Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An Authentic Love

     Jesus teaches us what real love is like when He laid down His life for us. And in 1 John 3: 16-18, we are told  "And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and see his brothers in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
    It's not to say here that material possessions are a bad thing and we should stay away from having anything other than what we need. If that was the case, many followers of Christ, including myself would be in danger. I believe there's a saying that speaks of moderation and in this text, we could always live more simply, yet what I see this getting at is the fact that we have been blessed with so much that we forget when a brother or sister is in need, we should be willing to show God's love in action and help their need. It's always been a balance to know when we are helping them too much and enabling them or whether we are meeting a need and preparing them to meet future needs. I often think to myself this is not for me to judge but Jesus taught the disciples how to fish for men. He didn't hand them the men and say here, this is your catch. Instead they listened and followed Jesus instructions to continue casting their nets and pulling in more followers.
     We have this opportunity by serving others in Jesus' name. He tells us to care for the least of these and as we meet material needs, the kingdom has seeds being planted and the next one who comes along to water the seed may produce the crop. Jesus I believe honors our work for Him. It's never in vain. We give out of love and expect nothing in return and there's more joy in doing so than expecting a response. That's the kind of sacrificial love I believe Jesus is calling us to. The more we bless others out of the abundance we have, the more seeds are planted and the example of Christ is being demonstrate. I must admit I do struggle with not saying anything at all. I feel we offer of gift in Jesus' name and offer our words of encouragement and prayer.
     Real love has nothing to do whatsoever with our feelings. It's a result of our love for Jesus and the love He sacrificially gave to us that we might have eternal life that we respond and love in action toward others. It's how we act that reveals His presence. How well are we doing with this real love? We pray that together we can achieve actions that result in self denial and not self edification. Unto Jesus we give all glory, honor and praise. May our lives be a reflection of His love.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Love will find a way

      In the book of John, chapter 13, verses 34-35, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements to radically shape the course of history. He says "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." In context, it seems so simple. Yet in practice, it becomes a task that is often insurmountable. I'm going to lend this issue to the condition of the human heart. We have become for the most part a people more concerned with ourselves than others. You see it at a tender age of a child when they have a toy taken away or are asked to share that toy.  They have also learned the fine art of crying and whining to get their way, particularly when it comes to public settings. Those with kids know what I'm referencing. That moment in the check out line in the store and they know exactly where to put candy. The child proceeds to take their choice and refused in a tantrum mind you that they will not give it up. And so it continues through life. Our focus is on our needs and wants. The concept of loving one another would mean giving up our own desires and being willing to sacrifice for others. This could be as easy as a smile or handshake. Or as far as donating a kidney or providing a place to sleep. Love comes in many various forms. A cold glass of water, a listening ear, a plate of food, clothing, a place to sleep, a visit to a prison inmate or nursing home, caring for a widow and we could go on and on. Love is difficult to define and there's what some call tough love and forbids a certain right to protect the person, such as attendance at a particular event.
     However, the ultimate act of love is called unconditional love. The prime example is Jesus giving His all at the cross for our sake, to remove the stain of sins and conquer death once and for all. That term unconditional means just that. There are no strings attached, no conditions to which the love is given. It is totally and completely a free gift. While we may talk about loving in this way, we still at some level have a condition. Whether it's recognition or others noticing us, the feeling of doing something good or even to get ahead. Just when we think we're doing it out of selfless love and without condition, there's often strings attached. The saying goes you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. We can disagree on this statement and I pray we are loving unconditionally, but only deep within we know for certain our own hearts which God can only judge. I'm not about to say one way or another. When we belong to Christ, this love will naturally flow.  It's a surrender and a commitment that we are not our own but bought at a price.
      I think about this often and the love that flows from those nail pierced hands and feet is overwhelming. It truly never sinks in the degree to which this moment changed my life forever. Here's the Son of God who leaves His place in Heaven to walk on this earth and endure the life which He did just for us.  He left the glorious riches to the humility of a servant's heart. This is the place of love He calls us to. Serving one another in love. As we do so, all men will know we belong to Him. Will they understand why we love the way we do? Perhaps not. Will it send a message that this world is not about us? I believe so. There's many who love this way and claim no faith. But Jesus answers the way to the Father in John 14: 6. He says "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
     As we walk the remainder days of our lives here on this earth, let us love one another. Let us place aside our difference and realize that Jesus died for all, not just a few. His love was demonstrated that we might know the Father and that we might have relationship. His love changed everything and it has the potential to change the relationships between fellow brothers and sisters. Imagine a world where we love as Jesus loved us? It warms my heart and brings a smile to my face. I pray a blessed day to you and and a heart that overflows with love.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Whose image are we?

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1: 27  that we were created in God's image. Yet at the moment of conception, we too were created in our parents image. It's interesting that we often respond to life in the same way that our parents did. Relatives are quick to point that out as well. We may hear phrases like, you're just like your father or you remind me so much of your mother. That's one of two things; a compliment or a sort of reflection of how we've been shaped in the image of our parents. While this can be valuable in regards to our earthly characteristics as upright citizens of society, it can also pull us in directions God never intended. I'll let that resonate with each of us but think about it and consider this in comparison to the image God created us in. We learn at a very young age that God is love. His love is unconditional and we're told to love one another in the same fashion. I'm not sure about you, but that can be quite the challenge. God made us each unique, with various personalities, which in turn lead to strong opinions on different topics. But consider for a moment if we were seasoned with love. It was the pool we swam in every day of our lives. It was the guiding factor in our decisions, the outcome of our speech, the hands and feet of our actions. Love has a way of transformation, particularly when we love without condition. But you may say, that person is far too different than me to love them how I would a brother or sister in the faith. I get that and I value your insight that leads us to love others like minded than those who are differing in appearance, language, thought process and the list can go on and on. Yet I challenge us to think in terms of our Heavenly Father. He loves us enough to send His only Son to pay a horrible price for our sin. He loves us enough that he desires we leave the life of sin and follow Him. It's the whole idea of repentance. We turn from what displeases God. It's no simple task, however it's a higher calling. It's a process that travels through life with us. It's one that comes and goes and never seems to get easier. But in that unfolding of a new self, we find Christ. We find strength. We find encouragement. We know peace. I've come to the conclusion the self is the most important character in our lives to fully focus on. When we get it and start to live as God intended, others notice that and begin to see authenticity. Nothing is more powerful than a transparent self. We live our lives behind masks and make believe we are someone we are not. Whether it's for self worth that others don't frown upon us or it's what we've always done. I'm asking you to find yourself and identify with the One who made you in His image. This is a moment by moment, case by case basis. We are all unique and at the same time, very loved and special to God. What speaks to me is that God desired relationship with each of us so much so that He went to the lengths He did to make it possible through Jesus. May you have a blessed day and find solace in the knowledge of God.