The Balance of Law and Love

Love Drives Out Fear

 

“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.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV).

There are so many things that can cause us to become fearful, but being a parent is definitely at the top of my list when it comes to feeling afraid. And while there are numerous examples I could give; one has stayed fresh on my mind all these years.

When my oldest daughter was 10 days old, she suddenly stopped breathing one morning. Thankfully I was lying right next to her on the bed, so I quickly grabbed her and started rubbing her back trying to get her breathing. She did start breathing, but it was very labored, and I was sure that if she didn’t get oxygen soon, she was going to die. Being a first-time parent, you bet I felt fear! I was afraid of losing this precious baby I had just brought home a few days before. My husband was at work, but thankfully my parents were staying with me at the time, and they helped me keep her breathing while I drove to the hospital. Once we arrived, she was quickly put on oxygen and within a few hours she was breathing as though nothing had happened. She was hospitalized for two days for observation and further testing, but in the end, I was told that it was most likely a case of SIDS that I had been lucky enough to catch on time. Today my daughter is beautiful and strong adolescent girl who loves Jesus and whose faith and love impacts me every day.

Our reactions in frightful moments say a lot of what we believe about God. I had no idea what was going to happen to my daughter, but God knew. My husband and I were lifting her up in prayer, our family was praying, and God heard us. He knew I was afraid, but I was trusting in Him and clinging to His promises.

God is love and he conquered fear. What is there to be afraid of when He is greater than it all? Fear comes to distract us, cause doubt, and paralyze us. But if we are in Christ, we are made perfect in Him. Let our initial response in the face of fear be to run to our Heavenly Father, realizing that our lives are in His hands, and understanding that He is there with us every step of the way, even when that road leads us home to Him.

– Daily Encounter devotional

Under the Fig Tree

 

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” John 1:48

It is a common misconception that God will only speak to you while in church or will only reveal himself to you during a worship service or revival. We believe that God will find us when we are at our best spiritually; otherwise, we doubt he can even see us, let alone use us.

John the Baptist had been preparing his followers for the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, so upon seeing Him, they quickly began to follow Him. These disciples not only followed Jesus, but they were eager to tell their brothers and friends that they had found “The Messiah” (John 1:41). When Jesus called the disciple Phillip to follow Him, he too ran to tell a friend. Like many of our friends and family, Phillip’s friend, Nathanael, responded a little skeptical and doubtful (John 1:45-46). Upon Phillip’s persuasion, Nathanael followed and found that Jesus already knew him; not only knew him, but Jesus had been watching Nathanael! (John 1:48) Jesus had observed Nathanael sitting under a tree, possibly submerged in his own thoughts; unaware that God knew those thoughts and counted Nathanael as an asset in building God’s kingdom. As Nathanael approached Jesus, he realized that Jesus had been waiting for him to come and follow Him! Imagine the emotions Nathanael felt upon learning that Jesus had personally handpicked him, even though he had doubted and had not come running when he had heard Jesus was in town.

Jesus is still keeping an eye out for His followers today. You might be feeling a little skeptical about the Lord’s grace and mercy. You might be on the fence about fully surrendering to God. Maybe you have a friend whom you know needs to hear about Jesus but are unsure of their reaction. Know, today, that Jesus has already chosen his children – those who will follow him and be His disciples. It is up to us to take that first step in following the call of the Messiah. Tell that friend today that you have found Jesus and persuade them to follow; it may be that Jesus has already had His eye on them too, even under the fig tree!

Suggested Prayer:

Dear Lord, you are so mighty and so loving. You have sought each of us out individually and have a plan for our lives that will bring glory and honor to you; all we have to do is follow. Thank you for choosing me for your Kingdom. I ask for the courage to bring others to you too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • From Daily Encounter

Sermon notes – 1 John 3.11-12

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11-12

by Don Merrit

John is continuing his thoughts that we looked at in vv. 7-10, and as I mentioned last time, this is the central core of Christian theology, the part that everything else is built upon.  Simply stated, this love core flows like this:

  1. God loved us while we were still sinners.
  2. God sent His Son to die for our sins.
  3. We loved God and responded to the Gospel.
  4. God loved our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore, so do we.

We see this pattern at work once again in verse 11.  God loved us, so we should love each other. Then John, as was his custom, takes one more step.  Since no one has ever seen God, and since God loves all of us and we love Him, if we also love each other, God’s love will be complete in us and visibly expressed within His Body, the Church.  This is as far as John has gone so far…

At this point, we can infer that there is another step.  The other step is implied in John’s mentioning that “no one has seen God.”  OK, why did he choose to write that?  Think…

No one has seen God, but if we love one another as God loved us, then His love will live amongst us, and through us all will see it.

I have seen a number of debates about Evolution and Creation.  These kinds of discussions usually have at their core, an assumption that if we cannot observe some “evidence” that God exists, then we can determine that He does not exist.  I’m no scientist, but this seems to be a natural inclination on the part of people who are educated with regard to the Scientific Method.  Remember that one from your school days?  It was the one about observations, and testing theories with observable evidence.

Back to John.  Have you ever thought that it would be nice if you could find the positive “proof” of God’s existence? Yes, something that can be observed and studied?

Are you sitting down?

Read more of Don’s notes: https://lifeprojectblog.com/2022/06/26/sunday-sermon-notes-june-26-2022%EF%BF%BC/

The Reality of God’s Love

No matter what our circumstances might suggest, God still loves us and will never stop.

2 Corinthians 11:23-27

23 Are they servants of Christ?—I am speaking as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift at sea. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Have you ever wondered why a God of love lets bad things happen to you? Or whether your past keeps Him from loving you? But just because you may feelunloved doesn’t mean that you actually are. The apostle Paul could probably relate. In today’s reading we see that he encountered hardship after hardship while following God. And his past was so checkered with sin (And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and mourned loudly for him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and he would drag away men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:1-3; Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them in shackles to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2) that he could have assumed he had good reason to feel unloved.

Yet Paul kept spreading his message of hope—that God loves us and sent His Son to die for our sins. The situation we find ourselves in may be unfair, painful, or humiliating, but it doesn’t mean God has stopped loving us. Sometimes we face difficulty because He is smoothing our rough edges and molding us into His image. Other trials are instigated by Satan but are allowed through the Lord’s permissive will.

Either way, God is working everything out for our good, according to His specific purposes for each believer’s life (And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Rom. 8:28). The key to accepting the truth of God’s unconditional love is to focus attention on Him rather than on your circumstances. When you are learning of Him, talking with Him, and sharing your life with Him, trust and faith will replace doubt and fear.

Unstoppable Love

God’s love for us never ends, but we must open our hearts to receive it.

Romans 8:31-39

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring charges against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, but rather, was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 Just as it is written:

For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We were regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

God is love. It is His very nature to care for His creation unconditionally. This means that no matter what we do, the Lord will not stop loving us. After reading that sentence, many people are going to think of a dozen reasons why they are an exception. So let me make this clear: God loves each of us, and the only thing preventing us from experiencing that love is our own hesitation to accept it.

The truth is, none of us deserve the Lord’s love, and yet He freely gives it anyway. Some people intellectually believe every word of the Bible but still feel unloved because they judge themselves unworthy. Their doubt acts like a dam, keeping the flow of God’s care from their heart—and the barrier will hold as long as the person believes divine love must be earned.

Romans 8:32 (above) tells the good news that “God is for us,” and the cross is a stunning example: Jesus died so we could be purified and enter into a relationship with the Father. The Savior’s atoning sacrifice is itself proof of God’s love, but there are many other expressions of it, including a unique purpose and plan for each of His children. And through His sovereign control, He works every situation—whether good or bad in itself—to our benefit. Won’t you ask the Lord to reveal and help you clear away anything that might be blocking the flow of His relentless love?

The People We Christians Have the Hardest Time Loving. Thinking Through John 13:34-35

The Love of Anger

Increasing Love

A Broadcast with Steven Lawson

At the heart of Paul’s prayer for the Philippian Christians is his earnest plea that they would abound in love. In this lesson, Dr. Lawson examines several key attributes of the love that believers are called to have for one another. As Christians cultivate the love of Christ more and more in their lives, the church of Christ will be strengthened, the lost will be drawn to faith in Christ, and God will be richly glorified.

Supreme Love

All our works for the Lord mean nothing if they’re not done in love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

If I speak with the tongues of mankind and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions to charity, and if I surrender my body so that I may glory, but do not have love, it does me no good.

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

Today’s Scripture is commonly known as the love chapter. Interestingly, Paul didn’t spell out a definition of love but instead described its importance and expression.

This type of love isn’t human in origin; it comes from our heavenly Father and is part of His very nature (We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 1 John 4:16). What the apostle’s describing is an unselfish, sacrificial love that acts on behalf of someone else. God’s desire is to transform all believers into the image of Jesus (For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; Rom. 8:29). And we are most like Christ when we display such selfless care for one another.

The first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 issue a warning. Without the motivation of love, all our good deeds—including service for the Lord—will profit us nothing. In God’s eyes, a loving spirit is more important than impressive words, knowledge, faith, generosity, and self-sacrifice. When we stand before Christ to be judged for our good works, any deeds done for selfish reasons will not be found worthy of reward.

We’re all blind to some degree regarding our motives, so discerning why we serve God or do good deeds can be difficult. Pray to know your heart’s hidden intentions, and ask the Lord to replace any self-centered motivations with His more excellent way of love.