Friday, September 26, 2008

LOVE - Agape Word-Study Devotional

Trying to describe God's love on one page is like trying to describe a honeymoon in one sentence...impossible! That's the greatness of His love.


In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. – 1 John 4:9 (all verses, NKJV)

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. – 1 John 4:16

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:3

God’s “love” is defined as agape (Strong’s # 25, 26, 27). It is a unique word in the New Testament that describes God’s benevolence, grace, and mercy. Agape carries the idea of responsibility, giving out that which is needed—that which is best—for the benefactor. When “God so loved the world,” He gave sinful, disobedient mankind what it needed and not what it deserved. John 3:16 is agape in its fullness.

God’s love is not based on convenience, but sacrifice. He sacrificed His beloved Son so that sinful man might receive His love. It is out of His love that man receives God’s grace for salvation, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). This “praise” is in response to the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said the “first and greatest commandment” is: ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” (Matt. 22:37; Dt. 6:5). Why? Because, God reveals Himself as love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3); “…for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). Paul says that God’s love “has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rms. 5:5). It is a merciful action of God that He loves man. It is an expression of His holiness. All that is good, right, and just is expressed in God’s love.

God is love. He loves His Son; He loves His children; and He commands His children to love others the same way. Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34; cf. 15:12, 17). You are commanded to express the very nature of God’s agape love toward one another. But it gets even harder: you are commanded to love your neighbors this way (agape: Matt. 5:43); and harder still, you are commanded to love your enemies this way! (agape: 5:44)—not because they love you, but because God loves you and He wants them to see His love through you.

There are many verses of Scripture that I could share with you describing God’s love, but I simply ask you to read 1 Corinthians 13. This is called the “love” chapter. In it you find the description and the motivation of God’s love, from man’s vantage point. I say that because man cannot fathom the fullness and depth of God’s infinite love. It cannot be fully described; it can only be experienced. Read the love chapter; thank God He is this loving all the time. Pray to Him and ask for the spiritual ability to reflect His nature. Here’s His answer to that prayer: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). God the Father and God the Son will indwell you, by His Spirit, that you may reflect His nature and thereby express His agape love.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

HOPE Word-Study Devotional

My second Word-Study Devotional is on Hope. I "hope" you enjoy it and that it speaks to your heart. If so, do not forget to share it with a friend. Just tell them how to get to my blog. In Christ, yours, BJ


“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23 (all verses, NKJV)

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” – 1 Thessalonians 2:19

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” – 1 Peter 3:15

“Hope” is a combination of two words that literally mean “confident expectation” (elpis 1680; Strong’s says elpis comes from elpo = “to anticipate, usually with pleasure”; cf. Hebrew # 410: el = strength, mighty (God Almighty = El-Shaddahee) + Greek # 4102: pistis = persuasion, trust, faith). Hope is a confident expectation that what God has done in the past, He will do in the present and future. As you may see in the compound word, “hope” is interrelated to “faith.” In New Testament times, “faith,” “hope,” and “love” seem to have been a triad of eternal virtues. For example: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father” (1 Thess. 1:2-3, emphasis added; cf. Rms. 5:2-5; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5-6; Col. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 5:8; Heb. 6:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:21-22).

Hope sees the hurdles of life as stretching opportunities for spiritual growth. History records that those POWs who maintained hope survived their captivity longest. Hope is as necessary to human survival as water is to a fish. Without hope, man loses sight of his future and redefines the word as “wishful thinking” or “iffy.” Without hope, man becomes a dreamer of achievements that could have become reality and treats life as a game of chance.

A believer’s hope is not wishful thinking. Peter gives a definitive description of our salvation as “begotten…to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet.1:3). Through the resurrected Christ, a believer is “begotten” into a “living hope” that produces a confident, pleasurable life of spiritual expectation and anticipation. This “hope” builds his spiritual life through every physical experience. Through hope, a believer sees the unseen spiritual virtues and progresses through his circumstances. Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19); and further, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Rms. 8:24-25).

Hope takes away the uncertainties of our physical life because a follower of Jesus is confident in the providential care of his Lord. This hope purifies us in His presence: “And you…He has now reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…” (Col. 1:21-23, in part). Did you see the blessing of hope in that verse? The gospel gives eternal hope. It is joined to the foundation of “faith, grounded and steadfast,” and provides the spiritual material for building a strong and mighty, purified life that houses Christ our Lord, “…whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Heb. 3:6). “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Hope settles the believer down into his eternal house and gives him a confident expectation of his future.

Have you lost sight of your spiritual hope? Do your hurdles look too high? May I encourage you to start looking “up” instead of “out”? Let your Christian life be clothed in hope. Run its race in pleasurable confidence. Speak of it when others try to drag you down into the dismal uncertainties of this lost world. Put hope back into your spiritual life; make it your pleasurable testimony!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FAITH Word-Study Devotional

Faith Word-Study Devotional is the first of many that I desire to present to you on this blog. I pray these word studies will be somewhat of a blessing to you. If one does indeed minister to you, please help me by passing it on to others. I have been a minister for over 32 years, but was medically impaired so that I had to stop. I am praying that my writings will become my new resource of ministry that will sustain my wife and I during my time of disability. Please pray for me, that I may have discernment in knowing God's will and honoring Him in all that I write. Thanks for reading it and passing it along. This will help me. -BJ


Go to any Hebrew and Greek dictionary and you will soon discover that the word for “faith” has a root meaning as “that which is stable” (n.) or “that which stabilizes” (v.). This means a follower of Jesus has faith as something (or Someone) upon which to stabilize and establish a spiritual life; it is your secure foundation upon which to build your spiritual life. This is why it is very important for you to grasp the foundational meaning of the word “faith.” (Resource: Strong’s & Thayer’s, Hebrew & Greek lexicons; Faith, Hebrew # 529, 530, 539 (awman); Greek # 4100, 4102 (pistis), 4103; root: 3982 - peitho: to bind; to convince)

Hebrews 11:1 streamlines faith’s definition as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (all references: NKJV). This definition is rich in meaning; let’s look at it. “Substance” in Greek is hupostasis (5287): hupo, meaning “under, beneath, or support,” and stasis, “[to] stand, abide, or set up.” Thus you can illustrate faith’s substance as the formation of your spiritual foundation. It is that upon which a believer builds and by which he is secured. It is also called your spiritual “rest” (Matt. 11:28, 29; Heb. 4:9, 10, 11).

Jesus teaches His followers to have faith and consistently rebukes them for having “little faith” (Luke 12:28, et al.). When He presents the formation of faith, Jesus points to Himself as the “substance”—the foundation—on which faith resides. This same word for “substance,” in Hebrews 11:1, is translated as “person” in Hebrews 1:3, referring to Jesus as the “brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (hupostasis). Jesus is the substance—the personhood—of God.

When you think of faith, do you think of the personhood of God as your sure foundation on which you rest? Do you think of Jesus as the substance of your faith? Foundations are rarely seen, but it is the evidence of something that is established and securely built upon. Please allow me to paraphrase Hebrews 11:1a: “A believer’s faith is founded in the Personhood of God, that is, Jesus Christ. He is the substance upon which a rock-solid foundation is established for the believer to build his spiritual life.”

Now if Jesus is your faith—your secure spiritual foundation— the word “hope” fits in perfectly in the Hebrews definition. “Hope” (elpidzo 1679) means “to have a strong and mighty trust” in your foundation. Plus, it is a continuous tense participle, middle passive, meaning: as you act on faith, faith acts on you. That means you become the beneficiary of your faith in your foundation. (“Hope” comes from elpis (1680), which literally means “pleasurable anticipation.”)

Hebrews completes its definition of faith with the word “evidence” (elegchos 1650). This is a legal term which means: to have convincing (or, convicting) proof. It is the kind of proof an attorney would present in a court of law that would produce a conviction. So, your mighty trust in the foundation of your faith produces the evidence that convicts you and your acts as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not separate Himself from your faith. The building up of your spiritual life is founded upon your “hope,” that is, your strong and mighty trust in Jesus. It is your “evidence” of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). As you put your faith in Christ and He becomes your foundation, your spiritual growth is firm and secure. Think about this: Your spiritual life can be established only as great as your faith in your foundation allows. That’s why Jesus worked on building His followers’ faith and rewarded those who had “great” faith (Matt. 15:28).

Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, daughter, your faith has made you well,” and to two blind men whom He healed, “According to your faith let it be to you” (Matt. 9:22 & 29 in part). In what (or, Whom) was their faith? Faith in Jesus develops a strong trust (“hope”) between you and Him; this trust develops a maturing relationship between the two of you and establishes your faith.

So when your faith is challenged, remember that it is an attack on your foundation. Can you rest and remain secure upon your spiritual foundation? Can you trust Jesus? Always remember that your faith rests upon the Rock of your salvation. Don’t doubt His presence with you and His power to build you up. Have and exercise Faith!