Love Your Neighbor…

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of what we have heard since childhood – known as the “Golden Rule.” Instilled within us was the adage: “Treat other people the same way you want them to treat you.”  You will find this same message recorded in Luke 6:31 as well. This relational concept stems from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” found in Leviticus 19:18. Jesus quotes this OT passage in His teachings found at Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27. But Jesus goes on to explain that love is the essence of what all the Law and the Prophets were revealing from God.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this teaching in his epistles:

Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The Apostle Peter confirmed the same instruction:

1 Peter 1:21-23 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

And the Apostle John preserved for us the spiritual depth of this command: To love one another as Jesus has loved us:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 3:10-11 (NIV)

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

So, I pray we will take this message to heart as we prepare for His Coming.  I pray we will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I pray we will be proactive in our communities to show the love of God to others … bringing the Good News of Jesus to fill their hearts with the knowledge of the truth: “For God so loved the world.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

 If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture that says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself – you do well. ~ James 2:8

Love Each Other…

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Our Verse of the Day is quite direct in its message and delivery.  The Apostle John does not mince words.  Saying you love God but having hatred in your heart towards another believer is wrong.  It is hypocritical.  John will call you out as a liar.  Pretty strong … perhaps even harsh words to use.  John indicates there is a chasm between what you say and what your heart manifests in reality.  So, I think we all need to do a heart check from time to time.  We need to examine our feelings towards others we tend to dislike, distrust, or disagree with.  John goes on to state that “loving others” is a command.  Thus, it is not optional to obey!

As Moses instructed:

Leviticus 19:17-18 (NIV)

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

As Jesus taught:

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As Paul explained:

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

As James exhorted:

James 2:8-9 (NIV)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

When Jesus spoke with His disciples during the last Passover meal, He told them: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) No doubt there were many dimensions and demonstrations of His love that Jesus had in mind; yet I cannot help but think that being an ambassador of reconciliation with the Father was foremost – because that was the very reason Jesus was sent by the Father.  As John affirmed: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) And so, I believe this portrait of love should be the origin of every thought … of every motive … of every action we take to love others as He has loved us. It was LOVE that compelled Jesus to finish the work the Father gave Him to do.  Indeed, this is the greatest message of love that we could ever share with another person. And it is love for others that should compel us to do so … to make the most of every opportunity we are given by the Father to share the good news of Jesus Christ.…    

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.   ~ John 15:9-17

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Our Verse of the Day brings a challenge to us as believers in response to having placed our faith in Jesus. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit; and we have been GIVEN the right (authority) to become children of God and to receive “adoption to sonship”. (Cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) And because we love the Son, we love the Father who sent Him. This is why we are dearly loved children of God. But this love did not originate with us; rather, it is our response to His love for us. (Cf. 1 John 4:19) And so we are called to walk in the way of love – in the same manner as Christ loved. Then, Paul goes on here to briefly summarize how His love was demonstrated: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This theme reverberates throughout the New Testament writings of the apostles. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Indeed, it is central to our response to the grace of God and a commandment of Jesus Himself. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Likewise, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no ambiguity here. His command does not require theological research or debate. But maybe the guidance of Paul to give us descriptive and practical ways of demonstrating love to one another would be helpful….

As I thought about the many passages in which Paul addresses the demonstration of love, I kept coming back to the guiding principle where he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-3) You see, love is rooted in mercy. It is in the light of mercy that we see love manifested. Think of a new born baby. It is completely helpless and defenseless upon entrance into the world. Yet mercy demands that care and nurture to be provided – behaviors we would consider a profound demonstration of love. The “living sacrifice” of parents becomes evident from the moment of birth. So, in the same way, God cares for us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

Paul will continue through Romans 12:3-21 to bring full definition to love in action; but I think the conclusion for us is that love in its highest expression is sacrificial. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Love begins with sacrifice. It means to give something of higher value in return for something of lesser value. It means to suffer loss. This was the principle of the sacrificial system of the temple – where the people would present a highly valued animal (first born, unblemished) to be slaughtered as a sin offering to God according to the Law. Yet, incredibly, in His mercy for our helpless sinful human condition, God decided to sacrifice His best … His all … His only begotten Son as a sin offering for us … to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. (Cf. Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of His love in this manner: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) And Jesus explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

So, what is the application? If you want to love others as God in Christ Jesus has loved you, then your life too must be sacrificial. And, further, your sacrifice must be your very best! Love must be sincere … not half-hearted. Love is the most excellent way! Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, I believe this is what God is calling us to do in our generation … at this appointed time in history … as His remnant church! We are called to be “living sacrifices” to those who are helpless; to those who are defenseless; to those who are orphans and widows; to those who are abused and mistreated; to those who are prodigal; those who are lost and without God. Yes, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (Cf. 1 John 4:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. ~ 1 John 4:20

Carry The Load…

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the Law of Christ!

As we examined our desire to “do” the will of God, we discovered that the will of God must be discerned, understood, and then put into practice through action. (Cf. James 2:14-17) In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction on “how” to fulfill our desire to do the will of God: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

What does it mean to “carry or bear each other’s burdens”? Well, let’s look at the immediate context:

Galatians 6:1-5 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Galatians 6:1-5 (NLT)

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of ChristIf you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

As I examine the context, it appears that the “burden” we are called to bear is the action of restoring someone who has been caught in transgression (i.e., sin). The phrase implies both the responsibility we must take for our own sin as well as helping others through the temptations and weaknesses they endure as well. “You who are spiritual … you who live by the Spirit,” should not be misconstrued to mean “you who are sinless.” But those who live by the Spirit are equipped to know and understand “the root” of what is occurring in their lives and in the lives of those who have fallen, and to guard themselves from the same potential temptation or weakness. It is crucial for those who are mature in Christ to help all others in the Church to receive restoration and to move toward spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When we speak about Five-Fold Ministry of the Church, this is “how” our Lord determined that we fulfill His Law. The work of restoration (healing what is broken); reconciliation (leading people to God); and deliverance (finding triumph through Christ Jesus) is accomplished through those who are spiritual … through those who have been appointed and equipped to serve the Lord and to make disciples. And we are blessed with the incredible opportunity to fulfill the Law of Christ within the local body (assembly) that we attend. You do not have to be in the office of Apostle to make a difference. You do not need to compare yourself to a Pastor or Evangelist. God has gifted you for service and to bear fruit as He has determined. So, I encourage you to fulfill what He has chosen for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)

Remember that regardless of whether you have an “office” within the Church, those who live by the Spirit have been gifted – for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. (Cf. Romans 11:29) You are the best one equipped to help others through the same things you have experienced in life and overcame through faith in Jesus Christ. That is how God will use you to bear the burden(s) of others:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 27-31 (NIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way….

Paul will go on to share in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most excellent way to minister to one another is with sincere love. For we know that love covers a multitude of sins. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) Our calling is to facilitate healing of the brokenness that sin has caused in the lives of people … and to point others to the deliverance, freedom, and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our responsibility is not to judge or condemn; rather, it is to love. Love does not condone sin; but it is the power through which repentance is motivated. As Paul admonished:

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

My prayer is that we will answer the call to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, to fulfill the law of Christ.” And to do so, I encourage you to use the spiritual gifts that you have been graciously given … as the Spirit determined uniquely for you. You are able! You are equipped! You are called to make a difference in the Kingdom! Let’s start right here … right now where we have been placed to serve God. And let us do so in the most excellent way … to love others as we ourselves have been loved by the Lord. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Timely Word…

Proverbs 15:23 (NIV)

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of the importance of interpersonal our communications.  When it comes to the journey of faith, we all need encouragement from time to time; and how good it is to receive a timely word of encouragement from someone in our lives. The world, with all its troubles and tribulations, can bring us discouragement and disappointment. In these times, we need to build each other up; remind each other that God is on His throne and that He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

I want to encourage you to seek someone out today and let them know you are thinking about them.  Let them know that you are praying for them and their circumstances … asking God to fill them with His grace and strength. I encourage to speak Jesus over their lives and to pour His blessings in abundance. Yes, demonstrate empathy for the tough situations people are going through and let them know you care. In doing so, you will find joy! Indeed, you will receive encouragement yourself from our Father … who sees your love for one another. And I am reminded of the encouragement that Paul shared in his epistles regarding comforting one another:

Romans 15:1-6 (NIV)

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (encouragement), who comforts (encourages) us in all our troubles (afflictions), so that we can comfort (encourage) those in any trouble (affliction) with the comfort (encouragement) we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort (encouragement) abounds through Christ.

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 (NIV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

My friends, I hope this blog message is a timely word for you. I pray that if you are in need of encouragement today, the Father will send someone to comfort you in your time of need. Yes, I pray each of us will be intentional today and take time to encourage someone you know is suffering … feeling broken or discouraged. Pray with them! Speak Jesus over them! And I believe you will receive joy in your own spirit when you do!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Abounding In Love…

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

In our Verse of the Day, I believe we encounter a different concept with regard to the impact that knowledge and discernment have upon our redemption. We typically think of wisdom, understanding, and depth of insight, as the role of the Holy Spirit for our walk as born-again creations. Indeed, He is our guide into all Truth. He is our Advocate … our Helper … our Comforter … who teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus taught His disciples. (Cf. John 14:26; 15:26) Yet here, Paul appears to assert its impact on the growth and maturity of our love as followers of Christ. He prays for our love to abound … for the love within us to grow and mature and bear fruit … in response to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Why is this important?  Well, Paul states the purpose of his prayer is “so that we may be able to discern what is best and to live in a consecrated position for the soon return of our Lord Jesus. We know the primary goal of our life in Christ is to love God and to love one another. But love is not just a matter of the emotions; rather, to be effective and productive for the Lord, we must use our intelligence and exercise discernment. And so, I think Paul is praying not only that the Philippians continue in their outpouring of sincere love, but he is encouraging them to operate in love that exercises knowledge and moral discernment. Paul indicates that love directed by intelligent, moral decisions will manifest itself as the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ … as the completion of God’s love that brings Him glory, honor, and praise! (Cf. 1 John 4:11-17)

As I pondered the issue of moral discernment and how the Holy Spirit impacts our capacity to love more deeply, I recalled some passages where Paul discusses whether our interactions with others are beneficial or harmful.  I believe these selections represent practical applications of how our love for both God and others abounds (increases) with knowledge and depth of insight:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NIV)

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (Citing Genesis 2:2417 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in Spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (NIV)

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (Citing Psalm 24:1) 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

As love abounds in our redeemed, transformed hearts … as it matures in outward expression to those around us, such love always seeks and endeavors to operate in the Spirit of Christ.  It requires us to “discern what is best.” As Paul asserted: “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” I think this mindset is essential if we intend to share the truth in love. As Paul would later instruct the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus….

My friends, when we love as Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness in our lives. Its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Cf. Isaiah 32:17) We will no longer be conformed to the pattern on this world; rather, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Cf. Romans 12:2) And I think this is Paul’s ultimate desire – that when we stand before God in the judgment, our lives will have been filled with the spiritual fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ – produced by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) And then, the Father will receive all the glory and praise! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Send Greetings!

2 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

All God’s people here send their greetings.

Our Verse of the Day might seem mundane at first glance, but when I read the surrounding context, some inspirational thoughts emerged that blessed my quiet time this morning.

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ~ Final Greetings

As I read the benediction of his last letter to the Corinthians, I felt the impact of Paul’s message and instructions – not only for believers in Corinth but in Ephesus, Macedonia, and all the other places where his evangelical passion helped establish new churches. His utmost desire to see the ordained purposes of the universal Church to produce the fruit of Gospel resonated with me.  Indeed, the reasons for assembling ourselves and joining our lives is evident in these last words:

  • Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus and in His redemption!
  • Striving for restoration of intimacy with God through abiding in the Lord Jesus!
  • Encouraging one another in the faith, and the good deeds that come through faith!
  • Being of one mind and one accord through the unity of the Spirit!
  • Living in peace with one another through compassion, humility, and forgiveness!
  • Experiencing the love and peace of God within the Church!

Paul follows with Verses 12-13 which speak to the affection among believers that should be demonstrated throughout the universal Church. He seems compelled to include: “All God’s people here (in Macedonia) send their greetings (their holy kisses) to all of you all there (in Corinth).” Yes, every local body of believers should express their love … their affection … to other believers everywhere! To me, Paul affirms what Jesus related to His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) Indeed, the purpose of the Church is to be … and to share … and to spread … the love of God revealed in the life of Jesus, His Son! This is how His love is completed in us! (Cf. 1 John 4:12; 17)

Well, I hope that we see the importance of sending greetings of affection; expressing concern and providing support for needs; providing encouragement to build up the faith of others; and equipping believers for works of service. For these things are not only important for those within the local body, but also for believers all across the world who form the Body of Christ. The purpose is that we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-16) Yes, this is my prayer for all who believe and abide in in the Lord Jesus. And I join with Paul in these words: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children…

Our Verse of the Day continues to focus on the theme of love as the full expression of what it means to walk with God. At first glance, I was intrigued by this one sentence verse. Parsing it out, I saw two key points that I wanted to explore: “God’s example” and “as dearly loved children,” so I read further to Verse 2.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Key Point 1: We just needed to go one more verse to nail “God’s example” for us to follow. We are to walk (live) “in the way of love”! And our example of this “way” is our Lord Jesus Christ. His way of love is sacrificial in every aspect of relationship – first and foremost as the atonement for our sins … but also as a covering for offenses. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) As Paul shared: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Gone is the idea that we extend love to others after they have “earned” it. Gone is the notion that we only express or demonstrate love to another person because we feel like (based on our own determination) he/she deserves it. God’s example looks deeper than our transient emotions and human feelings.

1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

Key Point 2: Did you see it? Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God! “As dearly loved children” comes to life for us here. We did not become children of God until we were born of God; and that did not happen until we received Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Cf. John 1:12-13) So a child of God, by definition, loves in the same manner that God loves them. And the text says we are “dearly loved”. That speaks to the intimacy of our relationship with the Father we experience through Christ Jesus. And so, let us continue to look at how the Apostle John further articulates this “way of love” for us:

1 John 4:15-21 (NIV)

15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

I encourage you to read further into Ephesians 5:1-20 (Link to Bible Gateway Provided Here). I want to draw your attention to how Paul contrasts walking in the way of love with our former conduct as unbelievers. Before we encountered the love of God through Jesus Christ, we were unable to walk in perfect love. Paul illustrates this and provides us with practical, concrete examples of the tension between light and darkness … between love and the absence of love. Just as light exposes the darkness, so the love of God exposes the behaviors we exhibit as humans that are unloving, unkind, and therefore, unholy. And it is imperative for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly walk in the way of love. Christ Jesus lived the sacrificial love the Father has in mind for each of us to imitate. And He challenges believers with this spiritual standard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) James and Peter weighed in on this instruction as well. James: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Cf. James 3:13) And Peter: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22)

Although love is spiritual, it will always express itself in the physical or natural. The Father expects us to imitate Him, to be conformed to the image of His Son, and walk in the way of love. Love is to be the expression of our faith in Jesus … the outcome or fruit of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Indeed, every fruit of the Spirit is rooted in love.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

2 John 1:6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I just feel impressed that the Spirit of God is very concerned that we as believers not only hear the command to walk in love, but to make it actionable in our lives. As I have shared before, God saved us … created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) We have been saved to serve! This is His call on the life of every believer! We just need to be obedient as opportunities and divine appointments to share the love of God with others come our way. As the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews urged: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….” (Cf. Hebrews 10:24) Indeed, being the love of God in this world is the responsibility and purpose of the Church. We are called to be the physical expression of God’s love to the world … and I pray we will do so with intentionality as we see the Day approaching….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Additional Study on The Way of Love:

1 Corinthians 13

Romans 12:9-21

God IS Love…

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

And so, we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Our Verse of the Day gives us a glimpse into the purpose for which “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son….” (Cf. John 3:16)

Sometimes I think most people today just really have a hard time understanding and accepting an eternal truth that God has been speaking into His creation – HIS LOVE! There are folks who give little thought to our Creator much less His Being or His Nature. But the Apostle John, an eyewitness and beloved disciple of Jesus, shares with us his encounter and experience with the love of God through His Son. So, let’s read this familiar verse within the surrounding context:

1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

So, what we learn from John is the foundation on which love itself rests: GOD. We cannot see love any more than we can see God, but we see the purpose of love and how that is manifested in our human experience. We cannot see love any more than we can see the wind, yet we can observe its effect and know that it is just as real as something we can see. The Word of God declares to us both truths about the nature of God: God is Spirit (John 4:24) and God is Love (Cf. 1 John 4:8,16). These qualities or attributes define the core of His Being, and the Father has chosen to reveal them to us.  My thought is that we need to understand love both as a spiritual force recognizable through its physical manifestation.

But the message here runs deeper.  John tells us that we can KNOW and RELY upon the love God has for us.  Its spiritual truth is SEEN in Jesus Christ!  Indeed, His love is trustworthy and undeniable; and it moves us to live like Jesus in this world.  God intends that love is to become the core of our own being in Christ … in order that His love will be completed … yes, be perfected in those who become the visible love of God in this world.

As the Body of Christ in this world, we are called to abide in Jesus like branches in a vine. We are appointed to be like Jesus and conformed to His image through the power of His love for us. As Verse 19 above asserts: “We love because He first loved us.” So, it follows that until we encounter the love of God through Christ Jesus, we cannot complete His love in the world. Without faith in the finished work of atonement Jesus accomplished on the cross, we will not come to know or embrace what He taught us: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) Indeed, I believe we will only come to know true love when we come to know Jesus … both as Lord and Savior.

So, I will pray over us this morning as Paul did for the Ephesians.  I pray that the love of God sent to abide in us through His Spirit will bring us to the fullness of love that He desires to be completed in each believer:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Have The Same Mindset…

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Our Verse of the Day continues to exhort us regarding our relationships with one another … as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and representing the Body of Christ in this world. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us and reminding us of the imperative to be Christ-like in all that we say and do.  I have always loved the teaching of the larger passage written by Paul to the Philippians, so I will reprint it for our meditation today:

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As I think about this passage and its message to conform to the image of Christ Jesus, I cannot help but remember what the Apostle John exhorted regarding this same theological theme.  I have reprinted his words for your convenience as well:

1 John 2:3-11 (NIV)

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Father God, by your Spirit you are prompting us to examine our hearts and our mindsets … to consider the thoughts of our hearts once again. What we claim about ourselves and what is manifested by our conduct MUST be consistent if we claim to walk in the light of truth.  Without sincere love for one another, we continue to walk in darkness. Indeed, whoever claims to live in Him MUST live as Jesus did. And so, I pray the confessions of our hearts today are sincere before You. As You determine, renew our minds and transform us to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world (Cf. Romans 12:2); rather, create in us pure hearts, O God, and renew steadfast spirits within us! (Cf. Psalm 51:10) For it is the desire of our hearts to be conformed to the image of Your Son; and we repent of any conduct that is self-centered, unloving, unkind, unfaithful, inconsiderate, disgraceful, or unworthy of You. We look to the abiding grace of Jesus to help us love one another as He has loved us.  In the name of Jesus … the Name above every other name … we pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!