Agape is the Greek word used in the Bible when referring to God’s love. Agape is one of four Greek words that are often translated as “love.” It describes selfless love of one person for another, without any romantic implications, especially love that is spiritual in nature. Some writers have described agape as the noblest word for love in the Greek Language.
It is love available to every person from God without any preconditions. Some will choose to embrace it and others will reject it at their own peril. It is unconditional and unselfish and unbounded. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others, a love that reflects compassion and sacrifice and is embodied in Jesus, the Christ.
In the Bible, in 1 John 4:10, the writer explains it this way:
“This is love: that God sent his Son (Jesus) as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Photo copyright: golfmhee / 123RF Stock Photo
Great question and the answer can be very lengthy, so let’s start. We all are one in body, soul and spirit. However, when we place all our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into and indwells us. Mark 1:1-8 (and many other Bible passages.)
What’s known as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is part of that mystery of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit, and yes, the Holy Spirit is NOT an ‘IT’ but a being who has all the attributes of a personality. Once this commitment to Jesus Christ is made, many changes occur as a result of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and calls us to repentance. Previously, sinning did not bother us and often we were not even aware of our thoughts and actions that alienated us from God. The Holy Spirit enables us to be free from our slavery to sin.
The Holy Spirit through His Word, the Bible, and speaking directly to our minds gives us inner peace and contentment in now knowing for certainty where we will be when this life on earth ends. The Holy Spirit will change our desires and what we think is important. Previously, perhaps earthly gains, fame or money were our objectives. Now it is to grow closer to our Savior every day of the rest of our lives. God’s Spirit will reveal His plan for your life as a Christian, giving it real meaning and purpose.
Friends will change because our interests and priorities will differ from theirs. The Holy Spirit will guide you to seek fellowship with fellow believers who will help each other grow in the knowledge of His Word. Love for one’s children and family and our ‘neighbors’ will become stronger when we personally experience the love of God in Jesus.
The Holy Spirit will additionally open our eyes and hearts to the needs of others that includes their physical and daily needs but also and more importantly their need to say ‘yes’ to Jesus and experience this new life too. There are many more benefits to elaborate on but suffice it to say, having God’s Spirit in you is the greatest thing that can ever happen to you.(Gal. 5:22-23)
We pray that you may experience this indescribable new life TODAY. Just invite Jesus in. He is waiting at the ‘door’ of your heart. Open it wide and His Spirit will come in and reside with you forever.
Photo copyright: keeweeboy / 123RF Stock Photo
Worship is the grateful response to a gracious and loving God. It means honoring the God of creation who has given life and the assurance of eternal life for all put their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Worship is a spontaneous and voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved sinner to the Savior.
Simply stated, worship is just saying, “thank you God for all your blessings.” The fact is that every good thing a person has in life is a gift from God. So in worship, we praise God for his amazing works in creation. We praise him because His power is great and His unfailing love is even greater. In a greater sense, worship reflects the condition of the human heart and lifts the human spirit. Worship connects people with God at the spiritual level.
In the Christian perspective, Stewardship is worship. Service in missions and in the church is worship. Good works, done in Jesus name, is worship. Singing praises to the Lord as worship. Sharing the good news of the Gospel with others is worship. In other words, all of life’s activities should be worship. Worship will be one of the primary activities for eternity in heaven. In worship we say, “To God be the glory. Great things he has done!” This is what it means to worship God.
No, the Christian faith fits the scientific facts. Science now confirms that the intricacy and complexity of the design details in both the macro (cosmic) and micro (biological) Sciences point to an Intelligent Designer. That designer is God.
Recent scientific discoveries demonstrate also that evolution could not have produced new life forms on planet Earth including humans. No matter how many eons of time one selects, the mathematical probability of evolution producing life forms is zero.
Even though the universe came into being, the Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago and the earth about 4.8 billion years ago, in all that time, the extensive number of fossils discovered, including those in the Cambrian strata (billions upon billions of fossils), not a single transitional species was found. All fossil species appear distinct; that is no evolution. The foundation of the evolution theory is a gradual transition of species thru random probabilistic transition. This is the essence of the theory yet NOT ONE transitional species has ever been found where there should be billions if not trillions.
Remember this too. The older Earth age does not conflict with the Genesis seven days of creation because the Hebrew word for day, ‘ium’, has four possible meanings one of which is, “A long period of time,” which could be millions or billions of years. In other words, God took His time to get Earth ready.
Regarding evolution, one must keep in mind that evolution was a theory which is now a worldview masquerading as scientific fact. It is fundamentally the religion of atheists who reject the idea of God or even an intelligent designer and that a human being has an eternal soul. Why, so that atheists can be their own god, live life as they please, fabricate their own truth and believe that life ends at death with no Judgment Day and no eternal condemnation or punishment. In other words, a life with no hope, no meaning, and no purpose of any eternal value. In that worldview, human life has no value greater than the lives of animals. Despite overwhelming evidence, evolutionists say, “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the scientific facts or the idea of intelligent design by a Creator God.” So sad!!
So, choose faith and study more about how science supports the Genesis account of creation. While you are searching for truth, you will also discover God’s plan for your life.
Photo copyright: johndwilliams / 123RF Stock Photo
The answer is simple for a Christian. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. That means, God directed the authors to write without error or contradictions, as some claim exists. Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:26, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Everything! God keeps his promises.
For the skeptic and nonbeliever, there is proof of another kind. In Jesus’ day, it was mainly by oral tradition that information got passed along from one generation to the next. In the Jewish tradition, a rabbi or teacher, which is what Jesus was called by the religious establishment of the day, would have 8 to 12 disciples. Those disciples or students would memorize the rabbis’ teachings so that after he died his words could be passed along or taught to others. Therefore, it is most likely that Jesus’ 12 disciples did much the same, as they were raised in that tradition too. This is another way it is possible for us to have Jesus’ words verbatim in the Bible.
Now, is there a more modern-day example of such memorizing capability? Yes, Fanny Crosby, the greatest Christian hymn-writer of all- time with more than 5000 hymns is an example. She became blind at age 6 weeks but memorized scripture over time with the help of her grandmother who read the Bible to her every day. Fact! By age 12, Fanny memorized perfectly the entire text of the first four books of the Bible and the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. She went on in life to memorize even more of the Bible. It was from this vast memory of God’s word that she was able to create her hymns and other Christian writings. The human mind has a great capacity to memorize incredible details. If she could do it, so could the disciples.
Finally, if you are searching for Truth in this politically correct culture where tolerance is valued more than truth, then read Jesus’ words in the New Testament. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Jesus is the embodiment of Truth. And if by chance you want to actually hear God speak to you, read the Bible aloud. It is, after all, God’s inspired word. The Bible is the operating and safety manual for life. Study well and often. And don’t leave home without it.
You can’t share what you don’t know personally. Have you noticed that people increasingly invest themselves in positions (political, cultural, theological) that leave no room for alternative viewpoints. It seems as if everyone is shouting and no one is listening. People who hold contrary views find themselves shunned by family, friends and coworkers. In that environment, loving one another can be difficult, but not impossible.
To begin with, we must never forget that everyone we meet was created by God. Each one is so loved by God, that Jesus, God’s son, paid the punishment for all of the sins of that individual so that he or she could be forgiven and enjoy a fruitful life now and a perfectly wonderful eternal existence after earthly death. But most of those people who are judgemental and hard to get along with are those who have not allowed God to work in their hearts and minds.
Many haven’t experienced God’s love or even real human love. They have been hurt by someone who should have shown them love. They think they are not lovable themselves or even worthy of love.
Some, among us, believe you have to like another person to be able to love them. That’s not true. You can show love without necessarily liking another person. In short, the reason that many people struggle to love others, is that they don’t know God’s love, and they don’t know God’s love because they don’t know God. 1 John 4:8 reminds us that “Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.”
Photo copyright: dtiberio / 123RF Stock Photo
When one is cooped up in an apartment interacting with friends and family members via FaceTime and Zoom life feels very different. The happiness that comes from personal touch, freedom of movement, and worshipping with others can be drained away. Often, as happiness wanes, so too does joy. But it doesn’t have to happen that way.
Consider this, happiness is an emotion. Circumstances, like the current coronavirus crisis, can have a profound effect on one’s happiness. Joy, on the other hand, is an attitude or belief. Happiness is often dependent on external circumstances, while Joy comes from within. The greatest joy springs from a relationship with the God of the universe, and that relationship is secured by what Jesus did on the cross. When one accepts the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us, repents of their self-centeredness and asks Jesus to be lord of their lives, one begins to know joy that surpasses any measure of happiness that one might experience.
In his letter to the church at Philipi, Paul, an apostle who at the time was under house arrest in the capital city of Rome, wrote about joy—what it is, where it comes from, and how to get it. His circumstances were deplorable. Instead of a two or three-month stay at home order, he was well into a five-year stay-at-home order, with soldiers posted to make sure he obeyed. Yet he could write:
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)
His joy sprung from his relationship with God and the assurance he had of spending eternity free from his physical pain and bondage. He wrote:
I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:18-24)
Paul’s focus was away from his circumstances and onto Jesus Christ, his Savior and Lord. That focus led him to joy and will lead you to joy. Reading your Bible daily, and setting quiet time to pray is the best way to reclaim joy in your life.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
In times of uncertainty, knowing which step to take next can be challenging. It can particularly difficult for graduates who are not graduating because of the COVID-19 virus; for students not sure if they should return to college in the fall; for those whose jobs have been eliminated; for church, civic and business leaders struggling with decisions about when and how to reopen.
Christians, in particular, wrestle with the notion that God has a plan for their lives and the day-to-day reality that those plans seem to be in disarray. Following the example of Jesus is the best way to navigate through the uncertainty. Jesus had a mission and everything he did was focused on that mission to take the punishment for sin of all people, past, present and future, onto himself at the cross. He died so that those who accept what he did for them would become “clean” before God and know for certain that they would live forever with him. (John 5:19-24)
So determining your mission in life is an important first step in deciding what you should do with your uncertain future. That will take some work. Jesus was in regular communion with God, his father, to ensure he was “staying on course.” For you and me, regular communion with God through prayer and Bible reading will help you align your thoughts with his. That will help bring clarity to your mission in life.
In addition, as you meditate on God’s word, and learn to hear from him in prayer, your anxiety will diminish, and you will more clearly see a path before you. Ask God what he wants for your life and you may discover a future different from the one you had envisioned. Interruptions to education or a career opens new horizons.
Paul, the Apostle, went from being a persecutor of Christians (Acts 8:3) to the leading evangelist, church planter and pastor in the history of Christianity. It happened because he had an encounter with Jesus (Acts 9) and used his education, his speaking and writing skills, and his Roman citizenship to carry the message of Jesus throughout the Roman world.
As with Paul, once you align your thoughts with those of Jesus, you will find that the path forward will come into focus.
Jesus used a variety of ways to speak to people, but he didn’t use riddles. He spoke in parables and used illustrations to get certain points across, but he didn’t play mind games with those to whom he spoke. In fact, about the most important work he came to do, he was plain-spoken.
Early in his ministry, Jesus did not want to reveal himself to authorities as the son of God, because he had work to do to train disciples and give religious leaders time to recognize their sin and repent, so he used stories to allude to his work without being as clear as some wanted to hear, but the religious leaders understood what he was saying and didn’t like it. For example, when he spoke parables about sheep and shepherds, he wasn’t trying to get people to think about farmers out in the countryside, he was citing the revered scripture about the failure of religious leaders to lead the people in the way God directed them. (Ezekiel 34:1-6)
Sheep are woven into the fabric of the Bible story dating back to the first murder that took place when God favored the sacrifice of a sheep over that of grain. From the Passover lamb that was to be sacrificed (Exodus 12:1-30) to John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who declared Jesus the Lamb of God, (John 1:19-34) sheep have figured prominently in God’s story. Jesus’ many audiences knew well what he was saying when he used stories about sheep (the average citizen) and the shepherds (religious leaders) who were leading them to slaughter (away from God).
Where Jesus was very direct in teaching, some, even his closest disciples, refused to believe or accept what he was saying. On three occasions Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be killed and would be raised from the dead. (Mark 8:31, Mark 9:30-32, Mark 10:32-34) But when that came to pass, they had trouble believing it.
While the Bible can sometimes be hard to understand, once we ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to open our spiritual eyes, we will gain insights and understanding that will lead us to acknowledge Jesus as the Lamb of God whose sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead offers us assurance of eternal pardon for our sins and an eternity in God’s presence free of guilt, pain, suffering and death.
In the biographies of Jesus, authors Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tells of numerous instances of Jesus healing sick people. Though these authors don’t explicitly say so, we can assume that some sick people who lived in Jesus’ time did not get healed.
For example, when Jesus went to the pool of Bethsaida, he entered a portico where many sick, lame and blind people sat beside a pool of water that they believed had healing qualities. They believed that when an angel stirred the water, the first to enter would be healed. (John 5:1-15) They did not seek Jesus’ healing, nor did he offer it. Rather he came with a specific purpose.
Jesus used the healing as a sign. He was demonstrating that he was Lord of the Sabbath. He was seen by the religious leaders of the day as violating their “law” since he was doing work (healing) on the Sabbath, a day set aside for rest. But Jesus explained that his father, God, is at work at all times, and therefore the son must work, as well. In this case the “work” was to heal a paralytic.
People who have only a cursory understanding the Bible, believe that Jesus came to earth to teach morals and perform miracles. Actually, the teaching and miracles were designed to establish Jesus’ credentials as God incarnate. His perfection allowed him to go to the cross as a perfect sacrifice to substitute his death for the deserved death of every man and woman.
Jesus didn’t heal everyone because that was not his mission. In fact, his healings were temporary. None of the people healed went on live disease- and pain-free forever. They all eventually died. This again suggests that the “miracle” Jesus performed at the pool of Bethsaida was for a reason other than to provide temporary relief from pain. His focus was on forgiveness of sin because his desire is that we will accept the sacrifice he made on our behalf and join him in heaven for an eternity of joy, forever relieved of pain and the fear of death.