Define Love, Divine Love

Define Love, Divine Love

If you have been a Christian for any period of time, or even if you are not a Christian and you have been around Christians very often, there are a few things you have heard. You have heard John 3:16, or maybe you remember Tim Tebow putting the reference in white on his black sun block. You may have even been one of the millions of people to Google the reference to find out what it was.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

You have heard Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 22:37-38; Luke 10:27; points back to Deuteronomy 6:4-5

You may have even noticed that the board right here in our church says, “love God, love others.”

We see signs and hear phrases everywhere… Live, laugh, love. For love of dog. I’m lovin’ it. Love of my life. Love is blind. All is fair in love and war. Love-hate relationship. Make love, not war. Falling in love. Puppy love. Love will find a way. For the love of all things… And one of my personal favorites, a face only a mother could love…!

Not to mention all the things we love… I love coffee. I love my dog. I love my friends. I love Chick-fil-a. I love racquetball, golf, and fishing. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love spending time with some people, but not everyone obviously. I love steaks on the grill, not to mention, ribs and brisket on the smoker! I love being a pastor, but God hasn’t put me in a position to do that full-time. I love teaching, but I don’t really love my job. I love it when I get to sleep in, but my body hardly ever lets me and I always feel hungover when I do sleep in. I love that I have been clean and sober for almost 25 years…! I love GOD!!!

Do these all mean the same thing??? Obviously not! Or if they do, there is something definitely more wrong with our society than we can even imagine. Maybe that is why the world has gone crazy. We really don’t know what love actually is!!!

I believe there is much more truth to that statement than we truly understand.

In the time Jesus was walking on the earth, the Greeks had at least three different words with an idea translated and defined as love in our culture today. But those three words they used had three very different meanings. And that is part of our problem today, how do we define love? On dictionary.com, the word love has 22 different entries under its definition. 14 of them are used as nouns, 6 as verbs (or actions) with an object, 1 has a verb without an object, and 1 as a verb phrase. No wonder we are confused!!!

This confusion leads to all sorts of misunderstandings too. Who do you love, how do you love, when should you love, what shouldn’t you love, why should you love, do you love at all, shouldn’t I be able to love who, how, or whatever I love, who are you to say I shouldn’t love this, that, or the other?

So many questions and yet we as Christians are commanded to LOVE. The two greatest commands Jesus tells us are to LOVE. God is LOVE.

How we define LOVE is extremely important if we are going to LOVE the way  God has commanded us to LOVE and if we are going to teach others to LOVE as he has commanded us to teach others to obey his commands. Friends, we have gotten ourselves into one heck of an ever-lovin’ mess!

Why don’t we see how God, who is love, and who created love, defines love. Instead of 22 definitions of love, and instead of 3 definitions of love, we are going to focus on just ONE definition of love and what that LOVE looks like.

The love we are going to look at in Greek is agape. ἀγάπη In every one of these passages I am going to reference, the same root word agape, is used. So we are only talking about one kind of love. We are talking about what Divine Love really looks like.

When we look back at what Jesus said in the context of Matt. 22; Mark 12; and Luke 10 when he was repeating the Hebrew Shema and adding to it, Jesus used this word agape: to love. We must love God and love others. He told his followers to love one another in several other passages. Same love. When God so loved the world, it’s the same love. This is agape love.

John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, writes this for us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:7-10 NET

John goes on to tell us…

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:18 NET

We find that although love, agape, is being described, love is in every way described as an action. God’s divine love is an active love. But when we are talking about active love, we are not talking about the activity of what we call ‘making love’ we are talking about putting our money where our mouth is and actively doing something when we love God and love people. Paul helps make this even clearer for us. Because God is love, a facet of the fruit of the Spirit of God is love.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 NET

To combat lawlessness, all the acts and desires of the flesh that are contrary to walking by the Spirit: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy and murder; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Paul says we need to walk by the Spirit and that first in the list of the facets of the fruit of the Spirit is love. Divine love, God-like love, unconditional love; along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the fruit that Holy Spirit produces in our lives. And in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul illustrates for us that love is a spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the longest dissertation on spiritual gifts and the use and practice of the gifts within the context of worship in the New Testament, and Paul says this right in the middle of it about love.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.

4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. ‘

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

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NET

We very frequently hear verses 4-7 taken out of context and read at weddings as instructions to a husband and wife how they should love one another. However, this love, this agape love, this divine love, this is how love should act toward all those around us. The people we like, the people we love, the people we minister to, Jesus even said we should love, agape, our enemies…

Now, you’re going to ask, “Well, Pastor Joe, you’ve given us a whole lot of lip service and description of love; divine, agape, biblical love. But what am I supposed to do if divine love is an action?”

Well, figure it out for yourself…just kidding. Here are 5 ways to show God’s love to others.

Number one:

Show God’s love by actively listening to others.

Don’t just hear what people are saying, but really listen to them.

Number two:

Show God’s love by praying with others and for others.

Don’t just tell someone you’ll be praying for them. Offer to join with them in prayer, right then, if they’ll let you. If not, that’s okay, but make sure you do include them in your prayers…don’t just say it and forget it.

Number three:

Show God’s love by being generous.

Not just generous with your money. Although that is a great way to be generous, but also be generous with your time and with your talents as well.

Number four:

Show God’s love by encouraging others.

Especially encouraging them to continue to walk the path of faith when times are hard and life is disappointing.

Number five:

Show God’s love with acts of kindness.

Especially acts of kindness where God receives all the glory. Anonymous good deeds are awesome. Paying for someone’s meal or drink behind you in the drive-thru. But doing an act of kindness with the message that God loves them and is concerned for them, leaving yourself out, is always best. If anything, God lead me to do this for you is a great way to go as well.

Lastly,

No matter who they are and how much you may have against them personally or them against you because of some kind of bias…

It’s possible to show God’s love to anyone.

And showing God’s love to everyone is exactly what Jesus came here to do and what he left us behind to do.

Jesus came to the world to love it and save it, not to condemn it, because the world already stands condemned.

We don’t have to condemn the world. We have to show the world God’s love, because we are Jesus’s body left here on earth.

 May you be a blessing and representative of God’s love to someone.

Pastor Joe

If you are a follower of Christ, this is a must-read!

I have had some similar experiences with people, but this pastor’s story is phenomenal! A must read, but especially for church leaders.

Don’t forget!

Don’t forget to visit, like, share, and follow God’s Word is Life on Facebook! https://m.facebook.com/pastorhoot/?tsid=0.8345818494675541&source=result

I post much more encouragement, memes, and information to that page than the website.

Rejoice Always

There are a lot of places in Scripture where it specifically says, ‘this is the will of God”, although it is certainly implied in most places. And, definitely is in the commandments…

Yet, here is one where it’s absolutely clear. It was our kids memory and handwriting verse at school Monday and Tuesday. Originally, until I said something, they looked at three verses and saw them as separate.

I had they take a closer look then zoom back out again. Guys, it’s all one sentence, one thought, one instruction.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16‭-‬18 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1th.5.16-18.ESV

The Prayers of the Savior

This is part four in our series, Jesus, Who? In our first message, Jesus According to Jesus, Jesus told us his identity and purpose. We then listened as he taught The Sermon on the Mount. And, we walked with his closest friends during their Conversations in the Garden.

Today, we are going to be parked in John 17. The Prayers of the Savior. These are Jesus’s prayers for his Church (that’s us) and his apostles right before he is handed over to the Jewish leaders for trial.

They are our Lord’s final words of prayer before his death, burial, and resurrection. This is also the longest prayer of Jesus we have recorded. We have been flying through Jesus words and teaching at about 30,000 feet. Today, we are going to kneel in the Garden with Jesus and listen closely to his prayer. I believe it’s worth taking a close look.

Thanks again to my son, Robbie, for video editing…the camera worked right this week!

Audio is available here…

Conversations in the Garden

This is important stuff, maybe more important than the Sermon on the Mount, because these are Jesus’s final words before he is taken off to be tried and killed.

His first words in verse one of chapter 14 are,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1

Just how important are those words??? How important are the final words of hope and instruction Jesus left his closest friends right before they saw him tortured and killed?

Just how important are those same words for us today. We are struggling in a post-Christian society. We are struggling in a world and country terrified by a pandemic. We are struggling with those who are becoming disillusioned with attending church. Those who are unplugging from the community of believers completely, not even viewing a service online if they have the option. We are struggling against a society that is more and more opposed to hearing the Word of Truth. Jesus tells us as well,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1

I apologize, we had some camera issues this week, so only audio is available. Listen here.

Conversations in the Garden

The Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount, part two of Jesus, Who?

Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, is one of the longest single passages of Jesus’s actual words and teaching. Today’s sermon is a fly-by at 30,000 feet and highlights just some of what Jesus taught his disciples early in his ministry before he was rejected by Israel.

While a single sermon can hardly do it justice, when volumes have been written about this passage. We’re aiming for an overview of how his followers should interact with God and the world around us according to Jesus.

For those watching the video, I apologize, the camera cutoff after 29 minutes. Fortunately, my son, Robbie, is getting better with video editing. The beginning and end are different than the full audio, but you still get the message.

Audio has the full sermon.

Full sermon, audio only

Side note for my followers… Would posting a transcript of the sermon be better for some of you, or stick with audio and video?

New Messages Coming in March

Long awaited…!

We will be starting a new message series in March.

I have been commissioned to preach every Sunday in March at Boiling Springs Church of God in Decatur, IL. Stop by 10:45 if you’re available, or stay tuned to godswordislife.com for audio and video of the messages.

May God bless you all!

Pastor Joe

Well Church, What are we going to do in 2021?

Our Mission is to make disciples… Our Purpose, individually, is to be conformed to the image of Christ… The Gospel is still relevant today, but we may need to change our communication regarding the message. Some congregations embrace change, some resist change. Some hold tight to keeping the presentation of the message of Christ relevant to the culture, some hold tight to tradition… In other words, some embrace what is new, and some want to stay old. I am never saying the Gospel or the message itself needs to change to match the culture. I am saying how we communicate the message does. Some congregations have five generations filling the auditorium or sanctuary every week. Some congregations are mainly two eldest generations and all their scions have moved on…either to no church at all, or to a church that is going to embrace their youth.

HOW do we complete our mission to make disciples in 2021? During a global pandemic? Once the pandemic passes and the new normal takes over?

When Louis and Clark left St. Louis on their mission to find a land route to the Pacific coast, they had a plan… they also had their canoes… however, along the route, they ran into one huge obstacle. The Rocky Mountains. I lived on the front range as a teen, and have spent a lot of time in those mountains; hiking, climbing, camping, fishing, skiing… I will tell you something. Those mountains are not good for portaging canoes. It is virtually impossible.

Louis and Clark had to make a very tough decision. They chose to abandon their canoes in order to complete the mission before them. As a result, they succeeded!

Peter, during the time of the early church ran into a similar problem when the Holy Spirit lead him to minister to the Gentiles. He was called to account for it in Acts 11. After being questioned by the council in Jerusalem about his time with the Gentiles and eating “unclean” food that had been sacrificed to idols, Peter told them…

9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’ 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” Acts 11:9, 12, 17 NET

The Holy Spirit lead Peter to abandon his canoe, his fixation on the Jewish expectations and traditions, and because of Peter’s willingness to change, the Holy Spirit came to the Gentiles.

Statistics are funny things, because depending on who you ask and how you ask, the numbers change, but regardless of who you ask, a minimum of 4,000 US congregations are closing their doors permanently every year, but some stats say up to 10,000. Compared to only around 1,000 church plants, that may or may not survive each year… How many churches have died out and won’t ever come back because of this pandemic? Because they weren’t prepared and didn’t prepare their congregations for a virtual world…

This is a hard truth, consider this:

Jesus said He would build His Church. Matthew 16:18.

If our congregations are shrinking or buildings are closing, it isn’t because he isn’t doing his job…

It must be something, we did or didn’t do, are or aren’t doing; has hindered the congregation’s development and taken us out of obedience to Christ. Therefore, he is not bringing more people into our buildings, he is sending them elsewhere…

His Church has grown for 2,000 years and although our culture has changed, experts still say we need more congregations, not less.

We, as his Church, need to take a hard inventory of what we are doing to bring our congregations into a right fellowship with him. Or, he will allow the doors of our building to close and send his Church elsewhere…

There are lots of areas in ministry where we absolutely will not compromise, but if it is not a salvation issue or a sinful disobedience issue, we as churches and individuals need to be ready to embrace change if we are going to succeed in our Impossible mission to make disciples of all peoples.

We know that God does not change, we know his Word does not change, we see this clearly in Scripture…

All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. James 1:17 NET

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! Hebrews 13:8 NET

However, sometimes our approach to ministry must change.

Paul says,

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NET

I would like to give you a real-life illustration of this, a tale of two congregations… now, remember, nationally in 2016, 46% of churchgoers attend a congregation of 100 or less.

Both congregations were founded in the 1800s in the same town. Both have a similar statement of beliefs, conservative theology, extremely loving and welcoming people. Both had similar attendance and budget 35 years ago.

One congregation decided, 26 years or so ago, to embrace change…

They decided to stay on the leading edge. Follow trends in outreach, trends in worship, advancement in technology. It has not always been easy, people come and go, but their willingness to push forward has led to Kingdom growth. In 2019, here are some of their stats from January to June…

Average weekly attendance: 1,155 about 6x’s 35 years ago, and 800 more that attend at least once per month.

Average weekly online church attendance from March 9, 2019 to May 26, 2019: 131, yet 46% of churchgoers in 2016 attended a church of 100 or less. Once this pandemic hit, within a week, they went to totally online services for 3 months. Now, they are meeting both streaming online and in-person, 3 services every weekend.

Over 820 volunteers service in 1,500 ministry positions all over their congregation and community making an impact for Christ and showing the love of God. Missionary teams all over the world. Plus they have a website, a smartphone app, audio and video message archives, a radio program, many grow together and serve together discipleship groups, thriving children’s, teen, young adult ministries, many full-time and part-time staff to help equip the congregation to do the work of ministry.

It is not about size, but it is about effectiveness… they have been effective in using the resources the Lord has given them, and their footprint in the community for Christ is large now, because they have consistently identified and abandoned the canoes that hindered their mission to make devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

One day the pastor sat next to a senior saint and asked, do you enjoy the contemporary worship (although they do occasionally perform hymns and also have a choir), however, her response was, “I don’t really like the music, but I really love watching my grandson worship God and play the drums…”

Now, I will tell you what the status of the other congregation is:

The other congregation has resisted change. They have resisted technology. They played the same music, from the same book, as 35 years ago. They have a single page website and an individual account Facebook page, not even an organization page. They had resisted change and made excuses why they couldn’t change, shouldn’t change, or wouldn’t need change…

Pre-pandemic they had an average weekly attendance of 50 or so. Which is about ¼ of what they had 35 years ago. No full-time staff to equip the saints. Much of the community didn’t know they exist. Thousands of congregations are in this same canoe, it isn’t because Christ has given up on his mission… During the worst part of the pandemic, the Gospel wasn’t being shared at all. They weren’t prepared.

Again, not about size, but effectiveness…  these congregations are both full of loving people.

One congregation, visitors come and keep coming back, they are excited to join a thriving community of believers that are impacting their world. The other congregation, they come once, if they come at all…

We all have our comfort zone. Following Christ and glorifying God in all we do is about breaking down barriers and pushing through them.

Paul says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17 NET

It is absolutely true that different areas, different cultures, different people need to be addressed in different ways. The 95% African American congregation I served in was very different in preaching and worship style than this church or the larger church I described, but they met people where they were and encouraged growth and change.

Paul also says,

So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. For although all things are clean, it is wrong to cause anyone to stumble by what you eat. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble. Romans 14:19-21 NET

One couple of senior saints came to visit my old church in South Bend. They came in wearing their Sunday best and when I greeted them, it was apparent they didn’t approve of the young man next to me wearing jeans. No matter how warmly they were greeted and treated, when they walked into the sanctuary and saw the chairs and particularly the instruments on stage, they turned around and left before the service even started.

On the flipside, an older guy I know who is nearing 70, was looking for a church, he sat through a service, and told me later, he really enjoyed the sermon, but they were singing the same hymns he was forced to listen to when he was a kid in the 50s, he didn’t like them then, and by gosh, he wasn’t going to listen to them now…

Everyone has a preference, and for some who have done church the same way for a long time, trying to change is hard.

But, Paul says,

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NET

As congregations and individuals, we need to ask ourselves hard questions.

Are we churching the way we have always churched because we have always churched this way? Were we able to church during the worst of the pandemic? When visitors come, do they come back? If not, why? If the unchurched, the irreligious, the disillusioned, agnostic, or atheist came into our church, would they find hope or feel disconnected and uncomfortable in some way by how we are doing church? Are we in the church seeking our own benefit by doing what’s most comfortable or are we trying to be all things to all people so they might be saved?

I want to encourage us that God and Christ are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I want to encourage us to ask hard questions. I want to encourage us to take a look at what is helping us, others, and the Body of Christ grow and develop and to encourage us to consider change if we deem, through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, that change is necessary. Do we have some canoes we need to abandon to fulfill the mission before us?