From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' ---except by the Holy Spirit" 1 Corinthians 12:3b
"Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." Daniel 9:25-26 "...abomination causing desolation..." - the Most Difficult Chapter to Understand in the Bible.
"...in you, O Lord, I have taken refuge... let me never be put to shame...rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness...turn your ear to me and save me..." Psalm 71:1,2
"...and now I will show you the most excellent way..." 1 Corinthians 12:31
"...they got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff...but Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on His way..." Luke 4:28-30
Gracious, loving God, father of our Lord Jesus, we want to praise you and show our love for teaching us how to live. We'd ask that you'd give us the faith, and as well, the evidence of Jesus' authority and power over the darkness of this world, to make our lives shine like the brightness of the sun.
Forgive us our sins--- and our inability to show up for you...reveal your heart, that we know and feel your presence, and, in so doing, have deep inner peace within; and that being, so we may serve you with wholeness of heart and represent you by our daily witness as we sincerely reach out to others and serve them. In Jesus' name. Amen
Although I'm absolutely fascinated by the material in the fourth chapter of Luke's gospel for today, I'm going to focus in on Saint Paul's first letter to the folks at the church in Corinth. These are Greeks receiving instruction from a Turkish Jew. The letter was written in 55 A.D., only twenty-six years after Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Paul was addressing a group of people who had never known much about the traditions of the religion of Israel and they struggled with many of the same problems churches have today with new Christians who come into the organizational church and discover, once being saved, they have to make some significant personal moral changes in life, as well as to clean up the ways they normally treat other people in their daily lives.
A little background here. Saint Paul at one time was Rabbi Saul, a true "young lion" of Judaism, a Pharisee of the first order, and, indeed a radical enemy of Jesus Christ and the Christian Church.
Paul was a Jew without parallel in terms of his personal conduct and spiritual discipline. There was no one in Israel who could compare with Paul's intellect and total response to his religion. I would imagine he could hold up against any renowned person on earth at that time in an intellectual discussion about philosophy, religion, or morality.
However, his zeal caused him to hate early Christians and persecute them. He was present to witness the stoning of the very first martyr, Stephen, and rejoice in it. Acts 8:1 suggests, "And Saul was there, giving approval to his death."
When I think of a saying of Jesus that would apply to Rabbi Paul it'd be found in Matthew 6:23b: "...if then, the light within you is darkness, how profound is that darkness..."
We don't know how far Paul went in persecuting the Church, but we do know it was very shameful. Yet, God saw something in this vicious religious sinner that was worthy of redemption, something that was so essential for the survival of the Church and also for its propagation throughout the world.
(You see, there's never been any human being quite like Paul and his God-given abilities. No one person has ever written such important and essential Spiritual guidance as Paul. God needed this quintessential Jewish man to extend the Gospel throughout the world, even though He was "radically elsewhere" in his religious focus.)
On his way to persecute Christians in Damascus - "...breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples..." (Acts 9:1-6) - Paul was forced to the ground...mysteriously...forcefully...
"...Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'...I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting...Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do..."
We are reading here about Paul's conversion to the Christian faith...over twenty years later he would write his magnificent text on the way we can love others in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. This is preceded by the comment to his readers...[1 Corinthians 12:31b]
"...and now I will show you the excellent way..."
Paul begins with..."...if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I'm only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal..."
In other words, even having a multitude of personal gifts, we'd only be making a lot of noise having having nothing substantial to back it up without genuine loving concern and care. Somehow or other, this matter of "heart knowledge" in service to Christ in reaching out to others has been slipping through the cracks. How about---getting back to "heart knowledge" as we reach out to serve the Lord
Furthermore, Paul makes a great point in suggesting that we could do all sorts of "good works", that is, nice things for people, but if we do it without tender care and compassionate love, it is worthless. What a point! Doing charity without having an open, compassionate heart does no good according to Paul.
He goes on---a real expression of love is being patient. This is something to think about when we consider caring for ourselves and other folks we live with.
The other day I heard a woman behind me in the market, standing in line, shouting out, "Come on, for God's sake, I hate to wait!" In family matters, Mark Twain said, "...why have enemies, when you can have family..." A bit sarcastic, for sure, but we have a tendency at times, waiting for family members and others to make changes for the better, and we think it's all for naught, when, within a reasonable amount of time, they don't change. Please remember that God's timing is always perfect.
Come on, let's really come to terms with God's way of bringing about real and permanent change...
What's wrong with taking the Lord Jesus at His word? "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father...you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it..." (John 14:13,14)
Suggestion: practice patience with total assurance
As expressed in Paul's letter, this idea of loving the way Jesus did (and does) includes:
Often in our relationships with others (especially couples) one partner will keep score, that is, keeping the other person at bay in the knowledge they've goofed in the past and using that as ammunition for interpersonal battle.
It's not easy to protect others who have done us wrong. It's so tempting to "stick a knife" in another person, behind their back (figuratively), when you hold a grudge against them. It's hard to trust someone who's proved to be less than trustworthy. It's difficult to be hopeful, when the odds are against you. I've been there many times. When the failure of a marriage relationship seems imminent, the Holy Spirit would then encourage us to reflect on our own shortcomings and know that it's not easy, often seemingly impossible to carry on. Don't ever think you are the only person or couple who have experienced the potentiality a break-up. No matter how holy or perfect, all of us have been there. Trust me, you're not alone. Christ's love is there to sustain you.
You know, I could go on writing about this magnificent passage, but I want to be brief today. However, I want to share one more portion of this text with you.
It is so important.
It is life-changing in terms of being assured of doing the right thing and taking the "higher road" in all situations and circumstances of life.
It is the short -- 8th verse -- of the passage -- "...love never fails..." (Greek: "agape") .
Either this text is the absolute truth for you and me and every person who will receive it, or it is a lie and unworthy of our consideration.
Which will it be for you today --- the truth or a lie?
It may not be made complete within your sense of what should happen in time. Often God's way may seem inconvenient for you, even totally unlike the way you had planned, but the Lord comes through for us.
I can't tell you how happy I am to share this material with you.
Have a wonderful, satisfying day!