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!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Lemonade is best when shared

You just never know when something happens in your life, how God might use it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Our troubles, our trials, our temptations, our pain and suffering, all our experiences pleasant and unpleasant, are never wasted…Not Ever!

Every experience we have, God can, and will use – none of them are by accident or coincidence. They are by our choice, the choices others make, or by God’s design. but no matter how they come about they are no surprise to God. Nothing get’s past Him.

My favorite scripture, the one I quote the most is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Everything in our lives God can, and will work for good, EVERYTHING! There is nothing that has happened, is happening, or can ever happen, that God can not sovereignly craft into good. God is good, He can only bring forth that which He is. God can’t bring forth evil, only good. It’s like the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” God created the trees the lemons fell from, the juicer you used to squeeze them, and the abundant sweetness of His grace to bring out the flavor.

Sometimes those experiences that bring us the most pain and anguish are the very ones He’ll use to bring us the greatest joy, often by being able to help others. Just as the scripture tells us, Jesus comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. I was reminded of this recently when I had the opportunity to share some of my experiences with someone walking a very similar path. I was able to share with them what God did for my family in the situation, how He walked us through a very dark and difficult time. I was able to offer comfort to others in their troubles, just as God had comforted me in mine. He comforts us, so we can in turn, comfort others.

God allows us to walk through hard times so we learn to rely on Him, and then to share that experience as a help – a comfort to others. Just as lemonade is sweetest when shared with others, God’s work in our lives is even more of a blessing when we can use it to help those around us. It’s never about us, its always about Him – Him, inviting us to come along for the ride and be part of this incredible Christian journey – a journey we’re on together.

Next time things get hard, instead of asking, ‘why God, why this, why now, why me?’, ask how can this help others, how can you use this God to help me grow, and what can I learn from this? God will not let any of your experiences go to waste, there are people who will be comforted by you sharing with them how God comforted you.

Let God surprise and bless you in this new year 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

 

To the Unbeliever in 2021

Hindsight certainly is 2020, we’ll find it to be more so the further we are from it.

My dearest friends, my hope by this note is not to provide any new insight, but to give you something to consider sharing with your non-believing friends and family, as we begin a new year. It is not a treatise per se but an invitation. An invitation to consider not just the person of Jesus Christ, but the life he has provided and called us to live.

This is my letter to unbelievers in 2021.

Friends, consider for a moment your current belief about God, life, death, afterlife, what is out there, and why are we here? Regardless of where you currently stand on these subjects, I believe that they are rooted from some place deep inside you, that you probably can’t explain. CS Lewis refers to this in his book Mere Christianity, as the Law of Human Nature. That each one of us is working from a common set of internal beliefs of right and wrong, and that if we did not have those that life would be chaos. All arguments large or small stem from a belief that one person is right and the other wrong.  If you have not read this book, I would highly encourage. Lewis is one of the great apologists of the last century as well as an incredibly gifted writer and speaker.

This moral coding that is found inside all of us recognizes that there is more to life than a coincidental smashing together of atoms. It understands there is more than the here and now, we have a purpose and it’s bigger than ourselves. From this common understanding comes all things.

For example, in cultures across the world we have an uncanny level of hero worship. We make movies, television shows and books that highlight the individual sacrifice of one man (or small group of men) for the greater common good of all. Where does this come from, “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:17-18 

We read books and tell stories of heroes who are part God and part man that can both save and destroy the world. “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” Genesis 6:4

We place in high regard those, who against all odds, band together for a common cause to make the world a better place. “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Mark 3:13-15

We love an underdog story, Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”” 1 Samuel 16:10-12

We idolize heroes, believe in the supernatural, cheer for the passionate, and identify with the underdog. What has this got to do with you? None of the stories are original, they all stem from scripture. Even before that they stem from that common core which we received from our creator, that believes in the nobility of righteousness, sacrifice, honor, and love. There is nothing new under the sun and we all are imbued with the same quest to be more than we are.

Since we know that in us is a common bond of understanding that gives us each a desire to be more, and to understand our purpose, why do we then settle for less?

In today’s culture we glorify those who hunt ghosts, seek to prove that aliens have visited from outer space, claim inanimate objects have magical properties and that we can know and understand our future by what the stars tell us. However, it’s taboo to believe that there is a sovereign God who created the universe. We believe in the supernatural but only so far as we can possess, control, or comprehend. We believe in the supernatural so long as it is small, and we can keep it in a box where it doesn’t really affect our daily lives.

In scripture we find talking animals, visitors not from this world, spirits reaching out from the grave, so called magicians and astrologers who can perceive the works of God but not understand them.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

Dear ones, how can you continue to put your faith, trust, hope, and expectation in the created and not the creator. Inside each of us there is a longing that cannot be filled by anything but God; money can’t, power can’t, people can’t. Nothing created by God can satisfy, only God himself can.

The problems of the world are caused by the human propensity to seek to fill that void in themselves with the things of this world, which will never work. It is in that inability to be satisfied by what we have that drives us to seek more and more, nothing will ever even put a dent in that desire. There is only one answer to your longing, it is God.

If you find yourself beginning this new year longing to know more, be more, understand more, I encourage you to find a Bible and read the book of Matthew. It won’t take long and is easy to understand. Read it with an open mind, an open heart. I think you will find that it will speak to you in unexpected ways, and I will pray that the Holy Spirit moves, and you come to know who you are, how you are loved, and most especially the creator who sacrificed himself to bring you, and everyone, out of slavery to this world and closer to him.

If you remain unconvinced, I will ask you to consider one question. If you are right, and there is no God, and I am wrong. I have lived a full and complete life, truly happy with my decisions, loving my fellow man and working to spread love and peace in the world. When I die, that will be remembered of me. However, if I am right, and you are wrong, and there is indeed a God in heaven. You will not only have wasted your life chasing after things that will never make you happy, but you will also lose your eternity in the process.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:16-21

Let God surprise and bless you in this new year!

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