A New Command

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35, MSG

“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” 
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

“We need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the “do” part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”
-Bob Goff, Love Does

This week we are exploring love in our communities, friendships, relationships, and families. It’s sometimes easy for me to confuse reading and writing about love with actually loving others. I desperately need that reminder every day. Love is active. What about you?

Following and learning,
Ginger

His Love

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed,

nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

God’s love has no qualifications.

His love is not earned, it’s experienced.

His love is not just for a season.

His love is not conditional.

His love is furious.

His love is relentless.

His love is strong.

His love is for you.

His love is more than enough.

If we really believed this love… I think it would change everything:
-We could move from guilt to freedom.
-Our motivation could change from self-righteousness to His righteousness.
-Our joy and happiness would not be dependent upon others.
-Praise and criticism wouldn’t make or break our day.
-We would stop comparing ourselves with others.
-We would swim in a sea of acceptance, forgiveness, and hope.
-We would place less emphasis on words can be bought at a grocery store and more on those that contain the greatest love story the world has ever seen.

This Valentine’s Day I hope that you spend time with the One who made you, bought you, and loves you.

Following and listening,
Ginger

Love came down.

1 Corinthians 13

“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. 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 do not have love, I am nothing. If 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.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like 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. For 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.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

 Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

-Christina Georgina Rossetti

May Love be your all this day, and this season.

Following Love,

Ginger

Love.

[1 Corinthians 13:1-12]

“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, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor 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.”


 

Love is not proud
Love does not boast
Love after all
Matters the most

Love does not run
Love does not hide
Love does not keep
Locked inside

Love is the river that flows through
Love never fails you

Love will sustain
Love will provide
Love will not cease
At the end of time

Love will protect
Love always hopes
Love still believes
When you don’t

Love is the arms that are holding you
Love never fails you

When my heart won’t make a sound
When I can’t turn back around
When the sky is falling down
Nothing is greater than this
Greater than this

Love is right here
Love is alive
Love is the Way
The Truth the Life

Love is the river than flows through
Love is the arms that are holding you
Love is the place you will fly to

Love never fails you

Love Never Fails by Brandon Heath

Following,
Ginger

Advent Resource: Love Never Fails from the Album What if We by Brandon Heath.  Praying that these words hold new meaning for you this Advent season!  At each mention of love picture the One who has come to give in the ultimate act of love!

Love is NOT EASILY ANGERED.

[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, it is not easily angered…”

Love is not easily angered.

TRUTH TO BELIEVE:
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:4-7

I wonder if you’re like me and you’ve found yourself quick to anger in the past few weeks?  The section we are focusing on today is found at the end of verse 5:  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…”  Note that it does not say, “Love is not angered.”  There is a time and a place for righteous anger, but most of our anger doesn’t fall into that category.  Much of our anger comes in short, reactive bursts that leave others feeling anything but loved.  I’m struggling with this amidst the busyness of the season.  It feels like I can fly off the handle at the smallest of frustrations.

I was reading my Advent devotion yesterday morning when I came across an entry entitled, “The Seeds of the False Self.”  Henri Nouwen hit me squarely between the eyes when he asked,

What else is anger than the impulsive response to the experience of being deprived?

I sat motionless as I realized the weight of that sentence. I know that I have a short fuse when it comes to anger.  I can try and blame it on lack of sleep or tendencies in my personality- but what Nouwen says leaves no room for excuse.

I wrote in my journal: “I am not deprived of anything this world has to offer.  I am the opposite of deprived… and yet my anger calls out. But Lord, let me not be deprived of you!”

We are heirs to the King of the Universe and yet we cry out like toddlers: “BUT I WANT IT!”

HOPE TO CLAIM:
“Chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Let every detail in your lives–words, actions, whatever–be done in the name of Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Col. 3:12 & 17, The Message

When things don’t go exactly how we plan, ask God to interject His Spirit to help us be flexible and patient.  We will not shift from being hot-tempered to patient over night.  It will be a decision to clothe ourselves daily in the wardrobe God picked out for us.  Let’s agree not to let ourselves get caught up in details, but rather be focused on the greatest gift of all.

CHALLENGE TO EMBRACE:
How can we deal with anger wisely?

-Admit your anger and deal with it… each day, every time.
-Analyze the source of your anger.  Try asking yourself Nouwen’s question: What else is anger than the impulsive response to the experience of being deprived?
-Be transformed by renewing your mind on God’s Word and letting Him be the one to change you.

“Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity. A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones.” Proverbs 14:29-30, The Message

Love is not easily angered.

Following,
Ginger

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Advent Resource: Check back later this morning for a special post revealing the winner of a copy of “Song of the Stars” by Sally Lloyd-Jones!

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 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 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 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