Love

A GRANDFATHER’S LOVE

Grandad and Wyatt 2017

I am watching my 2-year-old grandson, Wyatt, as he sleeps. 

My heart is bursting with affection for him. 

My mind is active with thoughts of how I want to spend time with him. 

My hopes are big for how his life will unfold in fruitfulness.

My concerns are deep for how he will navigate this troublesome and broken world. 

My joy is overflowing with the memories of what we have shared together. 

My willingness to sacrifice anything he needs from me, is real. 

You have probably watched your little ones with similar thoughts beaming in your heart.

But have you ever taken time to ponder how God looks at you with similar thoughts – only better!

The love I have for Wyatt, causes me to wonder why we struggle so much to accept how richly God loves us. Our Heavenly Father who is all perfection, loves far better than we who are all limitations.

I love much, but my love also is often interrupted by selfishness. My love at its best is hindered by my ignorance and weakness. As much as I love Wyatt, I cannot always be with him. I will never be able to share all his experiences, and I will not be able to stand with him in every burden.

But my Heavenly Father has none of these limitations in his love. God is always loving me in the ways I love Wyatt, but far greater. His love for me is not only greater in its degree of perfection, he loves me with greater intensity.

I think most Christians fail to appreciate the sheer intensity of God’s affection for us. This causes us to doubt the intensity of his commitment and care for us. We misinterpret the difficulties he allows and we are not convinced that God’s intentions are always wonderful.

As a son and a grandson, I knew that I was loved, but my grasp of that love was incomplete until I became a father and then a grandfather. We will never be able to fully grasp God’s love for us, but we should be able to rest in knowing that his love for us must be far greater than what we have for our loved ones.

It is good to ponder how we love those who are dear to us. And it is even better to ponder how dear we are to God!


 

PLAY-DOH LOVE

Love is wonderful

Love is popular

Love is deeply misunderstood

It is virtually impossible to find someone who has never been loved (humanly) and has no love for anyone else.

Yet, love for most people lies in a fog of misunderstanding and selfishness.

It’s hard to find a song, a book, a movie or therapeutic expert that gets love fully correct. This means we live in a world so confused about its favorite topic, that we don’t recognize pure love when it looks down from a cross at us.

It is not that people know nothing of love, the problem is that they don’t accept the baseline of love, because they don’t listen to God who is the source of love. If we don’t build on a solid foundation, we won’t end up with a structure that lasts.

Our world loves to think of love as something we can shape out of our own perspective and values. But Alex Duke is correct when he said, “Love isn’t Play-Doh”.

One of the problems with Play-Doh love is that none of us want to be loved according to someone’s pulled-out-of-the-air-according-to-their-own-desires perspective. The reason is simple, it’s not actually love and it doesn’t work out well for the people receiving it.

Of course there is an even bigger problem, counterfeit love is unacceptable to God and will not lead us to him or his kingdom.

When we don’t shape our understanding and practice of love by the teaching of Scripture and the example of Christ, we are left with emotions and interpretations that have much more self-love than true love.

If you want to know love, you must know God!

Alex Duke gives us a good synopsis of the problem and answer to “Play-Doh” love in this article, “Love Is Not Whatever You Want It To Be”.

Love is too precious to get wrong, and life is too short not to start correcting that error today.

 

SIMPLY PROFOUND

It is a simple truth. 

My fullest and uninterrupted joy, contentment, happiness, satisfaction and delight will be when my heart is entirely given to Jesus Christ. 

It is simple, because I don’t have to figure out where to place the focus of my life. I don’t have to search for life’s answers. It is always Jesus! If I set the entirety of my mind and heart on Jesus I will experience the greatest possible joy in this world. 

The reason is creation. 

I am a created being. I was purposefully designed by God to know and enjoy him. This is my highest purpose for existing. 

The proof is heaven. 

My eternity will be wondrous, because I will be a Great Commandment person. My heart will overflow with inexpressible joy when my heart no longer withholds anything from Christ. 

This is a profound truth. 

Nothing is more important to understand, and nothing will bring more benefit to your life. Right now an army of activities and responsibilities are demanding your time and attention. However, none of them are as vital to your everything than the person of Jesus!

Love for Jesus is what makes life work.

Love for Jesus is how I get back on track.

Love for Jesus is how I begin each day.

Love for Jesus is how I filter all circumstances.

Love for Jesus is how I assess each day.

Love for Jesus is where I give my best efforts.

Love for Jesus is what my soul is searching for, and every substitute will leave my soul wanting more. 

Jesus will satisfy, he truly will.

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!