Thursday, 16 February 2017

Living a Life of Love

Dear Friends,


I've been thinking a lot about love this week. About God's love for me, my love for him and his calling on my life to love others.


Do I live a life of love? Is my life characterised by love?


"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that" Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)


The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

"Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance."

Lawrence Richards in his book 'Encyclopedia of Bible Words' (Zondervan, 1991) writes about Love's Lifestyle and brings out 7 points. Today we are going to look briefly at these 7 points.


1. Love creates community

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 (NLT)

You and I are God's family. There is a bond between us. We are connected to each other. We may be a group of people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different ages etc, but the moment we come together, even if we are strangers, there is an immediate connection with each other because of our love for God and one another.


"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)


Our community should be characterised by unconditional love and acceptance. A place where we encourage and support one another, celebrate together and cry together.


2. Love prompts obedience

Jesus said this: "Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them." John 14:21 (NLT)

Our obedience does not come from a sense of duty or fear of punishment, but we obey because we love God and want to do what pleases him.


3. Love provides motivation

Our love for God is what motivates us to live for God and love others. It is God's love in us that motivates us to love and serve others. I would do anything for my own family because I love them. Nothing they ask is too much. But I wonder if I have this same love those outside of my family? I find that a challenging thought!

If I'm not motivated by my love for God, I will be serving and doing things with wrong motives and wrong attitudes. My actions will become more about me and less about God and others. I need that same servant heart that Jesus had.


Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian believers: "We give thanks to God always for all of you, continually mentioning you in our prayers;  recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith, and your service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (AMP)


4. Love transforms character
Christ exemplified a life of love. He was compassionate, kind, gentle, patient, forgiving. His love was all inclusive, no one was excluded from his love and he often went out of his way to show love to those who were considered unlovable.

As Christians, we are to grow more like Christ. When we are open to the work of the Holy Spirit he can change us from within and make us more like Christ. 

The more like Christ we become, the more we will demonstrate his love to others. Our love for others will be evident in our speech, our actions and our attitudes.


"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2 (NLT)


The Amplified Bible puts it this way: "And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]."


5. Love provides purpose

Love is the reason behind what we do. We serve others because of our love for God and what he has done for us.

Our purpose behind what we do is not for selfish reasons, it's not to gain recognition, it's not because we expect anything in return. We do what we do for love. It's a love that seeks to do good to all and points others to God. When people question why we are doing what we do it gives us the opportunity to share with them about God's love for them. 


"Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others]." 1 Peter 4:8 (AMP)


6. Love compels concern
"For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV)

Christ's love for us compels us to live for him rather than living for ourselves. It compels us to share the good news with others.

Our love for others is about having a practical concern for them. It's more than expressing sympathy which says "I'm sorry you're going through that" but a concern, a compassion, which leads to love in action. 

7. Love stabilises relationships
"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)

If we were to love others like this, just think what our relationship with one another would look like!

To Think About:
Consider the 7 points above. Which one would you say is a strength of yours? 

Which of the 7 points do you find more challenging?  How could you become stronger in that area?

Spend time over the week asking God what he wants to say to you regarding each of the 7 points.

Vicki

If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1517787955/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487243591&sr=1-1&keywords=Vicki+Cottingham



Friday, 10 February 2017

"You Complete Me"

Dear Friends,


At this time of year, many people's thoughts turn to love and Valentine's Day. For some, it's a day to look forward to as they look for ways to express love to someone they care about and as they wait to receive expressions of love in return. For others, it can be a painful reminder of love lost or feeling that they have no-one who loves them as they desire to be loved.

Each one of us longs to be loved and accepted. We were made for relationships. We can experience many forms of love, whether it's the love of parents for a child (and vice versa), love between siblings, love of a good friend, love between girlfriend and boyfriend, or husband and wife etc.

As much as we can receive and give love within these relationships, no one person was ever meant to meet all our needs. One person cannot totally satisfy our need to be loved and accepted. If we look for that person to do so, they will end up frustrated that they are not able to be all that we need them to be, and we will end up disappointed and disillusioned.

As much as I love my husband I can never provide him with all the love he needs. I cannot meet every need he has. As much as I love my parents, my sister, my children, etc I cannot meet and fulfill all their needs. And neither can they for me.

We search for love and the one who will "complete me". But these are false expectations. No person can make us feel complete or whole. When we realise that our expectations have not been met, we turn to another relationship in the hopes that this one will satisfy us. We can end up going from one relationship to another as we seek to find "the one".

The truth is that no one can ever complete us - save one. This is the good news I want to share today. Christ, and Christ alone, is the one who completes you and me. Only he can make us whole.

"For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority." Colossians 2:10 (NLT)

All that we need and ever will need is found in a relationship with Christ.

Paul's prayer for all believers is "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; 19 and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]." Ephesians 3:17-19 (AMP)

God is the only one who can give us all the love and acceptance our hearts are searching for. We will never receive unending, limitless, unconditional love and total acceptance from another human. We were not made with the capacity to provide for others in this way.

But, in God, we can know what it truly means to be completely loved and accepted.

Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (AMP)

Nothing can separate us from God's love.  He will never stop loving us.  He will never abandon us. 

The psalmist wrote: "But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth." Psalm 86:15 (HCSB)

Can you say with John: "We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his loveGod is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." 1 John 4:16-18 (NLT)

When we have experienced this love for ourselves we are then free and able to love others in the way we were meant to love them and also free to accept the love that they have for us. We no longer need to look to them to fulfill all our needs.

"Beloved, let us [unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. 8 The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.]" 1 John 4:7-8 (AMP)

To Think About:
Have there been times in the past when you have looked to others to meet your need to be loved and accepted?  What was the result of this and how has it affected your relationships?

What difference does it make knowing God loves you completely? If you find it hard to believe this, ask God to help you to know deep within your soul that you are loved by him. Ask him to show you what it means to be loved by him.

Think about your relationships with others. In what ways can you show them love? Think about them individually - what love action would demonstrate best that you love them? Is it spending time with them? Giving them a meaningful gift? Using your words? Physical touch, such as a hug? Doing something for them?

Vicki

Friday, 3 February 2017

God - the Maker and Keeper of Promises

Dear Friends,


When I was a child, back in the seventies, (yes, I really am that old!) our family had a Promise Box. In this box were many small pieces of paper rolled up and tweezers. Some mornings, during our family quiet time we would take it in turn to choose one of these scrolled papers. On each paper was a Bible verse - a promise of God. I used to enjoy it when it came to my turn to pick one and read what was written on it.


The Bible is full of God's promises. God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. He is always true to his word. Always trustworthy. Always dependable. There are so many examples in the Bible of the promises he made to his people and the fulfillment of those promises.  


God makes unconditional promises - they are based on who he is, on his faithfulness and not on our actions or faithlessness. He is a God who cannot lie.


Keep in mind that the LORD your God is [the only] God. He is a faithful God, who keeps his promise and is merciful to thousands of generations of those who love him and obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9 (GW)

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. 21 It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22 and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NLT)
Some of God's promises to his people were only partially fulfilled in their lifetime. For example, some of the promises God made to Abraham were fulfilled during Abraham's lifetime, whilst others came to pass many years later. Yet Abraham kept believing in the promises God had made to him because he knew God was faithful to his Word.

We read in Hebrews 11:13  All these died in faith (you can read about them in the earlier verses of that chapter) [guided and sustained by it], without receiving the [tangible fulfillment of God’s] promises, only having seen (anticipated) them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (AMP)


I recently read about a woman who would write down a promise of God in her notebook whenever she read one in her Bible. Sometimes she would write next to the promise the name of someone she believed the promise was for, such as a spouse, child, friend etc.


I thought this was such a good idea I've decided to implement it in my own life and keep a notebook next to my Bible and pen, ready for when I have my daily devotional time. I'm going to include the date with it so that I know when I read it and also a second date next to it when it is fulfilled.


I'm not talking about randomly writing down any promise verse. What I mean is, when I read my Bible each morning, if God shows me a promise within that reading or if he reveals it through another source (such as a daily Bible verse, or email devotionals, or a friend), then I shall write it down.


It will be a great resource to have. To be able to go back through it and re-read God's promises will encourage me and strengthen my faith and help me in my prayers, both for myself and for others. It will also be something I can leave behind for my children. Part of my legacy to them.


If any of my friends want to join me in this new adventure with God revealing his truth in his Word, then it would be great to get together regularly to share what we have in our notebooks. 😄


I'm excited to see what will be written down in my notebook over the coming year. I already have two promises for starters. If you've read my earlier blogs this year, you will know that they are Proverbs 3:5-6 and Isaiah 41:10.


To Think About:
Are there any particular promises of God which you are holding on to?

Do you continue to trust God even though you may have waited a long time for his promise to be fulfilled?

Will you join me in keeping a notebook and writing down the promises of God as you read them in the Bible? If  you don't want to keep a notebook you may like to highlight the promises you read in your Bible and mark the date beside each one. If you're especially creative, you may like to start making your own Promise Box.

Vicki