Relationships of Love

Last week people around the US celebrated Valentine’s Day. It was an opportunity for couples to celebrate the love they have together, for individuals to love themselves, and for those who aren’t in a relationship but want to be to recommit to doing the work that will bring them to that other person. One of the things I’ve been reminded this month as we talk about love is that love is so much more than just one thing or one definition, and when it comes to God His love is more than we could begin to imagine or understand or describe.

In my devotions last week I read 1 John 4:12 which says: “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.”

This verse says a lot of different things about love and God. First, we should love each other. Second, God lives in us. Third, God lives in us when we love each other. Fourth, when we love others we share God’s love for us with others. Fifth, we can only begin to experience God’s full love when we let Him in our lives and love others. It almost sounds like there’s a condition to God’s love, and in some ways I think there is. But what I think this verse is really saying is that God is all about the relationship. He doesn’t want to be that dude on the throne overseeing everything, the benevolant dictator. He wants to be in relationship with us, and He wants us to have healthy, loving relationships with others too.

I think it says something really powerful that God isn’t just about the relationship He has with us, but that He cares about the relationships we have with others too. Yes, the Good News is spread through people, but I am confident that God would get the message out in other ways if He had to, so it’s about more than just the Great Commission. God has more love in Him than we could ever imagine, love that works in countless ways and reveals God in exactly the way that we need to be spoken to in that moment. God doesn’t keep His love to Himself, He wants to share His love with us and for us to share our love with others. How will you share love today?

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Love starts with God

This month one of the big topics that everyone is talking about is love. We are called to love everyone and treat each other as we would want to be treated, but I know that it can be hard to think about love with as difficult as some people can be, and it can be difficult to talk about love if it’s something you don’t have in your life, even for people of faith. Sometimes it sounds like love is supposed to be this perfect cure-all and we should just love everyone, and while both of those are true, it’s a whole lot easier to say than experience some times. As I was thinking about love and the challenge it can be sometimes I read 1 John 4:7:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

If you’re not sure where you’re going to find the motivation to love someone or if you feel you need to learn how to love, 1 John reminds us to turn to God. God knows how to love the most difficult of us, He’s been loving us for centuries and He loves us in the ways that speak most to us. The Bible is filled with examples of people showing love and of God showing love to people. There are stories of people who are saved from a sorry ending because God showed grace, or because someone loved them and cared enough to go to bat for them.

God’s love is filled with patience, grace, forgiveness, hope, kindness, caring, and gentleness. His love will be as passionate as you are or as persistent as you are or as peaceful as you are. Love doesn’t have to fit into a specific box or description, just like you don’t and your relationship with God doesn’t. Who will you love in your own special way today?

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?

The Spring of Eternal Life

This month we’ve been talking about spring and what spring means, and one of the most obvious things it means is new life. There’s a kind of life that we would be remiss if we did not talk about when talking about new life this month: that of eternal life. What happens after death is something that has been pondered since the beginning of time. Each civilization, group of people, culture, part of the world and span of time has their own ideas on what comes next, some that are similar and others that are vastly different. What most people groups can agree on is that there definitely is something “next,” whether it’s reincarnation, the afterlife, purgatory, hell or eternal life, this life isn’t the end.

What is awesome about the Christian belief of Eternal Life is that not only is there something after this life, it’s something better, and that something better is possible because of love. How cool is that?! I mean there’s so much talk about how commercialized love is and how it’s thrown around too much and not truly valued, but if you want proof of value here it is!

As we dive into this Holy Week of 2016 not only is it an opportunity to reaffirm our faith in Jesus and our belief that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life, it’s also an opportunity to share some love with those in our communities and our churches. Easter is one of the biggest attendance days for the Church so not only are the C&E (Christmas and Easter) people present, you’ve got people who have a feeling that they want something more out of their life and figure that because the church will be so crowded they can just slip in unnoticed. As you go to various church activities in the next week I encourage you greet those you don’t recognize. But don’t do it in a way that will embarrass them or make them feel guilty for being there, but to let them know they’re welcome and you’re genuinely glad to see them. If they seem like they want to chat offer to treat them to coffee (no, not the coffee that will be served after the service) and get to know them better. It could be your opportunity to share about the gift of Eternal Life with them.

“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

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

Compassionate Generosity

This month we’ve been talking about compassion. Today I thought we’d talk about compassion and how it relates to generosity. As a reminder, compassion is feeling upset about someone else’s (bad) situation and feeling the need to do something about it. I love this word because it shows that you’re not just upset and ranting about something unfair or unjust, no, you’re actually going to do something about it.

In some ways this is exactly what generosity is: giving freely to others. Generosity can be associated with grace (unexpected favor) as well as giving to right wrongs as we’re discussing it today. When compassion and generosity meet amazing things can happen. There’s no wonder that both words are ones used in reference to God frequently.

Jesus certainly tried to teach us a lot about generosity and compassion through the many miracles He did during His time on earth. He was always willing to meet someone and hear their story, and do something to help them if they were willing to accept His assistance. Not everyone was, but of course not everyone we meet is ready for for our generosity or compassion either.

But the thing that made Jesus different was that He didn’t just want to give people things to make them happy, he wanted to right wrongs so that they would be able to have a different future. When you’re faced with a situation that calls for compassion you don’t want to be generous and help them so they can go right back to being miserable, no, you want them to have the opportunity to do or be something better. Does Jesus still encourage you to be generous even if they refuse to accept the gift or change their ways? Yes, but He also knew that you couldn’t force someone to take something they didn’t want or weren’t ready for.

“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 3:17

Words of Life

“We want to tell you about the Word that gives life—the one who existed before the world began.” 1 John 1:1

You may have heard the song “Words” by Hawk Nelson.  It reminds us that our words have power.  Think back to when you were a child.  I’m sure you can remember some of the hurtful things that were said to or about you, even if you weren’t supposed to hear them.  We all make mistakes and say things that we shouldn’t, things that do hurt people.  We also think things about ourselves that hurt us.  When we go over and over a failure in our heads considering all angles and options, the words we think can hurt us too, maybe even more than the original situation.

Which is why what John 1:1 reveals is so important: words can give life too.  They don’t just have to break down, criticize or be; they are powerful tools that we can use for good.  When you’re able to catch that nasty comment, when you’re able to hold back your anger, you’re stopping the hurt.  But when you’re able to compliment someone, when you’re able to share an encouraging word, when you’re able to express gratitude, you’re putting the power back in words as God meant them to be.

You may never be as outspoken as Billy Graham or Mother Teresa and tell millions about the Words that give true, eternal, life.  But you can choose to use words in your daily life, in all your interactions, that are of love, hope, and peace, rather than hate, hurt and misery.

Words have been around since the dawn of time, and everyone has been challenged to use them wisely or waste them.  What will you do with your words this week?