Growing in Love

From The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond

A man once [read I Corinthians 13 once a week for three months] and it changed his whole life. Will you do it? It is for the greatest thing in the world. You might begin by reading it every day, especially the verses which describe the perfect character. “Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself.” Get these ingredients into your life. Then everything that you do is eternal. It is worth doing. It is worth giving time to. No man can become a saint in his sleep; and to fulfill the condition required demands a certain amount of prayer and meditation and time, just as improvement in any direction, bodily or mental, requites preparation and care. Address yourselves to that one thing; at any cost have this transcendent character exchanged for yours.

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Laudable Linkage

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A lot of my blog friends and a family member or two are experiencing a lot of snow this week. A perfect time to get cozy and read some edifying material. 🙂 Here are a few thought-provoking reads that caught my eye the past week or two:

Are You Not Ready to Worship? HT to Challies. “A worship leader who’s aware that his/her congregation is most likely filled with people who aren’t exactly fired up and ready for…. epic worship…will present a congregation with the gloriously good news of a great and faithful God, a gracious Redeemer, and a generously outpoured Holy Spirit, instead of a guilt-inducing pressure to hype something up that isn’t there to begin with.” Yes. I hate to hear people being scolding for how they are singing or what they look like while singing – that’s not particularly worship-inducing.

Christian Life Beyond the Quiet Time.

Photobombing Jesus: Confessions of a Glory Thief, HT to Challies.

Five Tests of False Doctrine.

Theonomy, or “a movement that teaches the earthwide rule of God through the reinstitution of the Law of Moses for every nation.” Why people promote this and what’s wrong with the idea.

If Abortion Was About Women’s Rights, What Were Mine? From an abortion survivor.

9 Things Your Kids Need (But Won’t Tell You)

On love and marriage:

If You’re Looking for Romance, It’s Probably Right in Front of You.

One Hour in a Restaurant Doesn’t Make a Good Marriage.

On politics and social media:

7 Questions to Ask Before Posting About Politics on Social Media

7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World

And lastly, I debated about this one lest it sound like I thought yelling at God was ok. But if you think of it more like an anguished prayer, I think many could commiserate with this little boy:

Thankfully it’s not too cold where we are, and next week doesn’t look too bad except for some cool nights. But I am ready to see spring!

Have a great weekend!

 

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Loving as Jesus loved

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Some years ago I read in a missionary biography about a woman who struggled for years to truly love the people she came to minister to. Finally she stopped looking at herself, her failures, her lack, and began thinking of God’s love for her. And almost unconsciously on her part, God changed her heart, to the point that people commented to her husband on the change.

I thought I knew which writer shared that, but I’ve looked through her books and haven’t found that passage. Yet that lesson has come back to me many times over. I feel the same lack, and pray often for repentance, forgiveness, and change.

How does the Bible tell us spiritual change comes? II Corinthians 3:18: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Jesus said, in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” He had said it before in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” just after the section about about in Him. Ephesians 5:1-2 say: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So how did Jesus love? This is a topic worthy of much more study, but after just a brief time of thought, I have plenty to meditate on:

Jesus us loved us “while we were yet sinners” Romans 5:8. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act before He extended love to us.

He loved us before we loved Him: “We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19. He took the initiative.

He gave Himself.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. Galatians 1:3-4.

 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2.

 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14.

That giving involved inconvenience, weariness, misunderstandings, false rumors, humiliation, pain, and death.

He ministered to others when He was the only One who deserved to be ministered to.

He laid down His life for us. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” 1 John 3:16. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13.

He loved not only in word but in deed.

Early in my Christian life, I had trouble forgiving others because I’d get stuck going over and over what they did to me, how wrong it was, and how they didn’t deserve forgiveness. And then I encountered the parable of a man who was forgiven a devastating amount that would have been the absolute ruin of him, yet wouldn’t forgive his fellow man a very small amount. That made clear to me like nothing else that forgiveness wasn’t based on how small or large the wrong or how “deserving” the wrongdoer was. It was based on God’s forgiveness of me. I had wronged Him so much more than anything anyone else has done to me, yet He fully forgave. In light of that, how can I withhold forgiveness from anyone else?

Similarly, my love for others is not based on whether they deserve it and doesn’t come from my paltry efforts. Oswald Chambers said in the My Utmost for His Highest reading for April 30, “The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally; it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” When the Holy Spirit sheds abroad His love in my heart, when I abide in Him, when I behold His great love for me, then His love will fill and overflow from me to others.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays,  Testimony Tuesday, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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Laudable Linkage

Here is some good reading for this fine October day:

We Die a Thousand Ways in Love. “If God himself was willing, in love, to wash even feet, why would we refuse to lower ourselves, in love, for one another? Christian love sets aside social status, cultural norms, and the comfort of convenience to joyfully meet the inconvenient needs of others.”

Is It Love If I Don’t Feel It?

An Illustration of Repentance. I found this very helpful.

6 Ways to Transform Your Reading of the Gospels.

5 Ways Persecution in Iran Has Backfired. No one welcomes persecution, but when it comes it’s so great to see how God’s work goes on and even flourishes.

Meet the Perfect Parent and Perfect Child.

Real Life Is Edgy discusses the ongoing arguments about whether Christian fiction should include certain objectionable words, scenes, etc. in order to accurately promote “real” life.

And these graphics from Pinterest describe me well and made me smile:

spontaneityscratchblanketHappy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here are some noteworthy reads discovered in the last week or so:

The Christian Life Isn’t Meant to Be Effortless. Very helpful, especially dealing with a couple of ways of looking at Christian life that I thought were a little off but I couldn’t quite articulate why.

When God Gives Us Too Much to Handle.

Love and Entitlement. “But, you’re getting it all wrong, girls. Love isn’t a laundry list of behavior requirements.”

Member of the Family. Interesting thoughts about the difference between books where a child character feels like he is contributing to the family vs. the ones popular with the “misfit/outcast archetype in children’s literature. There is a strong trend in fiction for young people that consists of jettisoning of one’s God-given family and cobbling together a new one on a road trip.” I agree we need more of the former.

Expositional Imposters. Though this is written to preachers, I think the points he makes are good for general Bible study as well. We can pull the wrong lesson from a passage if we’re not reading it carefully.

I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical, HT to Ann. Nothing wrong with a lot of what is mentioned, but I agree every day, every lunch, etc. doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy, and there’s a lot of magic for childhood in everyday life.

Your Middle-Aged Brain Is Not on the Decline, HT to Janet. That’s encouraging!

Bringing the Prairie to the Hood. “Black people (at least the ones I know) do not watch Little House on the Prairie.…So how did Little House on the Prairie mosey its way into my Southeast D.C. home?”

And to end with a smile:

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spiderHappy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

It’s been a little while since I have been able to share some noteworthy reads I’ve discovered the last few weeks online. Here is my latest accumulation:

Good Principle, Wrong Text. From my favorite in-real-life former Sunday School teacher. ” Every time we derive an interpretation and application of a text that is not native to the context — no matter how Biblical the concept itself may be — we are robbing that text, and ourselves in the process, of the meaning and applications that God intended when He gave it. The key is not to read any verse as a devotional island, isolated from its immediate and larger context.”

Getting Women Into the Word.

Love Serves: Showing Christ’s Love on Valentine’s Day. Ways a family can minister to others on that day in particular, but the ideas are good for any time.

4 Ways to Love Someone With Dementia or Alzheimer’s, Like God Loves Us.

To the Grown Daughter Who Has Failed to Love Her Mother Well.

In the Bleak Midwinter: When Your Heart Loses Its Song.

How Caring For Children Changes the World. Interesting consideration of the five women involved in saving the life of Moses.

Five Ways Christian Fiction Builds Faith.

Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me. Neat article by John Piper, not about these people’s politics, but about their and other people’s goals and accomplishments in their 60s and 70s. Encouraging as I am in the far side of my 50s.

And to end the day with a smile:

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Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Big Love: The Practice of Loving Beyond Your Limits

Big LoveWhen Big Love: The Practice of Loving Beyond Your Limits by Kara Tippetts came through on sale for the Kindle app, I didn’t realize it was mainly about parenting. I probably would not have gotten it in that case since my kids are all grown. But I am glad I did, because the principles carry over into any relationship.

You might remember Kara’s name from her journey through cancer and death as shared on her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. I did not read there regularly but caught a few posts here and there when someone linked to them on Facebook. It was the urging of friends to share the contents of this book and the knowledge that her time was growing shorter that led her to write it.

The main theme of the book is Love is kind, from I Corinthians 13:4. The phrase impacted her in a big way when a preacher with a painful childhood shared them when speaking to the children at the school where she was teaching. She confesses she was “not naturally given to kindness,” preferring to feel “strong and successful” and “bent on winning.” She realized her love “was often self-serving, self-fulfilling, and self-centered.” This truth of God’s love “hit [her] at the perfect time and landed on soil that was ready to be planted with truth.”

She had not grown up in a family that practiced repentance, so the idea of walking in humility and confessing wrongs was new to her. She was married and expecting her first child at this time and wanted to interact with both husband and children in kindness and not have a home like the one she was raised in.

She shares a bit of her family background, how she came to believe on Jesus, how she met her husband, and how she was diagnosed with cancer. But for all that it’s a fairly short book. I read it in two sittings and probably could have in one, but wanted to stop and absorb before going on.

A few quotes from the book that stood out to me:

Competition among mothers kills community. I searched for ladies who were willing to be honest about faults. Honesty and a shared heart is such grace. Vulnerability and transparency encourage looking for grace.

Our kids are so often the reflection of sin that brings us to repentance. It was a beauitful, awful moment of light shining on my sin. I thought I was okay, so long as I wasn’t yelling. But what I saw in the face of my daughter was that I had sailed from the shore of kindness, and I needed Jesus to change my heart and return me to gentle kindness.

Discipline should never come as a surprise to a child. I think it is very important for children to always know what is expected of them. When discipline comes as a surprise, I typically find that I am parenting out of anger and not intentionally teaching and shepherding my children. If I know a child is entering a place where they struggle with obeying it is important to set clear boundaries.

That is our high calling as parents, to direct, train, nurture, love, and shepherd our children. It is important we move from irritation with our children and move toward opportunity for training. Whatever you choose to be your consequence, it must not be a surprise. Children should know clearly what is expected, and when they disobey, struggle, and sin, they need to be lovingly directed and disciplined. Disobedience is an opportunity. Children are not trying to embarrass you. Your children are not trying to create chaos in your life. Children need boundaries, direction, and limits that are all surrounded by a truckload of love. They do not come to us trained, obedient, and ready to listen. They need to know they are worth your time, your energy, and your strength to direct their hearts.

If I never point out the sin and struggle in the hearts of my children, and merely direct their behavior to please me, then when will they know they need a Savior?

I…follow through with the discipline and share honestly about my own struggle…I share my own need for forgiveness and grace. Empathy is a powerful tool in helping a child know you are FOR them. Letting your child know you understand their struggle and love them in the midst of it will help them be able to take an honest look at themselves. They will feel safe and not judged by you. They will know your heart is to direct them and not condemn them.

The Book of Romans tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. I want to love with a kindness that nurtures a hard heart to desire to be soft. God is the only one able to transform someone else’s heart, but if I live a life submitted to Him, then His love will be reflected through me.

I longed to not withhold love when it was inconvenient to give it. Those faces [of her children] helped motivate me to want to know Jesus well, and to live near Him and listen to His Spirit as I walked in faith with my family.

When I am not drinking deeply from the inexhaustible well of love that is Jesus, it is impossible for me to share that love with the community behind closed doors as well as my greater community.

The heart of the gospel is lavish love being placed on me when I least deserved it.

The act of parenting isn’t excuses for bad behavior, it’s seeking reconciliation, redemption, and grace in our days.

The heart of being able to love big, BIG, BIG is being loved. Jesus loves you that big. He loved you so big he died a death He didn’t deserve to bring you to God. Admit you need Him, admit you don’t have it all figured out, and know His love. Quiet your heart enough to feel His love. Let Him teach you the beauty of sacrificial, humble love.

God’s nearness will be the strength to help you parent with kindness.

The sections I’ve emboldened are the ones that especially spoke to me in my current situation of life, including not just parenting but loving anyone I am called to love. Like Kara, too often I find that my love is “self-serving, self-fulfilling, and self-centered,” though that manifests itself a little differently for me than it did for her, as our personalities are very different. I guess the struggle to love as Jesus did will be a lifelong one, since we have our flesh to deal with. But by His grace, resting in His love for us and letting that overflow to others, we can grow.

There were a few formatting problems in the book – I wonder if that’s because it was designed for a different format than the one on which I read it. It was distracting just at first but then I was able to overlook it as I got into the story. I highly recommend the book especially to parents, but also to anyone seeking encouragement to love Biblically.

(Sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays.and at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)