Category Archives: Love

The Disciple Jesus Loved

During the last supper when Jesus revealed that one of those present would betray Him, the disciples looked at one another anxiously, wondering who it was, each one worrying that it might even be themselves. Peter therefore beckoned to John to ask Jesus which of them it was.  For John, they all knew, had a special relationship with Jesus.  He was very close to Him, as we read in John’s own account of that night.

 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (Jn. 13:23).

That’s the King James Version. My Greek/English Interlinear has, “But there was reclining in the bosom of Jesus one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.”

You can see them in your mind’s eye; that’s the way they dined back then: reclining on couches around a low table likely in the shape of a U. This enabled the servants to come into the centre of the U to set on the table the dishes of food for the guests.  John, leaning on his left arm, was reclining so that his head was close to Jesus’ bosom.  With some distance between the disciples around the table, and with the servants coming and going, and everyone talking, John was able to quietly ask Jesus who the betrayer was, and Jesus was able to answer him without others being aware of what He was saying.

I won’t go into that. What I want to focus on is this.  A while ago I was reading John’s opening words in His account of the Gospel, and I came to this:

 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (Jn. 1:18 NKJV).

There were those same words, “in the bosom of…” I stopped reading.  In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus reclining in the bosom of the Father just the way John reclined in the bosom of Jesus at that supper.

It is a beautiful image to me, a precious image: the Son of God reclining in the bosom of the Father.  And I think that when John wrote these words he could well have had in his own mind’s eye that supper, and himself reclining in Jesus’ bosom.  If he knew that he was the disciple Jesus loved, he also knew that Jesus was the Son the Father loved.

It was, in a sense, an exclusive love.

 This is My beloved Son in whom is all my delight…”

The Father loved no one else the way He loved His Son. But it was never God’s intention that this exclusive love be forever confined there.  It was exclusive, but it was not confined.

For, Jesus said during that same supper, speaking to them all, “As the Father hath loved Me so [that is, even so] have I loved you: continue ye in My love” (Jn. 15:9).

We know He was speaking to them all. But if that is so, what was there about John?  Why did John call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved? Was this too a special love, something exclusive, for John alone?

Not according to the verse we just quoted. As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves all His disciples.

I think that John called himself this—the disciple whom Jesus loved—simply because there was a certain trusting childlikeness about John, a certain open facedness, that enabled him to receive Jesus’ love, whereas the others (much like you and I?) had questions and doubts about themselves, and therefore doubts as to Jesus’ love for them.

I do pray that you and I become more sure of the love of Jesus for us, and, like John, take the risk of reclining our head in His bosom. We will surely make a wonderful discovery.

One more thing. We find John writing many years later:

We have known and believed the love that God hath to us (1 Jn. 4:16).

How did John know that? It was because John had seen this love before his very eyes in the Son of God.  The love he saw in this Man… somehow he began to realize, to know, that it was the love of God, that it was God the Father dwelling in this Man, and revealing His love.  John saw it, and believed, and came boldly to Him—I don’t mean brazenly, I mean boldly, openly, trustingly—and reclined his head in His bosom.

Who’s bosom? Since the Son of God Himself reclines in the bosom of the Father, it was the Father’s love that John was reclining in when he reclined in Jesus’ bosom.

For that is the nature of the Son of God. The Father dwelt in Him; He was the revelation of God the Father—the Father’s love.  Paul called Jesus, “the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).  The Son of God’s love.  It is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).

And what was the result of John reclining his head in Jesus’ bosom, and knowing, believing, that God loved him?  It is that John himself was filled to overflowing with that same love.  It is a continual stream through all his writings.  “Beloved, let us love one another…”  John knew he was beloved, knew he was loved, knew he was the disciple Jesus loved.  Therefore, he loved.

That is God’s intention in loving us.  God intends that same love—the love of God that dwelt in Jesus—to dwell in you and I. Jesus prayed as much during that same supper.

I have declared (made known) unto them Thy Name, and will declare it (make it known), that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17:26).

You mean the very love of God dwelling in you and me as He dwelt in Jesus?  The love of God?  And people seeing that love before their very eyes?  When this happens, beloved (I don’t use that word tritely), we might well discover others around us taking the risk of reclining their head in our bosom.

 

Run Like That!

Posted on

I wrote the following piece a couple of years ago but felt just today an impulse to now set it forth.

 

I’m not a movie watcher, but I recently watched part of a movie about the legendary racehorse Secretariat.  A friend recommended it as a good clean movie children could enjoy.  So, child that I am, I decided to check it out.  I couldn’t find the whole movie on the Internet, but was able to watch the final portion about Secretariat winning the famous U.S. Triple Crown in which he outstripped the other horses by a country mile.  He was so far out in front that it looked like he was the only horse on the track.  The further he went the faster he went; he just swallowed the ground before him like the war horse of Job.

That was in 1973, a time when something very wonderful was happening in my own life—O Happy Day—and, with only one thing on my mind, I remember being vaguely puzzled about why, for some reason, everyone was talking about a horse.

Actually I watched a documentary on Secretariat before I found the movie segment.  The thoroughbred began to build a reputation for astonishing speed very early, winning a major competition as a two-year-old.  Interest outside the usual racing circles grew like a grass fire.  Capturing the public sentiment in a single sentence one newspaper said something like, “We are not sure this horse is even human.”

It was while watching the documentary that I had an experience that caught me off guard.  I’ll share it with you, but please keep this to yourself—you know how it is; a man in our society is not supposed to have emotions.

Very early in the documentary, as I watched Secretariat run, I began to feel a… you know that feeling in your chest that, when it comes out, it’s only going to be able to come out one way.  Not once or twice I was surprised to find myself involuntarily sucking in my breath.  Then when Secretariat began to pull so far ahead of the other horses that it seemed his feet were on fire… I… I started to weep.

Why?  I couldn’t understand why I was weeping.  I was a little embarrassed with myself.  You’re weeping over a horse race?  How spiritual is that?  But I discovered as I watched the documentary further that this was the reaction of many that day.  They wept as they watched this horse run.  Young people leaning over the rails cried as he flew by.  Adults in the grandstand at first were speechless for what they had just seen.  When it set in they began to weep.

Why did they weep?  Perhaps they knew not; it was a very emotional experience.

One man’s reaction was, “God made this horse.”

Others made similar comments.  “It was like the Lord was holding the reins,” reflected Pat Lynch of the New York Racing Association, who was there that day.  “Secretariat was one of His creatures, and maybe He whispered to him, ‘Go!’  And that horse really went.  It was really almost a supernatural experience.  It really was.”

That, I think, is what was filling my own heart with something that only tears could let out—though at the moment I could not put my finger on why.  This was something God had done.  This was a horse from Heaven.  It was God who had made this horse.  And… see what God can do, family of man?  I cried to see what God can do.  Such power, such strength, such excellence… unmatchable victory.  Secretariat set records that stand to this day.  His times have never been matched—are likely never to be matched, I venture to say.  This was a magnificent and beautiful horse with a powerhouse straight from Heaven, with his burnished red coat a horse of fire, like the ones that surrounded Elisha of old.

“It was more than life allows,” one man said.

That, I think, is why people wept.  And why I wept.  The tears welled up to see such beauty and strength, the sudden reminder that YES… there is Something beyond the prison cell of ordinary life.  Here we are in the confines of a life lived without note… and suddenly we see Something out the window of our cell… and the heart is filled with a yearning that can only come out through the eyes.

But then, and just as suddenly, something else overwhelmed me.  A cry.  Oh for this same spirit to apprehend you and me!  Oh, the lethargy, the lassitude, the languor… the low level to which we are bound, the ease with which we accept being nominal, and learn to live with defeat.  As in the days of Samuel and Saul we live our lives in fearful timidity with the garrison of the Philistines in our midst.  We are used to it now.  Defeat.  It’s a way of life to us now.

Where is the spirit of Secretariat?  Oh, how we need this spirit!

I am reminded of David’s words as he sees the morning sun arising out of the night.

…Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

Where is that spirit, fellow Christian?  I know it’s been a very long and very dark night, but David in prophetic vision sees the sun just pawing the sky to get at this race!  Like Secretariat pawing the ground, the muscles of his shoulders rippling like thunder.  Like the warhorse of Job.  Is he timid, afraid?

He mocks at fear, and is afraid of nothing: neither turns he back from the sword.
The quiver rattles against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting (Job 39.19-25, KJV and ESV).

Now, why is this written in our Bible?  No offence to the horse lovers out there, but is God really interested in horses?  Saith he this not altogether for our sakes?

Yes, for our sakes, who have a conquest to conquer, a race to run!  This I know is why I cried.  Christian… we have a contest to win, a race to run!  Let all smallness and weakness and fear be banished from us.  Let us run this race that is set before us like Secretariat!  See him rejoicing to run his race?  Let us run like that, as Paul the apostle urged, that we may obtain the Prize!  “Know ye not,” said Paul, “that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” (1 Cor. 9.24).  Well, he continues, run like that.  Run like the winner runs.

 So run (run like that), that ye may obtain (the prize).

This hour is calling for endurance like that.  Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.  Let us lay aside every weight, then, every hindrance, every distraction, the sins that so easily beset us, and run this race!  The cloud of witnesses in the heavenly bleachers is cheering and urging us on!

One last thing.  When Secretariat died they performed an autopsy on him.  You know what they discovered?  He had a heart almost three times the size of an average horse. So there it was—the powerhouse that motivated him.  His heart!

…Oh, for that heart, Lord Jesus Christ!  Deliver us from smallness of heart!

 I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my heart (Ps. 119:32).

 

 

Thank God For… You

Have you ever been frightened by the sudden awareness that you were in the presence of something very holy?  This happened to me recently while reading one of the letters of the apostle Paul.  A certain fear came unexpectedly upon me; I suddenly became aware of the deep love for the saints that dwelt in this man.

Paul, it seems, was always thinking about the saints of the Lord that he knew in various places.  Like a parent whose children are scattered far and wide, they were always on his mind… and continually in his prayers.

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers… (Rom. 1.9).

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers… (Eph. 1.15,16).

…Praying always for you… (Col. 1.3).

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day… (2 Tim. 1.3).

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers… (Phm. 4).

We (Paul and Silvanus and Timothy) give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers… (1 Thes. 1.2).

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you making request with joy… (Phil. 1.4).

If you will take your New Testament and (when you have time) read the last two passages I quoted—Philippians Chapter 1 verses 3-11, and the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians—I  think you will come away from your reading the same way I have, awed by the depths of the love you have touched in this man.  His prayers to God on the behalf of the saints were the consequence of the love in his heart for them.  He loved the saints.  He loved them deeply.  And so he couldn’t help it, he had to be on his knees for them.

One thing more—did you notice this in the verses quoted above?  Paul is always thanking God for the saints.  Why would he be thanking God for them?  It was because of their faith (Rom. 1.8, Col. 1.3) and their growing love for God and for one another (1 Thes. 1.2, 2 Thes. 1.3), that is to say, for their fellowship in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1.3).  How it comforted Paul’s heart in this dark and wicked world to know that some here and there had turned from darkness to walk in light.  Paul was in fellowship with these ones.

It’s a word that has lost much of its strength these days—fellowship.  It means, simply, sharing together, or commonness; but what Paul and these other saints shared and held in common was an uncommon cause, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were vastly outnumbered in this cause, were persecuted and despised and hated in this cause.  So when they came together it was something very precious, and tender.  They were brothers and sisters who loved one another and were ready to die for one another.  And so they were greatly thankful for one another.

This got me thinking.  It hadn’t really occurred to me.  Am I thankful for my brothers and sisters?  Yes, I pray for them, but how often do I get on my knees and thank God for them?  I mean, really thank God for them!  They are my comrades in battle.  They are my fellow pilgrims on a dangerous journey.  They are an oasis of green in the waste and howling wilderness of this world.  They love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts, and they want to do His will.  Many there are who love darkness rather than light, but these have turned from darkness to light, and with the help of the Lord’s grace they are determined to be faithful.  At the cost of their lives if need be.  This caused great thankfulness to well up in Paul.  He thanked God for these ones.  And prayed continually for them.  It is far from an easy walk; it is fraught with peril in this present evil age.  And so Paul found these saints continually on his heart, and continually in his prayers.

Do we want to be like Paul?  It will mean coming into a love that, in its continual preoccupation with others, loses sight of itself.  But let’s not stop at the desire to be like Paul.  There’s another reason why Paul prayed so continually for the saints.  Paul was like Jesus.  And Jesus is preoccupied with the saints.  Jesus at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints.

He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb. 7.25).

It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rom. 8.34).

And so if Christ at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints, this is what Paul found himself doing also.  He prayed continually for the saints because the Holy Spirit of the ascended Christ dwelt in Him—and so the same love that burned in Christ burned in him also, continually firing his prayers with the fire of the Spirit.

Are we short of this, brothers and sisters?  Does the same love that dwelt in Paul dwell in you and me?  Oh how we need this more and more in the body of Christ in this difficult hour—the love of Christ.  We could not help but pray for one another, then.  I mean, fervently.  It’s the only way we would find release from the burden of love in us.

Release, I say… yet like a fire, this love grows when you feed it.  If just now it’s not much of a fire, let’s feed it then!  It will grow.  And grow.  And grow…

Let there arise in our hearts a new appreciation—Paul’s appreciation, the Lord’s own appreciation—for our fellow saints.  We need one another.  Let us be praying for one another.

And thanking God for one another.

Love The Brotherhood

We are living in days when the price tag on being a Christian—a true Christian—is becoming increasingly apparent.  That’s already true in many countries where to be a Christian costs you your life, or prison, or severe persecution even at the hands of those you love most.

We haven’t seen much of that here in western lands so far, but the forces of darkness here are becoming increasingly hostile these days.  If you stand for truth and righteousness you are going to pay for it—even here in the so-called free world.

A while ago when reading through 1 Peter I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  This letter is well known for its emphasis on trial and suffering.  But I noticed that interlaced through the letter there is a call—that we love one another.

And so I think, brothers and sisters, that as we see things growing more difficult we are going to see something else growing—something very beautiful–the fervent love of Christ among the brethren in a world that hates God and His Christ.

It’s because of this hatred that Peter urges us:

Love the brotherhood (1 Pt. 2.17).

And also:

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful (tenderhearted), courteous (of a friendly mind) (1 Pt. 3.8).

Peter says finally, but apparently the Holy Spirit wasn’t finished yet.  He goes on to talk about suffering for doing what is right, saying that if we are determined to follow Christ in this world and truly cease from sin, we are going to suffer for it.  And then he brings up this matter of love again.

And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Pt. 4.8).

I noticed in my Greek Interlinear bible that the article is there; it reads, “have the fervent love among yourselves.”  Peter has a specific love in mind.  I think it can only be the very love of Christ he has in mind, the fervent love of Christ who in His love for us was stretched out on a cross for us.

The Greek word for fervent actually means stretched out, meaning intensely strained, as if on the rack.  And Peter urges us that this same intense fervent love be among us.

In fact at the beginning of his letter he has already called for this.  “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently…”  Let’s look at this more closely.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,
Being born again… (1 Pt. 1.22,23).

So, love is the evidence of the new birth.  How is it, then, that even among those who lay claim to the new birth there has been so much… let’s just call it opposite-of-love?  But Peter says it’s a purified soul that shows unfeigned fervent love.  It’s possible to be born again and still carnal.  The born again person must grow and be purified of all carnality.  And so when we are not walking in love, it’s because of the impurities in our heart—selfish ambition, self love, the lusts of other things….

But God has something that is able to deal with all that carnality—the fiery trial that Peter has been talking about all through his letter.  Here’s the much-quoted passage.  And notice the word Peter uses to begin it.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you;
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pt. 4.13,14).

We are loved, brothers and sisters.  Let us love one another, then, with stretched-out love.

All I Saw Was Love

A woman who reads my blog recently sent me the link to the testimony of a Muslim woman who had an encounter with Jesus Christ.  It is one of the most moving testimonies I have ever heard.  Jesus began to reveal Himself to this woman in dreams and visions—something that apparently is happening frequently in the Islamic world.  She went through the inevitable rejection and beatings by her family, and then she was in church one Sunday when a bomb went off.  Many were killed.  Then a second bomb exploded.  This time she herself was hit.  I’ll let you listen to what happened then.

The woman gives as the lodestar of her Christian journey this verse:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev. 12.11 NIV).

I want to listen to this testimony again, for this woman said some very penetrating and challenging things.  But last night after listening to her testimony, I was left with this thought, also from The Revelation.  Christ exhorted the Christians of Philadelphia to hold fast what they had, lest someone else take their crown (Rev. 3.11).  As I thought about that, in my mind’s eye (it was not a vision) I saw as it were a field of discarded crowns.  For, these days there are a lot of crosses lying around on the ground that western Christians have not picked up.  Perhaps they are blind as to what they are really neglecting.  Their crowns.  That’s what that field of crosses is—a field of crowns.  The thing is, there are others out there in Islamic lands and other places who are grabbing up those crowns—those crosses.

And one day there will be none left.

I encourage you to take the time (you’ll need about an hour) to listen to this incredible testimony.  The link is below.

I realize that some will raise an eyebrow when they discover this comes out of Bethel Church in Redding, California, but I promise you that your raised eyebrow will be humbled (as mine was) by listening to this.

At the same time, this is not an endorsement of the other messages on the same link, which I have not yet listened to.

http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/all-i-saw-was-love

The Call To Priestly Honour

The writer of Hebrews addresses a “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3.1).  It’s the calling to participate in the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood is after the order (or, model) of Melchizedek.  That’s why it’s a heavenly calling.  The Levitical priesthood was an earthly priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood a heavenly.

Now, there is only one high priest after the order of Melchizedek—the Lord Jesus Christ.  The heavenly calling is to become a partaker of His calling—to be a king and a priest in union with Jesus Christ.

This is a very high calling, and very demanding. It means making a certain Sacrifice by which we have said good-bye to our own interests in all things.  It’s always God’s own interests that the priest is to be preoccupied with.

The Hebrew for priest is kohen.  Years ago I wrote a note into my Bible that says, “The word kohen is believed to be derived from kahan, a form of kun, the Hebrew for to stand.  Thus, a priest is one chosen by God to stand before men on behalf of God, and to stand before God on behalf of men.”

I used to dwell on that a lot.  Which of the two is the greater?  To stand before men on behalf of God?  I have to confess I liked that idea… and would imagine myself standing importantly before the people in God’s stead delivering a message from God.

But what about standing before God on behalf of men?  It’s this that the writer of Hebrews emphasizes.

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself is compassed with infirmity (Heb. 5.1,2).

That’s the first thing on the mind of the Holy Spirit.   A high priest is taken from among men and is ordained for men, or, on behalf of men, in things pertaining to God.

And—this is the important thing to see—it is God Himself who wants a man who stands before Him on behalf of men.  It’s easy enough to see that men need a priest who stands before the terrible God on their behalf.  But do we see that being a priest who stands before God on behalf of men… this is what God Himself wants?  For God is love.  This is His heart.

What are the qualifications of such a priest, then, and the preparation involved?  There’s much to this, of course, as detailed in Leviticus Chapter 8, which we won’t go into just now.  The writer of Hebrews singles out just one thing.  Compassion.  Other translations have this as “gentleness,” or “forbearance.”  The ESV has, “he can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.”

This is why God chooses his priests from among men.  They too are beset with weaknesses, so they are able to identify with the failing.

These (the failing) fall into two categories—the ignorant and the erring.  Some simply don’t know any better; it’s easy enough to be gentle and forbearing with such.  But what of the erring ones—those who know better, and are still at times “out of the way,” wayward, erring, struggling in their walk with God?

The one who knows his own heart and who has “been there, done that” will remember his priestly calling in cases like this as well.  He will be standing before God on behalf of this one as well… interposing himself on behalf of this one, and making intercession.

For, this is what our great High Priest had done and is Himself doing—He whose calling we are to be partakers of.  He interposed Himself on our behalf, laid down His life for us, took upon Himself our infirmities, became our sin offering—our sin.  Now He sits at the right hand of the throne of God, the place of all power in heaven and earth, where He can have compassion, deal gently, with the ignorant and the erring.  I like how the Greek has it.  It’s more than just a feeling.  He “is able (Gk. dunamenos), that is, has power  to deal gently…”  In other words, His compassion is effectual, is vital, has power in it.  And nothing is able to break that power.  He abides our High Priest continually.  As a result:

He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7.25).

I love that emphasis, and am personally so thankful for it– to the uttermost.  For I see things in my own heart that make me despair at times.  But I take courage.  He that has begun a good work in me wants to complete it… and is able to complete it… and WILL complete it!  He is at the powerful right hand of the throne of God making intercession for me...

…And for others as well.  And He calls me to join Him in that same intercession for others.  Sometimes it’s not all that easy to hear His voice when it comes to that; some of these “others” can be very trying.  But it’s a priestly honour to do so, if we can receive it.  That’s what the Holy Spirit calls the priestly calling—an honour.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God… (Heb. 5.4).

Yes, of course, we recognize it’s an honour to stand before men on behalf of God, and many there be who seek this… failing to recognize only the called are authorized to do so. But the writer of Hebrew is reminding us that it’s just as great an honour to stand before God on behalf of men.

Do we hear His voice calling us to this honour, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling?

A Love Story

Last time I shared the news of Chad and Julie’s new arrival, mentioning at the end that Julie hadn’t yet posted an entry on her own blog about it.  The new mom hasn’t had much spare time these days!  But now Julie has posted an entry, which I want to share with A Mending Feast readers.  I suggest you be ready to rejoice with the kind of rejoicing that needs a box of Kleenex near at hand.

What a testimony to the love and faithfulness of a loving and faithful God!

Here’s the link.

http://chickadeessong.blogspot.ca/2012/06/emma-marlane-most-precious-gift.html