Love is NOT SELF-SEEKING.

[1 Corinthians 13:3-5]

“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. If 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…”

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”  Ephesians 2:4-8, NIV

"But made Himself nothing..."

I think my first instinct is to label self-seeking as selfishness.  I’m familiar with the term and it’s fairly easy to recognize in the behavior of others… and yes, (FINE!) I can admit that it’s easy to recognize selfishness in my own heart.  But I think there’s another way that we attempt to be loving and find ourselves surprised when the equation doesn’t quite work.  We forget that entitlement is a symptom of being self-seeking.  [Entitle: to give an enforceable right to claim something]

I think entitlement is hard to recognize because it’s so ingrained in our culture.  The American Dream says if we work hard we deserve a big pay-off.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with it.  It sounds like the making of success.  But I not only demand and deserve success, I also deserve to be right (as the customer), to be heard (as a citizen), and to be happy.  So you can imagine my relief when I discovered Acts 20:35 (NCV) which says:

“I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and reap the blessings of your labor. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘You deserve to succeed and be happy.’”

Except that isn’t what the verse says at all.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “ Acts 20:35, NCV

Jesus tells us that we are more blessed when we give love than when we expect love.  This isn’t just a nice sentiment to quote to children when they are consumed by the wants of Christmas.  He’s stating a fact.  We will be blessed [divinely or supremely favored; fortunate… blissfully happy or contented] when we stop seeking self and begin to seek the Lord and His desires.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17, NIV

The real truth is that you and I don’t deserve anything.  But thanks be to God who has not withheld His love from us. When we focus our source, direction, and identity in Him who is love, we will slowly begin to leave the demand for self behind.

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40, NIV

Hang this verse in a prominent place near the front door in your house or a door you use often.  Recite the verse every time you get ready to leave the house and face the world.  Let the words soften you as you hurry around.  Remember to love!

Following,
Ginger

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Advent Resource: “Song of the Stars” by Sally Lloyd-Jones GIVEAWAY information right HERE! (Drawing closes TONIGHT at midnight, central time.  The winner will be announced tomorrow!)

Love is NOT RUDE.

[1 Corinthians 13:3-5]

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. If 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude…

Love is not rude.

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
   my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
   and he will bring justice to the nations.
 He will not shout or cry out,
   or raise his voice in the streets.
 A bruised reed he will not break,
   and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
   In his law the islands will put their hope.”  Isaiah 42:1-4, NIV

When someone cuts me off in traffic I want to scream awful things at the driver.
When a salesperson takes something out of my hands with a curt, “excuse me” and then hands it to another customer, everything inside of me wants to give her a piece of my passive-aggressive mind.
When my husband continues to ask questions that I don’t know the answer to I want to answer sarcastically.
When someone is late to a meeting and hasn’t bothered to call I want to put them in their place.
When I’m in a hurry I don’t really feel like holding the door open for the person playing with their phone.
Sometimes I just want to keep talking on the phone while I check out at the store.
Sometimes I desperately avoid making eye contact with someone because I don’t want to talk.

There are many ways and opportunities to behave rudely, but here’s the thing: love avoids all of those options.

When we act out of love rudeness isn’t an option.  No matter the frustration, love grants the power to erase rudeness.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“In contrast [to rudeness], love slows down to acknowledge the worth of others. Love sees the opportunity that interruptions can give to help others and to be of service to them. Love puts yourself in the position of those who serve you. Love tips generously. Love is appreciative of what others do for you.” –Ted Schroeder

One of the antonyms of rude is actually kind.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  If love isn’t rude, then it’s kind.

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31, NIV

Oftentimes rudeness seeps out when we are sleep-deprived or stressed.  Take time this morning to go off by yourself and get some rest.

Following,
Ginger

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Advent Resource: “Song of the Stars” by Sally Lloyd-Jones GIVEAWAY information right HERE! (Entry to the drawing closes on Thursday night, December 8th.)

Love is NOT PROUD.

[1 Corinthians 13:1-4]

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. If 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
And Mary said:  “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. 
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Luke 1:46-55, NIV

Thank goodness Luke 2 contains the story of Mary and not me.  Look at her prayer of thanksgiving and praise after discovering she was to be an unwed teen mother.  I know my flesh and my pride, they both like to swell at the most inopportune times.  I would love to think that I would have accepted the news from the angel rather than reject it, but I think that paragraph would have been filled with a lot more “I” and “Me” rather than “He.”

Stockings

This season threatens to feed my pride.  Let met tell you what I want, how busy my schedule is, and even what I’m doing for others.   Whether or not I am boasting, my heart can still be puffed up in pride.  Mary demonstrates a far better response to the coming Messiah.  She reminds herself how God loves the humble and poor in spirit.  These words were spoken to her cousin Elizabeth.  Finally, Mary could share HER story and tell how she’s really feeling about all of this.  And yet, she is quick to praise Him.

“I am called to live in perfect relation to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself. “ –Oswald Chambers

When pride isn’t part of the equation, love simply forgets itself.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10, NIV

Henry Drummond describes humility as, “To put a seal upon your lips and forget what you have done.”

I’m not suggesting that you refrain from speaking in the first person for the entire month, but I am encouraging us all to remember to use our words with purpose.  The bridegroom is on the way, so let’s repeat the sounding joy!

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
Post this verse on a note card in your car.  Remind yourself of Christ’s example as you drive in holiday traffic!

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

-A humble person is able to recognize their strengths and gifts and still give God the credit.  Have the confidence to recognize greatness in others.  Take time to encourage a friend, family member, or even an acquaintance in the special gifts they bring to the world.

Love is NOT PROUD.

Following,
Ginger

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Advent Resource: “Song of the Stars” by Sally Lloyd-Jones GIVEAWAY information right HERE! (Drawing closes on Thursday night, December 8th.)

Love does NOT BOAST.

Love does not bow-st.

[1 Corinthians 13:1-4]

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. If 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast…

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy…” Isaiah 9:2-3, NIV

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the temptation with social media can be to use it to boast about my life.  I’m just being honest.  I may not always think of it that way, but we are all definitely and purposely shaping our on-line presence by what we choose to share.  Of course we would want to paint our lives as interesting, exciting, and fun.  But there’s a problem with boasting in this or really any other arena.

When we boast we are throwing light and attention on us.  That’s a problem because we aren’t the main event in this show.  In theatrical terms we call that up staging and believe me, it’s not something you want affixed to your stage career.

Boasting about our own importance is foolish and distracting.  When we boast we force others to gain our approval.  We put ourselves into the spotlight.

But we already have the Light of the World.  There is no need for an understudy.  The Great Light has come to the world in the presence of Jesus Christ.  He is the main event.

We must allow God to impress us with HIS greatness.  Love is the security we have in Christ that needs nothing else for fulfillment.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, MSG

Boasting about my greatness only leads to pride.  Boasting about the things the Lord produces in and through me has real value and benefit.  Real love will flow from us when we allow God to be the Light Source in our lives. When we realize that He is God and we are not, then love will be a by-product!

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
Write this verse on your hand today and hide it in your heart:

“He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30, NIV

Rather than: LOOK AT ME, we should shout: LOOK AT HIM!

Love does NOT BOAST.

Following,
Ginger

Win a gift!

Advent Resource: I’m hoping this one is going to make your day both merry AND bright.  Head back this way later this morning for an ADVENT GIVE-AWAY!  Trust me, you want to check it out. :)

Love is NOT ENVIOUS.

Comparison is the thief of JOY. -Dwight Edwards

[1 Corinthians 13:1-4]

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. If 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! 
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; 
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  Genesis 3:13-15, NIV

Care to try and identify Eve’s defining character trait?
Prideful?  Entitled?  I believe that Eve demonstrates an example of envy and discontentment.  In making the big decision in the garden Eve essentially declares to God, “I don’t believe you.  I don’t need you.   And I think You are holding out on me.  I want what you have.”

Envy [Noun]
-A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck
-A person or thing that inspires such a feeling

Eve was in the Garden of Eden where the Lord walked in the cool of the day. If there was ever a person who had everything, it was Eve. Eve took the bait of discontentment. How ironic that the very thing that Eve thought would fulfill her actually led to death.

Envy has a deeper root than just wanting something that someone else has or owns.  Envy implies to God that His love is not enough.  Envy says, “I don’t believe Your work on the cross was enough.”

Sometimes I have a lot in common with Eve.  Oftentimes I let comparison fuel discontentment and envy.  We’ve said it before and I will say it again, comparison is the thief of joy. (Dwight Edwards.)  I despise the fact that this season threatens to leave me pouting and envious instead of generous, compassionate, and awestruck.

That’s why I must keep my focus centered on the King in the manger.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
Christ has provided everything we need to be content in Him. Trust Him with your possessions, your family, and your life.  Let Him be the Prince of Peace to your moments of unrest.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:10-13 

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30, NIV

-Perform one act today that defies what the world would envy.  Choose not to seek attention.  Refuse to watch commercials or view magazines that could ignite discontentment in your life.  Instead, spend your day thanking God aloud for the many gifts he has given you- including your body and your family.

This life is too precious to spend it enviously.  Love is NOT ENVIOUS.

Following,
Ginger

Advent Resource: Advent Conspiracy- A movement to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.  Follow the link to the site, watch the [AC Promo] video, and move from envy to action.

Love is KIND.

[1 Corinthians 13:1-4]

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. If 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.”

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
 And from far away the Lord appeared to his people and said,
“I love you people 
       with a love that will last forever. 
    That is why I have continued 
       showing you kindness.
People of Israel, I will build you up again,
and you will be rebuilt.
You will pick up your tambourines again
and dance with those who are joyful.  
Jeremiah 31:3-4, NCV

For most of us the terms kind and nice are synonymous.  Not so my friends.

Synonyms of nice as found at dictionary.com:
friendly, delicate, exact, exacting, critical, scrupulous, discriminating, discerning, particular, polite

Synonyms of kind as found at dictionary.com:
mild, benign, benignant, gentle, tender, compassionate. Kind, gracious, kindhearted, kindly imply a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure.

While I can appear nice by simply being polite, kindness requires action.  Kindness is love in action.  The love we are speaking about in 1 Corinthians 13 is actually agape love.  It is the self-giving divine love that comes from God and is reflected in his children.  Agape love when shared with others is not merely felt, but it is actively shared.

Give Love.

In the JB Phillips translation of this passage the word kind isn’t even used.  Instead it says, “Love works for a way of being constructive.”  Love isn’t passive.  I know I can wish all sort of supportive thoughts towards children around the world who don’t have enough to eat, but if I’m not willing to DO something then I’m not really loving them.  I’m thinking nice thoughts and hoping someone else will love them.  Your neighbor is lonely.  There’s a family in your church struggling to keep food on the table.  Your pastor needs encouragement.  The cashier needs you to do more than smile at them.  Make room for kindness.

HOPE TO CLAIM:
How could we possibly know how to live this out?  The example seems fairly clear.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
-Clothe yourself as you go out each day by posting this reminder on your mirror.

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Col. 3:12-14, MSG

-Consider actively loving someone outside of your family circle this year.  GIVE love.

Love is a choice to invest.  Love is KIND.

Following,
Ginger

Advent Resource: Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson. This is not a traditional Christmas album. This is an album about the who God saw the brokenness of humanity and then resolved to heal. This is the story of the Incarnation.  Listen.  Purchase.

Love is PATIENT

[1 Corinthians 13:1-4]

“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.  If 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 have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient…”

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—
 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”  Isaiah 11:1

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 set up a beautiful love story.  A great King loved His people enough to give freedom and boundaries.  In Genesis 3 we watch as the people of the kingdom are sentenced to be separated from their King forever.  But of course, the story isn’t over.  Like any great story a Rescuer is on the way.  The King has sent for His Son.

The people wait and they wait.  For 39 books of the Old Testament and 42 long generations the people wait.  Some from the kingdom gave up hope, and some grew impatient.

And then at the beginning of the gospels we finally see the Branch that bears fruit.  The Messiah has taken up residency with the people. This mighty Branch is the Great Rescuer.  In Him prophecies are fulfilled and all is being restored.

Mother and Child

Situations that seem helpless and hopeless- jobs, finances, broken families, sickness, loved ones who lose their way- all of these begin to find new life and new growth at the hand of the King.

Today, turn your wishful thinking into patience.  Dig your roots deep in the truth that your King’s timing is perfect.  Your patience even in the midst of suffering demonstrates the depth of your roots.  Obstacles become doorways for grace and challenges surface as chances to patiently declare, “Yes.  I trust You.  I trust your timing.  I will patiently wait for you.”

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. 
Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. Habakkuk 2:3, NIV

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8, NIV

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
I’m certain today will provide you with opportunities to grow in patience… life seems to be generous in this arena!
-When you are tempted to come up short in anger or despair in what appear to be unanswered prayers, meditate on this verse from Philippians.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4-7, NIV

-Try turning this into an activity for the entire month.  Print out a calendar or draw one out in your journal.  Write out Philippians 4:5-7 at the top.  Spend some time filling each day with something that could tempt you to worry or be impatient: specific names of family members, stressful activities, or long-standing prayers.  As each day comes focus on lifting up the things that cause you to be impatient.  You could even turn this into an opportunity to pray in color.  Ask specifically that you would feel God’s nearness and trust His timing.

Paul doesn’t say that love is wanting to be patient or hoping to be patient.  He reminds us that love IS patient.

Following,
Ginger

ADVENT RESOURCE: The Bethlehem Star.  Spend some time on the website.  I watched this DVD for the first time in 2006 and I have rented it from the library every year since. This study fascinated me and reminded me that you can press the Scriptures hard and find scientific evidence for the things that it says.

Love Has Come

I have high expectations for the Christmas season.  Sure the decorations and presents and general merry-making contribute to my expectations, but that’s not what I’m alluding to.  I have a huge fear that I will get to the candlelight service on December 24th and realize that I haven’t prepared my heart.  While I shouldn’t allow fear to creep in, I do believe those worries are grounded in a pathetic track record.

I know my heart.  No matter how much I say this season of Advent isn’t about parties and presents, I still seem to get swept away by things that don’t really matter.  No part of me wants to live in a wash of worry and anxiety.  I don’t want to finish this season exhausted and dejected.

So I’ve resolved to give Him my full attention.

Shining.

Last Christmas our church walked through the prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 – exploring what it means for Jesus to be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

What I’ve come to realize is that this verse isn’t just a list of titles for me to memorize or print on an ornament.  This verse contains truth about my Savior and God… truth that should radically shape my day-to-day life.

Either Jesus is more powerful than my worries, fears, or frustrations… or He isn’t. The way I live my day proves what I believe about his power.

I talked through this aloud with my husband on the way to finish up some shopping. I was frustrated… frustrated that I spend time in the Word, read my Advent book, pray for friends… and still end up so royally screwing this up year after year.

My husband was quick to remind me that God desires my heart more than anything else and that I can’t tackle each day with the hope of perfection… only the hope of dependence.

Advent is the celebration of when love came down to earth.  So, I’m focusing on His love this year by meditating on the qualities of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. One description of love per day.

That’s how I’m choosing to prepare my heart, so that’s also what I’ll be talking about right here each day leading up to the big event.  I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite Advent materials AND there might just be a Christmas give-away!

For now, take some time to read through Isaiah 9:6 and 1 Corinthians 13.  Love has come and changed everything…

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Preparing,
Ginger