Live Love, Part 1

god-is-love

Before the New Year, God to told me to study on walking in love.  I did a word search on eSword and came up with an extensive list (it’s an important subject!).  I divided up the verse by categories and came up with “Live Love” but with a smaller list of verses so my readers wouldn’t get overwhelmed!  I hope your 2018 is filled with the love of God as you choose to walk in it!

When we think of the word “love,” we usually get a warm feeling inside.  We think of love in a positive way, as love is portrayed – in most cases – as something good.  Marriage is based on love.  Parenting is based on love.  Missions and outreach is based on love – or at least it should be.

Unfortunately love in our culture has become a broad description of many things.  We “love” Italian food.  We “love” our new sports car.  We “love” our jobs.  According to the Word of God, however, this form of love is not true love.  This is a pleasant feeling or “like” toward something.  This “like” ends when the newness or emotion of it fades over time. 

True love is not based on emotions.  It is based on a choice to put others before ourselves, regardless of how we feel.  It’s deeper, more valuable, and more lasting than what any definition of love could be.

What Is Love?

While the world may define love as warm, fuzzy feelings toward another human being, or perhaps even their pet, the Word’s definition is not “what” but “Who.”  God is love.

(1John 4:8 KJV)  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

(1John 4:16 KJV)  And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Where Is Love?

God not only is love but He has placed that love in our hearts the moment we were saved.  We don’t need to strive to walk in love; it is right there in us if we’ll just let it guide us!

(Romans 5:5 KJV)  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

(Galatians 5:22 KJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith . . .

God Loves Us

The glorious thing about Love is that Love loves us!  It’s not just that Love exists; but Love has extended His nature toward us – even when we didn’t deserve it!

(John 15:9 KJV)  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

(John 17:26 KJV)  And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

(Romans 5:8 KJV)  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

To be continued…

Too Busy for Jesus, Part 2

busy (1)Jesus First

Jesus clearly states what our priorities as Christians should look like in Matthew 6:31-33:

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

God knows we need to get things done, need to make money, and need to take care of our commitments.  However, seeking His kingdom, not ours, is what He requires to be “first.”  This is what sets us apart from the world.  While the world maximizes their time on the “cares of life,” we are to focus on the eternal priority of God’s kingdom.  His kingdom is not made up of things or possessions, but on an eternal relationship with Jesus.

Where our love lies is found in what we seek the most.  When we “seek first” our productivity and financial increase above God’s kingdom, it is proof that we love these things greater than we love Jesus.  Our “treasure” is forever connected to our heart . .  . and where heart is, there will be our love.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)

Seeking Jesus first – making Him the highest priority – is an indication of our love for Him.  In fact, we are commanded to love Him with all we are, not just some of it.  However, when our time and physical efforts are solely focused on our agenda and our needs, the proof of our love is weak.  We may say that we love Jesus, but consistently, our actions speak louder than words.

Prioritize Like Jesus

If there was anyone who could make the excuse by saying “I’m too busy,” it was Jesus.  People were constantly drawing on His time and attention.  The religious leaders often sought for His death.  Even His disciples were needy.  But despite all His needs, He was the perfect example of godly prioritization.  He wouldn’t ask us to do something He wasn’t willing to do or hadn’t done Himself.  We will never find an example of Him worrying about tomorrow, or seeking His agenda first.  He was consistently getting away from the crowds to spend time with the Father, and He obeyed God in every area (John 5:19, John 6:38).

As His disciples, we are to do the same:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps . . . (Peter 2:21)

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5: 1-2)

So practically, how would we live a life where Jesus is first?  How would we prioritize so we’re never too busy for Him? Here are a few areas we can daily subject to Jesus for His review:

Commit to Jesus – Every day we should be saying, “Not My will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  God is looking for a life of surrender.  He is, after all, our Lord.  His commitment to our salvation meant we have eternal life.  This should be enough for us to completely give all of ourselves – including our work and schedules – to Him.

Consult Jesus – Jesus should always have a say in every decision we make.  We are to “acknowledge Him” so He can make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).  This includes the use of our time and money, as well as the relationships we make and the towns we live in.  Nothing is left untouched by His directive.

Live for Jesus – We can commit and consult all day, but unless we act on what He tells us, our words are meaningless.  Our lives should reflect His Word and nature living on the inside of us.  Our daily walk should be marked with holiness, obedience, and selfless living for Him and no one else.

Trust Jesus – We are not only called to love Him with all our heart, but also to trust Him with all our heart.  When we trust Him, we are confident that when He tells us to give up a habit, adjust our schedule, or serve the Body of Christ, He will do what He promised. We know He is doing it for our good as well as His, and will make sure all our need are met.  We can rest assured that it will be “more than we could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)!

Faithful Servant

Busyness, and other misplaced priorities, can be a great weight in our lives.  In fact, it can even be a sin if it excludes Jesus as Lord, or goes against something God has specifically told us to do.  The point of losing the “weight” of busyness is so we can run free and easy in our relationship with God and His call on our lives.  It enables us to hear His voice when He gives us guidance and encouragement.  It keeps us ready to get up and go the moment He tells us to.  It keeps our focus on what it most important – Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

God is looking for those who will be faithful, or trustworthy.  Our lives are not just about us trusting Him, but also Him trusting us.  Will we honor His commitment to us by making Him number one in our lives?  Will we put aside our own plans to join His?  Will we give our time, money, possessions, and skills to His use? If we do, it is proof that He has our hearts. He then knows that possessions, busy schedules, and the lure of money does not possess us.  He now possesses our hearts.

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:23

The result of that faithfulness is being trusted with more – but more of what He says is important!  It won’t be a burden, for His “yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 1:30).  Spending time with Him and putting Him first is far easier and less stressful than slaving away in the kitchen!

(If you want to catch up and read part 2, go the the September archives at the bottom of this page!)

 

The Spirit of Thankfulness

thank yo9u

I posted this at least a year ago after a blessed pregnancy and delivery.  We should never forget how good God is!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

In a world comprised of people whose goal is to get what they can the fastest and easiest way possible, thankfulness has become a lost art. We see people demanding benefits even though they already have much at their disposal.  We hear news of people discontent with their possessions, health, and relationships, yet who ignore the many people in the world that have so little.  The demand for more and the ungratefulness for less have turned the world sour.

Unthankfulness is listed among the sins that mark the End Times before Jesus returns. We wouldn’t normally think of it as a sin, but God finds unthankfulness as repulsive as disobedience and greed.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

We as Christians could very quickly deny that we had anything to do with these sins.  We are God’s children, after all, and love Jesus.  We steadily go to church and sacrifice our time to serve the Body of Christ.  Unfortunately, good deeds don’t cancel out a heart that is ungrateful for the blessings of God.  These blessings could be as small as a good deal at the grocery store, or as great as a miracle in our health.

Let’s look at Luke 17:11-19:

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.  So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

This story is an example of Jesus’ willingness and ability to heal the sick.  It is also an example of thankfulness.  Out of the ten lepers, one man alone came back to express gratitude.  En route to share his testimony, this man suddenly realized that another Person deserved honor.  That Jesus’ miracle-working power went to work for him was more than enough to inspire a grateful heart.

From this story, we can learn some important lessons:

Remember Thanksgiving

Sadly, the other nine lepers were too engrossed in their excitement to pay Jesus a second visit.  They forgot to recognize the One who made their healing possible.  Like the Samaritan, we should never get so distracted by our blessing that we fail to acknowledge the Source.  For us, distractions may come in the form problems, a craving for more blessings, or the inability to recognize who our Source really is.   If we get distracted for a moment, we should stop and return to our Master to show our appreciation.

Remember Who We Are

The grave commentary of the other nine lepers is that they left the praise and thanksgiving to a foreigner.  The thankful leper was a Samaritan who didn’t have any right to the covenant blessings the Jews enjoyed.  Instead of rushing away, the Israeli countrymen should have set the example by acting out of their honored role as Jews.   Just as they did, we may be tempted to leave our role as thankful Christians to someone else.  We may find ourselves slipping out of our honorable positions as kings and priests by forgetting our heritage.  As Jesus-followers, however, we should be alert to never let our trademark of gratefulness disappear.  If anyone should be thankful, it should be us!

Forget the Crowd

The Samaritan could have followed his leper friends’ examples and rushed off to see the priest with no thought to the Man left behind.  He could have been more concerned about his reputation and following protocol than for what thankfulness would demand.  Instead, he abandoned the thought of “fitting in” and hurried back to the Master.  As the world wears on us, we too may be tempted to “conform” to the world.  We may be feel pressured to gripe and complain like the rest of an ungrateful world in the Last Days.  But if we are truly His disciples, our hearts will be more toward loving Him with thanksgiving than in feeling comfortable with our peers.

Make Thanksgiving Loud

Notice the Samaritan’s thanksgiving was not done casually!  With a “loud voice” he came hurrying back to Jesus.  He didn’t just stand before Jesus and shake his hand, but “fell down” at His feet as a sign of worship.  He didn’t care who saw his show of thanksgiving.  He understood that true thankfulness doesn’t care who is listening.  It expresses itself loudly!  We would do well to follow his example when expressing praise to the One who deserves it!

The most important result of thanksgiving is that it brings glory to God.  While complaining keeps our focus on ourselves and what seems wrong, thanksgiving turns our attention toward God and His goodness.  People around us will hear our testimony and will see God for who He really is.   It begins a cycle of recognizing the nature of God and His power.  The more people hear our thanksgiving and praise, the more people will put their trust in the Lord and have reason to be thankful as well (Psalm 40:3)!

Will we always feel like giving thanks for God’s goodness in our lives?  No.  That’s why God gives us this command:

. . . in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Notice that it says “in everything give thanks.”  God hasn’t asked us to give thanks for everything, but to have a thankful attitude regardless of what’s going on around us or to us.  Naturally, at times we will feel like keeping our focus on what seems wrong.  But when we make the choice to put our feelings aside and focus on what God has done for us, our feelings will change.  Our hearts will begin to overflow with gratefulness as we remember.  As we vocalize our thanksgiving, suddenly what seems wrong will pale in comparison to the blessings that we had forgotten!