This Love Won’t Let You Down

This is the final post in the series “God’s Love is the Greatest Love.” To read the previous post, click here.

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For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.

~ Psalm 55.12-14, ESV

Next to grief, betrayal is the most lingering pain.

Some betrayals—like adultery—stagger us in their severity. Others are “microbetrayals,” slowly poisoning a relationship until it is beyond healing.

We are a faithless society. The sense of duty has been drummed out of our collective conscious in favor of passion. Passion is fickle by nature. If we love only when we feel like loving, or act only when we feel like acting, then our relationships will never have any staying power. This is why divorce is rampant, patriotism is passé, and “organized religion” is repugnant. If we tie ourselves down too deeply, we will feel the pain too profoundly.

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The Greatness of Sacrificial Love.

This is part 3 of the series “God’s love is the Greatest Love.” For the previous post, click here.

 

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We mortals make much ado about our sacrifices in the name of love. I’ve heard countless people say they would take a bullet for Jesus or their family. On the other hand, they don’t want to give up Sunday sports to go to worship or put down  their iPhone to have a meaningful conversation with their kids or spend a little less on themselves to help a brother in need.They say they would give up their life, but they are unwilling to make even small sacrifices for others. They would die for others, but not necessarily live for others. Real love does both.

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How do I Achieve Peace AND Be Holy?

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Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12.14, ESV

Peace is an elusive, hard-won, state of affairs.

One party may feel at peace while another is ramping up efforts to overturn it. World leaders made flowery overtures about how they longed for lasting peace after World War I. Unfortunately, their desire to humiliate the Germans via reparations payments simply set the stage for another world war.

These past several years have been anything but peaceful, and the past few weeks have been downright nuts. I don’t care where you stand politically—both sides are behaving like sugar-hyped, bickering siblings. Continue reading

The truth in the music.

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Over the weekend as I was whirring around like a tornado cleaning the house, the kids asked to listen to Christmas music. I suppose it really is that time of the year…

I didn’t feel like fussing with CDs so I pulled up my Amazon Music app and selected the first Christmas station that looked promising. The crooning of Michael Buble, the tinny Feliz Navidad, the rocking Brian Setzer renditions, and the bouncy Christmas oldies rang through the house one jingle bell after another. I skipped “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” because it’s one of The Most Hated Songs in My Ears (I have no idea why that song irritates me so much). While my arms were covered in soap, the song, “Mary, did you know?” came on, performed by the a cappella group Pentatonix. My little girl wanted to skip it because it sounded too slow and she wanted peppy songs. I asked her to pause and listen to this one, partly because I hadn’t heard this version and was curious.

If you are unfamiliar with this song, please take a moment to read and digest the lyrics:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM.

(Written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry)

Obviously, Mary couldn’t possibly have known all the amazing things Jesus would accomplish in His lifetime. We know that she was told He was the Son of God. Luke 1:35 records the angel’s words to Mary: “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” She knew who Jesus was, but could she comprehend the magnitude? I don’t think so. Truth be told, none of us can wrap our heads around all the the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Mary, we are told, treasured the wondrous acts she observed in her heart (Luke 2:19). There is a lesson in that for us. Do we treasure God’s wondrous deeds within our hearts? Do we marvel over each one as a precious gift or do we treat them as commonplace? Each time God answers our prayers, do we lift our souls in rapturous praise or do we shrug a thanks?

The striking lesson in this simple song is not, “what did Mary know?”. The lesson lies in this: Jesus will never cease to fill us with wonder. The Son of God, through whom the world was created, was willing to live on this earth in poverty, suffer disdain, and bear the torturous death on a cross so that we could be delivered from God’s much-deserved wrath.

These amazing realities in the gospels should stir our hearts with joy and conviction with each and every read.

 

Jesus astounded all who came in contact with Him. It wasn’t his dashing good looks or his phenomenal charisma, for as Isaiah tells us, “he had no form or comeliness that we might desire Him.” It was not pomp and circumstance for He was an impoverished itinerant. What drew people to Jesus was the depth of His compassion, His quiet authority, His defiance of natural laws, and above all, seeing the very nature and essence God dwelling among man. Most men would allow their fame to go to their head, but Jesus made it clear time after time after time that He was no “mere man.”

I wish I could have followed Jesus on those dusty Judean roads—to see the deep love in His eyes, to gaze in wonder at His mercy, to hear His calm voice over the roar of the storm. And yet Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Through Jesus, God has done more than our finite minds can grasp. Through Jesus, we will be granted “scenes of bliss forever new” as the old hymn says. Through Jesus, we will never cease to be filled with wonder at the glorious greatness of the I AM.

Who knows what Mary knew? It doesn’t really matter.

What this song should convey to us is the awe we should feel in the presence of God and bring to our remembrance the hopeful expectation of the joy—forever new and forever wondrous—awaiting us in eternity.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him…”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV

The Trouble with Comparing Pain.

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The heart knows it’s own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy

Proverbs 14.10, ESV

 

Over a month ago, I read some comments on a Facebook post discussing the damaging effects of vaccines. As is common with all vaccine-related discussions, the comments were awash with both sides of the debate. There is always someone bashing “anti-vaxxers” as being anti-science/stupid/ignorant/hateful/child-abusers/fill-in-the-blank-with-an-insult. One comment read, “I would rather live with a child that has autism than to have my child die of whooping cough.”

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Do people see Jesus in your life?

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

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The next three posts in this series are going to address the second in ‘E’ in Raising Gen-Next Christians: Exemplify: Demonstrating how a Christian ought to live. Before launching into the mechanics of how to be an example to our children, new Christians and other believers, we need to address who our example ought to be.

Several years ago, there was a commercial on TV in which a young boy was following his father everywhere and attempting to imitate him in every way. Continue reading

Run with Endurance (day 7 of #encourage marathon)

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s Day 7 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! One week down! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there is running sluggishly, ready to give up. It might even be you.

The first three verses of Hebrews 12 is a continuation of Hebrews 11, which listed some of those whom I affectionately call the “heroes of faith.” They are witnesses of the power of faith, obedience and endurance. A form of the word ‘endure’ is used 3 times in the first 3 verses of this text. Repetition of a word is a literary device used to emphasize a concept. The author is saying, in effect, “don’t be sluggish, don’t get tired—ENDURE.”

The Hebrew writer encourages us to do three things in this passage to successfully run our race:

Ditch the baggage.

Would you run farther with a heavy backpack or without? Would you run faster with extra weight or without?

While carrying weight for training can increase your strength, it will also wear you out more rapidly. I’m not really a marathon watcher, but I believe that the most I’ve seen those runners carrying are a bottle of water and maybe a phone. Sometimes they have a small fanny pack or belt to hold water/food/etcetera. The water keeps them hydrated, the phone gives them music to keep their mind off the pain. Beyond that, they’re dressed lightly and carrying nothing else. Why? So they can endure to the end of the race. Every additional weight is a liability.

Run your race with God in the same way. Get rid of the sin that wants to hang on. Detach yourself from the physical allurements of life. If we keep trying to take it all with us, we won’t make it.

Endure.

Take time to read Hebrews 11 and take note of who is named:

  • Enoch – walked with God for 300 years (Genesis 5.22-24). It’s hard enough for most of us to do 30-60 years!
  • Noah – built the ark, preached for 100 years.
  • Moses – put up with the Israelites for God’s sake.
  • Joseph – taken as a slave, thrown in prison and still served faithfully
  • Abraham – left everything He knew based on Gods promises and waited two decades to see the promise of offspring.

Also notice how/what they endured in verses 33-38:

  • stopped the mouths of lions (Daniel)
  • quenched the power of fire (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego)
  • escaped the edge of the sword
  • made strong out of weakness
  • put foreign armies to flight (Gideon, David)
  • tortured
  • mocking
  • flogging
  • chains
  • imprisonment
  • stoned
  • sawn in two
  • killed with the sword
  • Went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated… wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (most of the prophets including John the Baptist)

Look at the example.

Jesus is the ultimate example of endurance. The passage says, “[Jesus] for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” I posted about joy being a good motivator on day 4. Jesus knew that there was coming joy, and for it and for us he endured.

Many who teach and speak about acquiring wealth or achieving success often say that the best way to succeed (in whatever goal you pursue) is to read about, listen to, and/or observe those who have succeeded. These examples are not just motivators, but demonstrators. You see how they achieved success and you are thereby able to emulate their behaviors and choices in the hopes that you also will succeed.

Our goal is heaven (and to bring as many with us as possible). Since Jesus achieved His aims with glorious success, He is the ultimate example. Many of the “heroes” listed above were good examples, but they had their shortcomings. Jesus showed neither foible nor failure. He lived life flawlessly. In our race, let’s commit his example to our mind as we run so that we do not grow weary.

Don’t slouch your way through this race. Run it with endurance. And while you’re running, encourage others to do likewise.


I hope you’ll continue to join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share this verse on your Twitter feed or Facebook page (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

I’m a little behind on my passage-copying, but I have some time set aside this afternoon to get caught up. I cannot encourage you enough to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading.

[If you click on the link in the above passage, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a share link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

Do not lose heart (Day 2 of #encourage marathon)

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So we do not lose heart.

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s Day 2 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there is losing heart. (It might even be you!)

The expression “lose heart” describes a state of failing desire or expectation. When a person no longer desires to put forth the effort and/or does not expect their effort to be profitable they will give up. Their “heart” just isn’t in it anymore. This can happen from fatigue, persistent challenges, or illness.

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Not destroyed. (Day 1 of the #encourage marathon)

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It’s Day 1 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon!

Someone out there is running low on strength, confidence, hope and maybe even faith. (It might even be you!)

This is today’s passage:

We are

afflicted in every way, but not crushed;

perplexed, but not driven to despair;

persecuted, but not forsaken;

struck down, but not destroyed;

always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,

so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 

~ 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-10 ‭ESV‬‬, emphasis mine

The apostle Paul gave everything for Christ and experienced affliction, confusion, persecution, rejection,  and heartache. In spite of all, he endured to the end. His body may have been struck down, but his soul was not destroyed.

You may or may not be experiencing persecution as a Christian. It could be that you’ve lost your home, are grappling with grief from a recent loss, fighting cancer, or caring for a challenging child or ailing family member. No matter what battle you’re fighting, you may reach a point where you want to quit. Don’t do it!

Jesus did not say that our walk would be easy; He said we are to take up His cross and follow Him. The cross is death to self and life in Christ. Every day, we need to die to ourselves. Instead of relying on our own strength, we rely on Christ; instead of serving self, we lay down our wants for another’s need; instead of placing on our trust in our money/wits/talent, we place it in the Lord. In this way, “the life of Jesus [is] manifested in our bodies.”

Running the race is difficult, but the reward is indescribable. Just remember, you only get the prize if you keep going to the end.

I encourage you to press on. Keep on lifting up your need to God in prayer. Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.

I hope you’ll join me on Facebook and Twitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share this verse on your Twitter feed or Facebook page (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

Why are you sleeping?

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Taken by Schuyler Shepherd (Unununium272).

And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

~ Luke‬ ‭22:40-46‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There are so many reasons we need to engage in regular prayer with the Lord. Throughout the gospels, we repeatedly see Jesus taking time to pray alone. What does He pray about? Some prayers are recorded, some are not, but He sets an example for us to go to the Father and lay our hearts before Him.

Here, in the gospel according to Luke, Jesus gives His disciples an immediate command, and He does it twice: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” After the initial command, Jesus also gets down and prays. He leads by example.

He gets up from His prayer and walks over to His disciples. They are so overcome with sadness that they had fallen asleep. It’s possible they fell asleep while they were praying (has that ever happened to you?). I can’t imagine how embarrassing that would be to have Jesus catch you sleeping when you were supposed to be praying. Peter—of all people—should have been praying (and sweating) because Jesus told Him earlier that Satan had asked to “sift him like wheat.”

“I can’t believe they fell asleep!”

The disciples never seem to fully grasp the perilousness of their position.

We, too, often fail to consider the precariousness of our situation until we are waist-deep in it. We fire off brief “arrow prayers,” but fail to get on our knees each and every day for some solid time with the Lord. Arrow prayers have their place, but they should not replace quiet, dedicated time alone with God.

Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Just last week, I wrote a post on the importance of committing the Word to our heart so we can fight temptation (click here to read it). Study and prayer go together like bones and marrow—only when the two work together can we have life.

We, like Peter, have too much confidence in our own strength and conviction. Strength and conviction will not be enough when Satan decides to tempt us, and He pursues us every minute of every day. He wants us to fail desperately because we do not belong to Him!

Peter might have had this experience in mind when he wrote:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

~ ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Peter knew the consequences of sleeping when He should’ve been praying. After this account, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. He never thought He would deny Jesus, but when the rubber met the road He wasn’t ready.

Being asleep isn’t just a literal problem. We do need sleep and rest. However, we can be slumbering in the sense that we do not possess any situational awareness of pending danger. The devil wants us to think that we are safe from temptation. He wants us to be over-confident and, rather than keep watch, sleep the slumber of the care-free. It’s much easier to attack and kill your prey while they are sleeping. It’s much harder when they are on guard and possibly even fleeing.

Are you sleeping?

The lion is at the door! Pray hard, pray often, pray to the one who can strengthen you for the fight or flight.