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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Jesus knows your heart

“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” John 2:23-25

Throughout the Gospels those who both followed and opposed Jesus would clamor for a sign. They wanted proof that He was who He said He was. They wanted Jesus to prove His lineage, authority, divinity, and sovereignty.  They wanted Jesus to somehow demonstrate His fullness to them in a way that would remove all doubt from their minds that He was the Son of God, that He was (is) God.

It makes me wonder, what exactly did they want Him to do? What kind of miracle would enough for them to believe? Is there really anything that He could have done that would have convinced them?

He turned water to wine, made the lame walk, the blind see, loosed tongues, bound demons, healed the sick, and raised the dead. In His final miracle He, Jesus Himself, was raised by the Father. In a world bound by doubt was there actually anything that He could have done that would convince them?

In Matthew 16 the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, “He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.” Matt 16:2-4

I don’t know what exactly the Pharisees and Sadducees were hoping Jesus would do. I’m sure they hoped to trap Him in some way or to disprove before the masses who He said He is. Perhaps in their hearts they hoped He would or could do something, anything, to convince them. At the end of the day, they didn’t really want it to be true, they wanted Him not to be the Messiah because that would ultimately mean they were on the wrong side of God. If Jesus had proved to them who He said He was, they would have to give up their power, authority, influence and wealth. They would be forced to accept that they had put the law before love and had failed miserably.

What more could Jesus have done? There is nothing He could have done, because at the end of the day we each have to believe. We have to trust that what we saw, felt, heard, experienced was from God. We can explain away, make excuses, and divert responsibility until we are blue in the face. In the end we have to make the choice to believe, not just in the miracle, but in the power of the one who performed it, Jesus.

In the opening scripture it reads that, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” Jesus was not going to reveal Himself fully to those who chose not to believe. What would be the point? How can someone begin to understand all thing things Jesus was trying to teach them if they did not believe in the person of the one teaching it? In other words how would they take Jesus at His word, if they did not believe that He is who He claimed? Would you listen and follow the teachings of a plumber who was telling you how to be a surgeon?

Jesus did not entrust Himself to those who were awed by His works but not by His person.

Faith is a choice. If Jesus appeared before you in person, would you recognize Him? If he stood there performing miracles would you believe that He was who He said, or would you continue down the path of the scientific method trying to disprove all that He does and says until no other explanation could be found and still claim the impossibility of it all?

Is there any miracle Jesus could perform in your life that would lead you to believe that He is all the things the Bible states, and will fulfill all the promises that God  has made to His people?

We live in a world of doubt, a world held captive by fear and uncertainty. We don’t know who to listen to and believe. We don’t know if what we see and hear is true or false. We are pulled by voices and images coming from every direction. Jesus tells us, At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:10-14

Jesus still performs miracles and signs today. The Holy Spirit is active in our world. Will our hearts recognize them for who they are and what they are doing, or will we continue to explain it all away as coincidence or our own doing? Will we chose to believe in the person of Jesus and receive all that He intends, or wonder at His miraculous works and never know the person.

The scripture above states, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.” The reverse is equally true, to those who believe in Jesus, He will entrust Himself to them, for He knows in their hearts they believe.

Test Jesus, put your faith in Him, give Him the opportunity to show you His love for you through His promises, provision, faithfulness, and love. He will never let you down, He will never leave or forsake you. Decide today to give into the knocking you hear on your heart and let Him in.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

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.” Matthew 8:31-40

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!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

T-Minus 3 Days till 2021 – Lord give me a new heart.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, never really have been. Oh, don’t get me wrong I’ve made a few now and again, usually something trite or superficial having to do with the way I look or how I want others to see me. This year however, is different. I think we can all agree that 2020 has been like nothing we’ve ever seen, and we’re all hoping, never to see again.

2020 has brought changes in all of us that require a second look, a moment to ponder our lives, our experiences, and ultimately our future. So, over the next few days, leading up to the close of 2020 and the hopeful ringing in of 2021, I want to share with you my resolutions. Well, they are actually more prayers for intervention into my life. I am expectant for what God is going to do in my life and the lives of my family and my church in the days and months ahead. I am expectant because I believe that these are what God has placed in my heart, and how he wants me to move forward into 2021. I know that when we accept Jesus, it is the ultimate new beginning, as is each day we get up and reconfirm that decision. I also know there are times in our lives that God moves in our hearts to reflect on those decisions and how they are (or are not) being played out in our day-to-day lives. New Year’s seems an almost natural time for us to pray about those area’s that the Holy Spirit has either convinced or convicted and ask God to help us make a fresh start.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

Just as God promised his people that he would give them a new heart and a new spirit, and that he would move them to follow his degrees and keep his laws. I am praying the same for myself and my family.

Lord, give me a new heart. Give me a heart to love your people the way you do. Help me to love them where they are not where I might want them to be. Philippians 2:1-3

Lord teach me to forgive and give me a short memory. Help me to remember that the people of this world are not my enemy, Ephesians 6:12

Lord help me to be patient, kind, understanding, generous, and respectful to everyone I meet, regardless of their treatment of me. Romans 5:2-4

This year I have struggled with seeing people through God’s own heart. So much of my struggle and frustration has stemmed from me seeing those around me in an adversarial way. Those around me, although they may have different opinions, thoughts, feelings, habits, reactions, and perceptions than me, are not my enemy. They are God’s children, just as I am. We are all in the same boat and walking through the same world. My prayer for this next year is that God will give me a new heart and place a new spirit in me. I ask him to turn that heart of flesh toward him and toward those around me. Lord fill my heart with compassion and understanding and let my life reflect all that you have done for me.

Pease 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

Easy and hard, we have it backwards

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who was facing a dilemma. She knows the right decision to make, she knows the wrong decision to make. She knows the wrong decision is going to cause long term pain and suffering while providing immediate satisfaction. This is not an uncommon conversation, someone comes to you, wanting your support for a decision they know they shouldn’t make, but they give 101 reasons why it will make them happier…in the short term.

What struck me was the comment she made, it’s one we’ve all heard, and I’m sure agreed with, for the most part. She said, “Why is choosing the right path always so hard?” The right decision is always the hard decision, the decision that is going to require sacrifice or cause pain. The wrong decision is the easy decision, the one that brings the most immediate satisfaction.

As I thought about this on my way home after the conversation, I think we have this concept of right being hard and painful and wrong being easy and satisfactory, backwards. We believe that to do right we have to suffer and to do wrong we are indulging our fleshly passions. First when I state right and wrong, I’m talking about sin; specifically, when we are faced with choices to love God first, and then others as ourselves, or the choice to place our fleshly wants and needs above loving God first and others as ourselves. When you think about it, those are the only choices that really matter.

We have a mindset, and we share it with others, that to love God first and others as ourselves (that is a very important statement found in Matthew 22:36-40) means we must suffer, it will be a grueling decision that will cause short term pain and maybe long-term gain. I want you to listen to Jesus own words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus tells us that he is humble, we’ll find rest in him and that his burden is light. The reason that we struggle with the right decision (love God first and then others as ourselves) is that we are constantly battling with the world. We are constantly at war with what our sinful nature wants, not what the Holy Spirit in us wants. The battle is self-inflicted. When we chose God, when we chose love then as long as we stand with those choices and don’t stray from that path the choice to love is easy.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.  The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” Isaiah 26:6-8

When we follow the path that Jesus has laid out for us; Love God first and others as ourselves, our life, our choices will be dictated by love. The only pain or loss we’ll feel is that of the world, and the more we chose life over death the less we’ll feel that sting.

Doing what is right means we are giving up on the things of this world that lead us to death. Choosing right, then, should be the easy decision. Living for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will disappear, only leads to wanting more things of this world for immediate gratification from things of this world that are temporary and will fade away. This choice is a vicious cycle of insatiable want that will never end and leads to death. The pain in that cycle is eternal dissatisfaction with who we are, what we have, and how to get more, because it will never be enough.

The simplest way I can state this; love is the easy decision. Loving God first and others as ourselves is the only thing that can satisfy our souls. Truly satisfy, as in we will not want anything else. The hard decision, the one that brings unending pain and suffering is the one that seems to bring immediate satisfaction, but it soon fades and leads to greater and greater need for more to fill the never-ending gaping hole in our lives.

The choice, then, is easy; eternal life by loving God first then others as ourselves. When we are truly satisfied by Christ and that abundant blessing is overflowing from us to others, even when the storms of live are brewing around us, and circumstances are trying to make us forget that we have everything, we can stand firm knowing that the storm will pass, and we will be with Christ victorious. Storms subside, always. Trials cease, always. Christ’s love, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, and grace are boundless, unceasing, and eternal.

The hard choice is the one we make that keeps us in bondage to the world of suffering, pain, loss, and confusion, that always leads to death. The easy choice is Christ, that always leads to life.

Pease 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