Chapter 1, Session 2
Video and Group discussion of Introduction
Topics: Love Life, How We Love, His Command, Faith
The Greek word agapē translated ‘love’ in this verse is unlike other types of love. It is not the love we imagine, which is fickle in its essence, like romantic love or close friendship or brotherly love. The substance of this sort of love is goodwill, benevolence, sacrificial, and a commitment of the will to do good. This love is not capricious because its primary benefactor is not self. This is divine, selfless love.
Divine love has a deep affection for the unlovable and unlovely and is demonstrated not as an emotion that sits in the heart or mind but one that always acts. This love does not operate because it sees the benefactor as being excellent or even deserving. It acts because love is the core of it’s being. Divine love is not self-serving but seeks the welfare of others.
As we read this list, let’s ask ourselves, is this the divine love I demonstrate or do I demonstrate fickle love? Notice how the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) can prime these actions. Love:
The transformed mind and regenerate heart has the love (agapē) of God poured into it through the Holy Spirit. If you desire to demonstrate this divine love, repent and pray, asking God to fill you to overflowing. Lord God, I repent of being satisfied with loving others in ultimately self-serving ways; in ways that are fickle, convenient, and satisfy the desires of my own heart. I ask for your forgiveness and cleansing. I forgive myself as you, Lord, have forgiven me. Pour your perfect, divine love into my heart and mind, and I will pour out. I ask in the name, power, and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, amen.
In His grace,
❀ Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (available at Amazon)
Have you ever considered proclaiming God’s attributes when you pray?
He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. Colossians 1:17
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. Psalm 147:5
There’s nothing He can’t do and nothing He doesn’t understand.
I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6
His plans do not change. His promises do not change. God is dependable.
God possesses infinite riches of being, wisdom, goodness, and power in and of himself (Genesis 17:1, John 5:26, Ephesians 3:16). Because God is self-sufficient, we can go to Him to satisfy all our needs. He is a never-ending well of goodness, peace, mercy, and grace.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6
Nothing is too hard for Him to accomplish (Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:17, Luke 1:37).
Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above – what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below – what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose Him? Surely he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take note? Job 11:7-11
God has unlimited power. God’s decisions are always in line with His character, and He has all the power to do whatever He decides to do.
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I’m God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. Isaiah 46:9-10
“God perfectly knows Himself and, being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn.” Tozer
Because God is all-knowing, He knows everything we’re going through today and everything we will go through tomorrow.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. Psalm 139:7-10
Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:23-24
Great comfort, brought by God’s omnipresence, is available to the Christian who struggles with the complexities and the sorrows of life.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! Romans 11:33
God is infinitely, consistently, and perfectly wise.
Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. It sees the end from the beginning, so there can be no need to guess or conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relation to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals with flawless precision. Tozer
When we see wisdom as Tozer explained, we realize just how much or limited, finite wisdom compares with the limitless, infinite wisdom of God. And how comforting and wonderful this is for man to dwell on! The fact that God can never be wiser means He is always doing the wisest thing in our lives.
Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is
If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
The fact that God is infinitely, unchangingly faithful means that He never forgets anything, never fails to do anything He has set out to do, nor does He ever change His mind or takes back a promise.
When we are tempted to think God has abandoned us, remember that God is unchangingly faithful and good, is always with us, and is full of
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8
The goodness of God disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of
Christians find it easier to affirm the goodness of God when things are going well. When life becomes overwhelming, that is when we begin to question God’s goodness to and for us. The equations are not: L
Psalm 34:19: Many are the afflictions of the righteous but Yahweh delivers Him out of them all. Even with a good God, who is sovereign over everything and has the power to do whatever He likes, good people still suffer.
The Rock! His work is perfect. For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:4
God always does what is good and right toward all men.
He is both fully merciful and fully just.
I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion
on whom I will have compassion. So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy. Romans 9:15-16
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
It is undeserved mercy, as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner’s part, to the saving mercy of the
As judgment is God’s justice confronting moral inequity, so mercy is the goodness of God confronting human suffering and guilt. Were there no guilt in the world, no pain, and no tears, God would yet be infinitely merciful; but His mercy might well remain hidden in His heart, unknown to the created universe. No voice would be raised to celebrate the mercy of which none felt the need. It is human misery and sin that call for the divine mercy. Tozer
The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. Psalm 145:8
As mercy is God’s goodness confronting human misery and guilt, so grace is His goodness directed toward human debt and demerit. It is by His grace that God imputes merit where none previously existed and declares no debt to be where one had been before. Tozer
Grace is a part of who God is and not just an action he bestows. When you welcome God into your life, you welcome His grace.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
God’s love is active, drawing us to himself. His love is personal.
Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty. Revelation 4:8
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
The word holy means sacred, set apart, revered, and divine. He is endlessly, always perfect. His standard for us is perfection as well.
His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power. Habakkuk 3:4
The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections. The infinite beauty – and I am focusing on the manifestation of his character and his worth and his attributes – all of his perfections and greatness are beautiful as they are seen, and there are many of them. That is why I use the word manifold. John Piper
Thank you, Lord, that we may approach Your throne of grace for mercy and grace. May Your powerful attributes fill our hearts and minds. May our prayers be full of Your praise. Amen.
In His grace,
Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (available at Amazon)
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.Proverbs 22:4
There is a reward for humility and respect for the Lord. Not only does humility equip us for eternity, but there is a reward that will be experienced in these current days.
The pathways of God are beautiful and magnificent and remarkable and humbling. Initially, these discrete pathways can be missed if we do not intentionally take note of the invitations to travel them. With self-discipline, this secret garden path will become more evident to us as we direct our eyes to the well-trodden trail traveled by those who have had their heart set upon the Lord.
When we experience pride (our own or someone else’s), it is such an attention-grabbing influence that it is often difficult to ignore. The desire of the natural self is to be recognized. Therefore, choosing the way of humility can be the most undesirable alternative available. However, if we allow ourselves to be trained by humility’s instruction, the self-disciple that is required will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hallelujah.
To be strong in the Lord, the armor of God will be a must. We are exhorted to:
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.Ephesians 6:14-18
Therefore, if we are going to win the battle against pride, we must:
Lord, help me remember that humility is a prominent Christian grace (Romans 12:3 15:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 3:5 7; 2 Corinthians 3:5, Philippians 4:11 -13). Transform my thinking so that I may be pleasing to You (1 Peter 3:4). Help me see that humility brings tranquility to my soul (Psalms 69:32, 33), and makes me patient under trials (Job 1:22). Show my heart Your great promises to those who are humble (Psalms 147:6, Isaiah 57:15, 66:2, 1 Peter 5:5). Amen.
Thank you, Lord, for your great example of humility (Phil 2:6 8). Lead me into repentance (Lamentations 3:39), remembering that humility is the way to honor (Proverbs 16:18) and the avenue to glory.
In His grace,
❀ Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (available at Amazon)
There was also a prophetess, Anna…she did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment (when Simeon was blessing Jesus andLuke 2:36-38
His family), she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
What a joy it must have been for Anna! Since her husband had passed away, she spent her days in the temple complex serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. She was not someone who contemplated the things of God when she could work it into her schedule or when she had nothing else to do. This prophetess made God’s Word, His heart, and His will her highest aim. As a result, God allowed her to “see” into the affairs of people and into the mind and heart of God. She received the joy of her daily pursuit! Is it our delight to spend our days pursuing God and His will for His people? Do we desire to bring heaven down (Matthew 6:10) into our hearts as well as the hearts of others?
God’s prophetess speaks only what accords with Scripture. As a result, prophetic speaking will come from someone who is in close intimate fellowship with God, is in
On the flip side, Deuteronomy 13 says that the false prophet is one who leads people away after ‘other gods’ and speaks ‘rebellion against the Lord our God’…leading us to leave the way in which the Lord our God, commands us to walk. If any believer speaks opinions that are out of line with God’s truth, then those beliefs are false and can lead another believer astray. A test of this is found in Jeremiah 23:9-22. Both in his personal life (v9-15) and in his public ministry (v16-22), the false prophet subscribes to another morality and encourages his hearers to do likewise. Consequently, Jeremiah infers, this man cannot have ‘stood in the council of the Lord’ (v18, 22). When God speaks through His Word, no one can argue. Let’s check our hearts. If we desire to be in close intimate fellowship with God, if we desire to be in harmony with His mind and will, and if we desire our life to be consecrated through the experiences of salvation, then we will be in agreement with His commands. We will not allow our mind and heart to be lead astray, and we will not lead others astray by speaking against God’s Word.
Because Anna spent her life devoted to God, she immediately recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Savior and began thanking God for the opportunity to ‘see’ His good works. In the short amount of ink given to her testimony, we find her life overflowing with favor and grace.
“She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Anna, the prophetess, is among the first to bring honor to our Lord and King. Good news is meant to be shared, and Anna shares it with everyone who was anticipating the Messiah. Like Mary, who was at Jesus’ tomb and was allowed to be the first to share the good news of the resurrection, let’s be like these devoted women and spread God’s message.
In His grace,
❀ Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Bible Study available at Amazon)
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:58
Persis is mentioned only once in the Bible, but Paul’s regard for her is still relevant today. Do you think it is rare to find people who give themselves fully to the work of the Lord ~
In the Roman letter, Paul greets Persis as “my dear friend” (Romans 16:12). It is not clear how they were acquainted, but perhaps Persis, like Priscilla and Aquila, were expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius around AD 50 and then returned when tension eased. Or if a native of Asia Minor, Syrian Antioch, or another area where Paul ministered, she later may have relocated to Rome to build up the church there.
However it was that Persis came to Rome, Paul commends her not by saying she worked hard in the Lord but that she “worked very hard in the Lord” (Romans 16:12). The Greek word for “labor or worked” is “kopiao,” which means “to be wearied or spent with labor; faint from weariness; to toil hard” [The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the NT, p. 237]. It comes from a root word meaning “beating.” Thus, it has reference to an extreme “weariness as though one had been beaten” [Dr. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, vol. 3, p. 827]. Persis was a woman who gave herself fully to the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). When we read heroic accounts of people’s lives, let’s not be fooled into thinking it was because they did not have to press in, or it did not cost them something. Aside from her personal challenges, let’s consider some of the cultural difficulties Persis most likely had to face.
Despite the odds, Persis determined to serve Christ, having a persistent eternal perspective and a confident assurance of her reward. May we be like Persis! Regardless of the personal challenges, may we always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we know our labor in the Lord will not be in vain. Our lives are relevant and meaningful. May God grant us the endurance to “work very hard” in Him. Amen
In His grace,
❀ Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Bible study available at Amazon)
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb.Matthew 28:1
The day was dawning. Even a glimpse of the sun on the horizon is enough to push back the darkness and reveal the seemingly immeasurable reach of its rays. It was the perfect amount of light needed for the first human witnesses of the Resurrection.
The dawn was not the only giver of light that beautiful resurrection morning. God had already sent His angel to the tomb of the Darling of Heaven. The angel that had departed the presence of God to travel to the tomb, had such an impact upon arrival that he caused the earth to shudder (28:2). The angel wore a robe as white as snow, and his appearance was like lightning (28:3) (For interest sake, a bolt of lightning is 5x hotter than the surface of the sun and 600x brighter.) Do you recall how Moses’ face shone after he had been in God’s presence (Exodus 34:29,30)?
The presence of the angel visibly moved the two Marys so he reassured them regarding
They departed from the tomb, which once represented anguish, defeat, and uncertainty and was given the charge to testify to the power of God, which brings great joy, hope, and awe. They had no hesitation as they quickly left to be God’s witness to the rest of the disciples. Before they could get there, Jesus met them. “Good morning!” He said. In the unity of joy, both Marys fell to his feet and worshiped Him.
“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus said, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father — to My God and your God.” Mary Magdaline announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her (John 20:17-18).
The verb translated “cling to” does not mean to ‘touch’ and ‘handle’ to see whether His body was real. Instead, it means to ‘hold on to’ and ‘cling to.’ Moreover, it is the present imperative; and the full meaning will, therefore, be, ‘Do not continue holding Me,’ or simply, hold Me not. The old and often interrupted earthly experience is over; the new and continuous experience with the ascended Lord has not yet begun: but that Presence will be granted soon, and there will be no need of straining eyes and clinging hands to realize it (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).
At that time, women were not considered to be a reliable witness. However, God did not see it that way. What is impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27). What will you do with the light of the Gospel that shines brilliantly into the eyes of your heart? Will you see it? Will you share it? Will you be in awe? Jesus said to the two Marys, “Listen, I have told you” (Matthew 28:7). Are you listening to what He speaks to you today in His Word? If so, what will you tell someone? God has called you to be a witness regarding how He has resurrected you. “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell…” (Matthew 28:10).
Be like the two Marys, go quickly and tell.
In His grace,
❀ Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Available at Amazon)
Of course, we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, the woman replied. It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said You must not eat it or even touch it, if you do, you will die. No! You won’t die, the serpent replied to the woman.Genesis 3:2-4
Steal, kill, and destroy. That is the objective of the enemy (John 10:10), and his ways are cunning (Genesis 3:1, Ephesians 6:11). Left to ourselves, we are no match for him. Praise God for His provision of the Holy Spirit! With the guidance of the Spirit and the promise of God’s Word, if we resist the Devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7).
Perhaps it sounded absurd to Eve when the serpent questioned whether they could eat the fruit in the Garden. Her reply to the serpent was: “Of course we may eat fruit.” She went on to explain which fruit they were permitted to eat and which fruit was forbidden. It was not a mystery to her. It was not the fruit she had to be on her guard about; it was her own heart.
Perhaps Eve was not confident about the difference between spiritual and physical death, and the serpent took full advantage of this ignorance. The enemy is prideful, and he often uses the lure of pride as the bait to dangle before our eyes. What tastier treat makes the mouth of pride water more than being all-knowing and all-powerful? He baited Eve by saying, “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then the woman saw with her natural eyes that the tree was good and delightful. It is the way of the enemy to twist clarity to make it confusing. The temptation of the serpent was to tell Eve that she was actually blind, but by eating the fruit, she would be able to see like never before. She believed him. She looked, and instead of seeing off-limits fruit, she saw what appeared to be good and delightful fruit. Minimally, the enemy stole her peace with God, killed her innocence, and destroyed the provision she once had.
Her life would have been different if she had taken the dilemma to God before she acted on the Devil’s deceit. The enemy knows how to cleverly coat his stories with just enough truth so that it appears right. Whenever we are unsure, we should always come to God for His guidance. He is faithful and will help us. He loves us and will equip us with what we need (His Word) to recognize the enemy’s deceit. Treat His Word as your trusted friend and ally. It will never disappoint.
The Devil clouds our circumstances. Trust God to clarify and clear all the confusion.
In His grace,
❀ Christward: A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (available at Amazon)
Whose image and inscription is this?… Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.Matthew 22:20, 21
We will not have to look further than the stirrings of our own heart for an explanation of our conduct. Jesus spoke a parable about the wedding banquet, and the Pharisees’ hearts were not softened, leading to repentance, but instead was hardened even further, which fueled their resentment towards Him.
The Pharisees and the Herodians did not see eye to eye. The Pharisees despised the rule of a foreign power, and the Herodians advocated the supremacy of Caesar. But their shared vision of hatred united them in their pursuit to ensnare our Lord.
The pride of the enemies of Jesus presumed their wisdom and intellect was superior to His. Together, they plotted and formulated questions they assumed Jesus would be unable to unravel, and thus they imagined they could easily trap Him by His words. Flattery is insincere praise used to further the interest of the flatterer. So with deceit in their heart, their approach was to use flattery in an attempt to draw out His pride (As if the Darling of Heaven suffered pride in His heart as they did.).
They began by calling Him teacher, but their hearts did not respect Him. They applauded His morality by saying He was truthful, but they did not believe He taught the truth of God. They praised Him for His fearlessness and impartiality, but they thought He was out for Himself. Familiar with how the pride of man operates, Jesus’ enemies were certain the flattering techniques would throw Him off guard. Interestingly, what they said was right, but the eyes of their heart could not perceive it. We should take note that when flattery begins to emerge, knowingly or unknowingly, prideful insincerity is at work to deceive. What Jesus’ enemies failed to calculate was that His brilliance could see through the flattery straight to their malice. He was able to unravel their questions and answer them in a way they never imagined He could.
We must ask for the Lord’s wisdom and knowledge so that we can see through flattery, unravel puzzling situations, understand with clarity, and can answer questions with God’s wisdom and knowledge. As we ask this Lord, we also ask for assistance in casting down our pride so that we are not enticed with the temptation of the Pharisees.
Humility is pride’s enemy. The guidance of God says wisdom comes with humility (Proverbs 11:2), and if we want to be honored, humility must come first (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12, Luke 14:10). Oh, that we would be encouraged by Christ, comforted by His love, and desire more fellowship with His Spirit! May we overflow with affection and mercy. May we no longer be driven by rivalry and conceit, but in humility, may we consider others as more important than ourselves. May we not only look out for our own interests but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4). In the name, power, and authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, we ask for humility to work powerfully in us to kill our pride. Amen.
In His grace,
❀ Christward: A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Available at Amazon)
Hannah prayed: My heart rejoices in the LORD: my horn is lifted up by the LORD. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and He weighs actions. The bows of the warriors are broken, but the feeble are armed with strength.1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hannah’s poetry was birthed from sorrow. If anyone possesses a sorrowful spirit but can learn to tune their heart towards God as sweetly as she tuned hers, we may find satisfaction to have walked through our griefs. Hannah chooses to magnify the Lord with her words. What a lesson we can learn from Hannah! O Lord, may we learn to express your majesty in our own humble way. May we turn to glorify your beauty and give little attention to our troubles. Trials will teach us how to flow our words like oil from the pressed olives. May the Lord be praised, and His love commended in the best terms our speech can come at, and may the Lord grant us the knowledge that this resulting fruit was worth the suffering.
If we honestly searched, we would discover that many of us are not fit to receive a great blessing until we have gone through the furnace of affliction. Hannah gained divine grace in her great sorrow. Her name stands among the highly-favored women because of what she did during her time of sorrow. We, too, can be like Hannah and shine brightly among the faithful. May we pick up our burdens and take them to the Cross of Christ. We shall not become murmurers as well as mourners. In your season of heaviness through manifold temptations, anticipate the delightful results of good fruit as a result of how you choose to respond at that time.
It was by suffering in patience that she became so brave a witness for the Lord and could so sweetly sing, “There is none holy as the Lord, neither is there any rock like our God.” We cannot bear testimony unless we test the promise and, therefore, happy is the person whom the Lord tests and qualifies to leave a testimony to the world that God is faithful. Yes, Lord, You are faithful! We sing praise to Your name because you turn our sorrow to joy.
In His Grace,
❧ Women of Faith Series
❀ Christward: A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (available at Amazon)