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Another Side of Sunday

Our Pastor began a series this week on the fruit of the Spirit. He spoke about love.

The very foundation of our faith is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37).

I sat in the early morning light and read,

Know that the Lord is God!

Psalm 100:3

I am reminded, to know Him is to love Him. Love cannot be manufactured or created by man.

It is He Who made us, not we ourselves.

Psalm 100:3

God’s love made us. God’s love sustains us. Any other love is not love at all.

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3

His love binds us together, calls us into the fold, leads us to green pastures.

For the Lord is good. His mercy and loving kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.

Psalm 100:5

As the end of the week draws to a close, and you enter the rhythm of the weekend, may His love flow over you. May you know He is God, He created you, and you are His. Amen.

December 12

[Today’s post follows the reading of December 12 in John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

So it seems to me that calling Jesus “the Word” is John’s way of emphasizing that the very existence of the Son of God is for the sake of communication. First, and foremost, he exists, and has always existed, from all eternity for the sake of communication with the Father. Secondarily, but infinitely important for us, the Son of God became divine communication to us. One might say, in summary, calling Jesus “the Word” implies that he is “God-Expressing-Himself.” To us.

–John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 43*

Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for God to enter the world and communicate Himself to us.

What is God saying to you this day through the manger? Is He calling you to something? Making Himself known in some new way? How is He telling you He loves you?

God, I can’t think of a more brilliant, beautiful way for You to tell us You love us, then to send Your Son. Your quiet entrance into the world whispers to me this season. My child, “I love you.” Thank You for Your love. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Jez Timms on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org

December 11

[Let’s continue our journey through The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. Read the December 11 devotional and may what follows here enhance what’s there.]

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Meditate on that this Advent. It was a very costly love. A very powerful love. A very rugged, painful love. The meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this love. “God so loved…”

–John Piper, The Dawing of Indestructible Joy, page 40*

All we do at Christmas, hanging happy decorations on trees, baking special once-a-year recipes, and looking for the perfect gift is a reflection of love. We forget it sometimes in the busy of the season.

What love have you forgotten this season? What did love cost God? What has it cost you?

Let’s do what the author of our devotional says. Let’s meditate on love for the remaining of this Advent season.

Lord, don’t let me forget the pain and power of your love this season. Help me to remember with every step I take, every celebration preparation I make. Show me how to be Your light of love in this world. Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by rawpixel.com on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org

December 3

[Read the December 3 devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy before entering into this reading.]

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

One of the things pleasing in God’s sight is that his people keep on drawing near to him forever and ever. And so he is working in us this very thing.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 19*

Consider God the Son, emptying Himself of all divinity to enter the world as a baby so we might be near Him.

Consider the great extremes, the great cost He endured to make the Way to restore relationship with you.

What feelings arise?

How determined are you to draw near to Him?

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

James 4:10 ESV

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, work in my heart to stir up a desire to be near You. Remove any barriers keeping me from coming closer.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

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The Way of Wisdom: Proverbs 31

Today we finish up Proverbs!

Read Proverbs 31

My perception of the call to be a Proverbs 31 wife has changed over the years. I used to read it with dread, feeling like “that woman” was so far away from who I was.

I saw it as a checklist:

  • be nice to my husband… every day
  • get up early… eagerly
  • cook breakfast
  • maintain an organized home
  • be productive… all day long
  • readily assist those in need
  • don’t worry
  • be prepared
  • sew??? (I may or may not own a sewing machine that is still in the box from 7 years ago)
  • always speak wisely and kindly
  • leave no room for laziness
  • raise respectful, productive children

And I was not stacking up.

I would drown in the details of verses 11-27 and lose sight of the message waiting for me in verse 30.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

All of the qualities listed are wonderful, but I don’t count check marks (or lack thereof) anymore. My desire is to live in love and fear of the Lord, every single day.

Lord, remind me all Your ways add up to love. Loving You. Loving others. In those two things the whole law is fulfilled. Amen.

 

P.S. Tomorrow the journey through the Advent devotional by John Piper begins: The Dawning of Indestructible JoyIf you haven’t picked up a copy for your household yet, they are available in the Commons Area.

Here we will be adding to the devotional with thoughts and questions to consider. Hope you will continue to follow along.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Kris Atomic on Unsplash]

The Way of Wisdom: Proverbs 25

Read Proverbs 25

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.

Proverbs 25:21-22

Jesus stressed the principle of this proverb (Matthew 5:43-44) and Paul quoted it directly (Romans 12:20). Out of all of the things God asks of us, this is the one thing I struggle with most. I could make a list (maybe even a book) of reasons why my enemy doesn’t deserve my love.

But He doesn’t need that list or any of my excuses for that matter.  It takes sacrifice, swallowing my pride, letting go… Am I willing? Am I willing to trust His Word over my emotions? Am I willing for Him to change my heart no matter how hard I pray for Him to change them?

He was willing to love me, knowing I didn’t deserve it. He sacrificed, forfeited pride, let go. He trusted His Father knowing He would never be the same, and those people might not change.

Yes, Lord use me. Change me. I am willing.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Ben White on Unsplash]

Songs of Praise: Psalm 119:145-176

We begin the week with the final stanzas of Psalm 119. Read the verses in your Bible or click the reference to read online: Psalm 119:145-176.

At the heart of our passage today is a verse I discovered several years ago and hold onto as a promise and precept to pursue.

Great peace have those who love your law; and nothing shall make them stumble.

Psalm 119:165 ESV

The King James Version was the one I found first and memorized:

Great peace have they which love thy law: And nothing shall offend them.

If I found myself offended by another, my peace disturbed, then I concluded I must not be loving His law. I would search my heart, ask Him where I was failing to love His law, and to fill me with the great peace He promised in return.

You see, the whole of His law is wrapped up in loving Him by loving others the way He calls us to.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14 ESV

When we find ourselves offended by someone, we are most likely looking out for self, loving ourselves more than Him or others.

To be offended by another is to stumble in the law when the whole law is fulfilled in: Love your neighbor as yourself.

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.

1Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

His definition of love does not leave much room for being offended by another. Jesus also told us:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 ESV

When we lay down our lives, we lay down our rights, our way, our pride. We trust God’s sovereignty, His judgment, and His setting all things right in the end. We will not miss out on what really matters. And peace will be ours in abundance, no matter how others treat us.

Have you found yourself offended lately? Did you sin in your anger? stumble over your pride?

To love His law is to give others the same grace He gives us. When we love His Word in all the ways described by the psalmist in these 176 verses, we love like Him. Without being offended.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:24 ESV

Oh Lord, teach me, grow me, to love Your law, Your Word, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Fill me with Your love for others. Fill me with Your great peace.

[Featured Image Photo seen on website by Chelsea Bock on Unsplash]

Songs of Praise: Psalm 119:97-120

We are still praising God’s Word. Could there be anything better? Read Psalm 119:97-120 [Click the link to read online or open up your Bible.]

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Psalm 119:103

Does God’s Word taste good to you? Is it a sweet savor you long for more of?

I’m not sure everyone finds His Word palatable. These days, many seem to gag on His words when it comes to what He says about sexuality, creation, authority, marriage, pleasure, eternal life, heaven and hell.

The psalmist’s words describe how those who love God feel about His Word. It’s agreeable to them and useful. I see his words as a barometer of our love for Him. If we love Him, His Word will taste good to our spirits. We will use it to light our way so we don’t stumble. We will find hope and security in His precepts. It’s where we will run for refuge and strength.

How does your love for God measure up when you lay your feelings about Scripture next to our psalmist’s?

This may seem unfair to you. But it’s not really me who made the measure of the test. God did.

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…

1John 5:3 NIV

Father God, reveal stubborn strongholds in me, which keep me from finding delight in all Your Word.

[Feature Image Photo seen on website by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash]

Songs of Praise: Psalm 119:33-72

We continue our love song to God’s Word. Read Psalm 119:33-72 [Click on the reference to read online or open up your Bible.]

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Psalm 119:72

What a rich passage of Scripture. What a wise psalmist who has fallen in love with His Word. I find myself overwhelmed by the writer’s heart for God’s rules and promises laid bare before me.

I’m humbled by the writer’s pleas and at the same time a little embarrassed at seeing into this man’s heart. Like I’m a peeping-tom… a voyeur… these words feel very intimate.

Teach me, O Lord… we hear him cry. The stanza reveals the writer’s past experience with the delights of  walking His Way, but he longs for more. Asking God to change his heart so he will no longer wander.

Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord… I hear the writer cry: Love me! Love me! Having experienced the freedom, protection, and joy of God’s love for him through the law makes him want more of God’s love.

Remember your word to your servant… In these words I hear him say simply: Remember me. The hope and comfort he’s experienced in God’s promises come to him like a song. It sings to him while he’s far from home. A blessing along the way of obedience. The writer doesn’t want to be forgotten by God.

The Lord is my portion…  Here the psalmist claims God as his inheritance, his treasure. God’s grace has touched his heart in a way he longs for more. The writer desires the grace of God’s way to be his. A treasure worthy of praise.

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord… The psalmist gratefully comes under God’s lordship because he’s tasted His goodness. Knowing the goodness of God through His Word and His Way, the psalmist longs for it more than any riches the world has to offer.

The psalmist lays his heart bare proclaiming his love for God and His Word and his desire for so much more of Him.

Can you connect with the writer’s desire for God’s Word? Do you feel the kind of intimacy he feels for God?

I challenge you to turn today’s passage into a prayer. Re-read the verse asking God for all the things the psalmist asked for. Ask Him to make the psalmist’s words true for you too.

Amen.

[Feature Image Photo seen on website by Ben White on Unsplash]