Nothing can separate us

February 18, 2017

romans-8-38-39

Yesterday’s Verse of the Day introduced a series of questions raised in Romans 8: beginning with verse 35:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

The Verse of the Day for February 18, 2017 is the culminating response to that series of questions:

Romans 8:38-39:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Despite the adverse circumstances of life that seek to negatively impact our relationship with God and cause us to question whether He really loves us, Paul offers this blessed assurance: Simply put, nothing can separate us from the love of God:

Beginning with death, the end of life, nor life itself can separate us;

Neither legions upon legions of angelic entities nor powers, neither all the demonic forces that follow the commands of “him who has the power of death—that is the devil”;

Nothing in this present life nor in the life to come;

Nothing is higher than the love of God which reaches beyond the highest height and lowest hell; “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Since God who is love created all things, then no created thing is outside the love of God. Nothing—literally “no thing”– shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen and Amen.

This powerful musical rendering of Romans 8:35, 37-38 by Wayne Tate raises the question and offers the answer expressed in the Verse of the Day.

 

No, we overwhelmingly conquer

February 17, 2017

Romans 8--37

Verse of the Day for February 17, 2017 comes from a personal favorite passage found in Romans 8:35, 37 in the New King James Version:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

If we add verse 36, we note a series of questions expressed this way in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition:

35 Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?

36 Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us?

The passage culminates with a powerful response that thunders with the answer to this barrage of questions. The answer is more emphatic in other translations which begin with “No!” The familiar King James Version declares:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.

The Phillips Translation puts it this way:

No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through him who has proved his love for us:

So says the New Living Translation:

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

The response is definite and emphatic: No, absolutely not! No way, Jose! No! [Expletive deleted—No!] Paul goes on to close out this section to remind believers of who we are and whose we are and most importantly what we do:

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].

The expression “more than conquerors” is translated from the Greek verb hupernikao, a compound word with the prefix huper—a form of the same prefix found in “super”—meaning over, beyond, above exceed, more than. Today, common expressions of the preposition would say “over and above” or “above and beyond.” The stem would be nikao, translated “to conquer, prevail, overcome, overpower, prevail.”  Although translated as such, being “more than conquerors” or “super conquerors,” is not who we are, but it is what we do, how we live. We prevail completely in the present tense with continuous action; we prevail mightily every day of our lives: “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”

Wayne Tate offers this powerful declaration found in Romans 8:35, 37-39:

Not that we loved God, but that he loved us

February 15, 2017

1-John-4-10

The focus of the Verse of the Day for February 15, 2017 continues to be on the love that God has for His people expressed in 1 John 4:10, to which is added verse 9 in the New Living Translation:

1 John 4:9-10:

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

In reflecting on the Verse of the Day, the familiar hymn came to mind: “O How I Love Jesus” with its simple yet profound lyrics:

There is a name I love to hear,
I love to speak its worth;
It sounds like music in mine ear,
The sweetest name on earth.

Refrain

O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,

Because He first loved me!
It tells me of a Savior’s love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner’s perfect plea.

Refrain

It tells me of a Father’s smile
Beaming upon His child;
It cheers me through this little while,
Through desert, waste, and wild.

Refrain

It tells me what my Father hath
In store for every day,
And though I tread a darksome path,
Yields sunshine all the way.

Refrain

It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe;
Who in my sorrow bears a part,
That none can bear below.

Refrain

It bids my trembling heart rejoice;
It dries each rising tear;
It tells me, in a still small voice,
To trust and never fear.

Refrain

Jesus, the name I love so well,
The name I love to hear!
No saint on earth its worth can tell,
No heart conceive how dear.

Refrain

This name shall shed its fragrance still
Along this thorny road,
Shall sweetly smooth the rugged hill
That leads me up to God.

Refrain

And there, with all the blood-bought throng,
From sin and sorrow free,
I’ll sing the new eternal song
Of Jesus’ love to me.

Refrain
________________________________________

C. Michael Hawn discusses the history of this classic hymn of the Christian Church and points out that the text by Frederick Whitfield (1829-1904) has been a source of inspiration for more than 150 years.

Don Moen offers a special rendering of this memorable hymn of hope:

One more reminder: Love one another

February 14, 2017

John 13-34-35

It comes as no surprise that the Verse of the Day for February 14, 2017, Valentine’s Day, should remind us to “love one another”:

John 13:34-35 (NKJV):

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This clear exhortation is repeated not only in the Gospel of John but in more than a dozen other places throughout the New Testament where believers are commanded “to love one another.”   Jesus Christ is the model, the standard of love whose demonstration of the love of God we must follow.

The Epistle of 1 John echoes the same sentiments regarding the love of God, exhorting believers, likewise to show their love to one another:

1 John 4:7-11

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

The Holman Standard Bible describes the exhortation to love in this way:

Romans 13:8

[ Love, Our Primary Duty ] Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Dr. Martin Luther King has also offered this reminder:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day love should be the foundation upon which every relationship is built, as this poetic excerpt reminds us:

To decide, demonstrate, freely give and practice love:

The platform whereby we must build all relationships

And follow Christ’s command that we love one another.

This time Kathy Troccoli and Friends offer yet another reminder to love one another:

 

John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16

February 13, 2017

john-3-16-new

Within the past few years, John 3:16, the Verse of the Day for February 13, 2017, has been among the most often quoted verses in the Bible. The celebrated verse has been displayed on bumper stickers, tee shirts, and other apparel, posters, coffee mugs, and even athlete’s eye paint. In 2014 Christianity Today reported Bible Gateway visitors spent more than 76 million hours on BibleGateway.com in the previous year. Of the 456 million visits and 1.5 billion page views, number one among the top 10 searches for Bible verses was John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The Sound of Music, one of the most popular Broadway musicals of all times, gives us these memorable lyrics from Oscar Hammerstein II:

A bell is not a bell till you ring it. A song is not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart isn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.”

The last line reminds us that with love, there must be a demonstration or manifestation to express the reality of that powerful emotion. We speak of the love of God in manifestation which is so clearly demonstrated in one of the most widely recognized verses in the Bible, John 3:16.

The book of I John also elaborates on the love of God in the corresponding verse:

1 John 3:16

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.

I recently came across this anonymous quote: “Love is a verb. Love is doing, saying, showing. Never think just saying you love someone is enough.” There must be corresponding action to show that we love. Another statement reiterates the same point: “Love is a verb. Without action it is merely a word.”

Verse 18 of 1 John 3 further reminds us,

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

The love of God is “perfected” or made complete or brought to maturity in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love.  We must do more than think about love or talk about love; we must demonstrate love by what we do, just as God did in offering His son as a demonstration that He so loved the world.

Fred Hammond offers this musical expression of one of the most recognized verses in the Bible:  John 3:16 (Live):

Love never fails

February 12, 2017

1 Corinthians 13--4-7

In the Verse of the Day for February 12, 2017 we find two more verses from 1 Corinthians 13 further describing “charity” in the King James Version or agape or the love of God:

1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NKJV):

Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Here are two variations of these verses from two other Bibles:

New Living Translation:

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Amplified Bible:

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

As we think about these verses from 1 Corinthians 13, a passage from Romans 8 also comes to mind, relating to the constancy of the love of God which never fails. No matter the circumstances of our lives, whether on the pinnacles of success and dreams come true or in the pits of disappointment and failure, we are assured that God loves us and that His love endures. The late Dr. Adrian Rodgers once stated, “God cannot love us any more than He does, and He will not love us any less.” The chapter concludes with this assuring reminder expressed in the Amplified Bible:

Romans 8:37-39

37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.

38 For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers,

39 Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To know God is to love Him, and how do we know Him? 1 John 2:3 reminds us:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

This verse brings to mind the following lyrics:

We know that we know that we know that we know.

We know that we know You still love us.

We know that we know that we know that we know.

We know that we  know You still love us.

 

No matter how many times we go astray

And leave Your side and choose to disobey.

When we’re overwhelmed and can’t even pray,

No matter what we do or do not say.

 

We know that we know that we know that we know.

We know that we know You still love us.

We know that we know that we know that we know.

We know that we know You still love us.

 

No one else knows our heart: You are the one

To call us home when we have no place to run.

When we look all around at all that we’ve done,

Despite all our failures, You still call us your own.

 

We know that we know that we know that we know.

We know that we know You still love us.

We know that we know that we know that we know.

We know that we know You still love us. You still love us.

We close with the assurance that God loves us, as the Verse of the Day reiterates: “Love never fails” beautifully expressed by Jim Brickman and Amy Sky:

 

What love is

February 11, 2017

1-corinthians-13-4-5_web

Revised and re-blogged from a year ago, the Verse of the Day for February 11, 2017 continues with the unfolding of 1 Corinthians 13 and its quintessential definition of love, as we move toward Valentine’s Day. The next section from verses 4-5 illustrates the distinctive power of the love of God:

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NKJV):

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;.

Here the Word of God continues to answer in detail “What is love?” What unfolds is an extended  definition of the concept of “love” or “agape”, the unique expression of the love of God used throughout the New Testament, particularly in 1 Corinthians 13. Actually, the extended definition of love takes the form of a definition by negation, meaning the concept is explained in terms of its opposites or what it is not.What something is not becomes what it is. “It is what it is,” one of the popular sayings of the day, brings to light that “charity” or “the love of God” or “agape” is the opposite of what the Scriptures declare it is not.

And so the definition of the love of God continues to unfold. “Foreigner,” the British-American rock band released the pop-hit of the 1980s featuring the New Jersey Mass Choir with lyrics that expresses this desire: “I wanna know what love is.” To truly know what love is, we must know who God is, for God is love. First Corinthians 13 provides this magnificent definition of the love of God.

Bernie Armstrong offers “1 Corinthians 13—The Wedding Song–Love Never Fails,” a truly beautiful love song of life:

 

Just how much God loves us

February 10, 2017

1 Corinthians 13--1-3

The New Year continues to unfold, and our thoughts turn toward “love” as the 14th of February approaches. Not just on Valentine’s Day but every day, we should seek to soar to the heights of a love supreme, the love of God or agape, the highest form of love. This love differs from eros or passion or sensuous love of the flesh and is even beyond philos­ or love of friends or family. The root of philos is found in the designation of Philadelphia, which is known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” On the other hand, agape, a term that is used exclusively in the New Testament, reveals the uniqueness of God’s love which is so clearly defined in I Corinthians 13, a passage of scripture that is often excerpted or quoted in its entirety at weddings. The Verse of the Day for February 10, 2017 is the opening section of this celebrated expression of God’s love:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The Greatest Gift] Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

This passage makes reference to magnanimous spiritual accomplishments or “great spiritual exploits” related to the ability to speak  in tongues, whether a language spoken on earth or the heavenly language of angels or being able to prophesy and demonstrate a depth of spiritual understanding or being able to live a life of self-sacrifice to the ultimate degree. No matter how impressive these endeavors may be, they ultimately do not benefit the individual who performs them if that person’s underlying motivation is not love.

With love, as with any other emotion, there must be a demonstration or manifestation whereby one knows the reality of the emotion in question. Believers speak of the love of God in manifestation which is so clearly demonstrated in one of the most widely recognized verses in the Bible, John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It has been said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Indeed, all love is giving. The essence of love as defined by giving is also seen in these words from John Oxenham:

Love ever lives, outlives, forgives,

And while it stands with open hands it lives.

For this is love’s prerogative:

To give and give and give

The book of I John also elaborates on the love of God:

1 John 3:16

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.

The love of God is “perfected” or made complete or brought to maturity in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love. This demonstration reveals the depth of love that God has for us. May we always remember:

“. . .  Just how much God loves us.”

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath].

1 John 4:10

Father, expand our mind and widen our comprehension

To recognize your ways to an even greater dimension.

As we call upon your name and bow in humility,

Deepen our understanding, as you give us eyes to see.

Enlighten our souls with the wisdom that comes from above.

You call us your beloved, worthy of your endless love.

When we are tempted, knowing that you love us dispels all fear.

As we seek to please you, open our ears that we might hear

Your word and endeavor to hide it deep within our heart.

Despite past failures, misdeeds, and shortcomings on our part,

Your love is constant and never changes but ever grows,

Unfolding in matchless beauty as a dew-kissed rose.

You say do not love worldly things or pleasures they may bring.

You show us God’s love is to be prized more than anything.

Listen to these heart-strengthening lyrics of “The Love of God” offered by Mercy Me:

Increasing faith, abounding love

February 9, 2017

2 thessalonians 1-3

The Verse of the Day comes from 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NKJV)

[ God’s Final Judgment and Glory ] We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

We ought and indeed are obligated [as those in debt] to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of every one of you each toward the others is increasing and abounds.

The Verse of the Day notes two areas of growth in Christian believers: faith and love which are mentioned in Thessalonians, the Church Epistles whose focus is hope, the hope of Christ’s return.

Faith

Faith is not static but God’s desire is that our faith grow, increase and abound. When the  apostles said unto the Lord, “Increase our faith,” he responded:

 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. (Luke 17:6)

The plant mentioned by Jesus Christ to illustrate faith is the very small seed of the mustard tree, a pod-bearing, shrub-like plant, growing wild, which is also cultivated in gardens. The little round seeds were an emblem of any small insignificant object. Faith is described in this way: “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth.” Jesus goes on to say, “It [faith] is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.”

A mustard seed once planted and nurtured grows into a mighty tree, just as our faith should grow and abound.

Love:

Not only are believers to grow in faith, they are also exhorted to abound in love, as is mentioned in

2 Corinthians 8:7

Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

Philippians 1:9

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

1 Thessalonians 3:12

And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

One of the classic metaphors that describe love is a rose. Indeed, love is a rose that grows—

The budding rose never stays the same but unfolds in lovelier ways.

Although the Verse of the Day reminds us our faith and love are to increase and abound, the opening lyrics from a song written by Dale Evans Rogers speak of three essential aspects of the Christian walk:

Have faith, hope and charity,
That’s the way to live successfully.
How do I know, the Bible tells me so.

Volumes could be written and have been, for that matter, on each of these topics, all three of which are mentioned in the last verse of I Corinthians 13 which provides the quintessential definition of “charity” which is also translated from agape, meaning “the love of God” in the following poem which introduces all three elements:

These Three

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:13 (New King James Version

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love,

and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

in the sight of our God and Father,

1 Thessalonians 1:3 (New King James Version)

 

As Abraham lived by faith, trusted and obeyed,

So we walk by faith and follow his example,

For God is faithful and through His Word conveyed

That the blessings of the Lord are more than ample.

Despite the storms of life, we are anchored in hope.

As Kingdom citizens with their minds set above,

We view heavenly bodies as through a telescope

And soar beyond the world on wings of a dove.

We seek to follow after Christ, the more excellent way,

To walk in love and simply follow his command.

Renewing our minds in all that we do and say,

We seek not be understood but to understand.

Live by faith, rejoice in hope, walk in love and see

Faith, hope and love: Love is the greatest of these three.

The following song embodies all three of these priceless virtues:

Love your enemies

February 8, 2017

Matthew-5-44

The Verse of the Day for February 8, 2017 is found in the section of Scripture known as “The Beatitudes”:

Matthew 5:43-45 (NKJV):

[Love Your Enemies] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

An entry on the Beatitudes is revised and re-posted here:

Part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” which some scholars maintain is really the “Sermon on the Plain,” the Beatitudes form a series of eight declarations that begin with the word “blessed.” Translated from the Greek word, makarios, “blessed” refers to a state of spiritual well-being and prosperity, expressing deep joy and fulfillment of the soul. The word has been translated, happy, fortunate, favored. A contemporary response when asked about one’s state of being is the expression, “blessed and highly favored.”

The following scripture memory song speaks of the passage in this way:

The Beatitudes are the “Be Attitudes.”
They help us to see. They help us to be
All that God wants us to be.
We will be blessed and be a blessing in return
When we learn to follow the “Be Attitudes.”

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The Beatitudes are the “Be Attitudes.”
They help us to see. They help us to be
All that God wants us to be.
We will be blessed and be a blessing in return
When we learn to follow the “Be Attitudes.”
When we learn to follow the “Be Attitudes.”

Listen to the Beatitude Song by Hillsong

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks of the life-transforming power of the love of God, making reference to the passage from the Beatitudes that states “Love your enemies.”