Monday, July 27, 2009

What is love not?

It is not envious nor is it jealous!

When God tells us that love does not envy, He means we need to be happy for who and what we are. We are not to be comparing ourselves with others, nor are we to be jealous, spiteful, or possessive of others, because God is the One in control, and He has a unique plan for you and me. When we hear that a friend receives a promotion before we do, or gets something we wanted, we are to be happy for him/her. If we have a sibling who excels, we should be happy with him/her. If our neighbor has a brand-new car, we should be happy for him/her, and be thankful for the old wreck that we may drive. When our spouse is doing better than we are, we are to be happy for him/her. In other words, we are to be happy for someone else who has something we do not have, even if we do not like it. We must not become possessive, or control freaks, especially where it concerns others and our relationships with them. Being possessive and attempting to control others will cause the destruction of a church very quickly. We will soon lose our contentment, and run ourselves off into that maze of despair, dejection, and desolation. At the very least, this will compromise the church's effectiveness. Love is letting go of our desires and will for a greater love we cannot receive on our own-grace.

Real love is helpful so it does not become jealous or resort to putting others down to make self look good. Real Love helps! Being a loving person comes down to our willingness to either live a life that is Holy Spirit-driven or one that is sin-driven, of pride and will; either it will take us over or He will-it is up to us. If real Love cares more for others than for self, then what does envy do?

If we really love, we will not desire or take what belongs to others. Envy produces the desire to have what others have, their gifts or positions or possessions, and to seek to manipulate or put them down. Envy is misplaced zeal; it is mourning for what we do not have and conniving to get it, even rationalizing and boasting about it. It is also the temptation to compare ourselves with others or to put others down because we fear we can't have what they have, or it will cause us too much work to obtain. This poisons the Holy Spirit's work in us, as it leads to the creation of sin and hostility as well as distrust. Thus, real love will not be self-seeking or create strife or cause disharmony and prejudice toward others. Envy gains the person nothing of real or eternal value; it only pushes the person down further. It also causes us to be resentful of those who have more and thus become angry or bitter or seek to destroy them to make ourselves look better. Paul elsewhere called an envious person an idolater. He said to put to death covetousness, which is idolatry (Num. 25:11-13; Duet. 5:21; Psalm 106:30-31; Luke 6:31; Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:5).

Think back to what the Lord has done for you, so you don't forget His grace, His provisions, and His answered prayers and blessings. We are not to be overcome with the struggles of the moment so we cannot see how He has brought us through them in the past. We are to refresh our memory in Him. We can respond by bringing out the best in our friends and family, always treating them with kindness, the opposite of being envious. God gives to each of us all of His love. It is a love that gives without expectations or a response from the other, so it must be how and who we are.

Questions to ponder

1. What is jealously? Have you struggled with jealousy? How so? What causes it?

2. How can you know when your emotions are out of control with envy?

3. How does or how can being possessive or spiteful, or attempting to control others, cause the destruction of a relationship? How will it destroy a church very quickly?

4. How can you better feel happy for someone else who has something you do not have, even if you do not like them?

5. If you know that jealousy comes from your un-forgiveness and will incite your anger, what can you do to anticipate it, and have a plan to handle it?

More here:

Monday, July 20, 2009

How would you describe “kindness?”

How does a kind word make you feel?

Kind/benign. The simple definition of “kindness” is our practice of benevolence and compassion with a loving attitude towards others. This is “active,” in its nature and meaning, and in its challenge to our complacency and our relationships. Patience calls us to wait, step back, and not retaliate a wrong with a wrong, while this aspect of love tells us to move forward and bestow blessings both to those who are loved and those who are undeserving. Kindness encompasses all of the aspects of love that this passage attests to, and then synergistically puts them into practice. It is allowing our interests and attitudes to be focused upon Christ’s precepts, and pouring them out on others. This act of love, as with the others, is not merely emotional or factual or intellectual; it is not to be rendered by a mere description or emotion or sentiment, or a saying we have on our walls. It must be real and it must flow unrestricted; our understanding of it must affect our behavior so our emotions and thinking are turned, tuned, and true to Christ our Lord’s lead.

Practicing kindness is a principle aspect of goodness, a character listed as a Fruit of the Spirit. The love of kindness synergistically combines with kindness that helps us model righteousness. This is what and how God has called us to be to one another. This character of goodness is the cabinet that holds righteousness in plain view. It is the display case that shows the rest of the godly characters and Fruit of the Spirit, making them real, seen, and used. It moves theory into action and theology into practical care and love. Goodness displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others and allows us to do the right thing even when we do not feel like doing so (Amos 5:15; Prov. 25:22; Matt. 19:16; Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 5:20; 6:6; Gal. 5:17-22; Eph. 4:1-6; 5:8-9; Col. 3:12-17; 1 Peter 3:11; 2 Peter 1:3-8).

Kindness is the essence that shows the world that we are indeed Christians. This character is like the fragrance coming from a flower. It allows our sweet essence and aroma to flow to others. It is being convicted by God’s Word, and then modeling it to others. It is the medium through which Christ’s love becomes tangible in us, so others can touch, feel, and see it. Kindness is the subject to the object of who we are in Christ! Kindness will replace hits, hurts, and fears as well as all the bitterness, malice, and slander—all that is wrong in relationships—if we are willing to receive it from above, and allow it to be poured out from us. It is being willing to take the risk, to “go for it”—regardless of the outcome. To see how kindness can be used in the field of life, just take a look at the life of Joseph (Gen. 37-50).

This love is also an essential makeup of our character. Kindness is the willingness to allow the love within us to be poured out to others, powered by God’s grace and precepts (John 14-15; Rom. 1:16-17; 2:1-17; 8; 11:16-24; 12:9-21; Gal. 5:19-23; Eph. 4:24-5:7; 5:1-2; Phil. 1:3-6; Col. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23; James 1:19; 1 Pet. 1:5-11).

Ask yourself this essential question: Is the love of kindness working in me? If you are not sure, or, if you think you are kind to others—do others agree? How can we be kind when life has hit us hard? Because God is kind to us, thus, we can be kind; furthermore, the kindness He gives us is undeserved! When we grasp the concept of God’s kindness and love, our response must ooze from the pores of our soul. This is kindness. Ephesians 4:31-5:2 gives us not only the picture of this happening, but also the dangers of our pores getting clogged up with pride and anger, resulting in bitterness and slander, the aspects of what love is not.

Questions to Ponder

What must take place in you for kindness to come about from you, even in times of stress and hurt?

How would that display our Lord? How can kindness be an evangelism tool for you and your church?

1. Why can’t love or kindness be faked or superficial?

2. Do you feel that you know the value of God’s love?

3. How can you allow it to affect you and flow to those around you? What would that look like?

What is love? It is kind and it cares!

This aspect of love is active, so it looks for a way to be constructive and useful, to invest in, honor, and declare others valuable. We are to look for the best in other people. We are to spend our energies and time encouraging and building one another up, not tearing them down. We are to bring out the best in our friends and spouses by always treating them with kindness. We are to tell them the truth in love and with care. You see, God takes the circumstances in our lives and uses them in constructive ways for personal growth and for better support for one another. God is not treating us as objects to be manipulated or controlled, because He has given us free will. We should do the same with one another. Therefore, we need to always be seeking the healing of relationships, and be cautious in our judgments toward others.

Real love is self-giving and sacrificial; it is more concerned with others than with self. Here, the image is the sacrificial, costly, and self-denying love of Christ given to us that should also be given to others by us. Yes, one of the hardest things about being a Christian is to show kindness—especially to a person who has hurt us; but, see how much Christ was hurt on our behalf. The point here is that real Christian love will produce kindness; if it does not, something is off or very wrong in us. Real love and the exercise of it is not simply an outward change of our manners; it is an internal change of our hearts. The love that begets kindness is shown by our tenderheartedness that is the result of God’s touching us; therefore, we are sensitive and compassionate toward others. This allows us to react in a healthy and timely approach quickly and assuredly. If our hearts are hard on the inside and we are trying to show our good manners on the outside, it is not biblical kindness, and it will not last. We will be neither tender nor sensitive, and we will not respond as we should. Love and kindness cannot be faked, nor can they be superficial; they have to come from the changed life that rests within as poured out to us from our Lord. It will have depth that has been built from lives that exercise worship, devotion, and study, and that are real and impacting, always learning, trying, and failing, yet continuing to be kind anyway (Mark 12:28-31; John 3:16, Matt. 22:34-40; John 3:16; 13:1, 34-35; 14:1; 15:9; Rom. 1:31; 5:10; 12:10; 1 Cor. 13; Eph. 2:4-7; Phil. 2:2; Col. 1:1-6; 3:12-14; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2:8; 3:6; 12; 4:9-10; 5:8; 13; 2 Tim. 3:3; Heb. 10:24; 1 John 4:7-12).

To get a better understanding of kindness, we need to look at how God is kind with us. Like giving us life and provisions, and of course, His saving grace that we do not deserve. When we get the message of the incredible prize and honor He has bestowed upon us, we should have the inclination to respond by that knowledge. So, who Christ is and what He has done for us builds our faith and maturity; then, that essence we have learned can be poured onto others with whom we are in contact. We can know the value of God’s love and allow it to affect us and flow to those around us, as we come to know Him more fully. When this knowledge affects our hearts and feet, we will learn how to build and apply a value system to last a lifetime. That way, we are living in response to His love, in the value that is also expressed by our love and kindness. Also, by knowing more about God’s kindness, we will gain a picture of His providence. This means we can be assured that God is in total control; thus, we can trust our Lord completely, whatever unfolds before us. The ultimate love of God is that He laid down His life for His enemies!

Questions to Ponder

1. How is this aspect of love active? Why is that important?

2. How does love show honor to others and declare them valuable?

3. What are you going to do now to bring out the best in your friends, spouse, coworkers, church folks, and the various people in your life?

4. In what ways can you treat others with kindness?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Does your Love have Patience?

What does the Bible say?
Read 1 Corinthians 13

Patient/long-suffering/suffereth long. This means to be passive and enduring and not retaliating or overly emotional, and that we are to be tempered in our dealings so we do not escalate one wrong for another wrong or allow our emotions to spiral out of control. Because real love has patience, it never gives up. This is our readiness to allow or bear with the flaws and faults of others, even accepting difficult situations so we can grow and even prosper through them. This kind of love helps us show tolerance and fortitude to loved ones who have wronged us and even to people whom we normally would not put up with without making demands or conditions. It is also waiting without bullying our will or control because we do not like what is going on or what may happen. This is not about allowing abuse or harm to occur by our action or inaction; rather, this is about having peace and direction from God so we can build positive, effectual relationships that last longer in our dealings and connections with others. This is about allowing God the room and time to work through us to others around us. The love that patience brings allows us to endure less than desirable situations so we can better be more useful and even optimistic and prudent. Hence, its other name is longsuffering. It allows us to put up with others who get on our nerves without losing other characteristics of love, fruit, and grace. When we do not have patience, we will become intolerant, be filled with worry, fear, and distrust people—the opposites of God’s call. We will not see our Lord at work, be a part of Hs work, or see what He wants us to see, that all things will work for His good in the end. When we grasp our trust in Christ, then the temporary things of life—those bothers and distractions—do not derail us from our purpose and call (Hos. 2:19-23; Psalm 33:20; Prov. 14:29; Matt. 27:14; Rom. 2:4; 5:3; 8:28; 12:12; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 1:11; 3:12-14; 1 Thess. 5:12-15; 1 Tim. 1:16; James 1:3-4,12; 3:17; 5:10-11 2 Pet. 3: 14-18).

The challenge of this love is that life is complicated and difficult and people will always disappoint us. Also, we will always be disappointing to those around us, but God’s enduring love will never disappoint us because God does not retaliate back to us when we deserve it. Therefore, when we endure by and with love, we can be restrained and not retaliate when life and people are difficult. Keep in mind that Jesus gives as much time and patience as possible, because He wants us to live a life that bears His fruit. When we do, our lives will be marked with endurance and patience. The key to this is our indebtedness and thankfulness for who He is and what He has done: Christ’s love for me (Gen. 12:1-4; 17:2; 18:10; 22:1-22:12; Rom. 4:13-17; Col. 1:11; 3:12; Heb. 6:13-20; James 5:7-11).

The characteristic that Love is Patient, is what will greatly help us to be tolerant, good, understanding, and forgiving to others in our families and in our church. This love will be the fruit that helps us encourage, build one another up, restore relationships, build His Church, reach out to the community, and seek the best in all we do. It is God using us to be excellence in action! This love is what builds a great church and a good culture and its absence causes those same societies to collapse in corruption or apathy!

1. God is the source of love. So, how can this help you with the proper building of relationships?

2. Where do you fail at understanding and practicing love?

3. Do you understand God, and who we are in Him? Why is this important?

What is love?

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4a

When God tells us that love is patient, He means love endures a long time. Love helps us endure extreme hardships as we keep our eyes upon our Lord. It is longsuffering; with the focus on accommodating others and not ourselves so we can give others room to grow and time to accomplish the work that God is doing in them. When someone is abrupt with us or when someone treats us wrongly, we are called to be patient, because we cannot have everything our way all the time, every time. We cannot allow ourselves to become angry when others fail to live up to the expectations that we set for them. When our spouse or child, or boss, or coworker, or friend, or anyone else angers or disappoints us, we are not to give up on him/her. Because God is patient with us, He does not give up on you and me and God loves us; so, we are to show patience with others. We need not become angry, but be content, for this is love.

The Greek word for love is Agape, which means “self giving” and “sacrificial,” that is more concerned with others than self. It was used in Classic Greek literature to refer to someone who was generously favored by a god. It conveys the idea of a person giving all his or her love, or favor, to someone else other than one's self. It is a love that is not earned; rather, it is relational and given freely. It also refers to parents giving all of their love to their child. In the New Testament, agape love is used to make a similar point, as God gives to each of us all of His love. It is a love that is bestowed without expectations of a response from the other. It takes the initiative, as Christ did with us, and fosters the Fruit of the Spirit and brotherly love. Agape love is also the most common word used both as a noun and a verb in the New Testament. The greatest example of agape love is what our Lord Jesus Christ did when He died for our sins. God showed His love by taking our place and the wrath and punishment for our sins. He kindly took our interests over His and paid that price through His sinless life and His sacrifice on our behalf. Consequently, God's agape love gave us His forbearance and rescue from the punishment that we deserved. Rather than receiving what we should have, we received His favor without earning it. The word Charity, used in the KJV and other translations, is a poor word rendering and does not reflect the sacrificial nature of the Greek word (Mark 12:28-31; John 3:16, Matt. 22:34-40; John 3:16; 13:1, 34-35; 14:1; 15:9; Rom. 1:31; 5:10; 12:10; 1 Cor. 13; Eph. 2:4-7; Phil. 2:2; Col. 1:1-6; 3:12-14; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2:8; 3:6; 12; 4:9-10; 5:8; 13; 2 Tim. 3:3; Heb. 10:24; 1 John 4:7-12).

Keep in mind that this passage is also a character description of how God deals with us! God is patient—as in long-suffering—in exercising judgment so that people may have the time and chance to come to faith and repentance (Luke 13:6-9; Rom. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus Christ is slow to lose patience with us. So, shall we do the same with others?

Does He use you in this way?

How can the application of this love help produce real change in your perceptions and behaviors?

How does the fact that Christ is personal and trustworthy show He loves you?