The Love Of Jesus Is…

If we are looking for a map for how to navigate life with love, the first place to look is the Gospels in the Bible. Studying how Jesus interacted with all the people who entered his life gives a clear picture of proper responses – often responses to tough or touchy interactions. If we want to live like Jesus we can then apply his ways to our lives. The problem is that living like Jesus isn’t easy.

To ease our collective conscience, we like to play the “God card” on behalf of Jesus. We point out that he certainly lived right since he was God and although that’s not incorrect, it misses the point that human Jesus did right because he made right decisions. He made right decisions because he was committed to living according to the will of his Father. Since we have the same Heavenly Father we can live more like Jesus then we want to admit.

In this study and the next we are reading through Jesus’ interaction with his disciples as he gets close to his death. In John 13 Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples and announced that one of them will betray him. In this context we get a look at his relationship with the disciples and his commitment to his Father. We’ll see that Jesus’ love was costly, caring, commanded, conspicuous and committed. Today we’ll concentrate mainly on the cost of his love and the resulting glory that it unleashed.

In John 13:31-32 we read, “When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!” (The Message)

After Judas leaves (to betray Jesus) God’s glory is on display through Jesus. God is glorified, Jesus is glorified, there is glory all around and it is obvious to all. Again we want to say, “Well of course he’s glorified, he’s Jesus.” But I want you to listen to these words the Apostle Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Rome. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30) 

We often quote the beginning of this thought during difficult times, but if we continue reading we discover that in life’s difficulties God’s purpose is for us to live like his Son. We can do this because we have been justified and ultimately glorified. We are glorified – you and me! Our actions can reveal the glory of God to those around us. There is way more to us than people struggling to do good, so we can stay off God’s “list.” We are loved by God, we are his children, we have his DNA, we are glorified, we are declared holy and we are citizens of heaven.

Living a life of godly love is costly. It will take us out of our comfort zone, it will require sacrifice, it will mean relinquishing control of our lives to our Heavenly Father – it will not always feel safe, but it will be ultimately the most rewarding decision of our life.

Sunday Songs

Taste and See – Shane & Shane

Come As You Are – David Crowder

Shout To The Lord – Darlene Zschech

Everlasting God – Lincoln Brewster

The Risk/Reward of Love

The story of Ruth found in the Older Testament is a well written account of a story passed along orally for many years. The story takes place during the time of the judges, but references David (King f Israel) so it was probably written later by an author who is unnamed.

This is a love story, but the love goes beyond Ruth and Boaz. It is more intriguing than the unique way in which Ruth meets Boaz and their eventual marriage. And there is certainly more to the story than the idea of the “Kinsman Redeemer” and the foreshadowing of Jesus who ultimately redeemed us. It starts with love of family. Naomi is in Moab because there was a famine in Judah and her husband who loved her, Elimelech,  moved the family to Moab. From there the story unfolds. Let’s take  look.

  1. Real love requires a correct understanding of God – but God’s actions raise questions. (Ruth 1:13 & 2:20-21) Ruth felt that her husband & sons had died because God was against her. She never reveals a reason she believes this except that it was the prevailing view of her day. She was working from information available at the time. We now know that the result of living in a world broken because of sin is that bad things happen to good people. We don’t know why they happen and we don’t know why God doesn’t stop them. But, if we want to live a life that is full of faith, love and joy we need to believe that God loves is and isn’t out to “get us.”
  2. Real love requires risk. (Ruth 1:16-17 & 2:2-3) Ruth us determined to return to Judah with Naomi because she loves her. It would have been easier to stay in Moab like her sister Orpah. In Moab she had family and friends, things were familiar, she knew the customs and religion. In Judah she didn’t know anyone or anything. One back in Judah she volunteers to go glean in the fields so she and Naomi can eat. An a unaccompanied woman was a great risk in her day,but she didn’t let that dissuade her. This risk leads her to a solution to her situation and a life she could have never imagined.
  3. Real love defines our reputation. (Ruth 2:10-12; 3:11 & 4:15) Ruth has been gleaning in the fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s family. He treats her with respect and protects her. When she wonders why, Boaz mentions that everyone knows of her love for her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth’s reputation was a reflection of her loving heart put into action each and every day.
  4. Real love requires risk (again) and acceptance of responsibility. (Ruth 4:6-10) Boaz wants to marry Ruth but here is a person who is legally ahead of him according to the law of the day. In front of ten elders Boaz offers the other man the opportunity to buy Elimelech’s land, marry Ruth and care for the aging Naomi. It’s more risk than he is willing to take on, so Boaz becomes the “kinsman redeemer” of the family. Apparently love was greater than the potential risk.
  5. Real love rewards, but perhaps not here and now. (Ruth 4:13-15) First let’s state that the scores are not always settled in our lifetime. Many go to their graves wandering why the cheater seems to win. One day God will make it all right, but that day may not be any time son. However, we need to be faithful and do the right thing – no matter what. In this story Ruth marries Boaz and they have a baby named Obed. Well Obed grows up and has a son named Jesse and when Jesse is grown he has a son named David. That David! Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David. All because she loved her mother-in-law and wouldn’t abandon her. That’s a risk reward risk worth taking.

Sunday Songs

I Shall Not Want – Audrey Assad

All My Hope – David Crowder

Your Love Defends Me – Matt Maher

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

The easy answer to the above question is – EVERYTHING! Above all things love is essential. We’re going to take a look in a moment, but first some housekeeping issues.

Apparently the last couple of weeks I haven’t “published” these entries correctly. Not only is the content gone from the blog, the saved drafts only have the titles. So…this week I’m going to summarize the last few talks on love.

Our new love is contained in our new life in Christ. Paul writes to the Church in Colossae to remind them that they have been raised to a new life in Christ and that now eternal things are more important than temporal things. He went n to tell them that they needed to put to death the things of their old lives; things like lust, greed, anger, slander, sexual immorality and more. In other words, put to death the non-love in your life.

Paul encouraged these same folks by also reminding them that in this new life they are completely forgiven, declared holy and may live at peace. When you realize the truth of that last statement it’s easier to live with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, gentleness, patience and of course – love.

So how important is love? It’s at the top of the list. Perhaps the most famous “love” chapter in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13. This passage is often read at weddings but it really is written for everyday – everyone living. Paul starts with the assertion that no matter what you do (and he gives an impressive list of examples), if you do it without love it amounts to nothing. To further see the importance of love look at these two verses.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 makes this declaration, “Now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” You can’t please God without faith and yet love tops faith. For me it’s clear that with God love is the driving force.

Let’s wrap this together with the strong statement Paul makes when he tells us what love is and what love is not. Practicing this list is a full-time job.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

 

Living In Perfect Love

I think all of us want to know we are loved. Even when we may not feel the love we want to know that at least someone really loves us – no matter what. The best feeling is when you know you are loved unconditionally. In the Scriptures* this kind of love finds it’s origin and example in God. Then, we get to see it fleshed out in the life of Jesus.

In John 10, Jesus expresses his care and love for us using the example of a good shepherd and the sheep for whom he cares. Jesus talks of a relationship so close that the sheep actually recognize the shepherd’s voice. Jesus is a trustworthy shepherd. It’s good for the sheep (us) to follow him and he protects our soul by hiding us in the hand of his father – God. By the way – no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. Plus, Jesus is so committed to our well being that he’s willing to lay down his life for us. Now that’s a picture of love.

As the Apostle Paul lays out his argument about the type of love relationship we can have with God, he clearly states that this relationship does not move our life to easy street. As a matter of fact he mentions quite a list of difficulties. He does this by posing this question; “Does it mean God no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death.?” Not only is his answer, no; he goes on to say that overwhelming victory is ours.

Paul believes this love is so secure that he goes the extra mile to state, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Neither death or life, neither angels or demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” That’s quite a statement.

This love is secure, permanent, enduring and unconditional. This is the best kind of love and is available to all. Whether or not you see this as a life of love really boils down to a these two questions.

  1. Do you want God to make everything perfect and easy by immediately rescuing you every time there is trouble in your life?
  2. Is it enough for you to know that no matter how hard and dark the circumstance, God is with you and won’t leave or forsake you?

*Scriptures are from John 10:11-30 & Romans 8:31-39

Sunday Songs

The Deep, Deep Love of God- Audrey Assad

Your Love, Oh Lord – Third Day

How He Loves Us – David Crowder

Rescuer – Rend Collective

Love Defeats Shame – Part 2

For the sake of our discussion we have defined “guilt” as being sorry for wrong actions and “shame” as being sorry for who you are. Guilt can have a positive growth result. Shame can cause us to enter a downward spiral of hopelessness.

We were also reminded that we are made in the image of God with abilities, gifts, a purpose and value. In Christ we have a new heart, mind and life. Also, Jesus brings us into the presence of God the Father for fellowship and worship and in the intimate environment of that encounter there can be no shame, because there is no room for shame in a loving relationship.

This week we move on to dealing with guilt and shame. There is power in confession and forgiveness. When we confess wrong doing we unburden ourselves. The transgression is removed and that’s a good thing. But confession is only part of the equation – the only part we can control. Forgiveness takes the wrongdoing and removes it from the relationship. If there is no forgiveness we are left to wonder whether or not the wrong we committed is lurking around the next corner. However, we are dependent on the harmed party to forgive us and that is out of our control.

There is another problem of forgiveness. We have to believe it is real and genuinely offered. Do we trust that the person really meant it when they forgave us? An even bigger question is whether or not we believe God really forgives ALL our sins. We sometimes think to ourselves, “I could never forgive THAT.” We then assume that other people, and even God, think the same way. This keeps us burdened with guilt and can cause shame because now I’m not just someone who did something wrong, I’m a bad person not worthy of forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sine God is faithful and just to forgive our sin AND to cleanse us for ALL unrighteousness.

In both Psalm 40 & 51 we see a desire for forgiveness, compassion and mercy, but the greatest part of these prayers is that the forgiveness comes not from hard work but by confession and a desire to rebuild the relationship. The Psalmist specifically says that God does not desire sacrifice (effort on our part), in other words, we can’t work for he forgiveness – it is freely offered out of love.

Pulling this together means that we need to accept our intrinsic value. We are important to God, others and hopefully ourselves simply because we are here. We are made and can live in the image of God. You are valued and you can be forgiven. You can live a life that’s clean and free.

A Thought Provoker: God Loves Barabbas – Judah Smith

Sunday Songs:

Create In Me A Clean Heart – Keith Green

Create In Me – Rend Collective

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Love Defeats Shame (Part 1)

Most of us have been told, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” You may have heard this most often as a child and it was usually tied to improper behavior. However, there is a big difference between being ashamed of what we have done and being ashamed of who we are. For the purpose of our study we are going to use two words, guilt & shame and define them as follows:

Shame versus Guilt – Brene’ Brown

Believing that we are worthless, that our lives don’t count to anyone – even ourselves is not how we were designed to live. I believe each and every one of us was made in the image of God and that by being here on this planet we have a purpose. Every one of us matters and we should not feel shame because of our heritage, race, past, identity, income, place of residence – or whatever.

Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation to those who belong to Christ Jesus. You are free and alive. You will make mistakes, you will do wrong and in those situations confession and forgiveness can be exchanged. But they should never bring shame concerning who you are. In Christ you are new, new, new! (2 Corinthians 5:17) You are not defined by the things you have done – good or bad. You should be identified by the fact that you are a fellow human being, part of the community of this world.

God has not only offered forgiveness -a life free of guilt, he offers a life free of shame. In Hebrews 6 we see that Jesus made it possible for us to come into the presence of God. In the ancient days this privilege was reserved only for the high priest. Today it is yours. No shame, just you and God in fellowship.

next week we’ll deal with some of the practical applications of this truth. For now let me close with some other resources – quotes, talks and songs that will reinforce this truth in your heart, soul and mind.

Quotes from Brene’ Brown

Based on my research and the research of other shame researchers, I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.

  • Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.
  • Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.
  • If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.
  • Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.

Music

No More – Josh Wilson

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

No Longer Slaves to Fear – Bethel

At The Mention Of Your Name – Jenn Johnson

Talk

https://view.vzaar.com/1203469/player?showplaybutton=rollover&brandText=Author%20Brene%20Brown%20on%20our%20inability%20to%20create%20space%20to%20hold%20pain%20in%20community.&border=none&hideFullScreen=false&socialSharing=0,0,0&autoplay=true&apiOn=true” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Brene’ Brown – Shame & Vulnerability

Ministers of Reconciliation are Controlled by Love – Part 2

So, now armed with an understanding of God and forgiveness you are ready to take up the task given to all followers of Jesus – being a minister of reconciliation. According to Paul’s writing in the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians we have been reconciled to God because that’s what he wants (not to hate, despise or tolerate us). In order to have this desired intimate relationship with God we have to accept his gracious offer of relationship.

Telling people of this relationship can be hard work. In the process we are “forced” to work with people who have hurt us, hurt others we care about, hurt people in our community or are just a “nuisance” for the rest of us to deal with. But God desires that all of us be reconciled to Him and He has done all the work necessary to make this happen.

The work of reconciliation involves at least three parts (as seen in 2 Corinthians 5). Ministers of Reconciliation must be:

  1. Controlled by the Love Christ’s Love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The love of God is unconditional and offered to all people. This “agape” love is the kind that God shows toward us. This unconditional love is offered even when we break fellowship, fall short or willfully choose bad behavior. The grace, mercy, forgiveness and peace that we want God to offer to us is also offered to everyone – even people we find hard to love. So how do we do this? We have a…
  2. Changed perception by our new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). Paul has stopped evaluating people from a human point of view. Jesus doesn’t see people for what they can do for him or for society, he sees them as created by God in his image and worthy of a loving relationship for that reason – no more is needed. When we believe God loves us and has forgiven us we are free. Free from our past, from the disappointments others have expressed in us, free from our frailties and weaknesses. We have been made new; new life, new heart, new eyes, new purpose. Therefore, we are free to love others and work with them so they can see that God loves them and wants them reconciled to Him. But this is hard because we must be…
  3. Committed to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2). The ministry of reconciliation is not done with fly-by encounters or easy discussions. Almost everyone has things deep inside that they believe will make God reject them – or at least put them on the junior varsity of humankind. Identifying these things, then talking (and praying) them through takes trust and time. But as Paul says, God sees us as partners in this ministry. We can do it. It’s just hard and time-consuming, but richly rewarding in the end. A significant piece of reconciliation involves the work of justice. I believe God’s highest idea of justice involves restoration, which leads to the same place as reconciliation. Basically there are three types of justice and all have their place.
    1. Restorative Justice – truth is told, forgiveness offered and accepted, relationship made right.
    2. Reparative Justice – truth is told, reparations are paid, forgiveness offered and accepted, relationships made right.
    3. Retributive Justice – truth is told, a price or cost of punishment is paid (i.e. – jail for murder), forgiveness offered and accepted, relationships made right.

Now of course it’s not that simple or cut-and-dry, but that’s the process by which reconciliation works. Perhaps the most important part of this ministry to remember is that as ambassadors for God we are his image bearers in the world. So we need to ask if we make an attractive Jesus in how we treat others. N.T. Wright – Image Bearers of God

Sunday Songs

Image of God – Christa Wells

Cornerstone – Hillsong Live

Our God – Chris Tomlin

Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave