By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)
Galatians 5:22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness”
“Love” is a word we use so commonly, I love ice cream, I love that movie, I love this team or that team, I love you!… Then with almost the same flippant ease I say: “I love YOU Lord.” Is that really as easy to say as we make it? Love is so essential that the Holy Spirit in defining the gifts that HE gives to us made it the very first one! LOVE! In the English vernacular, we have cheapened the word “love”, but thankfully God’s Word was originally written in Greek and in the Greek New Testament there are several major and different words for “love”.
‘Storge’ = “natural affection, a feeling towards family or pets etc.”
‘Philos’ = “strong intimate, but non-romantic love of friendship”
‘Eros’ = from the name of the Greek ‘god of love’ – “romantic love.”
‘Agape’ = “the strongest and most noble of loves. Unconditional, love that will do anything for another, regardless of cost. This is GOD’s love.”
So, which is the love of Galatians 5:22 that is a “fruit of the Spirit” love? I’m sure you have guessed it is the last, ‘Agape’. It’s the same word in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” and in Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates His own love toward us…” Think about that, to love like God loves and to love like Jesus loves, comes from God the Holy Spirit as a gift! Have you ever felt like you couldn’t love God enough? Like there was something missing? The love that we can muster within ourselves, in our own strength is always tainted by the self-curl of the flesh. To be able to truly love unconditionally is genuinely a miracle act of God; it must come from and through Him — it is NOT a feeling, it is an action!
Show love even when you don’t feel it; live love even in the presence of the unlovely. ‘Agape’ is also the love of Matthew 5:44 – “But I say to you, love your enemies…” It then stands to reason that the love we are to have for each other is ‘agape’, and the love we are to have for our neighbors is ‘agape’. When we try to love in our own strength it is always lacking. Remember, true ‘agape’ is a gift from the Holy Spirit; walk in Him, live by Him and LOVE through Him!
By Kendall Kelley
Life is tricky. It is full of ups and downs and unanswered questions. But, if you look at life closely, you begin to see its true beauty, you begin to fully understand its value, and can begin to notice God’s hand at work.
I recently watched a sermon by Todd White during which he spoke on becoming the person God has created you to be. His challenge to each of us was to fully see ourselves the way God sees us and to walk uprightly with God, with the wisdom and knowledge of his love so that we may live confidently in who he says we are. But how do we do this?
One point that stuck with me the most is when Todd said: “So many people today are walking around, trying to figure out this thing called life. But you can’t really do the thing until you become the thing.” He said our main priority in life should be this: To live like Jesus lived, to love like he loved, to walk like he walked, to talk like he talked. We must die to ourselves so that we may be alive in Christ. Die to our old ways and to all our selfish ambitions. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others, wanting someone else’s life, because we don’t understand and know the life God has created us to have. “If we wake up in love with Jesus, spend our day in love with Jesus, and go to sleep in love with Jesus, then we will have fulfilled his first command – to love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
What does all this mean? What exactly is this ‘thing’ we are meant to become? As I dove deeper into my notes and thought about Todd’s above quote, it was all made clear when I added one word to the phrase: “…you can’t really do the thing until you become like the thing.” In other words, we cannot fully live this life until we become invested in following the one who sacrificed his to give us ours. In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” So, if we want to live a joyous life, and it is written that Jesus is life, then why not start by living a life for Jesus? We do life by becoming more Christ-like. We relinquish our selfish ways, our need to always know the plan, our acts of comparison, and we begin to see ourselves the way God sees us. We take the gifts and desires he has placed in our hearts and we execute them for the sake of his glory and his good.
You see, when we look in the mirror we see something completely different than what God sees. We see flaws, we see imperfections, we see the regrets from our past, the mistakes we made, rejection from others, our addictions, our sins, and our insecurities. We see that we’re ‘messed up’. God doesn’t see that. In fact, he does one better; he says, “I’ll see you’re ‘messed up’ and raise you freedom. He gives freedom from it all. That is how good our God is. He willingly came into this world and became our sin, so that we could become something more. Something more than what our shame, guilt, worry, and rejection tell us we are.
God is constantly forgiving us and pursuing us every single second of the day. He does this because we are his children that he made in his image. We’re made in HIS image! That’s huge!! God, who is perfect in all things, made us in his image – meaning he sees no imperfections in us.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m my own worst enemy. My indecisiveness, ability to overthink little details, and desires to understand every circumstance takes over and causes me to lose sight of who I am. Just the other day, as God was revealing some of that hard truth to me, I found myself writing in my journal. Six pages filled with ugly details from all of my past relationships. These were areas of my past that I never wanted to revisit because they were reminders of times when I was wronged and when I did wrong. The burdens I carried had been pushed way, way down. These memories had left permanent scars on my heart. As I sat there with shame-filled pages staring back at me, I realized just how much of an effect it all still had. The guilt, the anger, the fear and need for control – it was still consuming my every move. Then I heard God say, “Now take all of what you just wrote and go rip it up.”
This is a direct representation of our God. He loves us so much so that he calls out our sins and rips them up, tearing away their bondage over us. He forgives so that we can move forward with a pure heart into the plans he has for us. He does this so that we can become who he created us to be and live an abundant life in the body of Christ. He doesn’t call us to live under our pages of regret; he calls us to rise above, seek his face and be a living vessel of his work. But before we can fully rise to the occasion, to be our very best self, we must first be willing to sacrifice everything that keeps us tethered to the ground.
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
A special thanks to our guest writer Kendall Kelley. You can find her online at http://www.onefinesoul.com/ and on instagram @onefinesoul.
By Pastor Ben Hill
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
Augustine said: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
How motivating it should be to love when we think about God’s love for us! Yet why is it so hard to separate the love of God for us from our “performance” in loving back?! The pure perfection of His unconditional love is a concept; indeed, a Truth that must be accepted on faith because sin’s presence in our lives and our world make that pure unconditional love unobtainable for us. No matter how we may try, the “I” of sin will always get in the way somehow.
What, then, do we do? Focus on the reality that “God IS love!” He sees us through a timeless lens: simultaneously as we are AND how we will one day be! His love is pure… His love is proved… He gave His Son!! Jesus died because God is love.
During Oliver Cromwell’s reign as Lord Protector of England, there was a young soldier who was scheduled to be executed. His young fiancé pleaded with Cromwell to spare the young soldier’s life. Cromwell refused and the sentence was to be carried out when the curfew bell sounded. When that time came, the heavy rope of the large bell was repeatedly pulled, but there was no loud ringing sound! The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and wrapped herself around the clapper so that it could not strike the bell. Her body was smashed and bruised, but she did not let go until the clapper stopped swinging. When she was brought down battered, bleeding and bruised, and Cromwell heard her explanation and saw her level of devotion and love, he commuted the sentence.
God’s love for you is displayed in brutally and beautifully vivid color as Jesus still bears the scars of being crushed to save you from eternal death! Just accept it…on faith. He really does love you!
By Jane Horvath
Have you ever had a situation that astounded you or made your heart stop? I am not talking about a beautiful sunrise or sunset or the birth of your child or grandchild. I am referring to that phone call you never wanted to receive, the work situation, the overwhelming health problem or the relationship that seems beyond repair.
One of my new favorite shows is Code Black. A few definitions of code black, a medical term, is mass casualties or personal threat. Any of the situations above could fall into these definitions. We do not live in a vacuum, so work, health and relationship issues can feel like a personal threat and may involve mass casualties. In every episode of Code Black, someone’s heart stops beating for one reason or another, and the doctors and nurses use a variety of means to restart the heart.
When these situations occur, what means are you using to restart your heart? On the other hand, would you prefer to be just another casualty? What will it take to go from the flat line of your heart not beating to hear your heart beat again?
In Code Black, sometimes the heart starts using basic CPR. Other times a powerful medication like epinephrine is used. If all else fails, the heart jolts to life with a defibrillator. In the case when our hearts stop beating because of overwhelming circumstances, God may use a variety of means to start our heart again.
Many times God uses a verse in His word, a song or a text from a friend to jolt my heart back to life. Other times, it is a message from church or something from a book I am reading that startles me back to life. For other times it takes counseling over a period of time for me to start hearing a faint heartbeat.
I do know that the longer it takes me to recognize my heart has stopped beating, the longer it takes it to start beating again. God is the common denominator for my heart to start beating. He uses people, places and things, but God is the one who breathes life back into my body and soul.
If your heart has slowed or stopped beating because of overwhelming circumstances in your life, do not be another casualty. Instead, seek God through His Word or through a person who knows the life-saving treatments to start your heart beating again for Him.
Are we truly aware of the impact our beliefs have on our life and our relationship with God?
She believes she is worthy.
She believes she is loved.
She believes she is accepted.
She believes she is victorious.
She believes she is powerful.
She believes she is righteous.
She believes she is significant.
She believes she has purpose.
She believes she can have hope in Christ.
She believes she is forgiven.
She believes God can heal her.
She believes God will heal her.
She believes she is full of the Holy Spirit.
She believes God makes His home in her.
She believes God works mightily through her.
She believes she can have a meaningful impact on others.
She believes God wants her to show His love to others.
She believes the joy of the Lord is her strength.
She believes she is courageous.
She believes God knows her by name.
She believes God will remove any chains that hold her down.
She believes she doesn’t have to live an unfulfilled life.
By Danielle Harmon
For the longest time, I was worried that I was going to miss God when He was speaking to me. I was constantly concerned, afraid, full of guilt and condemnation and felt that I would make a wrong turn and not hear Him. At times, I lacked confidence in my decisions because I was constantly afraid they were wrong. I was aware of the verse from John 10:27, which reads, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. However, I was afraid that somehow I would miss Him. An understanding of the Father’s love for me has been essential in learning to hear His voice more clearly.
Through His Holy Spirit, God has been teaching me that any fear, worry, condemnation, anxiety or depression that I hear or sense is not the voice of the Father. Whenever I have these feelings, they’re directly from the enemy. The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Therefore, if God is guiding me in His perfect love, He will not use fear to accomplish His purpose. Being fearful is not walking in the Spirit. Instead of fearing misdirection, I can remember Psalms 91:14-16 which speaks of the Lord’s protection, deliverance and guidance.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalms 91:14-16
Whenever feelings of doubt or fear creep into my mind disguised as “wisdom”, I can defeat them because of my understanding of God’s love. Meaning, I can recognize these thoughts and feelings as the voice of the enemy and extinguish them. Then, I replace them with the Truth of God’s Word. As Christians, we are instructed to do this in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Learning to do this is essential to hearing the voice of God. It is the revelation of His love for me which has enabled me to have confidence in my right to use and apply His Truth to my life.
Now that I’m learning to hear God’s voice more clearly, the verse from John 10:27 has taken on new meaning. I have come to understand that the deeper my relationship with Him, the more clearly I hear Him. Continued learning and revelation of His character leads to greater ability to hear his guidance. As I grow in my understanding of Him, I have found that He will direct me so I can follow His will. The Bible tells us this in Proverbs 3:6: “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” I have confidence in knowing that the Father will tell me when to turn right or turn left. He will not lead me astray. He created me for His designed purpose and He is faithful to see it to completion by showing me the correct path. Just as a parent would not watch a child wander off in the wrong direction without speaking up, God will let me know when I start to roam so that I can make a change and turn back.
Through the revelation of the Father’s love for me, I have traded fear and anxiety for love and confidence in Him. I am no longer afraid of “missing God.” I know that He cares for me. As a result of the relationship that I have with Him, He will let me know when I start to get off-course. As I am consumed by His love, I find my refuge and peace in Him instead of being tossed around by worry and fear. I can rest in the knowledge that God truly loves and cares for me (See Psalms 23).
By Danielle Harmon