THE GREATEST LOVE STORY

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved. – George Sand

The quest to love and be loved is inherent in humans, because love is great; it is endearing; it brings harmony, peace and stability to one’s very soul. Love covers many a fault, love indeed is divine.   William Shakespeare once said, love is blind because it does not look with the eyes but with the mind. The story of love is often told in books, movies and folklore. There are indeed great love stories that have been told over the course of history. But what is the greatest love story ever told? You may be thinking of one you have read in a romance novel or the one you have seen in a movie or that of the family or may be that of a friend who abandons everything else to care for a friend in need. One may even think of the love shown by humanitarians who risk their lives to bring relief to innocent people in war and disaster stricken areas. These stories are great; they define and indeed portray love adequately as unselfish or selfless, sacrificial, endearing and indeed profound. It stands in stark contrast to some modern understanding of love of which desire for personal gratification and gain is the driving force and the love story ends when those needs can no longer be met. Ties as strong as marriages are ended because one partner could no longer make the other happy. The fun had stopped, so the ties are broken; true love however goes beyond fun and personal happiness, it prioritises the other person’s happiness. True love is about you, before me.

Which then is the greatest love story? It is the story of love as portrayed by someone who had everything in abundance yet left his abundance to meet with his friends who constantly wronged him. People who turned their backs on him, hurting him and making a mockery of his very being, some even denying he ever existed or exists. It is the story of one who bore the burdens of all his friends, one who underwent great suffering to bring reconciliation to his friends who were in the wrong. One who made himself a victim so that his erring friends may become victors. One who suffered so that his friends will never have to suffer, bearing the shame just to take it away from his friends.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. –Isa 53:7-10

This is the story of love shaped by selflessness, coated in compassion and capped in ultimate sacrifice. Scarcely can a man die for a righteous or innocent man talk less of sinners but this love is manifested in the fact that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; (Rom 5:7-8) because “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). This love story is portrayed in sacrificial giving. It is the love that no mere mortal can give. God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die for the forgiveness of all sins (Jn 3:16). It is the greatest love story. It has been told so that you may understand that God loves you so much, irrespective of your circumstances or preconceptions. God’s love cleanses from all sins, when we choose to accept his sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. So, whatever situation you may be facing or have faced, whatever wrong you may have done, God is calling you to come as you are; believe in him and Jesus Christ whom he sent, repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ. Then all your sins will be forgiven and you will become part of the greatest love story. You will have another chance at beginning life anew.

I love my God

I love my God, but with no love of mine, 
For I have none to give;
I love thee, Lord; but all the love is Thine, 
For by Thy life I live. 
I am as nothing, and rejoice to be
 Emptied, and lost, and swallowed up in Thee. 

Thou, Lord, alone, art all Thy children need, 
And there is none beside; 
From Thee the streams of blessedness proceed 
In Thee the blest abide, 
Fountain of life, and all-abounding grace, 
Our source, our center, and our dwelling-place. 

JEANNE MARIE DE LA MOTTE-GUYON, 1648-1717 

Lo, God Is Here!

Lo, God is here! let us adore,
And own how dreadful is this place; 
Let all within us feel His power, 
And silent bow before His face; 
Who know His power, His grace who prove, 
Serve Him with awe, with reverence love. 

Lo, God is here! Him day and night United choirs of angels sing; 
To Him, enthroned above all height, 
Heaven’s host their noblest praises bring; 
Disdain not, Lord, our meaner song, 
Who praise Thee with a stammering tongue. 

Being of beings, may our praise 
Thy courts with grateful fragrance fill; 
Still may we stand before Thy face,
Still hear and do Thy sovereign will; 
To Thee may all our thoughts arise, Ceaseless, accepted sacrifice. 

GERHARD TERSTEEGEN, 1897-1789

This is the will of God – Your Sanctification

Sometimes we find ourselves asking the question, what is God’s will? Perhaps as a result of frustration or total inability to decide at a given point. We sometimes wish that God will just tell us what to do in some form or another. It can be difficult, I can admit that I have seen myself in situations where I wonder, if I could only know what God’s will is, I will just dive in or move forward in one direction. Because we know that God wants the best for us, he knows all things. I sometimes wish I could tell what the result of taking one course of action could be. But unfortunately, we are limited in our knowledge and decisions also tend to be impaired in some ways as a result.

Good decisions often come as a result of adequate knowledge and the bible tells us that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for live and godliness THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE of Him who called us. Therefore, knowledge is like a light that brightens the room, it is indeed a decision-making tool. Most times, the more we know, the better our decisions would be. The more of God’s will we know, the better our decisions will be.

But it might not always be the case in every situation. As much as knowledge is profitable, it can also become detrimental. Yes, detrimental to faith. You see, faith is the substance of things not seen and evidence of things hoped for. And as much as we need knowledge to have faith, sometimes we tend to depend on ALL knowledge in order to make a decision when faith should be the tool to use and that is when knowledge becomes in itself, a bit of a disadvantage. Sometimes knowing too much limits our faith and knowing too little isn’t right either. Therefore, a good balance is to know just enough to function and succeed and also knowing enough to exercise faith especially in matters where we cannot fully comprehend.

Having said that, let’s point out the will of God – your sanctification. It is imperative that we know the will of God because it is in knowing that we may fully appreciate the life that God has called us to live. Sanctification is holiness, it is to function effectively to the glory of God. God’s general will for us is to sanctify us, to make known his will through us. So, he sanctifies us albeit through his word which is the truth (Jn 17:17).

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;  

– 1 Thess 4:3-5

Sanctification here alludes to purification of the body and mind from all sexual immorality. It involves keeping the body in a way as to honour God. It requires living a life that is different from the society. It is in doing so that God’s glory is manifest – in our sanctification. You know that sexual immorality is one of the very powerful tools that the enemy uses to distract and indeed imprison God’s children. Hence the reason God makes us aware of the need to purify ourselves.

May we receive his grace to purify ourselves in all things through his son.

Jesus Lives and So Shall I

Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever: 
He, who deigned for me to die, 
Lives, the bands of death to sever. 
He shall raise me with the just: 
Jesus is my Hope and Trust. 

Jesus lives and reigns supreme; 
And, His kingdom still remaining, 
I shall also be with Him, 
Ever living, ever reigning. 
God has promised; be it must: 
Jesus is my Hope and Trust. 

Jesus lives, and God extends 
Grace to each returning sinner; 
Rebels He receives as friends, 
And exalts to highest honor. 
God is True as He is Just; 
Jesus is my Hope and Trust. 

Jesus lives, and by His grace, 
Victory o’er my passions giving, 
I will cleanse my heart and ways, 
Ever to His glory living. 
The weak He raises from the dust:
Jesus is my Hope and Trust. 

Jesus lives, and I am sure 
Naught shall e’er from Jesus sever, 
Satan’s wiles, and Satan’s power, 
Pain or pleasure ye shall never! 
Christian armor can not rust: 
Jesus is my Hope and Trust. 

Jesus lives, and death is now 
But my entrance into glory. 
Courage! then, my soul, for thou 
Hast a crown of life before thee; 
Thou shalt find thy hopes were just 
Jesus is the Christian’s Trust. 

CHRISTIAN F. GELLERT, 1715-1769 

Lift Your Glad Voices

Lift your glad voices in triumph on high, 
For Jesus hath risen, and man cannot die. 
Vain were the terrors that gathered around Him, 
And short the dominion of death and the grave; 

He burst from the fetters of darkness that bound Him, Resplendent in glory, to live and to save. 
Loud was the chorus of angels on high,
The Saviour hath risen, and man shall not die. 

Glory to God, in full anthems of joy; 
The being He gave us, death cannot destroy. 
Sad were the life we must part with tomorrow, 
If tears were our birthright, and death were our end; 

But Jesus hath cheered the dark valley of sorrow, 
And bade us, immortal, to heaven ascend. 
Lift, then, your voices in triumph on high, 
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die. 

HENRY WARE, 1794-1843

The Promise of Eternal Life

And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

1 John 2:25

One of the greatest things that Christians have is the hope of eternal life promised by God. It is awesome to know that there is life after death. That the earth is but fleeting. We pass through this transient state on earth to reach eternity. And the amount of time spent here on earth is incomparable to the infinite number of years that is eternity. If there is something God did promise us that should get us excited, it is the promise of eternal life. It is not just an eternity that has some semblance to what we experience on earth but utopia. Yes, the eternal life God promises is utopic, it has everything that makes life meaningful and abundant and joyous. And it is devoid of pain and suffering and evil which is what makes the present life difficult.

This life is like a bridge which we must cross. This bridge is not ideal, it is filled with all sorts of obstacles and obstructions. A walk on it is not smooth, therefore courage and steadfastness is required. Sometimes we stumble amidst the many huddles. But we remember that the righteous person may fall several times, though they fall, they will rise again and keep going. And that is the winning mentality that we all need to have while walking this bridge. There is no going back on this journey, we choose to either fall and then rise and keep walking or we can crawl or sit and watch others go through it. The courageous souls walk through it without fear but with confidence knowing that he who made all things had given us a guide-map on how to navigate the bridge. The bible is that guide, it provides hope and reassurance when things get tough. As we are walking through this bridge, we set our minds on the end goal – eternal life and the joys that awaits us. Consider this:

I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal his children.  For creation was condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so. Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth. But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free. For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Rom 8:18-25

We all hope for eternity as we walk this bridge and when we get to the end of the bridge, we arrive at eternity where our master eagerly awaits to openly welcome us to himself and say well done good and faithful servant. Oh how wonderful that day will be, a day in which we shall all behold him in his full glory. A day where the pain of birth shall culminate in the joy of delivery. A day where we will all heave a sigh of relieve and say, it was worth it.

May God grant us the grace to trust and obey him as we walk in righteousness in anticipation of that which he has promised us – eternal life through his son Jesus Christ. Amen!

The Blessed Morrow

Amidst the darkness, storm, and sorrow,
One bright gleam I see;
Well I know the blessed morrow
Christ will come for me.
’Midst the light, and peace, and glory
Of the Father’s home,
Christ for me is watching, waiting,
Waiting till I come.

Long the blessed Guide has led me
By the desert road;
Now I see the golden towers,
City of my God.
There, amidst the love and glory,
He is waiting yet;
On His hands a name is graven
He can ne’er forget.

There, amidst the songs of heaven,
Sweeter to His ear
Is the footfall through the desert,
Ever drawing near.
There, made ready are the mansions,
Radiant, still, and fair;
But the Bride the Father gave Him
Yet is wanting there.

Who is this who comes to meet me
On the desert way,
As the Morning Star foretelling
God’s unclouded day?
He it is who came to win me
On the Cross of shame;
In His glory well I know Him
Evermore the same.

Oh the blessed joy of meeting,
All the desert past!
Oh the wondrous words of greeting
He shall speak at last!
He and I together entering
Those fair courts above
He and I together sharing
All the Father’s love.

Where no shade nor stain can enter,
Nor the gold be dim,
In that holiness unsullied,
I shall walk with Him.
Meet companion then for Jesus,
From Him, for Him, made
Glory of God’s grace for ever
There in me displayed.

He who in His hour of sorrow
Bore the curse alone;
I who through the lonely desert
Trod where He had gone;
He and I, in that bright glory,
One deep joy shall share
Mine, to be for ever with Him;
His, that I am there.

GERHARD TERSTEEGEN, 1697-1789

BE STILL AND KNOW

If there was any time in recent modern history that humanity has been brought to its knees, it is these few months. As everyone scampered home in search for protection against the current global pandemic, a message that is perhaps profound is the message of hope. And the best source of hope is to draw from the eternal well of the words that poured forth from the mouth of the maker of the universe.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

In the above, God says that we should be still and remember that he is God, that he will be exalted among the nations. And yes, sometimes it may be difficult to see how God may be exalted in our current situation but it is important to hope and expect to see him exalted. It is important to remember that his promises never fail, that he will do what he says he will do.

But what does it mean to be still and why should we be still? To be still is to drown out the voice of the world, it is to seclude oneself from every voice and activity that makes it difficult to get close to God, activities and daily routines that drive us away from his presence. To be still therefore, is to make ready our hearts to receive his words; it is to set ourselves apart and say, here I am Lord send me. It is to flee from all appearances of evil and let go of the sin which so easily beset us.

To be still is to return to the place of prayer, it is to be the watchmen that we ought to be, it is to open our hearts to the voice of reason, the voice of God which echoes and calls us to himself. To be still is to leave all worries and fears at His feet. Stillness is indeed a place of consecration.

When we are still, it becomes easy to listen, it becomes easier to see God in action, it becomes easier to connect the dots and to let go and let God. It is when we are still that knowledge of the father oozes like a stream from his throne and flows towards us. Then can we truly see how God will be exalted in the earth during these trying times.

 

 

Who will roll the stone away?

Bible stories are interesting because they sometimes serve as a mirror of my person or my actions or inactions. A story about a claim that Jesus made to his disciples in Mark 9:31 is one we need to look at; he told his disciples that he will be killed and on the third day he will resurrect. This claim was not just known by the disciples, it was known by the whole community and the Jewish authorities.

So, when Jesus died on the cross, a whole lot the apostles went hiding. A lot of them lost hope and perhaps forgot what Jesus said, that he will rise on the third day. I suppose there hoped that they will always have Jesus with them, because they saw all the miraculous things he did. When Jesus was with them, they were powerful, they could confront any Jewish religious leader or proponent of their time. Jesus made them feel powerful, confident and fulfilled. Isn’t that what we feel when we trust God and things go well for us, we tend to feel God’s presence ever more. It is easier to feel the presence of God amidst plenty but less so if things are not going well.

To show perhaps how Jesus’ disciples did not fathom or dare I say believe that he will resurrect on the third day; three women went to the tomb with spices and for the purpose of anointing the dead body of Jesus (Mark 16:1-11). They did what was customary. The interesting thing to point out in this story is what they did on their way, they wondered and asked the question: “who is going to roll away the stone?” You will think that Jesus having raised Lazarus from the dead will be a poignant point from which they could believe. But your guess may be as good as mine; the mere fact that the Jews were able to kill Jesus could have dampened their faith in him. He is dead, now it is over, they may have wondered.

Isn’t it fascinating to note that the authorities or the people who did not believe in Jesus tried to preempt a resurrection albeit a possible fraudulent ploy? But the believers did not? The Jewish leaders at least remembered Jesus’ saying and anticipated it. You see, sometimes we who believe may sometimes struggle with God’s commands and promises even more than those who do not believe. So, the Jewish authorities sent guards to the tomb. They were looking out for any foul play by the disciples. But you could argue that the disciples should have perhaps thought about going there just to see if Jesus will rise as he said. But the three women went there to anoint a dead body.

How often do we find ourselves doing something similar? Even after seeing all the promises in scripture, we rationalize. “You do not know my situation; it is too grave.” “I do not think I can come back from this.” “My burdens are too great, or my situation is unique, no one will understand.”

Jesus did rise from the dead just like he said he will; in fact, the angels asked the three women. “why are you looking for the living among the dead.” So, the question for us then is; why do we so often lose hope when God has said we shouldn’t? Why do we give up too easily? Why do we not take the word of God on face value? Why do we not often give thanks in all situations? You can go on and on about the different scenarios that make us question God’s promises. But the encouragement is that we should be calm, and trust that the one who has promised will never fail.

Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, just as he promised. His blood cleanses and continues to cleanse us of all sins, just as was promised. He will always help when there is trouble just as he promised. He will give when we ask; he will open when we knock just as he promised. Is it not an amazing thing to know that we serve a promise keeping God!

The Hope of His Coming 

There is a balm for every pain,
A medicine for all sorrow;
The eye turned backward to the Cross,
And forward to the morrow.
The morrow of the glory and the psalm,
When He shall come;
The morrow of the harping and the palm,
The welcome home.

Meantime in His beloved hands our ways,
And on His Heart the wandering heart at rest;
And comfort for the weary one who lays
His head upon His Breast.
GERHARD TERSTEEGEN