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God’s Love Is a Gift

Love scrabble tiles on book page

1 Peter 1:22-23. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God.
 
In our society, no matter when we grew up, we have learned that if we want something, we have to work to get it. Perhaps a memory you had growing up was expressing to a parent that there was something you wanted. But instead of your parent just going out and getting it for you, they suggested that you work for it. Maybe they told you to save the money you get from doing chores, or to go mow some lawns in the neighborhood, or even get a job. After all, that’s how we get the things we want. We work for them. I teach at a college. Suppose a student came up to me and said, “I want an A in your class.” “Done,” I might reply. “You’ve got it!” No, probably not. Instead, I’d tell them to work hard, do all the assignments, study, read, and all the rest. You’ll get what you want if you work for it.
But there’s another influence in our lives as well. When it comes to the most important thing we could have, we know that it comes freely, as a gift. That you and I are destined for eternal life is not a result of how hard we work or how much good we’ve done. It comes as a result of God’s love for us, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the gift of faith that God gives. So that while we operate in one way when it comes to getting things in this world, you and I understand another way when it comes to the gifts of God.
So, why is it that we love others, serve others, do good for others? According to societal rules, it’s so that we’ll get something out of it. If I do good for someone else, then perhaps he or she will do something good back to me. But those aren’t our rules, and they weren’t Peter’s in our reading. The reason we love, serve, do good for others is not because we are earning good from them or from God. It is a natural response to God for all that He has given to us. We love, serve, do good, because we have been born again through the living and abiding Word of God. God has given, we respond with love toward Him and others.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, may we be motivated daily in our love and service toward others not by what we might gain, but by the love you have already shown. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


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Love

selective focus photography of You Are Loved book
 
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. 10 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  I John 4:7-12

John loves the word love. He uses it more than any other apostle, or prophet for that matter.  It’s found throughout his Gospel, and here in I John he uses a form of the word love 44 times! 
 
And for John, love has its foundation in the word “sent.”  Love is that God “sent His only Son into the world.”  Love is that God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

And – you’ll recall – the most famous of all of John’s love verses:  “For God so loved the world, that He sent His One and Only Son…”  (John 3:16)

God’s love for the world caused Him to send Jesus.  And this, in fact, is how we know what love is!  We are forgiven and granted eternal life because God sent Jesus for us!

And now, Jesus sends us:  “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  (John 20:21)

You are a “sent one.”  Sent to do what?  Love.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Love with the care, compassion, and forgiveness of Jesus. So ask yourself today:  How can I thank God for showing me what love is? How can I love my neighbor today?  Since I am sent, where should I go?

Gracious Father, we can’t help but thank and praise You for showing us what true love is by sending Your Son to die and rise for us for the forgiveness of our sins.  As You sent Jesus in love, now He sends us with love.  By Your Spirit, help us to show that love to our neighbor today and every day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 
 

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Praying

man holding his hands on open book
 
Colossians 4:2-3  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…
 
Paul gives us an idea of something we should add to our prayers.  And perhaps you already do this regularly.  These days, God’s people are doing a lot of praying.  We’re praying for those who are suffering.  We’re praying for ourselves that we may remain healthy.  We’re praying for more effective treatments and even a vaccine.  We’re praying a lot these days.  But here’s something we might add.  In Colossians 4, Paul is asking for prayers that doors might be opened for the proclamation of the Word.

Paul had a lot to pray for too.  He was writing to the Colossians from prison.  Paul was probably praying for release.  He was probably praying for the long awaited audience with Caesar.  He was probably praying for himself, that he might have strength.  But here, he is encouraging people, when they pray for him, to pray for opportunities.  He wanted opportunities to share the Gospel.

There are so many Christians who are like this.  There are those Christians in the hospital who hope for a roommate in their hospital room.  A roommate?  Yes, they want a roommate so that they could lean toward that person and give good news of Christ.  A faithful woman named Judy, confined to a wheelchair would get a new caregiver every few months on purpose.  Why?  So that she’d have someone new with whom to share Christ. 

In our current environment, there is much to pray for.  But how uniquely you and I are positioned to bring Christ into such confusing times.  Perhaps the opportunity to do that could be added to our daily prayers.
 
Prayer: O Lord God, in the midst of all we are asking from you, please open a door for us so that we may share the Good News of Christ with others…especially now.  Amen.

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How Are You Spending Your Time?

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones
 
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3
 
How have you been spending your time during the “safer at home” period? Early during the shutdown, my wife and I thought it might be the perfect time to clean out closets and other storage spaces. I don’t mean some light rearranging, but rather a complete emptying of the space and going through everything to decide what to keep and what to let go. In the end, we ended up with bags and boxes of things to take to Goodwill. Unfortunately, Goodwill was closed so everything is still sitting in those same bags and boxes in our living room.
 
What have you been doing this past month? Based on news reports, many people have been using their time to binge watch their favorite programs or view other shows that the networks are showing to fill the time previously allocated to live sports.
 
But what about you? How have you been spending the time? Are you pleased and satisfied that your use of time has been God-pleasing and honoring of Him? Time, like everything we have, is a gift from God to us. How we use it is our gift to Him. How are we using it?
 
Throughout scripture, God calls us to feed on His Word and by it grow in His grace and truth. In His Word, God makes clear the reality of our natural state in sin, but also affirms His love for us as shown through His Son Jesus. That good news pours out as we journey through the scriptures and in it we find forgiveness, hope, and a strengthening of our faith.
 
As we continue through this the current pandemic, may you give yourself to feeding on God’s word and coming to Him in prayer. He is there to meet you and bless you for Jesus’ sake.
 
Prayer: Dear Father, while there is so much uncertainty in the world today, I am certain of Your love and promises. Your Word brings the truth of forgiveness of sins and a new life now and forever. Draw me ever closer to You until the day when we meet face to face. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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What Does Love Look Like?

Love decor on the window
 
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  I John 3:16-18

What does love look like? 

I have a crucifix in my house in the living room.  It was carved in Ghana out of one piece of teak wood.  It’s beautiful.  Of all earthly possessions, that ranks right near the top for me.

And I think it’s so important to me because every time I see it, I’m reminded what love looks like.  Love looks like Jesus willingly dying on the cross for us.

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

So, we know love, because Jesus died for us.  That’s what love looks like.  But love is not confined to what Jesus did for us.  His love compels us to lay down our lives for our brothers.  And John says, in very concrete terms, that helping our brothers who are in need is a way of showing love to others.

Love looks like Christians helping fellow Christians who are in need.  Love is sacrifice.  Jesus sacrificing Himself for us.  Christians willing to sacrifice ourselves for our brothers in need.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Dear Father, we thank You for the gift of Love, Jesus our Savior.  We thank You that You sent Him to die for us, that we might have forgiveness and new life.  Help us to share that Love with our brothers and sisters in the faith, as we meet their needs.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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