Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Source of Love

Where does real love come from? There is a beautiful story found in Luke 7 that gives us an understanding of where love comes from. Jesus was invited to the house of a Pharisee by the name of Simon. During the meal which was served outside, a woman who had a known sinful past came up to Jesus who was reclining at the table. She wet his feet with her cascading tears of joy that poured forth. She then dried his feet with her hair and finally anointed them with perfume from an alabaster flask.

Simon was outraged at the behavior of this woman and the fact that Jesus never rebuked her for not knowing her place. He doubted that Jesus was really a true prophet for allowing her to touch him. Although Simon never shared his thoughts out loud, they were nonetheless known to Jesus. The Lord shared a story with Simon of a man who loaned money to two men; one received a very large sum and the other a much smaller sum. However, neither party was capable of repaying their debt, so the lender canceled the debt of both. Jesus asked Simon which of the two would love him more (Luke 7:42). Notice Jesus used the word love in response to the forgiven debt. Simon hardly knows how to answer such an obvious question and says, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled" (Luke 7:43).

Jesus masterfully painted a picture of the woman and Simon with his words. He said Simon had no kiss for him when he arrived, no oil for his head and no one to wash his feet, but this woman has washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair and anointed them with her best perfume. Then he added the reason she did this extravagant act was that she had been forgiven much, and therefore she loved much. On the other hand, Simon has been forgiven little, and therefore he loved little (Luke 7:47-48).

Simon knew very little about love and couldn’t give what he did not have. Having never experienced forgiveness on a massive level, he had no comprehension of the love the woman poured out to Jesus. He was incapable of celebrating the grace of God in her life.

Where does love come from? It comes from having our souls forgiven by the grace of God. From that act love flows out to people who need forgiveness. Do you need more love? Then let God’s grace overwhelm you, and love will flow out of your life. Once you feel God’s acceptance of you, then you will have the ability to accept others.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Taking Control

The Apostle Paul said that love is not irritable (1 Cor 13:5). That is quite a statement when you think about it. How many of us could say that we love without being irritated at those we live with? Most likely most of us would come up short. All of us know something about irritability. It’s what we do when we are frustrated, and it is mostly in response to little things. It might be the way someone talks or doesn’t talk to us or the way they eat or a hundred other things. I would like to suggest that our irritability is our inability to control our emotions. Most tend to blame others for their irritability saying things like, “He knows just how to push my buttons” or “She makes me so frustrated.” The primary issue according to Paul is not how irritating the other is, but how willing I am to be responsible for my own attitude.

Often when we find ourselves very irritated by another’s actions, we have allowed our emotions to run rampant. Instead of thinking through what is happening to us and asking God to help us, we more often than not give in to the irritation. When our emotions are controlling us, we aren’t doing too much thinking. That is a dangerous place to be because when we are irritated, we are vulnerable to outbursts of anger. Of course, when we are angry, we say things we really don’t mean which can harm those around us. Augustine wrote, “We are irritable, O Lord, until we make our peace with you.”[1]

I think Augustine was right. The key to controlling our emotions is to trust God with our inabilities and allow him to teach us how to handle life’s frustrations. When our relationship with God is connected and alive, we have inner strength to control our emotions. We are more in control because we are anchored to the One who gives us peace.

Philip Ryken shares a great story:

A simple but marvelous illustration of nonirritable love took place during a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals during the 2009 pennant race. Phillies fan Steve Montforto was sitting with his three-year-old daughter Emily when a foul ball curled back into the upper deck. Montforto leaned over the railing to catch his first and only foul ball-every fan's dream. But when he handed the ball to little Emily, immedi­ately she threw it back over the railing and down into the lower deck. Everyone gasped. Montforto himself was as surprised as any­one to see her throw the ball away. But rather than getting irritated with his little girl, he did what a loving father should do: he wrapped his daughter up in a tender embrace.

This is the way God loves us. He puts gifts into our hands that we could never catch for ourselves. Without realizing what we are doing, sometimes, we throw them away. Yet rather than getting irritated with us, he loves us again. Then he gives us the freedom to go love someone else with the same kind of love. He even gives us the grace to go back to people who throw our love away and love them all over again. Who are the loveless people that God is calling you to love? Will you love them the way that Jesus loves?[2]

[1] Lewis Smedes, Love Within Limits: A Realist’s View of 1 Corinthians 13 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978, P. 58.
[2] Phillip Ryken, Loving The Way Jesus Loves, Crossway, Wheaton, IL 2012, PP. 52-58.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blessed Brokenness

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he gave us the beatitudes. The first four beatitudes are called the
“Beatitudes of Need,” and the last four beatitudes are called the “Beatitudes of Action.”

Matt 5:3-10 
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

God’s work in our lives begins with recognizing that we are morally bankrupt. Jesus calls that attitude being “poor in spirit.” If that is true of a person, they will be sorrowful for their sin and will show contrition for how they have broken God’s heart. These two qualities will produce meekness which is the complete opposite of arrogance. All of that leads to spiritual hunger, and God promises to fill such a heart. Jesus once told a parable that illustrates these beatitudes:

Luke 18:10-14 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax
collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like
other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week
and give a tenth of all I get.'  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

This parable says it so clear that no one gets through to God unless they recognize their spiritual
neediness. If they do however, the way is the way of the tax collector. Then they will have a future from

God. That future is explained in the last four beatitudes. As a result of the attitude and actions of a true believer, these are pictures of their future:

  • They shall be comforted
  • They shall inherit
  • They shall be satisfied
  • They shall see God
  • They shall be called sons of God

These beatitudes produce a broken blessedness in us that is the fruit of a true believer—a believer with a future hope. This is a selfless believer who is full of God’s blessed gifts.