New Level of Love

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The one who does not love 

does not know God,

for God is love. 1John 4:8 

love-sand

Love is our highest ideal and our greatest frustration. Songs & movies proclaim its greatness while portraying a reality that it often comes at great cost. It seems as fleeting and fragile as a wildflower in a playground. Our own hearts tell us it should be better than this. Our experience tells us a different story. This week’s passage (1John 4:7-12) calls us to a whole new level of love. One that might seem impossible in this world. He defines love by His own character and then calls us to love like Him!

A bottom line truth in this paragraph is that all who have a true relationship with God WILL love others like He does. That is an intimidating order. How in the world can we love like Him? We aren’t Jesus! How can God expect that of us?

Look more closely at the passage. If  you claim to be a follower of Jesus? That means He is in you. If that is true, His love is in you because He is love. He defines love. He is the source of this kind of love. So, if he is in you, let His love come out. Let Him love through you the same way He loves you!

God desperately wants to interrupt our struggle and raise the bar on love. In the middle of our polluted self-limited kind of love God reveals a higher level. He whispers through His Son, “I AM LOVE. Let me love you. Let me love through you. You can only love if you receive true love from Me. Receive My love and then pass it on.”

Reflect on this passage through the weekend and consider: How could a deeper trust in God’s love for you impact your love for others? 

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Finding Hope that’s Real

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      Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… 1 Peter 1:3

He lives

Few things are more hope filled than a newborn baby. Parents wonder and dream at all the potential and promise this new life holds. Sadly as decades pass the promise dulls and problems choke out many dreams. Hope seems to shed like leaves from northern trees in November. For many cynical realism grows in the ground that hope once occupied.

This is as natural in our world as losing our baby teeth so that something more permanent (we hope) can come in. The hope we are born with in this world is not meant to last. The trials of life reveal quickly enough that the beliefs, things and efforts we thought would make our lives amazing could not hold up. Where we longed for life we found the sting of death.

This is where Easter steps in. The great message of Easter is that real, permanent, ultimate hope is available. A hero has come. At first we misjudged Him. Though fascinated, we mocked and resisted. Our evil nature lead to His death. But death could not hold Him. He defeated death and rose to life. His unique power and identity as the Son of God in flesh revealed itself validating all He ever taught & claimed. He has power to give life, forgive sin, heal wounds, transform character and much, much more. He gives peace to the troubled, rest to the weary, sight to the blind, courage to the fearful and life to all who will turn to Him.

Though many still doubt, those who humbly trust their lives to Jesus find real hope. The hopelessness of this world becomes a blessing that leads us to Him if we are willing to believe. This Easter, if you find yourself struggling with hope, RUN to a church where His hope will be  explained and offered. If you have found it, RUN to gather with others who will celebrate the great hope you have received.

Don’t Be Gullible

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truth        “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1John 4:1 

      “Don’t believe everything you hear.” Did you ever hear a parent or teacher say that? These days that applies to every kind of media we experience. Especially in a campaign year! One of the pervasive marks of our age is exaggerated marketing. Everywhere we turn someone is promising something guaranteed to change our lives. This isn’t new But we have gotten much better at it. My first memory of this is seeing advertising for X-ray glasses and Sea Monkeys in my favorite childhood comic books. Somehow they just didn’t live up to my expectation.

Back to the point: don’t believe everything you encounter. We all know and embrace this truth but the problem is in the follow-up swing. How can we figure out what or who to believe? If we get this wrong with x-ray glasses or sea monkeys it is not that big of a deal. But what about eternal things like the purpose of life, the true God, life after death and what it takes to survive final judgment- if there even is one? Religious media has grown into such a large business that even in that world there is much taught that is simply not true. What you base your life on and how you live it our matters.

In our post relativistic age few are willing to claim an anchor of truth to help define reality for living life well. Most advise some form of going with your gut while the rest of the room nods with affirmation. But there are so many conflicting voices , honesty requires us to admit they can’t all be correct. What if God is real? What if we are accountable to Him? What if we listen to the wrong voices and get it wrong when that moment comes?

This week’s passage (1John 4:1-6) warns us about being gullible spiritually. It then offers two keys to discerning reality from deception. God clarifies an anchor point for all willing to accept it: Jesus. For true believers, Jesus is the anchor points that defines everything. Jesus is the measure by which everything assessed. That which does not square with Him should not be embraced. For those of us who believe the true God of the Bible this will help us assess and filter what we hear from the many claiming spiritual authority in this world. See if you can recognize the second key to determining who to believe. Join us Sunday as we worship our Father and look to His word together.

Condemning Yourself?

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prison wall      One of the worst feelings we face as Christ followers is self-condemnation. We confessed our sin; embraced faith felt the joy of a renewed life in Him and then wham! Some old behavior that we thought was long gone shows itself in our lives again. What a jerk! Scumbag, pervert. Calling ourselves the worst names in the book we feel more broken and messed up than ever. We should be further along. Past that same old sin by now. Our accuser whispers and we dog pile on ourselves forgetting whose voice started the conversation. In self-condemnation we wonder, “how could I be so bad? Is my faith real? Is God really with me, in me, for me? How could he ever love me?”

This week’s passage touches on the struggle of self-condemnation. What can we do when it leads to swirling doubts about our relationship with God? We all have times that we doubt our salvation. Our sin even if invisible to others shows itself to us. Satan, our accuser, quickly magnifies it and keeps it ever in front of us. He throws it up in our face telling us we are fake and unworthy of God’s grace.

God wants to set us free from the destructive cycle of self- condemnation. Focus on defeating my sin, cleaning my sin, hiding my sin, understanding my sin will do nothing to help in comparison to trusting Jesus and letting Him forgive, clean & heal my sin.

Our Father gently brings perspective by reminding us of some core things. First He already knows the truth about us. He knows all we are and have done. His grace is stronger than our sin. His judgment trumps our own. There is nothing you or I could ever be part of that is beyond the reach of His grace.

Second. What God wants most of us is trust in Jesus. Notice, not holiness, goodness, or moral perfection. Those things come as a result of faith in Jesus in God’s time through the Spirit’s work. God dwells intimately with those who simply truly trust their lives to Jesus.

There is another bottom line truth He reveals that is the ultimate source of confidence in the face of our self-condemnation. But I’ll let you look for it on your own. Reflect on 1John 3:18-24 this weekend. We’ll tackle it together at worship on Sunday.