Christian Devotions

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Love Who? Forgive Who?

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.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  ~~  John 3:16-17 (KJV)

God created man in His own image. Scripture doesn’t exactly say why God created man, but the verses in Genesis would have me believing that He created man for companionship. While it is not explicitly stated, there is the inference that God walked with Adam in the garden regularly.

Then old slewfoot entered the picture and cast doubt upon God’s word and single prohibition.

“Did God really say…?” Followed by “Well, He didn’t really mean it like that.”

Yes, He did say. And yes, He did mean just exactly that.

John 3:16 is probably the first verse a new Christian memorizes (if verse memorization is still encouraged). At least it was the first verse my contemporaries and I learned. But we didn’t learn it all, because we didn’t memorize verse 17 as well.

Most of us have heard that where it says “the world” and “whosoever” you can substitute your own name.

For God so loved ________, that he gave his only begotten Son, that __________ [believing] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Okay, but what does this have to do with forgiveness?

Glad you asked.

See those blanks?  Now insert the name of someone who has harmed you in some way.

Yeah, the guy who cut you off in traffic or the woman who told lies about you to keep you from that promotion or anyone who has hurt you or made you angry in any manner. (For me, that includes the former son-in-law who murdered three of my grandchildren.)

When God said “the world”, he meant those people, too.

God’s love is much bigger than ours. But if God loves them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must love them, also.

True love is NOT a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is a decision followed by a course of action. Love is a decision to seek the welfare of another person above your own.

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

When we look at verse 17, we can take out “the world”, insert blanks again, and then write in the name of that person who has harmed or offended you.

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

Oh, ouch!

Can God really forgive ____________? (Insert the name of any offense in that blank.)

Yes, he can.

Look at King David. He was called a man after God’s own heart.

And when he [God] had removed him [Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.  ~~  Acts 13:22 (KJV)

Really?

David, the man who coveted another man’s wife? David, the man who committed adultery with Bathsheba?

David, the man who tried to manipulate Uriah to cover his sin? David, the man who conspired to have Uriah killed in battle?

Yes, that David.

The saving grace was that David, imperfect and sinful as he was, did love God. He wanted to do as God willed. He simply fell far short of that mark.

In all his transgressions, David recognized his sin was against God and God’s commandments. Actually, that’s where every sin lies – against God’s commandments.

God’s capacity to forgive is much bigger than ours. But if God forgives them, and if I’m a follower of Christ, then I must forgive them, also.

Forgive – definition

transitive verb

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardonforgive one’s enemies

2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital (see requital sense 1) for forgive an insult

b : to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt

Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is a decision followed by a course of action. Forgiveness is a decision to absolve from payment and to renounce anger and resentment against someone who has harmed you.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, … and pray for them which despitefully use you, ~~ Matthew 5:44

The only positive action you must take after that decision is to remember that person in your prayers.

Father God,

Help us to remember who we are in you. Give us the grace to see other people through your eyes of love. Empower us to be swift to forgive.

In Jesus’ most precious name.

Amen

 

 

 

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Love is…

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, 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 love, 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 love, it profits me nothing.

love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;

Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

love never fails: 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 spoke 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 abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. “

~~  I Corinthians 13:1-13 (NKJV)

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 love as You love.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

God’s Mercies

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them.
They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.
Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:
This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.
I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. ~~ Psalm 118 (KJV)

This psalm contains some of my favorite lines of scripture. It begins with “His love endures forever.” That is such a comfort.

When God loves you, He never stops loving you. If you are disobedient and willful, He loves you. Even when you reject Him, He loves you. When He has to let you suffer the consequences of your own actions, He loves you. When you love Him and obey Him, you can enjoy the fact that He loves you and revel in His blessings.

God’s love is the basis for all our confidence. If God be for us, who can stand against us? The ultimate victory is ours. The enemy may win a skirmish here and there, but the victory is the Lord’s. When we are on His side, we cannot lose.

The assurance that the Lord is always victorious give us the strength to go forward, singing songs of His praise. We can sing, even in times of trouble and grief because the victory belongs to the Lord, not to the enemy.

Man’s opinion does not count in God’s world. It is God’s opinion that defines who we are and what we can do. While we do not completely disregard the opinions of others, it is God’s word that must define our thoughts and actions. It is God who will reward the deeds we do.

Our job is to take possession of today. God’s mercies are new every morning. So today we will rejoice in Him and His provision for our lives. We cannot wallow in the regrets of yesterday. There is nothing we can do to change what has already been done. We cannot worry about tomorrow, we don’t have the leisure to speculate on what if this or that. It is today that counts. We need to go about our business, singing the praises of the Lord today. He knows what tomorrow will bring and has already made provision for that as well.

We do well to “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Father, God,

Help us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all that You are and all that You do for us. We forget that our next breath is a gift from You. Grant that we may always remember all Your mercies.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.

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.

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