What’s love got to do with it?

Love is a difficult concept to nail down in modern society. It is used to mean everything from sex, to passion, to friendship, and everything in between. It is usually focused on an emotional state, rather than a state of mind.

Love is a commitment that stretches beyond another’s commitment to you. It exceeds the benefits you receive from a relationship and brings you to the point of self sacrifice. True love means giving of yourself even if you aren’t likely to receive anything in return.

This is exactly the kind of love Christ showed to us: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). He died for the sins of the whole world, knowing that many would not love Him in return, and knowing that the love that those who believe would give back would pale in comparison to what He gave us.

That is the excellence of Christ’s love. So here is the challenge: have you been loving those who don’t love you? Like Christ, do you live without consideration of what will be received in return? Christ is calling you to that same selfless love today.

He Lives in You

In Romans 8:11, we are told that “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV). It is so easy to reduce our salvation to a state of mind, to a position of belief. But being reconciled to Christ is so much more.

You who believe- you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The presence of God dwells in your innermost being and, when you follow His promptings, stands of living water flow from you. When your seek first His kingdom, the power of Almighty God is at your disposal.

Stand in confidence of God. He goes before you. He never leaves you. He dwells within you.

It’s My Life!

As children, especially as teenagers, and even as adults, we have at one time or another, in the face of undesired direction, boldly proclaimed “it’s my life!”

The greatest difficulty we face in living the life to which we are called is giving up ownership of ourselves. The Apostle Paul tells us “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The life of a Christian is a life- a blessed life- of service. We are called to live our lives for others, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 ESV).

Where Do I Dwell?

As I write this, I am in Houston, Texas helping my in-laws pack up and begin a new journey in Kansas. We are all excited about the move, but the physical act of moving is not a pleasant one. It involves emotional stress, physical pains, and cleaning all those nooks and crannies we thought l clean before we began.

We’ve all dreaded moving ourselves or a loved one because of the labor and discomfort involved. But when was the last time you made a spiritual move? You may be doing what God called you to do 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. And it’s good that you heard His voice. But are you still hearing?

“The only constant is change.” This is true of the Kingdom of God just as it is for the rest of life. God says “Behold, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19). You walk with Him should never stagnate. I gaurantee this- He is calling you to something new.

But, if we continue to keep in step with the Spirit, we are promised this:”In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord , make me dwell in safety” (Psalms 4:8 ESV). Our spiritual landscape may be constantly changing, but as we follow Him, whether on the mountain or in the valley, we will dwell in safety.

Joyful Giving

Is giving a duty? A chore? A burden?

Though many of us wouldn’t want to admit it, there has probably been a time when we feel that way. Who hasn’t had “something better to do” with their tithes, offerings, or other giving?

Giving ought to be a source of joy, but we have to maintain a proper perspective for this to be the case. Remember:

  • Everything we have had been given to us by God. Freely you have received, so freely give.
  • What you have is not yours; you are a steward of God’s property. There is no better use for his blessings than blessing others.
  • You can’t out-give God. He will bless you beyond your ability to bless others.

When donations were needed to build the Tabernacle, the people have so generously that Moses had to declare “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” They had to be restrained from giving.

Give freely. Give without restraint. I promise you that God will always, always out-give and out-bless.

Chains of Tradition

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their traditions, because they often invalidated the Word of God. For example, a man didn’t have to honor his father and mother of he pledged the support he would have given them to God. For teachings like this Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, saying “for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:6 ESV).

Traditions aren’t necessarily bad. There are some beautiful hymns in the hymn book. The marriage ceremony has evolved into something deeply spiritual and scriptural over the years. But tradition is not the word of God and cannot be confused with scriptural standards of faith.

Time and time again, tradition has impaired the worship of God. Fueds have developed over song choices. New Christians have been confused and discouraged by old English translations. Change has been rejected because we want to do things the way they have always been done. We tolerate more traditionally “acceptable” sins while often rejecting those struggling with sins we consider “more severe.” When difficulties arise, we tell people that they don’t have enough faith.

Are your traditions impairing your walk with God? Are they turning others away from the faith? Are they hindering Kingdom growth? It’s time to clean house and change whatever is harming your own faith walk or the faith walk of others- even if it may be a tradition that you so love. It’s time to break the chains.

Loving to a Fault?

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus asking how he might inherit eternal life, Jesus first instructed him to be obedient to God’s commands. When replying that he had done so from his youth, Christ told him that he lacked one thing- his wealth was more important to him than God. He said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

At this, the rich young ruler went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus, with one look, saw where the young man was lacking. But here is the interesting part. As Jesus’s made this assessment of him, scripture says that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

God sees our every fault. He knows the deepest, darkest corners of our souls. And yet he looks upon us and loves us- warts and all. It’s healthy to feel guilty when you do wrong and to strive to become the holy and righteous person He calls you to be- but Jesus loves you right here, right now, just as you are.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure;
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

Exceptional Forgiveness

Forgiveness is difficult. It is something given to one who doesn’t deserve it, from one who has been wronged. By nature, forgiveness opposes our every human instinct to demand justice or desire vengeance. And the larger the offense, the harder it is to forgive.

God has not just called us to forgive the small things. We are called to offer exceptional forgiveness, grace beyond human reason.

Consider Joseph. His brothers plotted his death and sold him into slavery. Despite his outstanding integrity, his morality was thrown into question, and he was thrown into prison. There he remained for years before Pharaoh took note of him. The best years of his life had been miserable and squandered. He had every reason to have his brothers.

And yet, he forgave. He vowed to protect them and supply their needs, saying “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God”
(Genesis 50:17‭-‬19 ESV)? Joseph understood something important: only God alone had the right to NOT forgive! For the rest of us, we must offer the same grace given to us in Christ Jesus.

God is calling you to forgive. He is calling you to exceptional forgiveness, to grace beyond grace. Heed His call.

‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?Genesis 50:17‭-‬19 ESVhttps://bible.com/bible/59/gen.50.17-19.ESV

‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?Genesis 50:17‭-‬19 ESVhttps://bible.com/bible/59/gen.50.17-19.ESV