Love revealed

What does this mean …

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.


2 Corinthians 4:10-11

Reading Isaiah 53 brings helpful context.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him … he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


Isaiah 53:2-3

Jesus’ love caused offence to the religiously self-righteous. Our self-righteous secular culture takes offence at any who live out faith ahead of its values. Protection is valued so highly that love is viewed suspiciously; choice is idolised, elevating selfishness. Jesus’ way is despised.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.


Isaiah 53:4-5

The way of Jesus may be despised, but his love must be expressed. For many of his people it is expressed by dealing with the emotional fall out of these cultural values. As we carry these infirmities, we are indeed carrying around in our body the death of Jesus. His love is revealed in a myriad of acts of kindness.

Un-approachable?

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The throne room of heaven is a strange mix of being inviting and drawing in while also seeming unapproachable. Many people’s first reaction to reading Revelation 4 is one of horror. The underlying message though is one of approachable glory and splendour.

And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it.

Revelation 4:2

The first thing that John sees on entering heaven is the Lord’s throne.

The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian.

Revelation 4:3

The one on the throne is likened to brilliant gemstones. The Lord’s character, represented by the gem stones shines out. This is one overwhelming in love, in joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness. Instead of being forbidding, he draws.

And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.

Around him is a rainbow figure of emerald green representing our covenant relationship with God. It says the way into his presence is clear, paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads.

Revelation 4:4

It is people who are closest to the Lord. They too are enthroned. They are with him.

I wonder if the horror many feel at this text is because we are used to being on a level with everyone, but here is someone so much greater that there can be no pretence at parity. This is a shock to our western value system.

Looking beyond

Can we look beyond our challenges?

You have rejected us, O God, and broken our defenses. … You have shaken our land and split it open.

Psalm 60:1-2

When the Lord sends challenges, they can make us feel split open and shaken.

Seal the cracks, for the land trembles.

Psalm 60:2

Our response is often to pray for the devastation to be reversed.

You have been very hard on us, making us drink wine that sent us reeling.

Psalm 60:3

When the Lord puts a cup in our hand though we may, like Jesus, ask for it to be taken from us, it is usually to be received with faith and courage. With the Lord we can face the troubles and drink what he has presented with, fellowshipping with Jesus in his sufferings. Phil 3:10

But you have raised a banner for those who fear you— a rallying point in the face of attack.

Psalm 60:4

The rallying banner the Lord raises for us is Jesus raised up on the cross. Whatever we are going through, Jesus went through worse, and as Hebrews says –

… who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

Whether the cup is dealing with a need for perspective, or some past failings, or some current development, they are a prelude to joy in the Lord’s presence. Let us receive with hope, and faith that the Lord is sufficient to carry us through.

Polarised Positions

When we enter a polarised debate, where each side looks at the other as the enemy, then war can enter our hearts.

As for my companion, he betrayed his friends; he broke his promises.

Psalm 55:20

Polarisation can divide friends. We see someone who was once a companion in our pilgrimage with Jesus. For whatever reason we find ourselves on opposite sides accusing the other of breaking their commitments.

His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war.

Psalm 55:21

Since the players are godly people, their words are smooth as butter. They try to behave themselves. But there is a problem – In each heart is war, and war seeps out. So, the words might be contained and measured, but ultimately the real intent will come out.

 His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!

When war is in the heart, no matter how reasoned what is spoken, it conceals a dagger and the intent is violence. A self-righteous urge to force the other to their side of the division.

When I find such thoughts coming into my mind (how embarrassing), I must recognise that I have made an idol of “my” side. I have made my position more important than the love of Jesus, who loves these people whom I find myself treating as enemies!

Do you love me?

What do we love most?

 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”  “We’ll come, too,” they all said.

John 21:3

Following his denial of Jesus, and Jesus’ death, Peter goes fishing; his goto place when not doing well.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, … He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”  “No,” they replied.

John 21:4-5

Peter’s attempt to find happiness has fallen flat.

When they got [to Jesus], they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard … There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

John 21:9-11

Jesus shows grace. He gives it all, fellowship around breakfast following the catch of a lifetime. We would love it if that was where the story ended. But this is the prequal to a challenge.

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”  “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

John 21:15

Jesus has created what Peter loves best. Now he uses it to challenge Peter’s heart. He asks, “Do you love me more than these?” The life on offer, feeding lambs, has nothing to do with fishing. How would we do if Jesus asked us to give up what we love to be with him in what he loves?

Polarised views

Crises unfold, we are on tenterhooks. Are our leaders up to the challenge?

The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.

Psalm 33:6

The fact that we divide ourselves over the opinions and decisions of mere people shows how far our eyes have wandered from the Lord.

Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him.

Psalm 33:8

We say we believe God. but our eyes are on people, thinking the answers lie in their hands, or even our own. Let us stand in awe of the Lord, who knows far more and controls all.

The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes.

Psalm 33;10

The schemes of our divided nations fail. Unpredicted factors come in, but the Lord always knew.

the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

Psalm 33:11

The Lord has a plan. It might not be what we want, for he has a purpose we cannot see. Are we willing to trust him for it?

the Lord watches over those … who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Psalm 33:18-19

The situation could deteriorate. If so, the voices will become sharper still. Are we willing to let go of these opinions and the tribal mentality and look up to our Lord who has a different plan. Are we able to rest in his presence, confident of his unfailing love?

Peace under attack

The place of security is not through having an unassailable position, but it is resting in the Lord’s presence.

But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” … Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.

  Psalm 31:14-16

When people are scheming, I am driven from peace, payer is a challenge and I am tempted to counter scheme on perpetual loop.

Don’t let me be disgraced, O Lord, for I call out to you for help.

Psalm 31:17

David is able to surrender the situation to his Lord. He calls for help and asks the Lord to deal with these enemies. It seems that in unreservedly handing over his enemies to the Lord, he enters peace.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.

Psalm 31:19

In that place of assurance, David is able to praise God freely.

You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues.

Psalm 31:20

What an amazing place of shelter in times of trouble.

Who is God to you?

Our character determines how we identify the Lord.

To the faithful you show yourself faithful;

Psalm 18:25

People demonstrate faithfulness because they value it for it comes at a cost. It requires commitment when others would have given up. So, it is the faithful who will hang on long enough to see God come through in faithfulness.

to those with integrity you show integrity.

Psalm 18:25

Few people believe others have integrity. They look at their own spin and assume everyone else spins with them. So, when Jesus says “I am with you always.” They give a knowing wink. They are not going to stick their necks out on the basis of anyones word.

It is those who live out what they believe in integrity who will stick with Jesus enough to prove his words true.

To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.  

Psalm 18:26

Shifting from the light to darkness there is a change. The Lord demonstrates he is no fool. The crooked lure the innocent into their traps. Yet, the Lord has a way of trapping the crooked in their own traps showing himself to be shrewd. Sadly, few see it. Most believe that they had failed to cover all eventualities. It takes a remarkable person to see that it was the Lord who was behind their failure.

Receive?

How do we feel about ourselves when we have little to show for our labours? What do we think Jesus feels about us?

  Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”  “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

John 21:3

When Peter was feeling down about life, he went back to what he knew best. While struggling with a creeping marginalisation, many go to what we know best. Is it worship or is it anaesthetic?

Jesus standing on the beach, … called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.

John 21:4-5

Jesus brings them to admit their reality. Are we willing to admit where we are?

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

John 21:6

Jesus does not berate them; he loves them in the way they understand love.

The disciples don’t head home to celebrate success, they head to Jesus.

When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

John 21:9

On arriving they find Jesus’ welcome and cooked breakfast, what a treat. Are we willing to stop and receive a treat from the Lord? Are we so caught up with what our training tells us to be that we don’t have space to receive him?

Fruit of darkness

When we are being targeted by wicked people, we have a hard time waiting for the Lord to rescue.

Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When the Lord restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy …

Psalm14:7

Out of nowhere, the Lord comes to rescue his people. In relief there is great rejoicing. Yet, who is the Lord saving from?

The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt.

Psalm 14:2-3

Everyone is included. We too are abusers from whom the Lord needs to save. So, maybe we can be grateful that he is so patient with the abusers!

The start of corruption is significant: our turning away from the Lord-though only slightly. When facing him, we receive from him. When away from him, we are filled with darkness which brings corruption, and bares its fruit as we fail to do good.

They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to the Lord.

Psalm 14:4

People who turn from the Lord find their nourishment consuming God’s people. Rather than go to Jesus, who promises to feed us. When darkness finds lodging in us, our greed drives us to take the life giving gifts entrusted to others.

Terror will grip them, for God is with those who obey him.

Psalm 14:5

The outcome of allowing the fruit of darkness to be expressed is tragic.

Freedom for what?

We should be free to live as we want! But there are other players in the game, and what of the Lord?

“Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

Psalm 2:3

To be free of the constraints we feel God puts on us, we make him a monster.

Why are the nations so angry? … the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one.

Psalm 2:1-2

Even after pushing the Lord aside, that is not enough. Our conscience gnaws at us, driving us to join the plot against the Lord. We twist his Word to justify the freedom we have taken.

“The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father.

Psalm 2:7

The Lord has a different approach to our need. His name is Jesus! He invites us into relationship as adopted sons with his Son. The one he has appointed as the king we are trying to break free from.

Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession.

Psalm 2:8

In love, the Father offers the whole world to Jesus as his inheritance. If we relinquish our pursuit for the satisfaction that so frustratingly eludes us. If we embrace Jesus as our king, we will discover that his gift to us will be a far deeper fulfilment of desire, and a freedom to express it in love.