Archive for February, 2016

More than conquerors

February 17, 2016

Romans 8--37

Verse of the Day for February 17, 2016 comes from Romans 8:35, 37 in the Amplified Bible:

Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 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].

To more fully recognize the impact of these verses, we need to examine Romans 8:31-36 (NLT) before we look at verse 37:

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”

The passage comes from a section of Romans 8 emphasizing that there is “no separation in Christ” and that nothing can separate us from his love. These scriptures are presented as a barrage of questions culminating with a powerful response that thunders with the answer:

Romans 8:37

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

The response is definite and emphatic: absolutely not! No way, Jose! No! [Expletive deleted—No!] “Overwhelming victory is ours,” the phrase that follows, is translated from the verb hupernikao. Using a verb indicates that in the midst of the most staggering, adverse circumstances that seek to limit or inhibit us or separate us from Christ who loved us, we conquer more and more as “super-conquerors,” achieving “overwhelming victory.”

From a recent blog entry “We choose to love” come the following comments on this passage from Romans 8 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. I recall a statement from the late Dr. Adrian Rodgers of Love Worth Finding Ministries: “God cannot love us any more than He does, and He will not love us any less.”

We find great assurance in comfort in the midst of the most distressing and oppressive times in which we live that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

We are encouraged by this powerful video from the Rend Collective who remind us that “We are More than Conquerors”:

Press toward the mark for the prize

February 16, 2016

Philippians 3--13-14Revised and re-posted below is a blog entry that was entered more than 6 months ago, but the essence of the message resonates strongly with me, as I move the end of another term at Carolina College of Biblical Studies where I teach.

The scripture selected for study is taken from Philippians 3:14, but to fully understand that particular verse, we need to take a look at the preceding verse as well:

Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Our understanding is illuminated as we examine some of the athletic imagery in the passage. Immediately my thoughts turn toward my high school track days when I ran anchor on the mile relay.  Once the baton hit my hand, I grabbed it and focused on completing the race.  If the other three members of the team had given me a lead, my task was to maintain it or if we were behind when I got the baton, I had to make up the distant and then pull ahead before crossing the finish line.  To press toward the mark is to focus intently, to “scope in on” as one does with a telescope which blocks everything out except that which you are looking at.

I recall that I had to be “single-minded,” focusing all of my energy and efforts on finishing my race. I did not look to the right nor to the left; certainly I did not look behind, but I pressed toward the mark, striving to cross the finish line. I recognized that I had to cross the finish line before I could receive the prize.

Philippians 3:13-14 is used as the introduction to a poem that expresses where we as believers find ourselves as we finish the race that is set before us:

In the Home-stretch

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:

but this one thing I do, forgetting those things

which are behind, and reaching forth

unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize

Of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Philippians 3:13-14

 

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark,

Secure in the Savior, as all things become new.

Constantly seeking, we know we shall someday find

Our heart’s desire fulfilled, for God’s Word is still true,

Even as these perilous times have never been more dark.

Though at times we faint and grow weary in our mind,

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark.

Each day we grow in grace, empowered by the Word.

We fix our heart and set our affections above.

Like David, we encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Nothing can separate us from His boundless love.

We rest in hope, assured that all those who endure

Shall lay hold of the prize that they have sought to win.

We purify our hearts, as the Lord himself is pure.

Strengthened by the presence of Christ who dwells within,

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark,

We live to give, and we love to serve above all:

Waiting for the Lord, we still say “Yes” to our call.

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark.

As I recall my track and field experiences, I recognize that many times the outcome of the entire track meet was known beforehand, based on the accumulation of points from all the previous track and field events,  with the last two races being relays.  Drawing a spiritual parallel with the spiritual athletic arena that we find ourselves in today, the believers’ team is so far ahead that we cannot lose; however, the challenge is for each individual believer to finish the race, having achieved his or her P.B. (personal best).

In a similar way, as believers we are encouraged in our individual races to “kick it on in!”:

Cast aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets,

Forget the past, press toward the mark,

Look straight ahead with no regrets.

We close with a beautiful song by the Wilds based on Philippians 3:13-14: Press toward the Mark:

 

On the day after Valentine’s Day, still looking at love

February 15, 2016

1 John 4 9-10

On the day after Valentine’s Day, the Verse of the Day for February 15, 2016 continues to focus on love:

1 John 4:10 AMP

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].

The lyrics to the popular love song “My Funny Valentine” also express the following profound yet simple truth:

Stay, funny Valentine, stay.

Each day is Valentine’s Day.

And so on the day after Valentine’s Day, we are still seeking to express the essence of God’s love:

The Expanded Bible offers this rendering of 1 John 4:10:

This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son ·to die in our place to take away our sins [as the atoning sacrifice/Tpropitiation for our sins].

The Message Bible speaks of propitiation this way: “as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”

This verse also brings to mind that everything has its price, even sin. With the Fall, all humanity incurred an overwhelming debt due to sin. In one instance the word “propitiation” is translated “reconciliation,” indicating that all of humanity had an outstanding balance on their account because of sin, but God sent His son as a “more than just” payment to reconcile our account which is now stamped “paid in full.”

The Verse of the Day makes clear that God loved us, as Logos Bible software indicates, “. . . though so altogether unworthy of love. Not that we did any act of love at any time to God, but that He did the act of love to us in sending Christ.”

We close with this reminder “We Love Because GOD First Loved Us” by Grace:

Love one another, not just on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2016

John 13-34-35

The discussion on love begun earlier this week culminates with The Verse of the Day for Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016.

John 13:34-35 (KJV)

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

The Lord not only commanded his followers to love, but he set the standard by which they  should demonstrate their love for one another, in the same way that he manifested his love toward them.

How do you know that someone loves you? Listen to what the individual says and watch what that person does. There must be a demonstration of love, first of all with God, and secondly with others. God didn’t just say, “I love you, world” and blow the earth a kiss, He communicated his love when He so loved that He gave His only begotten son.

1 John goes on to discuss the love of God in more detail, 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 every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

10 Herein 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 ought also to love one another.

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:

 

Straight from my heart

February 14, 2016

BJ photo

On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016, when countless numbers of people think about love and all that it means, I think of the love of my life, my Beloved Brenda, and offer these words:

A Love Song Straight from my Heart

“This is my beloved. . .”

 

If I could I would croon a tune

That would make you swoon:

A ballad so tender

For my beloved Brenda,

A love song straight from my heart

That overflows with gratitude

Each time I remember

How God brought us together

And answered each other’s prayer.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, Beautiful.

With all my love,

Lonnell

Here is one of our favorite songs: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics:

John 3:16: Love is a verb

February 13, 2016

John-3-16

Modified and re-posted below are comments posted a year ago;

Although John 3:16 was not among the top 10 Bible verses most widely shared or remembered in 2015, it still topped the list of verses that the world sought out in 2014, according to a report released by Bible Gateway based on 1.5 billion page-views by 150 million unique visitors. The Verse of the Day for February 13, 2016 remains one of the most recognized and memorized verses for millions of believers around the world.

John 3:16 (KJV):

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth 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.”

Recall also the memorable lines regarding love from John Oxenham:

Love ever gives, forgives, outlives,

And ever stands with open hands.

And while it lives it gives.

For this is love’s prerogative,

To give, and give, and give.

It has also been said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

These comments also remind 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 the renewed mind 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.

Recent blog entries centered on the theme of love mentioned that some kind of demonstration should accompany love when the word is used as an action word: “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,

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.

Hillsong provide this memorable, musical expression of John 3:16: “God so loved the world.”

We choose to love

February 12, 2016

1 Corinthians 13--4-7

For the Verse of the Day for February 12, 2016 we find two more verses from 1 Corinthians 13 further describing “charity” or agape or the love of God:

1 Corinthians 13: 6-7 (KJV):

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth 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 I thought about these verses from 1 Corinthians 13, a passage from Romans 8 (my favorite chapter in the whole Bible) also came 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. I recall a statement from the late Dr. Adrian Rodgers, “God cannot love us any more than He does, and He will not love us any less.” The chapter concludes with this most 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.

In reflecting on the topic of love, we are not just talking about words, but there must a corresponding demonstration of love, whereby one puts words into action, going from articulation to manifestation. The familiar quote reminds us: “Love is a verb. Without action it is only a word.” We also recognize that love is a choice, a concept expressed in this poem:

We Choose to Love

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love

–and the greatest of these is love.

   1 Corinthians 13:13 (New Living Translation)

Father, expand our minds and widen our comprehension

To recognize Your ways at an even greater dimension.

As we call upon Your name and bow in humility,

Striving to be all that You have called us to be,

Enlighten our eyes, strengthen our hearts to endure,

As we walk in the love of God, boundless and pure.

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.

Though we walk by faith, rest in hope, looking above,

Our greatest desire is please You and choose to love.

 

Listen as Newsong offers this powerful musical reminder: “Choose to Love,” an appropriate way to conclude this blog entry:

God’s love: It is what it is not

February 11, 2016

1-Corinthians-13-4-5_web

Revised and re-blogged from a year ago is the following entry:

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (KJV):

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;

The Verse of the Day for February 11, 2016 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 New Living Translation illustrates the distinctive power of the love of God:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 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.

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.

David Haas offers “Love Never Fails,” a beautiful composition based on 1 Corinthians 13:

 

Agape: The love of God

February 10, 2016

1 Corinthians 13--1-3

As the week before Valentine’s Day unfolds, moving toward a specific a time set apart to celebrate love, we must recognize 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, a passage of scripture that is often excerpted or quoted in its entirety at weddings. The Verse of the Day for February 10, 2016 opens this chapter with verses 1-3 in the King James Version which illustrate the distinctive power of the love of God or agape. In this passage the term is translated “charity:

This particular term reveals the uniqueness of God’s love, so clearly defined in this celebrated chapter where the term is translated “charity”:

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”:

Flourishing faith and growing love

February 9, 2016

2 thessalonians 1-3

The Verse of the Day for February 9, 2016 comes from 2 Thessalonians 1:3 in the King James Version:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

The New Living Translation of 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT) puts it this way:

[Encouragement during Persecution] Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.

Today’s verse 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. Paul commends the believers in Thessalonica for two reasons: “because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.”

In the corresponding verse in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (KJV) Paul also offers a similar commendation:

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

Amplified Bible offers this rendering:

Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith, and your service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ.

Throughout First and Second Thessalonians we find no reproof or correction directed toward this group of believers who are commended because of their flourishing faith: Their reputation as believers of great faith has spread across the world.

1 Thessalonians 1:8 in the Amplified Bible notes this:

For the word of the Lord has resounded from you and has echoed [like thunder], not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place [the news of] your [great] faith in God has spread, so that we never need to say anything about it.

The heading preceding the Verse of the Day in the New Living Translation mentions “Encouragement during Persecution.” This is precisely what these notable believers provide in 1 Thessalonians 3:7 in the Amplified Bible:

For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and suffering we have been comforted and greatly encouraged about you because of your faith [your unwavering trust in God—placing yourselves completely in His loving hands];

Not only are believers at the Church at Thessalonica to grow in faith, but believers everywhere are also exhorted to abound in love, as mentioned in

2 Corinthians 8:7

Therefore, as ye abound in everything, 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 offers these encouraging words:

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

Observe this part of the prayer offered in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (KJV):

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 related to love is that of a rose. Indeed, love is a rose that grows—“The budding rose never stays the same but unfolds in lovelier ways.” Concerning the love of God, Paul offers this exhortation to those whose “love for one another is growing:”

1 Thessalonians 4: 9-10 (NLT):

But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10 Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.

Just as the Verse of the Day commends the believers in Thessalonica, the Scriptures also remind us that our faith and love are to increase and abound.

In thinking about the encouraging words found in First and Second Thessalonians and elsewhere, recall 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which provides the inspiration this poem:

Encourage

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Don’t stop now—keep on pursuing

Keep seeking His face

Don’t get weary in well doing

You must keep the pace

Seek and you shall find

The strength to be transformed–

Renewed in the spirit of your mind

Encourage yourself

And encourage one another

Build each other up

Every sister and brother

Speaking the truth, we grow up

Therefore, encourage one another

The accompanying video “Encourage one another” is also a compilation of the same verse from I Thessalonians 5:11 and other scriptures along with words of encouragement from Kimberly Culpen. May we all be strengthened and encouraged today.