What is Love? Real Love?

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;” 1 Corinthians 13.4-5

We live in a world that uses the word “love” so loosely. (I will use love for charity.) Sometimes I believe the true meaning of love is lost in its frequent misuse.

What is Paul trying to convey to the Corinthian believers here? Chapters 12 -14 of 1 Corinthians deal with spiritual gifts – their use and their misuse. Right in the middle of his conversation, Paul addresses love, and he goes ahead to define it for them and us. In these two short verses he gives us nine (9) characteristics of love.

Do you and I really understand these traits of love? Let’s see! “Love suffers long, and is kind.” Could we say that love puts up with a lot? Love is not suspended because of a simple irritation or disagreement. Love can absorb a lot and it does not retaliate. The flip side of love suffering long is that it is kind. How should we express kindness? I am sure everyone would have his or her own opinion about that. But kindness is the opposite of hatefulness.

Love does not envy.” Do we all agree that envy is a toxic poison that can destroy anything in its path? Envy makes us jealous of what others have and we don’t have. That may then drive us to try to “keep up” with the person who has more “stuff” that we do. Love is not about “stuff” but it is about relationships.

Let’s combine these next three. “Love does not behave in a flagrant manner and it is not proud. Does not behave in a manner that draws attention to itself.” Paul is describing here some qualities of love that are not offensive to others around us – whether family, friends, or members of our church; and especially an unbelieving world.

In considering these last four, pay careful attention to the focus of love. “Love does not seek her own way, is not provoked easily, and does not think evil of others.” We quickly notice that is not selfish. Nor is it “thin-skinned.” And it does not allow itself to entertain evil thoughts about others.

I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do. Just my thoughts …

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This Life Is NOT All for Nothing!

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15.58

Paul is wrapping his first letter to the Corinthians believers, and he gives them this very clear, encouraging message. A simple principle of hermeneutics is to see what precedes the word “Therefore” so we can understand why this word appears.

A substantial portion of chapter 15 deals with the resurrection from the dead for believers. So when Paul finishes his thoughts on this resurrection, he starts a new paragraph with “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast … ” Because this life isn’t all there is, be stedfast. Because God will not leave our body in the grave, be stedfast. To prove that resurrection is real, Paul reminds us and them that Christ is “the first fruits” of the resurrection. Keep the resurrection in view and “be stedfast”.

This next word calls us at times to our battle stations as soldiers of the cross. Satan will not just roll over and play dead when you and I trust Christ and begin to follow Him. So no matter what Satan or any who are under his influence may throw at us, “be … unmovable … ” Stand for truth and do what your Heavenly Father tells you.

I’m sure you have heard the old expression, “It is always too soon to quit.” That is what this next phrase tells us: “ … always abounding in the work of the Lord … ” When I think of abounding in the work of the Lord no matter what happens, my mind immediately goes to the life of the apostle Paul. After he received Christ, he spent substantial time in prison because of his testimony for Christ. He was “always abounding in the work of the Lord …

Paul concludes this chapter with these encouraging words: “ … forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” This life is not lived for Christ for no reason. Our labor is NOT IN VAIN in the Lord. He is watching. He is taking notes. And when the time comes, we will cast our crowns at His feet. Just my thoughts …

What Does MY Life Look Like?

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” Colossians 3.12

If a lost person looked closely at your life or mine, would they say, “I’d like to be like them. How can I become a child of God?” Neither of us is naïve enough to think that our lives don’t need some work. In this verse where Paul is instructing the Colossians on how to live for God, he gives some very tangible and practical advice. Let’s take a look at it.

  • Put on bowels of mercies. In order to do that, we must remember whose we are: “the elect of God, holy and beloved … ” We are not robots attempting to represent a God who may or may not care about this world. We are chosen by God – holy and beloved. We need to reflect God’s mercies to others – believers and non-believers alike.
  • Put on kindness. It doesn’t cost us anything to be kind. We certainly want others to be kind to us, whether we say it or not.
  • Put on humbleness of mind. No one likes an arrogant person. We may or may not feel intimidated by them but we certainly don’t like being around them.
  • Put on meekness. I often define meekness as a steel hand in a velvet glove. I think of Joseph, Mary’s husband as the personification of meekness.
  • Put on longsuffering. This may be the hardest of all. Being patient comes hard for me. The Bible says: “tribulation works patience.”

You will notice that Paul says we are to “put on” these things. They do not come naturally. For some, it requires extensive prayer for God to instill and manifest these traits in our lives. Could I suggest that we each examine our lives before God and see if we are actually displaying these virtues? If we are willing to ask the Holy Spirit, He will help us manifest these traits so that God can be glorified and we can be usable vessels. Just my thoughts …

“That Settles It For Me!”

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. 21There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” Proverbs 19.20-21

I would like to think that at this stage in my life, I have listened to counsel and I have received instruction. Those words from Solomon would sound like such a common sense thing to do, but it is amazing that there are so many people who don’t want advice from anybody, let alone from a man of God or God Himself. Solomon’s advice is for our own good. He wants us to “be wise in (the) latter end.”

So where is all this going? What is Solomon’s wisdom for us here? I believe he is reminding us that over time “there are many devices in a man’s heart.” I think most people will admit that over the course of our lifetime, regardless of how old we are, we have entertained a lot of plans (or devices as Solomon calls them) and we may have even pursued some of them.

But, let’s give attention to this next phrase: “nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” I hope none of us has a problem believing that God is omniscient, meaning He knows all things. HIS plans are much better than MY plans. I’ve known some people who change their plans about as often as you change a baby’s diaper. They move from one “irrational” thing to another.

But Solomon is establishing a divine principle here: “the counsel of the LORD … shall stand.” I don’t ever have to worry if God forgot about something or He made a mistake or He left something undone that He promised to do. There is a song whose lyrics go something like this: “God said it and I believe it and that settles it for me. God said it and I believe it and that settles it for me. Though some may doubt that His word is true, I’ve chosen to believe it, now how about you? God said it and I believe it and that settles it for me.” (Charles Hayes) I like that. Just my thoughts …

So Much We Don’t Know!

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” Zephaniah 3.17

This verse from the pen of Zephaniah is a great reminder of the significance of God’s presence. I like the way it is translated in another translation. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

We may periodically think about the attribute of God’s omnipresence, but how often do we live as if we are conscious of His presence? “The Lord your God is in your midst … ” That truth in itself is a great comfort to me. But the verse continues: “a mighty one who will save … ” I believe the statement about God saving us is more than just our salvation. You and I may never know the things God saves us from in any given day. His constant watch care over us goes beyond our greatest expectations.

He will rejoice over you with gladness …” God doesn’t just consider us part of the family of God. He rejoices over us with gladness. Did you know that? What a life-changing piece of information. If God loves me that much, how can I ever NOT demonstrate my love FOR Him and my service TO Him?

He will quiet you by his love …” Have you ever watched a mother pick up or embrace a hurting child who is crying? You will her whisper something like this: “Mommy loves you. Everything is going to be ok.” This phrase presents a similar scenario when I think about how God quiets me by His love.

Finally, “he will exult over you with loud singing.” This word exult means “show or feel elation.” I wonder what it sounds like in heaven when God sings over His children? Some day we will find out. In the mean time I choose to live with the knowledge of His presence with me always, to realize that He “saves” me from things I may never see or know, to be grateful that God is rejoicing over me with gladness, to accept His embrace that quiets me in time of need, and anticipate what I will hear is heaven some day when God “exults over me with loud singing.” Just my thoughts …

Is His God Your God?

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” Psalm 91.1-2

I remember as a kid growing up we used to have “secret places” that no one could come into unless you were invited. But the kind of secret place the psalmist is talking about here is available to all who are His children. As a child of God we are invited to dwell “in the secret place of the most High … ” The benefit of doing so is that we are then abiding “under the shadow of the Almighty.

Does that sound like a safe place to you? It certainly does to me. Why do we need a place of safety like that? Peter us gives this warning in 1 Peter 5.8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” You and I need protection from the evil one.

But the psalmist does not stop with “the secret place.” He adds these vital truths: I will say of the LORD: (1) He is my refuge; (2) my fortress; (3) my God. What does that say to us today? “My refuge” means that I can run to Him when I am fearful or under attack. “My fortress” means that God is my ultimate protection and I need no one else. “My God” is a very exclusive phrase. Everybody has some kind of God. The atheist makes himself his god. Some believers make family, hobby, or work their god. But the Apostle Paul said: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.19)

The psalmist concludes with this simple, but significant phrase: “in him will I trust.” The confidence he expresses in the preceding statements assures him that he CAN trust this God. Can you say, “My God; in him will I trust”? Just my thoughts …

What Is the Promise?

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. 36For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Hebrews 10.35-36

We live in a world of instant gratification. We have become a society that doesn’t want to wait for anything. We pop popcorn in the microwave. Takes too long the other way. We have microwave meals. On TV any problem can be solved in 60 minutes – 10 at the most. The speed limit is 65 so we drive 70. The speed limit is 70 so we drive 75. You get the idea. We could make this list substantially longer.

So when the writer of Hebrews says, “ye have need of patience” we try to mull that over in our minds, wondering, “Why do I need patience? What am I waiting for?” And the answer is, “after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” “Promise? What promise?”

I am glad the Holy Spirit did not leave it up to us to discover what the promise is. In v. 37 we read, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” He is not talking about the mailman coming. He is talking about the majestic Son of God who promised us that he would return again. Take note of Luke’s words in Acts 1.9-11: “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Sometimes we read things and think to ourselves, “That’s never going to happen.” But Jesus himself said: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

His return does not depend on whether or not we believe He will return. HE IS COMING. Think about that and live accordingly today. Just my thoughts …

Not a Bad Job!

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23.1-3

What a job! Think about it. You get to sleep under the open sky every night. You have animals around you that follow your every move and long for your personal touch every day. And your nearest neighbor may be10 miles away – who knows? The shepherd boy David is writing here. He has been dispatched to tend to the sheep while his brothers and family are cozy in their homes.

Despite what we might call all the inconveniences associated with his job, David declares, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Can you say that? “I shall not want.” That phrase speaks of CONTENTMENT – contentment with what you HAVE, with what you DO, and with where you GO. Such an attitude requires of us a focus on God that does not waver when hard times come – and they WILL come.

Instead of looking at the tough things in his life, David emphasizes the positive. (1) He makes me lie down in green pastures. That is a positive. (2) He leads me beside still waters. That is a positive. (3) He restores my soul. That is a positive. (4) He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. That is a positive. Sounds like God knows just exactly what David needs and supplies it for him.

Do you believe God knows just exactly what you need? Do you believe God can and will supply that need or needs? In the course of my ministry I have talked with so many widows and widowers who have expressed to me the miraculous way God met their needs. I am never surprised, because that is what God does for His children.

If we can take ANYTHING away from this short devotional, let it be that we are going to focus on the positive things God does in our lives – the miraculous way He meets our needs. That’s what David did and that is what you and I should do too. Just my thoughts …

His Love Requires It!

My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” Proverbs 3.11-12

Of all the topics in the Bible that I enjoy studying, this is probably my least favorite. But at the same time, it is one of the most important passages that confirms my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Does that make sense to you? Here is what I mean.

God does not chasten those who are NOT His children. The writer of Hebrews tells us: “despise not the chastening of the Lord … ” The phrase starts with a term of endearment: “My son … ” He is not writing to everybody. He is writing to those who are God’s children, and that necessitates the new birth.

These are pretty powerful words … “despise not …” When God deems it necessary to “chasten” us, we need to remember that He is doing what any good father would do, and that is He is correcting something that we are doing wrong. He continues with “neither be weary of his correction … ” Of all my childhood experiences, the ones that I remember that are significant are the times my parents (my father primarily) found it necessary to correct something that I was doing wrong. Was it pleasant? Absolutely not! Did it make any changes in my life? Absolutely! I still remember what I was doing wrong and I took steps to correct it.

  1. 12 emphasizes the “why” of God chastening: “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth … ” If I didn’t belong to Him, He would have no occasion to correct me. His correction re-affirms to me that I am His child. Love and correction go together well in the same sentence, don’t you think?

Finally he tells us: “even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” Does that statement grab you like it does me? God “delights” in you and me too. I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around this truth – that God delights in me. I will never take that for granted. Just my thoughts …

The Spirit Knows …

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8.26-27

Everything that we will ever need to aid us in our walk with God, God has provided for us before we ever needed it. Take a long hard look at your prayer life. Have there been times when you really needed to pray but you did not, simply because you did not know what to pray or how to pray about that particular “something”? God says to us in that situation: “the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities … the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

This is precisely what I was speaking about in the opening sentence. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God to us, because God knew there would be occasions when we would NEED the Spirit’s help in getting through to God because we did not know “what we should pray for as we ought:

So often when I read this passage, I stop at the end of v. 26 and rejoice and thank God for His Spirit. But then vs. 27 is so powerful: “27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” What more could we ask for? We have the Spirit of God living within us and He knows our heart and He knows what the will of God is for us, therefore He knows how to intercede for us. THAT my friend is a provision that God has provided for us that we did not know we would need. But we know it now. We must ever fail to pray simply because we do not know WHAT to pray or HOW we should approach the throne. The Spirit knows! Just my thoughts …