Day 5: The crown for those who love him

James 1:12  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

“Trial” refers to any difficulty in life that may threaten our faithfulness to Christ:  physical illness, financial reversal, the death of a loved one.… James, then, uses the crown to refer to the idea of reward, [and] the word life following crown will indicate what the reward is.  Revelation 2:10.. is similar, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”[Moo, D.  The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James. p. 70]

After going through most of our Loving Jesus Series, I am not sure what sounds more beautiful – the “crown of life” that those who endure will receive, or the description that God gives them as “those who love him.”  Of course, they are both amazing works of God’s grace.

Let’s take to heart this truth of this passage.  Let’s pray for ourselves, whether we are in a time of “trial” or not, that we will be those who persevere in loving Jesus.  Let’s pray for one another in our families, campuses, missional groups, and churches, that we will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

-BR

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Day 4: Lord, you know all things…

John 21:17-19  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep….
Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Jesus’ threefold repetition of his question may reflect the Near Eastern custom of reiterating a matter three times before witnesses in order to convey a solemn obligation… Peter is not relieved but rather saddened that Jesus has asked him the same question a third time.  Peter’s response, “Lord, you know all things,” rather than pointing to actions of his own that prove his loyalty, defers to Jesus’ knowledge of him… Perhaps at long last Peter has learned that he cannot follow Jesus in his own strength and has realized the hollowness of affirming his own loyalty in a way that relies more on his own power of will than in Jesus’ enablement. [Kostenberger, A.  Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament:  John.  p. 597-598]

In our “yes” to Jesus, let’s rely upon Him.  We trust in Him Who, knowing all things including our greatest need, went to the cross in love.  We take the commission to feed His sheep by, and only by, following Him.

Let’s pray for our churches today, that Jesus’ sheep will be well cared for.  Let’s gladly say “yes” to following Jesus today.  We can also worship in song – May the Words of my Mouth (Tim Hughes) (click here)

-BR

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Day Three: Glad Self-Offering

Romans 12:1-2a Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

What is precious to us?  It seems that it would be noble if the answer to that were at least another human being.  Yet it so often seems, when I get down to the core of things, that it is often: me.  I am precious to me.  When I apply Abraham’s test to my life, I do hand my children, my husband, other people and things over to the Lord in prayer.  But then I so often end up at this place – where God asks for me, all of me.

Here Paul uses a vivid, indeed shocking, idea:  One’s whole self (that’s what Paul means by ‘body’) must be laid on the altar like a sacrifice in the Temple… Christian living… begins with the glad self-offering of one’s whole self to God whose mercy has come all the way to meet us in our rebellion, sin, and death.[Wright, N.T.  Paul for Everyone: Romans Part Two. p. 70]

Let us respond to this passage with “glad self-offering” of our whole selves unto the Lord.  While doing so, we can worship God in song with Build My Life (Housefires) (click here).

-BR

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Day Two: When God Tested Abraham

Hebrews 11:17
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son…19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

[Abraham] is the only exemplar mentioned in [Hebrews] 11 who is said to have been tested by God… The trial before him was the command to take Isaac [and] ‘sacrifice him…’ It was on this son’s survival that the fulfillment of God’s promises depended… Did God’s command, then, to sacrifice Isaac flatly contradict his own promise?
Surprisingly, neither the Genesis narrative nor the account in Hebrews dwells on the inner turmoil within Abraham’s heart.  In fact, the impression one gets is that Abraham regarded it as God’s problem… When the command was given, Abraham obeyed:  By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.[O’Brien, P.  The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Hebrews.  p. 423-424]

I like this description of faith – “…Abraham regarded it as God’s problem.”  Abraham’s part was reverence and obedience.  What would happen, how God would reconcile two impossible seeming things, was God’s.

Today, let’s offer our lives and what is precious to us to the Lord, in reverent obedience.  Let’s do so trusting Him, knowing that the One who raised Jesus to life is able to do with our offerings what will bring Him glory.

-BR

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Day One: Proven Genuineness of Faith

1 Peter 1:6-8  … for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…

Quite a bit of this letter is concerned with the suffering of the early Christians.  Here Peter states the theme which he will develop: that this suffering is the means by which the quality of the Christians’ faith can shine out all the more, and when Jesus is finally revealed this will result in an explosion of praise.  Meanwhile, they are to live their lives… with love for Jesus in their hearts and ‘a glorified joy (v. 8) welling up within them. [Wright, N.T.  The Early Christian Letters for Everyone. p. 51]

If we are in a current time of trial, let’s take these words of 1 Peter to heart.  I also invite us all to pray that we, together with God’s church around the world, will live our lives with love for Jesus in our hearts and joy welling up within us.

Let’s worship to One Thing Remains (Bethel Live) (click here), proclaiming His love that will keep us for the day when Jesus is revealed.

-BR

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Day Five: Even though you do not see him

1 Peter 1:3, 8-9 (NIV, NLT) – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

“Unlike Peter and others of the first generation who had seen Jesus, they have neither seen him in the past not do they see him at present… Yet despite this apparent deprivation, they in no way come behind the first generation of disciples…, for they love and believe on Jesus. This paradox of faith without sight is often found in the NT, for as soon as the church expanded… it was the experience of most Christians. The really important thing is not what they can see, but whom they love and are committed to, even though they do not see him.

“[This] causes them to rejoice. The verb is present, for Peter’s point is that in the midst of outward trials we can already experience by faith and rejoice in our coming Lord.”  [Davids, Peter H. The New International Commentary on the New Testament:  The First Epistle of Peter.]

Let’s thank and praise God for the truth of this passage in our lives. Today, let’s love Jesus, believe in Him, and rejoice that we are receiving our salvation. Let’s declare the truth and worship with this song, “Who You Say I Am” (Hillsong).

– BR

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Day Four: One Day…

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 – For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

“It is not a distorted image that we have in Christ through the Spirit; but it is as yet indirect, not complete… Our present ‘vision’ of God, as great as it is, is as nothing when compared to the real thing that is yet to be; it is like the difference between seeing a reflected image in a mirror and seeing a person face to face.

“[Faith, hope and love] together embrace the whole of Christian existence, as believers live out the life of the Spirit in the present age, awaiting the consummation… They are on their way ‘home,’ destined for an existence in the presence of God that is ‘face to face.’  And they have ‘love’ for one another as they live this life of faith and hope in the context of a community of brothers and sisters…  In the present life of the church these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.” [Fee, Gordon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament:  The First Epistle to the Corinthians]

Let’s pray that we will live in faith, hope, and love given by the Spirit. Let’s thank God for what will come – We shall see face to face! – as we worship to this song, One Day” (Matt Redman).

– BR

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Day Three: You were doing it to me!

Matthew 25:31-40 (NLT) – ‘…when the Son of Man comes in his glory… he will separate the people…
The King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
37 Then these righteous ones will reply, “Lord, when..?”
40 And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

1 John 4:12, 20 (NIV) – No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us…If we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?

“We cannot separate our relation with God from our relation with people.  To experience the compassion of God makes one a medium of compassion…  For those in Christ the origin and recipient of every act is Christ himself.” [Snodgrass, K. Stories with Intent. p. 562]

Receive again the gravity and joy of the truth that we love our Lord Jesus by loving His people. Let’s pray for ourselves and our churches – that we would love Jesus.

Let’s worship and rely upon His love for us as we sing, “This is How We Know” (Matt Redman).

– BR

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Day Two – Strangers on Earth

Psalm 119:17-19, 97 (NIV)

Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
 

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.

How can we continue and increase in loving Jesus by loving His word?

We can pray with the psalmist, “God, help me obey your word.”

We can orient our lives as strangers on earth.  When His kingdom comes in full, then we will see Jesus – actually, really see Him with our eyes!  Then, we will be fully at home, we will fully know, and be fully transformed.  Until then, we are strangers on earth.  It is not our home because we are waiting to see Jesus, our Lord.

And so we cry out, “God, open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your word, because I need to see the image of Your Son that you have for me today, so I can live in this land that is not my home.”

Today, let’s pray and commit ourselves to God’s word as the psalmist did.  Let’s also pray according to these verses for the reading, teaching, sharing, and proclamation of the word that will happen in our churches and ministries this week.

Let’s worship with this song, “Build my Life” by Housefires.

– BR

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Day One: Blessed are those…

John 20:24-29 –Thomas… was not with the disciples when Jesus came…
He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later… Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Many times I have read this passage and “found myself” in it in Thomas’ shoes. I pray for, imagine, and experience, Jesus coming to me, showing Himself to me and saying, “Stop doubting and believe.”

Yet now, I see that I have been part of this passage all along in Jesus’ pronouncement – “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  This is me, this is us, this is His church in each century since these words were spoken. Jesus had us in mind at this moment, and named us blessed ones, who believe in Him without seeing.

Let’s thank God for this blessing.  Pray that our churches will abound with His presence revealed, that others may “see” the unseen Christ, believe in Him, and live this blessing with us.

– BR

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