What is Love?

Shouldn’t we understand the meaning of love in order to love?  There have probably been more songs written about the subject of love than any other topic.  Entire libraries and art galleries have been filled with inspiring works about love.  But what is love anyway?

Jesus left us with this parting message during the Last Supper:

34A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
 ~ John 13:34-35 (NIV)

The greatest definition of love that satisfies my heart and fulfills the entire law of God Almighty was written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth. Corinth was a corrupt city whose system and culture was driven with idolatry and immorality.  Believers at Corinth were struggling with divisions, as some were falling prey to the influences of their environment – trying to blend their newly found faith in Jesus with the old traditions of “enlightenment” (what is right is wrong and vice versa).  Other church members at Corinth were feeling the crunch of living for God in heathen surroundings.  The spiritual warfare must have been intense!

Doesn’t that resemble the church today?  But Paul was inspired by God to reach out to them with this treasured poetic teaching on God’s perfect love that has stood the test of time:

1”If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2If 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 do not have love, I am nothing.
3If 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.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy;
It does not boast, it is not proud.
5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.
7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there are is knowledge, it will pass away.
9For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11When I was a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child. When I became a man,
I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12For now we see only a 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.
13And now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love,
But the greatest of these is love.” ~ I Cor. 13 (NIV)

I wish this scripture on love would be broadcast on the news channels, social media, and printed in every newspaper every day.  I wish that it would be the highest ranking bit of propaganda ever spread throughout the nations; because true love really is world-changing.

That’s what love is – world-changing!

 

Another thought: When our time on earth is done, will we be remembered for having a heart poured out in true love?

God bless and thank you for following ImportantStuff.live.

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Starting Over – A Reset

We have all experienced the need for “starting over”.  It can be a painful prospect, but in many cases, a reset is the only solution.

Setting a new course can be just the thing necessary to set us free from heartache, guilt, doubt, addiction, unfruitfulness; or in the case of spiritual warfare, a total rebirth:

7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’. 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear the sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:7-8 (NIV)

God chose a flood to wipe out the wickedness that man had caused on the earth (Genesis 6). Rather than destroy man completely, God provided a way of escape for Noah and his family by calling upon Noah to build an ark.  Through faith, Noah was allowed a means of starting over – a reset, if you will.  The victorious reset in history over mankind’s separation from God is the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His crucifixion.  Praise God, we serve a Living Christ!  Another major reset for mankind will take place in the future when our Messiah returns and sets up His kingdom on earth – the Millennial Age.  These examples of God’s resets show that God’s love for us is not to be defeated.  He has not given up on us, but His plan requires starting over.

I chose this feature photo because the rainbow reminds me of God’s faithful promise to never again consume the earth with a flood.  He placed the rainbow in the skies as evidence of His promise.  After the rains, the flooding will pass.

Starting over is like that for me.  The world consumed me like a flood, but the flooding has passed.  God’s magnificent rainbow of promise lies before me, and I rejoice in starting over in Him.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” ~ James 4:8a (ESV)
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” ~ Galations 6:9 (KJV)
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide you a way out so that you can endure it.” ~ I Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

Great is the Lord, and Greatly to be Praised!

God bless you.

Photo credit: unknown

 

Encouragement – “see pg 381”

The Word of God is living and active.  It pries, prods, kicks and squirms;twists, shoves, rips and tears its way into every crook and cranny of the minds and hearts of men until all is “open and laid bare”.  Then – redemption.

The Apostle Paul sums up Dad’s message in the most compelling statement:

12″For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” ~ Hebrews 4:12-13 (Dad’s NT Bible)

 

Paul points out that God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world.  Then He rested on the seventh day (Sabbath).  God intended for man to enter into that rest with Him, but man rebelled (Heb. 4:1-5).  Without accepting God’s plan of redemption through faith in Jesus , man may never enter God’s rest.  Without acknowledging his sin, and accepting Jesus as Messiah, man is eternally barred from entering into an everlasting relationship with his Creator.

BUT GOD!  In His infinite mercy and grace, God provided His living Word as a testament to His abiding love for all men.  He made a plan for redemption. His Son fulfilled the Father’s plan on the cross. Christ defeated death, and God gave His Living Word to proclaim the Good News to let men know about it.

again He sets a certain day, “Today”, saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” ~ Hebrews 4:7 (Dad’s NT Bible)

I thank and praise God for laying my sins bare.  His living Word pursued me like a Lion. It found my hidden parts; then pierced my mind and heart, dividing me asunder. I give Him glory everlasting and thank Him for allowing me to strive for rest in Him.  When I get discouraged it’s usually because I have spent too much time caught up in the “cares of this world” with less time in God’s Word.  Those distractions cause me to be fruitless, while choking God’s Word (Mark 4:18-19).

So here is the last part of the message of encouragement that Dad marked at the bottom of page 381:

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I think it means perseverance.  What do you think?

 

Encouragement – “see pg 289”

Encouragement – “see pg 289” could also be titled, Oh!  By the Way…

There is no one church leader, prophet, apostle, pastor, teacher, marriage counselor, group, or Christian friend who has the power to solve a spiritual problem.  There is only one Truth – the Master Jesus whom we serve.   But in what manner are we to serve?  Let it be willingly and humbly – with no one believer greater than the rest and none to be idolized.

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Chapter 3 of I Corinthians is part of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. Dad actually circled four verses from chapter 3 on pages 288 and 289 of his New Testament Bible.  I am not even going to try to unravel the mystery of it, and appreciate the context of the scriptures by commenting on the passage of verses 3-9.  Chapter 3 was Paul’s way of dealing with a bunch of weak believers who Paul referred to as “babes in Christ”.  He was exasperated with them.  Evidently they were more focused on glorifying the missionaries than they were on growing their relationship with Jesus – a fleshly pursuit.  The result was disunity – division and strife in the body of Christ.  There have been multitudes of believers in history that have been sucked up into the same bowl of beans.

I am not at all categorizing anyone experiencing discouragement as a “weak believer”.  Far from it!  Paul wrote at length about his own discouragements and I would not consider him to be weak in the faith.  Yet his strength came from faith in Jesus – not men.

I am also not saying that fellow believers are unworthy of your time when you need encouragement.  They most certainly should be of help in pointing you to God’s Word for answers.  There is power in the brethren praying for one another, no doubt.  Seek their guidance, respect their calling, but listen to what Paul had to say:

3For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” Are you not merely men? 5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are fellow workers for God: you are God’s field, God’s building.” ~ I Corinthians 3:3-9

And by the way: When it comes to encouragement, God’s Word is The Authority.  There is no one – NO ONE – more trustworthy than our Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the Living God. No matter what is going on in your life that is causing you to feel defeated, you can take it to Him in prayer for peace, resolution, and victory.  Believe in His love, grace, and compassion; which is sufficient and matchless.

Another “By the way”: Although each believer is called, we are called to different purposes, according to God’s plan.  So be encouraged not to try to be God’s yardstick. We stumble when we compare ourselves to fellow believers – be they great or small in our eyes. Apollos and Paul were merely “servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (emphasis added).

More “By the way”: Be encouraged by this: “but God gave the growth”.  A famer plants the seed, and waters it, but only God produces the crop.  That is supernatural power.  The farmer does not own the crop, or other laborers in the field.  God does.  The farmer has no ability whatsoever to make the seed miraculously turn into a mature plant: “you are God’s field, God’s building.”   The farmer is not to be glorified for just planting and watering.  The farmer is doing that for his own benefit – nothing to idolize there!  God owns the dirt.  Man is dust.  Don’t idolize dust!  Seek encouragement in your daily walk from the Creator of dust through His Word.  He will take care of you if you just believe, ask, and trust Him.

21So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; 23and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” ~ I Corinthians 3:21-23

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” ~ I Corinthians 4:1

Oh! By the way: Remember that “you are Christ’s” and He is all powerful.  Be encouraged that He is Wisdom and is our Counsellor, our Friend, our High Tower, our Healer, our Redeemer, and is Mighty to Save.  No problem is bigger than Jesus.  He takes our ugly and wraps it in His Beauty.

Final “By the way”:  The world is watching.  We are to be “stewards of the mysteries of God” instead of “behaving as ordinary men”.  Pray for one another always.

If you are looking forward to discovering with me another segment of Dad’s message about encouragement, follow www.importantstuff.live and check out the next blog titled “Encouragement – “see pg 49”. God Bless.

Note: For another viewpoint on divisions in the early church of Corinth, here is a link to an article written by John Reed:  “1COR3v18to23: THE CURE FOR CHRISTIAN DISUNITY”

 

 

 

 

Encouragement – “See pg 343”

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” ~Philippians 3:12.

We are to press on.  We are not perfect, and we won’t do a perfect job for Jesus; but we belong to Him.  Jesus continually makes intercession for us in heaven because we are His!  PRAISE GOD!!  Our victory is secured in Him through faith – not of ourselves, should any boast.

Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.”  ~ Philippians 3:8.

Very few of us living in America have “suffered the loss of all things” for Christ; but crushing persecution was part of everyday life for believers in the early church (as it is for believers in many areas of the world today):

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36As it is written, for Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” ~ Romans 8:35-37

The greatest encouragement for the believer is that troubles do not separate us from the love of Jesus.  Quite the opposite is true:

38For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8: 38-39

No, we are not perfect, but we are to press on, because nothing we do (or don’t do) can separate us from our Messiah.   He is holding us up.  We are not holding Him up!

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The next posting of Encouragement – “see pg 289” could also be titled, Oh! By the Way…

Encouragement – “see pg 194”

God sends encouragement to the believer in amazing ways through His Word.  Personal witness can be challenging as we share our testimony of faith to others.  Sometimes we don’t see the fruit of what we have sown; but never doubt God’s authority over growing His Gospel.  Our personal abilities, opportunities and circumstances to witness for Him pale by comparison to the power of His Word.  Do you doubt the power of His Word in your life?  God’s Word reaches across both distance and time to bring fruit to the labors of soul winning believers, as I am about to show you.

My father was a Christian who shared his testimony with many people during his lifetime.  Although he passed on to be with Jesus almost 40 years ago, God recently used my dad’s strong faith to encourage me quite unexpectedly when I found my dad’s pocket New Testament lying on a book shelf undisturbed.  I placed it there years ago.  The condition of this little Bible is beyond use, as its binding is a rubber band holding the pages together.  I thought its only use was a keepsake – a cherished memory of Dad.

For some reason I felt led to open the Book, just out of curiosity perhaps, to see if Dad underlined a scripture or left something of him inside.  What I found was a treasured message from my Heavenly Father pointed out by Dad that brought tearful joy to my discouraged heart.  Isn’t it amazing how God zaps us once in a while with His love?

Before I reveal the message, I want to share that Dad witnessed about the Gospel to just about anyone who would listen.  He didn’t drink alcohol, but would visit the local taverns in town to share Jesus with the bar patrons.  He worked in the oil fields of California and Alaska and shared his faith with co-workers; a rough crowd by some standards.  He frequently was met with ridicule for being a Christian, but he was not dissuaded.  He encouraged some men he knew to put God first in their lives if they wanted to have successful marriages.  There were many instances of divorce happening at the time.  Alaska was tough on marriages in the 1960’s.  The lack of conveniences drove many wives to leave their husbands for civilization back in the “lower 48”.  One man in particular scoffed at Dad’s notion that God’s love could mend a marriage.  Anyway, that is just a brief glimpse of my father’s personal testimony throughout his life.  He stood strong for Jesus; was not dissuaded; but now I see evidence in his little Bible that he may have been discouraged at times.  So what did he do about it?

Dad searched out God’s Word for encouragement and outlined God’s answer in the Bible so he could refer back anytime he was feeling rejected, tired, or defeated by the enemy.  I also believe that it was God’s plan for Dad to leave the following message so that I would find it so many years later; so that I would be encouraged; and so maybe whoever reads this will be encouraged to strive to be an overcomer – as Jesus plainly instructed believers eight times in the Book of Revelation.Hollis1

When I opened Dad’s little New Testament, on the very front inside cover was his name and the instruction written in his own handwriting: “see pg 194”.
My first reaction was, “REALLY?”  Some loose pages flew out of the Book in my haste to get to page 194.  Verse 26 of The Great Shepherd’s intercessory prayer for His flock as recorded in John 17 was circled: “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

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Jesus was the First Witness!  He broadcast the Father’s Name, and wasn’t ashamed!  He spoke to thousands about the Father’s love for mankind! – The very thing He commanded His followers do.  So He never asked us to do something that He never did first.

I encourage you to read the entire chapter to learn how great is Jesus’ love for us.  At a time when He was about to be betrayed by one of His own (Judas) and delivered up for torture and crucifixion – He, who was without sin – prayed for us first, and then gave Himself up willingly to the cross.  He sacrificed Himself for us not because He was guilty of any crime, but out of love for sinners and nothing else!

If I knew that I had but a few hours to live, what would be my priority?  Some are told by doctors to “put your things in order” if diagnosed with a terminal illness; as if “your things” are the priority.  Some people rush to do the things on their “bucket list”- those dreams or goals in life that are unfulfilled.

What did Jesus do?

He prayed.  He gave the Father glory – the number one priority and what we should do first when we pray. Then He prayed acceptance that His life on earth was done.  Then He prayed for us: I am praying for them: I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine. ~John 17:9.  Jesus became first because He always put Himself last.  This principle is taught throughout God’s Word, and if it was the priority for Jesus, it should be embraced as priority by His followers as well.

I don’t know what my priority will be when my time is at hand to experience passing out of this life, even though I know what it should be.  I can tell you that Dad knew beforehand that he would be joining Jesus in heaven soon.  Yet he kept his priorities squared away.  He gave the Father glory in all things, even though his life was cut short and it may not have “seemed fair”.  He accepted that God’s purpose in his life was finished.  He had lived his bucket list, so that was done.  He prayed for others as church brethren prayed for him.  He continued to read God’s Word as long as he was able.  He continued to love others and shared his faith with not only his friends, but complete strangers that he met at the hospital, community – everywhere his journey took him until he passed out of this world and into the arms of his loving Savior. Matt28-19-20copy

Reading Dad’s Bible message is working a new thing in my life.  I am just beginning to appreciate more than ever what a wonderful gift God gave me.  What started out as curiosity over a family keepsake has set me on a journey into a deepening re-connection to my Heavenly Father.  I’m getting a glimpse of God’s love being greater than distance or time, and obedience to His will being the priority.

There is more to come (Lord willing) as I explore more of Dad’s New Testament message in “Turn to pg 296”.  Don’t miss the next part of the message by following importantstuff.live.

I Need a Heart Renovation

Something happened recently that showed me how important it is to open my heart to the Holy Spirit.  It had to do with caring for my elderly mother after a surgery.  I was feeling pretty good about myself to be able to help her out and then one evening I came home from cooking a simple meal for my folks and saw a Facebook posting about appreciating your mom more after having kids of your own. Before I could scroll down, I believe the Holy Spirit put a thought into my mind something like this:

“No, you will never really appreciate your mother until you have the privilege of caring for her when she is frail, hurting, and injured – the way she cared for you most of your life!”

The first week after her surgery I stayed at my parents’ house.  I realized by the third day that Mom was recuperating nicely, but I was feeling stressed somehow.  I asked God to heal Mom completely and then to give me the heart to love being with my folks; in their home; to be respectful and positive; to give encouragement; to serve cheerfully; and most of all, to show them love like I have never shown them in my life.  I asked Him to give me joy, understanding, and peace without being torn between my world and theirs.

God is so faithful and He rewards those who seek Him by giving them the desires of their hearts.  God answered the prayers of healing for Mom right way.  She is recovering rapidly and the joint repair has already healed in three weeks (according to her physical therapist).  He says a few months of therapy with exercises at home should deliver her a good outcome.  Thank you, Jesus!

As for me, within days my whole attitude improved.  My spirit is singing and my relationship with Mom is moving to a higher level of trust and respect.  Each morning I waken with anticipation of what blessings God has in store for us today.  As I drive to their house, bring in the newspaper and start breakfast; Mom already has the coffee made (with one good arm, bless her).  We swing right into the day as they catch me up on how things went overnight.  We have always had a good relationship, but now I believe that God is doing an amazing work in the three of us.  It feels like He is drawing us into His Spiritual realm of abiding love.

So what is this abiding love of God?  I am still learning about it as the Holy Spirit reveals. For now, I believe it is the love that sticks; that binds; that never fails; that doesn’t quit; doesn’t expect; doesn’t fault.  It is the love that knows I need a heart renovation and is giving me one.  Thank you, Lord!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law… If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” ~Galations 5:22,23,25 KJV

Where Were You? – Part I

The Book of Job contains the fascinating chapters 38-42.  Do you question if there really is a God, or want to know who He claims to be? In those scriptures, He reminds the tormented Job of His almighty power, and of man’s puny nothingness.  Job has no answer for God until he repents in chapter 42 verses 1-6.  God accepts Job’s humble response, but says that His wrath is kindled against Job’s friends who had doubted God’s love for Job.

I encourage you to read the scriptures daily and prayerfully ask God to reveal what special plan He has for your life.  He is so mighty, yet cares for each of us.  You are special to Him.  He created you with unique individualism, breathed life into you at birth, and wants to have a personal relationship with you.

How?  He made a special plan of redemption that by following His Son, Jesus, we can not only be saved from the penalty of sin, enjoy eternal life with Him in Heaven; but we can have a close relationship with Him right now during our life on earth!

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”     Romans 6:23 -KJV

Jesus promised His followers that He will change our present lives,

 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”   John 10:10-KJV

WOW! To my knowledge, no one can deliver on that promise except for Him.  Thank you, Lord!