GOD IS LOVE

We know that God has many attributes, some of which are singly those of God and we cannot begin to compare ourselves with Him.  Others, however, are called “communicable attributes” and these are characteristics that God has granted to us.  Attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, for example, are attributes that belong to God alone.  Even the most arrogant of people cannot assert that they can be in all places at once!

Other attributes, though, have been given to human beings, albeit in a watered down version of the pure attributes of God.  For example, love is an attribute of God and it is an attribute that He has communicated to us. 

God’s love, called agape love, is self-sacrificing.  it is love which thinks only of the object being loved, without any strings attached, without any consideration of love being returned in kind, without any anticipation of that love being returned.  it is pure love for the one who is loved. 

Because we live in a fallen world and we are sinful creatures, the love that we give to others is much more selfish and self-centered.  We love others but there is always at least a little bit of “what’s in it for me” associated with our loving actions.  At a minimum, we expect to be thanked for the kindness that we are exhibiting.

Recently, a friend sent me this video showing the mutual bliss that God’s created beings show when love is extended to them.   I expect that there are those who would argue that animals don’t feel love, they are just humoring the humans who feed them.  Or, I expect there are those who would argue that God did not give animals emotions at all.  I respectfully disagree!

I am not a veterinarian, and I am not an animal psychologist.  I am merely a woman who has had dogs in her life for almost its entirety.  The joy, comfort and pleasure that my dogs have given, and continue to give, to me is wonderful.  And, we love the pets in our home, taking joy in seeing them playing and interacting with each other and with us.

Oh, that we would exhibit God’s love to each other.  Scripture says: 

… but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.

Romans 5:8-10

God loved us when we were His enemies, because we are sinners who disobey His commands continually.  Sinners who take His blessings for granted, without gratitude or recognition.  Sinners who flaunt our achievements as if we did them on our own, rather than realizing that God is the One who enables us to do everything! 

Yet, despite our sinful nature, God loves us and sent His Son to be our Savior, Redeemer.  That is the love we should exhibit to others.  Because He loved us, we should so love others.

Father, forgive me when I have been self-centered and have not loved others as You have loved me.  Open my eyes, my mind and my heart so that I can love as You love, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray. 

OUT OF PLACE?

Have you ever noticed something that seemed to be “out of place” in the context surrounding the thing or event?

We saw this sign was alongside a road that had a nursing home on the right and a cemetery on the left. 

  dead end sign and cemetery

Although the sign was factually correct in that it told the driver that the road did not lead to any other road, it seems to be somewhat “out of place”, or perhaps a better description might be “somewhat macabre”, given the context in which it was placed.

We saw an even better example of something “out of place” when we were watching one of Agatha Christi’s Poirot mysteries on television recently.  The many episodes in the Poirot series are elaborately filmed, with mid-1930s furnishings, clothing, automobiles, etc.   The characters are incredible and the story lines are detailed.  All this to say, the programs are a delight to watch and we really enjoy them. 

However, on this particular occasion, one of the characters was assigned the job of tailing a suspect whenever she left her apartment.  The suspect came out of the building and got into her car, so our character dutifully started his vehicle.  As the suspect sped away, so did our character when the rear of his vehicle was seen bouncing over …

wait for it …

a SPEED BUMP! 

A speed bump on a street in the 1930s?  I don’t think so.  In fact, a quick Google search said that speed bumps were not used in the UK until the 1980s.   It quite simply was “out of place” in the episode we were watching.

As Christians, we are called to live a life of holiness, of love and of sweet communion with our Lord. 

The church in Ephesus seemed to have many problems and Paul addressed them in his letter, and he points to the importance of living a life that is in keeping with their witness as Christians.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:3-4

In short, while certain activities and certain speech may be acceptable among society, such things are “out of place” when said or done by Christians. 

Paul says this about the traits that the Christian should exhibit:

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

This way of living will never be “out-of-place” as far as the Lord is concerned, however it will certainly be countercultural to those around you and it may appear “out of place” to them!

Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan theologian in the early days of our country, said this about the Christian virtue of love:

A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to GodIf love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming Christians.  An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

So, beloved, when I look in the mirror of my life, do I see consistency in the development of my Christian life?  I know that I am not where I need to be, but am I closer than I was last year at this time?  Are you?

When I look in the mirror of my life, do I see speed bumps where I faltered, do I see times that I harmed my witness by taking actions or saying things that are out-of-place, that are inconsistent with my Christian witness?  Do you see such things?

Let us bring our life into conformance with what our Lord desires for us.  Let us be attuned to the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of our sin, as He leads us into paths where we are to walk, and as He brings to mind the Scripture that will enable us to do the work that has been planned for us to do, and let us eliminate our “out of place” activities/words/thoughts.  In short, let us be transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ through the power of His Spirit.

Father, I pray that I would be attuned to your Spirit so that I would be able to discern when my thoughts, actions, or words would be out-of-place, when they would harm my witness for my Lord, when they would grieve you, Father.  I cannot do this on my own, and I seek your strength and power to do these things.

LOVE – WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Love, it is a word that is used in the English language for so many things.  Most of which probably don’t really require the term “love”.  For example,

“We love pizza.”

“We love our dogs.” 

KOA dog park 2.JPG
The “girls” running at a campground play yard.

“We love the lake!”

“We love that outfit.”

“We love the mountains.”

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea canyon, Kauai 

“We love how you decorated the room.” 

“We love our children.”

“We love our spouse.” 

But, do we love pizza as much as we love our spouse?  The reality is that we probably don’t love pizza more than our spouse (at least I hope that is the case!).  Do we love our spouse as much as we love an outfit?  

In short, the English language is a bit lame on the word “love.”  Love encompasses a positive emotion, often giddy and mushy, about anything, with no distinction between the type of love or the character of love for the thing before us. 

The Greek is not that way – there are at least three words for “love” and they have very different meanings.

First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved. 

As Christians, we are to love as Christ loved us – we are to love with the self-sacrificing love that puts others first, no matter what, that puts others’ needs before our own, that grants us the privilege to serve rather than to be served. 

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:2 from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12 from Jesus’ own words to His disciples.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 from Jesus’ explanation as to the importance of loving each other.

Following Jesus’ example, we are to give ourselves to others as we love others

  • even if we think they don’t deserve our love.
    • As sinners, we certainly did not deserve the love that Christ lavished upon us when He died for us on the cross of Calvary! See Romans 6:23.
  • even if they don’t desire our love.  
    • When we were dead in our sin, we couldn’t ask for or desire help from Christ! See Ephesians 2:4-7.  We all know that a corpse cannot do anything to become an “un-corpse.”  When you are dead, there is no life in you, and you can’t do or desire anything.  But Christ, in His love, touched us and claimed us as His own, even while we were dead in sin.  We did not deserve that love. It was a gift of grace from God.  Therefore, we should not be so judgmental as to think that we could withhold love from anyone!
  • even if they dislike us.
    • Scripture teaches that we not only disliked God and His Son Jesus Christ, we were actual enemies of God. See Romans 5:10.   If Jesus died for us while we were His enemies, we can surely extend love to those to may dislike us!  In fact, Jesus taught that we were, indeed, to love our enemies.  See Jesus’ words in Luke 6:35.

Love is an action word.  We choose to love; we choose to obey Christ; we choose to minister to others in His name; we choose to deny ourselves and to serve others.  Love is not something you fall into or fall out of … it is a decision to commit yourself to the well-being of those you are called to love.

Now that we have made the decision to love others, TELL THEM!

We have had 4 friends who have died in the past 2 months, each of them being special to us in so many ways.  We have known all of them for over 10 years, worshipping with them and learning of God’s love through their lives.  Their lives took very different turns and experiences, but we were all unified through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

  • Don was an elder in our church, a tireless man who aided many and who died suddenly, without warning, his witness through the Gideons and in Bible study will be sorely missed;;
  • Shirley was an incredible Bible teacher and a leader in women’s Bible studies for decades who suffered with ALS for years but her witness for her Lord remained constant;
  • G. B. was a member of Bible-based fellowship group which included my husband and they met weekly for over 15 years; while he struggled with cancer, his death was unexpected and a surprise to all; and
  • Claire was a lady with whom we worshipped, who was a close friend to me even before I met my husband, whose son was best friends with our son from preschool through grammar school, when she moved across country. She was beset with all sorts of physical ailments for decades but her faith in the Lord was solid and she praised Him for all her days.

Tell those you love that you love them.  One day, they will be gone and you will have missed the opportunity to extend love to them in Jesus’ name.

Father, I ask forgiveness for ignoring the multiple opportunities You give me to extend Your love to others.  I ask that You enable me to be more loving and that I would be more vocal about how I love my family, friends and those I come in contact with.  May I bring glory to Your name, Father, because it is only through Your love that I can love others.  

 

WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:7

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my Lord.

“YOU SURE LOOK LIKE YOUR FATHER!”

Many years ago, before my biological children were born, we were foster parents for several children who were placed, for a variety of reasons, in a nearby children’s home. 

As an “adventure” one weekend, we took our foster children to a Civil War battlefield, complete with canons and stacks of cannonballs.  It also had a museum and much for the children to interact with as they learned about what happened at the Chickamauga Battlefield so many years earlier. 

When we went to the cashier to pay for our souvenirs, the Park Ranger standing there looked at our family and said to our son, “Boy, you sure look like your Father!” and to our daughter he said “And, you really look like your Mom!”  We smiled at him and paid for our goodies, and then left. 

In the car, we chuckled about the Ranger’s well-meaning comments.  They were especially humorous since both children were in foster care and of no blood relation to us.  Furthermore, they were not brother and sister but were from two separate families. 

Ultimately, I did have two children, a son and daughter, and when they were in preschool, my husband left us and divorce ensued.

Then the Lord brought Bill into our lives and, 31 years later, we are still married and the “children” (now in their 40s) are very much in love with him.   

When Bill had taken our son to the store for some clothing, the cashier looked at the two of them and said “Boy, your sure look like your Father!”   Without correcting the clerk, without discussing step-relationships, and without missing a beat, our son said “Yes, I do.”

Father and son marathon cropped
Father and son running in a marathon.

We were thinking about these comments recently and I wondered if I looked like my Father.  Do you?

We have just concluded consideration of just a few of the attributes of God, the Father, and I thought we should bring those discussion down to earth.  Do we look like our Heavenly Father?

I know that we cannot be like God, we are merely creatures who are sinful and who live in a fallen world.  But some of the attributes that are of God can be found in us if we let Him live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

For example, Eternality is totally outside of our experience, we are time-bound, temporal, finite.   But Mercy is something that we can extend to those who wrong us in some way.

Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence are attributes that no one would ever credit me with having, that’s for sure.  They reside within God and are not communicable to either you or me. 

Holiness is surely one of the attributes that sets God apart from the sinful creation ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.   But, Scripture says that we are to be holy. 

“For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.””

Leviticus 11:45

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

1 Peter 1:15-16

I cannot be holy on my own nor can I become holy through any effort or action that I take.  I am sinful and will be sinful all my life.  But through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, in the eyes of God, I can be holy.

Justice is another attribute of God that is tied to His Holiness.  God is repeatedly called Just in Scripture and we are told that His actions are always just. 

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

While Justice is an attribute of God’s intrinsic nature, it is also something that we are commanded to be.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

Love, the attribute of God’s nature which Jonathan Edwards called “the sum of all Christianity”.  God loved us even when we were sinners and unable to approach Him even in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, we were made part of God’s family because of His love.

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of an olive tree into which branches have been grafted, the tree, rooted in Jesus Christ, is referencing the Jews while the branches that were grafted onto the tree reference the Gentiles. 

Adoption is another image presented in Scripture with respect to God’s love.  The Amplified Holy Bible renders Ephesians 1:4-6 as follows:

Just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself] [as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

We have been loved by God, through Christ Jesus, and have been adopted into His family.  What does that mean for us here on earth, surrounded by so many who do not know Him?  We are to love each other and are to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ so that men can see Him when looking at us.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

John 15:8-9

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

John 15:16-17

So, the question hangs in the air – do you look like your Heavenly Father?

          At church on Sunday morning?

          At the supermarket on Tuesday?

          At the work meeting where your project is being criticized?

          When someone cuts you off on the highway?

          When you can’t think because the neighbors’ dogs are barking?

Do you look like your Heavenly Father?  Do I?

 

Father, we so easily call You Father even though we had nothing to do with Your adoption of us.  Your grace in giving us eternal life came at the incredible cost of Your Beloved Son’s atoning death.  Your mercy was extended to us even while we were still wallowing in our sin. Oh, Father.  Your love and compassion is too wonderful for us to comprehend.  All we can do is thank You and pray that we would be transformed through Your Spirit into the image of Your Beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May we look more and more like Jesus and, thus, more and more like You each day.

LOVE IS A COMMAND — NOT A FEELING!

We speak of love often in our conversation with others.  We love people, animals, objects and activities and it is usually a love that is conditioned on a multitude of different factors.  For example, we love those related to us in a different way than we do our general acquaintances. 

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

We love some flowers and not others. 

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
Flower garden in Maine

We love certain foods while others wouldn’t eat it or even touch it! 

 

Fish at Dancing Bear Lodge
Sea Bass with head and skeleton. Delicious said our son, while his wife wouldn’t even watch him eat it!

In our modern culture, we fall in love and things are heavy with passion and emotion.  But, when difficulties arise or when someone younger/prettier/richer comes along, we fall out of love; and often there is just as much heated passion against the other party as there was when we fell in love in the first place. 

The bottom line is that there is almost always self-motivated volition involved in human love.  And, we consider love as an emotion, as something that we feel, and when the feeling is gone or when it is transferred somewhere else, so is the love.

But, not so with God.  Scripture says that God IS love.  It is one of the attributes of our God – it is part and parcel of His nature. 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

Indeed, we are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time!   In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus reiterated this commandment in Matthew 22:37 and then He expanded the command in Mark 12:29-31 by saying we are to love God as commanded in Deuteronomy, but then we are also to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

Jesus took love out of the emotional/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world.  Love is action rather than mere emotion.  We see our neighbor and we are not to have mushy, mind consuming passion for our neighbor; we are to love him/her.

 The Apostle John elaborates on the commandment to love others when he says:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

We love him, because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:9-11, 19

There it is in a nutshell – we love God BECAUSE He first loved us.  We cannot love Him on our own – we are sinners and He is holy.  We can’t do anything spiritually to make Him love us — all our “good works” are like filthy rags in comparison to the holiness of God.   See Isaiah 64:6.  BUT, God Himself gave His Son so that we could approach Him, so that we could love Him, so that we could love others through Him.

Since we received love while we were undeserving sinners, we certainly should not have any trouble following the commandment to love others, whether they are loveable or not, whether they return the love to us or not, whether they like us or not, whether they can help us achieve some goal or not. 

There should be no reciprocal obligation in our love to others.  God’s love to us is one directional – He initiates it and gives it to us through His grace.  Yes, we are to love Him in return, but the full commandment is that we love others as he loved us. 

That is the way we are to love others, especially those who are of the family of faith.  We may not agree with each other on various issues, but if we are Christians, if we have been adopted into the family of God, we are commanded to love each other.  

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

God loved us even when we were dead in our sin and unholy before Him.  He sent Jesus Who walked in love and gave Himself to the death on the cross so that we could be accepted by God, so that our sin would be paid for, and so that we would be granted the righteousness of Jesus.  When we understand the gravity of our sin and the holiness of God, we will see that we can and must love others unconditionally, because but for the grace of God we would be in the same condition before God. 

Others will know that we have been adopted into God’s family by the way we love them. 

In this new year, love others as He loved us.  Unconditionally, whole-heartedly, and without judgment.  Let our love for others be our witness of our love for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Take love out of the world of platitudes and put it into action, real life, concrete, discernible and undeniable action.

Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day.  I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love others as You have loved me. And I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You. 

 

LEARNING – A LIFE-LONG ACTIVITY

School has been out four days this week due to illness.  So many teachers and students were ill with the flu/respiratory difficulties that the county school system was simply shut down. 

Although not wanting his friends to be sick, one of our grandsons remarked that it was a good day because the schools were closed.  We talked about that concept and he (being on the cusp of his 11th birthday) said he didn’t really like school.  Being the “older generation,” we responded that school was important for many reasons and that learning continued all through your life.

Learning — in our culture, we tend to think of learning as being confined to a strict educational setting such as a primary school for children.  

2011-04-england-031-watchfield-primary-school
Watchfield Primary School in England.  This is the school our grandchildren attended while living in England.

Some of us consider institutions of higher learning as the place where real education takes place.  While education and learning certainly does occur in colleges and universities, this is not the only place learning can take place. 

At the time of Jesus’ ministry, His disciples did not sit in classrooms to hear what Jesus was going to teach.  They walked the streets and hills with Him and listened as He talked along the way. They sat on the hillside when Jesus taught the thousands of people following Him.  They ate meals with Him and, after spending time in Zacchaeus’ house with Jesus, they heard Zacchaeus respond to Him by saying:

“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Luke 19:8 ESV

 They had, what we could certainly call, “hands on” learning.   Jesus said that He would make them “fishers of men.” 

I am not a fisher[wo]man and my Dad was not a fisherman.  In fact I only started eating fish, already cleaned, filleted, prepared and cooked, as an adult.  So, it was with interest that I visited Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishing is a thriving industry.  In 1925, the town erected this moving, and emotionally charged, monument at the harbor to honor those lost at sea. 

glouster-mass-mariner-58
The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, Gloucester, Massachusetts

According to the National Park Service, The Mariner was created to “commemorate Gloucester’s 300th anniversary and to permanently memorialize the thousands of fishermen lost at sea in the first three centuries of Gloucester’s history. In 1879 alone, 249 fishermen and 29 vessels were lost during a terrible storm.”

A plaque on one side of the base reads, “Memorial To The Gloucester Fisherman, August 23, 1923”. A larger panel on the harbor-facing side of the base reads: “They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships 1623-1923”, in bronze letters, citing Psalm 107:23.

Fishing is still a part of Gloucester’s life.  For example, we saw fishermen mending their nets, an activity with which the early disciples would have been intimately familiar inasmuch as they too were fishermen.  Just watching this activity reminded us of the disciples Jesus called to walk with Him.

fishermen-tending-nets-53
Fishermen mending nets in Gloucester, Massachusetts

 “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Matthew 4:18-22 ESV

Fishing – it was their business, their trade, and it was what Jesus used to illustrate how He would use them in His kingdom.  He would make them “fishers of men.” 

They learned Jesus’ teachings, His way of life, His relationship with God, His desires for them to be witnesses to others, and much more. 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV

Jesus put the learning issue front and center when He said:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29 ESV

How do we learn from Jesus today?  He is not here to personally instruct us in what He wants us to do or say on a day-to-day basis.  So, how do we know what we are to do in His service?

Scripture tells us exactly what He wants from His disciples.  

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15 ESV

We are to keep His commandments, and they are found in Scripture.  Matthew 5 begins with the verses we call The Beatitudes – verses that describe the blessings in the kingdom of heaven.  This chapter continues with numerous verses that set out a portion of Jesus’ teaching on how we are to live.  Verses such as:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16 ESV

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22 ESV

If you want to know how you are to live as a disciple of Jesus, read His Word, the Holy Bible and you will find your answer.  The primary commandment is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  Deuteronomy 6:5 and Luke 10:27.  But there are many other commandments that relate to how we are to live and fulfill the primary commandment above.

Learning – we learn in many ways.  I pray that you and I would focus our desires to learn that which pleases our Lord and may we actively take steps to learn His commands so that we can obey His words and please him in our life, actions, words and thoughts.

Father, I pray that You would enable me to seek You and learn of Your ways through Your Holy Word.  Holy Spirit, I pray that You would enlighten my heart so that I can understand and follow my Lord’s commands always.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 22, GENTLENESS part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 22

GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

PART TWO

What does Scripture say?

 Humility means putting God and other persons ahead of our own personal selfish interests. Humility comes with the knowledge that God’s creation as a whole transcends our own narrow interests.

 

Humility will cause an individual to wholly subject himself to God.  Even if God sends affliction or depressed circumstances, the humble person does not complain but expresses his gratitude for what God has decreed. The humble man says with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12

How does this apply to my daily life?

  •  The humble person lives by the Golden Rule.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Luke 6:31.

 

If we want to be loved, we must first give our love to others.  If we want to be respected, we must first give respect to all persons, most especially to those persons we do not like.  If we wish to be satisfied in our lives, we must first be generous toward others.

 

  • Gentleness/humility affects our talk, both with regard to attitude and topic. Scripture confirms this in numerous passages:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Proverbs 15:1-2

The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Matthew 12:35

 

More specifically, when it comes to our talk, gossip is an act of hostility intended to harm someone’s reputation. We must avoid the temptation to misrepresent someone’s character or actions even if we are covering those acts with “Bless her heart!”

 

  • Gentleness/humility also affects our speech and emotions in that the humble person will not respond in anger or revenge.

 

Instead of anger, the humble person’s reaction to life’s difficulties is understanding and empathy.  An understanding attitude will settle the dispute and avoid turning a minor issue into a major confrontation.  The humble demeanor is a perfect tool for avoiding disputes and hard feelings.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20

When we respond to anger with empathy and love, we can break the cycle of hatred and transform even our enemies into friends. Jesus recognized this when he gave us the unique command to love even our enemies:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

  • Certain characteristics can be found win the humble man or woman.

 

The humble man or woman avoids ambitious behavior.  She is not greedy for honor and does not desire to be above her neighbors.   She does not take upon herself that which does not belong to her as if the earth ought to be subject to her bidding. On the contrary, she gives all due deference to the judgment and desires of others.  Her behavior is consistent with Philippians 2:3:

“Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves”

 

The humble man or woman avoids ostentatious behavior. If she has any advantage, ability or benefit over her neighbors, she will not make a show of it.    In other words, she is not a Pharisee who, according to Jesus, did all their works to be seen of men.” Matt 23:5.

 

Rather, she knows that the impression others have of her is a small thing indeed.  She is content that the God in Heaven sees what was done and she desires that He approve of her efforts.

 

The humble man or woman will not express scornful or belittling behavior. Treating others with scorn and contempt is one of the most offensive manifestations of improper pride toward them.  The humble woman treats others with courtesy and friendliness – because she is aware of her own weakness before God, and she knows that it is God alone that makes her any different than others.

 

The humble will always have the spirit to “condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:16) and this is true even if the person is in a position of public trust and honor.

 

The humble man or woman will not exhibit willful or stubborn behavior.  The humble man or woman will not be stiff and inflexible, and insist that everything must go according to what they happen first to propose.  Further, the humble person will not make all the difficulty they can so as to make others uneasy if they do not get their own way.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

 

On the contrary, humility inclines men to have a yielding spirit to others, ready, for the sake of peace and to gratify others, to comply in many things with the desires of others, and to yield to their judgments when they are not inconsistent with truth and holiness.

 

A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible, because God and conscience require it.

 

The humble spirit is desired by God and should be sought by the Christian.  Peter said that this spirit is the richest of all ornaments:  “even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” 1 Peter 3:4.

 

We read in 1 Peter 5:5 that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   Regarding this verse, Jonathan Edwards says that in the original language, this means God “sets Himself in battle array against him,”  In other words, the proud spirit is abhorrent to God!  I certainly do not want God to fight against me!

 

Jesus – our Lord and Savior said:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

Matthew 5:9.

 

Gentleness/ Humility is the ornament of the spirit, the source of some of the sweetest exercises of Christian experience, the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God, the subject of the richest of His promises, the spirit with which He will dwell on earth, and which He will crown with glory in heaven hereafter.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, KINDNESS, part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 16

 KINDNESS – A CONSTANT STATE OF READINESS TO HELP

PART TWO

So how do we show kindness to others – to whom should we be kind – what is kindness, after all?  What does the scripture tell us about these questions?

The greatest kindness we can do for another person is to witness to them of the Great King Jesus and lead them as the Holy Spirit directs toward their salvation and spiritual growth.  Most often, we do this by setting a good example as this is frequently the most effective witness of all, especially if, at the appropriate time, it is accompanied by our words telling of the gospel of the Lord Jesus as the Source of our life in Him.

For our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we help each other in faith and obedience and encourage each other when in trial or temptations.  We can bring spiritual joy and strength to each other as we seek to live for Christ before meeting Him in heaven.

What does Scripture say?

We as Christians are to be kind, not only in a spiritual context but also physically, to both individuals and the world, whether or not they claim Christ as their Savior.

We are told to help others in their difficulties and calamities.  See Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 35-36.

Kindness for the Christian can be summed up as being kind in three specific ways:

  • By giving to them of those things that they need and we possess.

“Give and it shall be given unto you.”

Luke 6:38

  • By doing for them and making an effort to help them to improve their situation.

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

I Thessalonians 2: 9

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do;”

Hebrews 6: 10

  • By suffering for them and assisting them in bearing their burdens and in doing everything that we can to lighten those burdens.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”

1 John 3: 16

Now that we know that we are to be kind to others, who are the “others”? Or, another way to put it is, “to whom should we be kind?”

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to be kind to our neighbors, and it expands the definition of neighbor to anyone we meet along life’s way.  Luke 10:29 and following.

That parable, however begs the question: what kind of people are our neighbors so that we can be kind to them?

We are to be kind both to the good and to the bad.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … we are to imitate God.  We should be kind not just those who we consider good in our own eyes.

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5: 45

In this regard, Jonathan Edwards has said:

“Some are proud, some immoral, some covetous, some profane, some unjust or severe, and some despisers of God.  But any or all of these bad qualities should not hinder our beneficence [kindness], nor prevent our doing them good as we have opportunity.  On this very account, we should the rather be diligent to benefit them, that we may win them to Christ; and especially should we be diligent to benefit them in spiritual things.”

It also goes without need for elaboration that we should be kind to our friends. But this duty of kindness also extends to our enemies!

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5: 44

And, we should be kind to the thankful as well as to the unthankful.   Again, this follows the example of Jesus.  Luke 6: 35 says He “is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil;” It is also consistent with the command that we should be merciful as He is merciful.  Luke 6:36.

How does this apply to my daily life?

We do not deserve God’s kindness and yet He is kind every moment of every day –as He showers us with His blessing and love in Christ Jesus, as He provides for our salvation and eternal life with Him, as He has given His grace and mercy in forgiveness of our sins, even the ones that we keep on doing and which He knows we will continue to do, yet in His infinite love, mercy and kindness He continues to forgive when we come to Him.

Please remember that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … and one of Jesus’ attributes was kindness that was extended to those he encountered throughout his life, even to his executioners, including you and me.  He died on the cross because of our sins, and we put him there as surely as any Roman spear or nail.  Such kindness freely given to us should result in an outpouring of love and kindness by us to others, not in our human power as just one more thing we have to do but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Kindness – it is such a common term, so flippantly used, and yet such a profound witness when it comes from a heart prompted by the Holy Spirit.  It is not a last minute thought or a flippant act of little consequence as the world describes; it is a life style of placing others first, of putting yourself in subservience to others so that their needs are met; it is going the extra mile and then some, because Jesus went all the way from heaven, to earth and then to the cross for you, and for me.  Such kindness cannot be repaid by any action on our part, but we can illustrate it to others as best we can, with prayerful praise and as a thankful witness for Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.