Tag Archives: love

Isaiah 12-15; Romans 12

Romans 12 is one of those portions of scripture that I often find myself in a love/hate relationship with. It contains such great encouragement! But it also contains such difficult instructions and directions.

In verse one, we’re reminded to live in light of what Jesus did for us on the cross. How do we do that? By living surrendered to God in body, mind, and spirit. This is how we find freedom, and this is how we can discover the will of God in our lives. Ultimately, when we live surrendered, we learn to see through God’s eyes:

First, we can see ourselves through God’s eyes, and that causes us to live in humility. It causes us to live our gifts without comparing our gifts. It causes us to serve others without worrying what they will do in return.

And then we can see how this humility causes us to see our brothers and sisters in Christ through God’s eyes. It allows us to recognize that there can be diversity in unity. It causes us to value our differences, our unique personalities, and various gifts that God created us with. It allows us to be generous and welcoming. It allows us to treasure others and treat them in such a way to make them feel treasured.  It allows us to love with an enduring and sacrificial love.

Finally, it allows us to see outsiders and enemies through God’s eyes. It moves us to forgive when we’ve been hurt. It gives us the ability to meet others halfway, to extend mercy, to seek harmony, and be generous even when people attempt to take advantage of us or mistreat us. It causes us to seek peace – to chase after it, and to make every effort to have it, even with the people who constantly provoke us. And it’s what allows us to overcome their evil with good – the goodness that can only come from God’s grace as we live surrendered to His will.

The “Romans 12 Christian” is one I long to be, but I must confess, I fail more often than I succeed.

Instead of seeing myself accurately, I often get puffed up in my skills and attribute them o myself instead of seeing them as gifts from God to be used for His glory. I can easily fall into the trap of comparing myself to others to justify my own shortcomings. And I struggle greatly to serve others if I don’t think I’ll get anything out of it.

Instead of seeing my brothers and sisters in Christ accurately, I often find myself impatient with them, feeling frustrated with the differences in everything from gifts and talents, to personality and communication styles. I struggle to devote myself to others and to be generous and sacrificial, instead focusing on how I wish they’d be more like me.

And I especially struggle with those who are outsiders or enemies. I don’t like choosing forgiveness. I’d much rather nurse the hurt into a grudge that demands justice. I’d much rather focus on my rights. I’d much rather focus on their failures. And I’d much rather justify my sinful behavior as a result of their provocation. But God calls me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven – “In view of God’s mercy.”

And so, in view of God’s mercy, I will choose humility in how I see myself and others.

In view of God’s mercy, I will value the differences between believers.

In view of God’s mercy, I will extend forgiveness when it’s undeserved.

In view of God’s mercy, I will seek peace and pursue it.

In view of God’s mercy, I will make every effort to love as I’ve been loved.

In view of God’s mercy, I will live surrendered.

 

Father, in Jesus’ name, thank you for the mercy you showed me at the cross. Thank you for offering your one and only Son to take my place on the cross and to rise again, defeating death, so that I could live with You. Help me to live in the light of that mercy. Help me never to forget it or take it for granted. Rather, let it move me to surrender. Let it move me to love as I’ve been loved. And let me learn to overcome evil with good by letting Your love flow through me. Amen.

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Isaiah 4-5; Romans 2; Psalm 115-116

Psalm 116 NIV

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

6 The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,

9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”;

11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.

16 Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.

18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the LORD– in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.

 

Oh, the love of Jehovah.

He heard me. He paid attention to me. He was moved by my plea.

He stretched himself to reach me.

How can I do anything else with my life but tell of His love, His power, His deliverance – for His glory?

I was dying. I was dead.

I was overcome by sin, and powerless to free myself.

I was physically and emotionally broken.

But then I called out to God. I begged Him to rescue me, to save my life, and to save my soul.

And He did.

Because He is full of mercy and love. He is compassionate and gracious.

He is good, even though I am not.

He rescued me, and He keeps on rescuing me.

He teaches me and grows my understanding of Him, of me, and of the world around me.

Now I can rest in Him.

Now I need not work and labor and be overcome by life.

Now I need not give in to worry and anxiety about the future or the past.

Because He has been good to me. And He continues to be good to me.

He was good when He delivered my soul from death.

He is good when He delivers me from my fears and sorrows.

He is good when He keeps my feet secure and holds me up when I begin to fall.

And so I can walk freely and confidently as a testimony of His goodness and grace.

I trust in Him, so I can speak with confidence before Him.

I can express myself to Him when I’m fearful, overwhelmed, and discouraged.

I can express myself when it feels like the world is against me.

And He will rescue me again like He has done before.

How can I ever repay such love and kindness?

I will tell of His love and share His mercy with those around me.

I will live to reflect His grace and power.

I will worship Him both in word and deed.

I will show my love by my life surrendered to His glory and will.

May I never grow tired of sharing how God has delivered me from death.

May I never grow tired of sharing with others how they, too, can find life.

May I rest in the confidence that I have been a faithful servant.

May gratitude never leave my heart or my mouth.

May I glorify the Lord as long as I live.

 

Father, thank you for rescuing me. Let me never forget it or take it for granted. Help me to find confidence to share your rescuing love with those around me. Help me to live for your honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

 

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Joel 1-3; 1 Thess. 3

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV

In our reading today there is a huge contrast. In Joel we read about the hardship that the Lord’s people were experiencing. Joel called Judah to repent and cry out to God for salvation. The Lord responded with compassion and saved them and their land and cattle. Then the Lord called them to war.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul was so encouraged to hear about the faith of the Thessalonians and their consistent belief in Jesus. He encouraged them to continue and to increase their love for each other and everyone else. Paul asked the Lord to increase their love.

I have to be honest and say I have always struggled with the contrast between The Old Testament and The New Testament. I have taken classes and understand the cultural conditions that existed during each time. I have taken many classes and read many books about theology. However, I still cannot understand the contrast between the God that calls for war and the God that calls for peace and love.

So what do we do? I have learned from a mentor that I don’t force an answer where there is not a clear one. I wait. I wait for wise council, I wait for the Holy Spirit’s leading and and I wait for confirmation. Currently, in my life, I have been led by the Spirit to love and not turn the shovel in my garage into a sword. I don’t give answers I don’t have. I will answer, “I don’t know.”

So friends, as we wait for the Lord’s return… as week seek to follow the Lord’s leading… as we share the “good news” that has changed our lives, let us also be comfortable in the spaces of contrast and unknown.

Dear God, I pray as Paul did that you would strengthen our hearts so that they would be blameless and holy in your presence. Allow us to be confident in who You are even in the unknown. May we sense your nearness and love because You first loved us. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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1 Kings 4-5; 2 Chronicles 2

Solomon’s vast wisdom, given by God, reaped many wonderful rewards for him personally, and for Kingdom and his people:

He established structure and organization that brought a balance with leadership and a peace to the people. He won over all his enemies so that the land experienced peace and safety, and the people of his kingdom were happy. They had all that they wanted and needed and it brought them joy. And Solomon himself was rich and had many benefits from his wise decisions.

Because of the peace, safety, and wealth, of the nation, the time finally arrived for Solomon to construct the temple. Again, he used wisdom, and again God blessed him for it! He sought help from Lebanon and received it; and in the midst of his interaction with this pagan king, Solomon gave testimony to our God, the One True God, in an attempt lead Hiram to salvation.

Having the material and ready to begin building, Solomon yet again showed his incredible wisdom in the way he managed the workers, hiring three times as many as were necessary, in order to work out shifts of work so that no man would be gone from home for a vast amount of time.

Is it any wonder the people loved this king?

Solomon didn’t use his intellect to rule harshly, to wage war on other nations, or to elevate himself. Instead, he used his wisdom to love God and love others.

Wisdom without love and compassion only serves to make a person arrogant, conceited, and harsh. But wisdom that seeks to honor God and show love to others brings about peace, safety, and joy.

I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon, but still, I must consider – how do I lead? How do I use the wisdom God has given me? Do I use it to lead with love and compassion, or do I use it to separate myself from others and become rude or harsh in my decisions?

God’s blessings came through Solomon’s humility. If I want God’s blessings in my life, I, too, must choose humility.

Lord, I want to love You and love others in the decisions I make. Help me to use the wisdom you’ve given me to glorify you, not myself. Help me to see the people I interact with as you see them, and help me to go the extra mile to benefit them with the choices I make. Thank you for Jesus’ example of wisdom and love, as He became the lowest servant to love the least of these. Help me to follow in His steps and make my decisions based on what glorifies you and benefits others and not just how I, myself, will benefit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

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2 Samuel 21-23; 2 Cor. 7; Psalms 55

“There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it.  And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.”  So the king summoned the Gibeonites.  They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites.  The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out.  David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?”  2 Samuel 21:1-3 NLT

“So David asked the Lord about it.”  This sentence jumps off the page at me.  It doesn’t say that David questioned God, but instead he asked him a question like a trusted friend.  It doesn’t say that he was worried or upset.  His faith in God was secure. He knew who to turn to during a hard season, that was lasting a long time.  Where has there been a famine in my own life? An unanswered prayer or unfulfilled dream? The waiting is hard, but David knew enough about God’s character, that he didn’t lose heart.  

“David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul.  He sang: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.  He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.  he is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.” 2 Samuel 22:1-3 NLT

I find myself listening intently to David’s last words.

“These are the last words of David: “David the son of Jesse, speaks- David, the man who was raised up so high, David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, David, the sweet psalmist of Israel.  “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his words are upon my tongue.  The God if Israel spoke.  The Rock of Israel said to me: ‘The one who rules righteously, who rules in the fear of the God, is like the light of morning at sunrise, like a morning without clouds, like the gleaming sun on new grass after rain.’  2 Samuel 23:1-4 

God hears a repentive heart.  Is there anything that I am holding onto that I need to give over to him?

“Because we have these promised, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit.  And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.  Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such readiness to punish wrong.  You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. ” 2 Corinthians 7:1,-11 NLT

Dear Father, Help me to have a faith like David.  To remember your faithfulness, your promises and your unfailing love for me. Amen.

“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalms 55:22 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

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1 Corinthians 14; Psalms 139

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.  You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.  You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!  You made the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous-how well I know it.”  Psalms 139:1-14 NLT

I sat in the doctor’s office reciting my health history.  Thyroid cancer, acid reflux, anxiety… My 43 years were being summarized by this list on the screen.  I battled against fear and repeated, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” But, do I really believe it?  Has it sunk in enough that I can praise God for how he has made me?  Do I live like I am fully known and loved by Him?

“Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives-especially the ability to prophesy.  For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you.  You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious.  But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. ” 1 Corinthians 14:1-3 NLT

I was ready to go into the auditorium at church when I saw her crying in the hallway.  Another woman was there to comfort her. But should I stay and help? As I read these verses on gifting, I remember, ‘Let love be my highest goal’.  If it truly is, than am I willing to be inconvenienced for the unity of the body?  For some that might mean prophesying or speaking in tongues.  For me that morning it meant noticing someone in need.  Isn’t that what church is really all about anyway?  Showing up for each other and being vulnerable, when it would be easier to come and go unnoticed.

“Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize.  When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said.  But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.” 1 Corinthians 14:26 NLT 

Thank you Father for how you have made me.  That you give me abilities and gifts in the spirit.  I pray that I would use them for you.  Give me discernment and wisdom. Amen.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalms 139:&24 NLT.

Amy(amyctanner)

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1 Corinthians 12; Psalm 140

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, where everything goes wrong and you feel like an idiot? And then the thoughts start running through your mind…

“God can’t use me. There are others who are so much better. I’m not like them, so I’m not good enough.”

Or maybe it was one of those other days. The ones where you’re ready to go and someone slows you down. Then the thought process goes more like…

“This makes sense to me. Why can’t she understand this? Why don’t they just do it my way? This would be so much easier if I could just do it myself.”

Unity in diversity. It’s a great idea; but sometimes, unfortunately, it’s simply that: an idea. Especially within the church. It’s so easy to begin to see differences as a negative and to get caught up in comparison, for better or for worse.

But our differences were part of God’s plan.

1 Corinthians 12 (NIV)

Verses 4-6:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Verse 12:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

Verse 15-17:
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

Verses 21-22
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

Instead of comparing myself to others, I need to focus on honoring others. I need to remember that we are all on the same team. The ones who are stronger, I can support and respect as I follow in their footsteps. The ones who are weaker, I can encourage and strengthen as they grow in their faith.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NIV)
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Father, thank you for the diversity in the church and for your supernatural grace to bring about unity in the midst of the differences we all have. Thank you for you caring enough about each of us to give us a purpose and role in your church and in your mission to rescue the world. Forgive me for making your mission about me and comparing myself to others. Help me to build up the body of Christ and help me to see others as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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