What Truly Loving Someone Looks Like

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John 13:31-38

31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” 37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

                                

This short passage is packed with tremendously powerful truths.  I pray that I will do justice to them in this short article.  There are three key concepts that I will try to unearth here for you who are reading this.  I see Loyalty, Glory and Covenant-Love.  Each of these could take many pages to explore as a topic in and of themselves, but let us here try to understand at least the core of each of these concepts.

I find it interesting in these few verses that we start with Judas, the one who will betray Jesus, and end with Peter, the one who will deny Jesus.  Judas, as we know from a previous article, was willing to sell out his friendship and loyalty to Jesus for merely 30 pieces of silver.  Later, when Judas finds out that Jesus will be crucified to death, his remorse and guilt overpower him so that he threw back the silver and went out to hang himself.

Peter, who so often was the bold spokesman for the group of disciples, is once more also very brash when he so arrogantly declares that he would be willing to die for Jesus.  We find out later that Peter is not really even half the man he bragged he was, as he does in fact deny knowing Jesus three times.  From these two men, we see that Loyalty is a tough attribute to demonstrate when life presses in and our egos get in the way.  How can we avoid these pit falls?  Let’s look at the next important concept.

    

There is no doubt that a key word in this passage is “Glory”.  Jesus used it four times in just two sentences.  So it must be an important concept.  But what exactly is “glory”?  I have to say as a Bible translator, that this word “glory” has given me more trouble than any other biblical term in trying to really understand first what it means in the Greek sentence, and then try to translate it into tribal languages.

“Glory” could refer to the brilliance that exudes out from a Heavenly Being, i.e. “His glory shone around Him.”  It could refer to our act of reverence, as in “We will give him glory”, and so could be translated as “honor”.  It could also refer to character, saying just how wonderful He is, such as, “Isn’t he glorious.”  And there could be even more nuances to this key word.

I could write many pages then about the deep spiritual meaning contained within verses 31-32.  Instead, I would like to try to simply expand the sentences, with some added explanation.  There could be other ways I’m sure to interpret these verses, but this will be my attempt:

“The time has come for the Son of Man [Jesus] to enter into his glory [to show His true nature as the Son of God], and God will be glorified [will be praised and honored] because of him. 32 And since God receives glory [praise and honor] because of the Son [how He was obedient to His Father’s will], he will soon give glory to [will magnify, will exalt] the Son [by raising Him up from the dead and placing Him at His own right hand up in Heaven]. 

    

Can you see now just how much spiritual and theological truth is packed into those two sentences?  And the application of these truths, that the Father and the Son exist to glorify each other, leads us to the most significant application of this truth.  The main reason why Jesus came to earth, to live among men, to die on a cross, and then to conquer death by being raised again to life was so that the Covenant-Love of God could still be experienced by us, who by nature are sinful and unholy people.

John 3:16 tells us quite plainly that God so loves every man, woman and child, that He sent Jesus to die on behalf of all men, and so the love which God has always wanted to share with people can once again be fully experienced, since Jesus removed our sin and thus the barrier that separated us from God.  That’s what truly loving someone else really looks like: being willing to die in order to save the other.

And that is now the last and the greatest commandment that Jesus brings down to mankind, firstly to his disciples.  We who would love God, and accept Jesus as the one who can save us from sin and death, must also demonstrate Covenant Loyalty-Love to our Christian brothers and sisters.  Only this kind of supernatural love, acceptance and forgiveness among Christians will have any attraction and impact on those who are still spiritually lost in this world.  So go ahead now and do as Jesus said, “Love one another!”

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Who Are You Going To Follow In Life?

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John 13:1 – 17

13 1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love.  2 It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.” 8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” 9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

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10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you are clean, but that isn’t true of everyone here.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. 14 And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. 17 You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

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It is clear from this passage that Jesus knew with absolute certainty, where he had come from, and the authority that he possessed.  He states for us here in verse 14 that he is both the disciples’ Lord and their Teacher.  He is to be listened to and he is to be obeyed.  And he knew that he had come from God, his Father, and that he would be returning to heaven to be with his Father once again.

It would be great if all of us had this kind of certainty in our lives.  More importantly, it would be very good if more people would realize that this life is not “all there is” and then bang, nothing.  No, there is a reality beyond this life and this world, a spiritual realm where both God exists, but also his arch enemy, the Devil.  There are two great spiritual Beings that live in the beyond, and yet they are with us here in the present, in the “Now”.

And every one of us has got to make a choice as to whom we are going to serve with our lives, which will then determine for us our eternal destiny.  Will we choose a life of blessing with God the Father?  … or a life of bitter despair of helplessness, hopelessness and eternal separation from God?  These are the choices that face all of us now, and it is in fact the most important choice of our entire life.

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What prompts me to write these thoughts come from a few things in our passage above.  Notice how this English New Living Translation version identifies the Agent behind the betrayal of Jesus that Judas makes.  It says in verse 2, “The Devil had already enticed Judas….to betray Jesus.”  We don’t talk very much about the Devil in our churches today.  Why is that?  Have we forgotten that from the very beginning of time, the Devil, that evil serpent in the Garden, has been at work to lead all people into a rebellion against God, starting with Adam and Eve.

It says here that the Devil “enticed” Judas to betray Jesus for a little bit of money.  Judas will have to give account of himself when he stands before the judgment throne of God.  While it is true that Satan loves to lead people into sin, still it was Judas’ choice to give in to this temptation of desiring silver coins in his pocket rather than submission to Jesus as Lord.

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Jesus shows us the better way.  The path to a blessed life, right now and also in the life to come, is to submit to the Father in obedience, and to His Son Jesus.  And also to submit to serving others, rather than serving one’s self.  This passage above says that Jesus showed his disciples “the full extent of his love” for them.  How did he do that?  He gave them the example that even the greatest person is only truly great when he values others higher than himself and is willing to serve others out of a spirit of love and humility.

So ask yourself this question then?  Whose example are you following right now?  Are you like Judas and only looking out for yourself, even if it costs someone else dearly?  Or are you like Jesus, and walking the path of humility, love and helping to serve the needs of others around you.  The first path may benefit you in the short-term, but leads to death.  The second path will bring blessings now, and for all eternity.  I think the choice is very clear.

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Heaven Is Our True Home – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 6

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences. 

                                          

Chapter 3: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOU FIND YOUR TRUE HOME

Question #1: In what ways do you long for the kingdom of God and heaven to come?  Instead of talking about what you imagine will happen, talk about why you want it to happen.  Share reasons you have for anticipating the day when all will change for eternity.

Many people ask the question about “Why is there evil?”  Or more specifically, they ask “How can God be a God of love when so many bad things happen in this world?”  I recognize the significance of these questions, but I believe the focus is wrong.  When these questions are asked, the focus is very man-focused, or can I say “anthro-centric”.  The Bible makes it clear that God created mankind with freewill and they exercised it and rebelled.  That is the primary reason for the broken world that we live in.

When I look at the picture this way, it does break my heart to see all the suffering and sickness, disease and death we have in the world.  It is not easy to live in developing countries like I have and not be affected by the suffering that goes on all around us.  And it is for this very reason that I yearn for the Kingdom of God to be fully realized here on earth.

Scripture promises us that all of our suffering will one day be gone completely.  Revelation 21:4 says, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  As someone who himself carries the burden of a muscle disease, I long for the day when not only will I not have pain, but I will be able to “run and not get weary, walk and not get faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

Question #5: Why is it important that we not only enjoy the journey but also long for the destination of eternity with God?  How does this adjust the way we talk about “journey” and “destination” as Christians?

As I said in part one of this article, there is certainly a lot of beauty and good things in this world.  And there is no reason why we should not enjoy this world.  Isn’t it natural to want to take our family on a trip out to the mountains (that’s what I like) or to go swimming at a beautiful beach (that’s what my wife likes)?  Of course!  And it is good to want to share all of God’s glorious creation with those whom we love the most.

But let us remember that there is One whom we ought to love even more than our spouse; there is Someone who ought to be our closest most intimate Friend.  And that would be Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour.  So now let me extend my thought from above.  While we are on our journey through life here on earth, we can and need to share our joy with Jesus in our daily affairs.  But think about how much more special it will be to explore the universe and share that joy when we are with Him forever in heaven.

Everything that we thought was beautiful and glorious here and now will pale in comparison with how beautiful and glorious they will be in the new heaven and the new earth.  And we will have the privilege of sharing that joy and that experience with Jesus face-to-face.  Wow!!  I can hardly wait to go roam the galaxies with the Creator of it all.

Question #6: Describe how it might affect one’s life to believe there is “no more beyond” this world.  How should it change us to believe there is “more beyond”?

Paul said it very well in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 when he said, “And if Christ has not been raised [from the dead], your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep [i.e. “died”] in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  The entire Christian faith rests on this one central belief that Jesus died for our sins, but He also rose from the dead to prove He is God and can forgive us our sins and offer us the hope of life after death.

But if that is not true, then we will have lived a life of lies and we can only be thought of as fools.  If our belief is wrong, then all our self-sacrificing and serving others is pointless.  We might as well do as the agnostics and narcissists would do: “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  If there is no “life beyond”, then we might as well get all we can for ourselves while we still can.

But we have such good grounds to believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, that all of our sacrifice and service to others has meaning and purpose.  And in fact, knowing that all of us have such a short time to live here, and that an eternity awaits all of us, we ought to be even more concerned about the spiritual welfare of others before it is too late.  Therefore, believing there is “life beyond” becomes the motivation for evangelism.  Are you with me on this?

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Pray For Your “Enemies”

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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  Loving Enemies Through Prayer

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matthew 5:43-45 Message).

Ask any unbeliever unacquainted with the Bible to summarize the basic principles that Jesus taught and “love your enemies” is sure to make the short list. Everybody knows that this is something that Christ followers are supposed to do. And most of us feel like we do do it. That’s because we’ve reduced Jesus’ words to mean: tolerate your enemies, or ignore your enemies, or don’t do anything bad to your enemies. We respond to Jesus’ command with passivity.

But when we look at this command in its context, we see that Jesus will not settle for a passive response. He expects us to take action. What action? Let’s read it for ourselves: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Loving our enemies includes doing good to them, blessing them, and praying for them…including the guy who cut you off in traffic, the teacher who crushed your child’s self-esteem, the mechanic who “fixed” your brakes three times in the last week – and they still squeak, the politician who got elected on a platform that you oppose…and the list could go on.

As soon as we redefine enemies as “those who get under our skin,” we have a lot more people to pray for. And every time that someone does something that really makes us angry the prayer-prompter bell ought to go off in or heads.

–Adapted from Prayer Coach by James L. Nicodem.

Loving Father, You have commanded us to love our enemies…even those who simply aggravate us and “get under our skin.” Help me to lovingly respond to these people in my life by praying for them. Give me Your grace to do what doesn’t always come naturally to me. Change my heart so that I can offer this powerful gift of love rather than getting angry or upset.

Posted 7 Nov 2011

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Wow!  This devotional gives us a whole new light on the concept of our “enemies”.  In fact, for us who live in North America, there are very few of us who would be able to say that we have encountered “the enemy” in our daily lives.  When we say the word “enemy”, we have some idea in our minds of the people whom we fought against in World War 1 and World War 2.  Or bring it more up to date, we think of the terrorists who brought about the terrible disaster of 9-11, and their associates whom we call the Taliban in Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that we would consider them our enemies.  But if they are the only ones we label as “enemies”, then the Scriptures above found in Matthew 5:43-45 and Luke 6:27-28 would appear to have very little relevance to our lives today.  So that got me thinking, and I looked at some of my translator’s resources to see what it said about who, or what kind of people we could really consider to be our “enemies”.

I found that one of them was quite helpful, called Translator’s Handbook, which gave this suggestion when trying to translate Matthew 5:43.  It says, “If there is no word for enemy in a language, then translators use a phrase such as ‘the person who hates you’ or ‘who opposes you.’ “  Now Matthew does go on in the next verse to tell us to pray for “those who persecute you.”  Again, I dare say that few of us have suffered much for being a Christian in North America.  Though I think the day is coming when we actually might have to.

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So let’s just stay with this idea presented from the Translator’s Handbook.  We are to show Christ’s love and to pray for people whom we know just can’t stand us, for whatever reason, and who display hostile emotions towards us.  I think all of us can probably picture at least one person in our minds who would fit this description.  Then we know what we are supposed to do when the next time comes around that they show this animosity towards us. We are to respond with kindness and not harshness, and we are to pray for them.

I remember a girl on one of my summer mission trips when I was just 18 years old myself who seemed to almost enjoy being nasty to me and to others.  I talked to one of my leaders and they gave me this very same answer: “You still be kind, and you pray for her every time she is mean to you.”

I followed that advice from that leader.  And by the end of the summer, I found that she and I were getting along pretty good.  Now did she change for the better?  Or did I see her more through the lens of Christian love?   Or maybe it was both.  In any case, I had found that pushing back against someone who was opposed to me was not the answer.  The answer back then, and still today, is that our best response to a negative person is to pray for them, give the situation over to God, and let Him bring about the needed transformation.

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Speaking Words Of Praise

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The Plinky Question for this week is:  “Remember that one time on the bus, when…”

Oh yes, I certainly do remember.  My mom and I were going somewhere in town, and seeing as we did not have a car, we naturally caught the local transit bus.  I was the youngest of the four children, so it was not unusual that I was taking the bus alone with mom as my siblings were either in school, or were old enough to be at home alone.  So taking a bus was a part of life, and meeting people on the bus was also a part of life.

Now when we would get on the bus, mom would pay for the ride and walk down the aisle to get us a seat which would leave me to take my time to slowly walk down the aisle and greet people as I went along.  You might think that I am, and was, an extrovert, always greeting people.  But actually, I am an introvert who is, and was, fascinated by people.  And so I would “socialize” while at the same time I would “analyze” all the people I met.

This would take me quite a few minutes.  And on this particular day, since the bus was mostly full in the front, my mom found a place for us on the bench at the back of the bus.  By the time I had finally got to the seat and was about to sit down, the driver had to slam on his brakes for some reason.  Meanwhile, I had pulled my head down a bit in order to sit down, and guess what happened.  The sudden deceleration caused me to fly forward, but since my head was down and I was a small boy, I literally rolled like a bowling ball all the way up the aisle and landed beside a very surprised bus driver.

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Before I continue with this story, I want to interject a thought which I just read from the site “Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life which I get every day:

Nurturing the Fruit of Praise

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36, NASB).

Praise is reshaping our lips (and our living) around the glory of God. We use our words for everything else. We practice speaking for work, for school, for interacting socially. We must also practice (and that sacrificially) to honor God with our words. The text speaks of the “fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Fruit begins in a blossom; then it takes time to become full-grown and ready for harvest. Fruit doesn’t develop quickly, but over time, given the right conditions—the right soil, the right moisture, the right amount of sunshine, the right amount of care, pruning as needed, just enough fertilizer—all this and more. The fruit of praise must be nurtured and cultivated in the garden of obedience.

–Taken from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka

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Now back to my bus story.  What happened to me certainly caught the attention of everyone on the bus.  After all, it’s not every day that you see a little boy roll down the aisle like a bowling ball.  Everyone was so concerned and worried for me.  But hey, I was just a little boy!  So I quickly bounded to my feet, dusted off my clothes, and went down the bus for the second time and greeted everyone and said hello.

I wish life could have always remained that simple.  And I wish I could have retained that personality of mine of being a “socialite introvert”.  But life suddenly became hard for me once I entered Elementary School, where being “nice” to everyone is not always appreciated.  In fact, for a number of reasons, I became the laughing-stock of the class and was regularly picked on by kids both in my grade and from some who were older than me.

The result of this was that I painfully learned the lesson in life, that it was better to be quiet and not say anything to anyone.  The budding skill I had on the bus to be kind to strangers and say something nice to others was squashed in public school.  By God’s grace though, He came and found me in Grade 7 and I was able to use words of praise and thanks once again as I began my journey with my best friend, Jesus.

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But with regards to people, it took me a lot longer to relearn the skill and the joy that I had begun as a child to reach out to other people and try to bring a smile to their faces.  In fact, even into my middle 30’s I was not as tuned into people as I ought to have been.  And my narrow world of self-centeredness hindered me from really seeing and appreciating people around me.

It wasn’t until we lived in the village in Papua New Guinea for five years that I really learned how to sit down with someone for hours and talk about basically nothing.  But just being willing to sit there and let people talk, I was finally once more maturing my blossom of being others-centered.  And now I find it easy once again to say hello to strangers, and to try to leave them with a smile on their face.  One thing has changed though.  I have no desire to do any encore of rolling down the aisle in front of others.  🙂