Fruit of Love

pureloveblogBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The fruit of the Spirit is familiar to most. Even if we can’t quickly name them all, we know the basics of what they are. We know that these things don’t come in our own strength. They’re cultivated by God. We can feel bad about not being well-developed in one or another, or we can wear some as a badge of pride because we see how far we’ve grown. Many times, we want instant growth. We get a glimpse of how far we might still have to go and wish we had an instant-grow capsule, the kind that dissolves in water and quickly grows in size and shape. But it’s not about us and our comfort. It’s about God working and showing through us. He provides, because He knows.

I grew up on a beautiful farm, which meant (1) there were always adventures to be had and (2) there was always work to be done. The hills close to our house involved both: adventure and work. In the winter, the hills were fantastic for sledding. The summer we cleared the north hills, they were a lot of work.

The bulldozers came in to knock down trees and pull up root systems. We’d check on the process when they weren’t working, and I was amazed to stand beside many tree trunks large enough for me to walk through with barely a stoop if they had been hollowed. It was quite a process of transformation to watch. The hills of scattered trees I had known became almost unrecognizably bare. I noticed details I had never seen before. And it wasn’t long before I knew those hills more intimately than I ever thought I could.

After the large machinery was done, it was our turn to scour the hills. Since farm machinery would be working the hills, planting and harvesting beans and wheat in the coming years, we had to pick up what the large equipment couldn’t get and the farm machinery shouldn’t get. So, our trekking began.

We walked back and forth across the width of the hills. We worked as a team (most of the time), picking up rocks and broken pieces of root systems and throwing them onto a trailer. It was dirty, exhausting work. Every now and then, we’d find a treasure—an arrowhead or a fossil—and we’d gather around to examine each other’s discoveries. We’d soon go back to the monotonous search for rocks. The land was rough, a result of being pulled apart. We weren’t working on level ground. What looked like stone was often a clump of dirt and when kicking a clump of dirt, we often found stones. Walking on uneven ground was tiresome. Repeatedly bending over and picking up debris was exhausting. The adventure of the process quickly wore off as we returned to the hills day after day.

But the process was necessary in order to prepare the fields for the next thing: crops.

We often are in the process of clearing something of the past in order to prepare for the future. It’s essential we do the work. Sure, we’d rather be enjoying the thrill of sledding or consistently finding treasures. The filth and exhaustion isn’t as much fun as the adventures, but it’s a critical part of the process. We can complain and whine. We can sit and pout. Or, we can get to what needs to be done.

When we’re obedient in letting God work in us to cultivate the fruit of our lives, it’s about Him. He knows the best process and timing, and He gets the glory along the way. But we have to yield in order to get the best yield. We have to let Him prepare our lives for the next season. But His purpose is worth every experience along the way.

Dear God, I thank you for Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for not only providing for me but setting the example of every good thing in my life. You live it out in who You are. You give me an accurate inspiration for the possibilities. You are beyond my wildest imaginations, and I’m passionate about living my life fully for You.

Freedom with Love

pureloveblogFor you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

God gives us freedom abundantly. We often think of freedom as our rights, but the freedom that God gives is more like a territory. Consider the attitudes toward freedoms in the following verses.

Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.” But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” And he said to him, “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15:25-32)

His younger brother wanted his share of the inheritance. After his father gave it to him, he left home and squandered it, while the older son stayed home and fulfilled the expected role of a son. But when the younger brother came home, the father treated him with much love, celebrating his return. And the older brother wasn’t happy about it.

We can cry “no fair” when we feel we’ve done the right thing then see someone else being treated abundantly well, because we think everyone should get what they deserve. We think it’s tied into behavior and that we have a right as a response to what we’ve done or haven’t done, but that’s not how inheritance works. We don’t earn it. It’s given because of the person giving it not because of ourselves. Inheritance and freedom are intricately tied in God’s will. Our inheritance from God is freedom. And both come with responsibility.

Several things can happen when we try to live by our own claims on freedom and boundaries instead of God’s. We can build ourselves a small space within the large space we’ve inherited and we never step on every inch intended for us. We might pay more attention to what we don’t have than what we do. We think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. We may become territorial, believing where we go and what we have is more about ourselves than about our responsibility to the one who gave us the inheritance.

Freedom isn’t what we have access to but what we do with that access. For example, because God gives us a freedom from ambition, we’re free to serve with a joyful heart. Because God gives us freedom from selfishness, we’re free from irritation. Because God gives us freedom from jealousy, we’re free to rejoice in the good of another. Because God gives us freedom from expectations, we’re to enjoy whatever He provides. Because God gives us freedom, we will see the Kingdom of God.

If you define your freedom or inheritance on your own, you’ll misuse it and miss out on many blessings God wants to give you. God has given the freedom and inheritance to you. He knows it best. And He’ll guide you every step throughout it and every moment you live within it. You need to simply ask, trust, and respond in obedience.

Dear God, I praise You for who You are. I can get so caught up in what I think is my own life and my own wants and needs, and I can even twist it somehow to make it seem to me that I’m not making it about me. But it often is. Challenge me to take my eyes off of myself and my condition and look to you. I don’t want to compare myself to anyone else, because I can too easily fall into the “I’ve got it better than” or “I’ve got it worse than” trap. It’s not about my own assessment. It’s about Yours. And I know You have responsibilities for me to live out loud so that others experience Your love. I trust You, and I rely fully on You.

Grace, Love, and Fellowship

pureloveblogThe grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (1 Corinthians 13:14)

The grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Does it get any better? When we have a relationship with God, we have come to God the Father through Jesus, and we received the Holy Spirit. We could get into all sorts of doctrine about the timing and requirements involved in our relationship with God, but instead of spending our time today trying to explain, let’s savor the experience, truth, and blessings of our relationship with Him.

A faithful relationship with God involves grace. Jesus Christ has the ability to see us as we really are. He sees the dirt. He sees the intentions. He sees our heart and our attitudes. He sees our past, present, and future, and He doesn’t use any of it to excuse us. He knows, He cares, and He provides. Because He was willing to take on all the junk of our lives, die on the cross, and overcome death after three days in the tomb, we receive grace when we go to Him and accept who we are without Him. When we accept the fullness of who Jesus is, we receive what we could never earn. Grace is unmerited. Through grace, we are forgiven. We step into a freedom to fully live the life God intends for us—not just on earth but beyond.

The reason we have grace through Jesus is because of God’s love. He loves us enough that He sacrificed His only Son. If there was another way, surely, He would have known about it. But God doesn’t take the easy way. God’s love doesn’t seek easy. Nothing as powerful as God’s love can. So, we have grace, and we have love: perfect, unfathomable, and unending love. We’ve been digging into God’s love day after day, and we still cannot easily, succinctly sum up God’s love. Love is God’s. God is love. And He lavishes us with it. He fills us to overflowing so that we can love others in the same way God loves us.

God loves and gives grace in relationship. We have fellowship with God, because He created us for relationship. He wants connection, because He knows it’s the only way to live a full, purposeful life. Fellowship is fulfilling to Him and to us. And it’s necessary for us. We have the Holy Spirit within us as believers to teach and guide us. He comforts us, and through our relationship, we have sweet fellowship. It’s through fellowship that we abide in God’s presence and yield to Him as He cultivates us, producing such fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Holy Spirit guides, protects, comforts, teaches, and leads us.

The fullness of relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit…the fullness of love, grace, and fellowship…It is yours. It is mine. It is God’s. It is ours.

Dear God, thank You for Your love, grace, and fellowship. Thank You for our relationship. I can’t really fathom it most of the time. My mind can’t comprehend Your pursuit of me. I can’t know all the many ways You provide for and guide me, but I can appreciate Your vastness. My heart is full with You, and I know You provide a fullness that goes beyond what I can imagine. I commit to continuing to seek and serve You. I want to grow in my relationship with You. Every step of the way, I will savor Your grace, love, and fellowship.

Affirmation of Love

pureloveblogWherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for Him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. (2 Corinthians 2:8-9)

How can we reaffirm our love for God?

God wants us to know that He loves us with a love distinctively higher than ours. It’s sovereign, steadfast, and selective. To reaffirm our love for God, we accept His love, which includes knowing His love by knowing His character.

God is sovereign. He is above and over all things. We can wrestle with God in the details of our lives. We like the idea that He’s sovereign. We need God to be bigger than us, because if He’s not, He can’t really help us. Yet we also want God to be small enough that we can understand Him. We want explanations. We want to be able to fill in the blanks as we have questions. But we can’t have a god who is small enough to understand and big enough to provide for and guide us. A small god cannot rule. A big god cannot be completely explained.

God is God, whether we accept Him in His fullness or not. What we want isn’t thrown into a vat to produce something in our own image. We are created in God’s image, not the opposite. It’s like putting a penny in a souvenir press-a-penny machines. We take what we have, put it in the machine, pay with some additional coins, choose the design we like the most, then crank the penny through to receive the end product we wanted. We got something we wanted that we can hold in our hands and keep, and we even got to put in the effort of cranking the handle and being a part of the “making” process. We sacrifice a little—a penny we can never use again and a couple other coins. But we didn’t create the penny in the first place. We’re working with raw materials that we can’t personally produce. And we’re using a machine we didn’t personally produce. Plus, our choices are limited.

Taking what we know and making a god from it is starting with raw materials we didn’t even create, so how can we possibly have enough knowledge and creativity to make something beyond us? We might not be comfortable with everything about God. We certainly don’t understand everything about Him. But He is sovereign, and we can’t change it, nor do I think we really want to. We can wrestle with our pain and discontentedness of where we are, where we’ve been, what we have, and what we can see in front of us. But the pain and discontentedness doesn’t go away by wishing it away, making excuses or reaching for explanations of why it happened, or projecting our limited view onto a limitless God. As we reaffirm our love for God, we are healed.

Affirming our love for God is about obedience. It’s saying, “No matter what is going on in my life, Lord, you are Lord of my life.” It’s seeing God as He is, at least, as well as we can see Him as He reveals Himself to us. He wants us to know Him well, so He doesn’t hide as we seek. What remains hidden is limited to what we can’t understand. But there is a lot more about Him—and His love—that He wants us to personally experience. He will affirm His love to you. Affirm it with Him.

 

Dear God, I praise You for who You are. I am sorry for trying to make You into my image at times. It seems so foolish, yet when I need to understand something, I will accept an explanation without really wrestling with You to get to the accurate answer of who You are. Help me to accept Your sovereignty and live it out on a daily basis, trusting and seeking You in all things, big and small. You are a big God, and I am so thankful.

Tears of Love

pureloveblogFor out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you. (1 Corinthians 2:4)

All tears are not created equally. We can be taught to wipe away our tears, let them freely flow, produce them on demand, or refuse to let them even exist. The truth is tears are necessary and very appropriate to express ourselves and God. It doesn’t mean every time our tears fall is a reflection of God, but when we weep because of who God is and how and what He’s provided in our lives, we certainly need to welcome them.

God’s love is passionate. He pursues with intensity. It’s not just that He feels love toward us. He lives love toward us. His love is active and alive. It is intentional and productive.

And everything God’s love is for us is also for us to love others. We don’t have to feel love for people to respond in love to them. We can share God’s love with a stranger. As we yield to God, and as we know how He is, His heart for us eclipses our heart for the world. Anything or anyone we love filters through His love. If it is worthy and in His will and time, He keeps it within us and equips us to respond. If it’s not, as we yield, He hides it from us or weeds it from our lives altogether. We don’t decide how to share God’s love with strangers or acquaintances. God instructs us. He prompts us with His Holy Spirit. He challenges us through His Word. We will see someone and sometimes respond immediately in assurance . Other times we will walk away and wrestle with God until He provides the answer. Sometimes He’ll tell us to walk away. And many other times, we don’t even notice the opportunity, because we’re not receiving the fullness of God’s love due to our attitude or heartitude.

We can also fail to share God’s love with the people we say we love the most. We get frustrated because relationships don’t go the way we want. The other person doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain. But are we? Are we living God’s love out loud in a way that changes us—not expecting someone else to change as a condition but trusting God to change the way we think, respond, and believe. We can also take relationships for granted. We know it’s not going to go away. There’s a commitment or a bond that creates a foundation that will never completely shatter regardless of what we pile on top of it. But what if we leave out God’s love? If He’s not a bold part of the relationship, starting with our own lives, we need to check the security of our assurance.

When we consider how tears and love are associated, most of us probably think of how we cry over love not with love. Crying over love when relationships have broken, betrayed, or perhaps not even started, is sorrow. It’s not the kind of tears characterized in this verse. Tears of love are passionate and pursuant. They include everything that God wants for you with His love. They are merciful, forgiving, trustworthy, full of peace, comfort, and conviction. Because that is who God is.

 

Dear God, thank You for tears, that I can celebrate Your love. I know that sometimes the tears of love I cry seem sorrowful, because I’m mourning the loss of life and connection. But through these words, I understand my tears are tears of love. When I love someone You have woven into my life, the separation hurts. I long for the person because he or she reflects the love that You have given me in my life. Help me not to use the love and the tears You have given me to be selfish. I want to pursue Your presence and Your love with such passion that I am constantly stepping out of my own will and into Yours. Open my heart to love as You love, and open my eyes to see as You see and weep for what You weep.

Love All

pureloveblogLet all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)

We must reject what is against God’s will. He commands us to love one another. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a common phrase to describe how we’re to respond to people who are engaging in behavior contrary to God’s will. Most Christians have struggled with how to live this out in specific circumstances. It’s perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions: “How can I love the person without giving her the impression that I approve of what she’s doing?” You can’t do it with your own strength and love. God’s love is unconditional, but it’s also corrective. God loves you even though you don’t live every moment of your life exactly the way He wants you to live. Even when you’re seeking His will and intending to live every moment for Him, you’re going to make some poor judgments. You’re human. But God still loves you.

He also loves the person beside you. You might not know how to share your love, but you can share God’s love, because God says she’s worthy. You don’t have to have every detail of the relationship figured out. You simply must follow God’s lead. That means staying invested in the relationship as long as God leads you to stay invested—and not a moment longer or shorter. People are in our lives for seasons, so you will often have limited impact on people. Following God’s lead means you’ll speak up in some situations and be silent in others. It’s how God leads. You have to be content that you don’t have the answers—God does. He knows how to express His love much better than you do. When you respond out of what makes sense to you instead of what God is directing you to do, you run the risk of not only rejecting the person or sending the wrong message but also of rejecting God yourself. When you ignore His lead, you’re putting others and yourself in front of your relationship with Him. And that’s certainly not ever His will.

Dear God, I want to do all things with Your love. I want nothing in my life to contradict the will of Your love. I praise You for Your completeness. I am in awe of who You are and how You provide for me and reveal Yourself to me. I cannot fully express my gratitude, yet I will continue to seek You and respond in obedience. Thank You for giving Me Your peace, joy, mercy, compassion, and correction.

Love is the Greatest

pureloveblogBut now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Faith, hope, and love. Why is love the greatest of the three? It restores. It’s active. It is relationship. God sets it apart because it so completely demonstrates His character. We will abide in all three—faith, hope, and love. We don’t have to choose among them. They don’t contradict each other. They work together. They complement each other. It’s as if they are three cords woven together…but love is the cord that is set apart among them, part of them but superior at the same time.

God creates us for relationship, and love is central to our relationship with God as well as to each other. God responded with love for us. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)

God actively and unconditionally loves us and made a way—through love—to be reconciled to Him. When love is primary, we have faith because of God’s love for us. Love is the foundation of our faith. And faith gives us hope.

God’s love is amazing. We don’t deserve His love. We can’t earn His love. Yet we receive it anyway. Love is a fruit of faith and shows our authenticity of faith, which equips us to serve. Love is now as well as in the future. It looks outward toward others. It includes self-sacrifice for God. Love is extensive. It is God’s. And He gives it to us.

 

Dear God, thank You for Your love. And Your faith and hope. You are amazing in Your love. I cannot fathom the full reach of Your love, but I know You intend to give it to me abundantly with the intention for Me to live it out. I trust You to use me. I yield myself to You. I love you, and I praise You for Your love, faith, and hope.