A Character Defined by Love

Fruit of the spirit

The Holy Spirit produces these things in our life.  It is important that we know and understand them well, so that we can apply them to our lives.  When the fruit of the spirit is at work in our lives, amazing things happen. Your whole life blossoms and bears fruit.  One of the most wonderful fruits of all is the giving and receiving of love.

The word love can mean many different things, as you can see from the many different dictionary definitions.  We also find different kinds of love throughout the Bible, four of them specifically. Eros is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love.  Even though the term is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love.  Storge is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters.  Philia is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships, this is the most common type of love.  Agape is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.

There are so many people who go through life without feeling human love.  However, God’s plan is for every person to eventually experience His love flowing through them, so that each person can say “my cup runneth over with love.”  The funny thing is that when people are trying to feel love they often forget to read the greatest book ever written about relationships, the Bible. The Bible reveals how we can experience love for God and people that exceeds human capability.  The highest and purest form of God’s love is God’s divine and sublime love that He offers to share with us!  The perfect example of the ultimate nature of God is, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).  God wants to transform us so that our character is also defined by love.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

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Children of God

1 John 3

1 John 3_1

I have been told I am a lot like my dad. We have the same sense of humor; we both have blue eyes; we have the same voice inflections. We have a deep compassion; we both are extremely persistent; we both don’t get embarrassed.

Sometimes when people are talking to me they will give me a weird look and say, “You sound just like your father.” I take that as one of the highest compliments, because my dad is my hero.

Some of you can fully relate to what I just said; some of you, not so much. Some of you have a difficult and complicated relationship with your dad – or even a nonexistent relationship. One that is not your fault. One that is full of hurt and heartache. If that is you, I am so so sorry.

The thing is, we all have an even greater Dad than the one we have on this earth. For some, it’s seems hard to believe anyone could come close to being that awesome. For others, it might seem impossible to have a dad who actually cares.

Take a look at verse 2:

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be like has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” (HCSB)

If you’re like me the first time you read that, you think to yourself, “Aww, how cute. We believers are just one big, happy family. What great warm fuzzies on the inside.”

But then it hit me. We are going to be like God.

Let that sink in.

We are God’s children. We will be like Him.

Woah.

God loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His family despite our sin, our brokenness, our bad days, our deepest and darkest secrets. He wants us to be a part of His family even when we don’t want that for ourselves, even when we run away, even when we don’t trust, even when we don’t deserve it. God loves us so much that He wants us to be made perfect and be like Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are fourteen years old or forty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, but only your future.

Because God loves you. So live like it. Live so then people notice that there is something different about you. Live like you’re a child of God.

– Madison Cisler

What Shall I Do? I Will Send My Son.

Luke 20

Luke 20 13

Merry Christmas!

May your day be full of sweet reminders of God’s love.  And may you pass along that love to others.

It is easy to lose sight of the whole picture of Jesus when we gather to feast and exchange presents amid the tinsel, lights, tree, and nativity scene.  A pregnant virgin, a faithful fiancé, a holy night, an angel assembly, a crew of shepherds, traveling wise men, pass the ham, and unwrap the presents.  But wait . . . why??? And then what????

It appears Jesus didn’t spend time preaching about his miraculous and incredibly true birth.  In fact, only two of the four gospels record bits and pieces of his birth story.  But here in Luke 20 Jesus taught the Parable of the Tenants.  And while it isn’t likely used in very many Christmas sermons or devotions, it actually paints a very fitting picture of why Jesus was sent – and what was “the rest of the story” – beyond the shepherds and wise men.

In this parable God plays the role of the vineyard owner.  He entrusts his vineyard (earth) to mankind as farm tenants to care for his vineyard.  The owner sends back several servants (Old Testament prophets) to the vineyard to retrieve some fruit for the owner.  Instead the selfish, greedy tenants mistreat the servants and send them back with nothing for the master.   

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ (Luke 20:13).  And so, the Son of God is given a mission for his Father: go to the vineyard to represent his Father to attain what belongs to his Father – the fruit of the vineyard.  God could have done this in so many ways.  He could have sent a violent and powerful son to use force to swiftly get the Father’s work done and repay the tenants for their selfish, greedy wickedness.  But instead the Son was given – a baby – as the Son of Man and Son of God.  And the angels rejoiced.   And the shepherds were in awe as they found things just as they had been told and then joyfully shared the news.

And the Son of God “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” – the tenants of the vineyard. (Luke 2:52).   And the son of the vineyard owner teaches and preaches and performs miracles to display and prove the goodness and sovereignty and master plan of the vineyard owner.  But, they still don’t get it.  Forsaking the master’s plan, as well as his very son, they conspire together and the tenants kill the son.  Now, they figure, the vineyard will be theirs.  There is no longer an heir.  And so, the tenants triumph for a time and seem to have free reign of the vineyard.

But, that is not the end of the story.   In his parable Jesus now switches from past tense to future tense as he says, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”  So, too, there is a future in our Christmas story today.  And, there is a price that will be paid for all tenants who have chosen to forsake the son.  

In your celebrating today, and in your work tomorrow, in your heart and mind and actions, in your time, in your giving, in your whole living – do not forsake the son.

-Marcia Railton

Separation

What can separate us

 

Romans 8:35-39         Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What can separate me from the love of God in Christ? Romans 8 says, “nothing,” but I have my doubts.

I bet I prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer” twenty times growing up. I was always so afraid I’d missed something, or paranoid I’d somehow nullified my salvation since the last time I said the magic words. After walking with Jesus, I now know: there is nothing magical about it.

My words don’t save me. Jesus saves me. My response is to repent of my sins and believe He saves me.

We focus on the exact words we said, the exact time and place we knelt. We make our coming to Christ about our circumstances rather than our Savior. It was never about what I was doing. It was always about what He did for me.

The depth of our need for Jesus is so vast that even our act of coming to Him is flawed, but He is never surprised by this. He knows us fully and loves us still. He came to make everything right, including our half-heartedness and our ill intentions.

Come as you are and bare your soul. Cry out like David cried out in Psalm 51, confessing honestly and openly before the God who made you and promises to make you new, who loves you and stands ready to save. Then come back day after day. Walk daily in the grace you first received, knowing there is nothing you can do or not do to reverse the rescue the cross secured.

-Jennie Montgomery

Living for the One who Died for your Sake

2 Corinthians 5-7

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Friday, June 23

For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.   2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

Has anyone ever done something really nice for you and you then feel like you just want to do something nice in return for that person? That is how Paul views the love of Christ. Elsewhere, Paul declares that “for one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” (Rom. 5:7). Christ exemplified God’s selfless love in that he gave his life for us when we were nothing but unworthy sinners. We were not good people, or righteous people. We were sinners. But in spite of our rebellion and sin, Christ gave his life for us, and through that demonstration of love, we have been united with Christ in his resurrection and have new life inside us. Christ’s act of love and grace changed everything in Paul’s world, and it does in ours too.

 

Is the new life we have not the kindness and most generous thing anyone has ever done? Christ died for everyone so that everyone might have the chance to have true life in him. Therefore, for those who have put their trust in Christ and have received new life, the question becomes, “How should we respond to that act of kindness and love?” Do we feel like we want to do something nice in return? If we have the natural response to return kindness to our fellow neighbor for such a small favor of finite value, how much more should our response be to one who has shown the greatest kindness the world has ever seen?

 

Paul says that “the love of Christ compels us” (v. 14). He finds the rationale for this attitude in the fact that Christ’s gift of sacrificing himself on the cross is so moving and profound that it causes him to respond in humility and service to the Lord. Christ’s love is so deep and awe-inspiring that Paul describes it as a force that urges him to continue in his ministry and to live for the sake of Christ rather than his own self. The word translated “compels” means “to be pressing in” or “to constrain.” In Paul’s mind, he has “concluded” or “become so convinced” of the love that Jesus has shown him in his death that it has now become the controlling force that influences every single choice he makes in life.

 

What would make you not live for yourself but for someone else? Would someone dying in your place compel you to change your life? How do you repay someone who is responsible for saving you, for pulling you out of the death that so pervades the world and giving you a hope of a future and a joy and peace in your heart that exceeds anything the world can offer?

 

What is your response to such an act of love? Would you give up your selfish desires in response to that love? Would you live a life that glorifies and honors someone else and settle for being hated by the world? If Christ’s love compels you, ask in prayer how you should respond to the love of the savior? You might just find the most fulfilled life you never thought possible—living for the one who died for your sake.

 

-Jerry Wierwille

 

(Photo Credit: https://biblia.com/bible/esv/2%20Cor%205.21)

Reconciliation

Hosea 1-4

hosea 2

Sunday, April 9

Weird names.  Sketchy goings-on.  Terms like “sacred raisin cakes”.  The book of Hosea is kind of like that weird relative you avoid, but then find out that they actually have some interesting things to say.

Hosea offers us some of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching images of God’s love for us in all of Scripture.

Have you ever watched a movie where someone gets cheated on?  Maybe you even know someone in real life that has experienced this.  A husband or wife finds out that the one who promised to love them, to never leave them, has found someone new.

“I made a mistake,” they may say.  “You’re not the one for me, I’ve found my soul mate and I’m leaving.”

As hurtful as that is, can you imagine how much more hurtful for a wife to tell her husband that she loves him, but spends her weekends sleeping with not one, but many, other men.  It’s beyond comprehension that any marriage could survive that, or that any husband would put up with it.

But that’s exactly what God says He does.  And can you guess the part we play in this story?  It’s not the faithful husband, I can tell you that!

Hosea shows us that God tries many things to get His unfaithful spouse (us) back when we walk away.  Do you see him doing any of these things in your life?

Verses 2: 6-7 show us that sometimes God blocks our paths when we start to go astray:

Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
    she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’

Sometimes God ‘allures’ us.  He brings flowers, and lavishes gifts and affection on us.  Wooing us to choose Him again (2:14).

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.

Can you feel God’s shoulders slumping, His head dropping, as the hurt of being cast aside washes over Him when he says (2:8),

She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

Ultimately, God shares the dream of every abandoned spouse…reconciliation.  “One day,” the scorned wife thinks, “One day he’ll come back to me and be mine again.  One day he’ll wake up and see what he’s given up…”

God says (2:23):

I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

For myself.  God wants you for himself.

Friend, you don’t ever need to wonder if God loves you.

-Susan Landry

Susan is a teacher turned homeschooling mom turned blogger.  She is married to her favorite person and they live in balmy Minnesota with their two sons and their dog, Scout (who is the sweetest and most desperately infatuated mama’s boy on earth).  Her favorite Psalm is Psalm 84; and her favorite passage of Scripture overall is Job 23:8-10 (because it reminds us that even when we can’t see God…He sees us).  She knows that she is blessed far more than she deserves, and seeks to follow Jesus’ example of spreading grace and truth.

 

To All You Control Freaks…

Jeremiah 32 – 34

Jeremiah_32-27

Thursday, March 9

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  -Jeremiah 32:27

How often do you question God’s ability?  Do you ever look at something and think to yourself, “This is hopeless…” or “I can’t do this by myself…”  I frequently fall into this mindset, and I know I’m not the only one.  I’m what some may call a control freak… I frequently try and fix the problem myself rather than simply calling on God!  33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

God promises that when we call to Him, He will answer.  Yet here I am still trying to do things on my own!  Thankfully, I have a good God whose love endures forever (33:11) and who follows through on His promises!

Chapter 34 is all about God following through on what He has said.  Good or bad, God commits to His word and will not change it.  What He says is truth.  We can know that whatever is written in the Bible is true because He inspired it!

Today I challenge you to ask yourself, ‘Am I a control freak?’

Give up the control you are clinging to and remember that you can call on our God.  Nothing is too difficult for Him and when you call to Him, He will answer!

-Sarah Blanchard

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Jeremiah-32-27_Inspirational_Image/)