God Is Love – But Which One?

In the New Testament, there are four words that we translate as “love.”

Here they are in all their glory:

1. Storge – means “affection” or “approval” for something. Sort of like, “I love your car,” or “I love pizza.”

2. Philos – means “friendship.” “I love you, bro. Thanks for always being here.”

3. Eros (which is where the word “erotic” comes from) – means “romance,” or “sexual love,” or “passion.” The kind of love one would show to their spouse. Meant to be shared with only one person. “I love my wife,” or “I love my husband.”

4. Agape – “other-oriented, self-sacrificial, choice-based love…agape love ascribes worth to another at cost to oneself (if necessary). It is not based on a characteristic within the person, nor is it based on feeling. It is completely a choice, unrelated to emotion or characteristics of the object/person of its direction.” You can have agape love towards someone but not have storge love, philos love, or eros love towards them. This is the kind of love, we are told in the New Testament, that God has toward humans.

This kind of agape love is the kind of love John says God is in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God doesn’t just love, God IS love. Everything about Him, His essential being, His nature is love. He can’t stop loving because He would stop being God. The nature of this self-sacrificial love is revealed to us on the cross – the centrality of Jesus’ ministry.

Paul expands on this in Ephesians 3:17-19 when he writes,

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together will all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This agape love surpasses mere knowledge – it takes the intervention of the Holy Spirit to believe in such a thing. It is simply too beautiful, too extravagant, too good to be true to believe it. And yet, it is true! Praise be to God! This is why so many people stumble over God’s love – they try to understand it, but it’s impossible. It’s simply too wide, too long, too high, and too deep to grasp. To begin to even scratch the surface is to admit that you cannot understand it.

Although we cannot understand it, we can at least see a perfect image of it, as Jesus is this love personified – the fullness of God – and what we see Jesus do is how the Father acts as well. Jesus died and suffered for everyone on the cross. Everything else, such as the portrayals of God in the Old Testament, is a mere shadow of His true nature.

This means no matter what you have done, no matter what you are doing, and no matter what you will do; has not, is not, and will not prevent God from loving you any more or any less than He does right now. Once that starts to seep into your soul, deep transformation happens. This is why love is central to everything!

For example, Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to be rooted and established in this love of Christ, as seen above. This is the very foundation, the very core of what they should be building their faith on. This is expanded on in Colossians chapter three:

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:14-15

Again Paul emphasizes the importance of this type of love. Not only is our faith meant to be built on it, but we are also called to clothe ourselves in it, thus replicating it! However, the only way to replicate this radical love is to first be rooted in it.

Believing this is difficult, and frankly impossible, without the help of God. If you are struggling to believe God is really as good as seen in the person of Jesus Christ, ask Him to reveal to you how beautiful He truly is. Put away all of your objections for the time being, as they can be dealt with at a later time, and simply rest in His love for you. Know that God loves you with this immense agape love – He does it because it is who He is. He may not storge things about you, in fact He may hate aspects of what you do, such as sin, but that is only because He agape loves you. Rest in His love. Let it penetrate the deepest, darkest compartments of your soul.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forevermore.

Amen.

Blessings and peace,

Jacob

 

sources:
“Love is…” sermon found on whchurch.orghttp://www.pinterest.com/pin/301319031290197451/

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The Not-Oft-Quoted 1 John 3:16

I have to be honest. I don’t remember much from my year or two attending Sunday School in my younger days (do I really have younger days?). There are only about three prominent things that I remember. Two of which are a bit embarrassing.

1. Every time I would go, I would cling to my mom and cry. I didn’t want to leave and go to the class with all the other kids. I was scared of what they would think of me. People frightened me (they still do [just kidding]).

2. I distinctly remembering sitting in class one morning and for some reason, I asked the teacher what God’s name is. She laughed, as well as the class, and they told me God’s name is simply, “God.” I was confused, as I had remembered learning somewhere that God’s name was “Jehovah.” She told me again that I was silly and God’s name is “God.”

3. John 3:16. John 3:16. John 3:16. Did I mention John 3:16? This got pounded into my brain (not complaining), even though I really had no idea what it meant. I just knew the words – and could quote it from memory. It obviously had no impact on me until much later. (I went to Sunday School in early elementary years and started following Christ in late high school) It must have planted some sort of seed, though, as I was adamantly against all things religion during Junior High and early High School. Although, I told people I was a Christian, simply because I grew up in Midwest, rural, farmland, Apostolic Ohio. I was already an outcast – I didn’t want to be considered some anti-God freak, although I was on the inside.

That said, John 3:16 definitely is important. It helps reveal the beauty and character of our loving God. But, I think there is another John three sixteen that we need to focus on. And that is 1 John 3:16:

We know love by this, that [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

I first happened upon this verse while doing a study in the book of 1 John my Senior year of high school. To be honest, I don’t remember much of what I learned in the study, but I remember this verse sticking out to me. So I looked into it a bit more. I knew that both context in the letter itself, and historical context of the time it was written, is important, so I tried my best with my very limited knowledge to study into it. I remember discovering that for the first three hundred years of church history, the church generally believed self-sacrificial, non-violent love was crucial, and even central, to discipleship. I didn’t know at the time whether or not I agreed with this, considering I was discovering faith in a very Conservative and Fundamental church that taught war was not only important, but necessary. I eventually let the issue die down over time, as I was still caught up in whether or not God actually loved me, why God tormented people eternally in Hell, and frankly what it means to be saved. They seemed like more crucial issues to me than this 1 John passage.

For about a year I entirely forgot about the whole thing. Then, in my Freshman year at Cairn University, during Spring Semester, my professor of Intro To Christian Theology revealed to us we had to write a paper on the book of 1 John. “Yes!” I thought, “I studied this a year ago! This should be easy peasy.” Although, I had recently learned a lot more about exegesis, hermeneutic, and historical context, so it was a bit more complex than I thought. Nonetheless, it brought this verse to my attention again. This time, I decided to dig a bit deeper. Until recently, I’ve been digging deeper. I’ve finally come to what I believe to be my conviction, and that is the call to Christians to be non-violent in their approach to life. Here is my case and my understanding thus far, and why I believe 1 John 3:16 should be emphasized just as much as John 3:16:

As John points out in the first part 1 John 3:16 (“We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us…”), Jesus emphasizes non-violent, sacrificial love throughout His ministry as seen most emphatically on the cross. The cross signifies many important things to the Christian, but the aspect I want to emphasize here is the non-violent approach Jesus takes to His accusers. His enemies are unjustified in their crucifixion of Him, and He undeservedly goes through torment that no man, let alone God, should go through. Yet He volunteers for it – for the sake of people who treat Him like He is nothing. The God of the universe becomes man, goes through unimaginable torment, death, and separation from perfect love, all for the sake of a rebellious, evil, and heinous race of beings that could care less whether He lives or dies. Jesus had every right to call down armies of angels to violently prevent his accusers from crucifying Him – but He didn’t.

Accordingly, Jesus preaches a message of non-violence to His hearers. He teaches that God loves both the just and unjust, causing the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both parties, whether they deserve it or not; to turn the other cheek; extreme generosity; not to resist the wicked; and to love those who don’t love you:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:38-48


Notice here, that Jesus even goes so far as to say, “Love your enemies…that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” He points out that even the most wicked people know how to love people that love them. So what makes followers of Jesus stand out? Loving one’s enemies in a cross-like fashion. This a characteristic of a child of God – and an essential one at that. So what of your fellow employee who unjustly blamed you for the mistake? Take the fall. What of the friend who gossiped about you and ruined your reputation? Let it go. Pray blessings for that person. What of your arguing with your roommate who just won’t let you find peace and quiet in your own room? Go somewhere else to study. Be creative, be loving.

In the book of Luke, Jesus emphasizes once again that God loves even the most wicked and heinous of people, and so should we:

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. – Luke 6:35

Obviously Jesus expects us to love everybody – even those who threaten us, or violently oppress us. This is extreme. This is radical. This is Jesus. We are called to model our lives after Jesus (“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” 1 John 2:6), and Jesus humbly surrendered to His accusers – even at the cost of His own life. Retaliating, although justified, was not as important to Him as displaying the immense love of the Father. And that is what we, as followers of Christ, are called to replicate. Not just in martyrdom, though, but also in our day to day lives. As the latter half of 1 John 3:16 says, “…and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

In a future post I hope to look at the writings of Paul and how they point to a cross-like, non-violent approach to love and discipleship.

Blessings and peace!

Image Source:

The Day Eschatology Went To The Moon

About a year ago, John Hagee’s book, Four Blood Moons, came to my attention. I almost bought into his theory (I’m a newbie at this following Jesus stuff, okay?).

Now, however, I don’t come close to buying into what he has to say. I don’t mean to degrade him in a harsh way, but he’s been writing books promoting the sign that will lead to the fulfillment of eschatological promises in Scripture since 1996, and most, if not all, of his works have been complete and utter flukes. Yet, he continues to make money out the wazoo. (I’m not sure I know what it means to go “out the wazoo,” so forgive me if my vocabulary doesn’t suffice) I find it hard to trust someone who has essentially been saying “this is the definitive sign that will usher in the new age!!!!!!111onefourzzone” for almost 20 years. Nonetheless, he does seem to be getting a lot of people into the Kingdom. Praise God for that! Keep it up Hagee, woot woot.

This time around, his main thesis in Four Blood Moons basically states in 2014 and 2015 there will be four blood moons.

(Okay, that’s nice, but what is a blood moon? What are blood moons? A blood moon is basically a lunar eclipse where the moon turns a shade of red. Exciting? Yes. Prophetic? Not so much.)

Hagee says this series of four blood moons (hereafter referred to as a “Tetrad.” This is what NASA refers to the series of four.) is something that God has used in history past to warn Israel of coming events that will rock their world. How does He do it? Make each of the blood moons appear on a Jewish holiday/feast day. This is supposed to warn the Israelites (and the rest of the world) that something big is going to happen.

Three main examples he uses are:

1. 1493 and 1494 – The Spanish Inquisition. Jews were kicked out of Spain and killed. If God chose to warn the Jews about the Inquisition, He was a bit late, considering the Spanish Inquisition started in 1478.

2. 1949 and 1950 – Israel becomes an independent nation. Except that Israel became an independent nation in 1948. Maybe God was using the moon as some sort of solar firework celebration (still not likely)…but He certainly wasn’t predicting the future.

3. 1967 and 1968 – The 6 Day War with Egypt. Israel won. However, it wasn’t because they had an indication from God this war was going to happen…they didn’t get that until 10 months after the war ended. In fact, the fourth of the moons in this Tetrad didn’t appear until 22 months after the war. Jesus should really get the Father a Rolex for Father’s Day or something.

If these Tetrads really are signifying something of importance to the Jews, or even to the world, they’re a bit too late. The events already happened before they appeared.

Not to mention the fact that HUNDREDS of Tetrads have occurred throughout history (and why were none of them pointing to THE HOLOCAUST? If God wanted to warn the Jewish people of significant events..I’d say that’s of some importance.. But no Tetrad present.), and the vast majority correspond to absolutely nothing. If three or four of them seem to correspond to events, it makes sense by a matter of sheer probabilities. At this point, it’s also important to note that Jewish holidays/feast days are set on full moons. Since a blood moon cannot occur without it being a full moon, it is even more likely that blood moons would occur on Jewish holidays. In fact, this has happened before(many times before), dating all the way back to the first few centuries after Christ’s resurrection, and quite possibly further still (162-63 AD, 795-96 AD, 842-43 AD, 860-61 AD).

When blood moons are mentioned in Scripture, it is usually in conjunction with the Sun turning dark. Sometimes, other earthly events, such as monstrous earthquakes, are said to be present. This does not occur with these Tetrads, or at least there is no indication of said occurrences.

When Scripture speaks of the moon turning into blood, it only mentions it happening once – not four times – and especially not periodically throughout history.

If the Tetrad is supposed to be a sign to the world, or even to just the Israelites, then the Tetrad should be visible to more than roughly 50,000 people. One of the 2015 eclipses will be visible only to a remote and far off portion of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The only human beings who will be able to witness the eclipse are those inhabiting the Faroe Islands and the island of Svalbard. These islands tend to be subjected to a lot of clouds during the time period this eclipse will take place, and quite frankly, are a hassle to get to. In fact, each of the eclipses in this Tetrad will only be visible by a select number of people around certain parts of the globe. If the Tetrad was a message for the entire planet, why doesn’t God do something special to make it visible to all people? If it is super significant to Israel, why are only one of the eclipses visible to the nation during the two year period? If these really are supposed to be a sign to the world, it seems God sucks at what He’s trying to convey. Speaking of – what’s the point? Even if they are a sign for everyone, how does this change our lives? What do we do? Sit around and cry in fear about it? If we don’t have the specifics for what it’s supposed to be predicting, all we’re doing is wasting our time on fruitless endeavors that lead us no closer to God – all the while making John Hagee’s pocket book a bit bigger, when we could be spending time with those who have no one, or using our money for other causes.

In summary, I think the four blood moons are a load of bologna (but please don’t make a blood moon bologna sandwich…even if the bologna resembles a blood moon). However, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of me being wrong (Not that I’m ever wrong). I could be completely wrong and something catastrophic like nothing we’ve ever seen could happen upon us. But if so – so what? God incarnate suffered for me, died for me, and straight up loves me with a love that I can barely begin to comprehend. He promises to take care of me now and forevermore. That’s what I’m learning to pour my heart and mind into..not trying to predict the future – something Jesus told us we will never be able to do. So, chill guys. He’s got this. We’ve got people to love.

sources:

Christian Research Journal Vol. 37 No. 2 2014
ReKnew.org

image source:
http://www.squidoo.com/blood-moon-april-prophecy

Checkmate

The open view of the future within the Christian tradition holds that God is omniscient – that He completely knows the past, present, and future. The future, in this view, is not viewed as one set course of action like a straight and perfect timeline drawn at once, but a realm of, in the human mind, incomprehensible possibilities. Since God knows all things, He sees and understands every possibility; every possible action and every possible consequence. Everything. In His infinite wisdom, He also knows how to react to every single one of these possibilities without ever being caught off guard. He sees the future as full of possibilities – and full of risks.

Because God created free agents with the ability for rebellion against His preferred course of action, the future is not without risks – risks that could harm both God and creation.

However, God, being not only omniscient, but also omnipotent, or all-powerful, sets boundaries on some of these potential possibilities. This prevents things from getting too out of hand, while still creating room for risk, which enables the free agents of His creation to choose love…or choose its opposite. Basically, God created a risky universe – but without risk, there is no love. (That’s a post for another time.)

Don’t get it? I’ll steal an analogy from one of my favorite theologians, Greg Boyd, who holds this view. Imagine a master chess player. To win at the game, he has to know every single move his opponent will make, even before he makes it. In fact, he may even feel the need to control, whether by force or not, his opponent’s moves in order to win. Now, we would not consider this “master” chess player wise nor skillful. We definitely would not call him all-knowing. Maybe a bit insecure. Now, imagine a different master chess player who understands every possible move his opponent can make. He may not know the exact move his opponent will make, but nonetheless understands how to react appropriately to every action and consequence in order to win the game. This gives the master chess player quite a bit of confidence while playing the game – even if the audience might not share his confidence. He knows how the game starts, and he knows how the game ends. He may not understand the certainties of every aspect of the game until it happens, but he can easily navigate through them to achieve his victory. We would say this master chess player is truly wise and praiseworthy – excellent at what he does.

In the open view of the future, the second master chess player is God. Now, obviously no human is omniscient, and of course creation is a bit more complex than a game of chess(only slightly…right?), but God is infinitely wise and can steer through the complexities of uncertainties, even when they may prevent the furtherance and coming of His Kingdom. In fact, because of His wisdom, He can turn these set backs around to advance His Kingdom anyway! Truly magnificent. The implications for what this means for suffering and evil are extraordinary. (Again, a post for another time.)

In short, God is good, wise, and praiseworthy. Although we play a more complex role in the chess match known as creation than the analogy offers, let us put our trust in our infinitely wise God; that He can work through all evil and suffering for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Let us trust that in the final consummation of everything, we will be able to cheer our Chess Master on in victory, and quite possibly reflect on every move that got Him there. Although, we may be too enamored with our beloved Bridegroom to care. Either way – checkmate.

source:
http://reknew.org/2014/05/open-theism-a-basic-introduction/