What Love Is This?

When we use the word “love”, what are we even talking about?  What does “love” mean?  What is “love”?  An emotion?  An action? An idea? It goes without saying that there are many different opinions on this issue.

So how can we know what love truly is?

Know its source.  If you want to know the true, intended definition of something, consult its source. True, intended love is therefore defined by from where or more appropriately from whom it comes. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:7-8, 16, NASB95).

Love is not separate from God, God is not separate from love.  It logically follows then that any expression or manifestation of love is a reflection of God– who He is.  True love is “grounded in the nature of God Himself”[1].  “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6, NASB95).

Know its structure.  “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11, NASB95).  We know what love is because God loves us and revealed Himself to us.  We are compelled to respond.

How do we respond?

Receive His love, appreciate His love, reflect His love.  Love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:5).  And love Him by serving others through love– loving your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:14).  It is interesting to note that God, though He does not have to, provides us with a qualification for why we are to love others: “I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18, NASB95).  In other words, “love because I love”.  This also serves as a reminder that any expression of love toward others is a reflection of Him to be done for His honor and glory.

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Let’s not do a disservice to God by labeling things “love” and talking about “love” in ways which are so far from the true nature and definition of love and do NOT reflect who He is.

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Know its substance.  “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT07).  Love may be expressed as an emotion, action, or idea BUT if that emotion, action, or idea is not patient and kind but jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, unbecoming, irritable, disrespectful, distrusting, unfaithful…then it’s not love at all!

Love is an honest, humbling, and holy calling to be taken seriously, as we are to reflect God’s very nature. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2, NASB95).

To answer the question, “What Love Is This?”: this love is from God to be manifested in us and through us in such a manner that genuinely reflects who He is and what He has done for us in Christ through the Spirit!

Love In Christ,

Victoria

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1. Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

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Is That YOU God? (Hearing from GOD in a Noisy World)

It seems that we are living in a time where we are being faced with almost constant distractions while at the same time needing to clearly hear from God.  We have apps that give us alerts on our SmartPhones, Text Messaging which has become a primary form of communication, we get news feeds through our email, TV-Cable-Satellite-Radio signals are available 24/7, and just when you think there couldn’t possibly be any more noise – the phone rings with a telemarketer trying to sell you something.  Let’s face facts, we live in a NOISY WORLD! So with all of this activity, how can we be sure that we are hearing God’s voice?

There are numerous Bible verses that speak of hearing God’s Voice.  Here are a few:

  • Jeremiah 33:3, “Ask Me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here” (NLT96).
  • Revelation 3:20, “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear Me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends” (NLT96).
  • John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:  and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (KJV87).

You may be asking, “but with everything else going on, how can I be sure that what I am hearing is God’s voice”?   Here are a few practical suggestions from the Bible:

  • BE STILL (Psalms 46:10):  Ask the LORD to remove all of the “white noise” around you.   I once taught an object lesson to my Sunday School class where I had several electrical devices on at the same time in the same classroom.   In the background, I also had a CD playing the song “Jesus Loves Me”, but the students couldn’t hear the song “Jesus Loves Me” until each of the other devices were shut down.  Once all of the “white noise” was eliminated, the message of Jesus’ love was clearly heard.  If you actively allow the Lord to remove the “white noise” around you, you will be amazed at what you begin to hear.
  • RESIST THE ENEMY (James 4:7):  I can almost guarantee that once you make your mind up to get quiet and hear the voice of the Lord, the enemy is going to come in to try to distract you.   It may be subtle distractions like, “Am I supposed to pick up the dry cleaning today?”, “Did I post the picture of my breakfast on Facebook?”, “I forgot to Tweet about _______”.  Either way, it will be an attempt by the enemy to get the “white noise” distractions going again.    The good news is that the Bible tells us that if we resist the devil, he will flee!   SO RESIST!
  • CONFESS YOUR SINS (Psalms 66:18):  The Psalmist tells us that if we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not listen.  So let’s not try to hide our sin.   Remember, HE knows our hearts, HE knows our thoughts, HE knows our Sin and HE loves us anyway!  So confess your sins, repent and turn completely to Him to hear HIS voice.
  • LISTEN FOR GOD’S PLAN FOR YOU (Jeremiah 29:11):   We serve a creative GOD who is big enough to hold the whole universe in the palm of His hand, yet loving enough to have a specific plan for each of us individually.    Although He speaks to all of us, it is critical to pay attention to what He is speaking to each of us as individuals.  Too many times there is a temptation to rely on what God is speaking to someone else rather than taking the time listening to God for ourselves and have a personal relationship with Him.   For example, God may be telling your brother to go on a mission trip to Africa, but He may want you to witness directly to your best friend.
  • SPEND TIME WITH HIM (John 10:27):   If a stranger calls you, they have to announce themselves, but as soon as you hear a familiar voice on your phone, don’t you know who it is that is speaking to you?  The more time we spend with Jesus, the more familiar we become with hearing HIS voice.    Are you spending time with the Lord?  Do you know the sound of HIS voice?  John 20:16 tells us that after Jesus rose from the dead HE appeared to Mary, but through her tears she didn’t recognize that it was HIM, until HE said her name “Mary” and she immediately responded in Aramaic with “Rabboni”.   She knew HIS voice because she had spent time with HIM.

You may still be thinking “all of that is nice, but how can I really be sure that what I am hearing is really from GOD?”  Here are two principles that will help you to confirm that what you are hearing is from God:

  • Does what I am hearing line up with Scripture?   It is critical to realize that God will NEVER Contradict Himself or HIS Word.    Matthew 24:35 tells us that “…Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away…”.      He will NEVER lead you in a direction that is contrary to HIS Word.   This of course implies that you must know HIS Word and reminds us how important it is to regularly and diligently read and study HIS Word.
  • Do I have peace?  Isaiah 26:3 reminds us “…You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You…”(NKJV).   This tells us that God will often guide us by peace.    If you are hearing something that makes you uneasy or restless, then you may want to go back to the first principle and be sure what you are hearing lines up with Scripture.

1 Corinthians 13:9 tells us “…For we know in part and we prophesy in part…” (NASB).  This tells us that we don’t always know all of the details.   God doesn’t always show us the entire picture.   If HE did, we may be tempted to run ahead or run away instead of being fully obedient.  Remember God’s view is “higher” than ours.   So don’t think that just because you don’t know the whole thing, you are not hearing from God.

Are you God’s sheep?   If you are then I would ask, what is GOD speaking to you today?

If you are not HIS sheep, then I would encourage you to take the time today to surrender your life to JESUS CHRIST and become HIS sheep.  Listen to HIS voice and you will hear the truth that JESUS LOVES YOU!

–Stephen

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Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

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To “swim against the current (or tide)” is an idiom meaning to go against popular thought or practice.  Collins English Dictionary defines this idiom as, “to resist prevailing opinion”.  It has origins as a Shakespearean metaphor in Henry IV where it was used to describe characteristics in opposition to one another.  Being so, to “swim against the current (or tide)” carries with it denotations and connotations of opposition, resistance, and contradiction.

And that’s supposed to sound appealing how…?!?

It might seem like swimming with the current (or tide) is the appealing course rather than swimming against the current because it seems easy and effortless.  Indeed, if we consider a similar idiom, “going against the grain”, going with the gain might seem as if it is the established way – the way that everyone else is doing it.

But if something seems easy and effortless and established, does it mean that it is the best course?  Not necessarily…

Psalm73.2-18,NKJV

In this passage, the psalmist expresses a not-too-unfamiliar doubt.  When things don’t seem to be going “right” for the “righteous”, it’s hard to not envy the “unrighteous” for whom it seems that things are going “right”.  Have you ever thought: How come such-and-such a “good” thing happened to so-and-so when they don’t even live wholeheartedly for Christ let alone believe in Him?  How come those unrepentant sinners have all those “blessings” and are “prospering” while I don’t and am seemingly not?  How come they’re carefree?  How come they have it easier? 

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“I can’t explain why I suffer though I live for You, those who deny You they have it better than I do, cover my eyes now so that my heart can finally see, that in the end only You mean anything” (BarlowGirl, Psalm 73/My God’s Enough).

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Did you happen to catch what the psalmist became aware of in verses sixteen and seventeen…”When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me— UNTIL I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end“?  The Holman Christian Standard Bible phrases it this way: “When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless UNTIL I entered God’s sanctuary.  Then I understood their destiny.”  The psalmist further concludes that making assumptions from the surface that your eyes physically observe in the moment does not accurately represent the eternal truth.  The boastful, arrogant, wicked, proud, ungodly are NOT better off — they’re on a slippery downward slope to destruction, separation apart from God.

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“For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:27-28, NKJV).

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It’s foolish and ignorant to assume that swimming with the current (or tide) downstream is worth it because it may seem easier and effortless (and established).  The explanations and implications provided in Psalm 73 not only pertain to an understanding of the ungodly’s end but an understanding of the godly’s end as well.  The godly have the hope of glory, they will be received by God with honor (Ps. 73:24)!  Moreover, because of the glorious hope the godly can expect to receive after life, they can assuredly live with hope today.  Today the Lord God is always with those who trust Him; He holds their hand, He guides them with His counsel, He is the strength of their heart and their portion and their refuge!  Swimming against the current (or tide) (when swimming with the current (or tide) is in opposition and contradiction to God) is the course to go!  It’s beyond worth it!

So which direction are you swimming in?

Some Food For Thought!

Victoria

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Focus, focus, focus…

How many of us know what it’s like to be overwhelmed in the midst of intense circumstances? How many of us have experienced what it’s like to suffer with analysis paralysis or distraught thoughts? How many of us get frustrated when we feel like we’re losing or have completely lost control? If we are honest, we’d raise our hands to all of the above.

In the midst of those overwhelmingly intense circumstances, our analysis paralysis or distraught thoughts, and frustration…what or who have we focused or are focusing on? Have we focused on the negativity of the situation or what has gone (or is going) wrong? Have we given all our attention to the impossibilities that have knocked or are knocking at our doors? Have we lost or are losing sleep over wrestling with thoughts about what should have, could have, and would have been if only…? What about wrestling with worries about what might or may be? Again if we are honest, we’d probably each admit that focusing on all these kinds of things seem to be our natural, initial reactions or even intentional responses.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not pointing fingers.  I am by no means innocent of reacting or responding with wrong focuses. The point is that we all have settled at one time or another for awfully lousy and foolishly troublesome alternatives instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.

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We can’t appropriately function when we have the wrong focus! Remember Peter who nearly drowned when he took his eyes off of Jesus to focus on the surrounding frightful storm instead (See Matthew 14:22-33).
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 So if focusing on Jesus is the right focus and not focusing on Jesus is the wrong focus, what does that have to do with initial reactions or intentional responses?

Having a right focus (one that is set on Jesus) is a conscious choice, an intentional response. Such an intentional response is contrary to the reactions of our sinful nature. But there’s good news! There is hope! The Lord Jesus Christ is able and wants to give us a new nature, a justified and sanctified nature– a nature which becomes more and more like Him so that our initial reactions AND intentional responses become more and more like His. We must genuinely seek His face and wisdom and will. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NASB95).

If you’re caught in the midst of an intense circumstance, chose to focus on Jesus Christ and have a deeper relationship with Him! Study His Word (the Holy Bible), pray to Him and listen to Him, trust Him, and praise Him!

Acts 16:16-40 gives us the account of Paul and Silas who were stripped, severely beaten, and imprisoned with their feet fastened in stocks! Even so, their focus was NOT on the injustice or wrongs done to them. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25, NIV84). Eventually, the jailer and his household came to believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior and after Paul and Silas came out of the prison they met with the believers at Lydia’s house and “encouraged them” (Acts 16:40, NIV84).

Why mention that account?

Because there are some really great lessons we can learn from it.
i) In the midst of their intense circumstance they chose to focus on God! It is possible for us to do the same by His grace!
ii) Others near to the circumstance noticed that they were rightly focused on God, and it impacted those others as well! People around us notice our initial reactions and intentional responses, as what we do speaks volumes.
iii) They were able to encourage and inspire others beyond the immediate circumstance to focus on God as well! Our personal testimonies are powerful in encouraging and inspiring others of the reality of the hope of Jesus Christ!

I’d like to share some lyrics to a song I wrote during a particularly intense circumstance in my life, it is my prayer that you will be encouraged and inspired to focus on the certainty of God even in the midst of uncertain circumstances:

“I’ve been thinking about all the things that I don’t know, calculations of what the future may hold; I’ve been worrying about all the things that I can’t see, the uncertainty of what might be. I didn’t stop to breathe, to remember that I believe…YOUR ways are higher than my eyes can see; YOUR thoughts are higher than my mind could every dream. Why should I fail to have confidence that YOU are much higher than this? I now know that all I need to know is YOU’RE in control and my future YOU hold; I now see what I was meant to see, the certainty of YOUR sovereignty. I’ve got to stop to breathe and remember that I believe… YOUR ways are higher than my eyes can see; YOUR thoughts are higher than my mind could every dream. Why should I fail to have confidence that YOU are much higher than this?” (“Higher” © Victoria Alfieri, 2012).

Victoria

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NOTICE: The advertisements on this site and referred sites are neither published by nor subject to With True Hope and as such the content expressed does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of With True Hope. Thank you.