And Now These Three Remain: Faith, Hope And Love. But The Greatest Of These Is Love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 “God Is Love.” 1 John 4:16

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Several years ago while reading 1 Corinthians 13:13 shown above, the question came to my mind that if we are saved by God’s grace through faith as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8, why isn’t faith the greatest? Why is love the greatest?

It finally came to my mind months later that love is the fulfillment of faith. Greater knowledge of our faith is not the fulfillment of faith. Love is the fulfillment of faith. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that by speaking the truth, which is our faith, in love, we mature “attaining to the whole measure of fullness of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:11-15 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. [Emphasis added.]

Through love, we mature. 

How do we love? If we have true faith in Christ, He lives in us and loves through us as Paul writes:

Galatians 2:20 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

When Christ lives in us through faith, love lives in us because: 

1 John 4:8, 16  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. …

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

When God lives in us, Love lives in us and Love works through us. 

Is everything we say once we come to faith in God said in love? We need to check our words against the advice Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13. Do our words measure up to the standard Paul gives us for words spoken lovingly?

1 Corinthians 13 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.[Emphasis added.]

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 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.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [Emphasis added.]“

All these descriptions Paul gives of love are descriptions of God the Father, of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit. When our words do not measure up to this standard Paul sets for us, we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us as God wishes to speak.

Through Christ in us, we can speak as a loving Father as Paul did or we can quench the Holy Spirit within us and not be loving.

1 Thessalonians 2:

7-8, 11, 5:19 

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. … 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. … 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. [Emphasis added.]

Speak in love. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you.  The Trinity’s love in us is the fulfillment of our faith. What a thrill to know God our Father; Jesus, His Son and our savior; and the Holy Spirit want to, can and do live in those of us who believe in Jesus. 

Thank you, Father, for your love for us, in Jesus’ courageous name. Amen.

All quotations above are from the NIV®.

Photo of Glacier Nat’l Park courtesy of Dan Bennett.

God’s Mercy on Children

It was somewhere around 1955 or 1958. I forget why mom and dad were not home. 

Needless to say, my brother and I liked to horse around. Why we were in mom and dad’s bedroom, I have no idea, maybe because their bed was so much bigger than ours and we liked to play on it.

On mom’s dresser, near her perfumes was the ever vigilant statue, about six inches tall, of either St. Theresa of Avila or St. Theresa of the Little Flower. I can’t recall. 

All I can recall is that through some unfortunate carelessness of ours, St. Theresa’s head cracked off, clean off. The first thing that ran through our heads was, what is the penalty for decapitating a saint, especially a saint who was a nun. We had only an hour or so before we might suffer the same tragedy as St. Theresa.

We were toast. But we had time and glue on our side. God blessed us that the crack was very clean. We studiously reattached St. Theresa’s head, put her on the dresser and hoped for the best. 

God blessed us with the best. Mom never noticed that we had decapitated St. Theresa, that is, until forty some years later. The day eventually came when mom agreed to move out of the house. I know I was in the bedroom with mom when the truth came out. I believe my brother was, too, as we started packing up the bedroom. 

Mom picked up St. Theresa to wrap her in packing when what happens but St. Theresa’s head falls off in mom’s hands. My brother and I looked at each other and laughed. Mom simply looked at the headless statue and said, “How did that happen?” 

We were so happy that the time the law allows for prosecuting kids responsible for decapitating a saint had expired years ago. If I recall correctly, we confessed our misdeed. I have no idea where St. Theresa is today, but we’re alive to tell about God’s mercy.

Wow! To be a child of God!

Mark 3:34-35 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

This is such a fantastic statement. To think that Jesus considers us His family providing we obey the will of God is phenomenal. 

We put so much distance between ourselves and God. I know when I was very young I felt God was way up there somewhere far beyond my reach and I was down here somewhere. I revered God but felt the distance between Him and I was just so vast I never could think of being physically, intellectually or emotionally close to Him like a son should be to his father. 

But here Jesus calls me His brother. My three brothers here on earth and I were and still are very close and love being with one another. 

Jesus created me. God made me in His image. He gave me the opportunity by belief in Him to move from being His image to being His son. He gives me hope, joy, laughter. He takes my cares upon Himself. No depression. No anxiety. He died for me to recognize and achieve this opportunity. What more could He do to prove His love for us? Every one of us has to opportunity to be God’s child by expressing our free will to believe in Him and obey Him.

Why would anyone pass up such an opportunity for an eternal life of joy and love?

Lord, Can Our Faith Be As Simple As You Say?

Second Day of Lent 2019, Isaiah 58:1-12

Lord, can our faith be as simple as you say?

  1. To loose the chains of injustice.
  2. Untie the cords of the yoke.
  3. Set the oppressed free
  4. And break every yoke.
  5. To share your food with the hungry.
  6. To provide the poor wanderer with shelter.
  7. When you see them naked, to clothe them.
  8. Not to turn away our own flesh and blood. 

Lord, what about disputing about faith?

What about fasting food?

What about cleaning up our own lives first?

Lord, all the things you have Isaiah write focus on loving others, not ourselves. How do I improve myself? Is it as you said, Jesus? 

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  John 12:24-26

When we focus not on ourselves but on producing many seeds, we gain eternal life. And yet, as you say, it is not we who are doing the work. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5.

As long as we follow you, as long as we remain in your vine, you produce the increase. You simply allow us to participate in your work. You are doing your work through us, the branches. If we fail to remain in you, we cannot and do not produce fruit.

Lord, helps us to love eternal life, You, our Father, our Holy Spirit so much, always, that we never think of loving this life and keeping it but anticipate eternity with You. 

Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit give me, give us opportunities to give myself/ourselves to others and loose the chains of injustice.

Image: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, 1695-97 by Sebastiano Ricci at the Detroit Institute of Arts, September 7, 2018.

The Time is Fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at Hand. Repent ye, And Believe the Gospel.

Before I retired, when I returned to the office after lunch, I would sometimes joke with the staff. I would ask them, “Did Publisher’s Clearing House call while I was at lunch?” 

The answer was always, “No, they didn’t.” And I would go into my office. I think the joke kept the atmosphere relaxed.

I never really expected to win the PCH prize of thousands of dollars a week for life. But from their TV commercials advertising the contest, seeing well-dressed people come up to your house, announcing that you just won a fantastic prize always seemed exciting.

I never expected to win because I never entered the PCH contest. But the thought of winning a lifetime of money and imagery were always fun to imagine.

The same with the TV show The Price is Right. Contestants are called to the stage from the audience. The Master of Ceremonies asks them to choose a door behind which could be a marvelous prize. I’ve never seen a contestant that wasn’t filled with excitement and suspense as they chose a door.

Imagine then the thrill of hearing Christ’s first words in the Gospel of Mark. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [g]is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Wow. This is Christ calling us forward. He looks us in the eye and heart. He says to us, “This is the day you’ve been waiting for. You have the opportunity today to walk into the kingdom of God. With me today, right now, you can walk into my kingdom. I will love you eternally. I will share everything with you. I will even let you sit on my throne with me. 

“Here’s the thing. This isn’t like Publishers Clearing House or The Price is Right. I’m not offering you a prize that you can take back to your seat, take home, we never see each other again, and you die. No. I’m telling you that if you believe in me, you and I will walk into my kingdom together. We will live together eternally. I have power over death. You will rise from the dead as I did. Imagine that. Rising from the dead. No one else can offer you that prize, that power, that free gift at the end of your race. 

“All you have to do is agree to live like I do. If you believe in me, I will give you my Spirit. With my Spirit, you will have the strength and wisdom to live like I do. You have to agree to no longer live as you are accustomed to. You have to repent, turn around and follow me. Can you do that? Will you do that? 

“I’m not offering you a prize that stays in your garage after you are dead. No, I’m offering you eternal life. With Me, you will rise from the dead. Everything I own I am willing to share with you eternally. Will you agree to believe in me and live as I live? If you do, we will walk through that door together into eternal life.

“What’s your answer? I and the audience are anxious to hear your answer. Do you think death will satisfy your heart’s longing? Or do you want eternal life? How badly do you want eternal life? I’m so willing to give it to you and walk through life with you. Don’t listen to the audience on this one. Listen to me. You want what I have to offer. You’ll not regret saying ‘Yes, I believe in you Jesus.’ I promise.”

The Last Supper, 1786 by Benjamin West.

Bringing Souls Into the Kingdom of God.

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A few days before Pentecost, Christ washed His disciples’ feet. Pentecost celebrated bringing in the harvest. Christ modeled how the apostles were to bring others into the kingdom of God through forgiveness.

Christ told Peter, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.(1) His disciples knew what He was speaking of.

In front of the temple mount in Jerusalem are excavated ritual baths. The entrance stairs to one such bath is pictured above. All worshippers in Christ’s time would have used these baths before entering the Temple. They had to be as ritually pure as possible before God.

After the bath, the worshippers walked up the bedrock Temple entrance steps. On that short walk, their feet would become somewhat dirty again.

This Pentecost celebration Jesus would not make it to the temple with his disciples. He was crucified within twenty-four hours of this supper. By washing their feet now, Jesus was truly purifying them for the day they would enter God’s heavenly kingdom to eat with Him again. 

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:15-16  

In scripture dirt often typifies sin.(2) Earlier in His ministry, the Pharisee Simon invited Jesus to a dinner. A sinful woman heard Jesus was there. She came to the dinner, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissed his feet, dried them with her hair and perfumed them. Simon questioned Jesus and Jesus replied: 

 “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:44-50

In exchange for her display of faith, Christ forgave her. He cleansed her of her sins. Forgiveness cleanses. Forgiveness allows us to enter eternal life truly pure.

Jesus used the Pentecost festival that celebrates bringing in the wheat harvest to teach the apostles they are to bring souls into God’s kingdom. He taught them that forgiveness brings souls into the kingdom.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15

We need to cleanse others, forgive them their sins. Christ wants us to harvest souls. We need to remember what Christ said at Simon’s dinner. “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little… Your sins are forgiven. …Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The apostles brought thousands into the Kingdom after they received the Holy Spirit. We need to humbly do also for millions and billions, one by one or in groups as the Spirit guides us. You and I can do this with the power of the Holy Spirit inside us.

Forgiveness is essential to eternal life. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Believe in Christ and harvest today’s crop as Christ prepared His disciples to do in their day.

Jesus told His disciples: “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:35-38


Image. Personal photo of excavated ritual bath in front of the Hulda gates in the south wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem.

(1) John 13:10 All scripture references are from NIV (R)

(2) Isaiah 64:6

Selfishness or Unselfishness, Cookies or Christ’s Work?

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I like to think of myself as an unselfish guy… unless it comes to cookies. I don’t at all mind sharing them. I just want my fair share, and then a few extra if no one’s looking.

I especially like chocolate chip cookies. Why do I have a hard time passing them by? I need to lose twenty five pounds. Why can’t I easily resist the temptation?

This may not seem like a selfishness issue. To me, it is. My wonderful wife wants me around as long as possible. My doctor told me some forty plus years ago to get down to 185 pounds. That hasn’t happened yet. My kids want me around too.

I know I’d seriously miss my guy friends with whom I regularly breakfast or lunch if they were to pass away. I think they would miss me too. It’ll surely happen someday. Will eating chocolate chip cookies quicken the advance of that day?  

Here’s how I look at it. Selfishness is doing something to benefit me regardless of the known needs of others. Unselfishness will benefit others, and maybe me too, but often I can’t see the personal benefit. Why can’t I see that helping others will benefit me, will give me the same or more joy or satisfaction as having a cookie? What am I missing?

My mind goes to Christ. He’s got to be the perfect example of unselfishness. After all, “Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friend.” (John 15.13) Did Christ eat cookies on his thirty three year trip to Golgotha? 

Those of us who believe in and obey Christ have eternal life locked up. What an inestimable treasure!! Christ kept His eye on the prize. So did Paul. So did Stephen who saw heaven opened as He was stoned to death for Christ. 

Will keeping my eyes on the prize rather than the chocolate chip cookie give me more time to tell others about eternal life? Can I weigh the importance of spending time eating a cookie – or several cookies – against the importance of spending time encouraging another soul to see Christ eternally face to face?

What other area of selfishness in my life may be keeping others from hearing the gospel that insures them eternal life?