Monday, August 31, 2009

Real love is Altruistic!

True love is also empathetic and seeks to lift others up. When we are just self-seeking, we are selfish and unconcerned with eternal values or with serving our Lord. By doing this, we fall into a trap, not because of God’s vengeance, but because we are not doing as we should. As a result, natural consequences will take over. God’s precepts are for our benefit and protection; He gives us what is best for us, just as loving parents would do for their child. The fullness of love makes our relationships real and centered upon godly directions. By not placing ourselves first, we are able to place Christ first and we end up with a better deal. We can seek the love of 1 Corinthians 13, and this will compel us to share our richness as Christians with both ourselves and with others. So, out of our completeness in Christ, we can build ourselves up in Him, casting away what has hurt us, what causes us to fear, and what is wrong, replacing it all with biblical character and values. This will be the foundation upon which to create the lasting bonds with Christ and others, as we glorify our Lord and live in and for His Church (Prov. 10:12; Matt. 6:33; John 12:24; Eph. 5:15-21; Phil. 2:21; Col. 1:13).

Being self-seeking is like being rude and arrogant; it is the opposite of real, impacting love. It causes us to disrespect, humiliate, undermine, put down or show up another person either subtly or adversely. This is an aspect of pride and/or hurriedness, which are the direct opposites of our call and the teaching of our Lord. We must see that being offensive and selfish are awful attitudes and are the opposites of real love and kindness. This will ruin our relationships and potential relationships with others because we are deluded by our own self-perception or stuck in our hurts, fears, and circumstances. When we are doing things that are not nice or acting improperly, we push people away and thus we derail our opportunities and call. Behaving selfishly and badly will dishonor our God!

Greed, stinginess, selfishness, and miserliness are rotten fruits because we hoard what God has given us, what He meant for us to share, and we do not use it properly as Christ called us to do. This blocks the flow of God’s blessings and His “living water” from flowing in us. We will become stagnant and useless to either the Kingdom or the people around us. Pride and arrogance will be the driving force—the quintessential things that God hates the most (Proverbs 6:16-18)!

Thus, a key aspect of love means we are not selfish. How do we know if we get this right? If you are not caring for others outside of your circle, then you are demanding your own way because your pride is in the way of His Way, and evil is on its way to you and from you! Our lives will be a false dedication to things that are not centered upon His will. We cannot earn our way, but our way must reflect His work (Rom. 6:12; Eph. 5:15-17; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:24)!

The fullness of love will come when we are first seeking Christ and His work in us, so we are pursuing righteousness and all that is good as a way to glorify Christ as Lord. What we all need to be doing is applying what we have been given, our completeness in Christ applied to our relationships; from friendships to fellowship, even dating all come from our service and mission for His glory. And, it is to be the same in ministry and in marriage. This is real, authentic love that is essential—not only in our faith development, but also in how we prepare ourselves to build relationships and interrelate with others.

Questions to Ponder

1. What causes you to be selfish? How does being selfish relate to being spiteful or condescending? How do you think Jesus feels about it?

2. What can your church do better to honor the rights and dignity of other people, and never force their will and thoughtless behaviors onto others (not compromising the Gospel)? How would this improve your evangelism and church growth?

3. Love is the seeking of His truth, and finding a way to bring it to others. How is this also how we are to relate to one another and do evangelism?

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Love is not Self-Seeking!

When God tells us that love is not self-seeking, He means that we are never to take advantage of others. We are to be empathic, placing others before ourselves. We are to be considerate, appreciative, and never critical. We are never to plot evil or allow insults to get to us. We are to make allowances for the shortcomings of others. Our call is to lift one another up, and be dignified, having good conduct yet never dictating to one another our standards, or demanding or manipulating others to get our way. Rather, we are to model Christ-like character so it is contagious and inviting. Because God loved us so much, He never had a self-seeking attitude. If He had, He would never have sent His Son on our behalf. Every Christian must respect the rights and dignity of other people, and never force his/her will and thoughtless behavior onto others. We cannot force expectations or demands on our friends or our spouse. We need to be happy when others around us experience success and growth, and never be jealous. Love is the seeking of His truth, and finding a way to bring it to others.

Love is the supreme example of our Lord and our supreme asset and model for living. There is nothing greater in God’s economy than His propensity to love, and our obedience is to follow suit! Another vital aspect of real, biblical, Christian love is that it is extreme! Real love takes us beyond who we are and what we want and focuses us upon others as Christ did with us. Thus, love is not about our feelings or being overly cautious, sappy or over-romantic, or clever and manipulative. Rather, real love takes us to the the extreme. If the love we think we have for something or someone does not takes us beyond our self interests, we do not have real love; we just have desires, pride, and lust. Thus, what we have has no real value to anyone or to God and it definitely does not protect

To be good, we have to own a renewed nature and mindset from our Lord. Jesus calls us to an entirely different perspective and outlook of life. He sees the quintessential reason for life and our essence to be in relationships. He wants us to transition our thinking from selfish and materialistic matters to eternal matters and relationships, which are far more valuable and important. With love as our motivation, and unselfishness as our goal, loyalty and faithfulness to God and to others can be built. In addition, our attitude and mindset will also improve so when we face trials, setbacks, and hurts, we will be better able to handle difficult people and our hurts and fears. We will be able to take tricky and complicated circumstances and learn and grow from them rather than fume and rant and rave, none of which do anything to help us. This is the outcome of being strengthened in the Word and growing in the Spirit by our prayer life, devotions, learning, and fellowship and then putting them all into practice as we walk through life. The result is a deeper love and an ability to endure what life throws at us (Matt. 5:38-44; 2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16-20.

When a Christian is giving from selfish motives, he or she expects a return for his or her “investment.” When a real, growing, mature Christian gives, he/she expects nothing in return. One investment is eternal, while the other so-called Christian investment is of the world of today.

Questions to Ponder

1. How would you define being selfish or self-seeking? Why does real love not take advantage of others?

2. Do you think a deeper understanding that God loves you could help you be more polite and less selfish? How so?

3. How can modeling Christ-like character be contagious and inviting for others to examine and except our faith?

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Authentic Love is Polite!

When God tells us that love is not rude, He means that we must treat others with the respect and dignity that we would like in return. We are not to lack concentration to courtesy for people and property. We are to strive to have good manners and model distinction toward and admiration for others. We are to treat our friends, and especially our spouse, with the utmost dignity and respect. Because God loves us, He sent His Son to cover and protect us from His wrath. Therefore, when we make everyday mistakes-or even the big mistakes-lightning bolts do not zap us. Because Christ loves us, we are not consumed by God's wrath, as we deserve. So, in return, we should not go around with pride or commencing judgment, zapping others with evil looks, spitefulness, or condescending comments, thinking that we are "high and mighty" and better than everyone else. Never think of yourself as the capstone or the most important piece of the puzzle, because you are not. We should be grateful that God chooses to use us. Our goal is to worship Christ with passion and distinction. In so doing, we are to work together and not be little dictators, especially in our relationships. Love cannot be in the same room with pride or apathy.

Authentic Love is polite and does not force itself!

Real love comes from a life that has been transformed. It comes from above, by Christ's undeserving love working in us so that we repackage and re-gift it to others. And also because we have been renewed and regenerated by what Christ has done for us! We can't love others in or for the faith by demanding or manipulating our self coincided ideas of love or faith, or seeking some spiritual magic or some kind of special word of knowledge. Rather, real love comes in knowing Christ as our LORD and obeying Him with our trust, infusing our faith. When it is real, we will realize Who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We will see that we have taken a hold of His love, indicated by how we sincerely respond in gratitude, trust, and obedience back to Him so it affects our temperament and plans. This is the love that is never rude or badly behaved.

Kindness is the opposite to being rude. We are called to treat others with honor and respect, which means being polite and courteous to people, to authorities, to church leaders, to family, and even to people we do not like whom God has placed in our lives. If you are a person who likes to be impolite and/or having a "me first" attitude, you are devaluing God's call and work in you, and you are dishonoring your friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, coworkers, church members, and your spouse, because we are supposed to be kind. This means we are to bring out the best in others with good character and respect. (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 6:4-5; 1 Sam. 2:30; Psalm 119:9; 148:12-13; Prov. 1:8-9; 4:1-11; Mark 12:29-30; Rom. 13:1-10; 1 Cor. 12:21-26; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 6:1-3; Phil. 2: 3-4; 14; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 6:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:17).

Questions to Ponder

What happens when you treat others with the respect and dignity that you would like in return? What happens when you treat someone rudely? What about if they deserved it?

How and why does the way we treat people as Christians reflect on our Lord? Do you think that if someone is rude, it may mean that the evidences of faith and fruit are absent?

What can you do to be more lined up with God's call of love?

How do you treat your friends and especially your spouse when you are stressed or hurt? How can you do a better job at honoring those close to you with more dignity and respect? How would this improve your relationships? What are you going to do about it?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Love is not Proud!

1 Corinthians 13:4e

What is love not? It is not arrogant or condescending! When God tells us that love is not proud, He means we are not to have inflated ideas about our significance. Being vainglorious is having a conceited mindset—the quintessential thing that God hates the most—so we must not be that way—period! Being in Christ means we must be willing to be in relationships with all kinds of people, especially those outside our perceived likeness of background and/or race. We must not let our fears hold us back from one of life's most precious gifts: friendship. Not being proud means that when we make a mistake, we can own up to it, and we can admit that we are wrong. We can go to our spouse with open hands and seek forgiveness. Pride will create contempt, arguments, misunderstandings, resentment, loss of community, and indifference. Because God loves us, He is on our side, and wants us to grow and mature in His love. We do not have to have an inflated ego about our perceived importance of ourselves. We need to seek others first and their well being, not our arrogance and egocentric mentality. Love lifts up God, not us.

Authentic Love does not puff up the giver or parade itself!

Real love is not prideful. Rather, it is humble and it points to the one we love. To Christians, it points to our Lord. Can we really love? Yes, because we are not alone in this journey. We have no need to be boastful because we have Christ Himself as example and lead. His being fully God was not boastful, so how can and why should we be? We are not only called to spiritual growth—that is, the formation of the investment of faith Christ gives us—but we are also to give back to Him in dividends. This is a deep conviction of our faith, a practiced submission that shows our obedience and a life of personal, spiritual, and relational maturity. We have to listen to God. If not, we will not learn and then we will not grow and then we will not have a life of transformation and growth. Instead, we will have a storm-tossed sea of life, wayward in every perspective because our eyes and ears are not upon our Lord.

The attitude of pride shows up when we consider ourselves superior to another person. It spills over to viewing others as inferior and thus leads us to treat people with contempt. God hates this because as Christians, we are all His children and when we are being proud we are treating other “children” as if they are not good enough for our positive connection or personal interaction. Other biblical synonyms for pride are arrogance, insolence, boasting, stiff-necked, and haughty. Love tempers our passions and realigns our focus. When we allow pride to be in charge, we leave God outside of our hearts and minds (James 4: 7-10).

Questions to Ponder

How do you feel and respond when someone is arrogant or condescending toward you? How would you define pride?

Why is it that what love is not is as critical and significant as what love is?

How do you know the difference whether someone is being prideful or being confident? How should a Christian show respect and confidence to another person?

What can the church leadership and pastors do to curtail our pride that leads to bitterness and hostility flowing from us?

How does pride get in the way of our practicing love or leading a wholeheartedly mature Christian life? What do you need to do about it?

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Real Love does not Boast!

What is love not? It is not rash nor is it boastful!

When God tells us that love does not boast, He means we are not to go around bragging about our accomplishments and abilities. When this love is working, we will have no desire to impress others. Thinking that we are important is foolish and distracting to our call and purpose in life. We are not to go around showing off our possessions. In so doing, we are patronizing to those who do not have such things. We are not to be so full of our accomplishments that we fail to see what others have accomplished. Because God loves us so much, we should have no need to impress another. We are not to condescend to our spouse, or anyone, for that matter, with pride, criticism, or contempt, nor are we to withdraw from them when we think they do not meet our approval. We must allow God to impress us with His greatness, because He is God and we are not. We can so relax and enjoy who we are in Christ, and that we are approved by Him, that we do not have to be in control or be the life of the party to feel secure. Nor, do we need the say-so of others since we have the approval of God, the Creator of the universe. Love is the security we have in Christ that needs nothing else for fulfillment.

Real love is found in our sentiments and thinking but it also greatly affects our behaviors. Our behavior as a Christian must not be wicked. Love is meant to be helpful so it does not become derogatory or resort to being patronizing towards others in order to make us feel better. If we have real love in our hearts and minds, then we will realize that our lives will be far better in His arms of love and care than with our whims and limited ideas (2 Cor. 5:16-17)! Love has wisdom and applies humbleness and gentleness, and is under control. If we are being boastful, we undertake an active attitude of deliberate self-acceptance over humility and we will ignore wisdom and become foolish and arrogant.

This means we are not to show off or act with deceptive means, or to be irritating. This word in the Greek is used to describe elections won by deceit and manipulations. It is like an elected official winning an election dishonestly and then bragging about it. True love in action is not selfish nor is it about one's ambition; rather, it is sacrificial and points to the one we love. Being boastful is claiming that our own will and power are supreme over the person we are supposed to love. Being conceited means one's self is the purpose, and that can only mean self-love and not true love. This rotten form of love places our trust in our accomplishments and plans, not in God's or the other person's best interests. By this, we ignore the fact that God is running the world! God tells us this is evil. As Christians, the only thing we can boast of is what Christ has done for us (Prov. 13:10; 16:18; Psalm 31:15; Daniel 4:30; 5:23; Matt. 7:5; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 12:25-25; 2 Cor. 11:20; 12:5-9; Col.1:17; Eph. 3:18-19; 1 John 1:6-7)!

Real love will flow from us when we allow God to be the One to impress us with His greatness. When we realize that He is God and we are not, then we will have love coming in and flowing out. We can loosen up and not take ourselves so seriously because we will enjoy who we are in Christ. There is no need or call for pride; because we are approved by Christ, we do not have to be in control or be the life of the party to feel secure. Nor, do we need the approval of others since we have the approval of God, the Creator of the universe. By the same token, we do not need to manipulate others because God does not manipulate us. Real love is the security we have in Christ that needs nothing else for fulfillment (Prov. 13:10; 16:18; Matt. 7:5; 1 Cor. 12:25-25; Eph. 3:18-19; 1 John 1:6-7).

Questions to Ponder

1. How would you describe boasting? What is love “not” in your life? Why does real love not have a need to impress?

2. What can your church do to encourage you to love and care for those around you?

3. Love can give us so much. As we give, we show our security in Christ that needs nothing else for fulfillment. So why be conceited? Why would someone think this could be helpful?

4. Do we get what the Christian life is about? If so, what are we doing about it?

5. What can you do to make sure that you do not usurp your own will and power over the person you are supposed to love? How would this help improve your relationships?

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