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His Love

person's hands
 
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.   John 3:16-18

“Love” is an interesting word.  It is interesting because it is used in so many different ways.  It is interesting because it can be applied in many different situations.  It is interesting because it is used in relationship to many different things.  We love our spouse.  We love our favorite sports team.  We love pizza.  We love spring flowers, summer sunsets, autumn leaves and winter landscapes.   And, of course, we love Jesus.

You have to admit that we use, and often, abuse this little word—love.  

The Greek language has four words for love.  Phile? is a brotherly love of care and kindness.  Storg? is a love of the heart that binds husband and wife, parent and child.  Eros is the love of passion based on human emotions.

In John 3:16, Jesus uses the word, Agap?, a love that is of the highest kind.  It is a love that looks to give without receiving.  It is a love that desires the best for others.

This is the love God has for us.  He loves us because He is love.  His love is not contingent on our ability to live up to certain expectations.  We cannot merit this love or earn it.  It comes to us freely from the heart of the God who, out of love, created us.  It is out of love that our God saved us through the cross and empty tomb.

There are times that I don’t feel so loveable.  The truth is, I’m not all that loveable.  But God is able to love…even me!

Blessed Jesus, Your love is new every morning.  Each day as I rise I am reminded of Your love that forgives my sins and promises to be with me.   Give to me Your Holy Spirit that I may live in Your love and understand that the true esteem in my life is Your love.  In Your loving name I pray.  Amen.  

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Why Should We Work?

Close-Up Photo of Bible

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” [Genesis 1:26,28]

W.O.R.K. There’s no way around it, we all have to work. Now, it looks different for each of us, but it is unavoidable. Cleaning our houses, taking care of our yards, working in an office, running heavy machinery, teaching others: when you hear the word “work”, something comes to mind. 

Why must we work? Can’t we just find food for the day like animals, and just exist? Why must we have a drive within us to get ahead, to store up for the future, to provide for others, to care for the earth? 

You could look to the Curse in Genesis 3, and read “By the sweat of your brow you will work the ground until you return to it. For you are dust, and to dust you will return.” You could get a very negative picture of work, and say it’s just something we have to endure while we are living. We are all subject to the burdens of living, to work, to laboring until our lives end. Work is a curse. 

But our Bibles don’t begin in Genesis 3. There are two wonderful chapters before God curses Adam to work the ground and deal with the thistles and weeds. God actually curses the very blessings which he gave to Adam and Eve: work and childbirth. Recall God’s first commands. Often we think God’s only command is not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but that is not the case. God’s first commands are: 1) Be fruitful and multiply (bear children) and 2) fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion (work in the world). 

These commands of work/labor are some of the ways we are connected to the image of God- the One who created all things and sustains them. So why should we work? Because we bear the image of God when we work. Use your gifts creatively. Work hard, because it honors the God who provides all things for us. It honors Jesus, who came to this earth, worked as a carpenter for most likely over a decade, before giving his life to full-time ministry. After all that, He subdued death itself by dying on a cross, working to put an end to the dreadful curse. 

Work, and carry God’s likeness everywhere you go!

Lord God, you have given us work so that we may be like you. Thank you for entrusting us with so much responsibility. Now give us the strength and the Spirit to carry your image to this world through the various ways we serve and work and labor among your creation. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.


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Your Way + Your Will

man staring at white sky taken at daytime
 
For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me.  Isaiah 8:11

I remember as a young child, when our family moved to a new neighborhood and I was to attend a new school.  I was a bit more shy in my younger years.  As my parents walked me into this new school, they put a hand on my shoulder.  This was not out of fear that I would bolt and run.  They promised me—gave me their word—that I was going to be just fine in this new environment.  The hand on my shoulder was one of comfort and security.  This hand of the one who loved me and gave me life was a sign that all was good and right. 

The heavenly Father does the same with His children.  We live in an imperfect world, which often causes us fear and worry.  We walk into each new day not knowing what we will face.  The Lord does two important things.  He gives us His Word that all will be fine.  He puts His hand on our shoulder to give us the assurance that His strength is on our side, protecting and directing us.  We never know what the future holds, but we know for sure who it is that holds the future.
 
This is why it is important for us to begin each day in His Word.  It is important that we hear the reassuring voice of the Savior and feel His strong hand on our shoulder.
 
I face challenges each day.  So do you.  We need to remember that it is not about the size of our problems, but it is about the size of our God.  His love never fails!

Father in heaven, thank You for the guidance You give to me each day.  There are those times that I would like to go in a different direction, but I trust in Your way and in Your will.  Strengthen my trust in You and my joy in living under the touch of Your hand.  Amen.  


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Season of Change (Part 3)

open bible book on brown wooden panel

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

This week we’ve been facing the fact that fall is coming and we might as well admit it. Much of getting ready is familiar. It’s finding the same rake you’ve had for years. It’s calling the same furnace repair man whose number is pasted on the side of your furnace. It’s getting your favorite sweatshirt out of the drawer, noticing that it’s been ten years now since the Packers ended the 2010 season by winning the Superbowl. Maybe it’s time for a new sweatshirt.

So, will you try something new this fall? That might take some persuading. I like my familiar things, old sweatshirts and old tools. Change comes best when it’s a gift. When someone gives me something and says, “Here, you’ll like this.” It’s like when our town librarian asks if I’ve ever read a certain author. She says, “Well, you like James Patterson (which I do!) and so I think you’ll like this one too.” How can I refuse? I’ve found a number of great books thanks to those suggestions.

Here, try something new and see if it works. Isn’t it surprising that God says that also in our text? He offers us a new mind and then says, “Try it, see if it works.” We might have expected God to say simply, “Do this.” Fair enough. But here God says that we can take the renewed mind that he gives us and try it out. He even says that we can judge if his way, his mind, works. God is confident that his mind brings the life that he has in mind for us. It’s new to us but old and tested to Him. Here’s his mind, fixed on forgiveness, peace, and kindness. He says, “Try my way. Millions have and it’s worked. Go ahead, try something new.” How can we refuse that kind of offer?  Lord, give us a new mind, your mind of hope and patience. I bet it’ll work.

Our Heavenly Father, what an offer!  You give us a new mind and let us see it work. Give us a mind that’s modeled after you, with faith, hope and love and every other gift you have. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Thirsty

Ball mason jar on table
 
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, asa] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  John 7:37-39

Is there anything more terrible than being parched?  You forgot the water on the hike…you brought water for your softball game, but it was gone by the 3rd inning and now it’s the 10th…you’re on a new medication whose only purpose so far seems to be to suck every last little bit of moisture out of your mouth.

And is there anything better than a cool drink of water to quench that thirst?   Nope.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus loves to talk about physical things, visceral things, earth-y things.  Being parched is something we can all relate to – and so is quenching that thirst.

Enter the Holy Spirit, the One whom Jesus would give after He had been glorified.

The work of the spirit is not talked about in fluffy language.  His work is not described by lines of poetry.  No…the Spirit’s work is described by a palpable human need: thirst.

Our response has to be “Yes, Lord, I’m thirsty.  My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.  I’m parched.  I can’t go on.  I need You!”

We are hungry and need to be fed, sheep who need to be led, lost and need a way, branches that that needs a vine, dead bodies that need to be raised.

And Jesus is all of it, for us.

Gracious Father, continue to work by Your Spirit in the deep places of my heart, so that I see and acknowledge how thirsty I am.  Then, Loving Father, fill me up by Your Spirit so that out of my heart might flow rivers of Living Water.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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