Sunday, February 18, 2018

Never Failing

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 completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NIV)

A new bride walks down the aisle.  Through all the pomp and circumstance, she sees many of her dreams come true.  The day is perfect and everyone enjoys the festivities.  We move on to the honeymoon, a time of romance and relaxation.  The couple returns home and begins their new life together.  Sounds pretty wonderful to me.

I believe every young woman who gets married walks through those emotions as she "ties the knot".  She believes that the love she and her new husband have will last a lifetime.  I know I felt like that when I walked down the aisle at 25 years of age towards my first marriage.  Life was full of wonder and excitement.  Yet, life changed.  It got harder and harder.  As the years rolled by, the love that I saw for us as we walked down that aisle long ago changed dramatically.  Without going into details, love had failed - in many different ways.  

1 Corinthians 13 was read at my wedding.  It was said in front of all those gathered - love never fails.  Yet, thirteen years later, love had failed, in a very difficult way.  I look back upon that time and I can remember talking with God and asking him, "You said 'Love Never Fails'.  What happened?" over and over again.  As I walked through that time in my life, it became clear to me.  I'm not God and neither was my spouse at that time.  Our love isn't perfect, our love does fail.  

I love these verses together.  After the bold statement of verse eight, Paul begins to share with us all the things that do fail.  Prophecies will cease.  Tongues will stop talking.  Knowledge goes away.  Prophesies, tongues and knowledge are things that we cannot know fully.  There is no way anyone in the world can know everything, speak in all tongues and share what is to come fully.  

There is only one that that is totally complete, the love of God.  Our earthly love and the way that us humans look at love is never complete.  Although we want to say that we love unconditionally, we all know that there are times when the unconditional love fails.  We are sinners.  It is impossible for us to achieve.  Yet, it is God's love that is pure and sanctified.  It is God's love that is complete.  It is God's love that never fails.  When we walk on the path of God's love, we experience what He has for us - our future, our hope, our dreams, our faith.  On that path, we can feel God's love stir inside of us through the Holy Spirit.  On that path, we find the peace of God's love.  

May we, as Christians, bring God's love to all that we come in contact with.  Understand that our love is not perfect and it may fail.  With God, though, all things are possible and so is the love that will not fail.  

Dearest Lord, help us to understand love through YOUR eyes.  May we constantly realize that our imperfect selves will also fall short of the love that never fails.  Yet, God, may we read Paul's words and understand that the parts of what we know will become full when we look at love through you - through you that, because you have loved us, gave your only Son as a ransom for many.  In your name we pray, Amen.






Sunday, February 11, 2018

Always

"It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
"Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (KJV)

As we continue to move through 1 Corinthians 13, we come upon this verse.  Today, I've included two versions of this verse as the second may be one that we hear most often, yet, my heart was touched by the first version.  So let's explore.

Paul continues to teach us about the depth of love.  The word protect, or bears, looks to the person we are loving.  Although that person may not act in a loving way, we will protect those indiscretions and will bear them in our own heart - not sharing them with others.  I see this as immediate forgiveness, for we are protecting that person's character and bearing their sin in our heart.  In this context, I see this as two people who love each other.  I am forever grateful and blessed that my husband loves me in this manner.  He keeps my sin in his heart, not throwing it back in my face or sharing with the world.  He bears all things!

Moving on, we come to trust - belief in the person we love.  How many times I have said, "You have my trust until you do something that takes that away."  WOW - take that statement against what Paul is trying to teach and I'm a HUGE failure!  We speak a lot about trust in our society today.  There are many powerful business books that speak to that exact philosophy of ensuring trust with others.  Often, it is discussed that once someone loses trust in you, it is hard to get it back.  Paul begs to differ.  If you have true love in your heart - you will always trust, always believe in the positive things of a person.  Self reflection moment?  It is for me!

Hope is one of my favorite words in the Bible, and in life.  Hope brings a desire for something to happen with a strong sense of trust that it will.  Isn't that where love comes in?  True love, deep love, shares a hope for a strong relationship.  Hope that is steeped in love brings ever-standing forgiveness.  This isn't easy and sometimes isn't always healthy.  If the love is founded in God and shared between two people, hope for the future will bring the trust that is forever.  I strongly believe that our God works His best miracles when we have hope, the type that is grounded in love.

Perseverance seems to be a word that everyone has endured.  To see something or a situation all the way through is a strong sense of perseverance.  Many of us have persevered trials and tribulations in our life.  Yet, as it relates to love, it can take on a very different view.  Our love can be tested by many things.  During those times of testing, we can wonder if love is worth it - if THIS love is worth it.  Persevering during these times shows each other the type of love that is present.  It is this love that makes those difficult times bearable, almost taking us full circle.

Wow, Paul certainly has challenged us with this chapter!  Last week, he helps us to understand what love isn't and now shares with us what love is.  Under either viewpoint, I have realized that as much as I deeply love my family and friends, I still have work to do.  The power of all of this comes from the love we have for Jesus.  As the Holy Spirit penetrates our hearts, Jesus fills us up to have the type of love Paul yearns for us to have.  The words protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres have one commonality - the word ALWAYS in front of them.  May we pray that our actions of love continue to focus on always.

Dearest Jesus, how the words of Paul continue to creep into our hearts and minds.  Understanding more deeply the way we should love has impacted me in so many ways.  The deep commitment he asks us to make helps me to see the way you, Jesus, ALWAYS love me.  Your forgiveness of my wrongdoings, the trust you have in me, the hope that I will change and the perseverance to never let go of me helps me to see how I need to love others.  Thank you, Jesus.  Amen!


Sunday, February 4, 2018

What Isn't Love?


Many times I have had people ask me, "What does that mean?"  It might be in relation to a concept or words I shared.  When I reflect on those moments, many times it is easier for me to explain what that particular concept isn't.  Sometimes, explaining the opposite is less complicated and more straightforward than defining what something is.  I feel that way with our verses for today.

The first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 explains why love is so important for our lives.  Now, the tough part comes - what exactly is love.  I have to share, when I have delved into this chapter before I have always focused on what love is - patient and kind!  Although I struggle with patience, and think I'm kind most of the time, it wasn't until I began really reading the other words that the REAL struggle began.

As I read through the words listed, I began to cringe.  Oh my Heavenly Father, the very many times I have acted with what I THOUGHT was love in my heart, but my thoughts and actions were far from that.
  • Envy - The time that I envied another person's success.  Looking back, they worked hard for that success, but my heart and thoughts were far from that.
  • Boast - Didn't I have a right to share with others all the goodness I had.  The answer?  NO, I don't have that right - for all the goodness I have is not of MY doing, but that of God's doing.
  • Pride - Pride, my arch enemy.  Although I have worked on the boasting, there is still pride in my heart.  "Look at what I did!"  Yes, those words have even come out of my mouth - especially with my husband (for just the smallest of efforts).  That's not love.
  • Dis-honoring others - My mouth has spilled its unfair share of gossip over the years.  There is nothing loving in that.
  • Self-seeking - If I don't look out for me, who will?  The answer, GOD WILL!
  • Easily angered - Can we just leave this one with those two words?  Those times are too numerous.
  • Record of wrongs - Holding all the times when someone has "wronged" me produces so many negative experiences, not for the one who has wronged me - but for me.  I am the one who suffers with the negative feeling.  Forgiveness is love, and Jesus certainly shows us how to forgive.
  • Delight in evil - Some people call it karma.  Others call it fate.  Still others say, "they deserve it".  Truth is, when bad things happen and we rejoice in that - it's not love.
To look at what love is can give us all, self included, a sense that "I've got this covered."  Yet, when we explore the words Paul gives us as to what love does NOT encompass, the blanket is thrown off and the real behavior is exposed.  Looking at all those words above, is there hope for me?

God knows there is hope for me!  The wonderful news is that He provides us so many wonderful examples of how love can continue to grow - in my words, in my actions, in my thoughts, and in my heart.  God loves me enough to give me a second, third, fourth . . . .chance.  We need to show that kind of love in everything that we do.  It's not about this earthly viewpoint of love.  It's about shining God's love.  Now that we know what isn't love, let's get ready for next week, and see what love is!

Dearest Jesus, you gave Paul such wonderful words to fully explain to us what love isn't.  When we look at those words and hold up a mirror, we know that there have been times when we haven't truly lived out your love.  We hid behind words, actions and thoughts that were less than true love.  Help us, Jesus, to expose those times when we live out love falsely, and help to turn us around to be true vessels of your love to others.  In your name we pray, Amen!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Giving It All



"If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."  1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)

Giving It All!  I hear that expression in many different perspectives. 
  • Giving It All to the sport that one is competing in
  • Giving It All to a particular project one is working on
  • Giving It All to a relationship that one is dedicated to
Yet, in the sense of our friend Paul in 1 Corinthians, giving it all means giving ALL your possessions to the poor.  Not just what you can afford, not just what you can part with, not even giving everything and leaving you with the bare minimum.  In this case, Paul is referring to giving it ALL - your possessions and possibly your life.  I would think that if a person were to give in that light, that they should gain SOMETHING.  Yet Paul shared without love, they gain NOTHING.

This verse certainly made me think long and hard.  There have been times in my life where I believed I "gave it all".  It could have been in any one of the cases in bullets above - a time where I was competing and "didn't leave anything on the table", or when I worked on a project so hard and long that there was "nothing left to give" or even in a relationship when I believed I did "all that I could do" to make the relationship work.  Did I do all of that for nothing?

What Paul is trying to share, and what makes such great sense, is that when we give it all, without love, the effort results in nothing.  There have been times when I have done something in order to get it off my plate or check it off my list.  Maybe it was something that was expected of me.  Maybe it was something I felt I "had" to do.  When we give in times such as those, performing acts or giving gifts, without any love, becomes of no value - to me or to the gift that was given.

I believe we all agree that when we give with a sense of love, of true love, the giving is made easier.  When we give without boasting, without expecting anything in return, the giving is all the sweeter.  This is hard!  I know many people who say, "I give without expecting anything in return," yet, they do expect something - a thank you, a hug, something?  I, myself have been like that.  Sure, I'm giving out of love, but sometimes I want that thank you.  Was it truly out of unconditional love that I gave?  Certainly, this verse has helped me to reflect on that.

We are human, and by nature, we sin.  I love this verse because it helps me to re-evaluate the act of love and giving.  I certainly don't want to boast about the giving that I do.  I want to be the cheerful giver in ALL circumstances - not just the ones that are convenient for me.  I have much work to do in this arena.  Yet, with God's help - and Paul's reminder - I pray to recognize, love and give.

Heavenly Father, giving with a cheerful heart is one thing - giving with a heart full of unconditional love can be another.  Many times, we may give for all the wrong reasons.  We may give out of something we should do versus something we love to do.  Help us, Jesus, to recognize our giving hearts and may we bring the precious love of you in all that we give.  In your loving name we pray, Amen!


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Speak with Love


Have you ever been around one of those people who happens to know everything?  I'm not just talking about a "know it all".  I'm speaking of one who truly seems to know so much about all things.  These type of people are the ones I wonder, "How can they gain that much knowledge?"  I'm assuming they are incredible readers and spend their extra time reading and studying versus playing Solitaire on their phone.  

I respect people like that - who truly seem to have deep wisdom.  Yet, when I review how I feel about someone like that, it typically falls into two categories.   There are those who have deep knowledge and share it as if they have "all the marbles" or all the knowledge, and I know nothing.  They have a tendency to share their wisdom or knowledge without much thought about who they share that knowledge with.  As the recipient in cases such as those, I will listen, but I don't "take it in", I don't digest what they are sharing.  It will go through one ear and out the other.  All that knowledge shared, yet not received, because it was shared in a way where no love or concern was a part of the conversation.

In the other category are the people who I not only respect, but also truly admire.  These are individuals who share, not for what gains them, but for what is in it for ME, the receiver.  When information is shared in this manner, with concern and love for the person who is receiving the information, it takes on such a different light.  I listen intently to these messages.  I hang on every word, and I will return to hear more from such people.  It is these folks that make my heart rejoice in the wonder of God and His impact in my life.  When one writes or speaks, they bring that love into all of their words.

Such is the manner by which Paul is speaking to us in the passage today.  There are many in faith that will share much about their understandings of the Bible and how to "interpret" the words of God.  It's funny though, that when I read or listen to those people, my heart doesn't flutter, my soul doesn't leap and my mind doesn't hunger for more.  The message is being shared without the most important component - LOVE.  The person in the Bible I believe shares God's message, with such love, is Paul.  Paul transformed not only HIMSELF (with the grace of God), but transformed others with his words of love.  Oh, to be more like Paul.

I certainly fall short when it comes to understanding and sharing God's wisdom.  What I do pray that as we talk with each other, and share God's word on our hearts, is that we share that with others by way of our hearts - full of love and compassionFor it is in that manner that God's word will be richly received.

Dearest God, help me to speak your love and wisdom from a sense of love and not pride.  Bring words to my mouth that will show others the great love you have for me and for them.  Help your word, God, breathe love of life into others.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Clanging Cymbals

"And now I will show you the most 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." 
1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)

Seventh grade Sunday School.  Mr. D decided to take a bunch of seventh graders and show us how to truly love, God's way.  It was a defining moment in my faith.  As we prepare for lent (only one month away), I thought I would take this opportunity to do a series blog on this wonderful chapter.  My goal is to help prepare our hearts for a special time of year - Lent.  It will probably run a little longer than Ash Wednesday, but I hope God blesses us in wonderful ways.

I like to talk - no surprise to many of you who know me.  When someone asks me to speak on a particular subject and they say, "Do you think you can talk for about an hour?" my typical response is, "I can talk about peanut butter and jelly for an hour!"  There are many times when I speak that I believe MY words are right and are truth.  Yet, when I reflect back on many of those moments, I often realize that my words - as eloquent as they might be - may not have been shared in love.  

How so?  I remember times when I may have judged people's actions, or believed my opinion or way of doing something was the ONLY way for that action to take place.  I may have shared those words with a great sense of conviction to all those that I spoke to.  Then I walked away from that conversation only to feel empty inside - and I'm sure the person/people I was speaking to felt the same way.  

Conversations can yield such positive results.  Think back to THOSE conversations.  They typically are not just shared with a sense of intellect, but also with the most important ingredient - the ingredient of love.  When we talk to others, regardless of what language we may be speaking or how the message is shared, when we add love to our words, the words spill out in a most glorious way.  

Words are a powerful tool in today's society.  They are shared in so many different mediums - verbal, written, and even images.  People expand their ability to communicate by learning different languages and using translation systems to ensure their words are delivered.  Due to the internet, we have the ability to speak to people all over the world instantly. How Awesome!!  Is it?

It is if we are able to share our words in love.  As Paul so richly describes, when our words are shared without love, they turn into a "resounding gong or clanging cymbal", neither of which are music to our ears. As I move through my day, I need to remember this.  If my words are not filled with love, are they hurtful?  If my words are not filled with love, are they worth saying?  If my words are not filled with love, am I truly aspiring to be like Jesus?  

Let's take a few moments during these next few weeks to re-evaluate our words.  Let's stop and think before we speak.  Are our words filled with God's Love??  If not, we can risk our words being heard like clanging cymbals.  I don't know about you, but I know I don't want my words to be heard like that - and I know I have some work to do!!  Let's pray that our words are filled with God's Love!!

Dearest Jesus, you gave Paul the wonderful words of 1 Corinthians 13.  As we explore these words during the next few weeks, grant us the wisdom to see these words through Paul's eyes, through YOUR eyes.  May we learn where we can improve and may we, with your help, take the necessary steps to move forward in your grace.  In your name we pray, Jesus.  Amen!!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Hand of Help

"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you."  Isaiah 41:13  (NIV)

The other day while in the grocery store I saw a mom and a young child holding hands while walking down one of the aisles.  I looked at the little one's hand cuddled so safely in the mother's hand and it brought me back to memories of when my children, when they were young, would search for my hand to walk with.  Yes, I do cherish those days.

What led up to the mom and child holding hands was a short moment when the mother, looking up at the shelves for a special item, took her hand away from the child.  You could see the child look around, wondering where the safety net had disappeared to.  The smile on the child's face when the mother's hand reconnected with the child was truly precious.  The hand of help was there and you  could actually see the relief in the child's face.

It not only reminded me of times when my young children would hold my hand, but also the days when, as an adult, I needed to hold someone's hand.  Times were difficult.  There was much to be concerned about.  My chemo treatments, dad's failing health, and relationships that seemed to be breaking apart.  The nights were the worst.  It seemed like I could handle juggling all the balls during the day, but the nights . . .

The nights had my thoughts drifting to horrible scenarios.  I thought of all the "what ifs" of my life.  What if the chemo didn't work?  What if my dad didn't make it?  What if my relationships couldn't be repaired?  Those thoughts would drive many sleepless nights and many heart palpitations.  During the middle of the night there were no family/friends to call and nobody to reach out to.  Except . . .

Except for the one hand that is always reaching to hold my hand - to hold your hand.  Jesus was always there with a hand of help.  He was always there to listen to my heart, to hear my cry.  On the darkest of nights, Jesus was there.  I may never understand why all those things happened in my life - especially what seemed right on top of each other.  Yet, I do understand that I was never alone.  Jesus was there with his hand of help.  

Know that Jesus is there for you as well.  His hand extends to you in your deepest despair.  As you try to sleep at night, He is sitting at the bedside with you, holding your hand.  As you struggle through the day, He is holding your hand as you sit by a sick loved one or struggle through a work project.  As you question the "what ifs" of your own life, He is there for you - holding your hand and letting you know that He loves you.  Remember this as you go through your days.  Your hand of help is only one thought away - let Jesus hold your hand and bring you to safety.

Dearest Savior, thank you for extending your hand of help each and every moment of the day - and of the evening.  Let me be reminded that when times get tough, your hand will safely guide me to peace.  Let me be reminded that your hand is also available when the days of joy surround me.  May I also, Jesus, extend  my hand to help those in need.  In your name I pray, Amen.

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.