Why do we need to stay alert and on our guard?

Image credit: Ian Greig

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV

At strategic times God has sent angels to people to tell them what they needed to know. That tells us that heaven and earth are not disconnected, and what happens on earth has a spiritual dimension. Our spiritual engagement influences this. Following Paul’s advice in his letter to Corinth and being aware, prayerful and confident, can make all the difference.

To explore this thought further, see this post on Believe.

PRAYER
Forgive me, Lord, for being casual and unprepared spiritually. Your word instructs us to “pray continually” and my response is so much less.
Help me to begin to see not just everyday concerns but the spiritual realities behind them. Lead me to pray accordingly, and bring Your kingdom to earth. For Jesus’ honour and glory, Amen.

What is God’s kind of love?

Our romantic ideas of love don’t even come close to God’s love for us, which is UNCONDITIONAL. We come to know this through Jesus.

Image credit: Ian Greig 03434

Our casual definitions of love are a far cry from the kind of love which is God’s essential being, and which He grows in those who are His.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. ”  1 John 4:16 NIV

“God is love” is big, all-encompassing statement. John is repeating the statement he already made earlier (v.8), so he is emphasising his teaching here. But what does he mean?

Love, for us, means a lot of things…

continued here

… from the early icon pop song refrains “Love, love, love” (All You Need Is Love, Lennon and McCartney 1967) to a classical view from Plato, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet”.

We start with romantic love — Valentine’s Day quotes — and in today’s society, quickly home in on sexual attraction. But love is bigger and broader, encompassing filial loyalty like David and Jonathan, the love of particular brands, pursuits or places. The biggest and broadest of all is unconditional, faithful enduring love which is the meaning of the agape word used here.

That’s the kind love we all need like emotional oxygen. Sociologists’ research has found how social breakdown and dysfunction comes from a lack of love. It is a powerful force for all kinds of healing,

Understanding something as abstract as unconditional love needs us to take a step back and find a wider perspective. To describe something we need a picture, and concepts don’t lend themselves to that. we can do better by thinking about what love produces.

Looking down from a hill on a patchwork of fields, we can’t see the fertiliser that has been applied. It might even be ammonia gas injected into the ground, invisible and buried! But it’s easy enough to pick out the effects, the darker green and vibrant growth. Similarly, where some mechanical glitch has caused a deficiency, the lack shows up on the overall picture.

Faithful, unconditional love produces the bonds and mutuality of relationship. If we say that God is relationship, this holds true because the Trinity of God is three distinct Persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit but at the same time the relationship is so close (in a way we can’t fully understand) that they are one Person. Our receiving of the love of God inevitably produces this kind of relationship in those experiencing it and living in it — as John puts it, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”. He is saying, that is the evidence of new life that has encountered God’s love — we are people that value and grow loving relationships. This is what church is all about. This is what the breaking of bread in communion (koinonia, fellowship) celebrates. We are reminded of God’s unconditional love for us, in the context of how we relate to all the others breaking bread all around us, in it together because we all share Jesus.

And this kind of love is experienced in belonging. A lot of social dysfunction — drugs, alcohol, violence but also hopelessness and depression — comes down to a love deficit in early life, the pain of which spins off into all sorts of attempts to compensate.

What marks the Christian life in the kingdom of God as so indescribably valuable, like the precious pearl that the man in the Jesus’ story had to have, even at the cost of selling all he possessed is not just the assurance of eternal life. It is the assurance of a kind of life now where, whatever the past has attempted to dictate, we know we belong and in belonging, we have a resilient, strong kind of relationship that is so desperately needed in our world of no-fault divorces and constructive dismissals, of strategic redundancy and judgmental discrimination.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. ”  1 John 4:16 NIV

PRAYER

O God, as I turn to You I wonder how much I know, let alone rely on, this kind of love that I am learning You have for me.


Why would I deserve Your love? But I am slowly coming to see that this is the point — no one deserves Your love, but You give it anyway, without condition.

And as we come to know You personally, in the way Jesus made possible for us, we receive a life-giving and restoring force far greater than our popular and self-centred idea of love.


I draw near to You now, and agree that You ARE love. May Your love overwhelm me, change me, grow in me — and spill out from me.

To the glory of Jesus and His kingdom, Amen.

God loved us first

Mother goose watches over her gosling on Weobley Marsh common.     Image credit: Ian Greig 03412

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10 (NIV)

Why should God love me?

“If you really knew me… knew what was in my life behind the front that I put up … If you really knew me (I suppose God knows me like that) you wouldn’t expect God to love me.”

It’s not a real quote but I have heard a version of that comment many times as a pastor.

The way we see ourselves and the way God sees us, are not the same. The way we value ourselves and the way God values us are not the same.

We work on the premise that our relationship with God works like the way we get to know anyone else. God has to get to know us, and hopefully He will see some things He likes and over time, become warm to us.

Wrong. God loved and accepted us first.

He may not love and accept all our attitudes or behaviour… but He created us and sent His Son Jesus to be the “atoning sacrifice”, to pay the high price to make things right for us.

Is this automatic? The fact of God’s love for us is not a maybe — that’s established. What is not automatic is our love for God, and our acceptance of Jesus for who He is. That requires us to make a choice!

We agree with Jesus about who He is and what He has done in our behalf. What He did was costly. Our decision also has a cost to it – the cost of our independence, of giving someone else a higher place in our lives. But now we realise the extent of God’s love for us that was there all along. We just had to make our move, to receive it.

As the Passion Translation puts it:

This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Prayer for today and tomorrow

Ceredigion coast. Image credit: Ian Greig 01311

A Celtic blessing

God’s own presence with you stay,
Jesus to shield you in the fray,
Spirit to protect you from all ill,
Trinity there guiding you still.

On sea or land, in ebb or flow,
God be with you wherever you go.
In flow or ebb, on land or sea,
God great might your protecting be.

From Ray Simpson, Celtic Blessings

How real insight comes

Image credit: Ian Greig 03314

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 NIV

Question and answer

Q. Should  we fear Someone who is love, and who is committed to be merciful in His dealings with us?

A. There is the ‘stab of fear’, like when the tiger in the zoo fastens its eyes on you; and there is the slower apprehension of being momentarily speechless in the presence of greatness, like meeting the Queen.
One stirs you to ‘fight or flight’; the other moves you positively, to deep respect and deference – and a willingness to listen.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord, we worship You.

We bow down before Your majestic presence,
yet You would have us address You as ‘Father’.

We put aside our imagined  knowledge and experience,
and seek Your instruction.

We bring our situation of difficulty which has baffled the  leading minds,
knowing You have wisdom and insight far above our own,
and the grace to impart it to those who listen.

Lead us in Your  way, Lord,
and share with us a glimpse from Your  perspective –
raising our faith to pray in agreement with You,
for Your will to be done.
Amen.


A thought about this verse – possibly controversial, but topical

Real insight page (www.believethegoodnews.com)