Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Not Good

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  ~~  Genesis 2:15-24 (KJV)

Relationships with other people are important. During all of creation, God said “it is good.” This is the only instance where He said “it is not good.”

Look carefully. Adam was in the Garden of Eden. He had authority over all living creatures. He was to tend the garden. He needed nothing. But he was alone. That was the only thing that was not good.

While the rest of the passage speaks to marriage most obviously, some other inferences can be drawn. Every human being needs companionship.

At one point, I worked in a nursing home. Most of the residents were alone in one way or another. They had lost themselves in dementia, or they had no close family to tend them. Others had physical limitations that didn’t allow them to stay in their own homes alone. Those that did the best were people who had family or friends visiting regularly. Or they cultivated relationships with those around them, both staff and residents.

For the others, we tried to encourage friendships among the residents. We planned social events: teas, games, meals, entertainment, and outings — feeble substitutes for relationships.

This week, I’m taking stock of my relationships. There is, of course, my husband – the primary relationship – and my children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren. But there are also friends. When you come to my age (well past retirement), many of your friends are of similar age with the concomitant health problems and frailties. You never know how long they will be with you.

Reared as an only child, I longed for sisters. During my lifetime God has given me several. Della and Sandy have gone home and left me here to miss them. Delores and Sally and Geni are still with me. They are listed in order of proximity.

I’ve known Delores for about forty years. We see each other regularly – generally once a week – and can share anything without fear of rejection. She knows most of my warts and loves me anyway.

Sally and I were in grade school together (much more than thirty years ago). She lives in Texas, so we see each other rarely. But when we can get together, we pick up in the middle of the paragraph. Although our branches extend in different directions, our roots are intertwined, like side by side grape vines with trunks twisted together and tendrils escaping all around.

Geni is a much newer friend. And my largest regret is that I have never hugged her. We met on line when she and her husband were in China. We struck up a conversation and discovered we were sisters at heart. She prays for me and my other friends, family and causes, and I pray for her and hers. We rejoice, share, complain, chat, and love one another. The only thing missing is the hug because I have never met her in person. She lives on the west coast (closer than China but still too far for coffee and conversation).

Three perfect jewels in my life, each a different color, size and shape. One is an emerald, another an opal, and finally a pearl (listed in alphabetical order, not respectively). What a treasure chest!

This week, take stock of the treasures in your relationships. What can you do to enhance them? Can you cultivate new ones?

Father, God,

You placed us all in specific positions in your world, not capriciously, but purposefully. Show us Your purposes in our relationships. Make us sensitive to new ones and help us to cultivate them to Your glory.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.
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Love Fruit

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5: 19-23 – NIV)

I was offended. My friend had come to me for counsel, and I had given good advice which seemed to fall on deaf ears. A week later, she was telling me about the counsel she had received from a mutual friend. That counsel echoed mine precisely. It hurt that she would listen to the other friend and not to me.

When I asked her why it made a difference when our friend said the same things I did, she said “I don’t see the fruit in your life.”

OUCH!

I went home and pondered what my friend had said. Then I decided to cultivate anew the fruits of the spirit.

Love is hard. There are a number of people whom I don’t even like. How can I love them? Eventually it dawned on me that love is a decision, not a warm, fuzzy feeling. Love is a commitment to the well-being of another person. Love is a verb – an active word. It requires action.

I can act myself into a new way of feeling a long time before I can feel myself into a new way of behaving. Once I decided I didn’t need to feel love to behave in a loving way, it became easier, less complicated, to love others.

It helps to try to see others through God’s eyes. Each person I meet is His child – whether obedient or prodigal. God created each one of these people. And He loves them exactly as much as He loves me.  I can quote John 3:16,17 and insert that person’s name in each of the places where there is a pronoun referring to people or the phrase “the world”.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

becomes

16 For God so loved Joe Blow, that he gave his only begotten Son, that if Joe Blow believeth in him (Joe Blow) should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn Joe Blow; but that Joe Blow through him might be saved.

Insert the name of the person you are facing at the moment and see if that doesn’t change the way you see him or her. Once you begin to see other people through God’s eyes via the lens of John 3:16,17, you will never look at people in quite the same way.

Father, God,

Grant me the heart and hands to love others as You love them. Help me to see how best to fulfill my commitment to their well-being. Thank you for loving us so much.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

 

Here Yet A While

Listen and consider.

Father, God,

Help us to remember our worth only in terms of Jesus’ sacrifice. Remind us of your glory and generosity and love. Put a hunger in our hearts for more of you, to get closer to you, to love you more.

In Jesus’ most precious name we pray,

Amen.

God Chose

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.  ~~  Genesis 18:16-19 (KJV)

 

Let’s put this in the correct time frame. The men have just told Sarah that she will have a child within the year, and Abraham is about to argue with God on the destruction of Sodom.

God chose Abraham.

And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.  ~~  Genesis 15:7  (KJV)

Notice that God informs Abraham and saves Lot not because of what they do, but simply because God has chosen them.

Lot has spent his years in Sodom as a righteous man. But it seems that he has tolerated – and even accommodated – the abominations of the society in which he dwells. Even though he has not succumbed to those vilenesses himself.

The nation who flouts the Lord is playing with fire. See Genesis 19:24 ff.

This should be a warning to our land today. Compromising God’s word leads to disaster. Just as there are limits to God’s patience, there should also be limits on our ability to tolerate and accommodate sin.

This is not to say that we ought to be judgmental. God alone will judge.

But we must, in all good conscience, point out destructive behaviors as outlined by scripture. When we fail to warn our society, we are guilty of aiding and abetting its sins.

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD… ~~ Genesis 18:19: (KJV)

As children of God, we are expected to keep and teach the way of the Lord. When we keep only, we’ve fallen down on half of our job.

Father God,

Give us the boldness to speak your words and righteousness. Help us to inform and teach with gentleness and love.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Love Is the Key

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 

~~ I Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV)

Love is the key to the Christian life. But I think, sometimes, we miss the mark on our definition of love. While this chapter is frequently read at weddings, I believe it has less to do with weddings than the everyday relationships between friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Jesus said the first commandment was to love the Lord. But what kind of love is this? It certainly isn’t the same kind of physical desire and emotion that men and women sometimes feel for one another. It is, in fact, not a “feeling” so much as a decision and commitment. You seek the Lord and His will for your life, so that what you do pleases Him. It is His approval that you are wanting. His “well done, good and faithful servant” is your goal.

We love the Lord by loving what He created. This kind of love is committed to the well-being of the other. We are to work for the benefit of the Lord’s creation. Since man was created in the image of God, when we look at another person, we should strive to see the mark of God on him or her. It is that essence of the divine in each person that we respect and admire.

The qualities of love in Paul’s list spring from the recognition of God’s image in man. We have no clear picture of God except what of God is reflected in man. In eternity, we shall see Him face to face – no veil, no shadow, no dim mirror.

Father, God,

Prepare us to see You face to face. Create in us Your love for all mankind. Help us to hear as You hear, see as You see, and feel as You feel.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen

Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

~~  2 Corinthians: 1:3-4 (KJV)

“Who comforts us in all our troubles…”  This particular passage seems to expect that we will all have troubles in our lives. It states troubles as a foregone conclusion, not just a remote possibility.

So often we ask why. Why did this happen? What use are we to make of it? This verse tells us exactly why. We go through troubles in order to comfort others who are going through troubles.

Our God is a God of compassion – not pity – compassion. The root of compassion is patio, meaning to bear or suffer and the prefix com meaning together or with.

The current definition is:  sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Yesterday, I visited the local funeral home to grieve with and offer comfort to a family who had lost an infant.

We do not understand why we lose infants and children. It matters not whether the immediate cause was disease, accident or murder. The loss of a child is the loss of a future, the loss of a hope.

There will forever be a blank, open, hurting space in our hearts. We do not “get over” this kind of loss. We simply learn to live in an altered universe.

The one constant in our universe is God. No matter the trouble, the hurt, the grief, He is always ready to hold us near to His heart. When bad things happen, we can always turn to Him. He is always there, loving us, bearing with us through everything.

Father, God,

Help us to remember that nothing happens to us without Your foreknowledge, that You are never surprised by circumstance. Remind us that You are our refuge and our strength at all times, no matter what happens to us and around us. Grant us the wisdom to turn to You, not trying to fix things by ourselves. Help us to understand Your love so that we can extend that same kind of love to others.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.

 

Love?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  ~~  Matthew 5:44-48 (KJV)

Most Christians are familiar with this scripture, even though we seldom practice it. We give ourselves all kinds of excuses not to follow through with these actions.  Yes actions.

  • Love – Love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. Love is action – working for the best interest of the beloved.
  • Bless – Speak well of and speak encouragement to this person.
  • Do good – In other words, serve. Bring the coffee; shovel the snow; promote his business…
  • Pray – Bring this person before the throne and thank God that He is sovereign in all things.

I enjoy a subscription to Mikey’s Funnies. Subscribed after my younger cousin began sending me snippets from her subscription. In honor of Valentines Day, he published a list of things youngsters said define love. This little girl has it down pat – from our scripture today scripture.

“If you want to learn to love better,

you should start with a friend who you hate.”

Nikka – age 6

Art Linkletter said it best: “Kids say the darnedest things.”  Some of them put the rest of us to shame.

Father, God,

We ask that You make us a little children, eager to learn and quick to comprehend Your teaching. Give us hearts softened to love those who are not necessarily nice to us. Grant that we may serve You by serving them. Help us to see their needs and work to fulfill them.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen.