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Love is a Verb

by Stephen Rhoda

I recently officiated a wedding and within the ceremony preached a short sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a, a passage that I have previously preached for weddings and one that I’m sure is commonly used by preachers in that context.  But this time around, I was struck by the teaching of God’s Word that “love is a verb.”  This is one way that we might summarize this short passage.  Love is not just a feeling.  It is a feeling, indeed, a marvelous feeling.  But love is more than a feeling.  Love is a verb.

Even more, love is not just what we do, but what we do for others, to benefit them and our relationship to them.  In the first part of the passage, the Apostle Paul mentions several actions, like speaking, understanding, exercising faith, and practicing self-sacrifice.  And with every action we take, big or small, if love is lacking, we have nothing and gain nothing.  However, Paul’s point is not just that we feel love in all our actions, but that we do love; in other words, that our actions must be taken and directed to the benefits of others.

Therefore, Paul goes on to say, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”  And so it becomes clear, first of all, that love is a verb, love is what we do; but even more, that love is what we do for others, to their benefit.

Here is a great passage for a wedding, but it was written for all followers of Christ, married or single, to hear and follow.  In our day and culture, as love is more and more being redefined in startling ways, let us return to God’s Word for our definitions of all things, including love.  Love is not just a feeling; it is what we do.  Even further, love is what we do for the good of others at every turn.  Such a focus on others and what is good for them was the focus of Christ in His saving ministry.  He never used His divine power to benefit Himself.  When He was tempted to do so in His wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), He refused and went on from there to carry out a ministry completely focused on the benefit of others.  If we have really been given the Spirit of Christ, then we will do the same.

Ephphatha P’articles (1/25/12)

Verse of the Week ~ Revelation 8:1
“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

If mysticism overemphasizes and misuses silence, is it possible that orthodoxy does the opposite?  The church must certainly be “noisy” in the reading and proclamation of the Word and in song and prayer to God.  But silence has a profound significance in God’s Word.  Habakkuk 2:20 says- “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”  And Revelation 8:1 says- “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”  And in the end, having heard and received the rebuke of God, Job’s answer is to say- “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.”  Silence connotes reverence, humility, and subjection to God and is impressively lacking in the clamor and commotion of much of modern worship.  We may use words like “reverence” and “awe,” but if we mean them in a true biblical sense, such references should be followed by timorous silence as we are made to shut our mouths by the sheer knowledge of God.


Do You Love Christ? [John 21:15-16] (2012 Question of the Year)

We Must Love Christ ~ The 2012 Question of the Year is based on John 21, where we hear Jesus ask Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  But to understand how appropriate it is for us to hear and answer this question, we need to drop back to John 13:21-30.  In this passage, we see the Gospel-writer comparing and contrasting John and Judas.  While Jesus identifies Judas as the one who would betray Him, we also see John “leaning back against Jesus.”  It’s the image of a disciple who loves his Master, and by this passage and others as well, we come to learn that love for Christ is at the heart of true discipleship.  In short, one cannot follow Christ in faithfulness unless he or she has a deep love for Christ.  At best, one’s faithfulness to Christ will be short-lived apart from a deep and deepening love for Christ.  Throughout this year, the Lord willing, we will explore why and how we must love Christ, but to start, let each of us search our hearts.  Finding a love for Christ within us, let us resolve that it should deepen.  And if apathy or neutrality toward Christ should be discovered within us, let us be convicted that such cannot be the case in one who is truly following Him.


Word of the Week


jocund (adjective) – cheerful, merry
Example: His jocund personalilty drew all to him and brightened every room in which he was to be found.
Reflection: Christians should be the most jocund people on earth, for in Christ they have the only sure basis and lasting reason for hope instead of despair.


A Poem to End By
by Stephen Rhoda

I’m thankful for the things you do
To make a house our cheerful home,
And grateful for the care you take
To serve our Savior’s kingdom. 

But not for any single act,
Nor the gathered things you do,
For the beauty of your humble heart,
For this, dear, I love you.









Oh Give (Specific) Thanks to the LORD


A Devotional Reading for Thanksgiving Day

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 107 (Read at least verses 1-22.)

As we celebrate another Thanksgiving Day, let’s get back to the basics and ask the question- What does it mean to give thanks?  We might note that the two words “thank” and “think” are different by only one letter, which shows us that these two words have a common ancient root and are very much connected in meaning.  Therefore, to thank someone is to say out loud what you are thinking.  Even more, to thank someone is to tell them that you are conscious and aware of their kindness in doing something for you.

The next step, then, in giving thanks is to see that it is always better to name the thing for which we are thankful.  Instead of just saying, “Thank you!” we should say, “Thank you FOR your kindness!” or even more specifically, “Thank you FOR the gift (or help, or encouragement) you gave me.”  When we name the specific thing for which we are thankful, we show that we are not just saying “Thank you” to be polite but are truly expressing our mind and heart.

And this is exactly what Psalm 107 teaches us!  It begins with a call to “give thanks to the LORD,” but it continues by saying, “FOR he is good, FOR his steadfast love endures forever!”  Even more, verse 2 says, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…” that is, let God’s redeemed people say out loud that God has, in fact, redeemed them!  The NIV puts it this way- “Let the redeemed of the LORD say this…,” which ties together the call to give thanks with the naming of what God had done.  He had redeemed them “from the hand of the foe,” He had gathered them “from the lands, from east and west, from north and  south.”  Even further, Psalm 107 goes on to recount, even more specifically, how God had saved and rescued His people from various trials and times of trouble.

Perhaps this past year has been a year of trouble for you.  And yet here you are at another Thanksgiving table with health enough to eat and with food enough to share.  Remember to give thanks to God FOR His blessings, by naming what He has done!  But regardless of what we have or don’t have in this life, we too are God’s redeemed people through Jesus Christ.  Therefore, let us give thanks to God FOR His blessings to us in Christ!  Let us give thanks to God FOR the blood of Christ to cleanse us from sin, FOR the righteousness of Christ counted to us by faith, and FOR the glory of Christ waiting for us in heaven.  Let us give thanks to God, specifically naming all that is ours by way of the finished work of Christ our Savior.


Father in heaven, forgive us for just going through the motions in our thanksgiving to You.  Help us to think, to remember, and to give thanks to you FOR your many blessings.  Most of all, help us to be thoughtful and thankful every day for the finished work of Christ, the Gospel of our salvation.  Thank you for Your grace to us in Him and for saving us from our sins.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Terse Verse

A Plot to Kill (Again) by Stephen Rhoda

“When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him….” (See reference below)

Here is testimony to the tenacity of unbelief, for this reference is not to the plot to kill Jesus but to kill Paul (Acts 9:23).  And here is confirmation of the words of Jesus, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  Having crucified Jesus — and despite His resurrection from the dead — they are now plotting to kill Paul for preaching the living Christ.

Why is man so opposed to Christ and the Gospel?  Why is the hope of resurrection and eternal life such an offensive message?  Here is our deadly pride, for we would forge ahead, even into death and destruction, rather than repent and believe in Christ to receive forgiveness, righteousness, and life.

And what about you, dear reader?  Shrugging your shoulders is not the exact same thing as plotting to kill the preacher, but both responses belong to a deadly unbelief.  Repent and believe in Christ, crucified for your sins and risen from the dead.  Here is your salvation from sin and your sure hope of eternal life.

Terse Verse

Lights, Sound and Drama vs. Judgment, Fear and Saving Faith

by Stephen Rhoda

“And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” — Acts 5:14

According to man’s wisdom, we might think that this season of growth in the church came about through modish worship services (ie. lights, sound, and drama), through practical, topical, preaching (ie. 7 keys to finding purpose and contentment in your life), through social programs (ie. AA, divorce recovery group, etc), and through stellar ministries in the church (ie. cutting-edge youth and couples ministry).  But actually this season of growth followed upon the heals of the deceptive worship of a man and his wife who were therefore punished by God with death.  As a result, “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (vs. 11).  We are even told that those outside the church “dared [not] join them, but… held them in high esteem” (vs. 13).  And yet, “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (vs. 14).

The lesson for us is that we must, simply and yet so profoundly, preach the Word, exalt Christ, worship God in joyful fear, and trust God to bear the fruit of His sovereign will.  The church’s job is not to lure or entertain or otherwise to grow the church through our own wisdom.  Instead, we have been assigned both a message and a method, both of which are ordained by God to uphold His character and to draw sinners to Him in true and saving faith.

Terse Verse

Christianity vs. Americanity

by Stephen Rhoda

“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold…” — Acts 4:34

Generosity and mutual support must mark the character of the church.  There must never be a member of the church who is homeless or without food and clothing.  Private ownership is yet mandated in such verses as this, but we must be willing and eager to pass along what we have to others when needed through the coordination of the leadership of the church.  The challenge to this call is the syncretism of “Americanity” by which we pursue only the “American dream,” putting our immediate luxury and a cush retirement ahead of Christ and His body, the church.  In the end, our detractors will always focus on our weaknesses and the church will never be perfect this side of heaven, but here is a mark of the Spirit of Christ that authenticates the church just as much as the signs and wonders of old.


Too Little (but Not Too Late)

by Stephen Rhoda


“Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.” — Acts 3:3


Here is an example of someone who asked too little.  Not realizing that Peter and John could heal him, the lame man of Acts 3 asked only for what he assumed they had, money.  As a great blessing to him, Peter gave him healing instead, and as a result, there are at least three lessons here.


First of all, people need to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to ask God for the fullness of what He gives.  Many people run from God all their lives, and some may do so because they don’t know that He is gracious and merciful, willing to forgive their sins and count them righteous in the perfect obedience of Christ.  So feeling the conviction of sin, they run and hide from God instead of asking for the salvation He promises to give to all those who seek it.  Perhaps in a time of distress and suffering, they will turn to God to ask for His help, but they end up asking for too little, even if they ask for money or healing from a deadly disease.  Therefore, let us proclaim the Good News.  Let us tell people the fullness of what God gives in Christ!


Second, even what this man received without asking for it is not yet the fullness of what God gives.  God gives salvation in Christ, full and free, and physical healing from paralysis pales in comparison with this great gift!  So let us understand that if we are distressed only about money and poor health, we worry too little, and asking for God’s help in these matters, we ask too little.  Granted, we need the blessing of God to live on in this world, but prolonged life is not yet eternal life.  Therefore, let each of us seek the fullness of what God gives in Christ!


Third, having sought the forgiveness and righteousness of Christ, let us be confident that we have received it. As the lame man of Acts 3 received the blessing of healing, he went “walking and leaping and praising God.”-(vs. 8)  Whether literally or figuratively, ours should be the same response, even more so since we have the promise in Christ of eternal life and the riches of heaven! …by the resurrection of our bodies to an incorruptible state! …into a new and glorious creation!  True faith in Christ is marked by the confession of sin AND a joyful confidence in Christ.  Whether we are rich or poor in this life, whether healthy or near to death, if not our bodies then at least our hearts must go “walking and leaping and praising God.”


And what about you, dear reader?  Have you asked too little of God?  Or having asked for and received salvation in Christ, are you rejoicing too little in response?  “Too little” is not yet “too late.”  Ask, receive, and rejoice in Christ today!

Light and Darkness

by Stephen Rhoda

Yesterday I was sitting on my front porch visiting with a brother who had stopped to visit.  As we talked, we heard the rumble of an approaching storm, and as it grew darker and darker, we were soon prompted to leave off our discussion and take note of the storm that was coming upon us.  In the end, the weather cleared just as fast as it had declined, and a late afternoon sun even shined down once again.

Such experiences are not so uncommon, and they can urge upon us the metaphor of light and darkness within the Word of God.  From the beginning, day and night are part of the design of God for this world, and each represents more than just astronomic truth and periods of time.  The night is often used to represent the darkness of evil and periods of suffering for man; the dawn of day stands for the hope and expectation of those who are looking to Christ in faith.

Here is the hope that we have in Christ.  Even in the daytime, darkness often encroaches and threatens, but even at night the light of Christ shines in the darkness.  In the light of the resurrection of Christ, the night never reigns without the hope of dawn, and each day dawns as an emblem of the eternal light of a new creation in Christ.

Diagnosis: Drunkenness

by Stephen Rhoda

“But others said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” — Acts 2:13

Here is the reaction of some of those who witnessed the effect of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

First of all, notice the effect itself.  The predominant effect of the coming of the Holy Spirit was the preaching of the Gospel, not shouting and jumping, not rolling on the floor, but preaching.  And it wasn’t a matter of speaking in unintelligible tongues and utterances but in the known languages of those gathered “from every nation under heaven.”  Thus we see here the connection between Word and Spirit, and we come to understand more clearly that Christianity is first a faith of content and teaching, rather than just raw spiritual experience.

But secondly, consider this particular reaction.  When the Apostles stood up and began to preach, it was perceived as strange and was diagnosed as drunkenness.  The irony is that the Gospel is actually the exact opposite of drunkenness.  Drunkenness is the search for relief from pain, causing more pain; the Gospel is true balm for human suffering.  Drunkenness is the effort to cover up guilt, causing more guilt; the Gospel proclaims forgiveness and affords peace in Christ.  Drunkenness is sin leading to more sin; the Gospel is the call and power of repentance.  Therefore, let us not be surprised by the world’s perception of the Gospel and its preaching.  We may be mocked and written off as drunken fools, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must preach on, with the conviction that the Gospel is exactly the message that this world needs to hear.

Royal Conversation


Royal Conversation

by Stephen Rhoda


Another royal wedding in our lifetime (for some of us) and yet another illustration of the vacuous nature of Christian conversation.  While the world is mesmerized by the royal family and Hollywood, why aren’t Christians more mesmerized by Christ the King?  His glory is greater than earth can compare, His greatness more pronounced.  Even more, He SHARES His glory and riches with each and all of His subjects!  So why don’t Christians talk more of Christ?  Why isn’t He constantly coming up in conversation?  Why isn’t He at the center of every sermon and the talk of the table at every family meal?  It can only be that we are, at best, blinded by the glitz and glamour of this world, and at worst, not really those who are looking to Him for salvation from sin.  Consider the evidence and ask yourself the crucial questions, “Do I truly know Christ?  Is He at the center of my life?  How can I claim faith and salvation in a Savior who so seldom enters my thought and conversation?”