Love (1 Corinthians 13-15)

1Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

What good is a brand new sports car if you don’t have a battery or any gas? You can’t drive it. It won’t go anywhere because it doesn’t have any power. It might be nice to look at and admire, but it’s fullest potential will never be unleashed without some sort of power.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that while the gifts of the Spirit are to be sought, love is what is really needed. Love empowers and directs the use our Spiritual Gifts. We shouldn’t use spiritual gifts to pump ourselves up and inflate our egos, but we should demonstrate love in how we use the spiritual gifts that God has given. Paul works this out in 1 Corinthians 14 when he illustrates what order in a church service should look like. Love seeks to edify the whole congregation, not just itself.

1Corinthians 13:8 ESV Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

One of the thing that will we see just a taste of in this life, that will be perfected in Heaven, is the gift of love. Right now we love in a fallen and a broken world. In Heaven where all brokenness is either outlawed or mended to be whole, we will know love without bitterness. There won’t be envy, prideful boasting, back stabbing, arrogance, or selfishness. Where love remains and is perfected, the people who walk the streets of gold will genuinely want the best for one another. Between the folks there, there will only be the fullest expression of everything listed in this chapter as an attribute of love. Between God and His people, there will only be the deepest love. Love remains. Other things pass away, but one thing we know for certain is that beyond the vail of death, for those in Christ, love remains.

Father, Thank you for loving us. I pray that we earnestly seek to love you and love one another as you empower us with the Holy Spirit. May we be better at loving you and loving others every day of our lives this side of eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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True Prayer Is Aimed At Heaven

This is one of those things that may be difficult to grasp because technically God is spirit and has the capacity to be everywhere at once. He is not limited to space-time as you and I are. He is an unlimited being, yet he has limited himself for our sake. Heaven is his abode. The place where he resides, but if we know our Old Testament we know that God created Heaven and Earth together (Gen.1:1). He used to walk on the Earth with Adam and Eve in a paradise known as the Garden of Eden. But when Adam and Eve sinned against God they were expelled from the Garden and the presence of God.

Our sin has caused God to separate himself from us. The world that God created and blessed has become infected with sin. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light and so too sin cannot exist in the full presence of God. Moses spoke with God face-to-face, but in a limited way (Ex 33:11) . Much like the world experienced when Jesus became a man and took on flesh (Phil 2:6-7). When Moses asked to see God in all His glory, God said it couldn’t be done without killing Moses (Ex 33:20, John 1:18, 1 John 4:12). So in a sense what we see and experience of God is a veiled experience. We have yet to fully experience Him. Hold on, we will. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth and God himself will be the shining light. Sin will be dealt with once and for all and we will all be in the full presence of God (Rev. 21:23, 22:3-5, IS. 60:19-22). Until that time there is a separation. We pray to God in Heaven because Heaven has yet to come down to earth.

Think of it this way. In WWII the Germans advanced on France and took it fairly quickly. France was under German occupation. However, there were still several men and women, boys and girls who operated as the French resistance. Resisting the German occupation and working to get information to the Allies. They had a vision of seeing their country liberated. The reality was that their country was overrun by Germany and so they were living in a German state, but they took bold risks and sacrificed everything to see their liberty restored.

Earth is a seized state. It has been given over the prince of the power of the air, aka Satan or the Devil (Eph 2:1-2, Mat 4:8-9). But Christ has come to liberate us from the tyranny of sin. Once we have been set free, we still live among a sinful people. Christ has given us the mission to share the good news of liberation with the world. The Earth will become a truly free state once again.

Our Prayers now are offered up as a message from behind enemy lines. They help to focus us in on the mission. They line us up with where God is working. They empower us to see a better day. They give us opportunity to offer hope. It’s a phone call to the liberating force. We don’t have the power to free ourselves, but we know who does.

We come to God in prayer simply, relationally, in community, and with a view toward Heaven. This is completely different than how the Pharisee/ hypocrites of the day were praying. They were praying profoundly, non-relationally, in a fashion designed to show that they were superior to others and for personal benefit. Their prayers weren’t heard by God because they never fully intended them to be.

Philippians 3:20-21 (Devotional Thought)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

When Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi, being a Roman citizen was a big deal. Rome ruled the world. Roman citizens had free reign to travel the empire and had a special status. If a Roman citizen were accused of a crime, they had a right to a trial before Cesar if they wanted one (not everyone was lucky enough to even get a trial back then). The church at Philippi probably had a firm grasp on the perks of being a Roman citizen because their city was built as a Roman outpost. It was “Rome away from Rome.”

The Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen. It’s what ultimately allowed him to have a trial before Cesar. Yet, even as he is waiting for a trial that his citizenship guarantees, He can’t help think about a more important citizenship. He is a citizen of Heaven! He has a different king than Cesar, Jesus is his king!

Let’s pause for a moment because we don’t live in a country with a king. Continue reading “Philippians 3:20-21 (Devotional Thought)”

The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, The Surprise of Judgment, The Hope of Holy War (Review)

The Skeleton in God's closet I’m a fan of The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War, Joshua Ryan Butler does a fantastic job of leading the reader on a journey exploring three of the controversial doctrines of the Bible. Butler writes to open up a dialogue with contemporary culture and it’s broadly popular misunderstanding of these key doctrines. His writing style is engaging, witty, humble and personable. He has a way of inviting his readers to investigate their own biases, what the bible really says, and how people have understood or misunderstood these doctrines in the past. This is a well written book that could easily have been turned into a shorter three book series. (You get your money’s worth).

Once you understand Butler aims his book at a postmodern mindset it comes into focus. There were a few moments where I pondered, “Why is he going here?” and “What is he about to say?” because he came seemingly close to a different understanding of a doctrinal issue. Thankfully at each point he clarifies his understanding and leads the reader to a biblical appreciation for the doctrine in question.

Over all I thought this was a great book. The author has a brilliant writing style that at times is very poetic. I purchased my copy from amazon.com who has it on sale right now for $12.84 in paperback.

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Heaven and Hell: Are They Real? (A Review)

_225_350_Book.1111.coverHeaven and Hell: Are They Real? is the ultimate question book about Heaven and Hell. It’s full of readings from contemporary and ancient scholars addressing several questions that are generated on the Biblical topics of Heaven and Hell. Have you ever wondered:

Will there be animals in Heaven?
Will we have sex in Heaven?
Will we have jobs in Heaven?
What does an eternity in Hell feel like?
How is eternity in Hell a fair punishment for sin?
If I’m in Heaven, will I see people in Hell?

The answers to these questions and more are found in this book! It reads like a blog with each brief chapter covering a question of a given topic in the category of Heaven, Hell or the moments after death. The author, Christopher D. Hudson shares a given scriptures passage that addresses the topic and sets up the question, then brings in a reading that helps answer the question. He then poses a follow up question for further reflection. I found this book a refreshing read on a difficult subject.

To be fair the book is a bit difficult to read in the traditional manner (from start to finish) but that’s what makes it great for people who don’t read much. They can pick up with their questions and follow their curiosity through the book. Amazon had it for less than $10 right now which is a great deal.

Readers may also appreciate Randy Alcorn’s Book Heaven which takes a more systematic approach to the topic. It’s on sale at Amazon.com right now in Hardback for less than $15.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their Reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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We Shall See God (A Review)

  Recently my Grandfather passed away and We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven made it into my hands at a much needed time.  Each chapter is a devotion on Heaven.  The first part is taken from one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and the second part is written by Randy Alcorn a much loved an appreciated author.

Though I am already a great fan of Charles Spurgeon, I can see how this book would be a good introduction the the mind and influence of one of history’s greatest preachers.  In light of my grandfather’s recent death I found the devotions both very real and powerful as my mind was naturally drawn to eternal things. Each day was packed with meaning and I was drawn to dwell on the greater things of eternity.

The book is small and has a hardcover making it easy to handle.  There are fifty devotions included in the book with updated language and additional comments by Randy Alcorn who acted as the editor and junior author on this project.  I highly recommend We Shall See God to anyone interested in devotions about Heaven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Believe! (John 6:25-71)

Wow.  Lots to unpack here and think through in the gospel of John.  First note that Jesus says that God is working… Rather “this is the work of God” (John 6:29).  In my mind this is a throw back to the whole Healing on the Sabbath Day debacle. There Jesus said, “My father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). This was his justification for working on the Sabbath… That though God had rested the 7th day, was still at work.  Here Jesus proclaims that the work of God is for people to believe whom he sent… (hint: that’s Jesus).

Then in John 6:40 there is the throw back again to John 3 where Jesus talks about being lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness.  Only here not the emphasis is on the looking… or belief.  In John 3 the emphasis was that Jesus would be lifted up, here the emphasis is that now those who look on Him and believe will have eternal life!

But wait there is more.  Jesus says that he is the bread from heaven.  He is the true manna from God.  Manna was the miracle bread that God provided for Israel while they wandered in the dessert.  God provided by sending bread down each day.  Here Jesus is saying that He is the true bread of life.  That once someone has gone to him, they don’t need any more.  He is enough.  He satisfies.

Enter now the context of feeding the 5000 earlier in this chapter.  Jesus proclaims that his body and his blood will be offered for the benefit of the world. He will indeed multiply the benefit of his death, burial and resurection to all those who would call on Him.

Application: Jesus is the true bread of Heaven.  You will never be content in this life if you continually feast on the things that do not satisfy.  Are you looking to Jesus today to fill you and sustain you?

Father,

I thank you for your kindness to me in drawing me to faith and repentance in Christ.  This indeed is truly a better gift than I could have ever imagined.  You are my daily bread.  You are what sustains me in good times and in bad.

Morning: Psalm 108

Mid-Day: Psalm 56

Evening: Psalm 8