Category Archives: Love

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.

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.

Love like God loves

Ephesians 5:1-2  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

There are many difficult mandates given in the Bible, none more impossible than the command to be imitators of God. How could fallen, sinful human beings possibly imitate a holy, perfect God?

This may seem like a setup for failure, but that’s far from the truth. God knows very well that we can’t be perfect and He’s only asking us to pursue following His commands with His help, not on our own. Anything He’s asked us to do is something He’s equipped us to do.

It’s interesting how important the theme of love is in God’s Word. So many of the laws and rules boil down to loving the Lord and loving other people. It would seem that there is no better way to imitate God than to love. Maybe there’s not even anything God wants us to do more than He wants us to love. To do so is a “fragrant offering and sacrifice” to Him.

We don’t try to be like God in order to gain favor with Him, we follow in His footsteps because we already have favor with Him as His adopted children. We don’t love Him and other people because we want to earn our place with Him, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and we’re responding to that epic love in the only way we can. We won’t do it perfectly like only He can, but we’ll be honoring Him by doing it.

Beyond blessed

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

Fathers love to bless their kids, and God the Heavenly Father is no exception. In fact, He’s the example.  It’s because He’s such a loving and generous Father that we earthly parents even know what it means to bless our kids.

The Father has not only blessed us with salvation through His Son and adoption into His family as a result, but He has given us every spiritual blessing.  These are not the type of tangible things we think of when the word “blessing” leaves our lips, but they’re far greater than anything we can imagine. In fact, they’re so far from us being able to imagine them that we need the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us.

Along with the wonderful gifts He has showered on us, God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It’s the gift of himself to us. He’s Christ indwelling the believer, the hope of all glory (Colossians 1:27) and the revelation of every spiritual gift. God shows His grace to us through granting us our new identity as His own and allowing us access to everything that entails.

 

Who, or What, Can be Against Us


“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) How often do we forget that promise? Perhaps it’s not forget in the traditional sense. After all we remember what the words are, and we may even utter them quietly to ourselves, searching for some sort of comfort when things start to get tough, but, when we look around, we have a hard time really and truly grasping not necessarily what it means but how it applies to our current situations. After all, if God is for us, should it really be this hard? Can’t it just be that much easier? Why can’t it be that much simpler than it is?

That’s the struggle though, isn’t it? It doesn’t come from God’s promises but from seeing how it is actually working in our lives. The words, they aren’t all that hard to understand, but how they apply, how they can possibly be true, that’s the real difficulty that we face. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” At times it just seems like pretty much everyone or everything and the burden, it is too much to bear as we search for the purpose and meaning in it all, as we seek the answers to why it has to be the way it is when the we know God is there, but we can’t figure out how He is there.

We’re not the first to face that question. What were the words of the Elisha as the army’s surrounded the city and it seemed as if all had been lost? “‘Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” (2 Kings 6:16) In many senses we can all be like the servant who cried out, seeing the insurmountable odds, “Oh no! My Lord, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15) We don’t necessarily see the army of the living God, standing there in front of us, we don’t necessarily see the miracle of His power and glory between us and our real struggle, our real adversity, because we are so focused on all the ways everything has or can go bad, on all the ways that it has or can go wrong. Yet, what we need to be focused on is faith. After all, if it is truly what is hoped for and yet unseen (Hebrews 11:1) then our salvation and our defense is truly at hand even when it is the least clear to us.

We are reminded by the words of the Psalmist, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) More aptly we should be remember it is not just “What can mere mortals do to me?”, it is also a question of “What can this mere mortal world do to me?” No matter how many times it seems like it is there to knock us down, no matter how many times it may seem like it is there to break us, no matter how often the Devil may come to us, roaring like a lion that is seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8) God is there to heal us, to strengthen us in the love afforded to us by His goodness and mercy. (Psalm 147:3) After all, if He so loved each us, if He so loved the world that He would not even withhold His precious son from us, (John 3:16) letting his precious blood be spilled for us and for our sins then what really will He let touch us, what really will He let destroy us.

Each step of the way, in all that we are and all that we face, God really is there to stand for us. Sometimes it just takes letting go of the things that we think we know, remembering God’s wisdom and understanding surpasses even our own, and letting His invisible hand take hold of us, rising from the places we cannot see to stretch over us to protect us, to ensure that nothing that really and truly can rob us of His peace and comfort if we trust in Him will overtake us. Yes, that is a hard leap of faith to sometimes make when everything seems to be going against us, but then it is a question of how much hope do you truly put in the Lord and do you trust the promises He offers unto you as an undeniable truth for your life.

Take a moment in your day today, look at the struggles and the challenges that are weighing on you. Close your eyes, and search for God’s love for your life. It is there, and it is ready to make you more powerful than you ever thought possible if you just let it. No matter what hardship or difficulty life may offer, they fall if you stand firm in the Lord. It just takes the strength and the power He has already given to you and that you perhaps aren’t yet aware that you have. Then will you rest easy in the blessings of His promises for you.

What if God Doesn’t Care

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder if God actually even cares.

I mean we know He does, or, at the very least, we think He does. It tells us in Scripture He does, and what are the words to that children’s song? “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.” After all, if He cared enough to create us, if He made the promises that He made, assuring us that they are the same, that His love, bound to us through Christ, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) there has to be something to the idea that He actually cares. Yet, sometimes it feels more complicated than that, does it? Sure it’s the faith of a child that saves, making way the path to Heaven, (Luke 18:17) but we don’t stay children forever, eventually we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and adult problems follow us.

During those times God can seem so far distant, He can seem so far removed as we pray for a sign, for any sign that He still sees us, that He still contends with our cause, that He still cares. There are those times when, for as much as we know that He is there, we just don’t seem to feel it, at least not like we did, at least not like we should, and it’s hard. More than anything else it hurts as we just want so badly for Him to make His presence to be known, to let us know He’s still there, that He still sees us. If there is a Hell, if it is being removed from the presence of God, then those moments sure seem like they are as close as you can get to it on earth, aren’t they?

The thing about it is that, whether we feel His presence or not, whether we see His hand or not, God is there, and there isn’t a moment, a second, an instant where He doesn’t care. (Matthew 6:25-34) We know this not just because the Bible tells us that He loves us, that He is always there for us, that He cares for each of us individually with hope and grace, mercy and faith, but because He is the God who gave His only Son as the great sacrifice to wash away our sin and our guilt, to chase away all those problems big and small that would keep us separated from Him. (John 3:16)

You see, this temporal existence is the last great battlefield, and the Devil, our old adversary, he does everything he can to prove to us that Hell does exist, not just as a spiritual plane but as physical one too, and that this, right here is it. After all, if he can convince us that God doesn’t see us here, if He doesn’t see our pain and our anguish here, then is there really a God, is there really a Heaven or a Hell beyond any of this or is it just a moral argument devised millennia ago? After all, for as much as it can be made to feel as much like Hell as it can, our existence this side of Paradise can’t really be made to feel as splendid as Heaven itself, for however close we may wish or want it to be.

It’s not that God doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t understand. It’s that it’s easier for us to believe that He doesn’t see it than it is for us to accept the truth: amidst this life there are going to be struggles and hardships that seem like they are more than we can handle, there are going to be things in it that are going to cause us so much pain we don’t necessarily know what to do, and yes, God doesn’t necessarily stop them from happening. Why? Because even through them He has a plan for them, He has a lesson He teaches us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He knows nothing the Devil can throw at us is more powerful than we are when we put our hope, our faith and our trust in Him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just because we know something is painful now doesn’t mean it can’t lead to something amazing in our future now if we let God show us what it means, just like we can’t know if God takes something painful from us now it can’t lead to a greater pain or a deeper anguish in the future. The nature of faith has to be in the trust, as we put everything we don’t know in the hands of a God who does.

Never for a moment believe that God doesn’t care. He does, and, even in your hardship He is sparing you from some greater challenge, some greater hardship, waging a perpetual battle against sin, death and the Devil for you. He is doing it in ways we can’t understand and can’t conceive, and all He asks of you is a little bit of faith as He guides you through it all. It’s here then that we realize that when we can’t see God or hear Him we need to rely on our other senses, on a greater spiritual sense to find Him. When we do, we know then not only does He care for us, but that He also carries us. It’s then that though that purpose may be lost on us for the moment, we are drawn to the greater moments nearer to eternity when all purpose is revealed to us.

A Question of Why

Why? Isn’t that always the question? Often times it’s the one short little three letter word that defines for us our trials and adversity, our struggles and our pain. We ask it as we try to make some sort of semblance of sense out of everything we can’t figure out enough to actually make sense. We do it to the point where it’s not just a question anymore, but the answer as well.

How often have we found ourselves challenged, asking ‘Why’? “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “If God is so good and He loves us, they why would He let this happen?” At times, it’s the easiest and quickest word to roll off of our tongues in our hour of need, knowing we just don’t know and that what we need to know isn’t going to come simply or readily to us even for as much as we want it to.

But then life is difficult, it’s hard and it’s wrought with challenges. Just when we think we’ve gotten our head wrapped around it enough to actually do something, it throws a curve ball that knocks us off our game. Sometimes it’s small, and we’re able to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” as we move on from it. Other times it’s big and it’s encompassing and, for as much as we want it to, we can’t quite seem to do it, we can’t quite figure it out enough to do it. It leaves us with this hurt feeling as we wonder if it’s ever going to be the same. In those moments, “Why” is about the only thing that’s uncomplicated about the complicated to us.

The thing is it’s not always about the “Why”. After all, for as unclear as it may all be, for as convoluted as it perhaps seems to be, the “Why” is actually transparent, it’s not that complex at all. We live in a sinful world; one that, since the fall of man, has been marked with trials and temptations. (Genesis 3:1-19) As Peter reminds us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Is there a greater “Why” than this?

Even the most righteous, the most faithful, living in this mortal realm, need fear the old adversary, and they need to do so more than the unrighteous. After all, the greater question of “Why” is why would the Devil go after a soul he already has when the nature of man is to abide in fear and doubt? He knows this, and he doesn’t go after the weak alone, but the strong, hunting them, seeking to make them his own.

No, the question isn’t “Why?” regardless of how easy it comes. “Why” is often times the means by which uncertainty attacks that which we need to be the most certain of. “Why” is the easiest way to make the simple become complex, so complex that we can’t begin to understand it. “Why”, for as hard as it may be to let go of, is how comfort and peace is robbed from us as it sends us looking everywhere but where we need to for the answers.

It’s not “Why” that’s the most important thing, but rather “What” and “How”. “What am I supposed to learn?” “How is this going to make me a better person?” “What can I do differently?” “How can I use this to grow in faith and better understand God’s plan for me?” Regardless of the pain and the hardships we may face, these are the questions we not only have to ask but the ones that need to draw us closer and nearer to our Heavenly Father.

The promise of God is the promise that where we are so He is as well. He will never fail us or forsake us. (Joshua 1:5) His covenant with us is the covenant that stands by His blessed assurances to us in the faithfulness of His love and mercy. (Deuteronomy 4:31) So strong is He in that love and care He has for us, in the covenant He has made with us, He would give His only Son to die for us (John 3:16) even when we seemed like we were lost to sin, death and the Devil. How much more then does the wonders of His Word mean when He tells to us that, if we come to Him, in faith and hope, He will give us the knowledge that we so seek? (James 1:5-6)

Even when we stumble, even when we fall, even when the world seems unfair, unnecessarily so, our blessed Savior is there for us, to take the yoke of our burdens from us. (Matthew 11:28-30) Again, the “Why” is simple, it’s a matter then of “What are we meant to do with the freedom He has given us?” and “How can we use His good gifts to be the people He has intended for us to be?” We can only do that, we can only answer that by letting go of “Why”, understanding that it has already been answered for us, and we are not in control of it, all we can control is what we do with the blessed gifts and the wonderful promises God has given to us.

It’s only then that we can find the peace, the hope, and the comfort we so long for.

Miracles Great and Small

How often, in our times of trouble, do we pray for a miracle? In our faith and our hope we often just find ourselves kneeling down, laying it all out and wishing for something, for anything that will come, wanting it so badly and for it to be enough to encompass our lives, making it just that much easier.

Why not? After all, even in his sin, even in his fallen state of anger and hate, Saul of Taurus gave witness to a miracle. The ground rumbled, and shook and any questions, any doubt he had was chased away by the booming voice of God as the heavens split and His presence and will was made known to him. He didn’t even pray, he wasn’t working in faith, the persecutor of the early Church he didn’t even realize he was in need of that divine guidance, yet there it was. So why can’t we be blinded by the glory of God to be shown the path? Why can’t His voice come like thunder from the skies to tell us the road we need to go down?

It’s one of those questions, one of those struggles we battle with. We know the verses, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) or “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”, (Philippians 4:13) but sometimes it seems as if the God who tells us to be strong and courageous, reminding us that He will never fail us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) just doesn’t hear. It almost feels as if He is waiting for us to figure it out for ourselves, removed from the situation as we plead with Him, in our faith, for a little more, for a little something, the weight of it all just bearing down on us.

God’s miracles are never far from us though. It’s just a matter of looking for them and seeing them right in front of us. Though He can, He doesn’t necessarily send angels with blazing swords to appear in front of us, nor does He split the skies to appear in His wondrous glory in front of us. Even as we want a dramatic example or an encompassing miracle that shows us the path of His divine design for our lives, it’s not the way it works.

The promise of God isn’t the promise that He will give us what we want. It’s the promise that, in His goodness and His mercy, in His love for us He will give us what we need. (2 Peter 1:3) With that, through the power of His Holy Spirit, His miracles are everywhere around us to behold, made manifest in His hope for us. (Hebrews 2:4) It’s just a matter of understanding what those miracles truly are, letting your heart and your soul, your spirit and your mind open to the fruits of His Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23) the truest blessings of God’s wondrous plan and love for us.

Coming to our Heavenly Father, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ, means not only trust Him, it means not only having faith in Him, it means opening our eyes to the great and to the small, knowing that they happen all around us if we are truly receptive to the way that they come to us. With that it’s not about the lessons He can teach us or the hope He can give us when He makes things so easy for us that we can’t ignore it, it’s about the way He guides us to a better understanding, a greater understanding that only comes when we open our eyes to a world of greater possibilities through Him. It’s the reminder that, as our blessed Savior reminds us, it takes but a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain, (Matthew 17:20) and the greatest came come from the smallest.

Though He promises us His goodness, His hope and His mercy, telling us that He has plans for us and for our lives, (Jeremiah 29:11) God comes to us on His terms, not on ours. He does so because, better than we know ourselves, He knows us and what is best for us. With that He guides us and leads us according to who we are and who we need to be, we just need to keep our eyes and our hearts open to the signs and the wonders that He has all around us. Perhaps they’re not always easy to see, but they are there. What we need to remember is that coming to God in faith, coming to Christ in hope, trusting in their blessings, and their guarantees, means we are trusting in the power and the terms of the Divine, and not just our own want or desire for what that should mean.

Let your hearts behold the miracles of the living God, let your lives be encompassed by those blessings great and small. Let go of your own preconceived notions of what they should be or need to be. Once you do, you open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities where the miracles you once considered small now become greater than anything you ever imagined as they give you the power to do more and be more according to the wonders of God through the grace of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans: Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law.  The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders.  What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter?  No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.

Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old.  Instead He gave a new command: to love.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It’s really as simple as that.  You want to obey God? Love.  You want to please Him? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.