Faith Sized Expectations

“Because you have so little faith truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
The disciples had been trying to help. We don’t know how long they prayed, if they fasted, or what healing they claimed in Jesus name. Whatever they did – – it didn’t work. The disciples must have demonstrated some Spirit filled ability at some point,for this father to come to them believing they could heal him. Why then didn’t it work? Why couldn’t they expel this demon? Was their faith lacking?

Did the disciples expect to see this boy healed? Did they believe when Jesus told them, “as you go proclaim this message, ‘ the kingdom of heaven has come near’ heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8 If Jesus indeed gave them the authority to perform miracles, why in this instance could they not? The disciples asked why, and Jesus replied. “because you have so little faith.”


How often have our expectations of God fallen short of His? When we ask for His help, for the Holy Spirit’s intervention are we asking with the expectation of a mustard seed or a watermelon? Our expectations of what God can and will do mirror the size of our faith. Do we have faith to move mountains or faith to help us find a road around them? Do we expect a demon to be cast out or a boy to calm down? Where God wants to dazzle, amaze, blow our minds, and glorify Himself, we’re hoping for a release, or relief from our immediate discomfort.

Perhaps the disciple’s expectation of what should happen or might happen didn’t align with God’s plan for the moment. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 What were they convinced was going to happen? Were their hopes and convictions in line with God’s?

I’ve seen in my own life that often my expectations of what God wants to do is in direct correlation with the strength of my faith. Little faith equals little expectation. The disciples wanted a boy healed, God wanted lives to be changes, a family to be restored, a community rejoicing and glorifying God together. The disciples could not heal the boy, perhaps because their faith and expectations of what God was doing were too small.

James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:5-7

If we believe God can do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine, then we must ask with full confidence, and expect that He is already moving. Our expectations need to be bigger, but before that can happen our faith needs to be bigger. God loves surprising us; He loves exceeding our expectations. Jesus tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

What do you expect God to do in your current circumstance? Do you believe that He can do greater things than you can even comprehend? You should believe it because He can, and He does!

NOTE: His faithfulness is not dependent on your worthiness – don’t let your feelings of unworthiness diminish your expectation of His greatness. Don’t believe that your faith is what causes God’s actions. God’s faithfulness demonstrated across eternity is what gives us the conviction to know He will act, and the confidence to walk in expectation of His grace and mercy.

If having faith like a mustard seed can move mountains…what could watermelon sized faith accomplish? Live in great expectation of God’s greatness and His love for you!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Don’t Waste an Experience

I was reminded recently of the impact each of us has on the lives of those around us. Over the past several weeks I’ve lost multiple family members and friends, all of them unexpected and tragic. Looking back on how they each impacted my life, I am who I am partly because of them. Each has left their mark on my life, for better or worse, they are part of me and my memories of them are cherished.

While I spent time wading through photographs, I remembered some things I had forgotten. My Uncle Mark, who passed last month, taught me how to ride a bike. More than that he taught me not to be afraid. He told me that I would probably fall, I might bleed, but would I let that stop me from learning to ride? In fact I did fall, and I did bleed, but I rode my bike and I loved it! Bumps and bruises will happen in life, will we let that fear keep us from living?

One of my girl friends from when I was in high school passed a few days later. She and I were close, then we weren’t, then we were, then we lost touch. Amy and I grew close during our earliest young adult years, and she taught me to see the good in every moment, especially in the small, boring, insignificant moments, because each is a blessing. In the process of reconnecting with a group of our mutual friends, someone shared a moment where I had impacted their life. Then another friend shared, and another. Before long we were each sharing memories of how we had, without realizing it, indelibly left our mark on the others. I guess, I never thought back then that something I did or said would be remembered 30 years later.

Driving home after services that day, I was struck how each of us impacts the lives of those around us. Whether we want to or not, what we say and do, or don’t say or do will leave an impression. I heard it said that non-believers are more likely to watch how professing Christians live their lives, than to read the Bible. In other words, the things we say and do, may be the only experience of Jesus some people will ever have, what do our lives say about us, what do they say about Jesus?

Are we uplifting, encouraging, edifying one another or tearing down? Do our lives point to Jesus or do they only bring attention to ourselves? Are we helping others to become the people God created them to be, or beating them into a mold that best suits our needs and expectations.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

I was so grateful for the very humbling reminder that God gives each of us, every day the opportunity to positively affect those around us. A smile or friendly gesture, taking the time to speak with someone who feels alone or excluded, reaching out just because, sharing a meal, giving a hug, being a friend, all simple acts with long term impact. It takes no more time to lift someone up than it does to tear them down. It takes no more time to be respectful and polite, than to be rude and demeaning.

Jesus went to those in the world who needed Him most. The sick, broken, downtrodden, and the sinners. He came to the mourners, the possessed, the lost and the outcasts. Jesus didn’t come to  those who thought they were good enough, He provided enough for all to come to Him. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6-8

One day after I have gone to Glory, I hope that I have lived my life in a way that has had a positive impact on those around me. I pray that I lived my life in a way that pointed to Jesus and drew people closer to Him. I want to encourage people to be brave, enjoy every moment, and to love those that God has called us to love.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Consistent watering required

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I was reminded lately that for something to grow, we must water it. Seems simple enough for us gardeners, water is life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on vacation and left very (very very) detailed watering instructions, only to come home and find my plants browning and wilting. While watering is important, deep watering is essential. Yes, I’m saying that all watering is not equal. I can think of no better example of this than how many of us approach scripture, and the truths that it permeates into our lives.

The above scripture in one that I wish we could all have tattooed on our hearts. I truly believe that if we could grab a hold of this one truth, we would look at and approach our lives so differently.

I was recently speaking with a woman about some of the challenges she is facing in life. As we sat talking, and she shared with me her difficulties, I’m thinking to myself that if she only knew how much God loved her. She doesn’t know how she’s going to support her family, find a better place to live, get clean, make better decisions. As she cried desperately about all that is happening, I asked her if she had any other support system, family, friends, or a church family? She told me through her tears that she used to go to church and knows she should go back but can’t do it until she gets her life cleaned up. Once her life is more in order then she can go back to church. My heart broke…

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Why isn’t this a bumper sticker? Why isn’t this a T-shirt? Why isn’t this blasted across billboards on every highway across the country? There isn’t ANYTHING that anyone of us can do to clean ourselves up to be presentable to God. Not one of us is ever, even at our very best, worthy to approach Him on our own.

Perhaps if we all accepted and shared that we’re in the same boat, regardless of how it may appear on the outside. We are all just as broken, sinful, and unworthy as the next person. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

We can’t do anything to be worthy of God’s love or Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to God, we come dirty, we come shamed, we come broken, we come guilty, and no matter He will come running to embrace us, every time, without exception, and without condition.

One of my favorite parables, because of what it tells us about God’s love, is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We are all either the prodigal son or the oldest son, and in each case unworthy of God’s love, but in both cases, we are embraced, loved, provided for and precious, regardless of our own sinful condition. Whether we’re going through the motions doing what we think we’re supposed to do, without love in our heart, or we selfishly threw away all that we were given to pursue our own worldly desires, Christ died for us!

I could go on and on sharing examples from Scripture of God’s unconditional and perfect love. A love that is equally given to each of us regardless of our current, past or future condition. No one is any better or worse than you, and as such no more or less worthy of it.

I hugged this woman who was sharing with me. I shared this passage of scripture with her. Even though she smiled and said, “I know”, I prayed as she walked out the door that God would pierce her heart and allow that scripture to take root and grow. I ask for God to give me more opportunities to share this truth, to live it out myself, to see those around me with God’s eyes as loved and cherished.

We all have sinned and fallen short, but God has good news…it is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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No word from God will ever fail!

my ways are not your way

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?

Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Isaiah 41:10“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.

Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.

Jeremiah 32:27“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.

The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?

The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

What’s inside your Tupperware?

green tupperwareYes I just asked you what is inside your Tupperware. Spoiler alert, I am old enough to still own some of the old 1970’s green and gold classic Tupperware, photo shown left. Although I am not old enough to have bought it myself.

 

I still remember being asked by my mom, “Betsy, what is in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?”

The only way to find out…the only way, was to pull it out, open it and see.

Yup, you guessed it, if I was lucky it was a few days old left overs. No big deal, dump in the trash, no harm done. However, I’m thinking more about the container that’s been in there since, well who knows how long. Everyone in the family keeps hoping that someone else will deal with it so they won’t have to. Days have gone by, weeks, dare I say a month. There is now a serious science project growing, a 20th century bio-hazard to say the worst.

Everyone gets into the fridge, everyone sees that container, we push it aside to get what we’re looking for. We move it from the top shelf to the middle to the back, hoping it will miraculously not be there the next time we go searching. Then it happens… “Betsy, what’s in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?” Oh no, not me, why is it always me?

You walk to the fridge and slowly move some things around, praying miraculously that it won’t be there. Maybe Dad already took it out and dealt with it? Maybe the boys got tired of seeing it and just threw the whole thing in the trash…yea, they’d totally do something like that. Then, you see it, still there, carefully hidden in the back, starring at you. Nope it wasn’t dealt with, now it’s up to you.

How often have we had this conversation with ourselves? How about with God? We know it’s there, the green Tupperware container. It’s hidden in the way back of the fridge. We see it but we just continue to move it around from shelf to shelf. “We’ll deal with that tomorrow, I don’t have time to take care of that today, it’s just going to make a mess and I have things to do…places to go…people to see.” We come up with so many reasons not to deal with it, all the while we’re hoping that one day we’ll open the fridge and the green Tupperware will be gone. Not just gone but emptied, cleaned, put through the dishwasher and sitting on the counter just waiting for us to use it again…it could happen…right?

Here’s the funny thing about green Tupperware, you can’t see through it like a Ziploc bag or a clear plastic container. It’s not a glass jar or plate with Saran wrap. It’s full of toxic sludge that has been there for so long, longer than we’d care to admit, however no one would ever know. There are day’s it’s hidden so far in the back of the fridge, we forget it’s there. When our friends come over all they see is a clean fridge that has some Tupperware in it. Probably last night’s dinner or leftovers from the lunch you had a few days ago. They’d never know what’s really inside.

Green Tupperware can hide a multitude of sins…and no I’m not using that word flippantly. We can often hide it in the deep recesses of who we are, keeping the sludge from being seen by our friends, co-workers, family. The funny thing is, God can see it. He wants to help us deal with it. He wants to take that container of sludge, empty it into the trash, put the Tupperware (yup that’s us) through a holy dishwasher and make us clean. That is the only way He can fill us up with all that He has in store for us. If we’re full of sin, we can’t be full of Him.

My pastor often quotes Jeremiah 29:11, it has become one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord”, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God doesn’t want you to remain full of the old ‘stuff’ that you carry around inside. He is passionate about you and your life and your happiness. He doesn’t want to condemn, embarrass or humiliate you, He wants to clean you out and set you free.

Next time He asks you what’s in the Tupperware, ask Him to help you open it, you might be surprised by what happens.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Apostles Eternity War

apostles-eternity-war.png

“Mom, I want to be spider man”, “mom can I be wonder woman?”, “mom, mom, can a girl be baby Groot?” This is what I hear on an almost weekly basis these days. My children are obsessed with super heroes. They love the idea of heroes; those who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the greater good, despite the personal pain and sacrifice they must inevitably endure. Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8-9 years old he was obsessed with Indiana Jones and dressed up as him for three years running. I still have the cloth whip he carried that plays the Indiana Jones Theme Song. Da da dum dum da da dum! Yea I play with it sometimes too…truth be told it’s in my office and my whole team gets a kick out of it.

He loved that Indiana Jones had a seemingly super power where his whip was concerned however, his real super power was actually that he was smart and cared about keeping people safe. I remember when we watched the last Indiana Jones movie together, Nik kept telling me, “Mom it will be ok the hero always wins.” Then there was the scene where Indiana got a bit of a beating and Nik covered his eyes and began to worry if Indiana would still be victorious…of course he was, and Nik looked at me beaming…”see I told you the hero always wins.” Such faith he had in his hero.

It’s funny how we crave the idea that there are those in the world who are willing to serve a greater purpose than themselves, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives for it. We believe that honor, and nobility are something to be admired and looked up to. It’s almost like we were born with the innate desire to seek out that which is greater than ourselves.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Perhaps it not that surprising after-all. Being made in God’s image we have the ability through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to share in God’s divine nature. We are created to be like Him who is noble, loving, forgiving and full of mercy. It is natural then that we look for these ‘invisible qualities’ here on earth.

The question is, why do we feel the need to create imaginary and fantastical versions of heroes to worship, as opposed to worshiping the one who embodies everything we seek?

In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Does this list of characteristics sound familiar; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? Is Paul describing Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, or Spiderman? The list of characters could go on and on, none of them exemplify all of these characteristics, all of them represent some. The one difference seems to be that each of our heroes is mortally flawed. Whether its pride or vanity or kryptonite or a relationship or greed, we imbue each of our heroes with characteristics that make them more like us. It’s easier to believe that a hero could exist if they weren’t perfect. So, we worship the flawed over the flawless. Is it because we want to make our heroes more like us, bringing us to a more equal footing? Or is it simply because we can truly comprehend flawlessness?

God is flawless, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. He is perfect, He is love, He cannot make a mistake and will not cause harm. We can trust Him completely and be confident that He is who He says He is; always has been and always will be.

While heroes remind us of our innate desire to experience the divine in humanity, there is only one true source for that divinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one hero who embodied all that is divine. His flawlessness, purity, nobility is what we truly seek, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Why would we seek something less, why would we worship that which is flawed and broken when we have what is perfect.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

1 Million Followers

My 9- and 10-year-old love following people on Youtube. There is one young couple and another young family who spend their days playing hide-and-seek in the strangest of places. Both my children like to tell me how many followers they have, how many likes their latest video received, and how cool and popular they are. This is inevitably followed by how they want to be cool like that by having their own Youtube fame. But, when you ask them why these people are cool, famous, and popular the response is because, “they have like a million followers, mom!”. They’re cool because people follow them, not because of who they are.

It seems to me that we (myself included) are raising a generation of children and youth who are finding their value, their identity, and their validation in an arbitrary number representing the volume of reactions they get from a nameless, faceless, multitude. The more shocking the behavior the greater the reaction. To beat out their ‘competition’ for the prize of the largest number of followers, they need to perform more reckless, heartless, dangerous and damaging feats…and there seems to be no ceiling or depth limit. There seems to be no limit to how they will behave and expose themselves to get to the coveted 1 million followers.

In the book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul provides a list of historic heroes of the Bible. Those whose stories we’ve heard told from Able and Noah, to Samson and David, not to mention all the prophets who placed themselves at the mercy of their enemies to remain faithful and obedient to God. They didn’t care what those around them thought, nor did they seek their approval, they lived their lives for a higher purpose regardless of the outcome. Talk about a radical lifestyle!

“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:37-38

None of them chose their life to please themselves or others. Each chose their path because they found their identity in God alone.

“If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:13-15

They neither looked for nor wanted the approval from others, the approval of the crowd is fickle and fleeting. The moment you stop being more shocking than the next person they turn on you and from you. Look what happened to Jesus, He makes His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and by Friday some of the same crowds are calling for His death.

When our identity is wrapped up completely in Jesus, then the storms of change, chaos, uncertainty, and fear cannot sway us or cause us to lose our way. Our eyes are fixed on the eternity that He promises us, not in the temporary and finite world we now live.

There is one group of fans, however, I’d like to call your attention too. After Paul lists several Biblical heroes, and their many trails, and the favor found in their obedience to God, He begins Chapter 12 with an amazing encouragement.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

When you consider all those in the world and throughout history who have stood firm in their faith through persecution, humiliation, torture, and death, those numbers far exceed any you may, or may not, get to like, follow, or share your worldly identity today. That is the great cloud of witnesses that are cheering you on, not because of what you do but because of the faith you’ve found in Jesus.

When you chose to align yourself with Jesus, to stand with Him, not only do you have the God and creator of the universe guarding your back, but you also have a ‘posse’ walking with you that have seen and done it all. You’re never alone. You’ll never face something new. You are 100% guaranteed to win in the end. No matter the outcome in this world you are assured a place with Jesus forever.

There is a post on Facebook that I’ve kept, it was posted by Lecrae. I’ve used it before, but I think it’s very pertinent now.

“If I’m wrong about God, then I’ve wasted my life. If you’re wrong about God, then you wasted your eternity.” When you identify and find your value in Jesus, you will live a better life here on earth and your eternity will be greater than you could ever imagine. If you identify with this world, with the crowd, with the followers, with the fickle, broken, hurting, and sinful, not only will your life on earth be hard, but your eternity will also be harder than you could ever imagine.

Choosing Jesus, you’ll never stand alone. Choosing the crowd, you’ll never know who will be standing with you tomorrow.

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Day 3 Valentines Week – Brotherly Love

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

As I thought about what I wanted to write today, I wanted to find the best way to express this love that we have towards on another. Specifically the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ but also for our family and friends. This kind of love which in Greek is Phileo or Philadelphia what we think of as fraternal affection. It is a love, a familial bond between brothers and sisters in Christ, who might not otherwise share an affection. More simply it is the love we share as adopted sons and daughters of God.

Tonight as I was leading our youth, I sat there speaking with them about James chapter 3 and how our words, and actions, stem from the condition of our hearts. While I was speaking I felt an affection for each of these young people, some of whom I’ve known for most of their lives. They are like family to me. I know their parents, I’ve walked with them through tragedy, joy, rights of passage and seen them grow into the young Christians they are. Several of them are my children’s best friends, they are as welcome in my home as they are in my heart. While they are not my children, biologically speaking, I feel a great sense of pride in their accomplishments, I hurt when they hurt, I smile when they smile, I exalt in their success and try to uplift when they are downtrodden. It truly does take a village (or the Body) to raise children, and I am humbled and privileged to be part of that village.

God calls us to love one another with brotherly affection and this is what He is speaking of. Jesus tells his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 How we love each other will be our witness to the world that we belong to Christ. The world is watching to see how we treat one another, do we really walk what we talk? Or do we treat our family in Christ the same as everyone else? Do they see us standing up for one another when one of us is being targeted? Do they see us defending our brother or sister when their integrity is being questioned? Do they see us seeking and speaking only loving word about those with whom we walk this road every day?

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:12-17

We are not Christ’s servants but his friends and He has called us to love as He did. He laid down His life for us. He commands us to love each other, let brotherly love continue (Hebrews 13:1), love one another deeply from the heart (1 Peter 1:22), and to add to faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love (2 Peter 1:7)

In some translations the words agape and philia are used interchangeably. Agape being God’s love for us and philia being our love for one another in the body. Just as above Jesus command to us is to love one another as He loved us. While we are incapable on our own to love as He loved, He does give us the criteria He’s looking for, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Yesterday, I wrote about the love parents have for their children and how we would gladly give our lives for theirs. Jesus takes this one step farther, that we would lay down our lives for any of our brothers and sisters.

When Jesus describes His love or the Fathers love, the term Agape is used. It is His  unconditional love that flows from His very nature, perfect and complete. The nearest we can express back to Him is what is described here, a preferential love that acknowledges the best in others regardless of their flaws, is not dependent upon that affection being returned, and wells up in us, by its God given nature, the ability to give selflessly of ourselves even unto death.

As broken vessels we are incapable of exemplifying God’s perfect love perfectly. Perhaps, this is as close as we can get, this side of heaven? The love we feel for our brothers and sisters in Christ should be the nearest thing we can express to God’s love for us. Relentless, unyielding, always seeking to see the best in others, “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.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The love that is described above is not a suggestion  for us to try and follow. It is the very definition of who God calls us to be, especially to those with whom we share our faith. Love is a choice, it is a feeling, it is a matter of will, it flows from a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit.

This week when you look at the faces of those in your life, either via zoom, video chat, or where possible in person, chose to love them as Christ loved you.

 

Is There More Than One Kind of Love?

There are as many books about the topic of love as there are definitions for the word. As I mentioned yesterday, I found no less than 3, and as many as 7 different definitions of love in Greek and Hebrew alone. But while I was reading, I thought, is it possible, that there really is only one love, just as there is only one God? Is it also equally possible that there are multiple facets of the same love just as there are three different parts to our One Triune God?

C.S. Lewis states in his book, The Four Loves, that “The human loves can be glorious images of Divine love.” All our expressions of love come from a single source, without whom we would be unable to express anything remotely related to love. Without God, without His divinely created imprint on our very person at the deepest most basic level, we would be incapable of love.

The first expression of love that comes to mind when I reflect on the word, is that of a parent to a child. I have 5 children, 4 of whom are still living. I don’t believe I could express in words how I feel about my children without using the word love. My love for them does not depend on their behavior, their attitudes, or their obedience. My love for them remains when they are mad at me, wish I was some place else, wish I was someone else, or when the completely turn their back on me and say terrible things.

My love for my children is not dependent upon them, it is dependent upon me. I’ve had two biological children and three adopted children. I would gladly give my life to save any of theirs, and recall a time when I made that offer to God in a desperate attempt to keep my oldest from suffering. I would do it without thinking, as any parent would. The Greek word for this is storgē. Storgē is a natural affection between members of a family. It is used in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” In this instance the word being used is philóstorgos, this is a devoted love shown by family members, a special affection shared between members of God’s family, divinely adopted, and serving the same heavenly father.

A devoted love shown by family members, shared affection in the family of God, divinely adopted! When I think of how God loves us the best example I have is that of a loving father. One who loves out of His own goodness, not out of the deservedness of His children, but because of who He is. His love is in NO WAY dependent on us. We can do nothing to earn His love, therefore we can do nothing to lose His love. It is there, the great constant of the universe. His love is so constant that even in the midst of our most terrible moments of disobedience, He sacrificed Himself to save us the pain of living our lives in a broken world, separated from Him, without hope of ever being restored to what we were mean to be. He left heaven, and came to earth with the sole purpose of bringing us home, so we can be healed, so we can be whole, so we can be restored, not because we deserved it.

On the cross Jesus didn’t cherry pick who He died for, He died once for all, (Romans 6:20).

The love I feel for my children is an imperfect reflection of the love God feels for me. The very ability I have to love my children is because He created me in His image and He loved me first. He imprinted upon my innermost being His love, that in turn makes me capable of loving others as He does. The closer I grow to Him, and strive to be like Him, the closer the love I show will resemble His.

We love our families, natural and adopted, the way God loves us. Our love is imperfect, and flawed, and often taken for granted. We get angry and say things we don’t mean. We turn our backs and walk away, we withhold love because we don’t feel the warm fuzzy glow of it. But, in the end love, the kind of love God shows us, is a choice. We love others because God loved us, not because it feels good (because often it doesn’t when love isn’t being returned), not because it’s what we’re supposed to do, but because God loved us. From that deep and infinite well of love we can’t help but share it with those around us.

This week, make sure that those in your family, natural, adopted, forever, and otherwise experience God’s love through your actions. Show your love to them in real tangible ways, let them know that no matter what they do, you are devoted to them and that special affection you have is a gift from God, just as they are.

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

Love, Its Not About You

It’s Monday night and day 1 of Valentine’s week. Yes, I said week. I was reminiscing today, when we first started dating, the big deal I made of Valentines Week for my husband. I used to go on my lunch break over to his apartment and decorate his door. I thought I was being cute, ultimately I wanted him to know I was thinking about him. Didn’t spend lots of money (didn’t have lots of money) got wrapping paper and cheezy stuff from the dollar store and went crazy. It was fun for me to surprise him and I loved doing it, not for any reason other than I knew it would make him smile.

So, in the same spirit, during Valentine’s Week, let’s talk about love.

We read throughout scripture about love; love of God for man, love of man for God, love of man for family, friends and fellow believers. We read about love between a man and a woman, and we read about the love parents have for their children. In Greek and Hebrew there are as many as 7 different words used for love and more than twice that number of definitions, depending on which theologian you ask. What it all boils down to (and we’ll get into the love gumbo of definitions as we move through the week), is that love is never about you.

Yes, you heard me right, and yes, I did say that. Love is not and never will be about you. I may know what you’re thinking, God’s love is about us. Well, it is for us absolutely, but it’s about Him. All love is about Him, being made in His image our very ability to love comes from Him. Without Him we would not be able to love others. Love begins with Him and finds it’s completeness in others, it’s never about us.

Agape love (Greek AGAPAO) means unconditional love, it is not love based on the goodness of the beloved, or upon natural affinity or emotion. Rather it is a benevolent love that always seeks the good of the beloved. God’s love for us is not based on our goodness, our deservedness, our righteousness, or anything we can or will do to earn it. God’s love is a benevolent and unconditional love that always seeks our good. WOW!

Love is not based on whether or not someone deserves or has earned our love, it’s not based on our emotions, it is based on a desire to always seek the good of others. This reminded me of a song that is often playing in my head, by Cory Ashby. It’s called Reckless Love and the chorus states:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99
And I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it, still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

God’s love for us is indeed reckless, unfair, limitless, and totally inconceivable. His love encompasses all the other kinds of love that are expressed throughout scripture. It is the purest, deepest, longest, strongest and most complete expression of goodness, and there is nothing we can ever do to earn it, or deserve it. God’s love is a reflection of who He is, not a reflection of who we are (thank goodness).

God’s love is also not dependent upon our response, its there always waiting for us to turn to Him. Even when our back is turned He is always working for our good, when we are the most undeserving His love is still seeks our good. There is nothing that can stand in the way of God loving us, not even us.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

As we kick of Valentine’s Week 2021, remember there is one whose love for you will never fade, never end, never falter. His love will always be true, and for your benefit. His love will not end on February 15th, or once you’ve finished your last chocolate, and watched the last Hallmark special. His love is eternal and will last throughout every day, of every year, for all time, and beyond.

“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.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries