The Ultimate Goal is Love! Lord, Teach Me to Love!

I have been painfully inconsistent at setting strategically defined goals for my life. Except perhaps for one! When the love of Christ reached down to a broken, battered and hopeless young woman over 40 years ago, her one prayer and goal was, “Lord, teach me to love.”

I am that woman! My ultimate goal is to love — to love well, to love here, to love now.

But how?

The Goal is Love

Paul left his young disciple Timothy to bring firm correction to a church that was going off track. Several in the congregation had become “shipwrecked”, rejecting their faith. (I Tim 1:19) It doesn’t seem fair for this mature father of the faith to post such a young man in this difficult position.

Love made beautiful through scars!

From the beginning, Paul sets a solid foundation for Timothy:

“The goal is love,
which comes from a pure heart
and a good conscience
and a sincere faith.”
I Timothy 1:5

Imagine the scene! People scampering over each other for leadership status, anxious to be “teachers of the law”. Debaters of every imaginable controversy pushing their way to notoriety. The church was growing in spite of vocal minorities proclaiming twisted spiritual concepts. Exuberant hopefuls  were forcing themselves to the front of the line.

I certainly wouldn’t be volunteering for Timothy’s church placement. Sounds like the perfect setting for any young minister to become disillusioned and burned out.

Didn’t he deserve something better? After all, wasn’t he called of God? Wasn’t he ordained into ministry by the most elite group of apostles? Surely being commissioned by Paul himself bore enough weight to guarantee success!

The Heart

I’m going to be painfully transparent. Just last week in a one-on-one counselling session, a hurting woman sat opposite me. Our meeting was difficult; break through for her was slow, painfully slow. I felt the distinct reprimand of God, “MaryAnn do you have a heart of love? Love here!”

I realized in the busyness of appointment after appointment, I wasn’t stirred with compassion and tenderness toward this brave woman. In a moment, I both repented and humbly asked again, “Lord, teach me to love.”

Love is where good grows

In an instant my heart changed and so did the direction of our meeting. The woman left finding the hope in Christ, she was so desperately seeking.

The heart of love became a channel of God’s intervention.

Why am I so slow to love? Why is this a lesson  so often repeated? What causes my heart to so easily turn toward other missions and focuses?

“The goal is love which comes
from a pure heart…”

Oh! There it is! Instead of pure, my heart becomes infected by personal agenda, selfish desire, arrogant pride … The list is much longer! The pollutants invasive!

With David I pray,

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

A Good Conscience

Paul sets a godly example for Timothy,

“So I strive always
to keep my conscience clear
before God and man.”
Acts 24:16

A clear conscience doesn’t come naturally, not to Paul and certainly not to us. It takes effort! Only out of this fertile ground of a good conscience will love grow strong and free.

Love is personal and vulnerable!

Peter, too, experienced the tenacity required to maintain a good conscience,

“Keep a clear conscience before God
so that when people throw mud at you,
none of it will stick.
They’ll end up realizing
that they’re the ones who need a bath. 
It’s better to suffer for doing good,
if that’s what God wants,
than to be punished for doing bad. 
That’s what Christ did definitively:
suffered because of others’ sins,
the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.
He went through it all –
was put to death and then made alive –
to bring us to God.”
I Peter 3:16-18 MSG

This mud flinging world, when allowed, will pollute not just one’s heart, but one’s conscience as well. “None of it” has to stick! What people say or do cannot restrict our ability to live godly in a godless world.

Love enables such a response to adversity — adversity that Timothy was plunged into!

Christ was Timothy’s example! He is also ours!

Sincere Faith

“The goal of this command is love,
which comes from
a sincere faith.”

Undoubtedly, human love reaches far and accomplishes much. However, it only extends in earthly portion.

But there is love that surpasses human comprehension, flowing unhindered, unpolluted from the heart of God who by His very nature is love. Only God’s version spans beyond human capacity to the contentious, the wicked, the loathsome and the broken.

Timothy would need such love. So do we!

Only through a sincere faith, can and will this ultimate command of love be anywhere near possible.

Faith may move mountains,
but love conquers all!

I have witnessed this undefeatable combination of faith and love multiple times — each encounter awe inspiring.

Put faith and love together and nothing is impossible! As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Jesus said to the man, whose daughter was dying. He approached Jesus with desperately simple and faltering faith.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Let’s face it! Love is impossible for us! Only faith makes reaching the command possible. Our dependence is not in our own ability, but rather in Christ’s transforming nature at work in us and through us.

The Command

As we look again, we see love is far more than a goal we hopefully achieve in some limited fashion. Love is a command!

The goal of this command is love …”

A love that is unending and strong!

That may sound a little forceful given the situation Timothy was being thrust into. Nonetheless, it is a command to love.

“Timothy, my son,
I am giving you this command
in keeping with the prophecies
once made about you,
so that by recalling them
you may fight the battle well.”
I Timothy 1:18

The specific words spoken over Timothy are withheld from our hearing. However, each one of us, as children of God, saved by His grace, have God’s affirming and confirming word through the bible. We may not have heard it from human lips, but God’s truth continually “speaks” into and over us.

As we remember God’s unfathomable grace toward us, we gain the capacity to more than endure — we fight! We fight the battle well!

Fighting for the sake of love may seem a contradiction, but it isn’t! Whatever we do of any value must be done in the context of love! It can feel like warfare as we defend and protect this goal, both inwardly and outwardly.

 

The goal of this command is love!

Love is always worth fighting for!

If God were speaking right now, I think He would personally say to each of us, ” ‘My son, my daughter, I am giving you this command … fight the battle well’ for love.”

“Lord, teach me love,” is my only fitting response.

Building Community – The Purpose and Power of Connections

How do we genuinely comprehend the magnitude of God’s intention for networks of friendship, bonds of community, and genuine alliances of faith? Whenever I write about community, I am walking on foreign soil! I am like an explorer mapping freshly discovered territory with the intention of others following and traversing similar terrain into healthy community relationships.

Jesus The Example

For my answers I must turn to Jesus Christ. No other human exemplified both the purpose and power of connections as Jesus. Jesus remains the benchmark of excellence! He chose his followers from the most unlike candidates who were

at times highfalutin and oft cantankerous,
more than a little rag-tag mixed with a pinch of upper crust,
self-centered and self-promoting.

Creating unity in community!

How did he solidify in these men unparalleled power-filled connection that would be reproduced through generations in spite of the unending assaults of government, church and society?

“He appointed twelve that they might be with him
and that he might send them out to preach”
Mark 3:14

I realize any group, large or small, must be built on two strong legs in order to not only walk out faith, but have the capacity to run the race Christ has established. The first is love and the second is honour. Without both of these pillars, our journey together will be crippled and distorted.

The entire purpose and power of connections is based on these two ingredients: love and honour. Yet in multiple meetings with recognized leaders, few mention either!

Love

When asked what the greatest of commandments was, Jesus minced no words!

“… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40

A community of love and honour!

Paul would later dissect truth further in his letter to the Corinthians. He clarifies that without love, regardless of supernatural gifts and abilities, “I am nothing…I gain nothing”!

Any endeavour at building community without love is void and impotent.

I’m not talking about the here today and gone tomorrow shadow of  love, the touchy-feely, ooey-gooey imposter of love, or the make me “look good”, “feel good”, self-seeking mutation of love.

In true community love flows from the heart of the Father permeating every activity, conversation, discipleship, and connection. It bears repeating, without it we are nothing; we gain nothing!

Honour

When love is genuine, honour will also be sincere.

Pay to all what is owed to them:
taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed,
respect to whom respect is owed,
honor to whom honor is owed.”
Romans 13:7

Paul is writing concerning how to treat those in authority. Christ always went beyond the letter of the law manifesting the heart of truth. 

Community extends honour to all!

If the purpose of honour is to give merit, distinction or worth on the basis only of rank or status, it is a faint shadow of God’s intention, contradicting Christ’s example.

We see Jesus not just honouring people with title or position, but the lowly, despised, rejected, outcast members of His society. Honour is based not on social hierarchy, but the divine attribute and worth of being God’s image bearers.

When the heart of community is honour, it infiltrates every aspect of that community elevating each member. It is impossible to truly honour God without recognizing

  His likeness in every individual
and excellence in their personal uniqueness,
seeing purpose in His divine impartation
and gifts to His children,
while acknowledging His brilliance in every life.

By honouring the one, we honour the whole. In the honour of individuals, we honour the community.

Power of Community

The synergy of love and honour united this unlikely group of The Twelve into an undeniable re-presentation of Christ on earth.

If we believe that community is for the purpose of evangelism, we begin to treat people like a number on a list. If the attempt is keeping people from walking out the revolving back door of the church, community becomes a camouflaged prison of co-dependence. It is dangerous and deceptive to tag community’s primary purpose as discipleship. We cannot succumb to creating robotic reproductions full of knowledge and void of purpose.

Community - a fellowship of worth and purpose!

On the other hand, if every community is a fellowship of love and honour, each individual develops a sense of worth and purpose in their divine existence and calling.

People naturally encouraged and drawn into intimate relationship with Jesus
directly flows out of community.
The soil of community facilitates restoration and healing.
The wandering ones find a sense belonging.
Vibrant community environments release and develop gifts and abilities.

The united power of love and honour creates the fertile soil out which The Twelve became a hundred and the hundred became thousands, multiplying into a diverse and dominant worldwide movement unified for the glory of God.

Now that is genuine community!

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power
and is intended for his glory.
All glory to him forever!
Amen.”
Romans 11:36

Building community for the glory of Christ!

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Further Reading:

Friendship – Embracing Unity While Valuing Diversity

Finding The Solution for Pressings Problems and Difficulties

Finding a Solution

We all face problems: some small, others large, a few impossible! How and where do we find a tangible solution to the towering difficulties we face? Finding resolution when the problems are enormous is what I want to look at today.

I often feel “recharged” in the prospect of finding a solution. If the problem is daunting, there may be a hesitation in my step, but generally I’ll roll up my sleeves and dig in with an attitude of “I will eat this elephant one mouthful at a time!”

When the problem appears overwhelming and insurmountable, I respond quite differently! As a matter of fact, my reaction is much like that of the early apostles.

Mountainous Problems

The Problem

The apostles had just returned from a successful but tiring ministry trip. Jesus saw their exhaustion and knew they needed rest!

When the apostles returned,
they reported to Jesus what they had done.
Then he took them with him
and they withdrew by themselves
to a town called Bethsaida,”
Luke 9:10

Why do problems erupt when we are tired and unprepared? Fatigue seems to complicate situations.

“but the crowds learned about it and followed him.”
Luke 9:11

The presence of a needy crowd escalated the problem even more. Interruptions never disturbed Jesus, however. His compassion was bigger than any crowd! When there was a need, convenient or not, Jesus made Himself available!

Jesus always had overflowing compassion!

“He welcomed them and spoke to them
about the kingdom of God,
and healed those who needed healing.”
Luke 9:11

But…

Dusk was approaching! In this remote place food was inaccessible. Jesus had healed their bodies and fed them spiritually. Now He asks the disciples for their cooperation.

“Jesus…said to Philip,
‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ ”
John 6:5

Solution #1

“Buy bread? Out here?” I can almost hear Philip’s shocked response.

All four gospels record the details of this day,  confirming a crowd of 5,000 men. The number of women would have been similar, with probably even more children. Conservative estimates would tally the crowd at around 15,000.

Have you ever had the doorbell ring fifteen minutes before mealtime, “Just dropping in for a quick visit!” Every woman knows the panic of that moment. To the fridge and pantry she scurries evaluating the potential for a quick meal.

The magnitude of this problem, however, was much larger! It would be more like opening your door to a thousand starving, weary people.

Solution 1: Send them away!

 

I love the apostle’s solution:

Send the crowd away
so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside
and find food and lodging..”
Luke 9:12

“Jesus, take the problem away!”

“It’s not my problem! Let them find a solution!”

“Send them away!”

Yep! I’ve said all that and more in flare prayer fashion to lesser emergencies! “Please Lord, make the problem go away!”

Solution #2

Jesus didn’t buy into their reasoning:

You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6:37

The ex-fishermen looked desperately for a lake and boat, while the  former tax collector checked his empty pockets. Even Dr. Luke was at a loss for a reasonable solution.

“That would take more than half a year’s wages!
Are we to go and spend that much on bread
and give it to them to eat?”
Mark 6:37

Solution 2: Send me away!

The apostles second option was “Send us away!”

“If you aren’t going to take the problem from us, then at least take us from the problem!”

I can laugh a little because right now it isn’t me! But I certainly can relate!

How many times have I tried to wiggle out of a problem God has prepared just for me? The answer, of course, is frequently! I want a way of escape instead of learning more of Him.

I have a name for these times, the pits! It is in the pit, however, where God develops my character and fashions me just a little more like Himself. If I wrangle my way out, there will be another pit coming my way soon. God loves me too much not to invest in my development.

Jesus didn’t allow the Apostles to settle for option #2!

The Question

How many loves do you have? he asked,
Go and see.’ ”
Mark 6:38

Jesus confronts their insufficiency. “What do you have? Go and see! Take a good look!”

The Apostles confess their lack,

“…five small barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”
John 6:9

Small feet! Big steps!

How unprepared I feel in many situations! My little seems woefully inadequate, while the demands loom large. The longer I stare at the problem, the more insufficient my abilities and resources appear.

No training for this!
Too old to start now!
Skills are lacking!
Thoughts of inadequacy dominate!

The Solution

In front of the Apostles stood The Solution to every and all need. His Name is Jesus! He took the little they had broke it, blessed it and multiplied it. Be prepared! Breaking always comes before blessing. But only in the breaking can multiplying occur.

Be prepared! Breaking comes before blessing! Click To Tweet

The disciples received their meager gift back to give it away. The little they had proved to be more than enough in the hands of the Master.

“They all ate and were satisfied,
and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls
of broken pieces that were left over.”
Luke 9:17

When God refuses to remove problems from us or us from our problems, there is always a reason. If only we will allow Him to truly take our little, He will bless it. It may need to be broken, but the result will be worth it.

Hindsight will prove Him faithful! Right now, we exercise our faith! With Christ in the equation the solutions will continue to surprise and amaze us, while teaching and changing us.

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Good reads:

Lovelessness! Choosing to Love More!

What To Do When The Answer is “No”

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Never! 8 Things God Will Never Do

8 Things God Will Never Do

I have often said and written, “Nothing is impossible for God!” Actually, there are a number of things that are impossible for Him. If you are curious or think I’ve fallen off the rails, read on! Discover what God will never do.

I am so enthralled by the wonder and majesty of all God is and the glory of His splendor, I have never seriously thought about the things He will never do. Until now!

1. God Never Makes Mistakes

God will never say, “Oops! Made a mistake there! Let Me try that again!”

God never makes mistakes

I think of Joseph’s fifteen year journey through rejection, slavery, and imprisonment.  Surely this was a horrific mistake! God had given him prophetic dreams of becoming a powerful leader.

As second only to Pharaoh, he embraced his brothers,

“As for you, you meant evil against me,
but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result,
to preserve many people alive.”
Genesis 50:20

It took fifteen years for the steep learning curve Joseph was on. In the prison Joseph:

  • learned Egyptian language and culture
  • developed leadership skills
  • allowed God’s Lordship over every area of his life
  • embraced humility over pride
  • chose a lifestyle of continuous forgiveness
  • obtained wisdom for every circumstance
  • allowed perseverance to work godly character in him

the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
Psalms 33:11

It may be difficult to clearly see, but God’s plans for you are always good. Always!

2. God Never Changes

We change clothes, houses, cars, workplaces, hairstyles and shoes. Quickly and often, we change our minds. Because we live in constant transition, it is difficult to believe God never changes.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes to us
from God above, who created all heaven’s lights.
Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows” ”
James 1:17

God never changes like shifting shadows

We can count on the fact that God never changes, or even shifts

“I the Lord do not change.
Malachi 3: 6

3. God Never Has a Negative Thought

It may be scary but let’s consider the thoughts we think. My list would include, pride, judgment, rebellion, and discouragement. Add to that self-righteousness, self-pity, self-promotion, self-sufficiency… Maybe we should stop there!

No wonder the bible advises us to take our thoughts captive!

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!”
Psalm 139:17

Every thought of God originates in His loving, gracious and excellent nature. His thoughts towards us are beyond number and profoundly wonderful.

What is more, God never has a better idea than His first one. His thoughts are completely flawless. God never thinks a negative thought!

God never has a better idea than His first one. His thoughts are completely flawless. Click To Tweet

4. God Never Stops Loving

Since we are so close, let’s back up a page in the bible to Psalm 136. Twenty-six times in twenty-six verses we read,

“His love endures forever.”

God's love never fails

I think He is trying to tell us something. Nothing can separate us from His great love.

 “I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
 neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39

Be thoroughly convinced, nothing can separate us from God’s unfailing love.

5. God Will Never Let You Go

One of my favourite verses is Hebrews 13:5 AMP:

I will not in any way fail you nor give you up,
nor leave you without support.
I will not!
No, I will not!
I will not in any degree leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down, nor relax my hold on you.
Assuredly not!”

God will never let us go!

I am not desperately holding unto His hand; He has a relentless grip on mine. He has no intentions of letting go. Assuredly not!

6. God Never Fails to Keep His Promise

There are over 5400 promises in the bible. Most are conditional; none have failed! What God has spoken, He will do.

“… I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
Jeremiah 1:12

I have begun to circle texts where God says, “I will”. He repeats these words more often than I previously thought,

“I will gather…”
“I will save….”
“The Lord will deliver…”
“I will freely pardon…”

The bible overflows with the promises of God. They are guaranteed promises, we can stand on.

Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed;
every one was fulfilled.”
Joshua 21:45

7. God Never Sleeps

“He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Psalm 121:4

The word “watches”, means “to watch and to keep.” Day and night, in good times and bad, God is constantly watching over and protecting us. Six times in eight verses, He confirms it.

No matter what is going on in our lives, we can rest. God is awake and alert. We can rest our full weight on Him!

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

God never sleeps! He holds us firm!

 

God is alert and awake! We can rest our full weight on Him! Click To Tweet

Even on restless night, we need not fear, for God’s ear is open.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you
great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3

God has us covered! He is watchful eye is on us. I rest upon His strength.

8. God is Never Defeated

Kings may oppose Him, rulers may defy Him, but no army will defeat Him or border stop Him.

“God is never defeated.
Though He may be opposed, attacked, and resisted,
the ultimate outcome can never be in doubt.”
—Brother Andrew”

The reason?

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Matthew 28:18

God holds the “all”: all authority, all power, all might, all wisdom, all strength, all glory, all dominion. Whenever the devil tries to get the upper hand, God reveals Himself and triumphs over all. Nothing can or will ever outdo the cross of Christ.

And More!

God is never surprised, thrown off-guard, or bewildered. He sees and knows the future as clearly as the past. He never says, “I didn’t see that coming!”

God is never surprised!

never worries! He is never late! Although I wish His timing was more in tune with mine; a little early would be nice.

Given some thought, you will easily add to this list of God’s “nevers”. He functions in complete alignment with his holy and perfect nature. Never contradicting who He is.

I’m growing to love the never aspects of God’s character. As a matter of fact, I find deep assurance and confidence in pondering His “nevers”. He remains consistently and fully trustworthy.

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More reading:

The Lord is my Helper! “I Will Help You!”

Creating a Culture of Honour – Honour God! Honour All!

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Stay connected!

 

Christmas – The Reason Jesus Came to Earth!

The Reason Jesus Came

The festivities of Christmas have begun: family and social gatherings, decorations, baking, gifts, anticipation and excitement. But why was Jesus born? Why did He come to earth?

Hallmark sells about 93 million cards for Father’s day and another 141 million for Mother’s day. Valentine’s Day tops that at around 151 million. Does anyone want to guess what the number of Christmas cards might be? Those figures come in at 1.6 billion!

In spite of any push away from recognizing Christmas, these numbers speak for themselves. Christians and non-Christians alike place tremendous value in celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Christmas

Many of us follow traditions of previous generations, or have created our own traditions of how we celebrate Christmas. However, the significance of Christmas reaches far beyond traditions.

Why was Jesus born?

Angels Announcement

The birth of a baby is an anticipated event in any family. New parents approach the day with excitement and concern while extended family wait to see, touch and smell the new addition.

So it was for Mary & Joseph!

When a mother was ready to deliver her baby, midwives would be called. Family and friends would congregate on the roof awaiting the announcement from a close but guarded distance. Following the birth, the midwives would take a broom and knock on the ceiling. Then they would break into jubilant song; their familiar chant announcing the details!

“I bring you good news,
today in the town of __________
born to (names of father and mother)
this day a (son or daughter)
He/she will be (occupation, destiny or purpose)”

Their predictable chorus would set the roof top guests into clamorous celebration!

For Joseph and Mary, however, there were no midwives. Neither family nor friends attending the birth of this “unplanned” child. Alone, the Baby came! Only the sounds of chewing of cuds or gentle cooing from the rafters filled the night air.

Angel

God could not and would not allow this birth to go unannounced! Angels were released to declare the song of the midwives!

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Luke 2:10-11

This Child, Jesus Christ, was not for limited purpose or design! This Child was “for all the people…Saviour!” The Messiah had come!

Son of God and Son of Man, born to die, to take away the sins of the world.  The journey to Calvary began in Bethlehem – for all!

Calvary

The journey to Calvary began in Bethlehem! Click To Tweet

His Purpose

People continually misunderstood Him. Even for those who believed in Him, their hope of rescue clouded their vision. They wanted a king to set them free! Now!

Just before His crucifixion Jesus responded to Pilate’s questioning,

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—
to bear witness to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37

The One who always was came! The One without beginning or end “was born“! A king? Yes, but so much more!

The One who always was came! The One without beginning or end was born! Click To Tweet

Every aspect of His birth was swaddled in the supernatural with angelic visitation and divine encounter. Yet, Jesus lived fully Man. At the same time, He was a fully natural demonstration of the fullness of the Father, the fulfillment of the law, revelation of love, and peace in a tormented world.

Jesus came “to bear witness … to testify to the truth!”

 “The true light that gives light to everyone
was coming into the world.
 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—”
John 1:9 &11

Christmas

Christmas! The Truth shining in all His brilliance came to a world unprepared – unwaiting!

Are you ready? Am I?

It is  challenging to intentionally celebrate a Christ-centered Christmas. With Holy Spirit help, we can add a little more Christ to this Christmas.

Love

Several years ago we had a few guests staying with us over Christmas. We decided to share something we were each thankful for. As it turned out everyone around the circle talked about how significant their relationship with God and with family was to them. These moments had a powerful impact on a young visitor. He neither had a living relationship with Jesus or strong family connections. This simple time was transitional in his life.

Small things can made a big difference! For this young man, Christmas became an encounter with the Saviour!

Christmas is a reminder that real love is shown through sacrifice. For this Jesus was born, testifying with His life and death the truth in every respect. The Truth wrapped in swaddling clothes is love.

__________

Another read: Meeting God in the Ordinary – From Common to Holy

__________

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Lovelessness! Choosing to Love More!

Learning to Love More

To the statement, “I couldn’t care less!”, Mother Teresa responded, “I couldn’t care more!” To love is to serve especially when lovelessness surrounds us.

Several years ago our granddaughter, then around 3 years old, was walking down the street of a small city with her mother. Approaching them was a homeless man. Gently she pulled on her mother’s arm and softly said, “He has no family.”

She intrinsically sensed his deepest need. Without being able to articulate it, her 3 year old heart saw him uncovered, unprotected, unloved and without dignity or place of belonging. Already she knew that family, true family, is a place of love and value.

Family Love

We look but don't see! We see without wanting to look! Click To Tweet

Why did she at only three so clearly see what we as adults miss? “He needs a family! He needs love!”

We look but don’t see!
We see without wanting to look!
(Mother Teresa)

Lovelessness

“But anyone who hates another brother or sister
is still living and walking in darkness.
Such a person does not know the way to go,
having been blinded by the darkness.”
I John 2:11

Hatred to me is a very strong word. However, the literal translation of this word here is actually “to love less“. If I love anyone less, God equates it to hatred.

Why? In loving less, I become willfully “blinded” to the needs of others. I have opportunity daily to love more or to to love less!

Broken Love

Wedges in relationship are evidence of lovelessness:

Divorce says, “I love you less.”
“I am afraid to love” we whisper to the aborted.
Churches split because of lovelessness;
family feuds linger for generations in loving less.
Gossip, slander and complaining announce it!
Pride, prejudice and jealously demonstrate it!

Loving More!

Just the other day, a small group of young adults picked up a pan-handler, bought him a meal, gave him a ride, loved on him and prayed for him. For them, it was a natural act affirming value and worth to someone.

They loved more!

Love Lives Here

Another group of people I know have given themselves to consistently love and care for drug addicts, gang members, prostitutes and children in the inner city. They give more than a warm drink, food and a safe environment. Warm socks and jackets come with the hugs, prayer and genuine concern. Their motto? “Love lives here!”

They love more!

I recently met a young girl who cares deeply for inner city children who don’t have a safe place to go after school. She is spear-heading a ministry giving them food, loving and validating them, while teaching them bible verses and songs. Though she is little more than a child herself, she leads in tangibly loving about a hundred children in her area.

She loves more!

I also know a couple of grandmothers who are putting their hearts and feet in difficult places. They book a spot at porn conventions to “interpret dreams” as a way to love and pray for prostitutes, pimps and johns.

They love more!

Prayer

I haven’t mentioned yet those who:

  • foster children to make sure each child feels loved and wanted
  • risk they lives in volatile nations
  • go on medical missions, build orphanages and schools
  • jump into the lion’s mouth of domestic violence, abuse and brokenness bringing love and restoration

These love more!

You and Me

Though the dis-ease of love-less-ness is obvious all around us, you and I can make a difference. We have an ability to turn the tide, one person at a time!

I was recently told every person will influence approximately 20,000 people through their life, either directly and indirectly. Our choices determine what that influence will look like?

“The King will reply,
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
Matthew 25:40

Jesus considers His own brother or sister the “least of these.”

Many today have set their hearts to love “the one” in front of them. In so doing they have transformed nations! They recognize the face of Jesus in every person, seeing each as a person worthy of love and dignity.

Each one I touch with love will have a greater freedom to love others. With prayer, my little effort is a seed where more love may some day grow.

Colour it Love

Let us pick up the brush of faith and colour our world with love. By choosing today to have our eyes open to love, lovelessness can be broken in our midst!

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Lost to Found! Death to Life! The Prodigal is Coming Home!

Prodigal

I have memories of getting lost in the back woods and coulees of the Qu’Appelle Valley. Many hours were spent exploring and forging new trails where only deer, fox, rabbits, and the like occupy. At times I would be lost and not even know it! In my wandering, I would eventually arrive back at a familiar place and could find my way.

At times I would be lost and not even know it! Click To Tweet

Lost

It is one thing to be unknowingly lost, but quite another to come to the place where you realize how lost you are.

Lost Puppy

Jesus relates a parable of just such a young man. In his immaturity, he prematurely asks and receives more than his share of father’s estate. Off he goes as far away as the cash in his pocket will take him. He leaves more than his father’s home. He discards family values and faith.

Only when he is entirely broken and destitute does he finally see how lost he is. At the bottom of his self-made pit, he looks up, “My father is my only hope!”

 “When he came to his senses, he said,
‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare,
and here I am starving to death!

 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

 I am no longer worthy to be called your son;
make me like one of your hired servants.’

 So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15: 17-20

Found

Heavier than the stench of the pig pen was the shame and guilt that cloaked him. Each step home was a painful reminder of how he had drifted. Words of repentance could no longer be silenced!

Pig Pen

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

We have no idea how long the father had been watching and waiting; we do know he never forgot or gave up. Compassion never ends! Love never fails!

The day dawned! The day long waited for was now!

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
Luke 15:21

The son starts his well-rehearsed confession, but never gets to finish it. He is home more than willing to be a servant forever! “Let me work! Let me labour! Don’t call me a son! I’ve gone too far! It has been too long! I’ve done too much! I’m not worthy!”

Father’s Heart

Son-ship has nothing to do with being worthy; it is has everything to do with relationship! My sons are my sons! There is nothing they could do to change that! My DNA is in them. They are loved beyond measure for no other reason  more than being sons. Even if they choose to forget, I cannot and will not forget.

Father Son

“But the father said to his servants,
‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.
’ So they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:22-24

Just as he is, the son is welcome. Brokenness of sin, stains or life, cannot stop the Father’s lavish love. Love covers!

The part we see is only the beginning. The relationship once severed now completely renewed. Once lost, now found! The dead is alive! Every day forward would be a reminder of restoration.

Lost at Home

The second son, though faithful to the core, lived with a father he never knew. The character and nature of his father was completely hidden from him.

Stubborn

He saw his father as demanding, stingy, and hard. Neither did he comprehend his own need for grace and forgiveness. The father did not wait for his oldest’s attitude to adjust; he went immediate to him.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in.
So his father went out and pleaded with him.

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
But we had to celebrate and be glad,
because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15 :28-32

Too often we are not dissimilar to the older son. We settle for working and doing, rather than resting in the shadow of the Father’s love and acceptance. The Father simply wants us to be a son or daughter.

We settle for working and doing, rather than resting. Click To Tweet

We can be in the right place doing all the right things and yet be lost – separated from the Father’s love and character. Prodigals are not always easy to identify. Yet, the Father loves completely and generously, inviting each of us home.

Just like me for so many years, one can be lost and not even knowing it!

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Setting the Goal of Love – Hit the Target!

Focus

My father taught me how to drive a vehicle. He showed me how to target my gaze far down the road while scanning closer sections to avoid upcoming hazards. Good advice for driving and living!

This past Sunday our pastor stressed the importance of setting goals. Apparently those who do:

  • achieve more
  • tend to flourish in those areas
  • find more meaning and greater significance in their life
  • feel better about who they are and where they are going

His words were still fresh in my mind as I read,

 “… The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
T
he second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

Jesus sets our goal. In fact, there is no greater focal point or personal life target!

Goal

My older brother and I would often head off into the bush on the farm where we lived and craft ourselves bows and arrows out of a fresh-cut willow and an old piece of baler twine. Rarely did they shoot as far or as straight as we had anticipated. Targets were difficult to hit!

I often miss the target to love the Lord fully and love others genuinely. What does God mean to love in this way?

Affection

“…with all your heart…”

Affection is loving with tenderness, devotion, caring and strong sense of attachment. It also includes friendship, fondness and generally liking someone.

Sometimes when there is slight rift in our marriage one of us might say, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now!” Though this little phrase may serve to lighten the atmosphere, it really is an oxymoron. To love with all our heart opens our eyes to see people through God’s eyes.

Target Affection

To love God with “all my heart” is to love with undivided affection even

when I don’t understand the battle
knowing He promises victory:
and when death steals
but He is the Life-Giver;
when all doors are locked
but He could make the way.
To love when confusions invade and doubts soar!
To love with all my heart!

Emotion

“…with all your soul…”

When it comes to emotional honesty, our grand-daughter “A” takes the award! Whatever her current status, she is all in! You don’t need to guess what she is feeling at any particular moment. “A” feels and communicates her emotions transparently. Always!

Target Emotion

To love God with all our soul requires emotional honesty. To give Him, with childlike fullness, the truth in how we are feeling.

The Lord is big enough to handle our anger or confusion. He never asks us to contain our enthusiasm or repress our delight. Our relationship with Him is solid! He is neither frightened or repelled by great fluxes of emotion.

We are made in God’s image. He experiences a wide spectrum of emotion including:

God’s love and faithfulness is steadfast.

Attention

To hit any target, or reach a goal, it requires our full attention.

“…The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord…
with all your mind…”

I am woman! My mind is never on one thought! Men have “box” perspective, an incredible attribute of being able to fully focus on one thing, or even nothing at all. I find this amazing if not  completely unbelievable.

Male or female, to love God completely is to focus all our attention on Him alone!

Target Attention

A cheetah is the fastest animal on land, but it cannot maintain those speeds long. He fixes his gaze completely on the target with relentless focus. His life depends on it! His family’s lives depends on it!

My world is full of distractions screaming for immediate attention. It takes concentrated effort to turn the volume off, close the doors and pull the blinds to attention grabbers. Not just because I am female, but because I am human!

Nothing is more important, than time with God! No one is more deserving than my undivided attention!

My spiritual life and the lives of others depends on my ability to love the Lord so fully that distractions do not pull me away. It really is that critical!

Ability

“…with all your strength…”

To love the Lord with all my strength is simply giving back to him and others every ability and talent He has given me. In some areas, I am stronger than others. Even my yielded weakness in Christ produces incredible results.

Even my yielded weakness in Christ produces incredible results. Click To Tweet

Target Ability

Foolishly, I am often unwilling to tackle areas of personal strength because I don’t want to appear better than others. Sometimes I am reluctant to engage in areas where I know I am weak, not wanting to embarrass myself. Either way, I am not loving fully. To love God with all my strength, is to completely engage in life. To be fully me – the way He created me!

The Target

Setting a goal to love is like focusing on a target beyond all human possibility. Nevertheless, it is what we aim for! Like my brother and I during our childhood play in my father’s pastures, I pick up whatever pieces I can find, fashion a bow and arrows and aim.

One day I will shoot straight and with strength to hit the target of love!

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More reading? Try this:

Mercy, Peace and Love – Jude Contending for the Faith!

Family Motto – Do You Have One?

Mercy, Peace and Love – Jude Contending for the Faith!

Mercy, Peace and Love

Every time I read the book of Jude I am deeply convicted. He speaks straight! Yet, the redemptive words of mercy, peace and love are woven throughout.

“Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.”
Jude 2

These qualities, however, were not functioning freely within Jude’s audience. Quite the contrary! In wisdom, Jude speaks these redemptive words over their lives.

Just like the leaders in my life, Jude brings correction bluntly yet filled with grace. Such is Jude’s brevity and urgency as he speaks. His words emulate mercy, peace and love.

Love Birds

Verse eleven resounds clearly

Woe to them!
They have taken the way of Cain; they have
rushed for profit into Balaam’s error;
they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” 

What are the core attitudes and attributes of these three men that deserves a “woe”? It is an important question to ask since…

“Now these things happened to them
as an example,
but they were written down for our instruction…”
I Corinthians 10:11

Cain

Like many brothers, Cain and Abel were different in occupation, attitude and worship. The full story is in Genesis 4. They both worked hard and gave God from their labours. What is the way of Cain?

  • Lacked Faith – Hebrews 11:4 explains that Abel’s offering was better because it was given in faith. Faith and obedience are inseparable. It may not make sense to us why God chooses a certain way, but obedience walks through faith. Abel prepared himself as well as his offering; Cain prepared an offering without preparing himself.
  • Rage and Indignation – “furious and despondent” (HCSB), “upset and depressed” (ISV), “angry and downcast” (NET). Cain’s name, “a man from the Lord”, shows his favoured family position.  Abel’s name means “breath or vapour,” as if it was prophetically given to the shortness of a life unfulfilled. Favoured children find it difficult to come in second!

Angry Bull

  • Unrepentant –  We all make mistakes and err; the frailty of humanity rests on us all. How will we respond when correction comes?

“…sin is crouching at your door it desires to have you,
but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4: 7

God’s opportunity for a second chance went unheeded! Cain was on a path of doing things his own way right to the end, refusing to humble himself before God or others.

Balaam

Balaam was a recognized diviner or prophet who clearly heard from God. The king of Moab was willing to pay him a hefty sum of money if he would curse Israel. Balaam’s words could not be bought! Seven times he spoke blessing on God’s people and cursed their enemies. Certainly not what the king of Moab was wanting to hear! (Numbers 22 – 24)

“Balak’s anger burned against Balaam.
He struck his hands together and said…
“…leave at once and go home!
I said I would reward you handsomely,
but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”
…Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.”
Numbers 24: 10, 11, 25

Greed Gorilla

  • Greed – At first glance, it appears Balaam was God’s voice of the hour. However, Balaam’s heart and eyes were on the reward. He was not about to miss out. Jude says he “rushed for profit“!

“…followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor,
who loved to earn money by doing wrong.”
2 Peter 2:15″

  • Perverted Gift – Balaam used his reputation as diviner and his spiritual gift for personal reward and advancement. He devised a plan to wound and destroy God’s chosen people.

“…There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam,
who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin
so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.”
Revelation 2:14

Korah

How can someone be so right yet so wrong?

“The whole community is holy,
every one of them and the LORD is with them..”
Numbers 16:3

Yes God’s directive was “be holy as I am holy.” Right precept with a wrong attitude!

  • Envious – There grew in Korah and those he lead a desire to possession a level of leadership that belonged to others. They failed to realize leadership isn’t self-appointed!

“In the camp they grew envious of Moses and of Aaron,
who was consecrated to the LORD.”
Psalms 106:16

  • Insolent – NIV version says, “they became insolent“. This rude and arrogant lack of respect didn’t happen overnight. It was a walk down an ever darkening tunnel.

Defiance Horse

  • Defiance of Authority

We will not come!….you also want to lord it over us?
Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land
flowing with milk and honey…”
Numbers 16: 12-14

  • Rebellion – Polluted with slander and critical judgments, Korah’s attitude birthed only one thing – outright rebellion. It infected his entire household and neighbourhood!

Our Words

Jude was addressing a problem with false teachers that infiltrated the group. Teachers teach through words and actions.

Words are powerful containing both life and death,

“The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
Proverbs 18:21

All three men confirmed with their mouths what was in their hearts. Through their mouths came death!

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, calls us to better. He calls us to words and conduct flooded with “mercy, peace and love.”

Mercy, Peace and Love
(Picture from Pinterest – Kindness Matters)

Mercy, Peace and Love

Jude answers the how question for us. We find mercy, peace and love in one place!

“…by building yourselves us in your most holy faith
and pray in the Holy Spirit,
keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
(vs 20-21)

Today is a new day! A day of placing ourselves into His faithful hands.

The hands of His great mercy,
His indescribable peace,
and His incomprehensible love.

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Related Posts:

Is there a Wrong Way to do The Right Thing? Attitude Makes All The Difference

How to Finish Well No Matter Where We Start From

Beatitudes – Encouragement and Instruction for Every Circumstance!

 

 

The Bible – The Most Powerful Book in the World

The Bible is by far the best-selling book of all time with around 6 billion copies printed. Add to that the online versions now available. What sets the bible apart from every other book? What does the bible mean to you?

Bible Facts

Here are a few Bible facts that may surprise you:

  • has been translated into more than 2,000 languages
  • over 1,000,000 copies are sold or given away every year making it the top selling book every single year
  • written by about 40 different authors over a period of about 1,500 years
  • written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic)
  • three major divisions in the Old Testament and four in the New Testament
  • the Bible’s authors wrote under divine inspiration from God

Quill Pen

Just a couple days ago a new acquaintance commented, “I have a bible. It is too hard to understand and isn’t relevant for today.”

He’s not alone in thinking this way. Many people question how a book written so long ago could possible be applicable to our fast pasted changing world.

Relevance

In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states:

“God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change,
frightens the Devil,
causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character,
transforms circumstances,
imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation,
infuses hope, releasespower,
cleanses our minds, brings things into being,
and guarantees our future
forever.”

Notice all the verbs?

Sword

“For the word of God is alive and powerful.
It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword,
cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.
It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
Hebrews 4:12

The bible gives a plumb line of moral character. It sets boundaries of healthy personal and corporate relationships.

Love Letter

The bible is the most incredible love letter ever written. The Old Testament contains writings about Jesus Christ concealed; the New Testament writings reveal Him fully. Jesus is the greatest Lover ever!

Love Letter

Every word in the bible, though written by the hand of man, is inspired by the breath of God.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true
and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
It corrects us when we are wrong and
teaches us to do what is right.”
2 Timothy 3:16

The Things We Don’t Understand

Whoever reads the bible will come upon portions that are beyond our understanding or explanation. Some portions at first glance seem to contradict at each; other portions are hard to accept.

Nicky Gumbel in his Alpha Series suggests we view the bible like a crossword puzzle. Some questions we can answer quickly and easily. Some questions we will draw a blank on! Are some queries tough? We go on to the easy ones, filling in the blanks as we go. Then we come back to the tough ones, that have a few more clues added. Now perhaps, we have solutions for the really difficult areas. Little by little the answers come.

Crossword

Starting Point

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
Romans 10:17

There are a surprising number of Christians who do not make daily bible reading a practise. In our busy lives, the best way to begin is to schedule it into your calendar. I would suggest picking the time of day that you are the most alert. Set aside just fifteen minutes!

Bible Reading

Jesus said that the word of God is even more important than eating food

But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4

Pick out a private spot and begin!

If you need some help try the Bible in One Year App or something similar.

Valuable and Precious

I hold tightly to this, one of my most valued and precious possessions, my bible.

“They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb.”
Psalm 19:10

Several years ago I held in my hands a hand-written bible. Outlawed and banned, hidden at risk of life and liberty! Each page painstakingly copied and lovingly worn. I still feel the emotion of holding and touching those pages.

May the bible become that precious to each of us – reading, meditating on, loving and obeying the words within its covers.

The Bible

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More thought provoking reading here:

The Farmer Sows The Word – People Are Like Seed

Psalm 91 – God Has You Covered

Thankfulness – Painting On a Canvas of Gratitude