Love

CARING FOR THOSE WHO PLAY THE VICTIM

God’s call upon us is clear. We are to love Him with all that we are, and we are to love our neighbor.

If we are to practice love of neighbor, we must step into their lives, including their hurts and burdens.

However, sometimes we cannot help but wonder if some of the people we are trying to care for are misusing our care. In short are they “playing the victim card”?

Even if people are playing the victim card, does that automatically let us off the hook from being responsible to love them. If we are to love our enemies, should we love those who misuse our compassion?

The short answer is that we are to love every person we meet regardless of the worthiness of their situation or their attitude. Everyone without Christ is broken, blind and totally lost.

The complicated part is how should we put our love for these people into action?

God does not necessarily want the answer to always be immediately clear and easy. There is benefit in searching our souls and the Scripture to find clarity. When answers are too easy, sometimes that is an indication of pride rather than wisdom.

Nick Batzig walks us through this conundrum in this article “Jesus and the Victim Card”, which is found at the Reformation 21 online magazine. He writes:

At the end of the day, our job is to point others to Scripture and to the Savior who is revealed in Scripture. We must resist the snare of putting ourselves in the place of the Redeemer in the name of “being there” for those who are hurting. Our job is to point others to the only one who is able to give both us and them the grace that we need to change.

AMAZING LOVE, HOW CAN IT BE!

John 15:9 is one of my favorite be-amazed-passages-of-the-Bible

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

What a comparison! We are loved exactly as God the Father loves God the Son

How does the Father love the Son?

It is beyond our comprehension, but whatever it entails – only God is capable of it. This means we are loved constantly, inexhaustibly and beyond description.

If we are loved as the Father loves the Son, then it is impossible for us to be loved more

Why don’t we always feel this loved?

1.  We really don’t understand love all that well

We equate love with kindness which means we focus on how God is meeting our immediate comforts. God is concerned with more than just our present comforts; He is committed to working on our character and eternal good. 

If we equate love with kindness, we will doubt God’s love when life is hard. Don’t look for God to imitate our patterns of loving

2.  We tend to judge love by how we feel

We are not told pursue feeling loved.  That leads to craving emotional experiences instead of learning to trust God’s faithfulness.

We are commanded to believe God when He says that He loves us. God’s actions have proven the depth of His love for us

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” I John 3:1

 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 

 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” I John 4:9 

3.  We need to separate God’s love for us from our unlovableness

If you think, ‘I can’t see why God would love me’, that’s good. Anyone who can see why God should love them – is deceived. God loves us out of his character, not because of ours

God loved YOU at your worst!

God loves YOU with His best!

Jesus tells us to “abide” in his love

To abide means to remain in a particular condition. Jesus is not saying it’s up to us to keep God’s love for us; he is urging us to keep living according to the reality of God’s love for us

 

IT MAY BE WHAT YOU THINK, BUT IS IT NECESSARY?

I have been corrected (rightly so) for sins I have committed.

I have been corrected (rightly so) for careless words or actions that were unintended.

I have also been criticized to my face (and more often behind my back), for actions that were treated as sins, when in reality, my critic simply had a different opinion.

I have been criticized in people’s hearts and to others (without me being present) for reasons that were misinformed, misunderstood, or simply arrived upon by speculation.

None of these situations were pleasant.

Some of these situations were necessary.

But many of these situations were unbiblical.

If there is any lesson we should learn from the aftermath of the recent Presidential Election, it is that there are bad ways to express our disagreement and our disappointment.

As people of the gospel, Christians should have a clear grasp of what is an appropriate expression of disagreement, and what is an inappropriate – or even sinful outflowing of our heart.

What are the guidelines to how you express your disagreement?

Are you careful to make sure you came by your opinions and attitudes by a biblical process?

Has it occurred to you that holding negative opinions about people without valid information is slanderous? Even if you have not spread your opinion, you have slandered that person in your heart.

The famous “Love” passage in 1 Corinthians 13 ends with this description of how love acts:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”

It would be worth spending a few minutes to consider how this declaration about love should affect the way we think about other people. The Bible is not telling us to ignore the truth about people, but it is instructing us to think the best we can about them. This is “Treating people the way you want to be treated 101″

Accountability is good for the soul, but so is being gracious

For more thoughts on “confrontation”, read this excellent article by Tim Challies as he describes an incident when someone aggressively confronted him after a speaking engagement.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.08.16

Jesus’ friends love  

    

John 15:12-17

In Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, he now returns to emphasize and dig into truths he has already told them. This repetition lets us know these are foundational truths for Christ followers

 

Once again, Jesus connects love and obedience

Love among believers is required (vs 12, 17)

Morality and church involvement are necessary – but love is our beacon to the world (John 13:35)

Love best reveals (1) God’s transforming power and (2) the gospel’s agenda

But what does love for one another look like?  1 Corinthians 13:7-8

     “Bears all things” – love shows grace and absorbs people’s shortcomings

     “Believes all things” – love does not draw negative conclusions and assign bad motives to others

     “Hopes all things” – love obligates us to think the best we can of others

     “Endures all things” – love’s agenda for people doesn’t change with how they treat us

Jesus’ redemptive work is our example for how to obey and love (v13)

In the cross we see Jesus’ greatest example of love – sacrifice – humility – commitment

Other believers can be examples, but Jesus is our standard

In chapter 1 Jesus is the ‘Word made flesh’

     Jesus is God’s ultimate expression of himself,

     Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s grand purpose

     Jesus is the manifestation of godliness

     ~ For all these reasons we are to be obsessed with knowing and imitating Jesus

An implied theme of this discourse is that Jesus’ followers will obey him (v14)

Christ has not just set a path before us, he has walked it

God knows our weakness, so don’t beat yourself up with failures, repent if needed and go forward (Psalm 103:13-14)

But God rejects an unwilling heart, so make sure you do repent of sin in every form (Revelation 3:14-16

 

Our obedience is not as slaves (vs 14-15)

Slaves are just given tasks, while God has opened his plans to us, so we can we share in them

1.  We don’t want to abuse the role of “friend” and so neglect having a servant’s heart

         We need to take the phrase ‘I no longer call you servants’ in context

         We are still to view ourselves as servants, for that is how Jesus viewed himself on earth

2.  We don’t want to minimize our relationship with God as “friend”, and fail to embrace it

Being Jesus’ friend is clearly a relational title, but it’s much more; we have been invited into the work that is dearest to his heart

We gain insight by looking at Abraham and Moses, who are the only people previously called “friends” of God

     Both of them experienced unusual interaction with God

     Both of them were given unusual access to God

These two themes are imbedded is what Jesus communicates in v15

We are servants, because we serve Jesus’ kingdom, instead of our own

But we are also beloved friends and heirs of that kingdom

 

Jesus takes our participation further (v16)

We are “chosen” and “appointed” to fruitfully participate in gospel work

1.  This is meant to encourage us, because Christ has initiated our calling (knowing all our junk)

We tend to fall into the false mindset that we initiate plans and then convince God to help

2.  This is meant to make us serious, because we have been given responsibilities

We need to ask ourselves, what we think life is for!

     Is it to build a happy life and if we are open to it, God can have some space

    Or, that life is from and for God!  True joy comes through fulfilling his roles for us

Jesus continues the theme of our being fruitful that he began vs 1-11

God wants you to be fruitful!  Our weaknesses have no impact on this intention

A fruitful life is his purpose, any voice that says otherwise is lying

This doesn’t rest on our smarts or strength. Remember the “Helper” was sent to dwell in us

Our role in the process is to love God – obey him – abide in him – love one another

For the fourth time in the Farewell Discourse, in v16 Jesus tells them to “ask in my name”

“Friends” of God, let’s take him at his word

GETTING TO BUSINESS

lovethyneighbor

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.19.15

Transformed Community

 

Colossians 3:12-17

by Paul Long

 

What should you wear to church? 

In Colossians 3 Paul describes a way we should dress that will absolutely transform the community of our church.

He gives us qualities of a transformed community that should characterize our life together. 

Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Meekness and Patience

These virtues are like articles of clothing we are to put on as Christians. 

It is within our relationships that these virtues must be put on, and it is within our relationships that we grow in the practice of these virtues. 

Let’s look at each virtue and see how putting each on transforms our community.

1.  A Compassionate heart

Compassion is how we feel about and toward one another. 

Putting on a compassionate heart means that when we see or hear about those that are in need we are moved to do something.  That means we need to be aware of what others are going through.  Compassionate hearts flow from the compassion we have been shown by our Father.  Psalm 103:13

2.  Kindness

Kindness is speaking and acting with tenderness and sensitivity. 

3.  Humility

Pride threatens community life.  When we are prideful we compete with others for glory.  Pride is a concern for my own personal glory and greatness.  Humility is the opposite it’s living for God’s glory.         

Humility is deferring to others –counting others as more significant.  We allow the needs of others to rise above our own.  Phil 2:3

4.  Meekness

Meekness is strength under control.  When we are hurt or offended, though we could retaliate, we don’t.  We respond with grace and gentleness.  The meek are willing to put up with what others throw at them. 

Do you struggle with being meek?  Consider the meekness of your Savior, the greatest example of meekness the world has seen.  Jesus was all powerful, yet submitted to God’s will completely. 

5.  Patience

Patience is how we respond toward others when they are not acting the way we want.  Patience is being long suffering when we are being insulted or hurt. 

1 Corinthians reminds us “Love is Patient.” Our love for others is expressed when we are patient with them.  If we are not patient, we are failing to love and we are failing to grasp God’s love and patience toward us. 

Patience is often tested in the context of community. 

Losing our patience is sin that needs to be repented of.  In the context of confessing our sin of impatience to God, we should be reminded of his patience with us.  2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim 1:15-16

God is patient.  How many times since become a Christian have you messed up?  How patient has God been with you? 

 

Practicing these virtues will transform the community of our church,

At some point someone in this church will do something that bothers, offends or hurts you. 

In addition to putting on these virtues we are to be

[13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

One way our community is transformed is that we are able to bear with one another’s shortcomings and quickly forgive one another’s faults. 

When we are slow to forgive we must look to the cross.  In v13 we are instructed to model our forgiveness after the forgiveness God has shown us.

What offense of yours is God still holding onto?  What have you done that God has not completely and totally forgiven?  God has completely forgiven us – we should forgive others in the same way. 

What offense are you holding onto today? 

Like a good belt – love binds every virtue we have put on together in perfect harmony  v14

Love is the motivating factor behind each virtue Paul mentions.  Love is the strength behind bearing with one another.  Love is the reason we forgive. 

Paul says v15 let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body

The word “rule” literally means to umpire.  In our church community peace is to be our umpire.  The peace of Christ is to be the decisive factor in our lives – it should be given preference over all other concerns and interests. 

We are called to relate to one another in a way that shows the peace Christ provides for us by his death and resurrection  v15

Our community is transformed by word ministry and worship ministry.  vs 16-17

“Let the word of Chris dwell in you richly.”

We do this on an individual and corporate level.

We individually allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly as we read the Bible. 

There is also a corporate word ministry – as we gather together to hear the word preached and speak the word into one another’s lives. 

Part of our life together is word ministry.  It is when we teach and admonish one another.

Teaching can be gathering as the church body to hear the word preached OR sharing with your small group OR the simple act of speaking a word of encouragement into the life of another believer. 

To admonish is to speak a word of correction or warning, to strongly encourage someone in a direction or choice.  Admonishment is the application of teaching in our lives. 

As we teach and admonish we do it “in all wisdom”, wisdom that flows from the word of God we have allowed to dwell richly in us. 

How we teach and admonish matters. 

That brings us back to the five virtues, and love as the motivation for all of our interaction together. 

A transformed community is a community that overflows in worship to God v16 

When we allow the word of Christ to richly dwell in us, it will overflow and transform our community. 

How is your life transforming this community of believers? 

How is your life transforming the world around you?

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 10.12.15

A loving community is not optional          

1 John 4:7-12

Christian life begins with love for God and each other. In 1 John 4 we are given 5 reminders for us to affirm about love in the Church

1.  God Gave Us A New Life That Loves (v7)

Love is part of the DNA of our spiritual birth

Our new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit in which love for God has been imbedded in us

This needs to mature, but it has been put in us

This challenges us:  are we truly born again – is our spiritual heart beating?

This encourages us:  a supernatural capacity to love is already in us

To love when it’s hard, it is a matter of cultivation not creation

We will have a powerful impact if we use this love that God has given us (John 13:35)

2.  When We Fail to Love, We Have Failed to Understand God (v8)

If we are not a loving person, we don’t grasp what God is like

v8 tells us that God is love; which means those who follow him will love

Showing love for people is not attraction-based, it’s character-driven

Any truth that doesn’t fulfill God’s purpose been distorted

So if we learn theology without being dominated by love, we don’t grasp these truths as well as we think

We can talk fluent Christian,  but God calls us to live Christian   

3.  If Love is Biblical, It Will Flow With Sacrificial Action (vs 9-10)

Inactive love is the absence of love. If our heart stops beating, we are not alive

vs 10  God sent his Son, to pay our debt of sin   

When vs 7 says “Let us love one another” it is an action statement 

Most people think ‘I’m a loving person’; but what standard are we using?   

We are not a loving community, because we love the people we like

We are not a loving community, because we love when it’s convenient

A loving church practices what God shows us about love

Love keeps the gospel agenda in view, it “lays down our life” for others

Love seeks Christ’s work in people – even when they let us down, or we are busy

4.  Love Inspires (v11)

The most astonishing acts of love in universal history have been carried out for us

Now that we experience this love, our love should be inspired!

God’s love is boundless – this inspires us to be generous with grace to others

God’s love pursues us – this inspires us to take the initiative to express love

God’s love endures – this inspires us to persist when being loving is hard

5.  Love Transforms (v12)

God’s love right now is transforming us, it is ‘perfecting’ us!

This is an absolute, concrete fact about every believer

Life is a struggle, so let’s struggle together and make it struggle for Christ

If we set our sights low, that’s a false Christianity

If we are satisfied with tepid love that’s a wasteful life (I Corinthians 3:11-15)

If we refuse to take steps, that is unfaithfulness

As love transforms us, God uses it to transform the people around us

What a motivation!  God’s transforming work overflowing our life into the lives of others

Don’t take this next thought lightly, let’s overflow in as many lives as possible

Think how much greater this overflowing work will be, when it’s done in a community together!

IT’S HELPING ME TO UNDERSTAND

My wife, Debbie, has taught three-year-old Sunday school for over twenty years.

It is not uncommon for children to cry when their parents leave the room. In their minds, their parents are simply disappearing.

These little ones don’t grasp that their mom and dad remain close by and attentive. They certainly don’t think through the reasons why their parents are out of sight. None of the children appreciate the prayerful purpose their parents have for putting them in Debbie’s classroom.

In a similar way, we may think God is far and we have been forgotten. We don’t understand the purposes God has when we don’t feel His presence or see His hand working. And we are far from appreciating the depth of God’s love and the careful way He is unceasingly preparing us for our eternity with Him!

Another parent / child scenario I want to mention is when our children are gathered together in our house.

We have reached that stage in life when our children are grown and scattered. Our married daughter lives nearby – for now, while our other two children live a few states away.

Anytime we see or talk with one of our children, our hearts take a leap. And on those rare occasions when they are all with us together – it is sheer delight!

Our children like these occasions too, but they do not grasp how deeply it touches their parents. They will have to grow into that experience themselves.

Here is what amazes me – as a parent, the love and joy that I have for my children, cannot come close to matching the love and joy my Heavenly Father has for me.

He is a much better parent, with a much purer love and a boundless supply of it. God’s heart soars for me, more than my heart soars for my children. I can never out parent God, or out love and cherish him.

Our experience as parents is meant to be an eye-opener for us.

It helps us to increasingly understand our Heavenly Father’s heart for us.

Spend some time thinking through the many ways that your being a parent has taught you about Love – Care – Discipline – Heartache – Correction – and Communication. Then apply how what we have learned can give us insight into the heart of our Father in Heaven who is a perfect parent

WHAT A SACRIFICE!

In the days leading up to Jesus crucifixion, Mary, the sister of Martha, anoints Jesus with a very expensive ointment. 

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

It was a lavish display and in financial terms, a significant sacrifice. The ointment was worth approximately 10 months’ salary.

Pause to do the math – that is $30,000 for the average American worker!

There was nothing casual or half-hearted in what Mary did for Jesus.

We don’t know if the decision to make this sacrifice, and to offer this public display involved inner struggle for Mary. The fact that the Bible is silent on the matter tells us it really isn’t important.

What is important is what Mary actually did:

We know she publically demonstrated that she loved Jesus.

We know Mary was thankful to Jesus who had given forgiveness to her and life to her brother.

We know she humbled herself, wiping Jesus feet with her hair.

We know she sacrificed what could have been used in countless other ways.

What Mary did not know:

She did not know that her actions held meaning far beyond what she could then understand.

She did not know that Jesus would soon be on a cross and in a tomb.

She did not know how deeply Jesus would appreciate her actions.

She did not know that her actions had just become part of the most astonishing of all God’s works – the atoning death of His Son!

She did not know that we would be impacted by her actions 2000 years later.

Every believer has as much reason to be thankful to Jesus as Mary did.

We have been raised from spiritual death and we have the promise that even our bodies will one day be raised to eternal glory.

Every believer also has choices and opportunities to show Jesus our love and gratitude.

We all cannot give something worth 10 months’ salary, but we all can be sacrificial with our possessions, and we all can demonstrate thankfulness with our actions.

Every believer who has the heart of Mary will also find that God uses our actions in ways that go far beyond what we anticipated and can currently see.

This is not because we are wise, gifted or wealthy. It is because God is loving, gracious and wonderful.

Every believer can bring the “fragrance” of devotion to Christ into the places that we live, work and worship.

This week, we remember what Jesus did for us.

It is an appropriate time to consider what we are doing for him.

A SURE FIRE WAY TO BUILD ROMANCE!

Romance is usually seen as candles, dinners and carriage rides

But that doesn’t always work out so well . . .

One man thought he had conquered the problem of trying to remember his wife’s birthday and their anniversary.  He opened an account with a florist, provided them with the dates and instructions to send flowers along with an appropriate note signed, “Your loving husband.”

Months later, his wife was thrilled by this new display of attention and all went well until he came home, kissed his wife and said offhandedly,  “Wonderful flowers, honey. Where’d you get them?”

Flowers and dinners are certainly appreciated, but for romance to grow for life, it needs to run much deeper

The best way to build romance is by being holy

Our failures and struggles in relationships are spiritual/heart issues

The pursuit of holiness turns us from being self-centered to being loving

Your spouse will think it is very romantic that your attention is given to serving them!

Holiness removes distractions,

. . it smooths our jagged edges,

. . and it clears away the gunk that clogs our relationships

Holiness forms us into a more desirable person     

Our culture is obsessed with having and preserving physical beauty

But physical beauty doesn’t hide sin – just ask the beautiful people who regularly get divorced

Physical beauty will fade – 100% of the time!

By contrast, inner beauty will keep growing with age and time – and it never grows tiresome  

This is why the Bible gives us this advice:

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife”  (1 Peter 3:2-4 & 7)

No one wants your marriage to be more fulfilling than God

And no one can do more to make that happen