitters never win and Winners never quit.’

It doesn’t matter if you have failed. We all have. Get up and don’t quit.

One person said, “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from winning a touchdown.”

You may get tripped up … get up and keep moving toward the finish line.

Life may throw you a curve ball … God isn’t surprised. Trust Him, don’t quit and keep moving toward the goal.

Our greatest example is Jesus. He had a specific race to run and he ran it perfectly. He had a certain journey to finish and he successfully did.

We can encourage ourselves with the testimony of the ancients but especially with the story of Christ’s work.

He is the author and the finisher of our journey of faith.

He endured the cross on our behalf. He despised the shame in order to save us. He ran His race and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

He is our great example. And He, I will follow!

So, we have a journey still before us.

Our birthdate is known but our death date isn’t.

The dash in between is the journey we are experiencing.

What are we going to do with this dash of life?

March 30, 2014

They Did Not See, And Yet Believed

Hebrews 11 39

 

This morning I was struck by the verse that appears at the end of Hebrews 11, the passage sometimes referred to as “God’s Hall of Faith” or “God’s Gallery of Faith.”  After the long list of names,

 
Heb. 11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised

The Reformation Study Bible highlights a progression of thought that is also running through Hebrews 11 that might get overlooked in the list of people. Here are the verses, with the notes:

 

8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abraham’s faith regarding the promise of a homeland was demonstrated: (a) when he obeyed God’s voice, leaving Ur for a future inheritance, the location of which he did not know (v. 8); (b) when he lived as a stranger in the land promised to him (vv. 9, 13); and (c) when he looked beyond Canaan to a lasting, heavenly country and city, designed and built by God Himself (vv. 10, 14–16; 13:14).

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

The inheritance on which the patriarchs’ faith was fixed was invisible for two reasons: it was heavenly, not earthly; and future, not present.

33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,

That is, they saw answers to particular promises along the way. For the promise of Christ’s coming they still waited in faith (v. 39). The promises made to Abraham were partly fulfilled in this world, as his descendants multiplied (v. 12) and lived in the Promised Land (vv. 9, 33). But to the extent that these promises referred to the heavenly reality, “his rest” (4:10), they could not be fulfilled until Christ came.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised

Although some Old Testament promises were fulfilled, their true hope (the promise of the coming Messiah) was yet to come.

The passage then goes on,

40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

This verse asserts both the redemptive-historical difference between the Old Testament and New Testament periods, and the unity of the people of God in both eras. Though the Old Testament believers lived by faith (10:38), they were not privileged to witness on earth the fulfillment of the great promise of God. Nevertheless, they too participate in the benefits of Christ’s high-priestly work, and, along with new covenant saints, they are “made perfect.” Those of the old and new eras together await the perfection that will appear only at the Second Coming (12:26; 13:14; Rom. 8:18; Eph. 1:9, 10).

This latter note is more than just on these verses or this chapter; it really summarizes a lot of the mega-theme in all of the book of Hebrews.

Go Deeper: From the website Berith Road:

In the plan of God, “God foresaw something better for us” (Heb 11:40), i.e., God had in mind that the full realization of his promise of blessing and life would be experienced by us, the new covenant believers. Hebrews 11:40 acknowledges that God’s plan of salvation is worked out in stages that lead to an eschatological climax. Believers under the old covenant by definition could not receive the fullness of blessing and salvation, because the fullness of blessing and salvation is something that was going to be achieved as part of the new covenant. It is for this reason that the ancient heroes of faith did not receive in full the promise of eternal life in their lifetime, “lest they be perfected without us” (Heb 11:40).

Through faith, and ultimately by way of resurrection, old covenant believers and new covenant believers alike will experience together the reward of faith, the fullness of the blessing of eternal life.

Today’s graphic is from the website Re-Ver(Sing) Verses; which also has a study on this passage, concluding:

Have you ever wondered why only the Biblical Characters from the Old Testament were mentioned? By the time the book of Hebrews was written, there would have been many many New Testament characters whose faith would have made them a convincing entry into the Hall of Faith. People like Stephen – immense, immense faith, seriously. Apostles like Paul, Peter, John, James – though most of them were probably not dead yet; and what about Christ? How can you leave Christ out of a Hall of Faith? That doesn’t quite make sense, does it? I believe that Hebrews 11:39 explains this for us. This Hall of Faith was inducted for those whose faith is commended despite them not receiving the promise of the Messiah. They lived out the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 – being sure of what they hope for and certain of what they did not see.

Even today, there’s no guarantee that our faith will result in earthly rewards that we can see in our lifetime. Our faithful perseverance may only result in unending misery. Our faith may cost us our lives. But even so, even if we will not receive our deliverance, and even if we do not see the second coming of Jesus, the examples of the ancients who were inducted into the Hall of Faith show us that this faith is worth every effort.

It doesn’t matter if at the end of the day, our faith results in nothing earthly. Our assets are in heaven.

 

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)

all other quotations NIV