THE SOURCE OF LOVE

(1Corinthians 13:4-8a) Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails …..

  In these verses, The Apostle Paul gives us a definition of agape love, God’s love.  These are the characteristics of the love God has for his creation, and especially for us the crown of his creation.  This is also the love he wants us to have for each other.  Jesus said to his apostles, “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17).

Where did love originate?  Only one answer presents its self, and that is from God.  The Creator fashioned all that is in the temporal world, so it’s a logical assumption that love came from him. This is what the Apostle John has to say in chapter 5 of his first letter, verse 16 – “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  He goes on to say in verse 19, “We love because he first loved us.”  Love is therefore inherent in God.  Love must have existed even before the creation within the triune of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I have a desire to love more completely, and if you share this desire with me, we know that we must go to the source of love.  As I meditate on the list of what love is, I am fully aware of how much I lack in loving God and loving others, but this list also speaks of how God loves me. I believe the secret is to first comprehend his love for me.  The more his love pours into my soul the greater the opportunity for it to flow out of me.  God is love, and he is the one in whom we can find true love.

Author’s note: Did you ever realize that God’s love is a very humble love?

GOD IS PERSONAL WITH HIS CHILDREN

Last week I made this statement, “God’s love is personal. As Jesus ministered with his disciples, he knew each one of them individually. They were intimately involved in Jesus’ mission.” The truth of this struck me. We are his disciples, and he knows each one of us individually. We are intimately involved in his mission.

That being said, it stands to reason that by examining Jesus’ interaction with his disciples a clearer understanding of our relationship might be gained. Jesus taught his disciples directly, he occasional rebuked them, and always forgave them. We don’t have Jesus physically here with us to teach us, but his indwelling Holy Spirit teaches us in the most intimate way by leading us and guiding us. Jesus sometimes rebukes us, but he always forgives us. He knows we are humans.

In John chapter 14, Phillip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus’ response is very revealing, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” I take from this that the Father’s and the Son’s interaction with us is the same. The broad perspective here is that God’s interaction with us is always the same whether with God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. God is personal with his children.

A great deal of Jesus’ interaction with his disciples is portrayed in John chapters 14-16. Reading those chapters, thinking about how personal these exchanges are, has given me clarification for my relationship with Jesus. I hope you have a chance to explore these chapters and embrace that experience as well.

FACING EVIL WITH LOVE

(1 Peter 3:8-9) Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Continuing last week’s subject of overcoming evil with good, the above quoted Scripture expands on this theme, and includes loving and caring for one another. The Apostle Peter asks us to return evil with blessing. Blessing inspires an active giving in the face of evil, a kindness, an encouragement. This is facing evil with love.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you (Matthew 5:44).” As I put together these thoughts, the words “God so loved the world” come to mind. When we become his children, these words become a clarion call for us. As his children, we should also love the world. Consciously putting aside hatred, prejudice, and revenge is part of the new life he has given us.

I never want to present topics of this nature without inserting Jesus’ reminder to us, “Without me you can do nothing.” Only in fellowship with Jesus can we ever hope to love the world, and love enough to overcome evil.

OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD

“The only way evil ever wins victories is by making a man retort by evil, reflect it, pay it back, and thus afford it a new lease on life. Over one who persistently absorbs it and refuses to give it out, it is powerless.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Traveling Light, p.188)

I am truly challenged by the words of this quote from the book Traveling Light. Everything in my cultural training and my human nature tells me to get back at someone who does me wrong. Yet, I see in my retaliation, the propagating of evil. How can I change my natural tendencies?

I find in Jesus’ death and resurrection a definitive example of overcoming evil with good. By not returning evil for evil, he brought forth the ultimate victory over evil. I, as his follower, am challenged to carry on his example of good over evil in my daily life. When I think of the suffering and humiliation that Jesus went through, I realize that this is not going to be easy. Perhaps, I can simply trust God and do as the Apostle Paul exhorts in Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”

Paul expands on this exhortation in the next few verses then concludes in verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Evil perpetuates evil. When I repay with evil, I will be overcome by evil. The only way to break the chain of evil is to avoid responding with evil. Now there’s an encouragement. Who wants to be overcome by evil?

Jesus gave an example of how I can overcome evil in Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.” So if I hit them back the situation escalates, and I perpetuate evil.

I know that these words challenge our basic nature. Yet, if we are to have victory over evil as Jesus did, we must avoid returning evil for evil, and overcome evil with good.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 8

Romans 12: 17-19 (MSG) Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

In a church I used to attend, a strong willed lady came to our congregation. She immediately had the ear of the pastor, and she seemed to be taking over the church. I was concerned and found her ways offensive. At an evening prayer service, which it seemed that she had taken over, I was speaking to the Lord about her, and the Lord gave me a vision. He showed her to me as a little girl, and he said, “This is how I see her.”

With that vision, the Lord completely change my perspective on this lady. Every time I saw her, I saw that little girl. My concerns were allayed, and I was even able to receive some very helpful prayer from her.

I tell this story because only with Jesus was I able to see the beauty in this person. Personal relationships are best when they include Jesus. Isn’t it true that living the Christian Life can only be accomplished with Jesus? In John chapter 15, he tells us exactly that. Without him we can accomplish no good thing.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 5

Romans 12:9-10 (MSG) Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

In the NIV the first sentence of verse 9 reads, “Love must be sincere.” Sincere love is rooted in the love we receive from God. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Therefore, we don’t have to fake it. For Christians, love comes as a result of our connection to God. His Holy Spirit lives within us and builds in us this sincere love.

Evil counters love with selfishness. We should run from that. Love produces good, and we should hold on to that. Be a good friend by loving so deeply that you are more concerned for your friend’s success than yours.

Love should be the center of being a Christian. Jesus said it like this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13: 34-35)

GOD’S GIFT FOR YOU

John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not parish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Christmas is a celebration of God’s love for his creation. His love is so deep that he gave his Son as a gift to us. With his advent, the Son brought to us eternal life.

John 3:18, Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

If you don’t believe then you’re condemned. However, the gift still remains before you. Reach out and take hold of Jesus, and you will have eternal life.

There’s a great fog of lies to hide this great and eternal gift from you. Just reach out in faith, and the fog will begin to clear. Jesus will be there to draw you to him.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent. The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject. If he did he would forfeit his right to rule. When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short. Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself. He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom. As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory.

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom. Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away. In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness. The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader. Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us. We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom. Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king.

I’d like to leave you with this thought. It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live. Two choices exist. You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think the choice is that simple.

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life. One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives. God’s will can be explained by these two commands. Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose.

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill. Bonnie calls this our passion. For her and me the passion has been for children in need. Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children. The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and is now satisfied as we walked with the Lord. What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him. We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill. “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

STAY WITH GOD

1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

Pastor Eric used this scripture several weeks ago in his sermon. I have thought about Samuel’s words ever since. Our natural tendency is to hide from the Lord when we’ve done wrong. After the very first sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. But Samuel is telling the Israelites to stay with the Lord. Face the Lord with what you have done. It is a brave and humbling thing to face God, but without God there is no life.

I was riding along in my driver’s training car when this thought came to me; Jesus told us what happens when we come to God with the guilt of our sins. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells us what to expect from our heavenly father when we turn to him. The prodigal son came to his senses and realized that in his father’s house there was life. He hoped for a lowly position. What he received was welcoming arms and celebration.

God loves us; we are his children. In God, we find forgiveness and grace. Stay with God, for there is no other place where we find life.