|Grace at work in the KGB|
|Priorities - your overnight kit!|
|Encouragement by the alphabet|
|Lessons from Noah's Ark|
|The Bible and Science|
|Whose Millennium is it anyway?|
|Good news from around the Globe|
|Q & A|
|What about suffering?|
|Love expressed in Thought
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not 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 have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing...
does not envy
does not boast
is not proud
is not rude
is not self-seeking
is not easily angered
keeps no record of wrongs.
does not delight in evil,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love never fails, but...
where there are prophecies, they will cease
where there are tongues, they will be stilled
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part
but when perfection comes the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child...
I talked like a child
I thought like a child
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man...
I put childish ways behind me.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part
then I shall know fully
even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain:
But the greatest of these is love".
(1 Corinthians 13)
In English we have one overworked word for love... However in the classical Greek (of the New Testament) there are three very meaningful words for love:
|Phileo||This word may have three applications,
depending on the circumstances:
a) to have affection for a dear friend; or
b) family affection; or
c) self focussed love.
|Eros||Sexual attraction, passion or lust.|
|Agape||Love in its highest form: to have an attitude of unlimited and unconditional goodwill towards another.|
To illustrate the distinction we can take the passage where Jesus restores Peter... following Peter's denial of Jesus at the time of Jesus arrest.
In John 21:15-18 Jesus challenges Peter: 'Do you truly love me?' (agape). Peter replies, 'Lord you know that I love you' (phileo). A second time Jesus asks Peter, 'do you love me?' (agape). Peter again replies: 'you know I love you' (phileo).
Peter's confidence in himself was gone. He knew his personal failure. He couldn't rise at this time to agape love... Then Jesus met Peter where he was: 'do you love me?' (phileo). This questioning hurt... but it was Jesus way of restoring Peter from his three fold denial ~ with a three fold re-establishing and commissioning ('feed my sheep' ~ per Matt 16:18).
Here we find the forgiving, accepting and establishing agape love of God in outward expression.
However, as Christians we cannot rely on our own fallible resources... as Peter discovered. Rather, we seek with humility and need awareness ~ to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).
It is only in this way that the very love from God can flow into us, change our hearts and then flow on again... first back towards God and then outwards to others. This is the way we are called in the command of Jesus... to love with agape love (Matt 22:37 below).
The Cross of Love ~ animation
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"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:16-19).
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16).
God's love in us is efficacious
Mercy is love being gracious
Eloquence is love talking
Prophecy is love foretelling
Faith is love believing
Charity is love acting
Sacrifice is love offering itself
Patience is love waiting
Endurance is love abiding
Hope is love expecting
Peace is love resting
Prayer is love communing
Life's first call is to love
"Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Love's first call is to Give
During World War 2 allied POW's in the far east were forcefully conscripted by the Japanese, to the construction of the infamous Burma railway. Many died there in forced labour and sickness. On one particular day at the end of labour the workers were lined up... for sign off and a tool count. In the count one of the shovels was missing!
The guard flew into a rage - demanding that the culprit step forward. This would mean instant death. No one moved.
The guard held his rifle at the head of the first soldier in the line and threatened to blow his head off - then do the same down the line until the thief confessed. The men knew this was no idle threat.
Then a Scottish Highlander in the front line stepped forward. The guard flew into a rage - kicking and butting the soldier to death.
Later there was a recount... in fact all the shovels were present! There had been an error of math... there had never been a thief. The soldier had given his life in favour of his friends...
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).
Does God have a calling on your life?
Love is Sacrificial
On January 13th 1982 Air Florida flight 90 took off from Washington National airport runway 36. The temperature was -5 deg C, the wind north-east at 10 kts and the cloud base 400 feet with a visibility of 700 to 1500 metres in blowing snow. The aircraft took off with the engine anti-ice inadvertently left off. Engine thrust was degraded to a level inadequate to maintain flight. The aircraft crashed into the frozen Potomac river seconds after takeoff.
Above is a depiction of the accident
followed by an actual rescue photograph.
One of the six survivors of the crash forfeited his own life to ensure others were rescued. When the helicopter first dropped a line to him, he placed it around one of the women in the water so that she could be dragged to safety. And each time the line was dropped back to him, he passed it to another. After the other five survivors, three women and two men, had been plucked from the icy river, the helicopter returned to pick him up. But it was too late - finally overcome by the intense cold he had disappeared. The helicopter crew went on circling for some time looking for him, but without success.
Credit: "Air Disaster" by Mac Job, Volume 2.
Love calls is to be Genuine
One day, I woke early in the morning to watch the sunrise. Ah the beauty of God's creation is beyond description. As I watched, I praised God for His beautiful work. As I sat there, I felt the Lord's presence with me. He asked me, "Do you love me?" I answered, "Of course, God! You are my Lord and Saviour!"
Then He asked, "If you were physically handicapped, would you still love me?" I was perplexed. I looked down upon my arms, legs and the rest of my body and wondered how many things I wouldn't; be able to do, the things that I took for granted.
And I answered, "It would be tough Lord, but I would still love You."
Then the Lord said, "If you were blind, would you still love my creation?" How could I love something without being able to see it? Then I thought of all the blind people in the world and how many of them still loved God and His creation.
So I answered, "Its hard to think of it, but I would still love you."
The Lord then asked me, "If you were deaf, would you still listen to my word?" How could I listen to anything being deaf? Then I understood. Listening to God's Word is not merely using our ears, but our hearts.
I answered, "It would be tough, but I would still listen to Your word."
The Lord then asked, "If you were mute, would you still praise My Name?" How could I praise without a voice? Then it occurred to me: God wants us to sing from our very heart and soul. It never matters what we sound like. And praising God is not always with a song, but when we are persecuted, we give God praise with our words of thanks.
So I answered, "Though I could not physically sing, I would still praise Your Name.
And the Lord asked, "Do you really love Me?" With courage and a strong conviction, I answered boldly, "Yes Lord! I love You because You are the one and true God!" I thought I had answered well, but God asked, "Then Why Do You Sin?" I answered, "Because I am only human. I am not perfect." "Then why in times of peace do you stray the furthest? Why only in times of trouble do you pray the earnest?"
No answers. Only tears.
The Lord continued: "Why only sing at fellowships and retreats? Why seek Me only in times of worship? Why ask things so selfishly? Why ask things so unfaithfully?"
The tears continued to roll down my cheeks.
"Why are you ashamed of Me? Why are you not spreading the good news? Why in times of persecution, you cry to others when I offer My shoulder to cry on? Why make excuses when I give you opportunities to serve in My Name?"
I tried to answer, but there was no answer to give.
"You are blessed with life. I made you not to throw this gift away. I have blessed you with talents to serve Me, but you continue to turn away. I have revealed My Word to you, but you do not gain in knowledge. I have spoken to you but your ears were closed. I have shown My blessings to you, but your eyes were turned away. I have sent you servants, but you sat idly by as they were pushed away. I have heard your prayers and I have answered them all."
"Do you truly love me ?"
I could not answer. How could I? I was embarrassed beyond belief. I had no excuse. What could I say to this? When I my heart had cried out and the tears had flowed, I said, Please forgive me Lord. I am unworthy to be Your child."
The Lord answered, "That is My Grace, My child."
I asked, " Then why do you continue to forgive me? Why do You love me so?"
The Lord answered, "Because you are My creation. You are my child. I will never abandon you. When you cry, I will have compassion and cry with you. When you shout with joy, I will laugh with you. When you are down, I will encourage you. When you fall, I will raise you up. When you are tired, I will carry you. I will be with you till the end of days, and I will love you forever."
Never had I cried so hard before. How could I have been so cold? How could I have hurt God as I had done?
I asked Jesus, "How much do you love me?" Jesus answered, "This much: as He stretched His arms and died on the cross for me. (And you too!).
I then bowed down at the feet of Christ, my Saviour. And for the first time, I truly prayed.
Love and Grace knows no Boundaries
Paul Tillich once defined forgiveness as remembering the past in order that it might be forgotten - a principle that applies to nations as well as individuals. Though forgiveness is never easy, and may take generations, what else can break the chains that enslave people to their historical past?
I will never forget a scene that I witnessed in the Soviet Union in October 1991 At the time, the Soviet empire was unravelling, Mikhail Gorbachev was hanging on to office by a string, and Boris Yeltsin was consolidating power by the day. I accompanied a delegation of Christians who met with Russias leaders in response to their plea for help in "restoring morality" to their country
Although Gorbachev and all the government officials we visited had received us warmly, old-timers in our group warned us to expect different treatment the evening we visited KGB headquarters. A statue of its founder Feliks Dzerzhinsky may have been toppled by crowds from a pedestal outside the building, but his memory lived on inside. A large photo of the notorious man still hung on one wall of our meeting room. Agents, their faces as blank and impassive as their movie stereotypes, stood at attention by the doorway of the wood-paneled auditorium as General Nikolai Stolyarov, Vice-Chairman of the KGB, introduced himself to our delegation. We braced ourselves.
"Meeting with you here tonight," General Stolyarov began, "is a plot twist that could not have been conceived by the wildest fiction writer." He had that right. Then he startled us by saying,
Our heads spun. Where did he learn the phrase "bear a cross"? And the other word - repentance? Did the translator get that right? I glanced at Peter and Anita Deyneka, banned from Russia for thirteen years because of their Christian work, now munching cookies in the KGB headquarters.
Joel Nederhood, a refined, gentleman who made radio and television broadcasts for the Christian Reformed Church, stood with a question for Stolyarov...
Stolyarov replied in measured tones:
I had seen Repentance by Tengiz Abuladze, and Stolyarovs allusion to it was stunning. The movie details false denunciations, forced imprisonment, the burning of churches - the very acts that had earned the KGB its reputation for cruelty, especially against religion. In Stalins era an estimated 42,000 priests lost their lives, and the total number of priests declined from 380,000 to 172. A thousand monasteries, sixty seminaries, and ninety-eight of every hundred Orthodox churches were shuttered.
Repentance portrays atrocities from the vantage point of one provincial town. In the films most poignant scene, women of the village rummage through the mud of a lumberyard inspecting a shipment of logs that has just floated down the river. They are searching for messages from their husbands who have cut these logs in a prison camp. One woman finds initials carved into the bark and, weeping, caresses the log tenderly, her only thread of connection to a husband she cannot caress. The movie ends with a peasant woman asking directions to a church. Told that she is on the wrong street, she replies, "What good is a street that doesnt lead to a church?"
Abruptly, the meeting took a more personal turn as Alex Leonovich rose to speak. Alex had been sitting at the head table translating for Stolyarov. A native of Byclorussia, he had escaped during Stalins reign of terror and had emigrated to the United States. For forty-six years he had been broadcasting Christian programs, often jammed, back to the land of his birth. He knew personally many Christians who had been tortured and persecuted for their faith. For him, to be translating such a message of reconciliation from a high official of the KGB was bewildering and nearly incomprehensible.
Alex, a stout, grandfatherly man, epitomises the old guard of warriors who have prayed for more than half a century that change might come to the Soviet Union - the very change we were apparently now witnessing. He spoke slowly and softly to General Stolyarov.
And then Alex Leonovich, Christian evangelist, reached over to General Nikolai Stolyarov, the Vice-Chairman of the KGB, and gave him a Russian bear hug. While they embraced, Stolyarov whispered something to Alex, and nor until later did we learn what he said. "Only two times in my life have I cried. Once was when my mother died. The other is tonight."
"I feel like Moses," Alex said on the bus home that evening. "I have seen the Promised Land. I am ready for glory."
The Russian photographer accompanying us had a less sanguine view. It was all an act," he said. "They were putting on a mask for you. I cant believe it." Yet he too wavered, apologising a short time later: "Maybe I was wrong. I dont know what to believe anymore.
From the book: "What's So Amazing About
"People are like stained-glass
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' - or - whatever mules do when they fall into wells.
After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathised with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbours together and told them what had happened...and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling and the dirt hit his back...a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back... HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!
This he did, blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself.
No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP!
You're right! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well!
What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him... All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. Isn't that life?
If we face our problems and respond to them positively and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity... the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us and others.
Toothpick... to remind you to pick the good qualities in everyone's including yourself.
Rubber band... to remind you to be flexible. Things might not always go the way you want, but it can be worked out.
Band-aid... to remind you to heal hurt feelings, either your's or someone else's.
Eraser... to remind you everyone makes mistakes. That's okay, we learn by our errors.
Candy... to remind you everyone needs a hug or a compliment every day.
Mint... to remind you that you are worth a mint to your family.
Bubble gum... to remind you to stick with it and you can make it.
Pencil... to remind you to list your blessings every day.
Tea bag ... to remind you to take time to relax daily and go over that list of God's blessings.
What makes life worth living every minute, every day.
Have you ever thought...
How a $10.00 bill looks so big when you
take it to church,
How long are a couple of hours spent at
How we get thrilled when a football game goes into extra-time, but we complain when a sermon is longer than the regular time;
How hard it is to read a chapter in the
How people scramble to get a front seat at
How we cannot fit a gospel meeting into our schedule with a yearly planner, but we can schedule for other events at a moments notice;
How much difficulty some have learning a simple gospel well enough to tell others, but how simple it is for the same people to understand and explain gossip about someone;
How everyone wants to go to heaven, provided they don't have to believe, or to think, or to say, or do anything?
Alphabet of Encouragement
Ascribe to the LORD glory due his name, worship the LORD in holy array (Ps. 29:1) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Lk 6:36) Call to me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know (Jer 33:3) Do not be anxious then, saying, "What shall we eat?" (Matt 6:31) Enlarge the place of your tents (Isa 54:2) Fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12) Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back (Lk 6:30) Honour all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king (I Pet 2:17) Incline your heart to the words of my mouth (Ps 78:1) Judge not according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement (Jn 7:24) Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God (Deut 7:9) Lift up your eyes and look on the fields (Jn 4:35) Marvel not, brethren, if the world hates you (I Jn 3:13) No soldier in active service entangles himself
in the affairs of everyday life (2 Tim 2:4)
Obey your leaders and submit to them (Heb 13:17) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6) Quench not the Spirit (I Thess 5:19) Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4) Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face continually (Ps 105:4) Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:5) Understanding is a fountain of life to him who has it (Prov 16:22) Vengeance is mine, I will repay" says the Lord (Rom 12:19) Wait for the LORD and keep his way (Ps 37:34) Xpect the Son of Man to come at an hour when you do not expect him so you must be ready. (Lk 12:40) You younger men likewise, be subject to your elders (I Pet 5:5) Zion -- the mountain which cannot be moved, but abides forever! Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion. (Ps 125:1)
Lessons from Noah's Ark
Plan ahead... It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.
Stay fit. When you're 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big.
Don't listen to critics - do what has to be done.
Build on high ground.
For safety's sake, travel in pairs.
Two heads are better than one.
Speed isn't always an advantage. The cheetahs were on board but....so were the snails.
If you can't fight or flee - float!
Take care of your animals as if they were the last ones on earth.
Don't forget that we're *all* in the *same* boat.
When things get really deep, don't sit there and complain shovel!!!
Stay below deck during the storm.
Remember that the ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic was built by professionals (and who was the Master Designer?).
If you have to start over, have a friend by your side.
Remember that the woodpeckers INSIDE are often a bigger threat than the storm outside.
Don't miss the boat (amen)!
No matter how bleak it looks, there's always a rainbow on the horizon...