The Pain Of Betrayal

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John 13:18-30

18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ 19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah. 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” 22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night.

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The word “betrayal” is a unique word.  It implies that a person has been severely hurt by another.  It could have a physical side to this, but more often then not, it refers to being wounded relationally so that we feel “great emotional pain”.  Note this, we do not think of being betrayed by our enemies.  In fact, we actually expect to be mistreated by our enemies.

No, we feel the greatest pain when the one who has offended us is one of our family members, or one of those whom we have considered to be a close friend.  This is what makes “betrayal” such a unique and difficult word to handle.  It is our friends, not our enemies, who most possess the ability to betray us.  And in fact, the closer a person is to another, the deeper the wound will go when we feel betrayed by them.

Why is that?  Simply put, when we draw closer to a person, we reveal more of our inner soul to that person, and thereby entrust more of our heart to that person.  So when someone betrays that trust, it feels like a knife has pierced our heart and we become deeply wounded in our soul.

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This is what happened to Jesus the night that he was betrayed, the night before his death on the cross.  For over three years, Jesus had entrusted himself to twelve men.  He taught them all deep spiritual truths, he demonstrated his love and his power to them many times, and he shared a number of intimate moments with them.  These men were Jesus’ true brothers in this world.

But from our passage above, we know that one man, Judas, was willing to sell out this friendship.  In Matthew’s gospel, we are told that Judas was willing to betray Jesus for merely 30 pieces of silver money.  Surely that small amount of money could not come close to being the worth of a man, and especially the man Jesus, who came from God, and is God.

But Scripture tells us in John 13:2 that Satan has already persuaded Judas to hand over Jesus to his enemies.  One version says “Satan enticed him…” showing that the attraction to money was greater than his sense of loyalty to a friend.  The terrible deed began as a thought, and was realized through action as Judas left the meal to bring back Jesus’ enemies.

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What amazes me as I read this passage is that Jesus is fully aware of what is happening.  He even seems to be encouraging Judas to go and do his terrible deed.  And yet, Jesus is not unaffected by this emotionally.  Verse 21 says that Jesus was “deeply troubled.”  Jesus’ spirit within him was in great distress over what Judas would do to him.  But I don’t think that is the only reason that Jesus was “deeply troubled”.

Verse 1 of this chapter says, “Now he showed his disciples the full extent of this love.”  Even while knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus had love for him.  Wow!!  Could we ever be able to follow after Jesus’ example?  I know what my first reaction would be toward someone who had betrayed me.  I would not only feel angry, but I would want that other person to suffer for what he or she had done to me.

But that is not the way that Jesus handled his own betrayal by Judas.  No one but Jesus really knew what was going on that night.  But rather than respond out of anger or revenge, Jesus deeply felt and demonstrated his servant-love to all his disciples, including the one who would betray him.

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So what can we take away from this passage?  We all need to distinguish the difference between the acts that someone does against us or against God, and look toward the one who has committed the sin and still love that person.  As long as there are people around us, we will be vulnerable to being hurt, even betrayed at times.  But Jesus tells us to love one another, and even be willing to die for another, in order to forgive the sin, and save the sinner.  Can you do that?

Sunset Cross

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“For God So Loved The World” – Pt. 1

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John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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It is possible that this single verse has had more impact on the world than any other verse in the Bible.  Contained within these few words, the entire message of the Gospel, or Good News, is laid out for us.  It is truly amazing how broad and how deep the spiritual message is of this one verse.  And if you asked most people to tell you what their favorite verse is, or what verse they learned to memorize first, the answer for many people is John 3:16.

In many ways, this verse is the foundation for one of the most popular Christian pamphlets of the ’70s and ’80’s.  It was called “The Four Spiritual Laws“.  The message of that pamphlet could be summarized in four words: 1) God; 2) Mankind; 3) Sin; and 4) Jesus.  The message was: “God existed, and then created Mankind.  But Mankind sinned and became separated from God. The only solution to this problem of sin was to send Jesus, the Perfect Man/God who died on the Cross to make a bridge so that men and women could come back to God.

To appreciate the spiritual depth of this verse, I want to slow things down and have us take a look at each of the important words and phrases of this verse.  I pray that all who read this will not just see the beauty of this magnificent verse of Scripture, but will take the Message to heart and let Jesus be the Lord of their life.

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“For God…”

  • At the end of verse 15, Jesus had just told Nicodemus that if any person would put their faith in Him, the Son of Man, that person would then have eternal life.  Many scholars think that vv. 16-21 are now John’s words as he reflects back on the life of Jesus.  Seeing that there existed this unpassable chasm between God and mankind, God decided He would have to do something to bridge this gap.  We could translate these words, “And so thus God…”  It is always God who acts first for our benefit.

“For God so loved…”

  • If there is any one single truth about God that people need to understand, it is that God is a God of love.  1 John 4:7-8 tells us that Love comes from God, for God is Love.  Far too many people have an image of God up in heaven, either as an old man who is not interested in nor involved in the affairs of men, or they see God as a punishing God who stands by with a big stick to hurt us and make us suffer when we sin.  This is as far away from the truth as a person can get.  GOD IS LOVE!!

“For God so loved the world…”

  • It is also wrong to think that God shows favoritism, or is just the “God of the Jews”.  The word ‘world’ here does not have anything to do with geography, but refers to all of mankind that fills the world.  The love of God is meant to be Universal in its scope, so that any person who wants to can be able to come back to God.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…”

  • Some versions say that God gave “His only begotten Son,” which sounds like the Son was “born” from God just like we give birth to our children.  A more accurate translation for the Greek word here is “his unique” or “his only one of a kind” Son.  What is truly amazing about the love of God for mankind is that God could have chosen many other ways to show His love for us, but He didn’t.  There was one and ONLY ONE Son of God. 
  • The Son, who also shares the nature of Godhood, was intricately bound to the Father and the Holy Spirit in a triangle of pure love for each other.  Read John 17:20-26.  And yet, God gave His One and Only Son over to the world and allowed Him to die so that we might live.  Such sacrificial love.  God did that for you and for me.  What amazing love!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him…”

  • In this phrase, we see once more the love of God.  When sin was about to enter the world, God could have prevented it…that is if God had created us to be robots without the option of free will.  But even after sin came into the world, God has never forced Himself upon us.  God is the perfect gentleman, and He patiently waits for anyone who will come to Him in faith and believe that Jesus can forgive us our sin once we willingly repent of sin and accept Him as Lord.  Have you done that?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

  • When I see the word ‘perish’ I see the picture of a person out at sea and about to drown.  If the person goes back under the water one more time and not come back up, then that person will perish.  But if someone reaches out and lifts him/her up, then that person has just passed out of death and into life. 
  • That is what happens when a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Saviour of their life.  That person is no longer in danger of eternal death and separation from God; that person will live forever in heaven with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

So my friend, what is your response to John 3:16?

Love, Sex and Romance

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What Does The Bible Say About This?

I think it is time for me to write about this subject that is so misunderstood.  I believe that people without faith in God have it wrong, mostly because they have no higher standard than themselves to guide their thinking and their actions.  I believe that many Christians have it wrong, either because their church traditions placed a taboo on this topic long ago, or because they are being too influenced by the thinking of the world around them.

For the most part, Western culture has placed way too much significance and emphasis on the physical aspect of love, and has neglected to nurture the emotional and spiritual side of relationships between a man and a woman.  As portrayed in Hollywood, a quick physical/emotional response when meeting someone (which they call “being in love”) leads just as quickly to sexual intercourse (as a means to demonstrate their “love”), and the longer road of relationship building is barely mentioned.

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Today is Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialized day, but still a good day to remind us to demonstrate our affections towards our friend/partner/mate.  Jill and I have been married for 27 years now, and we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very special way this year.  Jill is flying internationally from Canada, bouncing off of Los Angeles, Brisbane (Australia) and Port Moresby (PNG) to arrive midday on Feb. 14th in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  On this same day, I am coming down from the highlands of PNG to arrive just before Jill in Madang.

Over the past six months, for health and ministry reasons, Jill and I have only had 27 days together.  Now we will be reunited on Valentine’s Day for six weeks, halfway around the world from our home in Canada.  Is that romantic, or what?  There is no doubt that being away from each other has been difficult for both of us.  But we have a bond that keeps us strong in our marriage that is bigger than just the two of us.  We are both strongly united to God by our faith and that helps keep us strongly united to each other.

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So what does the Bible say about love, sex and romance.  Let’s talk about love first so that we can set the stage properly for understanding sex and romance.  It is not uncommon for most people to adopt the proverb “Love your friends but hate your enemies,” as Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:43.  But then he turns this proverb on its head by saying, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

These are not empty words that Jesus spoke, for the Bible describes us (who all sin against a holy God) as his enemies, and yet Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus also said in John 15:12, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” God has shown us clearly that love, real love for another, is not just an emotion.  It is a deep commitment to want the very best for the other and is demonstrated through our actions.

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Now don’t misunderstand me.  Even though real love is an act of the will, there is a component of emotional response that is also real.  There is no doubt that there is a certain “chemistry” or attraction that will happen between a man and a woman.  Nurtured and matured properly, it will fulfill what God intended from the beginning, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

What we must come to accept once again is that the sexual joining of a man and a woman is to take place within the God-ordained limits of the marriage commitment of husband and wife.  Paul says it well in 1 Corinthians 7:8 – 9, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

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Paul recognizes that sex is a passionate drive within all of us.  God designed us this way.  And He approves of it, as long as it stays within the context of a husband and his wife.  If you don’t believe that God approves the act of passionate sex, then you need to read the “Song of Solomon” (also called “Song of Songs”).  Read especially chapter 7 and see how passionate biblical love likes like.

But lest we read the Song of Songs in the wrong way, study it more closely and you will see that the book is full of praise for each other.  There is a winning and a wooing of each other’s affections.  This is true romance.  And what we are reminded of by good family counsellors, yet fail to follow very often, is that this kind of romance should be an ongoing part of a marriage.  The best way to hasten the end of a marriage is to take one’s mate totally for granted and think that there is no need to be romantic any more.

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I hope my thoughts have been helpful.  We are bombarded with so much garbage and misinformation in all the movies and magazines that are not just “out there” but are in most of our homes today.  I really look forward to my reunion with my wife and the time we will spend together over the next month and a half.  I’m looking forward to holding hands again, sitting and watching a movie together, going out to a nice restaurant.  I look forward to romancing my wife once more.

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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Walking By Faith

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A True Story

Recently, I got a cute and amazing story about a dog in an email in my Inbox.  I don’t always read them, but this one caught my attention, and I’m glad it did.  Not only are the story and the pictures I share with you incredible, but I believe that the story has a lot that can speak truth and hope into our lives by analogy.

The original story that was sent to me will be in italics below.  My thoughts and reflections on life will be in regular print. Ready? Let’s go.

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This dog was born on Christmas Eve in the year 2002. He was born with 2 legs.  He of course could not walk when he was born. Even his mother did not want him.

His first owner also did not think that he could survive and he was thinking of ‘putting him to sleep’.  But then, his present owner, Jude Stringfellow, met him and wanted to take care of him.

She became determined to teach and train this little dog to walk by himself.  She named him ‘Faith’.

[How appropriate that name is.  And you know what?  All of us are actually like this puppy in that we too have been born with a handicap.  We were born with the propensity to sin, and that handicapped us from having a whole spiritual walk with God.  But when we put our trust in Jesus, we also learned to walk by faith.]

In the beginning, she put Faith on a surfboard to let him feel the movement. Later, she used peanut butter on a spoon as a lure and reward for him for standing up and jumping around.

Even the other dog at home encouraged him to walk.  Amazingly, only after 6 months, like a miracle, Faith learned to balance on his hind legs and to jump to move forward.

After further training in the snow, he could now walk like a human being.  Faith loves to walk around now.  No matter where he goes, he attracts people to him.

He is fast becoming famous on the international scene and has appeared on various newspapers and TV shows.  There is now a book entitled ‘With a Little Faith’ being published about him.

His  present owner Jude Stringfellew has  given up her teaching post and plans to take him around the world to preach that even without a perfect body, one can have a perfect soul’.

In life there are always undesirable things, so in order to feel better you just need to look at life from another direction.  I hope this message will bring fresh new ways of thinking to everyone and that everyone will appreciate and be thankful for each beautiful day.

Faith is the continual demonstration of the strength and wonder of life.  A small request: All you are asked to do is keep this story circulating.

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So what do you think?  An amazing story isn’t it.  As I said in the middle of the story, all of us have been born with the handicap of sin in our lives.  But once we have Jesus in our hearts, that barrier between us and God is removed and we are made spiritually whole.

But I offer one more challenging thought, and this one is specifically for Christians now.  How many of us have been freed from the guilt of sin, yet are weighed down by the burdens and the worries of life.  Jesus tells us not to worry about the things we need in life because our Heavenly Father takes care of us.

And Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that we are to, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  This is not just wishful thinking that we can have a joyful and optimistic spirit in life, this is God’s will for our lives.  I believe we can be as free and as happy as this amazing dog named Faith.  What do you think?

Beautiful Wedding Songs

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Norm’s & Jill’s Love Songs

In any love relationship, there is one or more special moments that each person can look back at and say, “And that is how it all started.”  For any true and lasting love relationship there have to be some moments (which may be the same as the first ones mentioned) that define the relationship and say, “This is what we stand for, and nothing will make me break up this relationship.

When Jill and I got married in 1984, we told each other, “Divorce is not an option.”  We still believe that, but it is a strong statement put in a negative form.  When we want to say this truth to each other positively, we go back to the moments when we first started dating, until the day we got married, and we remember the words of our love songs that we gave to each other.

I wrote the first song when I wanted Jill to take a chance on a long term relationship with me.  Jill said yes to me, and then 7 months later she wrote a wedding song which she had pre-recorded and to which she came down the aisle to me.  The third song was sung by a good friend and has been the rock of truth that we have held on to all these years as we keep weathering frequent storms of life.  And the final song is the one that I sang to Jill at our reception.  You can click on the last two and hear them in You Tube.

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1.  “Why Don’t You Dance With Me?”

Norm Weatherhead to Jill MacKay – October 1983

CHORUS:

Why don’t you dance with me, take a chance on me
And then we’ll know if we can dance right through.
I may not know just every move but that is how we’ll grow as two;
So why not come on to the floor, I want to dance with you.

Just take my hand, I’ll lift you up as we walk onto that floor.
Don’t look on back at what we’ve done, I know we’ve tried before,
But there is still a chance that we can
Be a Tinkerbell and a Peter Pan;
So why not come on to the floor
I want to dance with you.

CHORUS

I’d like to dance right through the night but that we’ll never know.
Unless we give our very best, to see if we can go
O’er the problems and the obstacles
That often come our way;
I’d like to keep on dancing, oh please won’t you stay.

CHORUS

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2.  “Jill’s Entry Song”

Jill MacKay to Norm Weatherhead May 11, 1984

In all the world I never knew just what God had in store.
He said he’d give his very best – and who could ask for more.
But never in my deepest dreams could I believe it true;
Yet here am I now walking to you.

You say you’ve loved me for some time you want me to share your life.
And that is why I come to you – I come to be your wife.
I want to give my life to you, to stay by your side,
And we will let the Lord be our guide.

I need to learn to submit to you, to give you all that I am.
And with your love and your help I know that I can.
For God has given me to you to love honour and obey;
It is His will, there is no other way.

And now we stand and pledge our love as a woman and a man.
“For these two shall become one”, this is God’s great plan.
I love you Norman and I pledge to love you all my life.
I am your friend, your partner, your wife.

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3.  Flesh of My Flesh

CHORUS:

You are flesh of my flesh
Bone of my bone;
There’s no one closer.
You are flesh of my flesh
Bone of my bone;
We are one.

I do pledge my life to you
Forever and always;
I will take good care of you
And shower you with praise.
Others try and separate us
But they don’t have a chance;
No one else can take your place
No not even one.

CHORUS

I do give my life to you
Today and everyday;
I will stand right by your side
Whatever comes our way.
I have searched and searched for someone
Who’d make my dreams come true;
Nowhere else on this earth
Is there anyone like you.

INSTRUMENTAL

The storms of life can blow and blow
But they won’t knock me down;
We’ll stand the test,
The test of time,
Cause we stand on Holy ground.

CHORUS

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4.  This is the Day

This is the day that the Lord hath made and I’m so glad He made you.
With each rising sun you are here by my side, you are more than a dream come true.

Oh, to have you, to hold you, to love you, to pray
To share with, to care with, to hold hands and say:

This is the day that the Lord hath made and I will rejoice, I will rejoice,
I will rejoice with you.

This is the love that the Lord hath made that you and I we are one.
Love’s mystery is unfolding today, written for us in the Son.

Oh, for better, for worse, for rich or for poor,
Each day that pass – es I’ll love you more;

‘Cause this is the day that the Lord hath made and I will rejoice, I will rejoice
I will rejoice with you.

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I do hope that you enjoyed this musical montage.  But remember, these are not just words on paper that are to be sung once and then forgotten.  Contained within these words are heart felt messages of love and commitment to last a whole lifetime.  May you too experience what God has made real for us in our lives.

A Heart-Felt Prayer (Phil. 1:8-11)

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A Heart Felt Prayer

Philippians 1:8-11  God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.  I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.  May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

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In this short passage, Paul speaks about the great love that he has for the Philippian believers.  Although Paul was instrumental in bringing the Gospel of Christ to the Island of Cyprus at the port of Paphos, then on to the lower mainland of Asia to such cities as Perga, Antioch, and Iconium, Lysrta and Derbe, I believe that the visit to Philippi had to have been one of Paul’s most memorable events and was certainly directed by God’s Spirit in a powerful way.

Think about the idea that when Paul preached near Philippi and Lydia and her household members believed and were baptized, that this was the first time the Good News of Christ had taken a foothold into the continent of Europe.  It was a very resistant city towards anything religious, and so it was at a great cost of perspiration, perseverance and persecution that the new church was birthed.

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Paul talks in verse 5 about how they had been partners together in spreading this Good News.  And in verse 7, Paul speaks of the intimacy he had with the Philippian believers as they shared the experience of also being mistreated, and perhaps jailed along with him, and that they too took a stand publicly by making it known that they believed in the truthfulness of God’s Word.

In fact, in verse 8, Paul goes to the greatest possible lengths to express just how much he loved the Philippians.  He calls upon God to be his “witness” that it is true Paul has a great love for them.  This word comes from the Greek word, “martus“.  This is the root word for “martyr” as well as “testimony” or “one who testifies“.  In other words, Paul calls upon God himself to testify, and Him be willing to die to prove the fact that Paul loves the Philippians in all the depths of his heart.

Now actually, the Greek word for this expression “the depths of his heart” can be literally translated as “inner parts” or “intestines“.  This was their idiomatic way of saying “I love you with all my heart and soul, my very being“.  In old English, they talked about having “bowels of compassion” for someone else.  Today we say we love “with all our heart“.

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It is interesting to see the various body parts being used metaphorically to express the center of our very being, the deepest level of emotional love and commitment to another.  Over in Papua New Guinea, one will say that his inner most being is “the stomach“, “the liver“, or “the throat“.  In any case, the Philippians could not doubt that what Paul was sharing came from the depths of his inner most being.

It is at this point, when Paul was able to reflect on the intimate relationship he had with the people, that he then is able to offer up his heart-felt prayer, and the Philippians would receive it at this deep inner intimate level.  In verse 9 then, he begins his prayer for them and he prays for two important things to happen in their lives.

First, Paul prays that the people would increase more and more in their love for other people.  Think back to all the teachings of Christ, and you will recall that “love for others” is the greatest command, second only to loving God.  And then Paul prays that the people would increase in their knowledge and depth of insight, which most likely referred to them having a greater knowledge of God and how He wanted them to live.

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This brings us to verses 10 and 11, and I believe there is a powerful prayer tucked away in these two verses.  They can be brought out and stated as four distinct things that Paul prays for the believers:

  1. That they would understand/approve/discern the things that are best or excellent, or to basically “discern what really matters“.  This leads to the second thing Paul prayed.
  2. If the people came to know what really matters in this life, what things are truly excellent, then one result from this is that they would live pure lives.  They would be able to discern evil, even in its many disguises, and turn away from it before it touched and polluted them.
  3. The second thing they would discern is that when they know and do what is pure and true, then these people would be seen by God as being blameless or without guilt.
  4. By consistently following these practices above, this provides something that is more valuable than gold itself.  According to verse 12, the people described above would produce spiritual fruit in their lives, and have a consistently righteous character, and by means of their faith in Christ, one day would see the salvation of their souls.

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Now after examining the passage, I turn briefly to ask some practical questions.  Do you have anyone in your life that would pray a prayer like this for you on a regular basis?  Or is there someone for whom you could be praying this prayer for them?  Remember the example of Paul, that it was never a half-hearted prayer he made.  So we too must say our prayers for others from the deepest part of our being for another, whether that be from our heart, our liver, or our intestines.

May we always honor God and may we take up this example and know and practice how we can and ought to be praying for one another.  Amen.