Love is Everything

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” [1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV]

1427703_27664717I was thinking about this passage last night, and all of a sudden a whole new level of depth opened up for me. It specifically mentions a few areas where love is important – communication, knowledge, faith and generosity. If we have all these things perfect, but don’t act in love, they are useless.

The thing is, this spreads to every area of life really. I mean, how many times do we hear on those reality cooking competitions ‘there is no love in this food’? Even if they used the right techniques and skills and it looked great, sometimes there is just not that extra wow that comes with love.

And again, when you listen to a skilled musician or watch a graceful dancer — without the love, it all becomes mechanical and doesn’t have the same impact.

It’s like love is the invisible foundation beneath all of life and without it, the world is colourless and meaningless. A world without love is no world at all.

Of course, when you think that GOD IS LOVE, it all makes sense. He’s in everything and He’s everywhere. That love — HIM — underpins all of life. So then, without Him, there is no life. When everything else is gone, love still remains. I’d say He’s a good thing to hold onto then.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” [1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV]

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Published in: on 2nd September, 2013 at 10:50 am  Comments (1)  
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You Can’t Escape the Pruning Saw

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4

Pruning of  trees with secateursWhile I have read this Scripture many times before — it is one of my favourites — it hadn’t occurred to me that no matter which way you live, you still receive attention from the pruning saw. However, only one of these forms of attention is worth enduring.

If we waste our time, live for ourselves, take no note of His will for us — in other words walk in disobedience — and therefore be ineffective and fruitless, of what use are we? The same as a tree with dried up branches that doesn’t bear fruit or even shady leaves. It is only good for firewood. Ouch!

On the other hand if we use our time wisely, following the Word of the Lord and living our best in Him and therefore producing fruit in our lives, God then prunes us in order that we increase in that fruit.

The fruit might be growth within our own lives, or seeing other people saved, or even helping others grow in their faith. But He prunes us, cuts back the offshoots so that we become stronger and can carry more responsibility. It’s a scary thought really, and it can be painful to go through these seasons of pruning, but in the end when we look back, we often find ourselves surprised at where God has taken us — beyond our dreams in many cases.

So, then, even if it is a painful process, I think I would rather be pruned for the furtherance of His kingdom than to be thrown in the fire. How about you?

Published in: on 19th August, 2013 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Finding the Balance

‘We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.’ [1 Timothy 1:8 NIV]

Image by Kostya Kisleyko

Image by Kostya Kisleyko

This verse stood out to me when I was reading my Bible last week. It reminded me of what we say about many things in life when used properly. For example a nail gun. When used properly this tool is very helpful, but if not, it can be downright dangerous.

So then, the law, if not used properly can be dangerous too? Or at the least detrimental? It made me think and reflect on different Scriptures.

The law, when adhered to stringently, can be binding. We can become so inflexible on rules and regulations that we lose sight of grace. We become unbending and judgmental to those around us.

On the other hand, if we become too liberal, taking advantage of the grace offered us through Christ’s death on the cross, we disrespect all that He has done for us. As it says in Hebrews 10, ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.’

Therefore, it seems we must find a balance — use the law properly. The law must be written on our heart as a high standard we aspire to, though with the knowledge that if we fail from time to time, we are covered by the grace wrought on the cross. Neither living in condemnation nor without any self-control or discipline. The law, when used properly serves to protect us and help us be the best we can be.

Where are you today? On the legalistic, judgmental side, or too liberal with your morality, or have you found the right balance?

Published in: on 24th June, 2013 at 10:52 am  Comments (4)  
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Lavish Grace

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” [Ephesians 1:7-10 NIV]

Photo by Charles Thompson

Photo by Charles Thompson

I love the thought that God lavishes His grace on us. It sounds so generous and extravagant, and wouldn’t you know it, when I looked up the meaning of lavish, that is exactly what it said – ‘bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.’

Lavish can also have the connotation of haphazardness, to me anyway. To lavish sounds spontaneous and an expression of largess. But God is in no way haphazard or careless in how He tosses His grace around. He uses all His wisdom and understanding – it is purposeful. He specifically poured out abundant grace on you and I, in order to bring us into life with Christ.

His grace is a wonderful, extravagant, designed and purposeful gift. And the gift is sealed by the Holy Spirit in our lives — proof of His grace and approval — proof that we belong to Him.

How cool is that! Could I possibly love Him anymore?

Published in: on 10th June, 2013 at 10:51 am  Comments (2)  
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You Are What You Worship

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold,  made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,  eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,  nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,  and so will all who trust in them.” [Psalm 135:15-18 NIV]

Although in some cultures, people still worship idols, in our western civilization, we worship different man-made idols. It might be our career, it might be our house and car — our material possessions, or it might be our lifestyle. Whatever is most important in our life is what we worship.

The problem is that most of these things can’t do much for us. They can’t speak to us and give us advise on life. They can’t hear or respond to our troubles and struggles. They can’t intervene when we are about to make a bad decision. These things have no life of their own. they are things.

According to these verses, those who make their idols will become like them. Our lives become less than they can be. We can lose  our voice, our heart, our ability to see clearly (in the sense of wisdom). We can become less effective, frozen, shrivelled up.

We  need the life-giving breath of God moving in and out of our lives to have truly abundant life. When we worship God, we become more like Him. That is an image worth heading for, I think. I would rather emulate the living God than bricks and mortar. How about you?

Published in: on 27th May, 2013 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Worthy of the Call

‘With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ [2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NIV]

iStock_000004696356XSmallWhat does it mean to be worthy of our calling? I guess it means we are living it out, rather than sitting around doing nothing. I love that this Scripture says that God does a lot of the work. HE makes us worthy of our calling. HE brings our desires to fruition. HE takes over once we step out in faith to fulfill His purposes in our lives.

On the opposite end of the scale, when we hide away from His purposes for us, we can be likened to the man with the one talent. (See Luke 19). This man hid what he had in the ground, he didn’t even try a little bit. He didn’t step out in faith, even though it meant risking the little he had. As a result, he lost everything.

To be worthy of our calling, all we have to do is step out on the Father’s word and watch Him make our little steps bear fruit.

“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.'” [Luke 19:26 NIV]

 

Published in: on 20th May, 2013 at 8:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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Hands Off

‘David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”’ [2 Samuel 16:11-12 NIV]

Vacant placeI find the way David responded when he heard Absolom was marching against him very hard to take sometimes. You would think he would take up arms and fight for his throne. You would think he would stand up for what was rightly his, God ordained even. But no, he takes his men and leaves the city — retreats.

At first thought, this seems like cowardice, defeatist, weak. But on closer inspection I think David did something that goes against our natural human tendencies. He put his future and his throne in God’s hands.

David had made mistakes, several of them. One of the worst being adultery and murder involving Bathsheba and her husband. He knew he wasn’t entirely guiltless. And he had seen what happened to Saul when that king stopped obeying God — God removed him from the throne. So, perhaps David thought his time was up, that perhaps God had drawn the line.

Instead of rising up in pride with the attitude that the throne belonged to him and that he had a right to it, he humbly stepped back and allowed God to have His way. It is reflected in this one statement he made above. ‘Maybe the Lord will restore me to His blessing.’ He didn’t presume to know God’s will, in spite of receiving several promises on the matter. He simply allowed God to be the one to restore him, instead of doing it in his own strength.

How many of us can say we have acted with such humility when something we think God has promised us seems to have been stolen from under us? Something to think about …

Published in: on 13th May, 2013 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)  
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Flawed Forgiveness?

Yet he was merciful;he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. [Psalm 78:38-39 NIV]

Forgiveness - all within my handsThe first time I read through the Old Testament as a teenager, I became quite frustrated both at the Israelites and at God. At the Israelites because they couldn’t keep their promise to worship only God, turning away from Him over and over again, and at God for continuously forgiving them.

I remember saying out loud one day — ‘Why didn’t God just wipe them out?!’ They didn’t deserve another chance. It was too much.

But then my mum, in all her wisdom, said something which hit home. ‘Aren’t you glad He doesn’t wipe you out?’

Her words shut my mouth. For I knew it. If the Israelites didn’t deserve another chance, another round of forgiveness, then neither did I. If God had given up on His people in the desert, or even through their years in the new land, then surely He would have given up on me. There would have been no sacrifice for our sin — He never would have sent Jesus to the cross.

And so I stand humbled, always grateful for my God’s long-suffering, for His patience and forgiveness that goes beyond the endurance any man could withstand. His forgiveness is not flawed. His forgiveness is perfect and I bow my knee in worship.

What about you? Have you ever thought God’s forgiveness was flawed?

Published in: on 6th May, 2013 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Another Way to Repay

“Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
    let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
    and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
    may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
    may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
    or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
    their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord;
    may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the Lord,
    that he may blot out their name from the earth.”

[Psalm 109:6-15 NIV]

As I was reading this Psalm the other day, I began to think about David and how he lived. David was not the kind of man to lift a finger in revenge. Time and time again he was wronged and he never took matters into his own hands.

King Saul was out to murder him — you can’t get much worse than that — and yet David refused to be involved in his death. And when David was king there were plenty of times when he was betrayed and opposed, but he never acted in vengeance.

Photo by Jesper Noer

Photo by Jesper Noer

But, when you read some of the Psalms, you see what he would like to see done to his enemies. Instead of reacting in anger and bitterness, David went to God and poured out his vengeful thoughts to Him. And in most cases, by the end of the Psalm, David is praising God.

It makes me think — what do we do with our anger? Do we lash out at others? Do we bottle it up and suppress it? Do we plot revenge and hold on to our bitterness?

Perhaps, like David, we should go before God and let it all out. God knows our hearts — He doesn’t mind hearing how angry we are and even if we wished someone were dead. As long as in the process of pouring out our grief to Him, we actually release it and hang on to it no longer. Instead, we should be able to walk away praising our Father in Heaven in the freedom of forgiveness.

Do you have something you need to release today? Take it to the Lord — He has big shoulders. 🙂

Published in: on 29th April, 2013 at 10:42 am  Comments (2)  
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Destiny Shaper

‘When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.’ [1 Samuel 18:6-9]

Photo by Jeff Miller

Photo by Jeff Miller

Do you ever wonder how different history would be if one detail changed? Recently as I was reading this passage, I did exactly that. What if Saul had not reacted to the way the women were praising David higher than he?

When love prevails, we want only the best for those close to us. If Saul was walking in the right attitude, he would have listened to the song of the women and realised he had a special servant in David. If Saul was in the right frame of mind, he would have known the submissive and respectful nature of David’s heart. If Saul was not so self-absorbed, he would have, on the basis of David’s successes and talents, promoted him to more responsibility.

Imagine how different the world would have been if Saul did not take offense to David’s popularity. He might have held on to his kingship for much longer. David may never have been a king. Who knows?

The point is, I guess, that our attitudes can shape our destiny. Saul’s attitude was one of selfishness and suspicion — in the end his whole family lost the honour of being in the royal lineage. He died, and most of his relatives along with him. David, on the other hand, had an attitude of submission to God and even when he was wronged in terrible ways, he would not raise a hand to harm the king. In the end, he became one of the greatest kings of Israel’s history, and generations after him ruled as well.

What attitude are you holding wrong today? Perhaps it is time to hand it over to the Lord and adjust your thinking, so that you can walk into a better, freer, future.

Published in: on 22nd April, 2013 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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