Posts tagged Love
Merry Christmas!

7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in whatever way Christ allotted it. -Ephesians 4:7

Merry Christmas! As one of three boys, I remember Christmas morning always had a bit of competitiveness to it. I would excitedly open my gifts while keeping a running count of the number and quality of gifts my brothers received in comparison to my own. I used Christmas as an unofficial referendum upon my parents’ love.

As I read this verse during the Christmas season, I found myself wondering if I do the same counting in life. Do I measure the gifts that others receive as if they are a measure of God’s favor? Does this outlook make Christmas another unofficial referendum, but this time on God’s love for me and my family?

Just speaking those questions aloud steal their power. That is not the way God’s favor works. Our text this morning contends that God bestows his favor in the way that Jesus allots it. This allotment is not done competitively with a limited supply of love. Rather it is done with an awareness of the ways he binds us in one. Together we are bound together in and filled with Christ’s love to bring glory to God’s name.

As with every Scriptural truth, the blessing is not in rational understanding but in spiritual transformation. Here are the steps to allowing that recognition to transform us. First, let us allow the magnificence that God bestows his favor upon us to humble us in thanksgiving. That is enough. Second, let us confess the ways we measure and set up referendums in our competitiveness. Tell God that we are satisfied to be part of his favor! Finally, we must ask God to help us live in this new freedom in ways that glory his name, build his Kingdom, and bless the people he has created and loves.

Let us stop counting gifs this Christmas! Instead, let us rest in his favor given to us, for us, and for the world. Thus, we can gladly say, “Merry Christmas!”

Jesus, thank you for choosing me as the recipient of your favor! I am humbled and upon bended knee I declare that I trust you. Teach me to live in your favor in ways that bless you, bless the Church, and bless the world around me! In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Monday Message: On Lent and Love

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
- John 15:13
The Season of Lent is a gift the liturgical calendar gives us.  We need the time to prepare ourselves to grapple with the greatest gift of love we will ever receive.  In this verse in the gospel of John, Jesus’ disciple reminds us that Jesus’ Passion, his death on the cross, and his resurrection are all testament to the love that Jesus has for us. 
Now, there is both promise and problem in that opening paragraph.  The promise is that it is possible to discover ever more deeply the love that God has for us.  The problem is that most of us think about it in one of two ways.  Either we think we already know and therefore don’t bother to truly discover its ever greater depths.  Or we think that John is talking about Jesus’ love for someone else.  Our own shame, guilt, or lack of self-worth keep us from believing that Jesus’ testimony of love is fully and truly for us.
To answer the first way, I will simply point you toward the sermon series we will be walking through together through the Season of Lent.  To answer the second, let me point you to the apostle Paul’s take on our John verse.  In Romans 5:7-8, Paul writes, “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Did you read that?  While we were still sinners, Jesus testified to his love for us in the greatest way possible.  No amount of shame or guilt or lack of self-worth can disqualify us from this.  Jesus loves you even at your worst.  Still does.  Nothing has changed.  Nothing can change that.  It may take Lent done right for you to receive that.
Gracious Lord, we are thankful for your love for us.  We are also pretty poor receivers of that love.  We ask that you work in us to unearth our defenses and overwhelm our doubts so that we might become people rooted and grounded in your love.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday Message: Unity of Love

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 

John 17:22-23

When we are confronted with violence and injustice in the world, it is most comfortable for us to assign blame.  The problem is with our political opponents.  The problem is with that other group and how they are acting.  It is not with us.
It is more difficult to seek unity.
Yet in our text for Sunday morning, within Jesus’ prayer for us a vision of unity is cast.  It is a unity that is based upon the way that Jesus completely identifies with us.  He has given us the glory that God the Father had given to him.  His Presence resides in us.  The very love of God the Father for God the Son is the love with which God loves us.
But this is not just for us.  This is true about the entire world (John 3:16 confirms the scope).  We are called to accept this love offered to us.  We are also called to live this love as present in every person we meet.
The person or group that we are tempted to blame are loved by God.  When we recognize the love in ourselves we begin to recognize the love in everyone else.  It becomes an invitation to see each other differently.  It is an invitation to seek unity.
Jesus, we confess the difficulty we have with your love.  We have difficulty accepting that we are loved completely and unconditionally.  We also have difficulty accepting that you love those we dislike and blame.  Open our hearts to your love for us and our eyes to the love you pour into those around us.  Help us to find unity in your love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keenan BarberLove, Unity
No Fear in Love

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.  19 We love because he first loved us. - 1 John 4:18-19

Fear is the cheapest form of inspiration.  Too many of us work in situations where our motivation comes from anxiety.  Too many of us exist in relationships where fear is the stimulation for respect.  Thus, too many of us live lives that are less than God’s desire for us.

Our text tells us that God does not motivate with fear.  Even as I type this, I know that this has not always been obvious in light of how Christians have operated over the years.  The explanation for this is simply that fear of judgment is a cheaper and easier way to get people to toe moral lines, to meet deadlines, and to sacrifice.  Even though it is cheaper and easier, it is not God’s way.

God prefers the messier way of love.  It is messier because it gives each and every one of us room to discover and grow into who he has created us to be.  It gives us space to fail and use failure to learn redemption and resurrection.  It provides opportunity for worship as we boldly live into knowing our God, knowing ourselves, and knowing the authentic meeting of the two.

This morning, note the places in your life that are inspired by fear.  Where these are related to your faith, rebuke them as the false path.  Where they are related to your job, your relationships, or your self concept, ask God to fill you with his loving vision of your life.  Then ask God to walk with you on the messier way of love. 

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me.  Thank you for loving the parts of me that seem lovable and the parts of me that seem less so.  Open my eyes today to begin to live inspired by Your love.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.