Open to Love

Today I want to reflect on two verses/passages that you may have heard shared on the radio or read in a recent email or heard in a sermon about love:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5
Love isn’t something everyone is comfortable with, and many people have been hurt by what was supposed to be love. If love is challenging for you, this is a great place to start with learning what love is, healing your relationship with love, and experiencing what it’s like to be loved. God has chosen to love us, and never gives up on us even when we make silly mistakes or big failures. God teaches us through moments of peace, patience, rescue, comfort, strength, and presence what love really is, how to have a healthy relationship and about building trust with each experience and connection.

“”If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” ” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This is one of the iconic love Bible passages, and I think it shares an important reminder for us as we look to the day focused all about love and face the daily stresses that often are present with love. This passage definitely talks about how important love is, but it talks about love as a partner with every other aspect of life and faith. Love works best when we weave it into all other aspects of our lives, when we allow it to add some flavor and support to our lives, and when we invite it to not take over, but be part of our lives.

This Valentine’s Day I would encourage you to be open to seeing or experiencing love from a perspective you haven’t in the past. Be open to learning about your partner and opening a new chapter of your relationship, be open to finding new ways to incorporate love into your life, and be open to hearing what others and God love about you.

The Simplicity of Love

This month one of the things we’ve talked about is simplicity, and when we think about that topic it’s often with regards to how we can simplify our lives. While there are some more things going on now than there were years ago, simply because we can get things done faster, I think the bigger change is in that we’re aware of all that’s going on around the world. So it’s not technically that there’s that much more going on, it’s that we’re aware of what’s going on in cities and homes around the globe, and not just in our little town where we live.

To an extent we see this with all of the traveling that was done in the Bible, because if the people who are the main characters in the Bible didn’t travel we wouldn’t know about all of the other people who existed with them. Jesus too touched so many people because He traveled to where they were. Yes, some came to see Him because they heard great things, but a big part of His ministry was going to the people where they were physically and meeting them where they were in their lives.

Aside from Jesus being the Son of God, people came to see Him for one big reason: love. While Jesus didn’t recommend or celebrate sin, He didn’t turn away the people who were sinners, especially those that the world looked down upon for one reason or another. Jesus chose to love them for not only who they were but who they were made to be. Jesus could give them the forgiveness they needed to move on with their lives as well as the love to help them break free from their past.

We aren’t able to do all that Jesus can, and I don’t think we have to. We just have to choose to live with love. When we choose to love others regardless of who they are or what they’ve done it gives us a greater chance to build a healthy relationship with them, and for them to see that not everyone is a judgmental jerk. It’s a simple and complicated as choosing love as your first emotion, feeling and thought whenever you are with others.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Ask, Seek, Knock: Success Steps

In thinking about one of our topics for the month, success, today I want to talk about a passage you’re probably familiar with, Matthew 7:7-8: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” This passage about asking, seeking and knocking establishes a great guideline for us to consider throughout our days and what goes on in our lives.

“‘No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15

First, asking is important because it means we’re willing to admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn. However we’re not always great at asking questions. Too often we ask the wrong questions, questions that don’t give us the answers we need because they’re not the right questions. We can get too busy asking things like “why me” and “how could you” instead of asking questions that will help us get the necessary answers and find solutions and help for our questions. Second, James 1 makes a point of letting us know it’s good to ask questions. God doesn’t criticize us for asking questions, only for thinking we know more than He does.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35
“Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.” Psalm 119:24
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Asking questions is important because they give us directions to learn and move in. If we don’t ask questions we’ll never be able to figure out what we don’t know and what God wants us to do with our lives. Once we’ve asked the questions we hopefully receive some wisdom and knowledge to use. We start our search with the knowledge that God will not be separated from us by the challenges we face and will give us the strength and peace to learn what we must.

“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live” Proverbs 4:4
“It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’? They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:16-17

In the very action of knocking we’re going from learning to doing. You can’t knock without taking action. There’s not much good to asking the right questions and getting advice unless you do something with it. Throughout the Bible God encourages us to be wise and live lives that reflect the wisdom we’re given or find. Don’t waste your life, your lessons and your abilities, choose to make something of it all if not for you but because your lessons and your willingness to knock may be the difference between life and death for someone.

What questions will you ask, learning will you do and actions will you take this week?

Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

Dimensions of Love

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day the topic that most people are talking about is love.  It’s true that many people take this whole month to really focus on love and romance and I think that can be a very good thing.  It’s not a good thing when this month or these 14 days are the only time that you focus on your relationships, but sometimes it’s good to really dedicate extra time and effort to something that should be very important to you.

In thinking about the topic of love and romance it got me thinking about one of the biggest topics around love for people of faith, God’s love.  There’s a lot we can learn from His love and how He loves, so as I was working on my devotion this week I ran across a few verses that I wanted to share with you here today because they share a really important reminder about love. Take a look:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19a

The interesting thing about all of these verses is that they talk about love in multiple dimensions, using multiple senses and in experiencing it beyond the obvious.  The challenge many of us face in experiencing or living love is that it’s not instant.  It’s not something we can throw a bunch of money at and get what we want.  Love takes work.  It’s something that is best experienced when you fully immerse yourself in it.  It’s like many wines that it often gets better with time, but unlike wine you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to get better.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as a child loving their pet, or loving how your partner holds your hand.  But in other ways it is complicated because many of the best loves do have multiple layers and depth to them.

So this week as you think about your Valentine plans or you think about the person that God has planned for you in the future, I encourage you to try to see love outside of the box that you may have stuck it in.  What have you missed about love?

Made For Love

As we head into the next month already all around us there are signs and reminders of the holiday coming up: Valentine’s Day.  Whether it’s a holiday in your world, or if you’d rather we not talk about all that romantic love, the topic of love is one we really should talk about, even if we’re not going to talk about the romantic type of love.

I believe that everyone should learn to love themselves.  If you don’t love yourself you really should work on coming to terms and making peace with who you are or taking the steps to make changes in your life to get to a point that you can love yourself.  It’s not an easy process for many people, but I believe, and everyone I’ve talked with who has worked on it says it is worth it.  Some things you will have to learn to accept, but many things you can change.  We’ll talk more about that in the coming months, and if you want to work on it personally with me, I do offer coaching.

But back to love.  The good news is that as a person of faith you should have some automatic love from the people in your faith community (something else we’ll talk about in the future), but even if you don’t have that support, you definitely have God’s love. Throughout the Bible it talks about how central God’s love is to what He does, how He interacts with people and animals and the earth and even the choices that He makes.   God’s love includes forgiveness, grace, overcoming imperfections and growing, which means you don’t have to be perfect all the time, nor does He expect you to be perfect.   God knows that life isn’t easy and sometimes we make mistakes, other times we’re tired and sometimes we just can’t summon the effort to do the thorough job that we should.  And there are even the occasional times that we poke the bear and decide to do the wrong thing, even though we know it’s wrong.

Under the belief that God knows everything, we believe that God knew exactly how things would play out in the Garden and knew exactly what it would look like in our world today way back when He created the world, and even still God chose to create each and every one of us.  God made each of us with a purpose and He made each of us with love.  The great thing about God’s love is that even if you’ve wandered from the love that you were born from God’s love is there ready for you to return to at any time.

“We’re not only made for a purpose.  We’re made for a person who loves us.” Holley Gerth
“We Exist for God.” 1 Corinthians 8:6a

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is just a day away and I’m looking forward to it!  I love what it means, the gathering of family and friends and of course the opportunity to eat!  Today I wanted to share some verses of thanksgiving, verses that speak to what we have to be thankful for, and even verses to challenge us and keep us humble.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”  Psalm 1:1-2

“”These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.””  John 16:33

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all we have, for the very gift of life, and for the gift of God in our lives.  Things could have gone so much differently for us, we could not have a God who’s so involved in and invested in our lives.  We could have fewer blessings and promises that we can depend on.  We could not be able to see the workings of God in big and little ways in our lives and the world.  We could be less individual and more similar.  We could all face significant challenges and threats on our lives.  And most of all we could be without hope in the future and in a permanent home in Heaven some day with God.  And those are just a few of the things we can think about this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table.

The Pilgrims created Thanksgiving because they were thankful for the most simple of things: being alive.  They were thankful to have found friends in the Native Americans and in their own ability to survive and work on thriving in a new world.  They weren’t celebrating billion dollar successes, curing serious diseases or finally helping world peace happen.  No, the were just thankful to be alive.  This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take time to be thankful for the big and little things in your life.  Everyone has something to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as being alive.

A Healthy Attitude Towards God

This month we’ll be talking about the topic of health.  Of course we’ll talk about having a healthy spiritual relationship with God and what role that relationship should play in our lives, so today I want to start with what some consider to be the beginning of a healthy spiritual relationship with God: belief in God, and what that belief means to you.  I think that the concept of belief is like the concept of decisions: you can be in control of the decision you make or you can choose to give that control up by choosing not to make a decision.  You can choose to believe a certain thing, or you can choose to believe nothing.  We’re all given the choice of what and whether we want to believe.  Some see indisputable proof through events in their life or people who they have crossed paths with, while others see just coincidences or luck.  Some refuse to open their eyes to the possibility that there is more in the world and others believe in miracles.

One of the things I think is central to having a healthy belief system and relationship with God is the attitude you have. Yes bad things happen in the world but I also believe good things happen in the world.  I believe how you see your “glass” (half full, half empty etc.), how you choose to live your life and the attitude you have towards that life greatly influence the outcome of your earthly life, and the same is true for your spiritual life.  If you want to honor God, want to fulfill the plans He has for you, want to be used and want to make a difference, your relationship with God will be much different than if you show up when you have to and participate in groups/events because it’s expected of you.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”  The first question has to do with health: how do you see your body?  Do you have a positive attitude about your body? Do you respect it? Do you at least try to care for it?  And the second question directly ties in: what’s your attitude towards God and the Houses of Worship here on earth?  Are you respectful of the physical locations and their components or do you just expect them to be there cared for by someone else?  Are you truly expecting to meet with God when you attend them?

What attitude do you have towards God and the role He plays in your life or could play in your life?

A Purpose of Hope

As we start out this month looking at the topic of purpose, one of our greatest purposes and callings in life as people of faith is to share hope with the world.  So today I’ve got some verses of hope to share with you.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”  Psalm 16:7-8

No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:39

“For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

“Jesus [said] “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die….”  John 11:25-26

“My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 62:7

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”  1 John 4:9

What words of hope would you share today?

Reminders of Love

Sometimes what we need is to be reminded that we are loved.  Life can be one frustration and disappointment after another and that gets old pretty quick.  So today I have a few verses of love and encouragement to remind you that you’re not alone.  What’s your favorite verse that reminds you of this?

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”  1 John 3:11

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”  Proverbs 17:17

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”  Psalm 46:1-3

“If you look to him for help, he will put a smile on your face. You will have no need to be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9