Learn This Word

This is an excerpt from a sermon my husband gave recently.  He says if you only learn one word in Hebrew, this is the one to know.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118:104

In the Psalm above there is a phrase that is very familiar to most people who have read or listened to someone speak on the Bible — steadfast love.  Steadfast love, love that doesn’t die, doesn’t wane, doesn’t falter, is always active before those who have eyes to see.  Steadfast love is a love which, as Paul writes in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, never ends.

Now that beautiful phrase is the English translation of a Hebrew word —hesed.  There are two translations for the word–steadfast love and loving kindness.  There have been other attempts to capture what the word means, but those seem to be the best we’ve found.

But even the best scholars and translators have really been unable to capture the fullness of the Hebrew.  There is a deepness and a richness to hesed which defies our attempts to make it simple.  Maybe the best way is to use a series of adjectives.  Heses is God’s persistent, extravagant, unyielding, unrestrained, even furious love for His people.  It is a love that never falters and never ceases.

Hesed is a love that neither you nor I, nor any person who lived apart from Jesus could actually possess, for in each of us is the sinful nature that will make any love we give to be about us, at least in some way.  I love my wife, I love my children, I love my grandchildren.  But my love isn’t hesed because there is a sense in which I feel fulfilled by loving them, and there is also a sense that my love might die under certain circumstances.  And we’ve all seen how, when love dies, it can leave a pretty messy situation behind.  But God doesn’t love us like that.  His love can’t die, because His entire nature is to love.  From all eternity, the Father has loved the Sone and the Spirit while the Son has loved the Father and the Spirit and the Spirit has loved the Father and the Son.  And there is nothing impure or selfish in that love within the Trinity.  So when God shows forth His love to us, it is that kind of love which He shows.  But even more, hesed is not simply an emotional love–it is a love of action which leads to merciful and compassionate behavior on the part of the One who loves.

To be continued ….

For more on God’s love see:

Martin Luther on God’s Love (Agape)

Extravagant Love

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

 

 

I Can Do Better

This was the daily quote in my devotional reading recently:

“Do not try only to abstain from sin, but strive, by God’s grace, to gain the opposite grace.  If thou wouldest not slip back into sin, thou must stretch forward to Christ and His holiness.  It is a dull, heavy, dreary, toilsome way, just to avoid sin.  Thou wouldest not simply not be impatient;  thou wouldest long to be like thy Lord, who was meek and lowly of heart.  Thou wouldest not only not openly murmur;  thou wouldest surely long, like the beloved Apostle, to rest on Jesus’ breast, and will what He wills.”

Edward B. Pusey

I realized this is what I have been talking about with my reunion group friend. I have shared that I can usually refrain from “outward” sins.  In other words, I do a pretty good job of avoiding sinful behavior.  However, I still struggle with things like a poor attitude, lack of gratitude for the good things God has given me, or uncharitable thoughts.  The author of this quote has it exactly right:  I need to pray to not only to do what is right, but to really want to do it.  I need to do good not just because it is my duty, but because it brings me joy to please God.

This reminds me of the famous love verses from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[ but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I obey God without love for Him and for others in my heart, it’s meaningless.  I’m like the Pharisees in the Bible, and Jesus called them “white-washed tombs.”  In other words, they looked good, but were dead inside.  I must develop the qualities of a truly loving disciple.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  1 Corinthians 4-7

This certainly isn’t easy, and I can’t do it on my own.  I need the help of the Holy Spirit.  I’m praying for that.  Will you join me?

For more quotes by E. B. Pusey see:

Advice From E. B. Pusey

Victorious Faith

Being More Than Conquerers

 

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

This book is part of the Crossways Short Classics series, which introduces readers to some great heroes of the faith who wrote many sermons, essays, lectures and other short pieces that are well worth reading.  Jonathan Edwards was one of those heroes, and he was immensely productive — the Yale University Press edition of his collected works contains twenty-six volumes.

This short book (about 100 pages) is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13:

“Charity never faileth;  but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;  whether there are tongues, they shall cease;  whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

If your contact with Edwards has been limited to his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, this book may surprise you, because it is almost all about love.  The love that we will both give and receive in heaven.  Love is that “great fruit of the Spirit” which will remain when all the other fruits are no longer needed.  It will flow like a fountain from the Father, Son and Spirit.  This love is holy and perfect.

Love in heaven will::

  • Always be mutual
  • Never be interrupted or damped by jealousy
  • Will not be hindered in its’ expression by anything internal or external
  • Be expressed with decency and wisdom
  • Unite all the saints in close and dear relationships
  • Allow all believers to share in property and ownership of one another
  • Conspire always to promote more love
  • Continue forever

In consequence of this heavenly, perfected love:

  • Behavior toward God and one another will be perfect
  • There will be perfect peace and joy
  • There will be no contention and strife

It’s hard to wrap our human minds around this agape love, and it is something that as Christians, we hope for.  There is also a section about hell, where everything is hate.  God hates the inhabitants there, and they hate Him and one another.  There is no union, or friendliness or peace.  Edwards warns those who refuse to repent, that this will be their final destination.

A brief biography of Jonathan Edwards in included.

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  I found it a bit repetitious, and I disagree with Edwards’ belief that some saints will experience more love in heaven because they are holier.

For more about the Puritans see:

An Introduction to John Owen by Crawford Gribben–Book Review

Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies recieved a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/heaven-is-a-world-of-love-tpb/

 

 

 

Learning to Love

The Bible tells us over and over again that love is the key to living a Christian life.  The apostle John tells us:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  1 John 4:8

Peter says:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”  1 Peter 4:8

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul warns:

“If I have all prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:2

We are called, in strong words, to love others, not only those who are agreeable or those who love us, but even our enemies;  even those who persecute us. (Luke 6:27).  It is the mark of being a Christian (1 Peter 1:22).  So why aren’t we doing it?  Why aren’t we at least trying to do it?  Love should be the goal of the process of sanctification.  Here’s how Francis Paget, an English theologian puts it:

“This is the great business and meaning of our life on earth:  that we should more and more yield up our hearts to God’s great grace of love;  that we should let it enter ever more fully and freely into us, so that it may even fill our whole heart and life.  We must day by day be driving back, in His strength, that sin that doth so easily beset us, and the selfishness that sin has fastened in our hearts;  and then His love will day by day increase in us.  Prayer will win and keep it;  work will strengthen and exercise it;  the Bible will teach us how to know and prize it, how to praise God for it;  the Holy Eucharist will ever renew and quicken its power in our hearts.  And so (blessed be God!) love and joy and peace will grow in us, beyond all that we can ask or think;  and He will forgive us for love’s sake, all the failures, all the faults in whatever work He has given us to do;  and will bring us at last into the fulness of that life which even here He has suffered us to know;  into that one Eternal Home, where love is perfect, and unwearied and unending;  and where nothing ever can part us from one another or from Him.”

Pray, read the Bible, receive the sacraments.  Learn to love.

For more posts on love see:

Little Children, Love One Another

Charity = Love

All the Loves

 

A Quote on Kindness

This is another quote from my daily devotional.  The author is A.P. Stanley(1815–1881) who was an English churchman and academic, Dean of Westminster.  The topic is kindness, one that has been coming up in my reading and study recently.

“We may, if we choose, make the worst of one another.  Every one has his weak points;  every one has his faults;  we may make the worst of these;  we may fix our attention constantly upon these.  But we may also make the best of one another.  We may forgive, even as we hope to be forgiven.  We may put ourselves in the place of others, and ask what we should wish to be done to us, and thought of us, were we in their place.  By loving whatever is lovable in those around us, love will flow back from them to us, and life will become a pleasure instead of a pain;  and earth will become like heaven;  and we shall become not unworthy followers of Him whose name is love.”

A Quote About Love

We have been studying the Fruit of the Spirit in our Sunday School class, and just finished love.  I came across this quote about love in my daily devotional and had to share it because it touches on so many of the ideas we’ve been discussing.  When we fail to forgive and love, the we torment and hurt ourselves more than anyone else.

“Every relation to mankind, of hate or scorn or neglect, is full of vexation and torment.  There is nothing to do with men but to love them;  to contemplate their virtues with admiration, their faults with pity and forbearance, and their injuries with forgiveness.  Task all the ingenuity of your mind to devise some other thing, but you never can find it.  To hate your adversary will not help you;  to kill him will not help you;  nothing within the compass of the universe can help you but to love him.  But let that love flow out upon all around you, and what could harm you?  How many a knot would be untied by one word spoken in simple and confiding truth of heart!  How many a solitary place would be made glad if love were there;  and how many a dark dwelling would be filled with light!”

Orville Dewey, Unitarian Pastor

Love One Another

The most frequently repeated “one another” is to love.  In 1 Peter 4:8, the apostle says:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

When we love someone, most of the other “one anothers” fall into place as a consequence.  Because we love, we are able to forgive and have compassion on our loved ones’ faults.   When we love, we automatically want to pray for that person, encourage them and build them up.  When we love, we are patient and kind.  We greet the person we love with a kiss or hug.  We are willing to sacrifice our own needs for someone we love.

Often we assume love is an emotion that comes and goes and cannot be controlled.  However, we can decide to love.  Even when we don’t feel loving, we can teach ourselves to behave lovingly.  And guess what?  Love begats love.  When we act in a loving way, the feeling often follows;  and when we behave in a loving way we find we receive loving responses back

Take small steps of love, it’s not so hard.  Take an interest in those around you;  compliment them when they do something well;  help them out when you can;  console them when they’re feeling sad; pray for them.  The rewards will be great both today and eternally.

More Grace

I receive morning devotionals every morning from several sources.  One is from a pastor that I’ve known for years and he is the one that married my husband and I, and baptized both of our children.  I enjoy hearing from him every day.

The thought for today included this:

There is an infinite depth in our Lord that can never be exhausted. The excitement continues as the Lord draws us closer to Himself. Continue to read, think, and pray. There is always more grace, truth, and real excitement in walking day by day with Jesus Christ.

Wow, just wow.  This really hit me.  We cannot run out of His Grace, we can always receive more.  There is no “getting there”, we are always moving closer to our Lord.

As usual with me, when I think of things like this, a song came to mind.  Enjoy.

Finally…

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

In today’s world, it is so hard to follow the verse above.  We are bombarded with advertising and false news and crises that are happening all around the world.  I have found myself shaking my head over people hating each other because of a political stance.  Somehow, we need to be aware of all these things going on while staying away from the emotional angst that’s flying around us.  If we aren’t careful we’ll find ourselves in a big “to-do” over something that really doesn’t matter.

How do we keep our equilibrium when all this is going on?  How do we keep our environment sane?  My thought is to take this verse completely literally.  Keep your thoughts and your eyes on Jesus.  Go through this world being a peacemaker and the oil on troubled waters.  I know that this isn’t always possible, but as Paul says:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

So, keep your eyes on Jesus and follow the verse above.  Perhaps we can be the quiet, soothing voice among all screaming going on.

Piety Part 2 – by Jim Edgel

Here is the second installment in the series on Piety from Jim Edgel:

 

Authentic or true piety comes from a dynamic, personal relationship with God that is conscious, growing and shared.  Piety is living a life that responds to God’s amazing gift of grace in His son Jesus.  Conscious of the personal value of God’s grace and consciously choosing a life with Him.  This life in Christ must be continually growing.  We either grow or decline.  We cannot remain still.  As we live this life of grace, we must share it with others and be willing to accept people where they are, listen to them and share our most precious gift – our time.  As we become more self-giving, we grow in our potential as human beings and understand we are God’s channel of grace to others and ourselves…  Christ must remain at the center of all aspects of our life, every action, every decision we make. We can’t say I love Jesus but this is business, work or vacation; or I am having a difficult time right now, I must take care of myself.  God’s word tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” … What is Authentic or true piety? Authentic piety is directing our whole life to God.   When we leave God out of certain areas of our life, we leave a huge space for Satan to slip in.  Directing our whole life to God is not about a long list of things we are forbidden to do.  It is about consciously sharing a growing Christ-centered life, which comes from the response of a grateful heart.  When we give our life over to God and have a willingness to be changed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to discover the true purpose and plan God has created us for.  We start the most amazing adventure we could ever imagine… For our whole life to be directed to God;

The three elements of every act – ones knowing, wanting and doing have to be directed to God.  We should know God and know what He teaches.  When our knowledge centers on God, God directs our knowing.  Wanting is the emotions that drive our actions.  Wanting becomes loving when our love for God drives our actions.  We strive to act according to God’s will.  Piety is directing our whole life to God by knowing who God is and what He taught.  Loving God with our whole heart and striving to carry out His will is the full response to the gift of grace.

Piety is an Ideal.  Living in a relationship with God is the Christian Ideal.  This is a lifelong process that brings us to a personal relationship with God.  And is nurtured in the same way as other intimate relationships we pursue in life.

With God at the center of our life, the Holy Spirit will help us maintain the goal of emulating the character of Jesus and His approach to dealing with people and problems.  All of us, no matter how capable we become in our Christian walk, will make mistakes.  I personally make many mistakes and at times need correction.  None of us ever get it all right … Except for Jesus, of course.  One of the greatest marks of maturity as human beings and to reveal the level of our spiritual maturity is the ability to receive correction.  Other things that reveal our level of spiritual maturity are:

Characteristics of authentic piety.  Courage,  Naturalness, and  Vibrant and joyful life.  Courage is not foolishness; it is the mark of one who will do what is right because it is the right thing to do.  It takes courage to step out of our “comfort zone” and accept new challenges that God may bring into our life.  It also takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Remember, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us … It is vital that everything we do as Christians be natural.  Our actions should be a natural response to a grateful heart.  People living a life of authentic piety should stand out only because of the love they have for God and others.  Jesus said “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  An ordinary life lived to the fullest is not dull, it is exciting and rich.  As our faith deepens, we sense a new meaning to each part of life.  We grasp new potential and realize new talents that God has created in us.  As we direct our whole life to God our personal relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives.   The practices of piety are those things we do that nourish our relationship with God.  Practices of piety are not piety in themselves; they are our concrete, visible responses to God’s love for us.  Practices of piety such as worship, prayer and Christian service to others flow out of our relationship with God and nourish it.  Life must be approached from the perspective that all we do is part of our response to God’s call.  Some may only know who God is by being around Christians.  The outcome of authentic piety is the peace of God.  As we are directing our whole life to God, we are conscious of being in a relationship with the Triune God.  We are:  Children of the Father, brothers of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be continued…