Tag Archives: fellowship with God

Turn on the Light!

Turn on the Light!

Jesus is the Light

Last week, we asked, “Where’s the light?” The answer to that question is Jesus.  Jesus is the Light of the world, in whom there is also life. Jesus’ light dispels the darkness that is so prevalent in our world:  the deceitfulness of sin.  Because of The Light, we have spiritual discernment and are able to see truth clearly in a world where there are no absolutes nor standards of integrity.

How is that possible?  Through the transformation that begins when we became “new creatures in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17).  Each day, we become more like Christ—a light that is to shine in a darkened world.

Light transformation

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul explains the extraordinary transformation Christ makes in the life of His believers.

Paul accomplishes this by contrasting the believer’s old life with their new life.  Paul borrows an example from nature that would be easily understood by his readers—light and darkness.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.  

“For you were once darkness.”  This statement of conclusion describes the state in which current saints found themselves before Christ.  Darkness (skotos) described their past condition.

We were not “in darkness” but we actually “were darkness”.  Metaphorically this describes individuals in whom “darkness becomes visible and holds them sway.” They are morally darkened by sin, spiritually bankrupt, and desperately in need of salvation (Rom. 3:23).

Who are you?

“But now you are light in the Lord.”  What caused the change between “once darkness and now light”?  Salvation!  God’s plan of salvation provided a change in status—from darkness to light.

Light (phos) is used figuratively to describe truth and its knowledge, together with the spiritual purity (in contrast to vv. 3-5) associated with it.  God took us (sinners) who were “foolish, disobedient, and deceived and according to His mercy, He saved them (us)” (Titus 3:3-5).

Life as a light bearer

“Walk as children of light.”  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), a new relationship emerged.  No longer in fellowship with darkness, we became children and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17) with all its power (Ep. 1:19) and privilege (Ep. 2:6).

In addition, our lives were redirected to God’s purpose—to walk as children of light.  As “light bearers” we now offer to the lost the same light we received when we walked in darkness.  By hearing our personal witness and the Gospel, the darkened world will be attracted to The True Light, Jesus Christ (John 8:12; 9:15).

As you plan your daily activities remember to embrace your identity as children of light.  Look for opportunities to “turn on the light” in dark places and “show others the goodness of God, for He also called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9, NLT).

How’s your joy capacity?

Joy Capacity

Joy and strength

Upon returning from exile, Nehemiah told the builders of the new wall of Jerusalem that “the joy of the Lord would be their strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) The type of joy Nehemiah was alluding to was only possible from our Almighty God Who would sustain them through the direst of circumstances.

What sustains you?  In the midst of all our challenges as a nation, in our communities, and in our families, how are you holding up?  How is your joy capacity?  Is the joy of the Lord still our strength today?  Yes!  The principle of joy still resonates even in the 21st century (James 1:2-3; Phil. 4:4).

What exactly is joy?

Joy is defined by Webster as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  This definition, however, fails to explain the importance of joy in building resiliency, or our ability to “bounce back” from the challenges of life.  It is joy that increases our emotional capacity to handle the difficulties we face while we live in this fallen world.

Joy nuggets

Although we may feel like we have little or no joy left, we must be diligent to “refill” our joy tanks.  I’d like to share just a few “joy nuggets” nuggets so you too can increase your JQ–joy quotient.

We increase our joy when we are in relationship.  I’m not talking about sexual relationship (although that is important) but I mean when we are in fellowship with others.  God said it is not “good for man to be alone.” In response, God created woman to be in relationship with Him. (Gen. 2:18) God Himself was in relationship with the first married couple.

In relationship, joy comes from knowing that the person you are with is happy to see and be with you.  Relationship was key to Christ as we observe His relationship with His disciples and His close circle which included Peter, James, and John

We increase joy when we are in community.  Social restraints and changing technology have made archaic the idea of a physical community.  Remember Mrs. Branch who taught the girls how to play the piano?  Or Mr. Johnson’s “show and tell” sessions about his adventures in the Army.  Or Mrs. Mott’s homemade cider and gingerbread at Halloween.

Community offered familiarity, authenticity, and validation.  Joy was found in acceptance and genuine interest in the individual.   Join a community that can offer these benefits.  Remember the television sitcom, “Cheers”.  At Cheers “everybody knows your name and their all so glad you came.  We want to go where everybody knows your name!”

 We increase joy when we reflect on moments of appreciation.  Think about a person that you appreciate and a time you felt especially grateful to be with that person.

Describe the emotion you felt when you were with them.  Describe what your body felt like when that person was present.  Doing this exercise regularly will raise your joy level.  

Let your joy flow

Although joy might appear to be a fleeting emotion, it really requires that we be intentional in our pursuit of it.

My joy begins first with God, my most important relationship.  It is in time of prayer, reading His Word, and fellowship through worship that I feel my greatest joy.   With Him, I feel safe, calm, and connected.  I feel joy.

Next, I find great joy with family and friends.  It is in sharing meals, recounting stories, and in creating new memories that I find joy.  These times together help me put into perspective what is important and “joyful.”  I share joy.

How is your joy capacity?

Throwback Wednesday: Remember to Press In!

Throwback Wednesday: Press In

Welcome to Throwback Wednesday

We close June with Throwback Wednesday.  It is an occasion to look back and rediscover truths that we may have forgotten.  In reading this WordBytes, I was challenged to place its insights in the context of today’s realities.

I’m sure many of you, like myself, are fatigued by the continual bombardments of bad news, emerging crisis in our nation, and the challenges to make sense of a world that seems to have lost its way.  Regardless of the circumstances and events of the day, I invite you to “press in”.  Press into God and feel His presence which will help us continue with hope and renewed energy.

I have always shared with friends and family, that God has purposed our lives for times such as this.  Our resiliency and our ability to move forward need to be connected with the power, presence, and promise of God.  He will not leave us nor forsake us.  We need only “press in!

“You will find me when you seek Me.”  Jeremiah 29:13

We have explored on many occasions the biblical truth that God is in and among us—continually, without interruption, 7 by 24.  We experience God through our personal fellowship with Him and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

However, there may be times when we don’t “feel” God.  We feel estranged from Him, alone, and unable to hear His voice.  Be assured, this is a common experience for believers.  The resolution for this spiritual occurrence, however, is not to curb our prayer life or cease in reading His Word.  During those times, it is imperative that we “press in.”

Disturbing Quietness

There are seasons in my life when it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice.  I’m not talking about unanswered prayer but times of “disturbing quietness” when l must strain to hear Him—if I hear Him at all.

As I shared this experience, I found other believers had been through similar seasons of silence.  Interestingly, we all described it as a period when we “didn’t hear His voice.”  

In Search of an Answer

When I first experienced this quietness, I began to the search my heart for sins I might have committed yet failed to confess.  It was the sin of Adam that separated him from fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden.  Later Adam and Eve would experience the physical death of their body—the final separation from the world God had created for them.  I asked God to forgive me of my sins, yet I still felt disconnected from my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

My next effort was to examine my devotion time with Him.  I would increase my time of reading His Word.  Psalm 119 became my “song book” as I sought to hear His voice.

    • I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (v. 16)
    • I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. (v. 26)
    • Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. (v. 151)
    • May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. (v. 169)

I would rise early to pray—leaving more time to “listen” and less to speak.  I would “draw near” with a sincere heart with expectations that He would do likewise (James 4:8; Heb. 10:22).  I would dedicate my day to praise and worship.  If God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3), He will surely respond to me as I emptied myself to Him.  Yet with all the modifications to my devotional time, I couldn’t hear Him.  After many days of silence, I finally experienced a breakthrough.

Learning to Press in

In Secrets of the Secret Place, Bob Sorge shared his insight into my situation.

Many of us feel like we move in and out of God’s throne room. We have times of great connectedness, and then we suffer periods of disconnectedness. We can’t always analyze exactly why a distance has developed in our hearts toward the Lord, but most of us feel like our relationship with Christ is a roller coaster ride of feeling close, then far, then close, then far, then close again. In and out.  And we hate it. We were created for constant intimacy, and anything less drives us crazy on the inside. It is at those times that we need to press into God like you never have in your life! Allow the desperation of your soul to help you pursue God with absolute abandonment. 

God’s periods of quietness were an invitation to draw closer to Him—to “press in.”  More than proximity, He desires to establish an intimate friendship with us that is walked out through the course of our everyday lives. He is not looking for a segment of our day nor a day of the week.  He desires unbroken communion with us.

So on those occasions when it appears that “you can’t hear God”, press in!  Be of good courage for He is ever near (Ps. 73:28).  Press in!  Eagerly and unabashedly pursue Him, the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46). Press in!

SELAH:  Read Psalm 63:1-8.  Write in your journal the ways that David “pressed in” to God during his time in the wilderness.  Read the text again using a different translation or paraphrase.  Then ask the Holy Spirit how He wants you to “press in”.     

What is fellowship with God?

What is Fellowship with God?

God in and among us

There are two (2) biblical truths that should motivate us to live our  lives “more fully and abundantly” (John 10:10).

The first truth is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, presently lives within us.  Jesus promised this to us who “believeth on and in Him” (John 14:16-17).

The second is that we live continuously in the presence of God (Ps. 139:7).  There is never a time nor is there any circumstance in our life where we will find ourselves outside God’s love and purview.

Both truths are “spiritual blessings” gifted to us from our heavenly Father (Eph. 1:3).   But even with God’s commitment to be in and among us, we have a responsibility to draw “near to God” (James 4:8) by entering into intentional fellowship with Him.  God will not force His presence upon us.  He will, however, invite us into fellowship with Him.

What is fellowship?

What does “fellowship with God” look like in our life?  Fellowship has been described as the sharing of experiences with likeminded people.

However, fellowship with God is much more, because “who has known the mind of God?” (Romans 11:34) Our fellowship with the Father is dependent upon accepting His Son as Lord and Savior.  It is through Jesus Christ that we begin to “know by experience” God’s heart and mind.

Such was the case with the Apostle John and the disciples who were uniquely privileged to witness, first hand, the person and works of Christ.

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.   And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”    1 John 1:3-4

Can I get a witness?

  • “That which was seen” included the many miracles of Christ; miracles that would attest to the coming of the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:2-5). 
  • “That which was heard” were truths that Christ declared concerning the kingdom of God and His offer of eternal life (Luke 4:43; 9:11).
  • “That which was looked upon and our hands handed” recounted the disciples’ examination of Christ’s glorified body after the resurrection (John 20:27).

All of the disciples’ senses were engaged as Christ manifested (revealed) Himself and the Father.  Since Father and Son are one (John 17:11, 22), the disciples concurrently experienced fellowship with the Father (v. 3).  The disciple’s experience with Christ was not viewed from a distance but up close and personal.

Unending communion

Fellowship (koinonia or koy-nohn-ee’-ah) is translated as “communion” and “joint participation in a common life.”   John’s personal witness was an invitation to the early church to participate in a lifestyle that centered on relationship–an unending communion with God the Father and the Son.    Therein is the basis for John’s reason for sharing about fellowship with God:  so that their “joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4).

Joy (pleroo or play-ro’o) means “to fill to the top so nothing is wanting; to complete”.  Joy can also be explained as “God’s will obeyed” and “God’s promises fulfilled”.   Joy begins and ends with fellowship with the Father and the Son (Luke 4:21).

Fellowship with God as a lifestyle

Ask yourself these questions.  How would I describe my fellowship with God?  Have I seen, heard, and looked upon Christ’s presence in my daily walk of faith?  Do I have joy and is it full?

Many times, we miss opportunities to fellowship with God. Perhaps we have become distracted by competing priorities and the busyness of life. Have our sinful behavior patterns and unhealthy influences interrupted our fellowship with God?

We are to walk daily in fellowship with God, armed with the knowledge that we are no longer “slaves to sin”.  Instead we are to be “servants of righteousness” producing fruit of holiness (Rom. 6: 22).

Get up close and personal!

Though John’s letter was written thousands of years ago, its message is still relevant for us today.  Therefore, it is an invitation for us to participate with the only true Source of joy.

Jesus invites us to draw near with faith (Heb. 10:22) and learn of Him (Matt. 11:29). In return, we can enjoy glorious fellowship with Him.  Let us be faithful witnesses to what it means to live in fellowship with God.

Listening Prayer: Engaging in a Prayer-filled Life

Listening Prayer: Engagaing in a Prayer-Filled Life

The Needful Thing

Last week, we discussed the prayer-filled, contemplative life.  The contemplative life acknowledges the importance of a personal relationship with God and the intimacy gained through focused attention on Him.  Fulfillment of this life involves both love for God and the desire to be in His presence continually.

For many believers, such a pursuit necessitates a return to our First Love (Rev. 2:4) and the desire for “the needful thing” (Luke 10:42).  Both can only be found in fellowship with Infinite God.  So today we will spend time looking at a key practice in the prayer-filled life—listening prayer.

Listening Prayer

Listening prayer is about joining with God at the “heart”.   By heart, I’m not speaking about the emotions only, but that “intuitive part” which instructs the mind and the will.  It is a place of union with God.

In listening prayer, we exchange our “intermittent” requests for “continuous” dialogue with the all wise, all-powerful God. Through the eyes and the ears of the heart we see and “hear” God—who He is and how He operates.

Listening prayer was a new experience for me.  I admit my prayer life was one-sided—asking, seeking, and knocking (Matt. 7:7).  I invested much time in learning what I thought was the “right way” to pray.  I followed the PAPA prayer formula.  I prayed the Scriptures.  I employed the ACTS model (adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplications).  While I wanted to better communicate with God, I failed to realize what God wanted.  God was not concerned with “correct communications” but God did desire “attentive conversation” with me.

Barriers to Listening Prayer

Hindrances to listening prayer are generally found in two areas:  the desire for an “experience” versus the “presence” of God and the modern split between “head and heart” knowledge of God.

In our society, we are accustomed to being “stimulated” by what we are doing. Unfortunately, that is how we judge whether something has really happened.  We expect to hear God speak in a loud, audible voice.  That is not necessarily how God may choose to communicate.  Remember Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Most Christians today suffer to one extent or another from “post-enlightenment” mindset—the split between thought and experience.  This split in most Christians is characterized by an acceptance of their conceptual knowledge about God as reality while they simultaneously deny the primary ways of knowing, loving, and walking with God. This is more intuitive than rational. As a result of this split, even committed Christians, do not believe in Christ’s real presence with and within them.[1]

We must be careful to guard against these hinderances to true intimacy with God.

Where to begin?

How do we begin to incorporate listening prayer into our life?

First, we must believe that God desires to communicate with us (Gen. 35:13).  God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children.  We cry “Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6) knowing He hears our every word.  `

Secondly, we must know that God wishes to be in relationship with you (James 4:8a).  By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means to restore that which was loss in the Garden of Eden—fellowship with mankind.

Thirdly, we must declare our intentions and ask to hear His voice. Hearing God is not natural (remember we loss that in the Garden), so we must be intentional (Matt. 11:15).  Initially, we may need to set aside time, to listen for His voice, perhaps during our morning or evening devotional time.

Finally, we must invite God into time with us and expect to hear (1 John 5:14).  We may receive a fleeting impression, an image, even a scripture or a song.  Don’t ignore it!  Write it down, then ask God to explain what we experienced.  This is where our journal comes in handy.

Time to begin!

Listening prayer is not a method, but a walk with God where we intentionally listen for His voice.  It’s more than “doing”, it is about “being” aware of His presence.   Listening prayer is about inviting God into the daily rhythm of our life knowing that He speaks to us continuously.  It is an exciting time of fellowship and discovery.  It is what God has always wanted.

[1] Listening Prayer:  Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal, Leanne Payne

 

 

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Rest.  Who needs rest?  We all do!  Health professionals agree that the need for rest is critical.  It is essential for our overall well-being.  This includes our emotional health and cognitive performance.

But how can we rest?  21st century living has introduced a unique set of challenges that radically impair our ability to rest.  Our current life experiences have resulted in heightened anxiety within our families, our cities, and our nation.

Similarly, rest for believers has always been (and will continue to be) challenging.  This is because we live in a fallen world.  However, the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 4:9-11) offers a “viable solution”.   He invites believers to enter God’s rest—wilderness rest.

Defining rest

Webster defines rest as not only sleep but also as freedom from worry or trouble.   Rest in the Bible is used most frequently in non-theological terms.

However, it takes on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people.  Most specifically, when used in reference to the Old and New Covenant.

God addresses wilderness rest

In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is first introduced in Genesis as God ceases from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3).  God later commanded Sabbath rest as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15).  He knew that all living creatures needed physical renewal.

Canaan rest began with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.  Rest was defined as deliverance from slavery.  Canaan rest established protection from and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15).  By following God’s commandments, Israel would no longer be threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).  Peace in the land would be their rest.

Most importantly, Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement introduced us to God’s eternal rest.  This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26).  Believer’s eternal rest will culminate with Jesus Christ in eternity.

Accessing God’s rest

Accessing God’s rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him.  Our rest can be found in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His will (John 10:27).  For example, believers should let God’s Word and Spirit guide us.  God has already provided solutions for our problems therefore releasing us from unnecessary anxiety and fear.

On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:  “The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”  That is, believers need to be more responsive to the Lord.

Responding to wilderness rest

We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice.  We trust the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.

Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, and protect.  He gives use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37).  God knows the end from the beginning and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10).  It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest.  He invites us to draw near.

Discovering God in the Psalms: Forget Not God

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Psalm 103:2 (KJV)

Memories of a person, place, or thing affect our beliefs and habits.  Every aspect of our lives is influenced by our memory. That’s why it’s so important to remember all that God has done, is doing, and will do for us.

The 103rd Psalm is a general praise psalm written to magnify the name of God and boast of His greatness. It is arranged in three parts: (1) call to praise, (2) cause for praise, and (3) conclusion with new exhortation to praise the Lord. In this psalm, readers are told not to forget the benefits God has extended to His covenant people. These same benefits are ours today, in the twenty-first century.

  • Forgiveness of iniquities. Who other than God can forgive sin? Through Christ’s sacrifice and atoning blood, not only are our sins forgiven but our “sin nature” has been rendered “inoperative” (Rom. 6:14; Heb. 2:14-15). If we “fall short”, we need only confess and God faithfully forgives us (1 John 1:9). He then removes remembrance of them to the furthest points of existence-even to the heavens (Ps. 103:11-12). There is no other god or religion that offers such forgiveness.
  • Healing of diseases. Disease is the result of sin’s entrance into the world. It was not part of God’s original plan for His beloved creation. Yet God, within His providential will, provides physical healing-both on this side and the “other side” (2 Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:4). Spiritual healing is now available to release us from anger, shame, guilt, and unforgiveness. After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit and spoke these words in the synagogue in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:14-19). Jesus is our Healer today.
  • Redemption of life from destruction. In Hebrew, destruction or sahat, is translated pit or dungeon; corruption or decay. Before God’s intervention (through Jesus Christ) we were “in a hole, destined to die.” The sin of one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17) God will continually save us from the world, Satan, and our “old nature.” He is our Preserver (Ps. 145:14-20).
  • Crowning with lovingkindness and tender mercies. God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies are evidenced from Genesis to Revelation, as He provides and protects His covenant people. Through our confession of faith in Christ, lovingkindness was extended to us, as Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (Gal. 3:29). The literal translation of tendermercies is “tender and compassion.” It expresses love of a superior for an inferior; this love is seen in the deep feelings that move the superior to help. While we were without strength to save ourselves Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6).
  • Satisfaction with “good things”. The NIV rendering of this verse is “He satisfies your desires with good things.” When we are obedient to God, we are in the center of His will. He will give us what is best for our life-even when we don’t see it. The result is renewal of hope and trust and the ability to continue our walk of faith. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)
Regardless of our schedules and priorities, we must never forget all of God’s benefits. He has given us so much. Who could ever forget?

Sitting in Darkness with the Lord

“Enemy, don’t crow over me.  I’m down, but I’m not out.

I’m sitting in the dark right now but God is my light.”

Micah 7:8 (The Message)

Life is comprised of a myriad of experiences that test both our patience and our faith. The activities of daily living–caretaking for family, practicing our profession, and maintaining a “normal” schedule, often present a challenge for us. Although we may not always admit it, we sometimes feel overwhelmed, despondent, and “down right” depressed. We call this feeling by many names–bluesy, out of sorts or “in the mulligrubs” but the end result is the same. We feel like we are “sitting in darkness.”  What do we know about darkness? Darkness is the absence of light.

Darkness conceals potential dangers and pitfalls that would be evident with the aid of light. In Scripture we are warned about the influence of darkness in our lives and about the Prince of Darkness, Satan.  It is Satan’s desire to keep us in spiritual darkness where he can “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10).

Darkness can refer to the condition of our spirit. The prophet Micah was in great despair as he looked upon the wicked lifestyles of both Israel and Judah. There was great “darkness” as the nation God had chosen to bless the world was mired in idolatry, wickedness, and corruption. Sound familiar?  Though Micah sat in darkness, he found comfort and assurance in the future promise of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:5).

What are the light sources God has provided to us?
  • God Himself is our light and “in Him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). God is light personified (or deified).  In Him there is no flaws, defects, blemishes or error. He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom.
  • God’s Word is a “light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word provides the guidance needed to traverse the circumstances we face in our life. His Word contains His promises and His power; He personally oversees His Word to perform it in your life (Jeremiah 1:12).
  • God’s Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) who guides us into all truth” (John 16:13). He reminds us, that we are the beloved of God and heirs to His throne. Our knowledge of who we are in Christ should dispel any feelings we may have of inadequacy and hopelessness. We can replace these feelings with God’s joy and peace.
Even when we feel as if we are “sitting in darkness”, we can confidently proclaim that the LORD is our light. We are never alone. He is always with us.

Perfecting Love

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (NIV)

Entering into this holiday season, WordBytes has shared two mindsets that will help us understand what really makes this time of the year special—relationships and gratitude.  This shift in thinking requires that we look beyond ourselves to more intentional expressions of kindness to others.  We close this series on preparing the heart for the holidays with our last mindset, which Paul describes as the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14)—the thing that holds everything together—love.

The first Bible verse a child usually learns is “God is love.”  As that child grows, his understanding of God’s love is expanded by personally observing acts of kindness in the world.  How does God disseminate His perfecting love into the world?

God loves us first.   “We love him, because he first loved us(1 John 4:19).   God is the source of love and therefore, He is the starting point of love’s entrance into the world.   God’s love for us began in eternity when He gave thought to man.  He created man His own image.  That endowment was given to no other creature of God’s making.  God gave of Himself—His own breathe (Gen. 2:7).  He gave man His essence including freewill.  He then blessed them and gave them dominion over the whole of creation (Gen. 3:27, 28).

We love God back.   “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Once we receive the revelation of God’s love for us (Ep. 1:17), it becomes possible for us to return God’s love to Him.  When we love God, He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (further evidence of His love).  We return God’s love through our obedience to His commandments (1 John 5:3) and our willingness to serve others (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

We love others like God.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another(1 John 4:11).  Jesus was asked by a devious lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt.22:35-40).  His response reflected His Father’s heart—love God first, others second.   God’s love is perfected in us as we love others more than ourselves (1 John 4:12, 17).   “Perfected” (teleioō) means to reach a goal or to be complete.  As believers love others like God, they begin to reach their goal of spiritual maturity and become effective ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

 We love God together.  “Herein is our love made perfect…because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17).  After Jesus washed His disciples feet (John 13:1-20), He gave them a new commandment that they love one another.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).  The greatest witness to God’s love is how believers care for one another “in community”.  It is not the geographic area that I’m speaking of, nor denomination, nor the universal church.  God’s love in community is authentic fellowship with other believers, experiencing true joy from being in each other’s presence.  As we love God together in community, we show how the love of God looks in the “real” world.

God’s love released into the world bears resemblance to a large stone dropped into a quiet lake.    Upon entering the motionless water, the stone creates a series of circular ripples that flow in all directions, outward from its initial source.  That’s how God’s love enters the world.  God is the Rock (He first loved us) and we are the resulting ripples created by the impact of His love—returning His love to Him, to others, and in community.

Powerful relationships and gratitude in action spring forth from God’s perfecting love.  As we prepare our hearts for the holidays, let’s exchange the worldview of “holiday cheer” with “God’s gift” of love and good will toward men.  God’s gifts will continue to return great joy and peace throughout the year and for years to come.

SELAH:  Read 1 John 4:7-16, “The Source of Love”.  In your first reading, make a note of the “words or phrases” that catch your attention. Read it a second time.  Feel free to use a different translation or paraphrase; list “the emotions” you feel in your reading.  (Awareness of Feelings).  Then read the text a final time and ask Jesus to share what is your “invitation for the day” from Him.  An invitation is a “personal” message, instruction, or encouragement JUST FOR YOU (versus a general application of Scripture).