The tiny letter of 2 John reminds us that love means walking in obedience to truth: truth found in Scripture, truth found in the person of Jesus Christ. With so many people adopting moral relativism, it is hard to talk about truth, yet God’s truth is absolute! You can listen to this message, “What Love Means”, here:
There is a young woman in St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton named Tessia who is learning to lead worship. The other day, she presented a reflection that I thought worthy of publication, and I share it with you with her permission.
Facebook. As a teenager, this is one of the many important aspects of your life that needs to be active and perfected. How do we do this, one may ask (who hasn’t spent their last few years in 21st century styles and trends)? Well, there are many different things that are put into perspective when trying to create a perfect Facebook profile as a teenager. What pictures do you put up? What groups, music, and celebrities should you like? What should you post on your wall? And of course, who are your friends?
Being friends on Facebook, in our world, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re close in everyday life; most of the time, it just means you know each other. I know people who have thousands of friends on Facebook but never have spoken a word to more than half. But even so, there are some people whom others would publicly proclaim as their friend, even in Facebook language.
‘But what if God had a Facebook page?’ I once asked myself. Who would ‘friend’ him? Maybe some wouldn’t because they weren’t very close to him; others wouldn’t want to show all their friends that they had a relationship with the Lord, and some wouldn’t want him to see all the things they posted on their wall that didn’t honour his Word.
One of the things that astounds me about our Saviour is that he gave us recognition and sacrifice even though we don’t always declare our friendship with him to others. Also, he didn’t die for our sins because we had an amazing relationship, either…he died because of his love for us, whether we pressed the CONFIRM button on the computer to his friend request or not. And what is also mind-blowing is that when we accept his friendship, he doesn’t hate us because of what we have done wrong, but loves us and forgives us as his children.
I’m glad Tessia is a friend of God. Are you?
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15.15, NIV).
Earlier this week, my wife was looking for some information in some of her old emails, and she came across a copy of Encouragement From the Word from almost five years ago. She sent it back to me, and I thought it would be a good word to share again. And for those of you who haven’t been reading Encouragement for at least five years, it’ll be new for you! The message is still applicable. (And my wife is still my sunshine.) Read on.
In my Neck Of The Woods, yesterday was just a dark, damp day. From sunrise to sunset, the colour of the sky never seemed to change. It would have been easy to slip into a funk just because of the weather. And I spent half the day on the road, so I saw quite a lot of the sky.
I got home at suppertime and remarked on this to my wife, who immediately smiled and said, “But now you’re home with your sunshine!”
I grinned. She was right. It was all I could do to refrain from breaking into a Stevie Wonder song at that moment. Diana is my sunshine.
It would be possible to leave the thought right there, and encourage every reader to embrace his or her spouse and be grateful for that “sunshine”. But what about those who have no spouse, or those whose relationship with the spouse is not all it could or should be? Does that mean that on dank days, there is no sunshine?
The Bible says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84.11, NIV). See? The Lord himself is our sun and our shield: he is both the light of our day and the protector of our lives. And as we grow in holiness, and walk honestly with God, he delights in showering us with all good things.
How long will that last? Well, in Revelation 22.4-5, this is what John sees among those who serve the Lord: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (NIV).
The sun is shining on my face as I write this, and I am grateful for its warmth.. But when the sun disappears behind the clouds, and even on the days when my wife doesn’t much feel like the sunshine she is to me, the Lord will be my light.
As followers of Jesus, we throw around a lot of words that don’t show up in everyday society – or, at least, their definitions differ from those applied by the world around us. I’d like us to consider two of those words: mercy and grace.
In general, the word mercy doesn’t show up in everyday lingo very much. In sports, we sometimes think of a “mercy” rule, wherein a game is finished early because one team is beating the tar out of another team, and a turnaround doesn’t seem remotely possible. In childhood play, if we wrestle with a sibling or a friend, and one gets the other in some sort of locked position, there might be a requirement to “cry ‘mercy’” in order to be let go. These concepts of mercy fall short, though, don’t they? One seems more like sympathy, and the other more like submission. So what is mercy, really?
For the Christian, when we talk about God’s mercy, we refer to not receiving what we deserve. So what do we deserve? What does Scripture say? “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23a, NLT). God’s standard is perfection, and we fail to be perfect; we sin every day (well, speaking personally, anyway). The wages of sin is death: that’s what we deserve. But one of the key characteristics of God is that God is merciful. He does not give us what we deserve. We are spared from death by his mercy in Jesus Christ.
In the world, grace tends to be seen as either something that has to do with how a lady carries herself – graceful – or a prayer that is said before Thanksgiving dinner. Though grace is a decidedly God-oriented word, it isn’t often used that way. Sometimes, we use the words mercy and grace interchangeably, but they really aren’t.
For the Christian, to receive grace is to receive what we do not deserve. It’s unmerited favour from God. My favourite acronym for grace, as a good definition, is, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. So what is it that we do not deserve? What does Scripture say? “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6.23b, NLT). Grace is God’s gift – eternal life. We don’t deserve it, but by faith in Jesus and his death and resurrection, we receive eternal life as a gift. We can’t earn it, no matter how hard we try. Nothing we do, good or bad, can bring us grace. We don’t deserve it, and we can’t deserve it in anyway.
Mercy: not receiving what we deserve. Grace: receiving what we don’t deserve. God is gracious and merciful toward us. In Jesus, we receive mercy and grace. What better reason to give thanks do we need?!
“God bless you.” Have you ever wondered what that means, really? Often, we use it as a spiritual substitute for “Good luck” (which is not an appropriate wish to be uttered by a follower of the Sovereign God of the universe). What does it mean to bless?
Literally, it means ‘to extend’. It can be seen to refer to extending a kiss – a sign of love, joy, delight. When we offer someone a blessing, we extend God’s love toward him or her.
Have you ever considered learning some biblical blessings so that you can bless people in God’s ways? To offer an intentional, God-breathed blessing from Scripture can mean a great deal to another person. When I was a student, I used to do this regularly when I was trying to learn blessings that I could give to a congregation at the end of worship gatherings; I ought to learn some new ones, and practise by offering them to others!
Here’s a great way to start: learn Aaron’s blessing from Numbers 6.24-26. Here’s how it’s rendered in the New Living Translation:
May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile upon you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favour and give you his peace.
Share these words with someone you love. Not only will that person experience your blessing, and God’s…so will you!
Bless, and be blessed!