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

Sunday 11.26.17 (love others)

This Sunday, we’ll take a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 on the topic of loving others. We hope to see you there! As we wrap up the holiday weekend, there will be no study on Sunday night.

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering

Sermon Notes
Love Others ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

  • Love is to be the centerpiece of the Christian life (4:9-10)
  • Loving others, we should grow to love others even more (4:10-12)
    • Spend time finding more ways to love others (4:10)
    • Seek to be a positive influence, not a negative nuisance (4:11)
    • Work hard, as able, to support yourself and not drain others (4:11-12)

1 thessalonians

Photo used and modified with permission from pixabay.com.

Good Reads 05.03.17 (on: the Holy Spirit, marriage, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On the Holy Spirit: Four Ways We Go Wrong in Thinking about the Holy Spirit by Michael Horton

Many of us still remember the “Holy Ghost” from the old King James Version. For most modern people, a ghost is associated more with All Hallows’ Eve (a.k.a. Halloween) than with Pentecost Sunday. Especially in our age, the Holy Spirit is regarded (when taken seriously at all) as the “spooky” member of the Trinity. If you’re into that sort of thing—the paranormal and sensational—then the Holy Spirit is for you.

Who exactly is the mysterious third person of the Trinity? Why does he seem to possess less reality than the Father and the Son? Perhaps we think of the Holy Spirit as a divine force or energy that we can “plug into” for spiritual power. Or as the kinder and gentler—more intimate—side of God. But a person—in fact, a distinct person of the Godhead?

I want to challenge this association of the Spirit merely with the extraordinary. (click here to read more)

On faith and God’s love: Playing in the Street of Unbelief by Mike Leake

I see this quite often with teenagers. They are in that awkward stage when they still want to be doted on by mom and dad (or whoever is playing that role) but also kind of not. And mom and dad have realized that junior is developing body odor and isn’t their cute little baby anymore. And so what you end up with is a teenager who knows his parents love him but only kind of. In the really bad cases of this I see teenagers do really dumb things just to see if they still have mom and dad’s eyes.

They’d deny it until they died, but what is the teenagers are trying to say is, “If you really love me you’ll stop me”. They are doing things they know they shouldn’t do, and going places they know the shouldn’t go, hoping that somebody will stop them. What’s really sad is when nobody cares enough to stops them. But many times teens are just being emotional and silly and playing a foolish game. Their only grounds for believing such nonsense are the raging hormones that feel like truth.

But adults can be just as silly. We go through difficult experiences. Dreams die. Plans break. Our spirits droop. We start to question God’s love for us. (click here to read more)

On dealing with pain, hurt, and forgiveness: You Know How Hurt People Hurt People? How To Stop the Cycle of Hurt by Ann Voskamp

And I’ve thought a lot about their reaction . . . and mine.

My first response was protective anger—natural for a mother, I suppose.

I was ripping those girls a new one in my head and hoping they caught my glares. But I know how girls are at that age because I was one once myself. A parent’s scolding would have only made them angry, and they would have walked away to continue their teasing in private—their words growing harsher as they made each other laugh.

But when Mareto simply introduced himself with kindness and a smile, the girls were baffled.

It was clearly not what they expected, and the element of surprise led to curiosity. Their mean laughter transformed into confused but genuine smiles of interest. (click here to read more)

On serving one another in marriage: A Marriage Checklist by David Murray

I’ve been taking our adult Sunday School through Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. We’ve been camped out in chapter five for a few weeks, and yesterday we looked at Keller’s teaching on “Love Currencies” or “Love Languages.” His basic point was we must give the love-currency to our spouse that they value most and speak the love-language that best communicates love to them.

He then has a practical section on the three main currencies or languages—Affection, Friendship, Service—which I’ve arranged into a checklist. Keller recommends that husbands and wives regularly review a list such as this to identify the best way to give love to one another and then “concretely give love to each other in deliberate ways every week.” (click here to read more)

Good Reads 02.15.17 (on: prayer, revival, love, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On prayer and revival: Prayer for Revival and Faithful Plodding by Mike Leake

I wonder if this is why we pray so much for revival. Because times of revival aren’t the times of slow plodding. That’s when the wheel is spinning at full speed and you’re just trying to keep up with its produce. What ministry leader wouldn’t want that?

But in my mind our view of revival is a bit like an empty water wheel that just starts spinning by an unseen hand. I wonder if sometimes my prayer for revival is little more than, “Lord, make my job a lot easier”. Am I praying that God would cause the wheel to spin apart from seasons of faithful plodding? Is my prayer for revival just laziness cloaked in spiritual jargon? (click here to read more)

On prayer and parenting: 10 Prayers for Great Parenting by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations. Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion. Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes. Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly. (click here to read more)

On love and marriage: The 5 Weightiest Words of Love by Trevin Wax

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.

“Till death do us part.” (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Seven Costs of Disciple-Making by David Mathis

In disciple-making, we need to remember our aim is to please Jesus, and this will cost us favor with certain persons, especially when we have to say no to our involvement in their program or event or even to discipling them personally, because we’re protecting the space to invest in others. (click here to read more)

Lift Others Higher

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. ~Philippians 2:1-4 (ESV)

We see it too much—the brokenness in relationships, the fighting at home, the rivalries at work, and the long-held bitterness at church. In a world filled with people damaged by sin and clinging to pride, we hurt others and others hurt us. Yet, God calls his people to a different path. He calls us to walk in the ways of love, joy, and peace. So how do we do that?

Paul gave a two-part answer in the first eleven verses of Philippians 2. The answer involves how we view others (today’s post) and how we view Jesus (Thursday’s post). To walk the path of love, joy, and peace, we must learn to view others through eyes of humility and concern.

This flows, first, from our relationship with Jesus. Paul spoke of “encouragement in Christ” and “participation in the Spirit.” He assumed those in the church to which he wrote were people who had committed themselves to follow Jesus through faith. They had experienced his grace and had known the joy of salvation. They had forsaken their life of sin for the everlasting life that Jesus gives. This is what ultimately produces love, affection, and sympathy, the very things that if present among the church would lead to greater joy for Paul as a spiritual leader.

Then, second, it flows from our attitude. Notice that Paul did not tell the Philippians to abandon doing good to themselves. He didn’t say, “put your own interests aside.” Rather, he told them to lift others higher. Humility, then, isn’t about self-abasement, but other-exaltation. Jesus said much the same thing when he told us the second part of the “great commandment”: love your neighbor as yourself.

There is an assumption in the words of Paul and Jesus that we will want to seek our own good and care for ourselves. Yet, at the same time, we’re to seek the good of others. So, Paul wrote: “Count others more significant than yourselves” and “Look not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

So, yes, we have our own will and our own interests but we should ask: What is best for this other person [replace with the name of spouse, child, coworker, classmate, neighbor, friend, etc.]? What can I do to serve them and build them up? And the beautiful thing about this is that in a community of people, whether we speak of in the home or the church, if we each ask these questions and have such an attitude, then each of us will also have our own needs met. As we focus on serving others, there will be others who focus on serving us. Then the edification becomes mutual, then we all gain a taste of the best.

Such an other-focus concern brings greater joy, love, and peace to the places we gather, live, work, and play.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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Sunday 02.12.17 (love like Jesus loved)

This Sunday we’ll start a new sermon series that runs between now and the week after Easter, journeying through Jesus’ final hours before the crucifixion and his ministry after the resurrection as told in John 13-21. We start with John 13:1-35 and see how we are to love like Jesus loved. Sunday evening, we’ll continue our series on the attributes of God. Hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God Study in Church Library: God is spirit

Sermon Notes
Love Like Jesus Loved ~ John 13:1-35

  • The washing of the disciples’ feet pointed to Jesus’ greater act of service on our behalf, the cross (13:5-11)
    • We must be cleansed by Jesus
    • To be cleansed, we must have faith in Jesus
  • This act left an example for us: Love and serve others the way Jesus loves and serves us (13:12-35)
    • Jesus loves us deeply and gives us the eternal best, even as he meets a practical need
    • We are to love others deeply and point them to the eternal best, even as we meet their practical needs
    • Loving and serving others is a gospel witness
  • Ways we can serve:
    • Spiritually – We seek to bring people to believe in Jesus by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:14-17)
    • Physically – We seek to meet the everyday needs of those who are without (1 John 3:16-18)
    • Relationally – We befriend and fellowship with others (Genesis 2:18, Acts 2:42)
    • Emotionally – We strive to emphasize and sympathize with others (Romans 12:15)

Ancient Landmarks (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. ~Proverbs 22:28

When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment of the Law,” he answered, “Love the Lord your God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.” If we summarize everything the Bible says about these two loves, it could be stated: Love God supremely and love others deeply. This is the whole purpose of life centered on Christ.

When we read through the proverbs and come to one like Proverbs 22:28, it can leave us scratching our heads for a moment. We don’t really think in daily terms of ancient landmarks. A more updated rendering might say: Do not move the fence or boundary markers.

But what does this have to do with love?

The commands of love positively state what the Ten Commandments often puts in negative terms. To love God is to honor him, revere his name, and believe in no other gods. To love neighbor is to not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not lie about, and not covet. In other words, loving neighbor is, in part, about honoring them and the things that belong to them. When we love our neighbors we will not seek to steal their lives, spouses, honor, or property.

It is this last item this proverb considers. The “ancient landmark that your fathers have set” mark the boundaries of land and territory. That which is on your side of the landmark is yours. That which is on the other side is your neighbors. To move the marker, unless a mutually agreed upon act, is to steal land from your neighbor. This not only violates the command to love.

If we truly love Jesus and love others, we will give to their benefit, but we will not manipulate and rob to our benefit. We will honor and respect others and what belongs to them.

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