A Life of Crazy Love

In my experience, debate/ argument is valued by many Christians. Honestly, I used to be included in that group. I loved a good debate, where I made my point (and of course won ūüėČ ). My desire to be right has diminished in recent years, which I’m sure I can only attribute to God. I still enjoy having challenging conversations about things that are important, but I think I have a stronger value for how the other person feels during the discourse.

A couple weeks ago, I turned on my Bible app’s audible reading option. Because I was busy coloring, I listened to Romans 8 all the way into the next book, 1 Corinthians! It was eye opening to listen to all those passages strung together. (I highly recommend listening to big passages of Scripture read out loud. You get so much out of it!) Anyway, a theme came to my attention. Our actions as believers should be chosen because of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Paul specifically addressed how to live with those who had different convictions on what was okay to eat. Today, this can be applied to diet restrictions or any other kind of restriction a person places on them self because they feel led to. It is made clear that each person will give an account to God and that it’s not the place of any other believer to judge their choices.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

What a humbling way to live: for others. To make every decision based on how it ¬†would effect the people around us seems a little crazy! We have been given the perfect example of this kind of living in Jesus, though. He showed love, sought after others, did not seek to quarrel, and ultimately died for people who didn’t deserve to be loved. We are called to be like Jesus. It takes a whole lot of vulnerability and humility, but it flows from our receiving this very mind-blowing gift ourselves. We’re just passing along a little bit of what we have been given.

So how can you put your brothers and sisters in Christ first this week? And beyond the family of God, how can you show this crazy love to those who don’t know Jesus?

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Take Heart

Trials will come. We live in a world broken with sin, have an enemy who wants to destroy us, and are also¬†in the process of sanctification. Knowing the reasons why we go through hard things, doesn’t usually make them any easier. The great news is that we are not left alone in our troubles. Jesus has gone before us and we can cry out to our Father God. The Holy Spirit also¬†leads us¬†as we seek Him.

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 NASB).

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB).

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10 NASB).

So take heart.

Cast your cares.

He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

“The disposition… to leave the dearest objects of our hearts in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is now answering our prayers in His own time and way, and in the best manner, involves a present process of inward crucifixion which is obviously unfavorable to the growth and even the existence of the life of self.” (T.C. Upham)

We are kept even as we struggle. Jesus said,¬†“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).

So keep on keeping on. Keep following. Take heart because you are held, loved, and cared for.

 

Hosea

“For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold– which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8)

This portion of Scripture is talking about a harlot, a wife who is unfaithful. It is an analogy that represents God’s people, Israel, though. Even now, Christians are called the Bride of Christ. We belong to Him.

In chapters 2 and 3 of Hosea, the man’s wife only comes back to him when she can’t receive sustanainse from her lovers. It wasn’t clear to her that her husband was providing quite well for her, but rather she thought her lovers were. She used the bountiful gifts given to her by her husband to serve other men, foreign god’s, and her own self.

The analogy is pointing to God’s people serving other gods with what He has given them. Specifically, Baal was named here, but in our American culture, our gods could be success, busyness, or influence.

Because the woman did not recognize the gifts as from her husband and used them to serve the purposes of worshipping false gods, they were taken from her. (Hosea 2:9-11) All that she had received from her gods and her lovers will be taken from her. (Hosea 2:12-13) Then, when she has been brought low, her husband brings her out to the wilderness and comforts her, gives her gifts, and restores the love relationship. (Hosea 2:14-16)

I love this story! As God’s people, how often do we forget that everything we have is from Him and for Him? ¬†Yet, in our forgetfulness and rebellion and focus on other things, God’s goal is to bring us back into a restored relationship with Him. That restoration involves spending time in the wilderness. Who really wants to go to a desolate place? But if it is a place where God comforts us and draws us back to Himself, maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of it.

Who’s Visiting the Mental Realm

What would Jesus do? A decade or so ago this catch phrase was popular, but now it’s considered cliche. Often we subconsciously ask, “What would mom do in this situation?” or “What would dad do?” or “What would my friend do?” or even, “What would a certain celebrity or leader do?” Sometimes this can be a good thing, especially if they are seeking after Jesus or living in a healthy manor. As a daily habit, though, it can take us off track. I think it’s important to ask who or what inhabits our mind. Because who and what we think about will shape who we become.

So who do you want to become like? Aspiring to have certain qualities we see in another person can be a good thing. We must be careful not to place a person on a pedastool and expect them to be perfect, though. In the end, that only leads to hurt.

I have to remind myself that Jesus is my main example. I’ve begun reading ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ which documents the thoughts and discoveries of Brother Lawrence. As you can probably guess by the title, he was very good at inviting God into his brain-space.

“When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself.” (‘The Practice of the Presence of God’)

In a letter he wrote, Brother Lawrence freely admitted that the first few years of striving to think of God often was extremely difficult and disheartening. Yet, it had become such a valuable part of his relationship with God and he recommended the habit to all he came into contact with. I think it’s encouraging to know that the mental realm doesn’t have to be won by tomorrow, nor does failure after failure have to make us quit. There is hope for the kind of closeness with God that Brother Lawrence experienced. There is hope that our minds will be filled with good, positive things. There is always hope. So strive towards that hope set before you!

Paul talked about “dying” in suffering like Christ so, “by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11) The road to freedom is marked by this dying; a relationship with God will inevitably come with suffering. Yet, we are not to run from hardship. The battle of the mind is pivotal and we can’t run from the struggle.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

57. The Catalyst: Prayer

Prayer. It means many different things to many people. For the American culture, prayer is mostly a stress-reliever , pray to some higher being who may or may not be there. You find so much more power in prayer when you pray according to promises and who God wants His people to be, though.

Last week, I wrote on how God is capable of doing anything. But, as I’ve been learning, a foundation of prayer usually comes before God moves. He can certainly move of His own will, but in much of life our prayers of faith allow God to work in and around us.

While there are multiple tricks to praying effectively so that God moves, there’s one in particular I’d like to share. ‘War Room’ introduced the idea of praying the Bible to me. In the movie, the main character begins writing out certain verses to pray over herself and her family. It inspired me. I asked God to show me the verses He wanted me to pray over myself and others. Some of them made no sense at the time and I even tried to ignore them, searching for a different verse instead. Looking back, though, I can see how praying each and every verse prepared me and my family for what was to come.

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Praying scripture funnels our prayers toward God’s will, heart, and promises. When we simply pray our emotions and thoughts, we miss out. There is a melding together of God’s purpose and our concerns while praying scripture. The verse becomes a guide for the prayer. If you think it sounds boring, I dare you to try it.

Just a few examples:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

God, help me to run to You when I am thirsty- when I desire more. Help me not to go to empty wells for the life and pleasure I desire.

“He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” -2 Kings 18:5

God, I want to trust You. Build in me a heart that trusts You and Your leading in any situation. Let others see that quiet trust and praise You.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” -1 Corinthians 7:17

Grow contentment in me to be where You have placed me. Let me value who You made me to be, and not go running after something else.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we hold against the enemy and for letting loose God’s power, especially when that prayer is guided by the Word of God.