True Love

cropped-hanging-love-hearts1

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”  Luke 6:32-35

“I love you” is a term that is carelessly used in the world today.  Most define love as a feeling, something you can fall in and out of throughout your life.  But God does not define love in this way.

In this passage, Jesus compared worldly love and godly love.  One is based on the actions of another.  Godly love is given regardless of if the other deserves it or not.  Even someone without Christ can love someone who loves him.  But it takes the supernatural power and presence of the Holy Spirit to love the unlovable…to love someone who is un-loving towards you.

And yet, this is how Christ has called His disciples to love.  He wants us to love others with the same grace and mercy with which He has loved us.  That requires more than candy hearts and boxes of chocolate.  For some, loving those who haven’t earned it may mean loving your spouse or other family members.  For others, it might be co-workers, neighbors, or even fellow church members.  “Enemies” are not necessarily those who physically come against us, but also those who have betrayed our trust and hurt us emotionally.

Unconditional love is no small task.  It is in our nature to protect ourselves from physical and emotional harm.  But Jesus showed us how to lay our lives down for others for the sake of the Gospel.  This does not mean staying in an abusive relationship.  It does mean putting the needs of others before our own.  This does not mean self-loathing.  It does mean exalting Christ, and seeing ourselves, and others, through His eyes.

It is easy for us to give up on people who are selfish and cruel.  But with Jesus there are no lost causes, because with God, all things are possible.

Dear God, Thank You for loving me when I was Your enemy.  Please help me to love others well.  May Your enemies see Your love through my life.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.    

Trust

Patners Help

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

God’s will is a mysterious thing.  Although He has revealed His will for every believer’s life in His Word and through His Spirit, there are many details that are left unknown.  God does not give us the answers to all of our questions.  This can be frustrating because it requires more faith than we can muster on our own.

It would be easier to trust God and His plan if He laid out each and every step for us…or would it?  We tend to think it would.  But maybe this is not the case.  Perhaps if God showed us everything, it would be too much for us and we would turn back.

In order for God to glorify Himself through our lives, He must push us out of our comfort zones.  He leads us to mountaintops; but He also leads us through dark valleys of despair.  His will does not always make sense to our temporal mindset.  But we must remember that God sees the end from the beginning; and anything He allows into our lives is for our good and His glory.

So, what do we do when we don’t have the answers that we think we need?  We can cling to this promise in Jeremiah 29:11.  This verse is often misused and misunderstood to mean that God’s plans are never hard or sad or uncomfortable.  That is not what this verse promises.  God has plans to prosper His children and not harm us, yes.  He has plans to give us a hope and a future, yes.  But this is according to His standards, not by ours, and not by this world’s.

Our God is so mighty and majestic that He can glorify Himself through tragedy, hardship and suffering.  The most gracious thing that God can give us is Himself…and it is in the valleys of life that we are drawn most near to His heart.  We cannot understand it or explain it…it is just part of the beautiful mystery of living life with God.

So, the next time you have more questions than answers.  The next time you are struggling and desperately need to hear from God.  Remember that what you need isn’t something from God…you need God.  His plans are always good, because God is always good.

Father, Thank you for this promise from Your Word.  Help me to remember that Your plans are always for my good, even when I may not understand how You are working.  Increase my faith in You, Lord.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Our God Saves

iris-flower-1

“Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.”  Psalm 68:20

There is one truth about our God that as believers we must always remember.  It is a truth that gives hope in times of despair; joy in times of suffering, patience in times of waiting, and peace in times of difficulty.  We must never forget that our God saves.  Jehovah, the Great I Am, is the only God who saves.

There are many different gods worshiped amongst the world’s religions; yet none of these gods even claim to save sinners.  These supposed gods claim to rule, to watch, to be angered, but not to save.  Other gods demand works in order to be saved; but the One and Only Living God sent His Son to do the work for those who could never save themselves.  After all, who could ever be good enough for the true God except for God Himself?

Yes, our God gloriously and graciously saves!  Let’s count the ways.  He saves us from our sins and from His wrath against our sins by the blood of His Son.  He saves us from our enemies, the worst being the father of lies, Satan.  He saves us from death, the punishment for sin.  He saves us from the flesh; giving us the Holy Spirit now to sanctify and promising to one day deliver us from this body of death.  He saves us from futile living by giving us a purpose laid out in His Word.  He saves us from fear by giving His perfect love, which casts out all fear.  He saves us from worry and anxiety by giving us His peace.  He saves us from our own mistakes by freely giving wisdom when we ask.  He saves us from loneliness by giving us His Body, the Church.

We could go on and on about the salvation of the LORD.  It is full and final.  It is finished and irrevocable.  It is given generously and freely to all who will believe.  Are you living in the salvation of the Jehovah Rapha – the God who Heals?  His salvation is not a one-time happening…it is ongoing as He hides His children beneath the shadow of His wings.  Have you trusted Him as Savior by surrendering to Him as Lord?  If not, do it now!  He is good and deserving of your life’s worship.

If you have trusted Him for salvation, are you living daily in His finished work by allowing Him to be your everything?  If not, repent!  He is sufficient and is the only One who satisfies.

Father, Please forgive me for the times I fail to trust You.  You have never let me down or failed to do what You’ve promised.  Thank You for Your salvation.  Help me to show others Your power to truly save.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Don’t Compare

everest_80475

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18

Comparing is something that we do every day.  We compare ourselves to others.  We compare prices when we shop.  We compare our kids to other kids, our house to other houses, where we live to where others live, etc., etc.  Not all comparing is bad, but it can be dangerous.  Comparisons can be an opportunity for Satan to rob us of the joy, satisfaction, and contentment that we have in Christ.

Perhaps one of the most opportune times to become discontent is when we are suffering.  It is hard not to make comparisons when circumstances seem unbearable.  And yet, Paul wrote that, “Present sufferings are not worth comparing” with what is our inheritance in Christ.  The phrase, “not worth” means: Have like value; corresponding.  In other words, Paul reminds us that our present sufferings and the glory that is ahead for a Christian are incomparable…they are not of like value.

How often do we still try to compare the two, though?  We are willing to trade eternal glories for temporary comforts.  This spiritual shortsightedness not only costs us, but also those around us who need to see the display of God’s glory in our lives.  When we react to suffering like those with no hope, what do we say about our God?

I am not suggesting that it is easy.  As you read this you may be without a job, in the midst of a disease or other sickness, or recently divorced or widowed.  Your child might be in rebellion, or you may have suffered the extreme grief of losing a child too soon.  Maybe it’s addiction, betrayal, or fear that you find yourself fighting against.  Whatever the suffering, God is here.  Right now and always, He is for you.  He goes before, follows behind, and walks beside.  You are never alone if you choose to trust Christ with your life.

So, the next time you are tempted to make comparisons, remember that there is nothing in this world worthy of the next.  Our future is secure in Jesus Christ.  So whatever we suffer now – if we suffer well – will reap a harvest when we reign with Christ forever.

Father, Help me to remember when my life is hard that You are all I need.  May my life display Your sufficiency, goodness, and glory to everyone who watches the way I respond when suffering.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Broken Hearts

“Because of His great love, we are not consumed.  For His compassions never fail.  His mercies are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23 

Why?  Why, God?  How could You let this happen?  The horrific events that unfolded four years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut left us all reeling, questioning, and grieving.  Where do we go with questions that have no answers?  Who do we blame when the perpetrator is dead?  How do we reconcile the sovereignty of God with twenty-seven fatalities, most of which were first grade children?

The enemy will use this event as evidence that God is not good…that He cannot be trusted with that which is most precious in our lives.  The Church must stand up and proclaim the truth – God is good all the time.  It is a lack of trust in God that led to that fateful day.  It is not God that has changed…it is man.

It is time for the Church in the United States to wake up, dress Herself in God’s full armor, and fight like soldiers.  Look around…we are at war.  An unseen battle is raging for the hearts and souls of our children.  The attacks are everywhere…media, education, literature, and even toys and video games.  Our only defense is the truth of God’s Word and the presence of His Spirit living in us.

So, as we mourn and grieve with those who suffered unimaginable loss, let us not forget to lift them up to the only One who fully understands such suffering.  He has suffered at the hands of evil, innocently tasting death in a gruesome murder at Calvary.  He is our suffering Savior; and only He can provide the comfort that is needed.

And as we continue with the celebrations of Christ’s birth, let us glorify Him in our response to this tragedy.  Instead of questioning Him, let us honor Him by sharing the truth of His Word.

Father, I am thankful that when there are no words, no answers, no explanations, You are there.  You have the words we do not.  You have the grace we need and the comfort we crave.  I lift all of those up affected by the recent shootings in our country.  Father, bind up their broken hearts and draw them to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.