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Godless: Part 2

Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” 

At some point in our life we have heard someone say “If there is a God, why does He allow such evil to take place in the world.” The truth is because that’s what’s in our hearts and that is what we seek. God longs for us to seek after Him the way He seeks after us. He longs for us to be like Him and to value the things He values. Things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. But none of us do, not one of us. We seek out the lusts of our hearts. We are carnal, materialistic, power hungry, envious, creatures who worship and serve creation rather than the Creator. So why does God allow us to live this way? Because He gave us free will.

God created us in His image with our own will and He will not force His upon us. So when we choose things that God detests, when we put things He created over Him, He allows us too. God didn’t design us to be robots, and as much as He loves us, He gives us up to what our hearts desire.

The world has been tricked into thinking that we are gods and the masters of our own destiny. And it will hold on to this lie and continue to follow this path no matter how destructive it gets, denying Christ and the salvation that is available to all that believe. Why? Jesus said in John 3:19 “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This was all our story at one point. We are a fallen race that doesn’t seek after God, but our own selfish desires. But God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. The world thinks that Christ came to condemn us for what we are, but those of us who walk with The Lord know that He came to save us from what we are. Sinners who are far from God and who deserve the prize of our endeavors, which is death. This is why it’s so important to let our light shine. Their might be somebody who spent their entire life believing a lie, huddled in darkness, who might see the light of Christ shining through our lives.

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Love does not boast

1 Corinthians 13:4  Love…does not…boast

No one likes a braggart.  Excessive boasting is obnoxious and rude.  It belittles others and serves self.  In short, it’s not love.  Let’s translate this into a scenario you can relate to.

You’re out with friends.  The girls are chatting together while the guys share a word.  You’re going on about what you did for your girlfriend for your anniversary, telling all of the details about how much hard work you put into it.  This can play out two ways.

You’re either sharing all this so that your friends know how wonderful you think your girlfriend is, and how deserving she is of this treatment, expressing regret that you can’t always treat her with this much attention – or, you’re bragging. In the latter scenario, you’re trying to make yourself look good, which makes it seem as though you went so out of your way for such an underserving wretch as your girlfriend, and she’s so lucky to have a good person like you in her life.  How does this make her feel?  Is that loving?

Love builds others up, it doesn’t tear them down.  And bragging does bring others down in an attempt to elevate self.  It’s best to follow the wisdom of Proverbs 27:2 and “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth”. True love acts in humility.

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Love does not envy

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love…does not envy

Are you happy when your loved ones succeed?  It seems like a silly question, but the reality is that there can be times when we’re not happy for them when they have done something that makes them happy.  The root of this can be two things; either one equates to envy.

We may feel inadequate that something other than ourselves can have this effect on those around us.  Maybe we want to be the only one capable of bringing them happiness.  “Could I put as much of a smile on her face as this has?”  “Am I even good enough?”  This is envy in one regard.

Another common scenario is just being jealous that someone else has something that you don’t.  You want what they have so you can’t just be happy for them.  Again, it’s envy, and it’s not loving.

True love wants what’s best for others.  You don’t want something at the expense of your spouse, your friends, your family. You’re willing to give up your own desires to see them live a fulfilling life.  You put them first, never trying to step on them to get what you want.

True love rejoices in triumphs and grieves alongside the hurting.  True love will even help achieve those triumphs.  We’ve got to hold others in that high a regard.  When God chooses to bless, that’s a time to give thanks, not pout in envy.

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Love is kind

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is… kind

There are some people who could just make you cringe with the way they treat those they claim to love.  Insults, vulgarities, and general mean-spiritedness define these relationships.  Could this really be love?  Is it even possible that these people who treat each other worse than enemies have anything even resembling love for each other?  You know the people…you’ve seen them out in public, they’re the couple at the dinner party that everyone else is sort of embarrassed for.

Love is so much more than just the way we feel about each other.  The way we treat each other, however, is a reflection of what our true view is of those we “love”.  It’s not possible to love someone in the true definition of the word and treat them with contempt or unkindness.  When you love someone, you want to be kind to them.  You want to treat them as though they are important and worthy of respect.  There’s no room for intentionally hurting feelings, manipulation, or making them feel worthless.

Love is kind and our example is Jesus.  The only perfect man to ever walk the earth treated His loved ones with the utmost kindness and respect.  He expects us to do the same, not just for those we love, but for those He loves.

 

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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.

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Godless: Part I

Romans 1:18-23 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

The world has no excuse. The evidence of God’s divinity and His eternal glory surround us in all of creation. It cries out from every corner of the earth and as this verse says, “it has been made plain to us.” So why doesn’t the world recognize God for who He is and come to repentance to be made right with Him? This is the first of a four part devotion I’m writing entitled “Godless” in which we will dive in to Romans 1:18-32.

The world just doesn’t seem right does it? The more I mature in my faith, the more this becomes apparent. I don’t know about you, but many times I feel like a foreigner in a strange land. Why is this? The Bible says in Romans 8:23 that “we believers also groan” and that “we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.”

As a believer in the Gospel of Christ, we have had our sins forgiven and our names written in the Lambs Book of Life, but we have to live out our salvation here on earth. We long to leave this earthly shell, to be released from our flesh, and join our Father in Heaven. We long to leave this world that is so selfish and eaten up with greed, envy, and ambition. A world that covets every kind of evil and harbors such atrocities that it makes our hearts sink. It’s easy to see why we would want to leave this world, but while we are here, we do have a mission.

We have to carry the good news of the Gospel into this dark, godless place we call the earth. A place where men and women, through the darkness of their hearts, have replaced divinity with obscenity. They have traded immortality for mortality and worship things that will pass away. And why do they seek such things? Because, like everyone of us at one point in our life, we let our pride rule us.

I love how verse 22 says “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Everyone wants to be right. Everyone wants to be in control. We don’t want to be made to feel like we’re wrong or that we need to do anything to be made right. It’s the fruit of pride, the original sin. This is why the Gospel at first offends us and stings us at our core. No one in this world is without sin and we all at one time were ungodly, unrighteous, suppressors of the truth.

Once we accepted Christ as our savior and our relationship with our Father in Heaven was restored, we started to filter things through God’s perspective. For example, do you ever notice that the more you get to know God and His truth, the more foolish the wise and influential people of the world become? But to those who hearts are dark, we are the fools, following ancients myths and senseless traditions. So why do we even try? How can these people be even be reached?

They all worship something. Whether it’s fame, power, money, religion tailored to their lifestyle, or their own wisdom, they all bow down to something. They are trying to fill a hole that can only be filled by the love of Christ. They busily look inward for an answer that they will never find. The hope lies in the fact that God has made Himself plain to them and His divine attributes can be clearly perceived. What you need to do now is offend them. Offend them with the Gospel that ultimately has the power to save them. Rattle their world and challenge everything they know about life. Let the light of Christ that fills you shine into their darkness.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known