Love is patient

1 Corinthians 13:4a Love is patient…

When you think about words that describe love, patience may not be among the first to come to mind.  It’s true that one of the things usually not portrayed as “love” in society is a patience for others.  Patience means that we are, as James tells us to be, “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).  That doesn’t happen naturally.

For most of us, the instinctive way to act is to be quick to give our thoughts on something.  This logically means that we’re not putting listening first.  When we put ourselves before others by not listening, we’re devaluing them and in turn the relationship.  True love waits.  Sometimes this means listening first.

Or, more often maybe, that means putting up with something for the sake of our relationships.  When someone does something that rattles us, how we react makes the difference in whether or not we’re acting in love.  Quick, sharp words are most often hurtful.  Loving, thought-out words spoken with patience will do more than win an argument.  They’ll show the other person that we value them and care about how we make them feel.

True love takes effort, and patience.

God’s love never ends

1 Corinthians 13:8, 13 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love

We are taught that love is merely a feeling. When we cease to be happy in a relationship we say that we have “fallen out of love.” But that’s not love. Real love is first a decision that we make towards another person. It’s THEN an emotion that’s tied to that intentional relationship. It’s both the decision and the emotion that cause us to keep loving for the long haul. They both get us through the ups and downs that come with any relationship. The decision God made to love us was not based on emotion; it was not conditional. It does not change based on feelings or emotions. It does not end.

God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). If that’s our example of what love is then how are we capable of saying that we stopped loving someone? That’s the unselfish love God shows, not the selfish so-called love this world knows.

Love NEVER ends. When everything else has passed away in this life, all that will remain is love. Even when faith is no longer needed because everything we had faith in has now come; even when hope is no longer necessary, love will abide. Love is the one thing that lasts forever. Love, in fact, only increases after Christ has fulfilled all that is to come. Even now we don’t fully know real love, but we will.

When we continue to show love despite our circumstances, we demonstrate to the world how it is that God loves us. The power this has is unimaginable. Jesus even told His disciples that the one mark that stands out above the rest which will identify those who follow Him is love (John 13:35). Not our devotion to political causes or our ability to recite the 10 Commandments from memory; by our love for one another.

The message you send to the world about who God is rests upon how well you love others. There’s such weight in that. People that get all of the “religious” stuff right, but don’t love others are no better than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. They’re just noise. God’s love never ends and neither should ours.

Grace turns lives upside down

1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace

Grace isn’t often a word that’s used in popular society today. When we say grace, we might be talking about a ballerina and how she has the ability to dance with great finesse. That’s not what grace means in the Bible, though. It’s simply being given what we don’t deserve. We receive God’s grace when He forgives us, even though we don’t deserve it.  We show grace to others when we treat them in a way other than what’s expected.

In our world, grace is always a surprise. We are hardwired for reciprocity and punishment; revenge is an utterly instinctual mode of thinking and living. So when someone withholds judgment, especially when it is deserved, we are astonished.

We’re mixed up. We think that showing people grace means they’re going to take advantage of us. And I could admit that probably would be the case if everyone was going around demonstrating grace to everyone who did wrong. But the fact of the matter is that almost no one truly demonstrates grace in our society. When everything is about an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth, grace is radical and it turns people upside down.

What if instead of trying to get back at people, we just showed them God’s love? The world would be flipped on its head. People don’t expect grace.

“BUT,” you say, “You don’t know what people have done to wrong me!!”  I understand. We’ve all seen our share of hurt from other people. But no one has done anything to you that’s beyond what you’re capable of doing to another person. Maybe you wouldn’t do the specific thing they did to hurt you, but you’re quite capable of doing something of the same severity to them or someone else. How often have you sinned against God and how much have you been forgiven?

We are all recipients of God’s grace. How can we not take that gift and pass it along? Just try it and see the power of grace.

Humility values others

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve been forgiven by God for SO many things that I have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone who wrongs me.

Pride causes us to hold a grudge, but God calls us to be humble.

Pride demands an apology.
It takes humility to forgive an offense.

Pride refuses to admit our own wrongdoing.
Humility enables us to sincerely apologize and seek reconciliation.

If you want to demonstrate true, godly love to your kids, apologize to them when necessary. It shows them that you value them more than your ego.  If you truly want to repair a relationship that’s gone wrong, show some humility.

If you want your relationships to thrive, resist pride.

Real love is powerful because it is selfless. The world’s love lacks any power because it’s all self-centered. When we put others before ourselves, we love like God loves us and it’s a game changer. Showing humility to others values them, just as God’s love for us gives us value.

What is love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Some of us need a new definition of love, based on God’s view, not the world’s.  The “love” that the world tries to sell us is fake. The world’s version of love is either just a really self-centered, emotionally driven feeling, or it’s all about lust and sex, or it’s some concept of the real thing that we’re told can’t really be obtained.

God’s love – real love – is so incredibly different than what most of us have experienced that it seems radical. The truth is, it is radical, and when we love others with the love of God we upgrade our relationships in a very real way.  First we have to understand God’s love for ourselves.

Maybe some of Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians doesn’t even fit your view of God, let alone your view of love. Take patience for example. Your past may have been led you to believe that God is anything but patient, but let me ask you a question. Would someone who is impatient keep sending prophet after prophet after prophet to send the same message over and over and over again to people who just won’t seem to listen? That’s the Old Testament.

Look at Jesus as an example of patience. He taught the stubborn and foolish disciples lesson after lesson, lowering himself so far below the honor He deserved. If God is willing to have this type of patience with us; this type of kindness and endurance, we can and should love others with this type of love.

Living stones

1 Peter 2:5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Where does God dwell?  Is He confined to the walls of a church?  Limited to operating on Sunday mornings?  Or is God’s house a spiritual one, made of living stones?

In the Old Testament, the Lord had the people of Israel construct a temple, that He might dwell among them there (see Exodus).  For generations, the tradition was that the temple was God’s dwelling place.  Jesus came and turned everything upside down.  On several occasions, Jesus made reference to destroying the temple and rebuilding it.  He did this to illustrate how He would be killed and rise from the dead.

He, the stone that the builders (religious leaders) rejected, became the cornerstone (foundation) to the Church.  Now we are the living stones that make up the Church, it’s no longer about a building, but a people.  The church is alive and continuously growing and being built up.  Each Christian is part of the priesthood and through their lives offering up spiritual sacrifices.  We have direct access to God.

We are the Church, the body of Christ.  We will bring about His kingdom, regardless of building or location.

Spiritual Disciplines – Worship

John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

What is worship?  Is it simply a time of singing on Sunday morning?  Does it always involve music?Can one worship on their own, outside of church?

To be sure, God requires our worship (Matthew 4:10).  He wants our full devotion, our admiration, our time.  We all worship something.  We worship wherever we spend a significant amount of time, money, or affection.  Anything can easily become an idol, but God is clear that we are to worship Him alone (Exodus 20:3).

So how are we to worship the Lord?  We are to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength (Mark 12:30 and parallels).  In other words, we’re to love God with everything we have.  We must give Him priority in our time, our finances, our relationships, our activities, our thoughts, our affections, and so on.

Worship is required on more than just Sunday morning.  It is a full time task for the disciple.  To worship God is to focus on Him and to acknowledge His worth, to honor Him.  God is spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Worship in spirit takes place from the inside out. It is sincere, not done for show.  To worship in truth is to praise God for who He truly is, not as how we might like Him to be.

Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

 

For as beautiful as faith is, for as wondrous as the hope that it brings can be, the devout and determined Disciple meets with challenges to it daily.

I sat across from a friend recently, and I had to ask, “How is your faith?” I could hear it in his voice, the pain and the struggle. Life, it gets hard for all of us, and in those moments as we feel the weight of it bearing down on us, we can’t help but wonder to ourselves. We feel angry but once the anger subsides, as the fairness, or lack thereof, of it weighs down on us, it turns to a sort of quiet depression as we try to figure out what’s the point of trying when all trying seems to do is lead to disappointment.

After a brief moment of silence he met my eyes, and with a slight sigh, shrugged as he answered, “Not as strong as it used to be…”

His problem, his challenge, the question that lingered on his mind was a simple one, one that we all perhaps battle with now and then, but that we don’t give much thought to during the good times in our lives when things seem simple and easy for us. When the rough times come though, it plagues us as we try to hold on to our faith while remaining a good person, while trying to live the life that we know we should live.

“Why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?” That was the sum of his problem, the one question that he couldn’t quite wrap his head around. The truth is that I’ve been there, I’ve toiled and struggled with the same question, with the same thought rolling around my mind. I’ve wondered why and how a loving God, a caring God, one who is meant to draw His children so near could let them slip so far away from Him. In the depths of depression I wondered how He could be so far removed from the toils of us mere mortals He so loved, that He loved so dearly that He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for. (John 3:16)

The question though answers itself. Yes, it seems as if “good things happen to bad people” while “bad things happen to good people” but the question of why that is the case isn’t so much a mystery, or at the very least, isn’t as big of a mystery as we perhaps let it become in our own minds.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the nature of this world. Despite the imperfections of it, despite our own imperfections, God is not removed from us, nor is He, even in His own perfections, distant from this world. (Romans 3:22-24) Yet in this He warns us that this world that we live in, because of its flawed nature, is going to be a battleground, it is going to be a place of a deep and lasting spiritual warfare. The temptation of Christ (Luke 4:1-13) itself is very telling of just that, not just because our blessed Savior faced the challenge of the sin and the Devil as we did but because he tempted Him in every way he knew would possibly make Him stumble.

This is what he does with us. He looks into our hearts, he examines and he explores our spirits and our souls, searching them for the weaknesses that we have, for those small shreds of self-doubt, for those little bits of vanity, for any piece of pettiness or pain that might plague us. He uses them against us, he turns them against us, to swallow us whole in them and thus devour us himself. (1Peter 5:8)

Why though would he use such tactics against “The Bad” when he knows already that he has won with them? Why would he use them against “The Bad” when he can hold them up as an example of the good things that can happen if you just succumb to temptation and yield to him, relenting in your effort to try and live that good life, that righteous life you have been called to? This is a weapon in his arsenal that he uses to wage his war, that he uses to win his battles and he is going to use it against the faithful Disciple in order to try and win that they may fall on the fields amidst their struggles and their wounds.

Our Heavenly Father, He does not abandon us during these challenges (Joshua 1:5) regardless of how distant He may feel. He arms us that we can stand (Ephesians 6:10-18) knowing that, through Christ, we can find the strength we need to stand triumphant in all the battles, in all the adversity that we may face. (Romans 8:37) This is the promise He has made to us in the love that He has for us, and it is never removed from our lives even as our old and ancient Adversary seeks to put a wall between us and Him that we may not gaze upon the love that He has for us in the faith He has granted us.

It isn’t a question of God’s grace or even a question of faith, but rather a question of how you stand, how you push back when you feel the weight of your enemy, the weight of someone trying so hard to steal your peace from you. Good things may happen to bad people and bad things may happen to good people in this world, but the real victory, it comes not just from knowing this but knowing that the truest rewards, they come to those who accept that and live with faith, hope and love in their hearts, refusing to let this have any power over them, understanding that the real power comes from the blessing they can be despite it all as they hold fast to the wondrous miracle of grace in their life.

God is there for you, He always has been and He always will be. This is His promise to you, hold fast to it in the love that He has for you and you will stand firm against the challenges that this world has, refusing to let imperfect notions, thoughts and understandings create imperfections within you.

Pentecost

Acts 2:38  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Christ, the many promises of God to His people, the Jews, came to pass.  He encompassed all that God had chosen to reveal to man.  In the Holy Spirit then, all of the promises of Christ to His people, the Christians, were fulfilled.  Jesus had told His followers to go and wait for Him after He had resurrected and reappeared to them.  He promised if they waited they would receive power.

And so they waited.  They hid, really.  They were all together in one place on that day, the day of Pentecost.  And when they received the Holy Spirit they all were given the power to speak in languages they didn’t know, for the purpose of evangelizing to others in his/her own tongue.  Those who heard them were amazed that these uneducated men were able to speak many languages.  Some scoffed, some mocked…but they listened.

As they listened, the previously timid disciples who were in hiding boldly came out among them and preached the gospel.  Peter delivered a sermon that brought around 3,000 to Christ that day.  It wasn’t a “here’s how to get a better life” sermon, or even a “Jesus loves you” speech.  Peter simply pointed to the truth through events that had taken place and then let the conviction of the Holy Spirit do its work in the hearts of the people.  They heard it and were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).  Then Peter gave them a chance to respond, which they did.

The work of the Holy Spirit in believers on Pentecost is the same power He employs today in us.  Things may not always be so drastic as to see thousands of people saved in one moment, but His conviction in their hearts and His work in us to be bold in speaking the truth is still very real, just as it was for Peter and the eleven. He may not ever urge you to speak in tongues or to preach in front of a massive crowd, but He will empower you to do God’s will in whatever situation you do find yourself in.

To God be the glory.

What path will you choose?

Genesis 24:57-58 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.”

Sometimes in life we’re given a choice.  A path is laid out before us and we have the choice either to walk down that path or to take our own path.  Which way we decide to go can change our destiny and affect many others.

We often hear “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” because those men were called by God and given a promise.  But the very same God also called Rebekah to take part in fulfilling the covenant He made.  When Abraham’s servant left Canaan to find a wife for Isaac, he found Rebekah because he had prayed for God to show him which young woman had been chosen.  Yet the choice of whether to go with the servant was left up to Rebekah.  Though her family and the servant believed God’s hand was in all of this, they let her decide.

With three simple words, “I will go,” Rebekah made a choice that would have a profound impact.  It was through Rebekah that Jacob and Esau would be born, two men who were critical to the plans God had.  Her obedience to God was more than she could have even known.

What path has been laid before you?  What way has God called you to follow in obedience?  What might happen if you choose His way over your own?  There’s only one way to find out.

 

This devotional is derived from a sermon message by Matthew J. Cochran.  Listen to the sermon here:

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