First Corinthians 13 —The Way of Love

What is the way of love? How do we truly love? By asking God these questions and seeking to understand love, we will continue to form a lifestyle of love.

And yet, I know I fall so far short of truly loving the people I am in contact with. Last night I fell asleep with these swirling thoughts and awoke this morning pondering them again. First Corinthians 13 echoed in my heart, reminding me that though faith, hope, and love eternally remain, the way of love is the greatest of all three.

Today instead of personal thoughts or perspectives, I offer you the pure word of God which speaks clearer than any words of my own. May the Holy Spirit highlight the portions that soothe your spirit, calm your concerns, and echo living hope to you.

I have chosen The Message Bible1 (perhaps a less common version) so that His voice would speak in a fresh tone and resonate to us in a new way.

First Corinthians 13

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.”
First Corinthians 13:1-3


“So, no matter what I say,

what I believe,

and what I do,

I’m bankrupt without love.”

Love In Motion

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others.
Isn’t always, “me first.”
Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
Puts up with anything.
Trusts God always.
Always looks for the best.
Never looks back.
But keeps going to the end.”
First Corinthians 13:4-7

Eternal Love

“Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like an infant. When I grew up, I left those infants ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”
First Corinthians 13:8-12


But for right now,
until that completeness,

we have three things to do …

trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.”

Such perfect love we find only in and through God. Rather than seeing our failures as a source of shame, the imperfection of our love drives us continually toward His grace, leading us to love Him, ourselves, and others in life-giving ways. May we all carefully consider His Word and grow in the way of love — God’s love!

  1. The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson ↩︎

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Choosing a Course Reset for the New Year

Today offers the perfect time to evaluate the past and choose a course reset for the upcoming year, intentionally seeking God’s direction. Of course, we continuously allow the Holy Spirit to monitor our progress and bring adjustments. But there is something significant about stopping, evaluating, and turning to God for wisdom ahead.

I never want to crawl out of season exhausted, dragging myself into a new one without a clear compass point from God. God’s wisdom never fails to lead us into unexpected and exciting futures. We may not see all the bumps and hurdles ahead, but He does. We don’t know what opportunities may open as He prepares the way. How much waste of time and resources might we avoid by turning to Him in advance?

Let Go

The first step in the process is to let go. Who hasn’t used a shopping cart with one worn or stuck wheel? It takes so much more effort to keep from running over innocent children or into stocked shelves. That worn cart pulls us in directions we never intend on going.

There are things we’ve tried to steer through this past season that are just as worn out as that shopping cart. Once useful, they now pull us and others into dangerous territory. Let’s recognize the right time to let go of anything unnecessary in order to embrace whatever new thing God has waiting. Then, we won’t stumble behind worn out “carts” that drag us around.

“We all stumble in many ways.”
James 3:2

I like that word “all.” We keep company with the best of people in our stumbling. Acknowledge any mistakes or failures made by ourselves or others. Then, let’s quickly forgive both us and them. It’s time to let go and leave every hindrance behind. We can’t afford to justify or legitimize carting them into a new season.

Like that worn out shopping cart, some things will keep us from following a straight and purposeful course ahead.

Apply

James offers insight on how to daily apply the principles of God’s Word. He speaks directly to another problem we “all” tend to encounter.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says … But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:25

There was only one Person who obeyed God completely. His name was Jesus. The rest of us are works in progress.

Of course this type of reset occurs daily as we meditate on and study God’s “perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it.” How much more important is it as we end an old season to seek God’s Word for direction?

We all want to experience the full freedom and blessing of God plans for us in the season ahead. So, let’s lay aside our own agendas and pick up the faithful wisdom of God.

Just as we all stumble in many ways, we each stumble in a few predictable ways. But God desires freedom and blessing for us — especially in the greatest areas of our struggle. A course reset may be the turning point from merely listening to confidently walking.

Seek Wisdom

Wisdom stands as a key element in choosing the right course reset.

“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.”
James 3:13

We may glean insight from knowledgeable people spattering the next trendy “plan” across the internet or from “how-to” books lining the store shelves. But true wisdom comes from God. Wisdom that supercedes all time and place bears the evidence of His divine counsel.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
James 3:17

Seeking God’s wisdom never fails to produce positive results. He promises to lovingly guide us into whatever may await.

Jealous Love

I meditated for awhile on the next passage from James.

“… The Spirit that God breathed into our hearts is a jealous Lover who intensely desires to have more and more of us.”
James 4:5 TPT

James gives us the best reason to purposefully set aside time with God for a course reset. The Holy Spirit relentlessly pursues us. He takes it personally when we turn from Him to pursue friendship with the world systems.

Culture influences us far more than we realize, causing us to adopt ways of thinking and doing that are contrary to God’s. When we welcome Holy Spirit into our course reset, we give our greatest Lover opportunity to draw us closer to Himself — realigning our hearts with His.

Surrounded by His love, every course correction becomes easy.

Course Reset

I sense this as a personal challenge — a challenge I share with you — to designate time, focused prayer, and thought to where, or who, we desire to be in a year from now. Let’s give God room to speak into and give new direction to our lives. Let’s worship, pray, and read God’s Word, asking Him to guide the season ahead.

You might want to journal what He says through Bible verses or through God-inspired, God-directed thoughts. Then create a way to highlight those Scripture verses and key words as a reminder in the time ahead.

(Hint: I often need to be reminded of the good things God speaks over my life. So, I post them in a prominent place over my desk or create a bookmark to use in my daily reading. As an artist, I often turn His counsel into an painting, giving His words visible life.)

Change usually occurs gradually and with effort. God commits Himself to helping us as we step into new areas, ministries, business endeavors, or seasons.

Let’s celebrate every success — large or small! May we confidently and boldly choose a course reset as we let go of the things that would steer us off course, apply God’s Word to our personal lives, seek His wisdom, and fall in love with Him all over again.

Blessings my friends! May this be our greatest season yet!

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A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

I am thankful my parents taught me that a little kindness goes a long way. That was a long time ago when life seemed simpler. But their advice continues to serve me well these many years later.

Recently, my husband and I witnessed the impact of even the smallest demonstration of this attribute. As owners of a rental house, we were privileged to have a wonderful family from India rent our home. When they became more established, they later purchased that home. We continued to maintain a relationship with this lovely immigrant family. We supported and encouraged each other in the things that mattered the most to us.

Prior to opening their second business, they invited us to celebrate this new enterprise along with their family and friends. We were surprised to be the only non-immigrant people present. They genuinely welcomed us into their midst with open arms. We were humbled by such undeserved kindness and generosity.

What extra kind-heartedness had we shown? None, that we could remember. Yet, somehow we had made a impact on their lives. We were astounded!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”
1 Corinthians 13:4

Kindness of God

Yes, a little kindness goes a long way. But God’s great kindness transformed us from foreigners to His chosen sons and daughters. Our best efforts demonstrate a miniscule portion of His immense kindness. Something He offers to us all!

Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven’t you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Don’t mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?”
Romans 2:4 TPT

Whether we realize it or not, every kind act reflects God’s extravagant kindness — a kind-heartedness this world desperately needs. Too many people believe God to be cruel and distant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“… with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.”
Isaiah 54:8

Fruit of the Spirit

God desires that we water the seed of kind-heartedness which He has planted in us so it may produce an increased abundance.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Every word of Scripture is significant. The word order also holds purpose. Here, kindness occupies the central position of all the fruit of Holy Spirit in us. Four attributes precede and four attributes follow. It is central to all other fruit.

Kindness to All

Sometimes, kindness comes with a cost. God calls us to show kind-heartedness to everyone — even our enemies. He calls us to more than an outward display, but rather to an inner attitude of generosity that comes only from the pure kindness God has shown to us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

Perhaps such basic courtesy shines the brightest in the darkest places and at the most difficult times. I only need to be reminded of the desperate condition God pulled me from to understand what incredible kindness He offers. Perhaps the most unworthy of candidates, I too once lived as an enemy of all He represented.

Is there anyone to whom we find it difficult to show kindness? Does anything compare with how far God reached for us? Hardly! But kind-heartedness doesn’t always come easily. However, even a little kind-heartedness contains the potential to grow, impacting many people in our spheres of influence.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Luke 6:35

A Little Kindness

Everything we choose to excel in takes practice — lots of practice. Today, let’s look for opportunities to practice a little kindness. Who knows what God might do with it!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Colossians 3:12-13

Perhaps, you have experienced the abuse of those who withheld even a little kind-heartedness. It is interesting how many verses connect forgiveness with kindness. Perhaps forgiveness stands as the grandest form of kindness — God’s and ours.

May this prayer form a starting point for our forgiveness.

Father, please forgive me, and us, for withholding your kindness from others. We repent for ignoring, judging, or neglecting the people who have needed a simple act of courtesy to encourage them. Whether out of ignorance or pride, forgive me, and us, for failing to give to others what You have so extravagantly given to us. Heal the pain our lack has cause in their lives.
Lord, help us to see everyone through Your generous heart of love and courtesy. May kindness not just be a self-inflating act we do, but may it flow from a sincere love and compassion for our neighbors — near and far. And may the immeasurable riches of Your grace through kindness toward us be revealed in Christ Jesus in our day (Ephesians 2:7). May the kindness and love of God, our Savior, appear through our own little demonstration of kind-heartedness to others (Titus 3:4).
Father may Your kind-heartedness spread like wild-fire throughout our land, impacting many more lives.
Amen.

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The Difference Between Zeal and Passion

The more I experience life, the more I realize the difference between zeal and passion. Zeal will lead you where only passion can keep you.

I love young people! Sometimes, I wish I was still one of them. They live “all in.” Whatever they give themselves to do, they do with contagious zeal.

At first glance, zeal and passion may look remarkably similar. But they produce considerably different results. The Bible gives us multiple examples of people who zealously began a work or entered a calling. Over time, many people lost momentum or even veered off course. Why? Let’s look at a few examples for the answer.

Elijah

Elijah became a famous prophet during the times of the kings of Israel. He performed many supernatural signs and miracles. But something shifted. Immediately after challenging the prophets of Baal to a public showdown, the entire nation appeared to turn their hearts back to God. You can read more about it in 1 Kings 18. Most prophets would consider this to be a career high point.

But the wife of the king threatened Elijah’s life. This was no idle threat, since she held the power to do exactly what she promised.

Instead of standing firm in his faith, Elijah ran in fear. That’s not the reaction we would expect from God’s great man of the hour. Elijah immediately hands in his resignation.

“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
1 Kings 19:4

We can empathize with Elijah. He had been through a lot. But then, Elijah proceeds to justify himself before God, while issuing a scathing report about the other prophets and his people.

“He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.”
1 Kings 19:10

God accepts Elijah’s resignation and commissions him to anoint someone else to take his place. Elijah’s ministry immediately begins to dwindle. Zeal had led Elijah to where only passion could keep him. Though he had been very zealous, his passion for God had faded with discouragement, disappointment, and disillusionment. God continued to use him and show him favor, but Elijah’s best years were now behind him.

Zeal will only carry us so far. Eventually, it will fade. Only authentic passion will stay the course.

Peter

Perhaps none of Jesus’ disciples were as zealous as Peter. He quickly rose above the others, becoming one of the top chosen three. Always ready to speak out and move into action, Peter held unquestionable zeal as he followed Jesus.

When Jesus announced He would soon be arrested and crucified, Peter responded,

… ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.‘”
Luke 22:33

And Peter meant it! But zeal took him to where only passion could keep him. Perhaps you know the story. Within hours, Peter denied his Lord — not once, but three times. He wept bitterly over his failure to faithfully stand with Jesus (Matthew 26:75).

Despite Peter’s failure, Jesus valued him immensely and had plans for Peter’s future position in the soon-to-be-formed church. So after Jesus’ resurrection, He confronted Peter, emphasizing the difference between zeal and passion.

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'”
John 21:15

That’s the question not just for Peter but for all of us. Do you love Me? Do you love Me more than this, or that, or anything?

Three times Jesus posed the same question. “Peter is your love for Me the foundation of your life? If it isn’t, zeal will always fall short. Zeal will lead you where only love can keep you. Love sustains. Love drives us forward. But only your love for Me enables you to carry out any mission. Love equips, empowers, and motivates. But My love will hold you fast. The deep tap root of passion is love — love for Me.”

Paul

One man, more than any other, fiercely stood against the progress of the early church. A man who was extremely zealous. A man who went about imprisoning and murdering every Christian he could get his hands on.

“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Galatians 1:14

Though zeal quickly led Saul up the ranks within the religious elite, God knocked him off the high horse of zeal and set him on a more humble course — the course of love and passion. Intimacy with Jesus Christ became Paul’s only pursuit. Everything else flowed from that place of love and intimacy.

‘But whatever were gain to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:7-8

Paul perhaps became the most passionate and devoted follower of Jesus this world has known. He recognized the difference between zeal and passion. Zeal drove him to kill many. But through passion for Jesus, many millions have found live and faith in Christ.

Zeal and Passion

As much as I appreciate the zeal of youth, passion rises strongest through maturity — not a maturity of age or faith but a maturity of deep devotion. Zeal quickly rises, is often volatile, and eventually evaporates. Passion for Jesus grows, intensifies over time, and lasts for eternity. Passion accomplishes more than zeal ever could.

 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 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, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:16-21

A passion for Jesus develops in the incubator of intimacy. There is no substitute. As we intimately know and remain in His unfailing love, our passion grows and deepens. God is a consuming fire. In the fire of passionate love, we will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

There is no other way! No short cuts! Intimacy fuels the true passion of infinite love that will lead us beyond anything imaginable.

Do we, or will we, love Him more than “these”?

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Perfect Knowledge — Divine Omniscience

As much as we may boast in our vast learning, perfect knowledge can be found only in God. He, alone, possesses divine omniscience.

Omniscience simply means to be all knowing. Job said that true wisdom has two sides (Job 11:5-6). But God not only sees and knows two sides, He sees and knows everything completely. To acknowledge the fullness of God’s knowing, we must first come to terms with our own limitations.

“When I was a child, I spoke and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely; just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

To some, the thought of God’s complete knowledge incites fear. To others, it brings incredible comfort.

Faithful

No one needs to live under the confines of such fear. We all fall short and do things we shouldn’t do, or fail to do those things we know we should do. God is merciful!

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
1 John 1:9

As a parent, I remember the angst I felt knowing my children had done something inconsiderate or hurtful. I often gave them time, patiently waiting for them to confess what they had done. The longer they waited one of two things happened — either their conscience became harder, or the conviction grew stronger.

How much more does our loving God — in His divine omniscience — see, know, and long for us to come to Him so that He can clear the slate of offense and set us back on our feet.

Fear

That God knows each of us so perfectly can cause fear to run through anyone who has something to hide. My husband often says, “He who hides nothing has nothing to hide.” It’s so true!

King David tried his best to hide his sin of adultery. The more he covered it up the deeper the pile of offenses grew until God, Himself, confronted David. The resulting penalty for his unwarranted actions stretched through the generations causing far too much heartache.

“You spread out our sins before you — our secret sins — and you see them all.”
Psalm 90:8

For those with unrepentant sin against God or another person, such knowledge causes fear. The flimsiness of excuses holds no ground against truth. Many of us today are like Adam long ago, hiding behind self made canopies in gardens of unconfessed wrongs. Whether the infractions are minor or something much more heinous, we fear that someone, anyone, should know.

“”I can never escape from your Spirit: I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me … even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Psalm 139:7-12

Divine Omniscience

But to all those who will run to Him, they will find full forgiveness, laying hold of hope in Christ. To them, the knowledge that their Heavenly Father knows completely becomes magnificent.

No accuser can inform on them and no accusation against them can stick to those who stand forgiven. No skeletons hide in closets, waiting for someone to expose them. There is no weakness of character that God doesn’t already see and know. In divine omniscience, He knew us completely long before we knew Him.

Not only does He know us, but He remembers something we often forget.

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassion to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”
Psalm 103:14

His divine omniscience of us becomes personal, warm, and compassionate through Christ Jesus. Whatever we have done, God knows and loves us like no one else can or will.

Come

Whether we stand forgiven before Him with a clear conscience or have undealt with issues, God waits with arms open wide. Today, let’s make David’s prayer our own.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you. and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Psalm 139:23-24

We all find it easy to point out the faults and failures of others. But we often need the Holy Spirit’s help to pinpoint the things within ourselves that grieve the Father’s heart.

When He does, let’s be quick to come to Him. Confession and repentance mean more than verbally acknowledging what His divine omniscience has shown us. To be fully free, we step away from our deviant ways, coming into alignment with His heart.

Then His “hand will guide (us) and (His) strength will support (us).” The divine omniscience of our loving and gentle Savior waits to liberate us from all fear.

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You Belong Here! The Essential Need to Belong

We all possess within us the essential need to belong — to know beyond all doubt that we fit and that others deeply care for us.

Perhaps more than ever before people feel alienated and disconnected. Marriage and family breakdown now represents the cultural norm. Homelessness creates huge concerns in many nations. Increasingly, we see people drift toward subcultures of gangs and alternative communities. Why? Because we all need to belong, even if the belonging comes with destructive and damaging lifestyles.

No matter your age or social status, you belong here.

In the Genesis account of creation, we find a beautiful rhythm and flow. God said. It was so. God saw that it was good. Except for one time! One exception stood in stark contrast.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:18

The Hebrew word for “helper” is ‘ê·zer, meaning counterpart or a part opposite. The word also describes God when He comes to our aid as a help and shield. It expresses a sense of caring community and belonging.

Belonging

A few years ago, I was offered a position where I could utilize my gifts and further stretch my abilities. After a year of minimal input, I resigned. Why? I felt no sense of belonging. These were my people, my clan, but they were too busy to allow for the inclusion of others.

Have you been a part of a group but never felt like you belonged? I think we all have. Perhaps it was your family, a business, an organization, or even a church? Loneliness within a group induces more pain and alienation than the loneliness of actually being alone. God still speaks! His Word has not changed. “It is not good for (anyone) to be alone.”

God designed marriage and the family unit as the primary context for belonging. Despite natural family breakdowns, God secures us into His own eternal family.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
1 John 3:1-2

All who believe may have different mothers, but we all have the same Father. God has adopted us as His own children into His family.

The Price of Belonging

God fulfilled our essential need to belong through His Son, Jesus Christ.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
1 Peter 1:18-19

As proof, God deposited the Holy Spirit in each one of us. His Spirit continues to reassure us that we belong to Him forever.

“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.”
2 Corinthians 5:5

Few things seem more incompatible than the Holy Spirit dwelling within corrupted humanity. Why would God — the perfection of holiness — choose to live in us and desire fellowship with us? Why would He go to such extreme measures to adopt us into His own family?

Met Us

God meets us where we are and as we are despite the wretchedness of our condition. With intense love and grace, He welcomes us. He sees in each face a reflection of beauty and worth — someone of value and dignity. Every person, no matter where they have come from or what they have done, was created by God, for fellowship with God, and for community within His family. Everyone! No exceptions!

“This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s‘ … And another will write on his hand, ‘Belonging to the LORD …”
Isaiah 44:5

He is our Helper, our ‘ê·zer, who comes to our aid, and fulfills that essential need to belong that is rooted in each of us. In Him, we live secure.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:28-30

You Belong

As I write, I am reminded of seasons (some very long seasons) in my own life story where the cup of belonging felt empty. I remember well the pain of feeling abandoned and rejected. Many of you understand the disorientation, grief, and loneliness I’m talking about. Today, that can change!

Others may prove fickle, but God will never leave you.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

Father, I ask that every person reading this blog would find the essential need to belong fulfilled through You. May they personally sense Your ‘ê·zer — that You are present to aid, help, and shield them. Plant each one in communities of love and compassion. Holy Spirit speak gently to everyone, bringing them to health and wholeness. Give them courage to abandon unhealthly communities that will ultimately produce increased pain and loss. Surround them with people who see beyond exterior facades, or roughness, and minister to their deep need to belong. Convince each one of their value in Your eyes. Root them in Your love and goodness.
Amen.

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Psalm 118 — Thanksgiving Opens the Gate

More than the personal transformational power of gratitude, thanksgiving opens the gate, ushering us into the Presence of God. This truth became even more real to me this past week.

Psalm 118 sits between the shortest and longest chapters in the Bible, assuming a central location between the book’s beginning and ending. By accident? Not at all! This psalm contains not only a central position but a central theme relevant for us all. Within these verses, the psalmist encourages us to maintain a heart of praise and thanksgiving toward God.

Did such an attitude come easily? As we read this small psalm, we discover some of the difficulty the writer faced. If he was anything like most of us, to maintain a thankful heart posture took concentrated effort.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
Psalm 118:1

The Message translation states it simply, “Thank God because he’s good, because his love never quits.” We all need these affirming words when life clouds our vision, and our perception of God dims. The psalmist reminds us, God’s love never quits. He is always good and always loving.

Love Never Quits

My love quits. It falters and wanes. It has limits — often much too narrow limits. But not God!

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love …”
1 John 4:16

God doesn’t just love, He is love. There is no love apart from God. His love satisfies our soul and sustains us. It never wearies; it builds and releases us to reach our full potential.

A few weeks ago, one of my grandchildren asked, “Grandma, will you ever stop loving me?” Oh, how wonderful to reassure my little one that the love we share would never grow cold. Just like my grandchild, we all need that assurance.

Though people may fail us, God never will. His love never quits.

Strength and Defense

We don’t read very far to realize the psalmist struggled with real fear in the face of real enemies. None of us are promised a tranquil road through life. But just as God’s love and goodness lifted Him through every trial, He will do the same for us.

“When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;
he brought me into a spacious place.
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid …”
Psalm 118:5-6

Do you feel hard pressed? In distress? Troubled or hurting? Even there, God promises to open a way for us. He will never abandon us. He stays close. In His shelter, all fear flees.

“The LORD is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
Psalm 118:14

As I look back over my life, time and again God became my strength in weakness and my defense in trouble. He lifted me out of the pits of depression and addiction. He rescued me from destruction mindsets and patterns. He protected me from harm. None of it instantly; all of it eventually.

With the psalmist we sing,

“…The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!”
Psalm 118:15

When we feel like there is no way through, thanksgiving for who He is and all He has done opens the gate.

Opens the Gate

A gate stands before us. Thanksgiving opens the gate to the Presence of God.

Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

Psalm 118:19-21

Nothing ushers us into His Presence more than a heart overflowing with thankfulness. A friend’s recent experience illustrates this so beautifully.

God has been doing some incredible things in his life since he recommitted himself to the Lord. But his heart grieves over divisions in his family. As he began to thank God for his family, the whole atmosphere around him began to shift. As an overwhelming sense of God’s Presence descended, he wept uncontrollably with joy. Several hours later, the tangible Presence of God continued to arrest him, filling him with a strong sense of God victoriously working through every member of his family.

Thanksgiving opens the gate, setting us free, planting us in spacious, heavenly places while we walk in the confines of earthly bodies.

Give Thanks

Is this a rare and unusual experience? Not for those who develop the habit of giving thanks to God. Like the psalmist, they have learned the open passageway — thanksgiving opens the gate to God’s Presence.

May the Holy Spirit stir within us, awakening us to this living truth. May our hearts ebb and flow with the rhythms of praise.

“You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Psalm 118:28-29

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Communication Failure: Resolving Communication Breakdown

Communication failure within any relationship always proves to be costly. How do we resolve breaks in our connections with each other?

Last night, we experienced a short power outage in our neighborhood. It was only a minor inconvenience on a relatively hot day in Saskatchewan. As electronic devices came to silence, people talked more with each other. Neighbors formed small groups, huddling under the welcome shade of mature trees. Children playfully milled around.

However, the outage caused a major disruption and communication failure between my computer and printer. Though they sit within arm’s reach of each other, they refused to connect and exchange information. Not a good scenario to discover on a busy Monday morning. It took many attempts and more than a little frustration to resolve the issue.

Whether the infractions come in minor blips or major collisions, every relationship experiences something similar. Too often little inconveniences turn into major disruptions with those the closest to us.

Thankfully, Romans gives us a step-by-step remedy to resolve conflict and mend any breaks in our connection with others.

#1 – Humility

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.”
Romans 12:3

The moment any of us looks down on someone else, we all lose! If we determine to look up to God for solutions, we will refrain from looking down on others. In every relationship, the focus can never be about “me” or “my side.” God has intricately connected us together in families, work groups, and churches for the common good — the benefit of all.

In humility, we become more capable of seeing ourselves and others through God’s eyes. The Message Bible translates this verse in a way I can relate to.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Romans 12:3 MSG

Like my office technology issues, we all experience “power outages” in one area of our lives or another. As we grow in “pure grace” for each other, we acknowledge that any and all good in any of us ultimately comes from God.

It is worth saying again, “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Strong and truthful words!

#2 – Love

It is no surprise that love is the key that opens the way to resolution. We also know that love comes with a cost. To love often includes choosing the hard way.

“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 12:9-11

Easy said! Hard does! Loving well bridges any short-term or long-term communication failure. Love soothes the wounds caused by breaks in our relationships.

God challenged me several years ago with a practical way to love sincerely, hate what is evil, and cling to what is good. He powerfully illustrated to me the danger of entertaining even a single negative thought toward anyone. Again, easy said! Hard does! But as soon as any negative thought enters my mind about anyone, I must actively cut it short, replacing it with good and godly thoughts. If I don’t, I will quickly lose my spiritual fervor — being “aglow and burning with the Spirit of God.” That price is too much to pay!

Romans encourages us all to “keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” We are to keep it — to guard and protect it. The duty is ours. The responsibility rests on us.

Lovelessness quenches the Spirit! It extinguishes the Holy Spirit flame that God desires to burn within us. When we refuse to allow breaks in connection to separate us, the fire of God burns brighter and higher.

#3 – Approach Conflict

Sometimes, even positive changes in our lives may produce discomfort and conflict. Our views and principles change as we grow in the things of God.

Most often, communication failure results from differences of opinion or personal preferences. But those differences don’t need to divide us. We can view conflict as healthy and productive.

We all need to learn how to navigate conflict in positive ways. One of the prime methods to bring resolution during conflict is to avoid critical judgments.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
Romans 14:4

God alone correctly judges each of our hearts and motivations. He made us free in Christ to follow His example and His Word. He calls each of us to maturity, discerning His will. But, it is important that we act in love as we endeavor to live like Christ.

Rather than judging other people and their motives, God invites us to consider our own actions and driving forces. How do my words, attitudes, and actions affect me? And, more importantly, how do they affect others?

#4 – Value Each Other

Romans 16 stands as one of my best loved chapters. Why? Because the author commends, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor. He acknowledges the worth and good in each individual — their hard work, sacrificial living, friendship, sharing in the hard times, standing the test of faith, and being like family. Co-workers extend their greetings to the church in Rome as well. Even the scribe uses the opportunity to send greetings.

Romans 16 emphasizes the need to consider every individual as of great worth — vitally important, not just to God, but to each other. We only value our family as much as we value each member. We only value our church as much as we value every person in it. Do I look at each person as essential? Valued? Precious?

Oh, how easy to resolve any breaks in connection when we truly value each other as God does. Any communication failure would be quickly mended.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.”
Romans 16:24b

It took several steps in the process to restore communication between my computer and printer. It also takes authentic, purposeful steps to resolve breaks in our relationships.

When the deepest desire and passion of our hearts is to fully express the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will not allow anything to sever our relationships and cause outstanding communication failure.

God is worth it! His people are worth it! He freed us to live by grace through faith in respect to others.

Prayer

Father, I repent of any attitudes, actions, or words that have caused broken relationships and communication failure. I choose humility and love over my need to be seen, heard, or acknowledged. Lord, I repent for expecting others to fill the areas of my life that You long to occupy. I repent of holding critical judgments toward others.
May humility and love lead me to live with others in harmony, holding them in the deepest respect. Give me both the grace and boldness to approach conflict in a way that will bring resolution — as much as it depends on me — to relationships. May I see others through Your eyes — those who are kind and those who are not, those who have a similar mindset and those who do not, those who are strong and those who are weak.
May the passionate fire of Your Spirit burn with increasing fervency. Lord, I purpose to guard my heart and mind with diligence, as I keep You as the focus and purpose of my life.

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Dare to Try — Explore the God Possibilities

Are you adventuresome? Do you dare to try what others hesitate to do? Are you the first to step into the water, or do you wait and watch?

Maybe my zany attitude for the thrill of attempting new things comes from remnant trauma. My older brother often “pushed” me into doing things I wasn’t quite ready for but was too stubborn to back down from. Can anyone else relate? I can’t tell you how many times I sucked in my fear, held my breath, and stepped into the unknown — sometimes with painful consequences. He rarely led the way, but followed if I successfully survived the test!

Or maybe I cast the blame on my brother too quickly. Perhaps God designed me as a curious explorer.

Sometimes, the greatest wisdom rests with those who wait and watch, allowing others to break new terrain. But how many experiences would I have missed if I would have been too afraid to dare to try? Too late I realized the foolishness of always trusting my brother. But I know that I can completely trust the Lord’s lead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Dare or Faith

God never pushes or dares! Rather, He invites us to a journey of faith — a journey that may lead to unexpected places and opportunities.

Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, inspires me. These pioneers held enough faith in God to dare to try the unexpected and step into the unknown. Exploring options only possible through God, they each heard the whisper of His invitation and responded.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1

Noah wasted no time trying to convince God an ark would be useless since not a single drop of rain had yet ot fall on the earth. He just started building this thing called an ark. Abraham uprooted his family and headed toward a yet to be revealed destination. Joseph refused to allow a prison cell lock up His faith. Moses, the failed prince, may have stuttered at God’s invitation, but he willingly stepped into unknown waters.

Some achieved earthly success. Others never witnessed the full reward of their faith until they entered heaven’s realms. But they each explored the faith possibilities.

Faith or Fear

Fear of the unknown attempts to keep us from venturing into the realms of unlimited faith. Choosing the path of faith leaves no regret. Bowing to fear or comfortable predictability often does.

Their circumstances will never shake them and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, ever secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe … ”
Psalm 112:6-8 TPT

We discover many aspects of God’s character only through the path of faith. We all desire hearts that are firm, security in our faith, and a steadiness and strength of character. These by-products of following God’s leading develop best in the soil of faith.

Fear or Love

The power of God’s love for us and in us propels us to explore previously unknown pathways.

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.”
1 John 4:18

The Passion Translation of John 14:15 reads, “Loving me (Jesus) empowers you to obey my commands.” Love empowers! How wonderful!

The awareness of the immeasurable love of God over us empowers us to step into whatever He invites us into. Whether new territory or untested ground, He leads with perfect love. God’s love enables, empowers, and encourages us to dare to try.

Fear evaporates in the face of such pure love.

Invitation

Where you are going is not where you are right now. Who you are now is not the fullness of who you are becoming. What you have had is not what you are going to have. God always has more for us than we could ever imagine.

Nothing limits what God can and will do through a yielded life. Where is God’s love welcoming us to venture? How is He inviting us to yield to His transformational love? What faith steps is He calling us to move into?

Father God, I sense Your invitation to dare to step into a new level of my calling and destiny. I receive the fulness of Your love for me. You have greater and better things for me than I am experiencing right now. There are areas of my life hungering for the impact of Your Presence. I thank You for Your faithfulness in the past. I turn my heart toward You for the faith to step boldly into today and the days to come. May I look to the examples of other faith-walkers while becoming an example for still more. Trusting not in my own understanding but leaning totally into You, I draw the courage, tenacity, and boldness I need to explore the impossibilities You place before me. May past experiences and failures not limit future prospects or diminish hope. You are a good and loving Father.
Amen.

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Confidence Well Placed — Without Fear or Worry

We all seek to have our confidence well placed. Who can we trust? I mean really trust. Shaking markets and shady deals abound. Enticing offers bombard us at every turn, tempting us to try and buy the latest, greatest products. The internet has created a haven for scam artists. We answer phone calls with apprehension, not knowing if the caller is legitimate.

My granddaughter stood with her toes curled over the edge of the pool. I waited below with my arms outstretched, prepared to catch her when she jumped. She leaned forward. Her quivering legs contradicted the smile on her face. It took more than a little persuasion to convince her to trust me. After several more jumps and successful catches, her confidence in me grew. Finally, she jumped with complete abandon. Confidence well place replaced her initial fear.

We have all taken turns at being the jumper or the catcher. We have learned through experience who we can and cannot trust. No one has proven more trustworthy than our God.

“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord and whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:7 AMP

How wonderful! We may have perfect hope and confident expectation in the Lord.

Broken Trust

The wounds of broken trust pierce deep. When we have trusted someone to love, but they wouldn’t. When we have trusted someone to protect, but they didn’t. Broken trust makes it difficult for us to fully trust again.

Each time we trust a little less and then even less. Until finally, we trust only ourselves. Eventually, we realize we are as untrustworthy as everyone else. In the most complete sense of the word, there is only One deserving our complete confidence.

The Hebrew word for man in Jeremiah 17:7 means someone who is valiant, like a warrior. It represents a person of courage and determination. Confidence well placed in God for our security requires a measure of courage and determination to overcome the broken trust in people. But it is worth it!

“For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters,
That spreads out its roots by the river
…”
Jeremiah 17:8

When we have confidence well placed in God, we become like this tree — fully nourished and satisfied. Planted by an ever-flowing stream as God completely sustains us.

No Fear

Recovering from broken trust drains every fibre of our being. The pain of severed relationships cuts deep. Jagged wounds that refuse healing often become infected with rejection. Rejection oozes out through fear.

Only God’s perfect love brings lasting relief and complete healing.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
1 John 4:18 NLT

With confidence well placed in our loving Father, fear holds no ground. Jeremiah continues to paint a word picture for us.

“… And will not fear the heat when it comes; but its leaves will be green and moist. And it will not be anxious and concerned in a year of drought nor stop bearing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:8 AMP

Moving Forward

I know beyond a doubt I can trust God with every aspect of my life. I have full confidence that He will never fail.

Unfortunately, in the day-to-day struggles, I resemble my granddaughter far too much. I stand on the edge of the pool of relational trust, holding tight with all ten toes. I lean toward God with every ounce of courage I can muster, but will others reciprocate my love “this time?” Will that person value our relationship “this time?” Or will repeat offenders surround me forever?

That is the human dilemma. Confidence well place in a God who stands apart from all human control requires every valiant warrior portion of this heart. Trusting my frail humanity into the hands of other frail humans sounds foolish at best.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

Yet, God calls, even commands, us to love each other completely, regardless of the outcome. He desires us to become a similar life-giving stream for others as He is for us. He longs for us to love others so absolutely that it releases them, too.

The Call

God calls each of us to love. The love of God washes over us like a river to live worry free. His love flowing through us provides space for others to grow in faith — without fear or worry even in the toughest times.

When Jeremiah talks about a tree “planted” by the water. It literally means to be transplanted. No matter where we began, He has repositioned us, transplanting us by the stream of His grace and mercy.

We were planted in brokenness and rejection. We have been transplanted into Christ and He into us. Once we held misplaced trust in people, finances, positions of authority, and possessions. Firmly transplanted, we now maintain confidence well placed in Him.

Transplanted ones experience not only God’s blessing, they also

“… never fail to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:8

As we obey the call to receive and express love, continuous spiritual “fruit” comes through our lives.

Confidence Well Placed

Honestly, this process stretches me. Maybe, it stretches you too. Only with confidence well place in the love of God will we dare to risk loving and being loved.

Yes, people will fail us. But secure in the Father’s love, our roots spread wide and strong, nourishing us at every level, sustaining us through dry seasons, and securing us through every storm.

The more we trust Him, the more we confidently jump with childlike faith into His arms, willing to abandon ourselves to love others fully and deeply — with or without love in return.

A love that reflects Him will always make a difference. Always!

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