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March 19, 2019
The old saying goes, “If you want something done right, then do it yourself.” This certainly holds true in the Christian walk. God has called us to make choices to follow the path that He has laid out for us. He then places the burden on us to be completely obedient and follow His lead. This especially true when it comes to following our Savior when in the way He loves. Galatians 5:22 tells us that love is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the evidence that we are obedient to the Lord, and that He is indeed working in our lives.
Mark 12:30-31 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Luke 6:27 even tells us to love our enemies! However, there does seem to be someone that gets left out in our quest to love the world, ourselves. The failure that we are most acquainted with is usually our own. Consequently, we often have a harder time loving ourselves than loving others. Proverbs 19:8 says He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. We must understand that in order to find completeness, we must learn to love ourselves. God is well in touch with our sins and failures, yet he loves us anyway. His love is so great for us that it placed the Cross in place of those failures so that we can find forgiveness. Thank about how valuable you are to God! So valuable, that He would let His only Son die in place for you. Mark 8:36 insist that the value of a single soul is worth more than the entire world can offer.
If God does not withhold forgiveness from you, don’t withhold it from yourself. If God does not withhold His love from you, don’t withhold it from yourself. Find your true identity by allowing this love to set you free.
March 14, 2019
I was talking with my wife the other day about whether or not we as humans can have agape love like God does or will there always be strings attached. Agape love is a type of love that has no preconceived motives or want something in return. Agape love is perfect love. My wife and I questioned whether or not imperfect humans can show perfect love. In Luke 15:11-32 there is the story of the prodigal son. Aside from the sacrificial death of Jesus, I find this story to be one of the best examples of agape love laid out for us in the bible.
In the story, a son asks his living father for the inheritance he stands to receive when his father dies. When the prodigal son asks his father for his inheritance before he leaves, his father willingly gives it over to him without any restrictions on what he was to do with it. The father was within his rights to make stipulations for the inheritance, but instead, he allowed the son to have unmeasured freedom with his choices. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. The bible says the son “came to his senses” and got up and went to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
As a father myself, I have many things I would love my boys to do and achieve, but I can't live those out through them. When my boys grow up and move out they are free to make their own choices. Though I may agree or disagree with their choices, I plan to love them unconditionally. They have the free will to do as they wish and I will love them with agape love or as close as I can through all the things that they do. The same goes for our relationship with God. Many relationships come with strings attached but not a relationship with Him. He doesn’t force us to love him but we get to love him and he rejoices in it. God could make stipulations for our inheritance but instead, he welcomes us with open arms and runs after us just like the father did with his son. Sometimes we limit the love of God with our own conditions. We think we have done too much or gone too far. Agape love is unselfish, unconditional, inexhaustible. This means that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The only limit on agape love is the limit we put on God. When we “come to our senses” and go to our Father, He fills us with His agape love. While it may be impossible for us as imperfect humans to show perfect love, we can be filled with the perfect love of God. It may feel impossible for us to forgive our “prodigals” or even ourselves, but unforgiveness is a limit on God’s love. God’s love is unlimited and He uses us to show it to the world.
What limits are you putting on perfect love? How far is too far to be forgiven? Can imperfect people show perfect love? We definitely can’t by ourselves, but we can let God’s love show through us.
March 07, 2019
Many years ago I found myself in a situation that I never dreamed I would be in. I found myself in the middle of a divorce. My husband told me he didn’t love me anymore; that he had fallen out of love. I didn’t understand how you could fall out of love, and I began to pray about it. I asked the Lord to help me understand what love is. He led me to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The words, “love does not seek it's own” stood out as if it had been highlighted. I heard the Lord say in my spirit that love is not selfish. My heart was immediately convicted. I realized that I was always seeking what I thought was best for me. I never considered what might be best for my husband or even what he may want. I had loved him with eros or romantic kind of love. This is not the kind of love that 1 Corinthians 13 is talking about. The love that lasts is agape love which is selfless love. It always considers the other person first. Agape love is a deliberate choice of the will, not an emotional reaction.
Fortunately, the Lord is merciful, and He began to lead me down a path to teach me about love. He prompted me to make a list of all the things I would like to have in a mate. Once I completed the list, He gently let me know that I needed to work on these same characteristics. Thus began a journey of me learning how to love others well. The very first thing I had to do was forgive my former mate. Once that was complete I had to face the hardest task. I had to acknowledge my wrongs and how I contributed to the demise of my marriage and forgive myself. After I faced this hurdle, I began to become more patient, gracious, sympathetic and even charitable with others.
Although traveling this path caused me immense pain, the Word promises me that my pain will matter (Isaiah 61:3). I had to learn the hard lessons about love and realize there was no exit strategy when you love another. I had to dig through my pain layer by layer and reveal my character flaws and allow the Lord to change me. Your pain will only matter if you keep going. I had to keep going through the valley because love never gives up.
Eventually, I met David, and he was everything on my list and more. Now I understand what true agape love is. He proves it frequently when he continues to love me in spite of my shortcomings. He is patient with me, and he is always gracious. He always considers me and my needs. I try hard always to consider him first too. Thankfully he is always quick to forgive when I don’t. Agape love is impossible to do without the help of God. God must be the foundation of selfless love.
Today when I think about love I always find myself singing a tune to an old song that I sang in a church play as a child. The lyrics go like this, “Love is never stuffed up, never puffed up, never gives up when the going’s rough. It’s the biggest little word you can say, by the way. It’s sympathy, sincerity; it’s charity, the main variety of everything happiness is made of.” It may be simple, but it reflects the agape love that the Father has for each of us. I want to be known for loving others as He loves me.
Think about your relationship with your spouse or someone of great importance in your life. Do you encourage them? Are you always there for them? Do you consider them when making an important decision that involves both of you? When they hurt you, do you forgive them? Take some time today and meditate on the questions above. Ask the Lord to show you any areas you need to work on to love others better.
February 28, 2019
We would all probably agree that we want the absolute best for the ones we love the most. However, that can be much easier said than done. The journey of going past what is good and towards what is best takes an intense and focused effort. At times it may be downright painful.
Jesus says in John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. This means that it is the job of God the Father to care for us in such a manner to ensure that we live fruitful lives that ultimately bring glory to Him. Just like any parenting job, this entails lots of challenging work. To accomplish this, he prunes away specific areas of our lives. The cutting away of, sin, bad habits, excuses, and any other dead areas of our lives can be painful but is quite necessary to make more room for growth.
In order to process this properly, we must understand how much the Lord loves us. Proverbs 3:12 says, “For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” As a Father, God is truly invested in the absolute best outcome for our lives. His expansive love for us will call for correction at times. It’s not pleasant in the moment, but the Bible promises that it produces lasting fruit in our lives when we yield to His perfect plan (Hebrews 12:11). The pain may be a result of sin, bad choices, or simply the fallen world we live in, but the lasting fruit is unmistakably the work of God’s Grace.
February 21, 2019
As believers, our goal is to live a life full of the Fruit that comes from knowing and serving God. We want lots of fruit that lasts! John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
To be fruitful, we have to be connected to the vine. In kids’ church on Sunday, we sang a very well known song, “This Little Light of Mine.” As we sang it, we tried to shine a lamp over the room. Almost immediately after we started singing, we noticed that the lamp wasn’t shining! All of the kids raised their hands because they were SO excited to be the one to tell me that the lamp was not plugged into the socket on the wall! They insisted that the lamp wasn’t shining because it wasn’t connected to the source of electricity. After I plugged the lamp into the source, we started singing again! The lamp was bright, and we let it shine! Without being plugged in, it was impossible for the light to shine.
In John chapter 15, Jesus told His disciples a story along the same lines. He didn’t use a lamp and an electrical outlet, but He did use a metaphor that His disciples knew very well. Jesus wants His disciples, and He wants us to know how important it is that we stay connected to Him. Jesus used a vine to teach His disciples the seriousness of staying connected to Him as their source. A vine is a plant with branches growing out from it. The branches have fruit on them. If it is a grapevine, the branches should have grapes on them. If you have ever seen a branch broken off a vine, you know that it withers up and dies. The disconnected vine doesn’t make fruit, and it can only be used as firewood!
Jesus said, "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will have much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing." Jesus wants us to produce a lot of fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To do that, we have to be connected to our source! Jesus tells us in John 15 to bear MUCH fruit. Jesus calls Himself “I AM.” Jesus is everything we need. Even His name tells us that. Jesus says “I AM” the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, and “I AM” the true vine. That means he is all the support our spirits need. He helps us see what God the Father is doing. He leads us to life, and He will always take care of us. Jesus is our hope, and He is the way to God. Finally, Jesus is our source of everything. Walking with Jesus is a process. It takes our whole lives, starting now, to live fruitfully for Jesus. That means every day we get another chance to live for Jesus! We can stay connected by remembering that Jesus is all that we need! Jesus is more than enough if we choose Him. We can live a fruitful life with lasting fruit if we stay connected!
February 14, 2019
This past week we were challenged to live a life that’s fruitful. We were challenged to live a life that when people see the fruit that we produce, they see nothing but the glory of God. We get this concept of fruitful living from a variety of scriptures, but one such scripture is found in the book of Matthew. In verse 15-20 we are told that you can distinguish those who speak for God by what kind of fruit they produce. This should not be just a warning about to look for in others, but also for ourselves.
One interesting portion of this passage is verse 16 which reads “ You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” On the surface this is an obvious statement, but when you look closer something interesting appears. In the area in which Jesus comes, from a distance thorn bushes appear to be grapes and thistles appear to look like figs! If you’re not careful as you approach, you’ll find yourself in a painful position when you reach your hand into that bush!
Jesus’ warning was not to look at the obvious, but to make a closer observation, is the fruit that you see truly Godly fruit or is it a thorn in disguise? This week we want to challenge you to examine the fruit in your life. On the surface, it may seem like it’s Godly, but dig deep and examine it closely.
February 07, 2019
I am a person who loves to explore and travel to new places. I can’t say that I have been everywhere, but I do have a whole wall in my house canvased in maps from all over the world. Some maps are specific cities and some are a more broad scope of the whole United States. All those maps have the same thing in common, though. They serve as a blueprint for a path. Having those maps doesn’t mean that I have been there or explored the area. The same goes for vision. Having a vision isn’t the same as seeing it through. We can be our own roadblock on the path if we don’t follow God’s direction. We dilute the vision when we get caught up on our own ideas of what it should look like. We can get distracted by what worked before instead of what God has instructed us to do. This is like going on autopilot when we should be listening to God. Another roadblock is disobedience. Disobedience is a failure, but failure doesn’t have to stop us. When we fail, we can remember to call out to the One who gave us vision. We can get back on the path. We can only reach our destination if we follow the correct directions. Our destiny lies in what God has told us to do. When we obey God, we will see our vision through. We will reach our destination and we will be able to enjoy the adventure on the way.
Many of us are ready to throw in the towel when we aren’t quick to see results. The “adventure” can get risky or take longer than we planned. Throughout the Bible, we see many instances where glory is right on the other side. If we hold onto that vision for a little longer, we can be sure that what we are doing is setting us up for what is to come. When we rely on God’s vision for our lives, it is like using a map. If we follow the map, we will get where we are going. If we make up our own map, we get lost. When we get distracted along the journey, we can get stuck. If we disobey the map altogether, we will miss the journey and the destination.
As I look at these maps on my wall, I am reminded that what we read in the Bible focused on a small geographical section surrounding the Mediterranean. God’s plan is to expand to all the Earth as he says in Isaiah 54:2. So while you are on this path, know there will come roadblocks. However, if you obey God, your vision will glorify God and He will see you through.