Unending Grace: 2 Corinthians 9:8

2 Cor 9 maple leaf“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

Are we eager for the King of Heaven?

Here is a song from Paul Baloche which I have been considering for a while to include in our church repertoire: King of Heaven from ‘The Same Love’ album. It challenges us to collectively anticipate and call on the Lord Jesus for His return. It has a lively and uplifting feel. You will find the words in the first clip, and at the end. Blessings!

“King Of Heaven”
Jesus, let Your kingdom come here
Let Your will be done here in us
Jesus, there is no one greater
You alone are Savior, show the world Your love

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign, shining like the day, King of Heaven come

King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King of Heaven come

We are children of Your mercy
Rescued for Your glory
We cry, Jesus set our hearts towards You
Every eye would see You lifted high

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign shining like the day
King of Heaven come

King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King Of Heaven come

Ooh, ooh, ooh, King of Heaven come

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign, shining like the day
King of Heaven come

King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King of Heaven come

The Word must lead us to Love

This is a great quote – from today’s post over at “In my Father’s House” – which reminds us why we read and seek to understand God’s Word. There are so many other things that could motivate us, but here is surely the most important:

Beloved, our understanding of Scripture must lead us to love—to love God more and to love others unconditionally. Otherwise, we will stay in our fear-based paradigm and ultimately use Scripture as a club against one another because of our insecurities. Our diligent study will only lead to biblical idolatry, “having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge”(Rom.10:2), using “the letter that kills”rather than the “Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor.3:6). Our understanding must tenderize our hearts and lead us to show the same grace for others that we would want for ourselves. And this love will never do our neighbor harm, which fulfills all righteousness (Rom.13:10).

The hermeneutics of love – part two – http://wp.me/p3I7Ty-3zy

Why should I gain from His reward?

8128-ea_fathers_love how deep for us lyrics.pngYes, the Sovereign lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. (Isaiah 40:10-11 NLT)

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:12-13)

Sometimes even really great songs can become tired. People just get ‘over’ singing them and the impact and meaning is lost. It’s rare to find a song that endures very long these days! But this song is somehow different: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (1995)

I remember when I first came across the Stuart Townend song. Its unusual time signature scheme (4/4 and 6/4 in alternate bars) coupled with beautiful poetry declaring the wonder of God’s love really gave the song a certain ‘X’ factor – and won me over! Perhaps for these reasons it has endured as a singable and meaningful song. Though it’s been around for almost two decades I’d say this song can still penetrate any stubborn heart and mind to see the beauty of our salvation afresh! (In case you somehow missed it, the lyrics are down below)

There is such rich theology in this song – but I’d like to focus on one intriguing line in verse 3:  “Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. . .”

As we see in the passages above from Isaiah and Revelation, the Messiah, Risen Redeemer King, Jesus Christ turns up to rule bringing his reward with him, a reward which is his own flock of people, saved by His blood. These are the people the Father has given to Jesus, as His reward:
“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.…” (John 10:29)

How incredible that from Jesus’ perspective we are His reward, the people of God, sinners saved by undeserved grace! We cannot give an answer for why Jesus would die for us, for his enemies – we can only look with thankfulness that for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:12)
This is Jesus, our redeemer and friend! How deep the love of the Father to send his own Son for us!

HOW DEEP THE FATHER’S LOVE FOR US

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stuart Townend– See more at: http://www.stuarttownend.co.uk/song/how-deep-the-fathers-love-for-us/#sthash.jX205XY1.dpuf

Here are some links to learn more about the song:

http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/songdetail.aspx?iid=577430

1 Corinthinans 13…Remixed For Today

Thanks go to the folks at Blazing Center for this insightful application of 1 Corinthians 13:

If I status update with such insight, hilarity, godliness, or profundity, that I get a thousand retweets and likes, yet have not love, I’m a cellphone that won’t stop ringing, or a car alarm at 2 AM.

If I understand every nuance of every complicated doctrine, including eschatology and predestination, and am a constant defender of orthodoxy, and if I am renowned for my ability to communicate truth with passion, but have not love, I’m nothing more than a first grader in the kingdom of God.

If I am a fantastic worship leader, able to lead hundreds of people in passionate worship of God, yet have not love, my skills are worth jack.

If I am a blog warrior, constantly on the attack against those who would distort the faith, yet have not love, I’m that yippy dog next door who won’t stop barking…even at 3 AM.

If I live a life of radical sacrifice, crazy love, and wartime mentality, and sponsor lots of kids through Compassion International, and go on mission trips in “closed countries”, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I am a great artist, able to capture a snapshot of the glory of God on canvas, or in song, or in prose, or on film, and yet have not love, my creative “genius” is utterly useless to God.

If I preach like Piper or Chandler or Chan or Platt, and yet have not love, I’m nothing more than a squawking parrot who likes to imitate others.

If I read all the books by all the smart theologians, and can quote them off the top of my head, yet have not love, WHO REALLY CARES!!!!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

http://www.theblazingcenter.com/2014/09/1-corinthinans-13-remixed-for-today.html?

‘Christ in us’ rescues our relationships (James 3:16)

Yes, the title is a bit of a mouthful. I was also considering “The wisdom that saves us from our destructive tendencies in human relationships.” Admittedly that is a tad too long, but this is the very essence of James 3:16. “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
Continuing the Three Sixteen series we see here in James how our relationships suffer apart from Christ. Our fallen nature pits us against one another as natural enemies. We hold each other with suspicion, careful to ensure someone else is not better than us, or has better stuff (or people in their life) than us. You see this attitude play out clearly when two toddlers meet and cautiously approach each other for the first time. Can I really trust you? As adults we try to veil our suspicion, and often do it quite well, but the bent of envy and selfish ambition runs deep in our hearts. We can trace this way back to the vulnerability Adam and Eve felt once they recognized their nakedness. There was a need to cover up, to be on the defensive against the ambitions of others. Our relationships suffer as a result. Yet this is the wisdom of the world we live in.

James shows us another way, the way of wisdom from above. Let’s read the verse in context below:
James 3:14-18 NIV
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

These are such challenging things to actually live out, but when the peace of Christ comes to rule in our hearts we can have true peace with each other. We can rejoice with those who rejoice and express genuine love and care for others.This is what makes the Christian community so unique, so attractive to the world. Sure, we are not perfect, but if Christ is in us he cannot but shine through our relationships which lack envy and selfish ambition. In Christ we can know some measure of sincere love, through the humility of our brothers and sisters who are also being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Let’s work to heed the warning of James’ 3:16 and yet also rejoice! The indwelling Saviour has sweetened our human existence beyond measure. Praise be to Him!

Come and love through me

worth it allFollowing on from some recent posts about love, I would like to share with you a song from Meredith Andrews, a singer I’ve only recently discovered and am really enjoying.  It comes from an album “Worth it All” and expresses a longing for God to work in her life, that he might love through her. Sometimes it is discouraging  to look at the great lack of love in the world, in people and families around us – but really it starts with us choosing to be obedient to God’s great command to love. He is willing and able to love through us, through me! What a privilege!

START WITH ME

You are air to desperate lungs
Water falling on the sand
Silence to an angry storm sight to a blind man
You’re still the God of miracles
So if You’re gonna move again
Then would You move in me move in me

You’re the beat to a broken heart
Bread for a hungry crowd
And one word from Your voice rings out
And the dead throw their grave clothes down
‘Cause You’re still the God of the empty tomb
The One who came to life again
So come alive in me come alive in me
Come alive in me come alive in me yeah

My life is an empty cup
Fill it up fill it up
I want to hear ev’ry rescued heart cry
You’re enough You’re enough
Break what needs breaking
‘Til You’re all we see and start with me
Start with me

Whose arms hold the fatherless
Whose voice do they hear
Who sits with the prisoner
And stands for the one in fear
You’re still the God of what is just
And You’re still the God of love
So would You love through me
Love through me yeah
Come and love through me
Would You love through me yeah

(Bridge)

Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Lord let it be and start with me start with me
Yes Your kingdom come and Your will be done
Oh Lord let it be
Let it start with me start with me yeah
Start with me
Start with me oh

CCLI Song # 6378185 Meredith Andrews | Paul Duncan | Paul Mabury © 2012 Word Music

They will know us By Our Love

HEART CLOTHESLINEThis week I read a wonderful post entitled “Got Love?” from In My Father’s House. It was about the importance of love for others, a way to know if we actually know God, that we belong to Him, that we are his children. Here is a sample:

“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 Cor.13:1-3)

Are you a “Spirit-filled person? Going to a vibrant Spirit-filled church? The sick are getting healed, demons cast out? That’s great. Do you have prophecies, glory clouds, visions of the Third Heaven? Awesome. Do you think having and defending correct doctrine is important? Cool. Are you all about social justice? Feeding the poor? Making the world “a better place?” That’s wonderful. Are you willing to die for your faith? Admirable.

But Without God’s love,  spiritual power can blow people up. Without God’s love, all our biblical knowledge and defending the “truth” becomes the source of combative spiritual pride and carnal divisiveness. Without God’s love, social justice turns into nothing more than self-righteous works to make us feel significant, or worse, ease our guilt. Without God’s love, our martyrdom is nothing more than religious zeal. Without God’s unfailing love, we will fail.

How do we measure spiritual maturity?

What if spiritual maturity was not measured by our Bible knowledge, our training, our spiritual gifts, our willingness to serve, our zeal, our charisma, but was totally based on our ability to receive God’s love and give it away?

What if it was based on how well we’ve been able to enlarge our heart (open the “faucet” of our heart) to receive more of this unending ocean of God’s love living inside of us right now? Do you understand that if we don’t know how to open our heart to receive His unconditional love, and give it away unconditionally, we can’t be trusted? . . . ”

It’s certainly a challenging post and worth reading all of it: http://melwild.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/got-love/
It reminded me of the challenge of a song we use at church, BY OUR LOVE by Christy Nockels.
You can listen and read through the lyrics below. I trust you will find it helpful. Here is the chorus:

The time is now, Come Church arise
Love with His hands, See with His eyes
Bind it around you, Let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love.

BY OUR LOVE

Brothers, let us come together
Walking in the Spirit, there’s much to be done
We will come reaching, out from our comforts
And they will know us by our love

Sisters, we were made for kindness
We can pierce the darkness as He shines through us
We will come reaching, with a song of healing
And they will know us by our love!

The time is now, Come Church arise
Love with His hands, See with His eyes
Bind it around you, Let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love.

Children, You are hope for justice
Stand firm in the Truth now, set your hearts above
You will be reaching, long after we’re gone
And they will know you by your love!

Song Number 5489329 Author Christy Nockels Copyright 2009 worshiptogether.com Songs

You can look up sheet music here: http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/songdetail.aspx?iid=1052518

Unconditional – the type of love only God can give

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:10)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Unconditional love is certainly an interesting topic for a pop princess to sing about. I’ve written before of the way Katy Perry’s lyrics often contain (perhaps) unintentional references to the wisdom and character of God. He is the God she was brought up to know and though she has now clearly denied him, he still speaks. (See a previous post:  ‘Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam, or maybe a Firework). Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” expresses a commitment to live out the type of love that has no strings attached. It’s the sort of inspiring song that would well suit a marriage ceremony of committed Christ-followers, those who know God’s unconditional love in Christ and desire to minister to another person’s needs, in love, regardless of their response.

Here are some of the lyrics (chorus and verse 2)

Unconditional, unconditionally, I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now, Let go and just be free, I will love you unconditionally

Come just as you are to me, Don’t need apologise, Know that you are worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good, Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you”

Thanks to Katy people are now singing along to a song about the type of love God shows us in Christ! (though the visuals of the film clip don’t seem to illustrate that too well :))
But in thinking this through I just have to ask: how unconditional can our human love really be? Despite our best intentions, if our partner were to suddenly start abusing us or our children, or blatantly breaking all social or moral laws (including their marriage vows) would we stick by them – really? We could work to resolve issues, but how well would we love if we received nothing back, or worse? We cannot love perfectly or unconditionally because we are not perfect.

Katy no doubt experienced this harsh truth in her failed first marriage, and no matter how much she sings about it, only God can love unconditionally. No matter how much we declare it, our sinful pride will overrule our best intentions. It is only the power of the risen Lord Jesus living in us which allows us to reflect God’s unconditional love in any way. It is his strength in us that helps us choose to keep loving, regardless of the response. Let’s pray that Katy and her fans will come to know the truly unconditional love of Christ, in the freedom and power of the Gospel.

Here is a song from Casting Crowns which I think does a much better job at describing the brokenness of human relationships, and the way we can love and accept each other, in our brokenness:

BROKEN TOGETHER (Casting Crowns)

What do you think about when you look at me Casting-Crowns-PR-Image
I know were not the fairytale you dreamed wed be
You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand
And we dove into a mystery

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light
Now on this hallowed ground, weve drawn the battle lines
Will we make it through the night

Its going to take much more than promises this time
Only God can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and Ill bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way well last forever is broken together

How it must have been so lonely by my side
We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind
Im praying God will help our broken hearts align
And we wont give up the fight

Is your Smart phone making you dumb?

driving texting dangerousSmart phone technology has brought many radical social changes in the last decade or so. People are doing things (without a second thought) that were once considered really stupid or anti-social. Who would have thought we humans would try operating a motor vehicle while staring at a three-inch screen? Or walking on a train platform doing the same? Imagine sitting with a group of friends and gazing intently at the palm your hand, offering them no conversation or eye contact! Perhaps you have already observed some of these odd and addictive tendencies in the people around you – and most frighteningly, in yourself!

A columnist in our local paper just confessed to being a phonoholic. “My phone has become the 207th bone in my body. I think I would feel barely upright without it. . . Such a feeling has been named nomophonophobia – the fear of being without your mobile phone.” (J. Fynes-Clinton, Sept 26, 2013)

Smartphones don’t discriminate in taking prisoners! It is not only those selfie-taking tween addicts who are at risk of losing all their ‘smarts’ to their smart phone. In fact, our “selfie-obsessed” Prime Minister posted his latest shaving cut via Instagram just weeks before the election (he lost). So, before we all lose our common sense to our smart phones, let’s ‘hang up’ on excessive smart phone use. Here are 10 things you should know about your awesome smart phone (before you find yourself cast in the sequel of Dumb and Dumber To):

1. Smart phones don’t make you smarter and won’t make you happy.
Yep, they sure are sleek, complex and nifty little gadgets that do cool things. They can connect you to a web of ‘friends’, music, video, games and the latest social news – but they may detract from your wisdom, intelligence and satisfaction level. You can become so reliant on mobile google that you give up thinking or remembering anything! Smart phones may make you look cool, acceptable and impress your friends, but there are more important things in life, which can bring greater and lasting joy.

2. People are better than Smart phones.galaxy-s4-life-companion
Have we forgotten this?  People are unique and complex individuals. They have more potential to surprise, entertain and inspire you than anything you’ll flick by on the small screen. Living, three-dimensional, high resolution people make far better company. No matter what Samsung may tell you, your smart phone is not a ‘life companion’. People are way smarter and worth investing in. Try paying close attention to their faces, eyes and body language – and see what happens. Don’t become so dependent on that small screen that you lose touch with real people and relationships.

3. They make you forget basic good manners and conversation skills.
Smart phones make us think it is acceptable to silently stare at a little screen in the presence of another human being, especially when everyone else is doing it! (Actually, everyone else has to do it so they don’t feel ignored!) We even think it’s fine to do so when someone is actually speaking to us. Hello!?

4. They tempt you to build your self-esteem on how many people like your social media updates.
How easy to become addicted to that sort of affirmation when it is at your fingertips? Do you really need to know that people like your latest meal or cup of coffee? Smart phones encourage us to binge on social media. Turning off those distracting phone notifications may allow you to engage fully with people in the moment.

attention-while-walking5. You look pretty silly when your phone is constantly in hand.
And you’ll looking sillier if you injure yourself while walking and typing. In New Jersey, police began (May 2012) issuing $85 citations for careless walking, and the Utah Transit Authority made distracted walking around trains punishable by a $50 fine. Signage is also being used widely to reduce pedestrian accidents caused by texting. Try putting the thing in your bag or pocket, or in another room. And by the way, smart phones and toilets don’t mix well for many reasons!


6. They tempt us to be a stupid driver who texts or updates Facebook while driving.
How easy would it be to stop the car to attend to that important text message? Facebook also can wait! If you must recharge your phone in the front of the car, shut it in the glove box or put it out of reach so you won’t be easily tempted. (Besides that, it is pretty stupid not to avoid a fine for being on your phone while driving, if you can.)

7. Smart phone technology addiction can actually rewire your brain, to be less smart!
In “The Brain that Changes Itself” (2008) author Norman Doidge says that our dependence on this technology can rewire our brains to the extent that it becomes difficult to concentrate on a complex conversation or listen to a lecture. “Electronic media are so effective at altering the nervous system because that both work in similar ways. . . Both involve the instantaneous transmission of electronic signals to make linkages. Because our nervous system is plastic*, it can take advantage of this compatibility and merge with the electronic media, making a single, larger system. . . Now man is beginning to wear his brain outside his skull, and his nerves outside his skin” (p.311). At the very least, excessive smart phone use discourages us from tackling problems, conversations, a novel or the philosophical writings of great thinkers. Why? Because these things do not involve the instantaneous gratification of electronic media.
(‘Plastic’ means it can change and adapt.)

8. Your eyes can suffer.
Those muscles for distance vision will become weak if you are staring at a small screen constantly, keeping your eyes operating at the same focal length all the time. Researchers have actually recorded an increase in myopia (short-sightedness). Read more here.

9. Sleep can become elusive.electronic-light-sleep
The glow of the smart phone screen prevents our bodies releasing seratonin, which helps us fall and stay asleep. Your brain needs sleep to be smart – so again the smart phone doesn’t make you smart. No smart phones in your bed/bedroom may be a smart policy in your home (and mine). Read more here

10. Excessive self-absorption will not make the world a better place.
The idea of showing a random act of kindness or service to someone else can become so far-removed from our thought patterns if we are no longer observing the people around us. Blinkers are for horses, not for people – people who have the power to impact those around them for good. If you want to see more good, more love, more thoughtfulness in the world, take off those smart phone blinkers and live again!

(Check out this post about a guy who is going to divorce his iphone: http://www.oddcrunch.com/why-you-should-get-a-divorce/0)

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