A New Kind of Love

1 John 4 7 a (1)

 

Once we are walking in the light, a new commandment and responsibility are given to us.  From the beginning God gave us a commandment that we should love God and love our brothers.  John tells us that if we hate our brother we are still in darkness, and that we are walking in the darkness (I John 2:9-11).  But now that we are abiding and walking in the light of Jesus, a new commandment of love is given to us.  This new kind of love is much deeper and demands much more from us—it is not a love that simply demands that we love one another, but takes us to a deeper level of commitment to one another.  Once we are truly walking in the light of Jesus, we can do no less.

John further explains this new commandment of love that we are to follow, in I John 4:7-11.  In these verses, John explains to us that love is from God, and that this deep love was shown to us when God sent His son into our dark world, and gave him to be a sacrifice for our sins.  We did not deserve his sacrifice, and will never deserve it, yet God loved us so much that He was willing to freely give His son and allowed Jesus to die for us.  John concludes his thoughts with this statement:  “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4: 11).  What John is telling us here, is that we are to go way beyond simply loving everyone.  He was not talking about a nice warm feeling for others, or a desire we might have for others to experience happiness.  What he was talking about is the willingness to allow that love to be a sacrificial love for others. It is the kind of love that is given even when people do not seem to deserve our love.

With the crucifixion very near, Jesus spoke to his disciples.  He explained many things to his friends as they ate that last supper together.  One of those things was a new commandment that he gave to them.  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34.  It would only be a few hours until they would begin to understand the extent of his love for them and what he was meaning when He spoke these words to them.  A little while later he again spoke about this new commandment, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you” John 15:12-14.

Putting our brothers first, above ourselves; putting the needs of our brothers before our own needs or wants—these are ways to express the love that John talked about and the way that Jesus said we should love one another.  And as we walk in love we are an example to the world.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35.

 

-Luke Elwell

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Our Hope in the Wilderness

choose joy

This week, we’ve been taking some time to rest and reflect on what it means to wander through the wilderness. Through the complex stories of the Israelites, Elijah, David, and Jesus, we see both the types of wildernesses that we may face in this life as well as the ways that we can ultimately overcome the wilderness and make it out of those difficult seasons.

As we’ve discussed this past week, these are the four Wilderness Wandering Lessons that we learned from these stories:

  1. The faithful love of God is infinitely more secure than our fractured circumstances.
  2. Remembering past victories can help to steady our heart in the midst of our current despair.
  3. When the desires of our heart lead us away from God, true repentance leads us back.
  4. God’s word sustains us when we are depleted by the trials of the wilderness.

If you find yourself in a time of wilderness wandering, don’t despair. Many have been there before you and have made it out and used that time as a witness for God’s deliverance. Remember, one of Satan’s ultimate goals, as I mentioned earlier this week, is to steal your joy. One of the primary fruits of the Spirit is joy, and that joy should be evident in your life. The Israelites and Judeans knew what it was like to lose their joy when they were exiled from Israel at the end of 2 Kings. But, as we read in Jeremiah 31:2-3, 11-13, God promised that Joy to the Israelites and Judeans and he promises that Joy to you too.

“This is what the Lord says: They found favor in the wilderness – the people who survived the sword. When Israel went to find rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you… For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the power of one stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant with joy because of the Lord’s goodness. I will turn their mourning into joy, give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief.”

By living our life in Christ, our joy is made complete (John 15:11). When you find the hurt, isolation, or pain of life weighing down on you, pause and remember that we can overcome through Christ. Trade your grief for happiness, your mourning for joy. We can celebrate. We can overcome. Because the joy of our Lord is our strength.

~ Cayce Fletcher

***Click on the following link to listen to one of my favorite songs by Rend Collective called the “Joy of the Lord is my strength.” Learning this song can be a reminder to you to choose joy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2B6Yw0zy70

More Love, Less Conflict

Prov 10 12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
Proverbs 10:12 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/pro.10.12.NIV

One verse, one sentence that says something we all already know. It’s so obvious and yet we struggle to act in love in so many situations. Today, there is a run off election for 2 different state positions here in Georgia. As I voted today it made me think of all the election ads and speeches given just over a month ago. Very few of those were rooted in love, but many were negative. Is it any wonder our nation is so divided? Do we even need to question why people are becoming increasingly violent? It’s because instead of love, which covers wrong, we spread hatred, breeding conflict toward one another.

The only way to create positive change in the community around us is through love. If you’re a Jesus follower, then you know this principle already. It’s why you changed and are still changing. It’s God’s love for us, that we experience in all sorts of ways, that drives us to become better. It steers us away from hatred, it helps us see the potential in others and inside of us. The next time you find yourself disgusted about a person or situation, instead of complaining or pointing out what’s wrong, try focusing on how you can be loving anyway. That’s the only way things will get better, so we might as well stop wasting time with hatred that breeds conflict, and use our energy to show love that covers all wrongs.

-Jerry Briggs

Winning Respect

1 Thess 4 11

I Thessalonians 4:9-12

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

I find these verses to be quite fascinating. Paul was writing to believers who were living in the first century in the Roman Empire. Their lives as disciples of Jesus were to stand out from the lives of those outside of the community of Jesus. They needed to live lives that earned the respect of those outside of the Church. Paul’s instruction on how they were to do this is what I find so interesting: lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands, do not be dependent on others. In that society, Paul believed that non-believers would be more open to hearing the message of Jesus Christ if his followers lived lives worthy of respect, focused, hard working, quiet. There’s nothing flashy or exciting about this counsel, simply to live a steady and hard working life.

As disciples of Jesus today it’s becoming increasingly more challenging to win the respect of people outside of the Church. Perhaps we need to go back to Paul’s simple and undramatic counsel and live out that lifestyle.

-Jeff Fletcher

Living in Love

1 John 4_16

God has given us so much, he gave us his perfect son, and let him pay the price for our sins because he loves us. In 1 John 4:16 it says God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God. By living in love, we can live with God. We can show the love that he gives us to others, and we can be an example of Christ Jesus. If we have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, we can love others the way God wants us to, and show them a path of compassion. By loving others we can show them God and what he has given us.

-Blair Simon

What He Wants Me to Do

1 tim 1 5

There have been times when I have wondered what God wants me to do, not in a big way, but smaller, things I can do daily. So when I went through the quiz material from this summer 1 Timothy 1:5 quickly became my favorite verse. “But the goal of our instruction is love, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”- 1 Tim. 1:5

Paul wrote this when he was instructing Timothy on how to run the church, and it applies to us. We have a goal, to love, and we can do this everyday. When we are loving to others it shows God’s love through us.

-Blair Simon

More and More

2 thess 1 3

I love Paul’s prayers!  They are some of my favorite parts of his letters.  You don’t find him praying about the weather (you know, those ‘no rain so we have a nice picnic’ prayers) and not too often about health needs – but always about spiritual growth and Godly matters.   One example of Paul praying for the church is found in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12.  He starts out thanking God that the Thessalonian’s faith is growing MORE AND MORE.  How could your pastor or a church member be able to gauge the growth of your faith – is yours growing or shrinking?  How can you tell?  How can others tell?  Next he thanks God that their love for one another is growing.  Can you say the same for your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ?  How can you tell?  How can others tell?

How many of you have heard people complain that God is not just – if he was He wouldn’t allow evil and trouble.  I love Paul’s answer.  “God IS just:  He will pay back…and give relief…This WILL HAPPEN when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.”  (1:6,7) No need to question God’s justice.  His clock is better than ours anyways.  God IS Just.

In 1st Thessalonians Paul tells us to encourage one another with the message that Jesus is coming to earth again!  2nd Thessalonians reminds us to not be deceived, for the Man of Lawlessness – the Anti-God – will be coming too, and will deceive many who have refused to love the truth.  In order to stand firm for Jesus’s return – we must be loving the truth and prepared for evil and lawlessness and deception.  “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you.” (2:15)  Learn those teachings well – and cling to them – and pass them on to others.

Thank you God for your words through your servants.  Help me to hear, learn, live and pass along your words and your way.
Marcia Railton