Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Monthly Archives: March 2014

Did Jesus come in the flesh?

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2 John 1:1 (ESV) The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

John the Elder

John calls himself “The Elder” which could be a title or a reference to his advancement in years. The word used however alludes to age as opposed to church office. Based on the time this was written John was very advanced in years, so Elder would be a very appropriate title to call himself as a veteran campaigner for the Christian faith.

History does not tell us who “The elect lady” was, possibly an actual person or perhaps even a name of a church or a metaphor due to persecution. The latter is just me throwing some balls in the air as stated prior, we have little to go on who the recipient was. It is clear; however from the writing that John was very fond of them and was familiar with them on a personal level. He addresses the letter also to the wider Christian church (all who know the truth) as a whole. John talks of a spiritual truth that will be with us forever, how true this is. Truth and correction is the thread this very short letter is based on. John uses truth in the introduction and then further in the letter. In Matthew 24 Jesus said that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, my words shall not pass away” this is in line with Johns teaching here.

John mentions in this letter the deity (v3) as well as the human form (v7) of Jesus Christ. This was not any new doctrine (v5) but merely a re-iteration of a common doctrine that they should already have. This is the issue in the church then, purely doctrine. (I would also argue that this is an issue today! See below for more information!) I love that John loved these people so much to deal with this in such a loving fashion.

Jesus the God or Jesus the man?

John reiterates that Jesus was not just a “prophet” or a “holy man” that he was in fact the Son of God. In that day we had creeping into the doctrines of the church a Gnosticism that tried to redefine who Christ was, they would attack one of Christ’s attributes, they would attack the account that he was either God, or that he was a man. John writes in verse 3

…3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love…

John really leaves no doubt on whom Jesus is in regards to being fully God, however he goes on to speak about whether Jesus was actually here in human flesh:

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

History teaches us (both Biblical and extra-biblical) that there was a figure in that time called Jesus. I do find it hard (but not all that surprising) that such a short time after Christ was crucified and resurrected that false teaching was starting to creep in on a fundamental doctrine. How much more must we be two millennia later? We have to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3) to see if they be of God.

I call this “rat poison” doctrine. Rat poison is only between 3-5% poison and the rest is made up with foods and fatty stuffs that the rat is attracted to. If your doctrine allows falsehoods and anti-biblical stances, it becomes like rat poison. Rat poison works at varying speeds, good poison works and shuts down the healthy organs some time after it was ingested. Same with doctrine, its not the ingestion that is an issue, it is the damage done further down the line.

I know why this is done, if Christ can be stripped of his deity then he is simply a “prophet” or a “good man” then he becomes the same as a “Muhammad” a “Buddha” or the same as a man made prophet or focal point of just another religion. This is not the case! Jesus was uniquely God and uniquely man! He came down as a man, was born the same way we were, in a womb, grew up as a man and ministered here on earth to be firstly the Jewish messiah and then the messiah to the whole world. (John 3:16-17)

This was done to fulfill the Old Testament scriptures and to fulfill the Jewish sacrificial system. When I read Leviticus I get excited because I see where this is going and I grieve for the Jewish folks that know their tradition but have missed their messiah!

These guys deny Jesus came in the flesh, I thought the Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t come over until much later.

John mentions the word “antichrist” which is also mentioned in four verses and all authored by John (1 John 2:18, 22, 4:3; 2 John 7); and he is as the name suggests a Christ-like creature who is against Christ, the opposite of Christ. Set up to deceive people and take them away from the word.

 

This Antichrist goes by many titles:

– The little horn (Daniel 7:8)
– The king of fierce countenance (Daniel 8:23)
– The Prince that shall come (Daniel 9:26)
– The willful king (Daniel 11:36-45)
– The one who comes in his own name (John 5:43)
– The son of perdition, the man of sin, and the lawless one (2 Thessalonians 2:3, and 2:8)

 

He will build a kingdom not dedicated to God, but to the evil one! As a Christian I am astounded this would be able to happen, but many will follow him and rise up against God. This reminds me of the account in the gospel of Mark when the crowd wished a murderer to be released. They would have that rather than Jesus, this happened in the trial of Jesus before Pilate. (Mark 15:34)

Love one another

…4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it…

How do we know we are walking in the truth? If we are loving one another (John 13:34-35) this is something that we need to work on as a church. There have been times that I myself (and this is shocking as I am a believer) have felt unwelcome in a place that is supposed to be a light to the world. We have to have that self sacrificing agape love that we keep talking about.

 

…8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you…

 

John requests that the church be careful, that we are watchful (v8) but we have even today, folks that travel to our house on a daily basis that try to peddle a false doctrine. The JW’s (remember them from earlier) and the LDS church come by and we are told how to deal with them. My wife is home often times and she is awesome at dealing with these guys, she has them in, shows them their bible and lets them question each other. Despite promises to come back and give answers to the questions she has raised, they never do! (I actually think our house is black listed)

I am not having a go at these denominations other than on this area they are preaching a different Jesus that the Jesus whom I follow. (They require prayer as well as re-education in correct doctrine.) For me that is the sign of erroneous doctrine, if you have to add something to the bible to make your doctrine work, such as Jesus and something as if the cross wasn’t enough, or taking away from Jesus the Messiah such as calling him the devil’s brother or claiming that Jesus was not in the flesh.

John closes by reiterating the closeness he has for the recipient and that he could have written another gospel in what he had to say to them but he refrained and waited until he could share sweet koinonia with them. When I was at Calvary Glasgow, I was bummed if I went two days in a row without seeing someone from church, I worked with folks from church, I moved to be geographically closer to where we met on a Sunday, we arranged coffee evenings, we spoke online, we texted, we were in and out of each others houses, we genuinely loved and invested in each other in a real way. That is true church, let’s get to it!

I pray this bible study was a blessing and please feel free to comment on your thoughts, both positive and negative.
God bless you one and all
TTE

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Redeemed like Onesimus?

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Philemon 1:1 (ESV) Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. 8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Benediction

Philemon 1:1 (ESV) Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We learn from this passage that Paul wrote around the time of Acts 28, whilst he was in jail. I find it great that he lists himself not as a “Prisoner of Rome” or an “Apostle in Christ Jesus” this verbiage tells me a few things about Paul. It tells me firstly that he was happy to be in prison for Christ’s sake. In the passages of Colossians 3:23 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 we see the heart of how we are to serve, regardless of our circumstances.

It is a fantastic insight into Paul’s commitment also, Paul was beaten, imprisoned, threatened, bullied, despised wherever he went and eventually killed for the name of Jesus, how much more committed can you get! On the TTE Facebook page I shared the expression that Chinese believers had and the way they treated their first ever Bible. It was eye opening to me as I have at least 7-8 copies of that book in my house and to my shame I have never treated it in the precious fashion that these believers had. Like Paul, these guys are persecuted for their faith, in the 20th Century! Many of them had only single pages to read, so getting a whole bible was akin to winning the lottery for these people.

Paul has his companion Timothy with him also, Timothy is mentioned as I am sure that he would be familiar to the church in Colossae, Timothy at that time had been travelling for some time, which explains the co-laborer status. We read that this letter is addressed to three people.

 

Philemon – Who hosted a home church and was previously Onesimus master
Apphia – Philemons wife
Archippus – Philemons son

 

Now what I am unsure of is who dealt with the day to day running of folks like Onesimus. It may have been dealt with by any of the three. Unlike Paul’s other letters, whilst they had a recipient, they were meant to be shared, this letter has a familiar tone to it and reads like a letter to a man and his family concerning the contents of the letter. We also read that Philemon had his church in his house. He appears to have been wealthy, having slaves. Matthew 18 tells us that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

This speaks to me, because as Christians we have to have our church like a home, a place of worship for our LORD. Unity in doctrine and the bible being the centerpiece of the home as opposed to being open for special occasions, filling ourselves and then going out on mission to where God has placed us to spread the love of Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. At present my wife and I are going through a reading plan to enable this and our marriage has never been stronger.

Blessings to you my brother

…3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ…

Paul gives a typical Pauline greeting, Paul advises that he prays regularly for the recipient. As Christians this is very important that we pray for one another (whether we are in each others favor or not) In 1 Thessalonians 5, we are told to “Pray without ceasing” it is really that simple. If you feel far away from God, get in prayer and talk to him. Spend quiet time listening as well as talking; if you want to be more Christ like, you have to spend time with him. Paul is thankful that he knows Philemon and it is for the reasons listed in verse 5. Philemon has a good report. Philemon shows the characteristics in Titus 2:8-10 when we are looking at the qualities of a “Bishop” (or overseer) in the church as regards to his tongue and his doctrine. Jesus himself intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25) how much more should be interceding for each other, prayer isn’t barred by distance.

Philemon has love and faith, first for Jesus and them for the people that he had been trusted to lead. When you become a leader in the church of Jesus Christ, you are in a position of trust. Many things you do will be unseen, but any mistakes you make will be magnified. Philemon has a good report, which tells me that he led well. Paul’s prayers were that Philemon would see “every good thing that is in us” and that is something we could all do with, realizing where we came from and the work that has been done in us already by Christ. (As well as things we need to work on) No two people will have the same story and we have to learn which parts of our stories glorify God.

Appeal for Onesimus

…7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. 8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say…

I started Onesimus appeal here as Paul speaks of the “refreshing of the saints hearts” and I get that where I am in my life at present. I have recently found a new love for “koinonia”, time spent with people of similar doctrines for the purpose of edification and fellowship, some may say sharing also. As any good leader does, Philemon was proactive in meeting the needs of the folks he was leading. Many leaders cause themselves unnecessary issues by being reactive leaders and only spring into action when they need to put out fires or diffuse anger. This is destructive as it invites problems.

Paul states he is bold enough to command, however he gives Philemon the opportunity to make good choices. Paul has a real Pastoral father’s heart here. Paul gets to the “meat and bones” of the letter by stating he is asking a favor, however he is asking in love rather than being an overbearing commander, how awesome is that! Paul appeals to him in his present status, he is in jail and he is an old man. Perhaps he was stirring up sympathy or loyalty from Philemon; however it is clear that he is asking in love as opposed to “pulling rank”.

He appeals for a man who was previously in servitude to Philemon and had offended his master by escaping. Based on when the letter was written it would be logical to assume that Onesimus escaped to Rome, where he met Paul in the later days of his imprisonment and became over time of use to Paul. Paul taught him in his present state, led him to conversion, disciples him in the word of the LORD and as a keen student, Onesimus grew to be useful. Onesimus served Paul as if he was serving his master and was fulfilling the role that Philemon would also have gladly assumed. I have no idea whether Onesimus sought out Paul or whether the LORD engineered their meeting, Onesimus escaping was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

Paul alludes to this is verse 15, supposing that this might have been the reason he was allowed to come as far to meet Paul (in a straight line the distance is 858 miles, but the actual journey is probably much further) So for this man Onesimus to go to such lengths to get away tells us he was not there voluntarily. Also with the way that he left you can imagine that the very name of Onesimus would invoke a strong reaction in Philemon’s heart, let alone having him in front of him delivering a letter. I doubt he was received well before the letter was presented.

Paul asks him to not just be restored to Philemon’s good graces, but restored as a fellow equal and brother in Christ and not a slave (v16) Paul alludes that there may have been an issue of Onesimus owing Philemon something, whether by debt or theft (v18-19) Whatever his crime, Paul advises that he knows what he did and was requesting forgiveness, Paul lastly asks that he be received as if he was Paul himself. Wow! He is really asking a favor huh? You have to remember, Onesimus left in disgrace as a slave that had went away, and he had no rights of ownership prior to this letter.

Paul returns Onesimus to Philemon (v12) a man in chains returns a former man in chains to the man he was in servitude towards so that he maybe forgiven. What a picture of what Christ has done for us. Regardless of the wrong, regardless of the amount of debt, Jesus paid it all! Paul was very confident that Philemon would do as he said.

Closing remarks

…22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Paul is confident that he will see Philemon again, so has requested that he have a place prepared for him. This also verifies the closeness between the two that having Paul staying would be like having one of the family over. Philemon was very hospitable. He then goes to mention many of the same folks that are mentioned in Colossians 4:10-17, which confirms that the letter was sent to the same place.

Why is Onesimus important?

I honestly don’t know! Some commentators have Onesimus being the same Onesimus as a future Bishop of Ephesus, whilst that may not be true that would be an awesome end to the story and the Bishop of Ephesus was still within a conceivable lifespan of the Onesimus in Philemon.

Personally, I think it’s the account of redemption, the story that a guy who had done wrong by his master could not only be redeemed, but redeemed both in social status as well as redeemed as a brother in Christ. For me that is a true story of hope and a reason I love this Epistle so much.

I pray that this Bible study was a blessing to you and I welcome comments below.
TGBTG
TTE

Careful of your motivation…

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Philippians 1:14 (ESV) And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 16. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19. for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20. as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Be Bold

…14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear…

You will observe here that I will start and finish on the same point, “Your best sermons are quite often not spoken” Let me give you a scenario that was in a sermon I listened to.

A family sits down to dinner, the father gives a beautiful prayer, thanking the LORD for another day to serve him, for his beautiful wife, for his awesome kids, for the raise he just received and for the continuing provisions to provide such a wonderful meal, he thanks Jesus and says Amen.

He then asks his five year old to pass the ranch dressing, the five year old is like any other five year old and is super clumsy and knocks over his glass of water, the father proceeds to flip out at him as he the water crashes all over the table as he finishes passing the dressing to him.

Which sermon will those kids remember?

Paul remarks that the Philippian believers see what is at stake with Paul’s suffering, and it is encouraging that rather than shying away from the very words that could spell their doom, they are becoming more bold. They are living out the great commission in Matthew 28.

That hurts from my point of view, I am not under pain of death and I struggle to do this on a daily basis. I should be as I have the testimony of Paul and see the genuine joy that Paul had in his trials, the faith that Paul had that regardless what happened God would take care of him, either by deliverance or death and lastly, that Paul was almost as effective in prison as he was when he was making tents. I wish I was more Philippian in this case.

Preach with good will & Don’t be selfish

…15. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 16. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel 17. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment…

This is as relevant today as it was when the ink was still dry on the paper. When we get involved in ministry it has the capability of being something that can harm us. We may place the ministry itself above what it is supposed to be and we can make it an idol and have this instead of investing in time with God.

It is hard as the human nature in us wants to see “tangible results” whether its people through the door, lives changed are we doing more than the place down the road, or whatever barometer we measure success by. By doing so we can not leave ourselves as ready to deal with the open doors that God is placing in our lives. We can get self important and prideful. We can see the place down the road as a rival and not a “co-laborer in Christ”.

It does make me wonder, if they are approaching it with a heart of rivalry, were they happy Paul was out of the picture? Did they see it as their time in the sun? Strikes me as a question that could be the case, the heart is a wicked thing and sometimes if we allow ourselves to be puffed up we start seeing it as our ministry rather than Gods. You have to look at the sincerity of the person’s heart when they serve?

Not all were like that though and some preached with “good will” let me be that guy, let me not feel entitled, cut me down if I get to big for my boots! It may seem ironic that I am typing this on the World Wide Web for others to see, but I will be honest with you, it is not about me bringing this to you. If you knew me you would understand. I am Mr. Foot in mouth guy! I am rarely understood when I speak to people, so this is a happy medium to get out what the LORD is putting on my heart. I am not much of a writer and my punctuation could be a million times better, but I am hoping that you see through that and take the points I am making.

Ambition is okay as long as it is pure hearted. We can’t be all about one eye on how we look as well as how we present the LORDS precious word. We cannot be selfish. I see this in today’s Christianity in the form of denominationalism; we have our wee camps that we will covertly have our wee digs (or criticisms) at. We can’t want our fellow brothers in Christ to lose or to “go down” We have to pray for those who have the same mission as us, even if we have minor theological disagreements. God doesn’t have a huge scoreboard and we are not a “good and faithful servant” based on results of souls saved or numbers through the door.

We should be more like Paul and not really care who brings souls into heaven, I don’t know this for certain but I doubt there will be a “Methodist only”, “Lutheran only”, “Catholic only”, “Presbyterian only” sections in heaven. We will be too busy giving God glory to worry about little things like that.

Word never returns void

…18. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,…

This is how I know that Paul was not into rivalry, he was on point always, to get the gospel out with a remarkable urgency. That was what he rejoiced in, it is what made him happy, he was truly devoted. He knew that God would judge the hearts of the ones in error. He rejoiced for two reasons:

1 – They were motivated to preach the gospel
2 – They were advancing the kingdom and Christ was being proclaimed

Which brings us to “the word never returns void” If I am digging my yard I can still use a tool with a slight imperfection. I will still get the job done! They were still presenting a true gospel, (because I believe Paul would have said so had they not!) In some cases, they just did not have their heart right.

How sold out are we?

…19. for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20. as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…

Man, after reading and writing this I am pierced by my own personal failings, perhaps I am too hard on myself but I like to be brutally honest and say I don’t like trials, I don’t like to be tested. I certainly wouldn’t like jail and I do wonder what I would be like if I was in Paul’s shoes?

I would love to say that I would take it on the chin and not be a Jonah But I fear that I would be a big whiner! Perhaps what I need is a little persecution to rid me of some of the stuff that stops me from being as effective. (That is not an invite)

Paul is quite content not to be delivered from this deal, we see in Acts 16:11-40, Paul was delivered from a temporary jailing for preaching the word, he was thrown in jail and God used this jail time to bring the gospel face to face to the Philippian jailer and his family.

That’s how I would like to wrap this bible study up, we have to sometimes see the bigger picture. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Perhaps a temporary trial that we face maybe what saves someone from a life of sin and allows them to see a work of God in your life. let me reassure you that often times our strongest sermons aren’t spoken. They are the example that we show to that fallen person. We don’t always get it right. We have to allow God to work in our lives (sometimes without interference) and sometimes that is the hardest part of obedience.

As usual I welcome comments below, if you have Facebook just log in with your Facebook details below.

God bless and TGBTG
TTE

Happy Proposal Anniversary Chelsea

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Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12 (NKJV)

On this day in the year of our LORD two thousand and five, I asked a bubbly wonderful Californian lady to marry me in the village of Manhattan, in the City of New York. I literally had met her half way from our respective homes in California and Scotland.

I am not perfect, but she takes me for who I am. She has watched me fail her, break her heart, made her cry and made her laugh. The only thing I wish is that I had met her sooner, because now that I have her I could not imagine my life without her. She is the most wonderful person ever and her real beauty is that she does not realize it!

Let’s look at the verses

“…Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies…”

I listened to a Pastor once explain why rubies were mentioned and the real value of rubies. In my case, I could not measure my wife in riches; she has so much more than that. I could not pay her back for all of the blessings and good things that she has brought my way.

I love her in a way I did not know was possible, not an obligatory love, but a love that genuinely cherishes, loves her and would be devastated if I did not have her.

“…The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain…”

This is paramount, she is so virtuous that trust is never an issue. She has full access to all that I have and in her I am completely venerable. (Best of all I choose to be)

“…She does him good and not evil All the days of her life…”

It is said that when storms come you either pull apart or come together. My wife supports me, loves me, exhorts me, kicks me up the butt when required but has never come against me. That is not to say she is weak, she has a very strong spirit and when she needs to say something she does.

The greatest gift she showed me was the gospel of Jesus Christ, she helped me out of the drunken pit I was in, loved me at my worst and showed me a better way. Helped me and encouraged me when I was having hard times and hitting real rock bottom. Helped me get my life back together and got me plugged in to a Bible believing church.

Best of all, whether she likes it or not, she respects me! She gets me most of the time. (I truly am a puzzle) and I am shocked with how blessed I am with her.

Why this date is special?

As stated we were in New York, I had won a trip with a previous employer to NYC, I chose St Pat’s Day, we arrived on the 16th and left on the 19th, so we decided to sightsee and we saw many cool things such as Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Clinton Castle, Hard Rock Cafe, St Pats Day Parade. St Pats Cathedral and really had fun.

On the 18th, we went for a wonderful meal at Keane’s steakhouse, then made plans to visit the Empire State Building. as the building was about to wind down for the evening I asked a passer by to take a photo, then asked her to wait a few seconds and take it again. The second photo is when I proposed.

I believe that God sent me this woman; I could never have picked so well on my own. We were blessed in 2009 with a daughter and overall she is to me, worth more than rubies.

The question should be “What does she see in me?”

CHELSEA! UMF!

God bless and please comment should you wish
TGBTG
TTE

Ten Commandments through the eyes of the Epistles

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Your mission field should you choose to accept it

Ten Commandments through the eyes of the Epistles

In a previous article I spoke of Agape love and gave a brief definition of what it was, when beginning this study I decided to take a short look at something Christ said. This question occurred when the Pharisees (The teachers of the Law, the ones who should know better) were questioning him about what the greatest commandment was.

Jesus answers in the gospel of Matthew 22:35-40 when he says:

 

35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I find this wonderful and what a teacher our LORD was, broke down the 10 Commandments in one sentence! (If you wish to read the 10 Commandments they are in Exodus 20:2-17)

10 Commandments in a paragraph

I am no way as good a teacher as our LORD so I will try to do this in a paragraph. (I also studied this a lot as I wanted to write a book on the subject) The first 4 Commandments refer to your relationship with God. (Verses 3-11) The last 6 refer to your relationship with others. (Verses 12-17)

You can’t love people the way God wants you to until you first love God.

How so you treat your neighbour?

Lets have a reality check here folks, I was in a meeting recently with a local Pastor and we were discussing an issue that was divisive in the church at large and I eventually said to him “we all have to own how we treat each other!” (This was 2014 and it was concerning two Christian brothers at opposite ends of Christendom as far as how they reach people for Christ)

Jesus himself advised this self same point in the Gospel of Luke 10:29-37, so many of us become a “Diotrephes” and become puffed up and start to think we are the main show when we are simply the tolls used by the master craftsman.

The thing that strikes me today about that parable is it is the ones who have been overlooked for the “show ministries” that are making the difference to the guys who are in the ditches, Praise God for those with a Samaritans heart that just get on with it and have the heart to do it for Gods glory and not for the praises of men.

Those folks to me are showing the real Christ, those guys who show Jesus’ love and not judgement to the guy in bondage to drugs, to alcohol or whatever their vice is. That to me is true agape love.

Verses that show the value of keeping the last 6 Commandments

Lastly, we have further reading in the Scriptures that show the principles of the Ten Commandments in other parts of the Bible. They are below:

Respect authority – Ephesians 6:1-3; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Protect Life – Deuteronomy 19:11-12; 1 John 3:15

Protect Marriage – 1 Corinthians 6:13-18; James 4:1-4

Respect Property – Exodus 22:1-15; Malachi 3:8-10

Honour Truth – Zechariah 8:16-17; Ephesians 4:29-32

Reject Greed – Psalm 106:13-15; 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Love is showing them Jesus

In conclusion, I want to share that it is great to love people on this earth and attend to their day to day needs, but if we really wish to love them we also have to show them Jesus.

To do the first would be like performing the role of a triage nurse in an ER room to a gunshot wound victim. Whilst your role is important, if they don’t have surgery they will not survive. We have to book the person we are agape-ing (is that a word?) in For a “Salvation-ectomy)

Step 1 – Bear them in love

We read in the book of Ephesians the following words:

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

That is what we were talking about before, this applies to our relationship with believers and non-believers, if you clean a man up when he is at his lowest, he will listen to you when you try to show him a better way.

Step 2 – preaching is not just words

2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

You notice the word that is in both verses “patience” I love this because when I was in sin, I loved it! I was Mr. I can drink more than you, I can eat more than you, I can party more than you.

The person you are “agape-ing” may still be there, they may have one foot in both camps, they may still be in sin, you have to teach them honestly sound doctrine and show them the reason you are there and why you love.

Step 3 – Have compassion but save by fear

This point is summed up beautifully in the Epistle of Jude:

Jude 1:20 (ESV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Some will believe when they hear of Jesus love, some will believe because they do not wish to spend eternity in the lake of fire! (Revelation 20:11-15)

Hell is real folks! Lets not forget, as Christians our MO is to keep as many folks out of there as possible. We are to be missionaries to where God has planted us, and to do what he has called in our lives.

I pray this was challenging and an exhortation to you! God bless you and TGBTG
TTE

Shona lá Naomh Pádraig – Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2014

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March 17th is probably the most well known day on most peoples calendar, not just in the native Ireland, but in the US and far abroad. Most people who know what day it is will know that it is the day of the patron saint of Ireland. Most associate the day with Guinness, heavy drinking and partying. (I know I did prior to becoming a Christian) but what a lot of people fail to realize is that Patrick was a dynamic Christian monk who revolutionized the island of Ireland for the Christian faith.

I do however find it funny that a temperate man of God, who is reputed to spread the gospel of Christ wherever he went, is famous for removing snakes from a land and overseen the conversion of druid kings and helped an island understand their need for a messiah called Jesus Christ, is celebrated in the way he is!

Patrick was a 5th Century Briton missionary sent by the Church of Britain to evangelize the people of Ireland. The reason for the date of celebration is the date that it is said that Patrick died was 17th March, it is celebrated as both a religious and cultural day of celebration and in both Northern and the Republic of Ireland it is a holiday day.

Where Patrick was born is uncertain, some say Cumbria in England, some say Scotland and some say Wales, one thing is for certain is that he was born in the British Isles and came to Ireland as a missionary. When Patrick arrived in Ireland the natives were pagan, around the time of the druids, he is credited with the conversion of many local kings and local lords with teaching from the land.

He is also credited as being a man of integrity, refusing to accept payment for infant baptisms, for services rendered in a clerical fashion such as reading documents and also refused bribes and payments from kings and lords. In many cases he left himself without protection in a very dangerous land.

Trinity and the shamrock

Patrick is credited with using nature to overcome doctrinal issues such as the trinity. At this time many of the natives of the island of Ireland were illiterate and reading would have been problematic. Patrick is said to have overcome this by using the common shamrock. (A 3 leafed clover) to illustrate how one could also be three. (God being also “father”, “son” and “holy spirit”)

Similar claims have been attributed to the missionaries who used the Celtic cross, citing the educational level of their converts and the use of the circle showing the son (sun) on the cross to signify the crucifixion.

Both the Celtic Cross, Shamrock and Celtic Trinity Knot are symbols that are still used today by Christians in Ireland. Sports teams representing Ireland in both Soccer and Rugby have shamrocks in their emblem.

Death

St. Patrick is said to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba, although this has never been proven.

Legacy of St. Patrick

We all need to be a bit more like St. Patrick; we need to be beacons of light in a darkened world. Our reality is probably not as dangerous as St. Patrick’s was, we are protected by established law and order, which was not the case in his day and the very words he had that could save them were also the words that could spell his death.

Talk about a missionary huh? How does your evangelism shape up to this? I know I am convicted about my personal failings here. But The LORD is faithful and should I wake tomorrow I have another chance to share his word. That is how we can make his legacy and day really mean what Patrick would have intended.

Many “Protestants” in my land decline to celebrate this day because it is deemed “Catholic” but this message is bigger than ANY denominational issue you may have, this is about being Christians and sharing words that could save souls.

God bless and TGBTG
TTE

Proper Christian hospitality…

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Does John talk about healing?

3 John 3:1 (KJV) The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6. Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well 7. Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. 9. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 11. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 12. Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. 13. I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14. But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

John writes unto the elder Gaius, as a friend and an exhorter in the faith. I don’t know about you but in this age of instant communication, there is just something beautiful about recieving something that someone has written manually. (I do, of course realize how ironic that statement is as I am currently writing in an electronic fashion)

John writes that his friend is beloved and that he loves him in the truth. We all need that, a brother who has common doctrine in common with us. This greeting tells us of two things:

* Unison of purpose between the writer and the sender
* The great affection that is between the writer and the recipient

As greetings go, this alludes a lot of the relationship between John and Gaius. That they were in contact and this was the communication medium of the day. John would be familiar to the recipeint and any possible readers as he states that he will be there to “speak face to face” (V14)

in verse 2 we read “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” is not John advising that he maybe healed of any infirmities that he has, but simply as any of us would state if we were writing a letter to someone we loved, that we wish they were in good health. Our words have little effect on whether they are or not.

This is similar to Proverbs 17:22 (KJV) that states: A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. When we are joyful or have our spirits raised, do we worry about our troubles or pains or aches? Actually, no! It doesn’t need to be laughter, I recently was really blessed by a bible study and prayer time that I attended that was truly Holy Spirit driven and spoke to me so deeply.

Gaius is a man of spiritual integrity (v3 & 4) John rejoices that this man he taught is advancing in the word of the LORD. That he is progressing and now discipling others. The lesson here is to be a Christian as opposed to talk about being one! He is faithful; he has a good reputation and just gets on with it! Talk about having a right heart.

Verses 5-8 talk about the correct way to receive the brothers, to be hospitable, to help them on their way, to not hinder them and they have rewarded him with a good report that has reached Johns ears. We have to do these things with the right heart, whether or not people will hear about them or not. We cannot be focused on the blessings or good words of other men, that will only lead to feelings of resentment and rejection when someone fails us.

I am somewhat the opposite, I love to teach the word of God but do not like the limelight as such, during my time at the Calvary Chapel in Porterville I have been wary of accepting plaudits and don’t really like a light shone on things I have done in the background. For a while I did the social media ministry there and kind of hid when that was being lauded. Believe me this is one of the few areas I have nailed down and I am not perfect in any way.

Because of Gaius example, the prophets have come and taken this example and taken nothing from the nations. In a few days we will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and we will look at a man who did likewise, in that day there were tensions between the native Jewish believers and the Greek Gentile believers. Gaius does not see that and is very similar to Colossians 3:22

…where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all…

We could learn from that today in the way we treat people, often times we look for differences when we should just simply love. I see that clearer now as I am a Scotsman in a foreign land that has difficulty orating in a clear fashion. People will avoid talking to me rather than having the inconvenience of having to listen attentively.

We all know a Diotrephes

On the flip side we have Diotrephes, who is like the folks I mentioned before. We all know a Diotrephes, he is the overbearing one who likes to lord it over people the second he has a little authority. My take on whatever the LORD has blessed me with drives me to kill any feelings that I am something special now. The correct heart is that I am in this role to serve and to learn rather to exert power.

Diotrephes is a hard act to see and even harder to deal with in the flesh. He is the one who is always in dispute with someone and cannot be corrected. If he wasn’t up to a task he would keep a stranglehold on it even if he wasn’t gifted in that area. He even refused to deal with John the beloved, a disciple of Jesus Christ. We read in verse 10 that if someone in his assembly showed good works to someone he didn’t like he would excommunicate them! What a character eh?

I would urge you to check your behaviour with the scripture, with emphasis on Galatians 3:11-12 and James 1:22, I find this a lot with knowledge heavy Christians, the ones that know the scriptures inside out but the application just isn’t there. Empty religion and dictatorship will not make a good Christian relationship. Another question to ask in your personal life is do you tear down more than you build up? Sobering thought, huh?

Demetrius is important too

V12 alludes to the deliverer (Demetrius) of the letter, that he has a good report and is trustworthy enough to carry such an important document. When I think of important documents I think of documents such as Scotland’s Declaration of Arbroath penned in 1320 or the USA’s Declaration of Independence and I think of the impeccable trust taken between the signers and the folks entrusted to deliver these documents and keep it safe from harm, not just any man gets that job.

Then John closes by explaining that it is a short letter because they will soon speak face to face. In my studies I have no idea whether this actually happened or not, but I am reassured of the kinship between author and the person receiving this letter.

God bless and TGBTG
TTE

Purim and its relevance to Christians

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On Sundown Saturday 15th March, the Jewish calendar celebrates the feast day of “Purim”. The jist of the festival is the commemoration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from the Persian Empire, biblically this is found in the book of Esther.

In Esther 9 we read (KJV Version)

17. On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 18. But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 19. Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another. 20. And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, 21. To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, 22. As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. 23. And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them; 24. Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them;

As you can read above, Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar. (Which falls on Saturday 15th March this year) the relevance to Christians is that it is simply in the Bible. The holiday is more of a National holiday rather than a Jewish religious one. Apart from the Torah readings it is a celebration, with costumes, games, noise and food often times the children will act out the passage from Esther. It is a fun holiday.

I love the definition of Purim in this vers “Pur” means lot, or a lot and “Im” is plural so it is literally the feast of lots, Haman cast lots to decide when he was to destroy Israel, serious stuff huh?

According to Wikipedia the four main mitzvot (obligations) of the day are:

1.Listening to the public reading, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Esther in the evening and again in the following morning (k’riat megillah)
2.Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot)
3.Giving charity to the poor (matanot la’evyonim)
4.Eating a festive meal (se`udat mitzvah)

Personally I find the whole thing fascinating as it is a part of Biblical history. I am no Jewish scholar or expert in Jewish history, I know what I have read and weighed the perspectives it has been written from in the balance, to balance out any bias.

From a Christian perspective

On a personal note, I equate celebrations of delivery from a past evil much like I view my personal delivery from my sinful ways when I began a relationship with Jesus Christ. Prior to my “BC” (Before Christ) life, I was under a slavery of my own, slavery to sin, slavery to my own will and an ever decreasing circle of being unfulfilled.

I am in favor of the feast of Purim as it is good to remember the times that God has delivered us from the trials that we have been in, whether those trials have been great or small. How many times have you prayed to God for deliverance but not actually thanked him when he got you out of what was troubling you?

I am not a “replacement theology” person and don’t believe that we inherit all the blessings (minus the curses) of the Children of Israel, I believe in a New Covenant where the Christians are grafted in to the original branch, but not at the expense of the root. Jesus came to be the Messiah first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (or Nations) thereafter.

Much like Haman wishing to destroy Israel, we have a destroyer also. Our sin, should we not accept Christ as our Saviour will keep us out of heaven. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) God is a merciful and gracious God that does not desire that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

Jesus came and died on the cross (John 3:16-17) for us all to deliver us from our state of being without (or separation) from God. We have a new identity, we are a new creation, and we have a new destination when we become post humus in this life. We were born into sin and now have a new life in Christ Jesus. That is cause for celebration indeed.

I have a great love for all peoples, Jews, Greek, Arab, whoever and wish to see you all come to faith in Christ Jesus. As you celebrate one temporary deliverance I pray that you contemplate a far reaching deliverance.

To my Jewish friends and friends of Israel I wish you a happy Purim

God bless you one and all and TGBTG
TTE

I will dance with Cinderella

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Last night, I had the honour of attending a Daddy/Daughter dance at a local church (Radiant Visalia) with my two brother in laws with my four year old princess. (And her cousins)

Something I realize as a Christian parent is that I have such a short time to influence my daughter, I have such an awesome responsibility to instill in her values that will stay with her and allow her to make wise choices about the man that she will marry.

Last night was awesome for me. I got to dress up, wearing a black suit, pink shirt, tie that matched my daughters dress and she was dressed up also.

I began with giving her some Red roses, it was important to start with a gift that told her that it was her night and that I was. It going to leave her side all night.

Coming out of the store I had an interesting interchange with a man who asked if I had “screwed up?” I explained to him that it was “Daddy/Daughter” date night but that did make me think.

In our relationships, often times we are maintaining and sustaining rather than investing. Not just romantically but I have a few friendships that have been like that also.

The night was awesome, we got our pictures taken, my daughter chased balloons, the music was great, we ate, my daughter met “Snow White” and Cinderella” I held my daughter tight and we really made wonderful memories.

The last dance was the most touching, it was to Stephen Curtis Chapmans song “Cinderalla” and we danced with my holding Tabi (she was getting tired by then) and it was so emotional to see all those Dads on the floor committed to making the night memorable for their “princesses”.

If you are unaware of the song “Cinderella” I would urge you to listen to it, it speaks of the fragility of a Daddy/Daughter relationship as the lyricist realizes that he has such a short window to be that role in her daughters life. The lyric that hits me is.

“Because all too soon, the clock will strike midnight, and she’ll be gone”

Feeling blessed but reminded of what an honour and a blessing it is to be a daddy this morning.

Please check out my Facebook & Instagram for more photos.

God bless and TGBTG
TTE

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All you need is agape

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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. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

Not just an introduction this time

By now most of you will have read the “Introduction to 1st Corinthians 13” that I posted a few days ago, I felt moved to do more of an inductive study on the words in this passage as this has been an important area in my Christian life and it may be of help to others.

If you have studied the book of Corinthians you will understand the Corinthian people were people of excess. When they lived in a carnal lifestyle they were very carnal, when they became spiritual they were really spiritual. This can be an issue today, that we become distracted by being gifted by God. If we are given the gift of tongues, then that is a blessing but let it be used appropriately. Gifts are meant to edify, not cause confusion.

Division?

Recently, a well known Christian pastor called John MacArthur held a conference called “Strange Fire” condemning a whole bunch of charismatic movements. (Including my very own Calvary Chapel) Whilst there are some practices that I am uneasy with in some of these movements, there are some good things coming out of these movements so in my opinion it is not fruitful to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”

Use of Spiritual gifts

I say this as I have seen some “wacky things” in the name of using spiritual gifts, I have seen pastors command their people speak in tongues all at once with no interpretations, I have also seen folks taking seizures in the LORD. I am not discounting the gift of tongues, but I do admonish people to use it biblically. In some churches the gift is a means to say “you have arrived at a greater level of Christian” Tongues are shown in the bible, notably in Acts 2 and Revelation 5, but we cannot be abusing these gifts and cheapening them to make ourselves look holier.

We have to also not to be distracted by attaining these gifts. I have seen people devote entire prayer lives to attaining the gift of tongues, not increasing in Gods word or opportunities to reach the lost, but a self seeking agenda to seem spiritual. Sadly they are not also praying to increase in love to those who are against them. They wish for the gifts but don’t have love, sound familiar huh?

Annoying noise

The term “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” indicates an annoying noise. Do you think thats what God hears? Is it no coincidence that or LORD Jesus was hardest on those who should have known better (Pharisees) due to their grand gestures but empty hearts. When I started my journey as a Christian, I didn’t want to set out to be a Pharisaical one! Did you?

We have to realize that these are gifts, its like recently I (as in me and my wife) bought our wee princess a doll from Disney’s “Frozen” did she do anything to deserve that? Possibly, did we do it because we love her? Definitely. How much greater gifts would we get from God?

Super Christian?

If we had the gifts of prophecy, knowledge and faith, we may think that we have become a “Super Christian” but what we have been gifted from God really in many cases have no relevance of our worthiness. We are all still sinners, albeit redeemed sinners. We also have to have the correct motive and the will to use the gifts for the glory of God. It is right that it says they are irrelevant without love.

The idea of faith moving mountains can be found in Matthew 17:20 in the words of Christ. We have to get the balance between love and the gifts, not to seek first the gifts and get the point of this; the love should be the motive behind using the gifts.
Let’s look at Biblical love:

There are four words used for love in the New Testament. Eros, Storge, Philia, Agape, lets look at them in basic terms.

Eros – Physical love between a man and woman, where we get our modern day “erotic”
Storge – Family love, like what I have for my daughter
Philia – Brotherly love, deep friendship
Agape – Self giving love, without demanding anything in recompense, a sacrificial, absorbing love.

Paul unsurprisingly uses “agape” so this leads me to a question. How often do we agape one another? Now we have defined this do we “have not agape?” this leads us into actions mentioned in the passage.

Actions without meaning really are also not useful.

…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…

I think that charity to the poor is great, not that it means much but I recently gave a sandwich to a guy outside McDonalds who was severely down on his luck, this guy was the genuine article. I have never seen someone be so grateful over a sandwich that cost me under $2. I pray that he is sustained and that he finds Jesus.

Jesus told a rich man to sell all that he had and follow him (Matthew 16) It is good to shirk some of our comfort zone, but please do it with the right heart and if we are doing it, do it in love.

The last one is hard also, if I give myself to me martyred… I was talking last night about Scottish Christianity and in particular about George Wishart being burned in St Andrews for the heresy of Protestantism. If he had no love it would mean nothing.

Nuts and bolts

We have to get our heart right and love in an agape fashion. (Sounds easy huh?) All of what is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 are good things, if used in the way God intended. God wants the best for us and we have to have the heart of agape love to use what God has given to us as gifts.

Lastly, I love this music video, hope you enjoy.

God bless you and I pray this was a blessing.
TGBTG