walk and talk this weekend

24 02 2017

Baltimore friends, has there ever been a better weekend for us to walk our streets, meet our neighbors, talk and listen to each other? It’s beautiful outside and someone needs to see your smile! After last night, we now have 50 murders (last year at this time there were just 34). Time for us to pray more than before. Let’s ask God for mercy and a stop to the violence. Let’s ask Father God what He would have us do, here and now with specifics. Today I enjoyed time with non-profit, business, and church leaders…hearing from them how they are responding. We are not alone. Good things are happening this week!

What is God’s love like?

7 02 2017

What is God like? Does God really love me? If I approach God what will I find? How can I find peace? What is God’s love like?

These are questions worth spending time on. Let’s get real. Let us come to God with honesty, even honesty about our doubts. Let us come to God with questions.

Answering these questions can be a journey. Taking another step each day is helpful. Let’s read a little to grow in our understanding.

John wrote, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8

Here’s what I believe: When I learn more about God’s love, I can better receive it, be changed by it, and bring it to others.

John knew Jesus. John walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus. Let’s read what John had to say about this love:

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:7-12
Who is writing this, why?

Personal relationship includes spending time with someone and learning more about them. If we are to learn more about Jesus, let us learn from people who walked with Him and talked with Him, people like John.

This is John, the friend and follower of Jesus, writing to people like us, people who lived in various places and found themselves in different places in their relationship with Jesus. John writes to show that true knowledge of God involves a personal relationship with Him. He writes this, around 50 years after Jesus walked the earth, to refute people who were falsely teaching that though Jesus was truly the Son of God, He was not also human. These false teachers also taught that only they had true knowledge. They despised John and the others who actually walked with Jesus, followed Jesus, and were teaching the truth. And so John writes to assure believers that they are “knowing ones”, having true knowledge of Jesus, and walking in relationship with Him. It is important for us to recognize that this true knowledge of God’s love comes out of a personal relationship with Jesus. And that true knowledge of God cannot be complete without understanding and experiencing the love of God, followed by sharing it with others.

What is this “Agape” Love John wrote about? Agape: a God kind of love that gives – to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard, to regard with affection and loving concern. Agape is used to express the essential nature of God. Agape describes the attitude of God to His Son and the human race. Agape is used to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude one to another. Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. God’s love is seen in the gift of His Son. God’s love is seen in his decision to love us, because of His nature, regardless of our perceived value or attractiveness. His love is faithful, patient, kind, and selfless.

Reread 1 John 4:7-12 and then return to the definition of the “agape” love word. This “agape” word for love is the same word Jesus uses in John 3:16 and that is used here and in 1 John 3:16.

God’s love for us is a decision that He has made because it is who He is, it is an essential part of His nature. His love for us is undeserved by us. It is without fail. God’s love is overflowing to us. God’s love is active, selfless (pressing out our selfishness). God’s love takes away fear. God enjoys loving us. He literally takes pleasure in loving us. Through Jesus, God’s love for us has removed the obstacles to our relationship with Him.

We must be careful to not relate to God as though He loves us with a human kind of love. All too easily we define God’s love by our overall human experience, treating God with prejudice (with a preconceived notion based on wrong ideas or our experience with other people). God is not exactly like anyone you have met.

“Love, love, the word is always ringing in our ears, but when is it not mixed up with something else? Love and the desire to possess, love and the need to control, love and the need to be needed, love and the lust to absorb, love and condescension, love and narcissism (selfishness). In the Christian mystery love itself must be crucified, must die to be reborn as the grace of communion, as love set free.” – Meditations on the Passion of St John by Martin L Smith

Let us be careful to not associate God’s love with human “love” mixed up with the need to acquire, possess, or control.

Here’s a few questions that can help us unpack what we are learning about God’s love for us and apply it to today:

What is God’s love? What does God’s love look like? What does this say about God, about me? What does this mean? How does that affect today?

Here’s an example (from Tozer) of how we can consider what God’s love for us means, while looking at a verse of Scripture:

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first.” 1 John 4:18-19

“We do not know, and we may never know, what love is, but we can know how it manifests itself, and that is enough for us here. First we see it showing itself as good will. Love wills the good of all and never wills harm or evil to any. This explains the words of the apostle John: ‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear.’ Fear is the painful emotion that arises at the thought that we may be harmed or made to suffer. This fear persists while we are subject to the will of someone who does not desire our well-being. The moment we come under the protection of one of good will, fear is cast out. A child lost in a crowded store is full of fear because it sees the strangers around it as enemies. In its mother’s arms a moment later all the terror subsides. The known good will of the mother casts out fear. The world is full of enemies, and as long as we are subject to the possibility of harm from these enemies, fear is inevitable. The effort to conquer fear without removing causes is altogether futile. The heart is wiser than the apostles of tranquility. As long as we are in the hands of chance, as long as we look for hope to the law of averages, as long as we must trust for survival to our ability to out-think or outmaneuver the enemy, we have every good reason to be afraid. And fear hath torment. To know that love is of God and to enter into the secret place leaning upon the arm of the Beloved – this and only this can cast out fear. Let a man become convinced that nothing can harm him and instantly for him all fear goes out of the universe. The nervous reflex, the natural revulsion to physical pain may be felt sometimes, but the deep torment of fear is gone forever. God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it.”

– The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer

Here’s a suggested prayer for this journey:

“God, you are more important to me than anything else in this world. Thank you for taking away the guilt of my sin through Jesus. Please help me to receive your love as you intended it. Please help me be changed by your love. Please help me share your love with others.”