Listen, Believe, Hope & Praise

Please read and carefully consider these 12 verses from the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1. Eph. 1:3-14 is single sentence outpouring, although most modern translations break it into multiple sentences, exalting in what God has done to bring Jews and Gentiles together in the church for salvation in Christ.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:3-14).

Let’s break this great outpouring of thanks and praise down into some simple lists. 

First, what do we receive? Every spiritual blessing, being made holy and blameless, chosen, adopted, to be His sons, grace, redemption, forgiveness, hope, sealed with Holy Spirit, being God’s own possession. 

Second, what has God done? Pre-planned adoption, love, grace, redemption, knowledge, inheritance, sealing. 

Third, consider how these things come from God? His choice, love, predestination, kind intention, to His praise, willingly, graciously, freely bestowed, richly and lavishly, through the blood of Christ, with wisdom, purpose, by the working His will, the message of truth, and the gospel.

Fourth, by whom does this come us? In Christ, in the beloved, by Jesus Christ and His blood and the Holy Spirit as a pledge.

And finally, what do we do? There are very few action verbs for us to “do” since the emphasis is on what God has planned, done and carried out for us in Christ, and great things that we are made and called to be. There are but four verbs in these 12 verses to indicate our action. Three times we read of the “praise of His glory” (vs. 6,12,14) for us to participate in. We are also to “hope in Christ” (vs. 12) and our participation in all of these things is because we “listened” and “believed” (vs. 13). 

So when the great gospel is presented, “listen” to it; “believe” it; plan your “hope” in it; and “praise” God for it.

“A Cake Not Turned”

Hosea chapter 7 tells of a society gone wrong. When the Lord came to “heal Israel,” He found them in “iniquity and evil deeds,” “dealing falsely” (v 1). Their rulers didn’t try to stop this, but were “glad” in “wickedness and lies” (v. 3). Their sins seems familiar to our own day: “false dealing and theft” (v. 1), “lies” (v. 3), “adulteries” (v. 4), “anger” (v. 6), “pride” (v. 10), “turning against God” (v. 14) and “insolent tongues” (v. 16). And they did all this without social media! 

The unique thing about Hosea 7 is not the peoples’ sins nor judgments that they bring, for these are all too common. Rather its the attention grabbing imagery that Hosea uses to describe their situation as he tries to renew them to repentance. 

Hosea starts with imagery from a bakery. The people are “heated up like a baker’s oven” (v. 4), “sick with the heat of wine” (v. 5), “hearts like an oven…smoldering…burning like a flame” (v. 6) and he repeats, “hot like an oven” (v. 7). Amongst all this heat, they “have become a cake not turned” (v. 8). Picture a pancake that got cooked on only one side—part burned, part raw. and all useless. 

Then the prophet turns to birds. Israel is “like a silly dove without sense, calling out” to false saviors. (v. 11). So God “will spread His net over them and bring them down” (v. 12) because “they have rebelled and spoken lies against” God (v. 13).

This path was disastrous for Israel, but they wouldn’t humble themselves before God and turn from it. So the people are reduced to “wailing on their bed” as they “turn away from God” (vs. 14). And finally, “they turn, but not upward” (vs. 16). 

Let us see the need to be a bit cooler in our passions, more sensible and useful, and taking effective action to seek God, not flee from Him. 

Pursuit Of Happiness, Hijacked By Pleasure

We all want to be happy, and when we consider the circumstances in which God originally placed mankind—the original couple in a lovely garden with their spouse and creative work to do—it sure seems like God’s intention is for us to be happy too. But Satan interfered and offered something far less satisfying and far more destructive, still calling it happiness. 

So there are two kinds of happy. There’s the one that’s related to “blessed” and “rejoicing” and so some modern translations give the Beatitudes of Jesus as “Happy is…” instead of the old form, “Blessed are…” Of this happy, Jesus wants us to partake fully and He tells us how to do it. 

But the other “happy,” which is really just selfish pleasure misnamed by Satan. It’s based solely in our short-term pleasure, selfishly “taking” to be gratified—that’s lust, masquerading as happiness. James said that the pursuit of this kind of passion leads us to “desire, to coveting, to fighting, quarreling, hating, wrongly asking” and “not receiving” (Jas. 4:1-4). It’s almost as if he’s looking at some people’s weekend itinerary. But this is not the happiness our founding fathers said we have a self-evident right to seek. It the kind of “pleasures” Moses willingly gave up to be with the people of God (Heb. 11:24-26).

True happiness, the one of Jesus’ Beatitudes (Matt. 5:2-12) and the founder’s pursuit, is a happiness based on virtue, truth and living contentedly in harmony with God. That is the best and happiest life there is.

Bored At Church? 

I’ve sometimes heard that people are bored by church, and in particular, with sermons. OK, I haven’t just heard that, I’ve researched it and there are a number of article and blogs about people feeling that sort of way. Ok, yeah, I’ve obviously have felt the way myself at times. To fight that, I have a book in my library entitled “A Manuel in Non-Boring Preaching” (and yes, I’ve actually read it).

Most of the time we are bored in church it’s because we are not connecting with what is going on. We aren’t connecting in a mental, much less a spiritual way with the songs, the prayers, the rites or maybe most likely of all, the sermon. 

It may be that those things are being dully performed, as if by rote, by people who are not themselves connected it. But one thing for certain when we’re bored —is we are not in any way feeling or finding the presence of God. 

In the scripture there were a number times people encountered God or His holy angel: Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:6), Gideon (Judg. 6:22,23), Samson’s dad (Judg. 13:22), or Isaiah (Isa. 6:5), the apostles with Jesus when He displayed His miraculous power and when He was transfigured (Matt. 8:27; 17:7), or Saul on the road the Damascus (Acts 22:6,7), John on the Lord’s Day on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:17). Boredom was never the reaction of anyone in God’s presence. 

Now there’re other places than church to find God’s presence: in the glory of nature, in the dangers of a foxhole, a hospital waiting room, beside the deathbed of a loved one, but in church—through His word, His praise, His rites, and humble prayers offered to Him—this is the normal, regular place He’s given for us to seek, and to find, and encounter Him. When we’re aware of the presence of God we might be convicted, comforted or awed, but we’ll never be bored.

The Partial Finality Of Death

Long ago, Solomon said, “The living know they shall die” and with that sad end, they ceased their activity under the sun. In time, “their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal is perished” (Eccl. 9:5,6). 

This sad thought is a substantial part of what makes life so vain. “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.’” We might wish it otherwise or even rage against it, but we cannot change it. For since the fateful day of disobedience in the garden, mankind has been dying, “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). And “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). It would seem then, that Satan and death have us all in a helpless trap—a life of sin that always ends in death. 

We are so thankful then, for the intervention of Christ. Jesus, as God and man, “Immanuel, God with us” (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23), in “flesh and blood,” in living and dying, that “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:15). So now we know death is no longer final. The One on our side, the One in whom we have our hope and trust, has defeated death and conquered all things for us.

Gardens And Parks

When created, mankind was graciously placed by God in a lovely garden of rivers and trees (Gen. 2:8-17). And when redeemed, the faithful will spend eternity in the city of God, the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city. The great size and grandeur of which are described, but the only inside parts of the city that are described is the tree-lined street with a river in the middle of it (Rev. 22:1-4). 

Even though Jesus told us that in the Father’s house there are “were many dwelling places” and He was going “prepare them” for His disciples (Jn. 14:2), there isn’t any description of our houses or apartments there. We are only told of the park and the presence of God in it. 

So we were created in a garden and hope to be redeemed to a city featuring a great urban park with the tree of life featuring prominently in each—no wonder mankind has an innate desire for nature, even little cultivated areas of it surrounded by the big city. 

Every time we go to some spot of natural beauty to walk, hike, camp, or just picnic, especially if we can find a shaded spot with a view of the water, it seems like we’ve found a little taste of home or a little taste of heaven. In nature we find some of God’s glory revealed (Rom. 1:20), but in His word we learn of the person, work and teachings of Christ to lead us back to the place our soul most needs—and longs—to be: in the Garden of God.

Today’s Idols

The apostle John ended his first epistle with this simple, but direct, admonition: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21). This neither an idle warning nor an admonition only for ancient times. 

While we don’t have too many people worshiping statuary representing various deities today—not too many, but there are still some—no, most idolatry today is of the kind God warned Ezekiel about, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts” (Ezek. 14:3). 

Today’s idols are mostly of the “in your heart” kind. Many, maybe even we ourselves, have set up many things in our hearts through which we seek satisfaction and meaning, comfort and security, guidance and purpose in life. People turning to the state, to science, to sports, to possessions, to sexual gratification, and other things like them, instead of to God—is a form of idolatry. 

As God warned Ezekiel when we set up as these things as “idols in the hearts,” they are “stumbling blocks of iniquity” that we “put before our face” (Ezek. 14:3-7). 

To be faithful, we need to have God-centered and God-directed lives. Resist the temptation to set in our hearts anything else for our satisfaction, comfort, security, and guidance in life.

Strong In Weaknesses

Our weaknesses are often more useful to the work of God than our strengths. Consider the summary commendation of the faithful in closing verses of Hebrews chapter 11: “from weakness were made strong, and became mighty…” (11:34). 

These were not mighty in any way that the world counts as strong. They “experienced mocking and scourging, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb. 11:36-38).

There is nothing here strong about any of that as the world counts strength—only a strong faith that God made great use of. So these folks have been an encouraging example to the faithful ever since. In every circumstance, just as God told Paul when he was dealing with his thorn in the flesh, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). 

God’s plan for our weakness is not removing us from all of the bad circumstances, or making us strong, but giving us sufficient grace and asking us to have a living and active faith. In this God might make great use of us.

“As For The Lord”

The apostle Paul lays out the order for Christian households in Colossians chapter 3 and into chapter 4 (Col. 3:18-4:1). He makes several statements that are strange, antiquated, or even shocking to modern readers. 

Wives are to subject to their husbands. Children are supposed to obey their parents. If there are slaves, they are to be sincerely obedient. If there are masters, they are to be just and fair. Many today find this order of things completely objectionable—unworthy of any serious consideration. 

The primary thing missing from such rejection is a consideration of the Lord in how we organize our lives. These instructions are give as: “as is fitting in the Lord” (3:18), as “pleasing to the Lord” (3:20), as “fearing the Lord” (3:22), “as for the Lord rather than for men” (3:23), knowing that “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (3:24), and “knowing that you too have a Master in heaven” (4:1).

No subjection or obedience is because the other person is better, superior, more important or wiser than the other. It is because that Lord has so arranged it. Only a deliberate act of faith, a living witness and testimony to our trust in God, causes us to do these things. 

And if any obey, submit to or serve us, it is not to our glory or because we are deserving. Yet we get angry and take it as a personal affront when we don’t get our due. But imagine if others met their duties to us with the same lackluster devotion that we often present to the Lord. 

Let Our Ordered Lives Confess

The great old hymn Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind contains these insightful words:

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of Thy peace.

What a blessing it is to have some order and peace in this chaotic and disorderly world. We can hope for this because our heavenly Father is the God of peace, not the god of confusion (1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20; 1 Cor. 14:33). His instructions order our lives and save us from so much of the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds us. 

James tells us that “disorder and every evil thing” (Jas. 3:16) result from selfishness and jealousy. Sometimes it’s our own selfishness, and sometimes it comes from others—but mostly it’s our mutual jealousies and ambitions working against each other. 

This is not the life we wish, but it’s one we too often have, even if we’re God’s people. The apostle Paul one time had to delay a visit to Christians in Corinth because he was “afraid” he’d find them in “strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance [and] disturbances” (2 Cor. 12:20). He didn’t want to see them in that way, and they didn’t want to live like that either—but there they were. Yet the apostle was confident that by gospel instruction and repentant hearts, their lives could change to show the well-ordered peace of God.

A New Song To Sing

Long ago Isaiah saw a day coming when the Lord’s people would sing a new song of confidence and salvation. In a strong city, with gates open to welcome the righteous, the prophet foresaw the faithful singing:

The steadfast of mind 

You will keep in perfect peace, 

Because he trusts in You. (Isa. 26:3)

Only when our mind stays on God can we have such perfect peace. Keeping our minds on Him is both a blessing to us in itself and the way to be further blessed. 

Minds set anywhere other than on God cannot remain steadfast because all else but Him is mutable, shifting and changing. But in Him, the faithful can build their house upon the rock (Matt. 7:24-27), and be in a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:26-28).

Trusting in the Lord is the soundest thing we can possibly do. So Isaiah further saw them singing: 

Trust in the LORD forever, 

For in GOD the LORD, 

we have an everlasting Rock. (Isa. 26:4)

Let us confidently sing the same songs of faith and praise today and fulfill anew the vision of the prophet.

Do You Ever Feel Alone?

We live in interesting times: we’re both more connected and yet more isolated than ever before. We know this is not true of every individual, but as a society, we have less meaningful connections, conversations and interactions than prior generations. 

A few years ago, a sociologist wrote the book “Bowling Alone” documenting a great decline of community-based social organizations. But now with the universal presence of digital devices and our headphones, we are isolating ourselves ever more every hour of the day and we are now watching, listening and playing alone.

But social isolation isn't even our worst or deepest loneliness. Our increasingly secular and irreligious age has taken farther from God and can offer only distraction or emptiness to fill our yearning for Him. 

Let us cry out like David did in the Psalms: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps 25:16). God is still there to help and to fill.

In any circumstance of loneliness, grief, angst, or sorrow turn to God. Again, like David said, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him” (Ps. 62:5). He offers to all comers the fullness of grace, hope and love.

As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:3,4).

A Conspirator’s Take On The Resurrection

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Who said this? Chuck Colson.  

Whose that? An attorney who served for several years as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon. His ruthlessness earned him the title “Nixon’s hatchet-man.” He authored the memo that became known as Nixon’s “enemy list.” It was commonly reported that he “would walk over his own grandmother if necessary” to get things done for his boss. 

That kind of attitude landed him in jail, but he truly knew the world of conspiracies, tricks and fraud. 

After his conversion, he viewed the whole world differently. After serving his time in prison for his Watergate related crimes, he used his considerable intellect and tenacity to preach the reality of Christ and the truth claims of scripture. He worked especially for prison reform and for more just and humane (read: Christian) treatment of prisoners during and after their incarceration.

Every Sunday Is Resurrection Sunday

Every year much of Christendom celebrates the “Holy Week,” remembering Jesus’ last week on earth. Beginning with “Palm Sunday” (commemorating the triumphal entry with Jesus being hailed as king), “Maundy Thursday” (from the Latin “mandatum,” meaning commandment) remembering Jesus at the Last Supper saying to his apostles, “I give you a new commandment,” Jn. 13:34), then “Good Friday” (good for us since He died for our sins on that day), culminating in “Resurrection Sunday,” or as it is often called in the English-speaking world, “Easter.” 

Annual celebrations were an integral part of the Old Testament system of worship with numerous yearly feasts, and every civil society has yearly patriotic and national commemorations and memorials. Many would find it strange for the church to not have such as well. 

But in the New Testament, every single Lord’s Day is a celebration of the reality of the physical, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The fact He died for us and that His tomb is empty is not important to us just one Sunday a year. 

The Lord’s Day is our weekly and continual celebration and commemoration of the greatest truth of all time. So every Sunday the faithful meet. Each Sunday we observe His divinely instituted memorial feast. Every Sunday we cry, “He is risen!” (Matt. 17:9. 27:64; 28:6;7; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:9; 24,6,34; Rom. 1:4; 2 Tim. 2;8).

We have received, stand in and still today preach as the apostle Paul: “the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Satan Tells Lies

You need to know this: Satan tells lies. He lies to you. He lies about you. And maybe most destructively, he lies within you. 

These lies are from his very nature. Jesus said there was, “no truth in him,” and that he lied, “from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).

Thus Satan lies to us as he lied to Adam and Eve, saying that we won’t die from sin (Gen. 3:4). He lied to Jesus offering Him all the kingdoms of the world and saying that God’s promise of protection meant He could be foolhardy and presumptuous. (Ref. Matt. 4:5-11)

Satan also lies about us. He lied about Job right to the face of God and does so constantly about so many of God’s people that he is called “the accuser of God’s people” (Rev. 12:10).

Satan also lies within us. That voice inside our head that tells us that God doesn’t love us and won’t forgive us, or hasn’t blessed us enough or treated us fairly; is really his lies told in our own voice. 

But Jesus is true and the truth, the way of true life (Jn. 14:6). He tells us the truth even when it difficult and sobering to guide us to that knowledge and freedom that comes only in the truth (Jn. 8:32). Truly, “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 2:4).

“Follow Me”

In John 10, Jesus taught of sheep and shepherds: “the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them…the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (Jn. 10:3,4). His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. He further explained, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn. 10:27). He calls, He leads. The sheep know Him and follow Him. That’s pretty simply, but following Jesus is the very definition of being His disciple.

Following Jesus is the very definition of being His disciple. From the start of the gospel, when “He found Philip. Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me’” (Jn. 1:43). To Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). To Matthew in the tax office, “and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him” (Luke 5:28).

Some wanted to follow only after they finished other business first (Luke 9:57-62). They wanted to set the conditions by which they’d follow. And some, like the rich young ruler, refused to follow at all. He was told, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22), but he loved His possessions more. 

But still Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

The message is still the same. We still have to follow Him. 

Seven Time Quoted Prophecy — Isaiah 53

After Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and “many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.” Matthew records, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES’” (Matt 8:16,17, quoting Isa. 53:4). 

Matthew used Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” prophecy to show that the coming one would combine power and compassion. And it also foretold of unbelief over Him, and His rejection, innocence, and ultimately help unto salvation. This prophecy is quoted an amazing seven times in the New Testament, including by Jesus Himself. 

John quotes Isa. 53:1, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Jn. 12:27) when people didn’t believe even though they were shown many miracles. Paul quotes the same words to explain people not believing the gospel, and added, “they did not all heed the good news” (Rom. 10:16).

Jesus said this unbelief  that Isaiah foresaw would lead to His rejection of and death, and quoted vs. 12, “‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37).

Peter referred to Isa. 53 three times in one paragraph telling how it all worked for our good.  He quoted vs. 12 on Jesus’ innocence, “NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH” (1 Pet. 2:22); vs. 5 on His suffering for our sake, “BY HIS WOUNDS YOU WERE HEALED” (2:24); and vs. 6 on our need for Him to do this, “FOR YOU WERE CONTINUALLY STRAYING LIKE SHEEP” (2:25). 

Thus it was easy for Philip to “preach Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch when he asked about this “passage of Scripture.” His request, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this?” (Acts 8:32-35) could be confidently answered because of how clearly Isaiah’s prophecy foretold of Jesus our savior, the suffering servant of God.

What Does God Require?

About a century before Judah would go into Babylonian captivity for their repeated idolatry and unfaithfulness to God, the prophet Micah asked, “With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high?” (Mic. 6:6).

While Micah lived, the temple in Jerusalem was fully functioning, and two of the three kings in his lifetime (Jotham and Hezekiah) were faithful men who made sure the priests carried out all the appointed sacrifices. But the key to approaching God was not found such offerings. “Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil?” (6:6).

The real requirement was something God had said before, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (6:6,7). The prophet was reminded of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy, “Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deut. 10:12,13). Such service is always for our good, and when has God ever asked for anything else?

See How He Loved — And Loves Still

When Jesus was on earth His love for others were clear. Those who saw Jesus weeping as He was led to the Lazarus’ tomb could see it, saying, “See how He loved him” (John 11:36). 

At the last supper, Jesus told the apostles how this love would act. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:14). Much later when John wrote about these things in his gospel, having had much time to reflect on them, he wrote, “Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1).

Christ’s deep and apparent love wasn’t reserved only for His time on earth with men. He is now “a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). He is not separated from us in love, affection, and effectual help. He uses His exalted state to help us obtain the same. “He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). It not what He happens to do, but what “He lives” to do. 

Thus our hope isn’t just that He lives—He does!—but that from love, He lives to help. The love of a husband for His bride is ours in the continuing love of Christ Jesus our Savior.

Read And Go Outside

The Bible assumes that you know something of how nature works, but it also teaches you things about it that you otherwise couldn’t know. 

The glorious multi-colored rainbow? That’s God’s bow. He said, “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth” (Gen. 9:13). The thorns and thistles? Part of the curses of sin (Gen. 3:18). That’s the Bible teaching us about the world. 

But then Job was asked to consider the mountain goat, wild ox, ostrich, locust, hawk, behemoth, and the leviathan (Job. 39-41) to learn about the might and wisdom of the One who created them. 

The Proverbs tell the sluggard to learn from the ant (Prov. 6:6-11), and teach moral lessons illustrated by leeches, pigs, and snakes. 

The apostle Peter teaches about sin from the habits of dogs and pigs (2 Pet. 2:22) and referred to Isaiah’s lesson about the temporary nature of grass—that “all flesh is like grass”— to teach about the eternal word of God (Isa. 40:7,8; 1 Pet. 1:24.25). 

And our Savior taught in parables wheat and weeds, vines and seeds, birds and trees and asked us to consider the lilies, and think of the sparrows. And He taught of sheep so we’ll understand about Him being our Shepherd. 

So read your Bible—and also go outside and look around.