Everything is green in Washington, granted their annual rainfall is almost 35 inches! Coming from Southern California it is almost like seeing things for the first time. Things are green and grow in plenty. One of those plants that grows in plenty is the blackberry. It is more of a nuisance than anything because it is everywhere and It grows like a weed here.
In the back of our property there are some blackberry bushes that have crept in and before we moved in were taken care of. They were cut down and even sprayed. As I went around the property they have grown back and if not taken care of will again become overbearing.
Though I am painting the negative of blackberries, I am wanting to highlight in the positive how this is connected to love. The Apostle Paul prayed for the church in Philippi that their love would would abound more and more (Phil 1:9).
Our Love Grows
Like blackberries which can grow quite crazy as a believer we should desire for our love grow as well. How does this happen? First, Pau’s prayer was that the church’s love would grow more for Jesus and others.
In another letter to a different church he prays, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19 ESV).
Paul’s prayer was that was one contemplates and experiences the love of Christ which we can never fully fathom yet we would grow in it. To put it another way, the more I bask in the love of Christ the more I grow in the love of Christ. I will never fully comprehend on this side of eternity but I can grow in understanding day by day.
As our love grows in reflection of Jesus Christ’s love we then can grow in our love towards others. Pastor and author Steven Lawsons said, “The greatest petition we can bring before God on behalf of other Christians is that they would deepen in their love for him and for others…Where the love of the brethren grows, the church is most like heaven and becomes attractive to the world.”
Full But Never Full
I am filled with the love of Christ as that was poured out through his perfect and sinless life, his sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection. Though I am filled I am never full because I am daily being filled and filled again of his love.
Paul was pointing out to this fact as he prayed for the church’s love to abound more and more. They are filled but never full as they experience and know Christ’s love each day. As blackberries grow and it seems like nothing can stop them, may our love which is founded in Christ continue to grow despite opposition or hardships.
I had the privilege of interviewing Pastor Elijah Braggs from Harvest Christian Fellowship on race, racism, and how the church should respond. It was sobering yet encouraging as we discussed what it means to be made in the image of God (Imago Dei) and the importance for us to pause, pray, and respond biblically.
Do you ever wonder why does God love me? As a Christian we hear that phrase a lot, “God loves you!” Have you ever thought why? We may not understand why certain things happen, but we can say God loves me. When suffer and go through trials God still loves (Rom. 8:35-39). The beloved disciple of Jesus, John, writes in 1 John why the love of God is so important. He is answering and defending who Jesus is. He is fully man and fully God. This matters because God loves you!
Tina Turner asked this question in her song “What’s Love God to Do With It?” In regards to God’s love it has everything to do with it. God is love, and He loves us, so we can love one another (1 John 4:7-8). Here are four aspects to God’s love for us to reflect on.
God’s Love Is A Mark Of A Christian.
The born-again believer is made distinct from the world based on what? in 1 John we see that it is by how they love. Christian, there should be something different about you. There should be something that stands out from you, and that is how you love others.
We can love one another because love is from God. This love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). His love shapes us and defines us as Christians. Jesus even said, everyone will know that you are my disciples by how you love (John 13:35).
God’s Love Is Manifested Through Christ.
The beloved disciple John writes, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 9-10).
God is love! God as his divine attribute and characteristic is love. All of God’s activity is a loving activity. Everything we know about God teaches us that he is love. Every encounter we have with God expresses that He is love.
The highest, greatest example of how God loves is shown in Christ! God who is love and is loving is shows his love through and in Jesus Christ. The Bible reminds us that we know love because Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16).
The famous love passage in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, gives us a description of what love looks like. It is a tangible approach to love that is demonstrated by Jesus.
The Apostle Paul writes, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
We sometimes want to read that and then challenge ourselves by replacing the word love with our names. The description that Paul is giving is that of Jesus Christ, who perfectly loved. We need to read this passage as Jesus is patient and kind and so on. You and I will fail to love perfectly but Jesus loves perfectly. We then rest in Jesus who loves perfectly as we can reflect this love to one another.
The Love Of God Is Our Mission And Message Of The Believer To The World.
Because God loves me, I can love God (1 John 4:19). Because God loves me, and can also love others, including those who are hard to love. It has been said, “The unseen God reveals himself through the visible love of believers.” We are a reflection of God who loves!
How does this happen. There is a word that John uses in 1 John 4, it is abide. He writes, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:12, 13, 15-16).
The word abide also means to dwell in, remain in, or to live in. I like the term live in because it shows the depth of the relationship. There is a difference between a house and a home. A house can be a temporary dwelling place to keep you safe from the elements. But a home as the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Home is where you have roots. Home is where you are invested and committed. Whenever I may be out traveling and staying in hotels, I can’t wait to get home. It is because that is where I abide.A
Many may approach their relationship with God like a house. It serves them a purpose but temporary. If we abide in God, He abides in us, because He has given us His Spirit (1 John 4:13). We are committed, in union with, live in with God; we abide!
Jesus was asked what are the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:36-40)? Jesus responded by the saying the first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. When we abide in God, we love God with our whole being. It is a result of abiding is loving him. We love Him because He first loves us (1 John 4:19).
The second command Jesus said is like the first which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Oswald Chambers answered the question of who is my neighbor? He said, “If my heart is right with God, every human being is my neighbor. When we abide in God, we love God and we love others. This is God’s love which is made visible in Christian love for one another.
We Can Love Those That Are Hard To Love!
How do we love other people? Love Jesus more than them. When you love Jesus more than your spouse, you actually love your spouse better. The same is true when you love Jesus more than children you love them better. When you love Jesus more than others you actually care and share the Gospel of love with them. When we love Jesus more, we are able to speak truth in love. Because we love Jesus and love other people.
When we abide in God and He in us, we can love our enemies. Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). We need to remember that we were once an enemy of God, someone hard to love and yet God loved me still. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
God loves you! He demonstrated in the most glorious and greatest way through Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
How do we love God in return? It is when the believer demonstrates God’s love to one another!
Many times I get this question, “Pastor, please pray for me.” Not only do I do my best to pray for them right then and there but I try to remember to pray for them throughout my week. I am often wondering how do I pray for others. I know it is lifting up their request but more so, how should my heart and mind be when I pray for them. I am so thankful for Scripture as we can see a model of what this looks like. Paul, the Apostle, would often pray for the different churches and mention that in his letters to them.
One of those particular prayers is found in the book of Philippians. In his pastoral prayer, we have a model of the heart behind praying for others.
1) Our prayers need to be thankful for others
Paul was thankful for the church in Philippi, he was thankful for them. He writes to them, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).” As a pastor I am reminded how I am thankful for the believers at my church. I am thankful for the unity that comes in Christ. Though there may be different in our interests, we have different backgrounds and upbringings, we have different likes and dislikes, different hobbies, different professions, different yet we have Christ who unites us. We go from unrelated to family. We go from strangers to a community. Christ who unites us is far greater than where we are diverse. Continue reading “How to Pray for Others”
As a parent, there are certain things that I am less desirous of doing than others, such as going to Costco as a family. Don’t get me wrong; I love being with my family and I love spending time with them. But Costco is usually busy, and when you have three young children, it’s just not that easy. I always tell my wife, Alyssa, that it is like trying to herd cats.
There have been successful trips to Costco and that is when we are all moving together with the same goal. We get in, have fun, and get the items we came for. Plus, the kids get to eat all the free samples!
In the same way, the church is made up of more than individual Christians; we are a body of believers that is called a family. We can easily start going our own way and doing our own thing. That is why Paul urges the church to be unified. He writes to the Philippian church, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2 esv). Continue reading “Marks of Christian Unity: Rejoicing with One Another”