A mission organization that focused on translating the scriptures told of the way one group of Bible translators came to communicate the fullness of God's love to an African tribal community:
"The verbs for a particular African language consistently end with one of three vowels,” explains Dennis Farthing from the NTM Missionary Training Center. “Almost every verb ends in i, a, or u. But the word for 'love' was only found with i and a. Why no u?”
Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community. In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.
“Could you dvi your wife?”
“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”
“Could you dva your wife?”
“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and took good care of her husband.”
“Could you dvu your wife?”
Everyone in the room laughed.
“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”
The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”
There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe. Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”
Dennis concludes, “God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable.”
If one is looking for one verse that sums up the entire Bible they would likely think of John 3:16.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Who is God? We find the answer in scripture in the names that He gives Himself. the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
He is the Almighty One, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, the Living God. He is Abba, Father. The God who sees. The One who provides. The Lord who heals. The Lord who makes holy. The Lord our peace. The Lord our righteousness. Our Shepherd. The Most High. The Everlasting God. He is the breath of life. Our High Priest. The Lion of Judah. Our Law-giver. He’s the Lord our Savior. Our strength and shield. Our refuge. Our Mighty Stronghold. The Keeper of Promises.
Exodus 34:6-7 states, ““The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
He always has been and always will be. He is the sovereign king of the Universe.
“So loved the world.”
Have you ever had something that was out of reach? No matter what you did you could not take hold of it. Maybe it was getting a job that would give your family financial security, or living in a different country with more opportunities, or being married or having a child, or being free from a chronic illness or escaping an addictive behavior. It did not matter what you did, the goal continued to be out of reach.
God belongs to this category as well. He is out of reach. Our sin had separated us from God and there was nothing that we can do to bridge the void (Isaiah 59:2). Scripture, time-and-again, reminds us of the hopelessness of the world. We are strangers, foreigners, lost, blind, enemies of God, wicked, like Adam and Eve, barred from the presence of God. We have lost our way and cannot find our way home.
I John 2:16 talks of the world in this way, “For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world.”
2 Corinthians 4:4 tells how the devil, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
It is in this pitiful state of sin and lostness that God loved us with a “dvu” love. A love that cannot be earned and cannot be lost. His love is not based on who we are, but on who He is.”
In Greek there are four different words for “love”: eros, storge, phileo, agape.
The eros type of love is the romantic type of love. Eros was also used when talking about passion or strong emotion. It comes from Eros, the Greek God of love. When we hear the word “love” today in the media or in society, this is usually the meaning to which they are referring. In English, it is linked to the word “erotic”. While “erotic” has a bad connotation in today’s English, this would include a romantic love that does not necessarily have to be sinful. For example, this idea of romantic love was illustrated many times in a holy manner between a husband and his wife in the book of Song of Solomon.
A second word for love that is found in the Greek is storge. A storge love characterizes the love within a family. It is the love a parent has for a child, or the love a brother has for a sister. It describes the love the family members have for one another.
A third Greek word for love is philia. Philia describes a brotherly love with warm affection. It is the word that described a man or woman’s closest and truest friends. It describes hearts and souls that have been bound together by life experience or as kindred spirits.
A fourth word for “love” is the Greek word Agape. It is an interesting choice of words.
Among all of these examples of love, Agape is the least natural and least common. Agape is a God type of love that grants unending goodwill, regardless of how He is treated or how difficult it is. Agape is an unconquerable desire for the ultimate good of another, even if they do not deserve it. Agape is not motivated by warm feelings or because we have treated God with love. Agape is a selfless, tireless, God-sized love that longs for the greatest good of a person, even if there is no personal gain or emotional reward in it for Him.
Agape is a heart of unconditional love that longs for the greatest good of others. 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 teaches that, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Many, with their words, have claimed to love, but an agape love will be evident through one’s actions. Here is the extent of a Holy God’s love for a fallen world.
“That He gave His only Son.”
He gave. When there was no way for us to reach out to God, He reached out to us. God, the Father, gave His only Son. His beloved. His most prized possession. . . for his glory and our salvation.
“All had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The wages for sin was death . . . but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 6:23)
The Father gave His Son, Jesus Christ, who was both fully God and fully man, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. The One through whom, by whom and for whom all things had been created. The One who sat at the right hand of the Father, willingly left His place in heaven, took on the form of a baby, and came to earth. He lived a sinless life and willingly laid down His life on the cross, paying the death penalty for our sin. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead proving that the penalty of sin had been paid in full.
“God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. . .”
“That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s grace is extended to those who turn to Him, and his judgment is directed to those who turn away from Him. It is two sides of the same coin. The grace of God welcomes those who come, but His holiness demands that His wrath fall on all who will harden their hearts against Him.
What must a holy, righteous God do with sinful people like us? If we understood even a small part of the holiness of God, this question would horrify us.
He cannot let sin go unpunished. This would make Him unjust and unholy. He must condemn, but at the same time He longs to draw us near. How can wrath and grace both be satisfied in the midst of a sinful people?
Answer: God giving His own son, Jesus, to die in our place.
Upon Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, the wrath of God was poured out and the justice of God was fully satisfied. The wage of our sin is death, and this sentence has been carried out upon Jesus Christ. He has paid our death penalty. The Father has carried out the duty of a just judge on Him. Now that the price for sin has been paid the way is open for us to be reconciled to God. “To all who receive Him, who believe in His name, he gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12).”
We each stand at the crossroads. If we turn towards Christ we are forgiven and saved. If we turn away from Christ we are judged and condemned. This is the divine contradiction of the Gospel between grace and judgment.
Some are convinced that their sin is too bad to be forgiven. Others believe that they deserve to be forgiven. Some can’t believe that God would ever let them into heaven and others believe that they already have a reservation in the VIP section in heaven. Some are blind to God’s mercy while others are blind to their own sinfulness.
But to all who will turn from their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ they will be forgiven of their sin and reconciled to God.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” It was a priceless gift that met our greatest need.
Giving is not a natural human trait. Because of our sin we are all naturally more concerned about ourselves then the needs of others. It makes sense, but it is not the way it was meant to be. We were made in the image of a God who showed His giving heart by sending His son to earth for our sake. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, showed the same characteristic by laying down His life so that we could be saved.
Giving is an expression of the heart of God. For us to gain this same heart we must be exposed to the presence of God. It is like Isaiah when he encountered the presence of God in the temple. There was no way he could walk away unchanged. The more we abide in Christ the more we will be made like Him.
In the book of Philippians we see a good example of how the gospel results in a heart of giving.
The apostle Paul was in prison in Rome. The church in Philippi had sent one of their own, Epaphroditus, who had traveled a great distance to bring their financial gift to Paul and to update Paul on the condition of the church in Philippi.
The church in Philippi had heard of Paul’s needs and had responded by gathering their money and sending it to Paul. We see in scripture how they also supported Paul when he moved on to Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16) and when he arrived in Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:9). They loved Paul and he loved them. He was their spiritual father and their gift was a sign of their appreciation of all that Paul was and all that Paul had done for them.
He rejoiced in the Lord in the midst of their gift because it was God who had stirred their hearts to give. It was God who had blessed them so that they could be a blessing to Paul. In reality the Philippians were merely the conduit of God's grace and provision. Paul was so familiar with God's way of providing that when receiving the gift from the Philippians he turned his attention and gratitude and joy to God.
It would be similar to a wife receiving a very nice Christmas gift that said on the package it was from "her young children." In the midst of her big hug and “thank you” to her children, she turns her gaze towards her husband and gives a grateful nod knowing him to be the true source of the gift.
The Philippians loved Paul and God had prepared their hearts to be ready to give. They now expressed it through their financial gift once the need had become known to them.
God had given the Philippians hearts of generosity. As they had matured in their faith and understood the abundance that they had in Christ they were compelled to give. As they heard of Paul´s need they had responded as an act of gratitude, concern, and faith. They knew that Christ was their provider. Their confidence was that the same God who led them to give would also meet their every need in the midst of their giving.
Paul now rejoiced in the gift, not because of what he got out of it, but because of the blessing that he knew the Philippians would now receive because they gave. As we read in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
God´s response to our giving may be material or spiritual blessing. As we find in the words of Solomon, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:24–25).
Our confidence is in the fact that those who give as God leads, will be blessed by God in one way or another. That is what Paul was rejoicing in. Because the Philippians had given to Him in his time of need, God would bless them.
“Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.” (Psalm 41:1)
“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)
We are imitating Christ. We give to others as He gave to us. It characterizes a people who live in an abundance mindset. God is generous to us. We should be generous to others. Like Paul, this abundant mindset applies even when we don’t have much. It is much like the story of Elijah and The Widow of Zarephath, found in 1 Kings 17:8-16.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, 9“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” 15And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
This story is a clear picture of God’s provision for those who by faith give to others in need. The Philippian´s gift to Paul had been given with such purity and sacrifice that it was pleasing and acceptable to God. Because of this, in the midst of their generosity they had nothing to fear. God led them to give. They then responded by giving out of faith and obedience. God would then supply their every need “according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.”
Paul here lays down a principal for giving. Where God calls, He provides. We cannot outgive God. For those who give as they are led by the Spirit, God will meet their every need. We ought not fear being generous. Our main responsibility is to walk intimately with God so that we sense His leading to give. Then we can be confident of His provision. Without intimacy with God we either refuse to give because of fear, or we give with an impure motive or in ways that God did not lead.
As we nurture our relationship with Christ we will grow to look at the world and the needs of others as God does. God will shape our faith, our priorities and our understanding of need and provision. God will hone our sensitivity to the Spirit´s leading. When we seek first the kingdom of God, we will be confident that God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:33). As we begin to see contentment, giving and His provision from a biblical perspective we will be made ready to be a channel of blessing as he blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to teach the people to not “put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. . . do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.“
May we be people and a church who will mature in our faith and be characterized by contentment, generosity and the provision of God for many years to come.
There are many ways to give. Maybe you are sending money back to your family in your home country. Maybe you are helping friends, neighbors or classmates in their time of need. As we consider ways to give during this season and throughout the new year will you consider being a part of what God is doing here at Wilcrest?
As we enter the new year we continue to minister to people of all ages in our church. We have also continued to broaden our missions work as God has given opportunity.
We recently approved an annual budget that includes the following,
1) The support of ongoing ministry to children, youth, and adults in our church.
2) Helping those in our church who are financially in need.
3) Partnerships with both Owens Elementary and Chambers Elementary schools.
4) Partnership with “The Landing,” a Christian ministry helping those who are victims of human trafficking.
5) Partnership with "Women’s Pregnancy Center of Houston," a Christian ministry helping those in crisis pregnancy situations.
6) The support of church planters in Chad, Africa.
7) The support of missionaries to refugees here in Houston.
8) The support of evangelistic ministry at Houston Christian University.
9) Support of Union Baptist Association that supports the needs of other Baptist churches in Houston.
Your generous contributions will play a crucial role in enabling us to continue our mission and expand our outreach efforts. Whether it's supporting our youth programs, providing assistance to those facing financial challenges, or reaching out to the marginalized, your giving will make a tangible difference in the lives of many.
Let me encourage you to seek God’s will at this time. Take a next step. Maybe you are an active part of our church but have not been giving at all. Consider starting to give. Maybe you give sporadically and God would have you to start give regularly. Maybe you or you and your family could evaluate what you are giving and consider giving more.
Wherever you find yourself today, may we remember the gift we have been given in Christ, and be compelled to do the same to the world around us.