Monday, November 3, 2008

Words of Encouragement

We love our parents, grandparents, husbands and wives.  We love our children and those close to us.  This is good, yet there is a more excellent way of love.  There is a godly love that moves us to a place that we love not because we receive love, but because of God's Spirit in us.
Love - The Excellence of God
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:15

But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. - 1 Corinthians 12:31

This is a small verse of scripture but it is in the chapter that speaks about spiritual gifts.  The verses before this one talks about having the gifts of healings or tongues. It then moves to this verse and says but desire the greater gifts.  What does that mean?  What does it mean to desire the greater gifts?  Is the scripture saying that one gift is more important than the next one?  That to have one gift makes one better than the next?  No.  In fact, we will look this week at what is that excellent way the scripture is pointing us toward.
Thought of the day - What do you think is the "most excellent way?"
Prayer: Today, Lord we ask that you would help us find your most excellent way.  Help us to see that you have given us gifts not for ourselves but to add to the kingdom.  You have given us gifts so that we can function as a healthy body.  Help us to walk in your excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This is the more excellent way spoken about yesterday.  If you have spiritual gifts but lack love it is all for nothing.  Love is what makes each of our gifts the excellence that God wants presented to the world and to each other.  My gifts are not for me they are for you.  When I have love in my heart for you then I will want to use all that God has given in me to help you on this walk.  Without love that is impossible to do.  We become lead by ritualistic activities and we do it, simply because it needs to be done.  I heard recently someone say that it was the love of Christ that kept him on that cross not because it was a duty.  Duty does not take us to that next step, to seeking excellence God's way.
Thought for the day - In what ways can you show the more "excellent way"?  What can you change today that would make love that much more evidence in your life?
Prayer: Lord, we want more than simply doing things because they are right.  We want to have love the motivating factor for everything we do.  We want to love you first and then love one another.  If we do not, we are as the scripture says "nothing".  This day Lord help us to have more love in our hearts for you first and then for our brothers and sisters.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Now we get to the trust about what love is.  It is patient it allows for the development in others.  It understands that everyone is not at the same level so it patiently waits for others to come to the right understanding. Love is kind and it does not do anything to hurt others.  Love does not envy it is happy for what you have and how God is blessing you.  Love does not boast and pump itself up.  It does not seek to make itself better at the expense of others. Love is not rude or self-seeking, but it is willing to seek what is best for you and even put itself out for your benefit.  Love forgives.  Love does not seek to hold accounts against your wrongs. It also looks to investing in you, encouraging you and yes even telling you the truth.  Love will not take delight in lies but it stands for the truth.  So in love one will tell you the truth for this main reason, not to destroy you but to protect you from that which will hurt you.  Love is not a feeling it is a choice.  God choose to love us.  Jesus choose to love us by dying on the cross.  It was more than a feeling because feelings can change.  It was a decision.

Thought for today: With this understanding of love, what can you change in your ideas about love?  Are you loving simply in an emotional way or is it a choice to do so?

Prayer: Lord, we no longer want to simply doing things because of what they "feel" like.  Jesus may not have felt like dying for us, but he choose to do so because of his love for us.  Lord help us to make the choice to love your way.  Love in spite of what others do.  Love does not love because it is returned, but love does so because it is of you.  If we say we belong to you, then help us because your essence is love and we cannot say we love you, without loving others. 

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

Did you know that even as we function within the gifts that God gave us, there is coming a time when they will cease?  We will not need to teach or prophecy when the fullness comes.  Yet what will still be needed at that time?  Love because it will never cease.  It will be love that will send Jesus back to come for his people. It will be love that we will experience when we find ourselves in the presence of God.  Yet we will experience it in a fuller way.  The essence of God is love and we will be in the fullness of his love, in his presence.  So if love is something that will never cease, why do we not see the importance of living in it now?  This is one of the excellent things that God has for us to begin to experience even right now.  We cannot stop loving no matter what we are faced with. love. love. love.  Never allow your love to cease because this is how God shows his excellence through you.

Thought of the day - The challenge today is this, can you show love to someone even though you know they will not show it in return?  Can you love because that is the more excellent way and it shows who you belong to?

Prayer: We are often faced with situations that hurt us, disappoint us and discourage us. We know those hurts sometimes make us want to turn away, but Lord we need your reminder and your strength to keep loving in the midst of those difficulties.  When we do, we know that we show your excellence through us.  We know when we do we show the word you.  Help us in our most difficult times to choose to love because you first loved us when we were most difficult indeed.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

In order for us to walk in this Christian way we must have faith, hope and love.  Without faith we cannot please God.  Without hope we would become discouraged and it would cause us to doubt God and move us away from having faith and in pleasing God.  We also need love.  Without love we cannot have the other two.  Our faith started first with love.  It was the love of the Father that saw our need and sought to draw us to himself.  It was first the love of the Son that willingly gave himself in my place and your place.  It was love that sent the Holy Spirit and love that keeps the Holy Spirit directing us, teaching us and equipping us.  It is love that also helps us to become the excellent of God.  We love as we have been loved.  We love others not because they deserve it, but because they are in need of it.  We love others enough to make the sacrifice of ourselves for their benefit (like Jesus). We love others enough to use our gifts (as the Holy Spirit gives us) to teach, direct and equip others.  Surely, love is the more excellent way.

Thought for today - What new understanding did you recieve this week about love? Take a time of meditation before the Lord to see how this understanding can help you find God's more excellent way.

Prayer: Lord today thank you for loving us when we were not lovable.  Thank you for loving us enough to give us your Spirit.  Help us to share that love you have placed in us with others that stand in need of it. As we go to worship this week, God help us to show more love in all that we say and do.