A Reflection on Love (thoughts for Valentine’s Day)

Many of us know the passage well. People quote it, read it at weddings, hang it on plaques on the wall—Paul’s famous words on love from 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:6-8 (CSB)

When we read this passage in their context, we find that it’s not primarily about marriage or romance, but about serving one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus. Paul wrote these words right in the heart of correcting the church on how to use spiritual gifts to serve and not to show off or exalt self. Still, the application is broad. Serving others is a universal call for we who follow Jesus. So, we can apply this to marriage and friendship and how we treat our neighbors.

If we were to boil down Paul’s teachings into a single statement, it would say this: Love happily seeks the best for others. And, oh, how that should be us!

Love, in this way, is other-focused. It is like when Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. There’s an assumption here: We typically are patient with ourselves and want others to be patient toward us. We tend to be kind to ourselves and want others to be kind toward us. We tend to be… and want others… the list goes on. The Bible assumes that in normal situations, we love and want the best for ourselves. But it also knows that it is harder for us to freely extend this attitude toward others.

But that is the command here—we’re to be patient with others, kind to others, not envious of others, etc. And nowhere do we see that we are to be these things only if they reciprocate. Love is not self-serving through what we gain from others. In Christ, we are already perfectly loved by the Father. We love because he loved us. That should be enough to motivate us to love even if no one loves us back the way we would want. Love is other-focused.

Love also looks for the best. We can say this in two ways: First, love seeks to bring the best to others. True love seeks ways to better the life of another both in the present and in eternity. It seeks to show the person Jesus and meet their present needs—physical, emotional, and relational. Second, love looks for the best in others. Living in a fallen world and being repeatedly hurt in a fallen world can cause us to be jaded. We jump to conclusions, question motives, and make assumptions without the facts. Love fights against these trends. Love refused to ignore evil and will deal with it when necessary, but love is also willing to believe and hope. Love looks for the best.

Finally, love continues. Paul was making this point in light of eternity: Eventually, when Jesus comes back and we see things clearly and no longer as through a blurry mirror, the need for various gifts will drop away. But love will remain. God is love, as John the Apostle wrote. God is also eternal. So, if love will continue forever, our present moments of love should be long-lasting. The “loving feeling,” as the song says, sometimes gets lost. But love itself, as a commitment and an act to seek another’s best, should continue. If someone loves us, we continue to love them. If someone is indifferent to us, we continue to love them. If someone hurts us as an enemy, we continue to love them. Jesus, after all, loved us when we were his enemies. He loves us when our hearts turn momentarily apathetic. And he loves us all the same when we love him well. That is his example for us. Love continues.

heart 02 (pixabay 02132018)

Picture used with permission from pixabay.com

Out of Egypt (an advent devotion)

So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son. ~ Matthew 2:14-15 (CSB), quoting Hosea 11:1

The book of Exodus details how God rescued his people, Israel, from their slavery and started them on the journey to the Promised Land. God had told Abraham that he would give a strip of land in the Middle East to his descendants, but first they would spend 400 years in a foreign country because God wasn’t yet ready to bring judgment against sin on the other peoples of the land (Genesis 15).

Israel’s time in Egypt started well, with Joseph (Israel/Jacob’s second youngest son) ascending to prominence and rescuing his family from famine. But Exodus begins by telling us that with the passing of time a new Pharaoh over Egypt arose who didn’t remember Joseph and enslaved and imposed harsh conditions upon the Israelites to keep them from becoming too large a people to control.

In response, once the 400 years were passed, God raised up Moses to deliver Israel and show judgment against Egypt. Through an array of miraculous displays of power, God crushed the Egyptian armies and safely led the people away.

Reflecting back on this, the prophet Hosea recorded God’s words, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

Several hundred years later, Matthew would apply these words not simply to his fellow Jews, but specifically to one Israelite—the child born to Mary to save the world. Jesus came to lead a new Exodus. Instead of calling a nation out of physical enslavement, he would call and enable his people to come out of their spiritual enslavement. He would defeat sin and death to pave the way. And he would lay the path for us to enter into the Promised Land of eternal joy—the new heavens and new earth to come at Jesus’ return.

Jesus could do this as the new and better Moses and the new and better Israel. Where both the leader and the people failed in various ways in the Old Testament and strayed from God, Jesus would never fail. And though he was a child, his life story took him into Egypt only to then come forth and deliver his people. Out of Egypt I have called my Son.

The Exodus, then, also serves as a reminder of the advent of Jesus and the hope that we have through him.

The Serpent Crusher (an advent devotion)

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “…I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” ~ Genesis 3:14-15 (CSB)

As we enter into the Christmas season, we will take a look at a few of the Old Testament prophecies about the advent, or coming of Christ. At many times and in many ways, the Old Testament foretold the birth of Jesus into the world to rescue his people from our sins and show us how to live lives of love. These began in Genesis 3.

After Satan had successfully tempted Adam and Eve into disobeying God and eating from the one tree out of many that God had said to avoid, God pronounced words of judgment upon the participants. In his words denouncing Satan, who appeared as a serpent, we also see a flash of hope for humanity. The woman, Eve, would have a child. The serpent would injure the child, striking at his heel, but the child would crush the serpent, striking at his head.

As with many prophecies in the Bible, this looked beyond the immediate time frame. It would not be Able or Cain or Seth or any of the other sons born directly to Eve who would deal the fatal blow to Satan. Instead, it would be a child born thousands of years later to a young woman who, on the surface, appeared insignificant. It would be a young woman named Mary from a tiny community who would give birth to the world’s Savior-King.

Then, as Jesus grew, Satan would strike at him in many ways from temptations to sufferings on the cross. Yet, by being the perfect man who could take his people’s sins as the perfect sacrifice, and then by kicking down the door of the grave that would not hold him, Jesus struck back at Satan.

In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we see Jesus return again to forever condemn Satan to the fires of hell, and he does so with the power of his words. The heel was struck, but the head is crushed. Now we celebrate the salvation that came through our Lord.

Sunday 04.16.17 (the resurrection)

This Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that gives us. We hope to see you there!

Sunday Schedule
@945 Easter Breakfast (in gym)
@1045 Worship Gathering
**No Evening Activities

Sermon Notes
The Resurrection ~ John 20

  • Jesus’ resurrection…
    • Answers our doubts (20:1-29)
    • Assures us a place in God’s family (20:17)
    • Grants us peace with God (20:19-21)
    • Propels us on mission (20:21-23)
  • The question we must answer: Do you believe? (20:30-31)

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The “Good” in Good Friday

David Mathis at Desiring God shares on why there is the “good” in Good Friday–the day that Jesus died:

God was at work, doing his greatest good in our most horrible evil. Over and in and beneath the spiraling evil of Judas, the Jewish leaders, Pilate, the people, and all forgiven sinners, God’s hand is steady, never to blame for evil, ever working it for our final good. As Peter would soon preach, Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). And as the early Christians would pray, “Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [did] whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27–28).

Never has Joseph’s banner flown so truly as it did on that day: what man meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). And if this day, of all days, bears not only the fingerprints of sinners for evil, but also the sovereign hand of God for good, how can we not fly Joseph’s banner over the great tragedies and horrors of our lives? Since God himself “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not with him graciously give us all things” for our everlasting good (Romans 8:32)?

We urge you to go read the full article at: desiringgod.org

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Easter Happenings

Here is what we have coming up for Easter / Resurrection weekend:

Good Friday Service (04.14)
At 7pm on Friday we will gather with the other churches of the Adrian Ministerial Alliance for our annual Good Friday service at Victory Assembly of God. Come and join us for a time of remembering Jesus’ sacrifice through song, prayer, and a message by Gabe Cantrell, Adrian campus pastor of Heart of Life.

Easter Morning (04.16)
We’ll start the day at 9:45 gathered in our gym for an Easter breakfast, cooked by the pastor, deacons, and other men in the church. Then we’ll transition over to the auditorium at 10:45 for our worship gathering and a time of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the grave.

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Christmas Eve / Christmas Day 2016

You have opportunities to join with us in worship of Jesus, our Savior, tonight at our Christmas Eve service and tomorrow at our Christmas day worship gathering. Check out the details below, and we hope to see you there!

Christmas Eve ~ 12/24 @6:30pm
We will remember the anticipation of the birth of Jesus and celebrate his birth at our annual candle lighting service. The service will be held in the auditorium with snacks and hot chocolate to follow in the gym.

Christmas Eve Music Selection
Special Music by Rick Thompson
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O Holy Night
Joy Has Dawned (special by Raelynn Kershner)
How Great Our Joy
Go Tell It on the Mountain
Candle light closing: Silent Night

Christmas Eve Devotional
“The Coming King” ~ Luke 1:26-33

  • Jesus is the God-Man King (1:31-32)
  • Jesus is the Savior-King (1:31)
  • Jesus is the Forever King (1:32-33)
  • Therefore, this Christmas season:
    • Know Jesus–trust him and follow him
    • Rest in Jesus’ grace, power, and love
    • Celebrate Jesus tonight, tomorrow, through this year, and through your life

Christmas Morning Worship Gathering ~ 12/25 @1045am
We will remember the birth of Jesus and ponder what it means now that Jesus, our King, has arrived.

Christmas Morning Music Selection
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (special by Jeremy Bridges)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
The First Noel
Emmanuel
Joy has Dawned
O Come All Ye Faithful

Christmas Morning Sermon Notes
“The King Has Arrived” ~ Luke 2:1-21

  • King Jesus is our end to fear (2:9-10)
  • King Jesus is our great joy (2:10)
  • King Jesus is our peace (2:13-14)
  • King Jesus is our Savior-King (2:11)
    • Our faith must be in him
    • Our righteousness comes from him
    • Our lives belong to him