Archive for February, 2014

The love of God: Every day, not just on Feb. 14

February 12, 2014

The lyrics to “My Funny Valentine” remind us that “Each day is Valentine’s Day”, especially when you walk in love as Christ instructs us to.

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1 Corinthians 13--1-3

As we begin the second week in February, our thoughts turn toward February 14, Valentine’s Day, a time that is set apart to celebrate love. We must recognize, however, the various forms of love, including the love of God or agape, the highest form of love. It 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.” There is a love which is “more intimate than friend, or kin or wife;” this close-knit love is known as agape.

This particular term which is used exclusively in the New Testament, reveals the uniqueness of God’s love, so clearly defined in I Corinthians 13 where the term is translated “charity” in the King James Version, which opens in…

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God’s love is what it is not

February 11, 2014

1-Corinthians-13-4-5_web

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 KJV)

The Verse of the Day for February 11, 2014 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 of the Amplified Bible illustrates the distinctive power of the love of God:

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self- seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

Here the Word of God continues 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.

The video “Love is Patient” provides a graphic illustration that defines the love of God:

The love of God: Every day, not just on Feb. 14

February 10, 2014

1 Corinthians 13--1-3

As we begin the second week in February, our thoughts turn toward February 14, Valentine’s Day, a time that is set apart to celebrate love. We must recognize, however, the various forms of love, including the love of God or agape, the highest form of love. It 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.” There is a love which is “more intimate than friend, or kin or wife;” this close-knit love is known as agape.

This particular term which is used exclusively in the New Testament, reveals the uniqueness of God’s love, so clearly defined in I Corinthians 13 where the term is translated “charity” in the King James Version, which opens in this way:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 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, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Instead of speaking of “charity,” the New Living Translation uses the word “love”:

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

The passage offers a series of conditional phrases beginning with “If I. . .” If I performed a number of actions, followed by the results if “I” performed them outside of love, then “I” would be only so much noise or “I” would be nothing or “I” would have gained nothing. Love would not be impacted by those actions, but the individual who performed them would not fully benefit or profit from those acts if that individual chose “not to love others.”

During this week we will have ample opportunity to think about the love of God, as we approach Valentine’s Day, but as we follow the Scripture’s encouragement, we are to walk in love every day, not just on February 14.

Here is a musical reminder of the enduring properties of agape: “Love never fails”:

Let faith and love abound

February 9, 2014

2 thessalonians 1-3

Note the Amplified Bible:

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 also reminds us:

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

The point is further reiterated in 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 used to describe love is a rose. Indeed, love is a rose that grows—

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

The Verse of the Day reminds us that our faith and love are to increase and abound.

Bless–don’t curse; do good–not evil; don’t forget to pray

February 8, 2014

Matthew-5--44The Verse of the Day for February 8, 2014 is found in Matthew 5:43-45:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

When confronted with negative situations, the words of Jesus Christ remind us to move in the opposite spirit in a number of ways.

Bless–don’t curse:

Followers of Christ are to bless those who curse them. The same exhortation comes from Roman 12:14:

Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them. (Amplified Bible)

Do good–not evil

As believers we are always endeavoring to do good, even to those who hate us.  The expression “to do good” brings to mind Galatians 6:10:

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Included among “all men” are those who hate us. This reminder to do good is echoed in the words of John Wesley, who said:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Don’t forget to pray

When we encounter those who persecute us and speak all manner of evil against us, Christians ask, “What can we do?” We are not to retaliate but to pray for them. Jesus reminded us that “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” We are further exhorted to pray without ceasing. Someone has said, “There is always something to pray about.”

Steven Curtis Chapman offers this reminder: “Let us Pray”

The Verse of the Day shows us how we should respond to those who oppose us and persecute us.

Psalm 33:4-5–The goodness of the Lord

February 5, 2014

Psalm 33_4-5

The Verse of the Day for February 5, 2014 speaks of the “goodness of the Lord” in the King James Version of Psalm 33:4-5:

For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth.

He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord

Without question, the goodness of God surrounds us and sustains us every day. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. God’s goodness toward us is expressed in Jesus Christ, who acknowledged that there is no one good except the Father. The very essence of God is goodness which this song makes known:

The Goodness of the Father

For the goodness of the Father leads us to repentance,

From his goodness flows his favor,

O, taste and see that the Lord is good.

He has promised goodness to his servants,

He has clothed us with salvation.

Let us rejoice in goodness, and declare that only the Lord, our God, is good.

O how good, He’s so good, beyond compare,

Exquisite and rare, He’s so good.

O how good, He’s so good,

Come join with me: O, taste and see that the Lord is good.

As Christian believers, we give thanks to God for His grace and goodness. With our lips give praise and bless the Lord and sing of His goodness. One of the most quoted passages from the Old Testament is Psalm 23, one of my favorites that I committed to memory years ago, mentions the goodness of the Lord in the last verse:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The last verse reminds us that goodness, like a rear guard, a powerful “back-up,” follows us throughout our lives. Israel Houghton shares this lively musical reminder of this life-sustaining truth:

Psalm 18:1-2: My rock, my fortress, my deliverer

February 4, 2014

Psalm 18_1--3

In the Psalm 18:1-2,  Verse for the Day for February 4, 2014, we find two references to the strength that comes from God Almighty: “O Lord, my strength” and “my God, my strength.” As I reflected upon this passage, I recall a “crafted prayer” that I composed as I petitioned God that as believers, we might be strengthened in the Lord.

Developed by Graham Cooke, the concept of “crafted prayer” involves using the Scriptures to construct specific, targeted prayers, addressed to God. Such prayers may be expressed individually as well as corporately. In his book Crafted Prayer, Cooke reveals that those who “pray the Bible” or use the Scriptures as the basis for their prayers will experience “the joy of always getting your prayers answered.”

A Crafted Prayer that We Might Be Strengthened in the Lord, Our God

O God, you have been our help in ages past; you have delivered our souls from destruction in days gone by, and we know that you are a very present help in the midst of every one of the trials and tribulations that we face each day, as you continue to deliver those who call upon your name. God of power and might, you are our hope for every tomorrow. As the days of our lives unfold before us, we face the future with confidence, knowing that our times are in your hands and that you shall deliver us out of the hand of the enemy.

God, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We come to you, the source of all strength and might, thanking you that you have fortified us through Christ Jesus. We know that the Lord saves His anointed; you will answer us from your holy heaven with the saving strength of your right hand.  Though our flesh and our hearts may fail, God, our almighty fortress, is the rock and firm strength of our hearts and our portion forever. In the day when we cry out to you, you answer us and strengthen us with strength in our souls.

We declare that the LORD is our light and our salvation; whom or what shall we fear? The LORD is the strength of our lives; of whom or what shall we be afraid? You declare that we should not fear, for you are with us. We should not be dismayed, for you are our God. You will strengthen us; yes, you will help us. Indeed, you will uphold us with the right hand of your righteousness.

We had fainted, unless we had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. As we wait on the LORD, we will be of good courage, assured that He shall strengthen our hearts. We are confident that as we wait upon the LORD, we shall renew our strength. We shall mount up with wings as eagles; for you make known that just as you bore Israel upon eagles’ wings and brought them unto yourself, so you will elevate us and raise us above any circumstance that seeks to keep us from being all that you have called us to be. As we wait on you, we know that in due season, we shall run, and not be weary; and we shall walk, and not faint.

As you bless and refresh us and fill us anew with your overflowing goodness and mercy, so we pour into one another, as we encourage ourselves and one another in the Lord, Jesus Christ, who infuses inner strength into us. We minister and pray for one another that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, as we go from strength to strength, and glory to glory, even from faith to faith. Your desire is that we may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of your glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance and forbearance with joy.

We conclude our petitions with this declaration:

That we will be strengthened, perfected, completed, and made to be what we ought to be. We will be encouraged and consoled and comforted and will be of the same agreeable mind one with another. We proclaim that we will live in peace, knowing that the God of love, who is the source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men and the author and promoter of peace is with us. We make known that according to the riches of God’s glory, that we are strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, are able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and that we know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we are filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. All these things we declare to be so through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, our soon-coming King, who is the strength our lives. Amen.

The essence of the message of the Verse of the Day is embodied in the song “Praise the Name of Jesus”:

Psalm 59:16: Taking refuge

February 3, 2014

Psalm 59--16

In reflecting upon The Verse of the Day for February 3, 2014, other verses that speak of God as a source of refuge also come to mind. I recall that my Psalm 27, my favorite, also mentions that “In the time of trouble shall he hide me. In the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me. He shall set me up, upon a rock.” The Psalmist further explains that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1) and declares that “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalm 62:7).

Psalm 118:8-9, which some believe to be located in the center of the Bible, also express a profound truth:

It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. (Amplified Bible)

The times in which we live seem to be especially challenging, as the pressures of life abound in the midst of what the Bible speaks of as “perilous times” or times that are difficult to deal with. The lyrics to “This Too Shall Pass” express what seems to be transpiring in our lives every day:

In the middle of the turbulence surrounding us,

These trying times are so hard to endure

In the middle of what seems to be your darkest hour

Hold fast your heart and be assured

From time to time, we may lose focus and become anxious regarding our circumstances that ever seem to fluctuate. During times of uncertainty when our feet seem to slip and we are about to lose our grip, we can turn our thoughts toward the promises of God, assured that just as He has been with us through the stormy trials of the past, so He will be with us now. Along with the Psalmist, we take comfort in knowing that God is our refuge.

I also recall lyrics to another original song:

I Will Deliver You

I will deliver you from the snare of the fowler.

As a bird escapes from the cage, so I will release you from captivity.

I will lift you up, out of the hand of your fiercest enemy.

I will draw you to myself and hide you under the safety of my wing.

I will deliver you from the raging deep waters.

The sea shall not overwhelm you, but I will bring you through the storms in peace.

I will lift you up, and bear you up on the wings of an eagle.

I will provide for you and hide you in my secret dwelling place.

These lyrics bring to mind a song of great comfort “You are my hiding place” offered by Selah”:

The Verse of the Day and other passages from the Book of Psalms remind us that God, our refuge, is a very present help in the time of trouble.