March 29 Esight, 2009

1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.Last weekend I was privileged to be able to share the Gospel alongside some of the most remarkable friends I have met so far in my travels. One such friend was Dr. Gregory Boyd, pastor of the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul Minnesota and professor at Bethel University.

I was so moved, especially by Greg’s presentations. He presented three talks during the weekend: his own journey out of atheism into faith, why he holds a belief in the historical validity of the Gospels, and what I found to be the clearest and most moving presentation I have ever witnessed on what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

There was one phrase that jumped out at me that, seven days later, I still have echoing over and over in my head:

“Above all . . . LOVE!” (1 Peter 4:8)

That means above everything. Above all else.

Paul put it this way:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Especially in the area of religion, we are too often overly concerned about being right, rather than being Godly. God is Love (1 John 4:8). This is the truest “mark” by which to know that we really are following the truth: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus himself also said to the Pharisees of His day, “If God were your Father, you would love . . .” (John 8:42). John the beloved wrote, “Let us love one another . . . everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

I’d like to share the opening passage to you from the Message Bible as well:

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:7-11, The Message)

How, then, is this love to be found in us? Only by love is love awakened. We only love “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Is it the mandate to, “above ALL,” love something that you find your own heart gravitating toward, longing to follow as well? Then I lift up to you the greatest revelation of love ever manifested before human eyes—the cross of Christ. When His sacrifice is truly understood in the hearts of those who claim to be His followers, then His love, in our treatment of all whom we come into contact with, will be manifest among His followers as well.

The end of all things is at hand! May we not only grasp the love that’s in God’s heart toward us, but may we also, ABOVE ALL . . . Love!

You may find it encouraging to read what Greg himself, a Baptist, experienced this weekend preaching alongside a bunch of Gospel-centered Sevies.

If you would like to, you can find Greg’s blog at:

http://www.gregboyd.org/blog/the-good-news-tour/

I wish you God’s best this week.

March 22 Esight, 2009

“They will walk after the LORD,

He will roar like a lion;

Indeed He will roar

And His sons will come trembling from the west” (Hosea 11.10)

The image of a Lion in the above verse is a fitting symbol for the role our God will play during the final act on the great theater of grace. For time out of mind, controversy has ensued regarding the character of the most other-centered, generously kind and gentle, yet strong and self-denying being in the universe. But that controversy is about to come to a close. The curtain is about to fall, and when it does, it will be with a roar!

As I consider the imagery of the return of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, He is both the lion and the lamb simultaneously. There could be no greater contradiction, but isn’t that exactly the way He is always revealing Himself to us? He does so in things that on the surface seem so contradictory, yet with a little inspired thought and emotion, we begin to see a rich depth in Him that we did not previously perceive. Truly, He has never turned out to be what we expected. Each time we stumble onto a glimpse of what He is, we are pleasantly surprised to find each of our expectations so far outshined, surpassed, and made to appear far short in comparison to the reality of what He is.

My oldest daughter’s first “feelings” surrounding her relationship with God began through the influence of C.S. Lewis’s Aslan. (I know, I know, even in writing that, I am opening my email inbox to a plethora of “did you knows” and warnings about Lewis, but trust me, its ok this time. No need to email me.) But as I recently pondered an artist’s sketch of what Lucy might have looked like all snuggled up in Aslan’s mane, with her arms wrapped tightly around His strong neck, yet feeling perfectly safe and protected, I began to see what it was that initially pulled at my own little girl’s heart. My daughter had seen what I was now seeing. Yes, He is a lion, and His prey should be afraid, wrapped in terror. But remember, they are only His prey because they threaten us! Many feel an inordinate amount of fear about the “Lion’s” return. But He is not crouched waiting to pounce on us! He’s coming back in our defense, to bring what was accomplished in His last visit to our pain-racked planet to fruition. His roar is not aimed at you, but at all that threatens, frightens, hurts, or saddens YOU! He is YOUR Lion, and you are the apple of His eye. You will hear His roar, and your heart will leap for joy and shout:

“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited. He will save us! This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25.9)

Ponder these thoughts well this week, dear reader, for the time of rejoicing is almost here.