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Love, true love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a – “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…”

My husband and I have been married for 22 years, 4 months and 13 days. It’s always the years that gets me. I have been married over half of my life. 

Our 22 years have been far from perfect but they have probably been as close as one can get this side of eternity. God has been good to us, not because of anything we have done or deserve. No, God has been good to us because He loves us and we each loved Him before we loved each other. 

Society has a warped view of love these days. They have no clue what it is or what it means. They see the things that Hollywood tells us should be love and attempt to base their thoughts and feeling on that. And that just does not work. The ideas and actions we see on our television and movie screen are far from the long lasting love spoken of here in 1 Corinthians 13. 

I mean look at it – “suffereth long” – long suffering is not a quality I would say that most people have. “Envieth not” – really, you don’t want me to be jealous of my special someone? The world teaches that jealousy is something that is a positive quality; it drives a person. “Vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” – pride. Need I say more? “Doth not behave itself unseemly” – inappropriate behavior toward another person is everywhere. “Seeketh not her own” – self-centered behavior, the hallmark of our modern world. “Not easily provoked” – wearing your heart on your shirt sleeve – political correctness? “Thinketh no evil” – “get them before they get you” kind of an attitude. 

See, it is really tough to see true love in our world. That is why we are encouraged to find all the answers in Christ. When we look to the world, we have to remember that the devil has his grubby little hands in everything in the world. If he can get us to warp our view of love and see it as the world sees it, he can bring us down to the depths of his misery. And we all know that misery loves company. 

Jesus is our perfect example of love. His life, His ministry, His death and resurrection all show us how, when and why we should love. And the love that is spoken of here isn’t just for the people choosing marriage. No, this love should be blanketed over everyone in every situation and saught after in every circumstance. 

So let me encourage you today, to love. Read these verses and let them sink in and let them change the way you do things today. Put on love and let it guide you today.  

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A “re”newed view

Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I teach the teenagers on Wednesday night at church. These last few weeks we have been going through the student version of “A Case for Christ”. And let me tell you, tonight’s lesson is going to be tough. I debated skipping it but I feel that as tough as it will be, my kids need to hear it. All of it. So instead of trying to determine a witty presentation of the subject matter, I’m just going to read it. 

I have to. There is nothing witty or clever about the transgressions committed against my Jesus. 

In our society, we are okay with watching movies that are gruesome and horrible. We read books that give us nightmares. We watch videos on social media that terrify us. But to careful consider the torment and brutality of what Jesus went through for us, well, that’s another story. We can’t take it. It hurts too much. 

I think that when we stop and look into history about the torture methods and ways  a death sentence was carried out in the Roman culture, we can’t help but feel burdened and grateful and incredibly sad. We hear periodically about Jesus being “wounded” for our transgressions. I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface. 

Jesus was brutally tortured for my sin. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for my sin. Jesus was humiliated on the cross for my sin. Jesus felt the weight of His own body through the nails piercing His hands/wrists for my sin. Jesus endured what can only be described as suffocation and His organs shutting down very slowly for my sin. And I know that if I was the only person in history that would ever accept His sacrifice, He would still have done it – for me. 

And that is powerful. 

With each touch of the whip, He thought of all those through time that would choose Him as their Savior. With each agonizing moment on that cross, He thought about each life that would be drastically changed because of His act of selfless love. 

Do you think about that? Do you consider that when work piles up? Do you think about that while your folding laundry for the ump-teenth time this week? Do you consider His sacrifice and love for each and every one of us when that nut monkey cuts you off in traffic?

Probably not. I know I don’t. But I should. I believe that if we would live our life redeemed and grateful for His sacrifice, our world would change. Fear would leave. Doubt would run and hide. Compassion would be as common place as anything you can think of. 

But it’s so much easier to turn our thoughts away from Him. It’s so much easier to forget. 

I want to encourage you today to take a moment and read about His suffering. I want you to think about His sacrifice. I want you to say “thank you” and mean it from a place in your heart that is torn and burdened. 

The Power of a Gift

Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”

Gifts. We all love them. We love do-dads and widgets and practical things and things to eat – it doesn’t matter; we love gifts!

But as I was reading in my Bible yesterday, God laid it on my heart to further explore the word “gift”. 

Here in Ephesians, the word for “gift” means a sacrificial present. In other words, the gift cost something extreme. We all know that that cost for salvation was – God’s One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. 

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here, the word for “gift” means a spiritual endowment. An endowment is something given without expectation of return in payment but does come with the expectation that the receiver will utilize and work with what is given for a determined end. You receive wages for the work that you do. You receive an endowment with the expectation that work will follow to accomplish some goal. Death is the wages for working at a sinful life without Christ. Eternal life is the expected outcome from the free gift of salvation. 

The free gift of salvation is not something to put on a shelf and look at from time to time. No, the free gift of salvation should be seen more in the light of receiving a major appliance as a gift. When someone you know gives you a stove as a gift, you don’t put it in your kitchen and look at it. You use it. You feed your family with it. You make food for others on it. You provide comfort and assurity with it. Looking at it gets nothing done. Looking at our salvation does nothing to advance the will of God that all men should come to Him for salvation and thus eternal life. We need to use it. We need to share its’ blessings. We need to tell other people how to receive such a magnificent gift. 

So today, get out there and share your gift. It wasn’t given to you to make you look pretty. It wasn’t given to you to beat someone over the head with it. It was given to you to multiple and grow. It was given to you to bring others to Him. Be nice – share. 

The Box – Revisit

I’m revisiting this post today. Hope you enjoy it!

Isaiah 9:6 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Christmas is just three short days away. Decorations are up. Presents are nearly all purchased. Food had been listed and purchased for all the festivities. Excitement is on the rise.

Have you let all the commercialism and worldly lusts take you away from the manger? Life has a tendency to do that sometimes. We get so caught up in the “stuff” of the world that we forget the most important thing.

But just as my pastor was speaking about yesterday, it doesn’t stop at the manger. Jesus was so much more than a baby. Although, I can hardly wrap my brain around Mary kissing the face of God when she kissed baby Jesus. That thought makes me want to cry.
Although we don’t read much about the in-between years of Jesus’s life, I know a lot went on during those years. The next time we see Him is when He starts His ministry. And then, that goes way too quickly.
When Easter comes around, we will all be focused on the cross. The cross is very important. Without it, we would never have the opportunity for forgiveness from God. But it doesn’t stop there.

You see, we like to have things neat and tied up with a ribbon on top. We like things to be predictable. We like things to go just as we expect them to. We put Jesus in a box. We want Him to be predictable. We want Him to do exactly what we think He should do.
When most people read this verse around Christmastime, they focus on the beginning – the focus on the baby. Yet, when I read this verse yesterday, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed at the end – “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Just pick one. There is no way that all that that the one Name is could possible be tied up in a nice, neat package with a bow on top. He is just way more!

Ephesians 3:20 – “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…”
When most people read this verse, they stop considering it at “ask”. But when you read on, you see “or think”. How many dreams and imaginations do you have inside you head? I have more than I know to express. Jesus is bigger than that! He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine”. Just wrap your brain around that one for a minute.

Christmas is when we remember and appreciate the birth of our Savior – and rightly so. But don’t leave Him there. And then when Easter rolls around, don’t leave Him at the cross or in the tomb. Remember, He arose. But also remember that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

My challenge to you today, princess, is to let Jesus out of the box. Don’t hold Him back from creating within you a wondrous act. Jesus loves to make ordinary people extraordinary. You just have to let Him out of your box, get out of the way and get ready to be amazed.

And so it begins….

Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

And so it begins – Black Friday is upon us. The stores are packed. Credit cards are being pushed to the limit. People have been out for hours buying stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

Why? Why are we so focused on getting and giving big elaborate things to people who will probably never be satisfied with what they get? I sound like a Scrooge, don’t I?!

But let’s not look at the “what” that we give but rather let’s look at the “why”. Do you give people things because you have to or because you want to? I mean, really, stop and think about it for a minute. Think about all the people on your list this year. How many of those do you get gifts for because you feel that you have to to keep peace in the family?

Jesus is reminding us here that what you use to measure out with, that is what you will be given back. So, if you give out of necessity, you receive with the same spirit. Is that the way that you want to receive things, out of a sense of duty? I want to receive in the spirit of love and the desire to show it.

That’s the thing about Jesus, He doesn’t give to us out of duty. He always gives to us out of love and the desire to show it. He wants to give us so much that He has to press down the blessings and give them to us running over. There is no duty attached to His giving. He owes us nothing because He gave us everything.

So today, and this weekend, as buying for Christmas gets into full swing, look at your motives. Determine your reasons for giving to each person on your list. Find the gift that will say exactly how you feel about them – or at least try to do so. Giving should be an expression of love, not a duty.

Hungry

Proverbs 15:3 – “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”

Do you realize that in the place that you live right now that there are probably hungry people within a stone’s throw of your house? And I’m not talking about casually hungry. I’m talking “I haven’t had enough to eat for days” kind of hungry. There are people out there, close by, who can’t afford a new pair of cheap tennis shoes. There are people out there who are trying to figure out a way to make it to next month without losing their electricity and water.

I don’t appreciate these situations like I should. I have never been truly hungry. I have been blessed that if I need new clothes, I can go get them. I have been blessed with a good job and an awesome husband so that I don’t have to worry about paying my bills. For the most part, these are foreign concepts to me.

But last night I was searching the Internet for a food bank in my area. We are doing a teen project at church and would like to donate canned goods to a local charity. I found out that 10,000 people in my small part of the world are hungry at some point every year. And 4,700 of those are children. 4,700!!! That’s 47%! How can that be? I have been told stories by one of the young ladies at my church that when she was in high school that this club she was in would provide canned goods for students to take home over the holidays so that they had something to eat when they weren’t in school. I can’t imagine. Just shows the bubble that I live in.

But there is One that sees it all – Jesus. He sees these people who are desperately struggling. He knows their needs. He sees their heartache. So, you might ask, “Why is He letting these people struggle and go without?” I don’t know how to answer that question. But I do know this, He has given us the opportunity to step up and step out. 1 John 3:18-20 – “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”

You and I have the opportunity to be the help that someone needs. We have the opportunity to do something. It doesn’t have to be anything big. You could simply pick up some extra groceries at the store this week. You could go volunteer to stack food at the local food pantry. You could volunteer at a soup kitchen this weekend. You could give a donation to a provider of needs to those who truly need it. There are lots of ways to help.

But more importantly, you need to do it for the right reasons. If you go in there with pride in your heart and tell every one every where what you have done or are planning to do, you have just blown it. You have received your reward. You see, God wants us to help others because they need it, not because you need a pat on the back.

So today, I want to encourage you, princess, to step out of your comfort zone and do something for some one else. Show them God’s love by giving of yourself unselfishly. Find some way to reach out to those in need anonymously.

Meet the need

1 John 3:17,18 – “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

Last night at our youth group meeting, one of the young men brought a lesson based on these verses. He did an amazing job. So this morning, I’m giving you my take on the verses.

It’s one week until Thanksgiving. One week before we stuff ourselves full of holiday goodies. One week until the shopping frenzy officially begins. One week until the world tries to continue its quest to make us forget the reason for the season – the day we celebrate the most perfect Gift making His way into His creation as a baby.

It’s the time of year that we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Our hearts may make that proclamation but do our actions? Christ’s coming as an infant was about love. He loved us so much that He was willing to give up the wonders of Heaven for the burden of human life. He was willing to be our sacrifice. He provided us with the gift of forgiveness by His death on the cross. He also provided us with the gift of eternal life by rising from the grave three days after His death.

Jesus’ life and ministry was all about love. Not necessarily the warm squishy kind, but always the true kind.

So, how do these verses relate? Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are probably in America. (If not, I would love to know where you are at!) God has truly blessed us here. Even the poorest people have more than the poorest in other countries. Yet, it is not enough. We want more. But in these verses, we are encouraged to give. Give of our self. Give of our time. Give of our blessings. There are so many organizations and people out there asking for assistance this time of year. It’s not hard to find someone to give some of your blessings to.

Giving a gift takes sacrifice. It costs something. It requires you to be humble. It makes you realize a need and choose to step up and meet it. Jesus saw the need for salvation and forgiveness in our life. He stepped up and filled the need. We have the opportunity to see the need in others. The question is: Will we step up to meet the need in others lives or will we continue to focus only on the wants in our own life?

Love is an action word. The word “love” can be said all day long but until there is some action behind it, it is nothing more than a word. Giving and love go hand in hand. A true gift given cannot be given with the attitude of begrudging. If it is given in this attitude, it is more of a prize – something you get for doing something. Not near as special in that light.

The young man who brought the lesson last night challenged us to complete a random act of service this week. He asked us to give the gift of service to someone unexpectedly. One example he gave was paying it forward. Have you ever been in the drive through line of a restaurant and found out that the person in front of you paid for your purchase? That is what a random act of service could look like. Or maybe you shovel someone’s driveway early in the morning. Or maybe you rake someone’s leaves from the yard. Or maybe you take a day off and go and volunteer at a shelter of some sort. Anything that puts you in the position to choose to serve someone other than yourself.

You see, love requires action. We are expected to show Jesus’ love to the world. We are expected to tell others about His gift. How can we love the world and tell others of His gift when we “seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him”? We have to live and love out loud and with action behind it.

So this week, don’t get caught up in the insanity of the holidays. Choose to see a need and meet it. Meet it without expectation of recognition or praise or honor. Meet it because Jesus would have met it. Meet it because love requires action. Meet it because His Gift is so worth it.