Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

 Chapter 16: Love

Assurance of God's Love

God has called you into a special love relationship, one based on hope. These assurances are building on that hope. But there will be disappointments. There will be times when you disappoint God and times when you are disappointed by Him. It is for those times that He has provided the Holy Spirit to pour love into your being. ...

What Kind Of Love?

Selfless love is very different - and very rare. It reaches out to those who can't give us anything in return: the ugly, the annoying, the petty, the time-consuming, and anyone else who can be a drain on us. Jesus also said that showing love for the outcasts of society - the hungry and thirsty, strangers, prisoners, and those who are naked (see Matthew 25:34-36) - is a sign that we really get what love is about. Christ calls us to actively care for the unlovely. ...

Do You Block God's Love?

God wants us to sit at his feet and feel his love. He wants us to grow in community. He wants us to receive the glorious inheritance of his riches, which often walks into our life through the other body parts of Christ. He wants us to stand in need, so we see that he can stop what is making us bleed. ...

What Love for God Looks Like

For at its essence true worship is a passionate love for God, not moralistic rule keeping or feats of self-discipline. For sinners like us, the fuel of that love is a profound realization, in the words of former slave trader-turned-pastor, John Newton, "that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour." ...

An Everlasting Love

Our culture loves you when you are young and beautiful, but God loves you when you are old and not so attractive. Our world loves you when you are a celebrity, but God loves you when you are unknown and a complete nobody. Our world loves the rich and the powerful, but God loves the poor and the weak. Our world loves the extraordinary, but God loves the ordinary - people like you and me. ...

Finding Perfect Love

God loves you. Completely. Perfectly. Eternally. He knows your name, He knows your heart, He knows your circumstances, and He hears your prayers. He loves you and desires for you to rest in His love. God's Word says so.
You. Are. Perfectly. Loved. ...

God's Amazing Love

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. ...

On the Necessary Order of Love

Begin to love your neighbor…. What will you gain by doing this? Your light will then burst forth like the dawn. Your light is your God; he is your dawn, for he will come to you when the night of time is over. He does not rise or set but remains forever. ...

 Chapter 16: Love

Assurance of God's Love

by Mason Rutledge

God absolutely loves you. Do you know that? It's hard to get our mind around, but it is true. He loves you.

Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say and do. 1
- Henri J. M. Nouwen

This is where the faith journey starts: understanding that God loves you. If you do not have an assurance of God's love, your faith journey will not last long.

Memorize this and you will grow in your assurance of God's love:

• Psalm 86:5
• Zephaniah 3:17
• Romans 5:5
• 1 Kings 8:23

THE GOOD GOD

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Psalm 86:5)

It is not advisable to experience the verses in Memorize This in isolation. That can be a dangerous practice. Each verse shared is part of a larger book and the total of God's love letter to us - the Bible. In that light, read all of Psalm 86. Then jot down things that stand out to you in the psalm.

Psalms is unlike most other books in the Bible. It could be called a songbook or book of poetry because the psalms were used by believers to worship the Lord.

Did you notice how small capital letters were used in several places to refer to God in the psalm? When you see "LORD" in the Bible, that reads YHWH in the original Hebrew text. You may have heard it pronounced Yahweh. It is the most reverent and holy name used for God in the Bible.

Yahweh was considered to be a mysterious God. The Israelites respected and even feared Him. After all, this was the God who destroyed whole cities. His followers approached Him with caution.

David, the writer of Psalm 86, was king of Israel and one of the most incredible individuals of history. God said David was a man after God's own heart. But David was also a man who had some struggles along his life journey. He had an affair and was a murderer. He was a sinner just like you and me.

Read Psalm 86 again. How does your new insight into God and the author of this psalm change your perspective on it? Jot down some thoughts.

God is still mysterious. We don't know why certain things happen in our lives. And we are still sinners. We do things that we know God would rather we not do.

With this in mind, write your own personal paraphrase of Psalm 86:5.

THE GOD WHO IS WITH US

"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

For context, read Zephaniah 3. Zephaniah was a prophet. A prophet is one who speaks the words of God. Let's break this verse down.

"The LORD your God is with you." What "He is mighty to save." This is a powerful, life-changing line. Our God is not a wimp. He is able and ready to save us from anything. He is in charge.

Sometimes it is hard to see how God has saved us. He may be saving us all the time and we don't see it.

The movie Signs gives us a great picture of how God saves us. In the movie, the world is under attack by space aliens who come to the home of Graham, a former Episcopal priest, played by Mel Gibson. Graham's son has asthma, and during the attack, the son nears death because of his condition. Graham hates God because God has given his son this condition, and his son is unable to breathe. But when an alien tries to kill Graham's son with poison, the poison does not enter his body because the asthma has closed his lungs. Graham realizes that the asthma has actually saved his son's life. Earlier in the story, the last words of Graham's dying wife to her husband were "Graham . . . see!"

Do you "see"? God is saving you all the time. How can you enhance your ability to see God working in your life? It begins by asking, "God, help me to see." It continues by looking for His action in your life. It concludes by writing it down. God will move in your life this week. Jot a few lines about the experience. See!

It seems every day ends with a miracle here. And whatever God may be, I thank God for this day.
- Lieutenant Dunbar in 'Dances With Wolves

"He will take great delight in you." God not only loves you; He likes you. Sometimes love can feel like a requirement: I have to love my sister, because we're in the same family. It's way more than this for God. He really likes to hang out with you, like a best friend.

"He will quiet you with his love." Often we are quieted with a shout - Hey, shut up! Zephaniah said that God will quiet us with His love. Have you ever been quieted by love? It's like melting. Finally, "He will rejoice over you with singing." You make God sing!

Draw a picture of this verse. It doesn't have to be a great painting, just a simple picture of what it means for you to experience God as expressed by Zephaniah in the verse.

GOD OF LOVE

Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)

Read Romans 5. The book of Romans is in the New Testament. We experience God at a new level in the New Testament, as compared to the Old Testament.

How can you see this new relationship with God expressed in this verse?

Many Bible versions title sections within the chapter. What title does your Bible version give for this section?

This verse talks about three feelings: hope, disappointment, and love.

How have you experienced these three?

• Hope:
• Disappointment:
• Love:

Write about a personal relationship that has included all three.

How is your relationship with God similar to this relationship?

God has called you into a special love relationship, one based on hope. These assurances are building on that hope. But there will be disappointments. There will be times when you disappoint God and times when you are disappointed by Him. It is for those times that He has provided the Holy Spirit to pour love into your being.

The deepest of relationships experience times of hope, disappointment, and love. These times deepen our love even more.

THE GOD OVER ALL

O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below - you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. (1 Kings 8:23)

This passage does not live in isolation; it is part of a larger story. It's a long chapter, but read all of 1 Kings 8 for context. What is the larger story in this passage? Prayer is an important part of our relationship with God. It is one of the primary ways we communicate with Him. This prayer demonstrates that. Verse 23 talks about gods in heaven and on the earth. At the time it was written, many people worshiped idols. For the most part, we do not have statue idols today, though we may still have things in our lives that we treat like idols.

God in heaven we can understand, but what are gods on earth? What idols do people worship here on earth?

A covenant is a contract. We have a contract of love with God if we wholeheartedly pursue Him. What does it mean for you to wholeheartedly pursue God?

Write a covenant of love with God, and include the aspects found in this prayer. Name the "earthly gods" in your life, express how you will continue to wholeheartedly follow the one true God, and so on.

Source: 'Memorize This' by Mason Rutledge,
Copyright © 2003 NavPress Publishing, All rights reserved.

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

What Kind Of Love?

By Julie Clinton

What Kind Of Love?

"People need loving the most when they deserve it the least." - John Harrigan

Years ago, a Christian group on a college campus advertised a seminar titled: "Givers, Takers, and Other Kinds of Lovers." We use the word "love" to mean almost any kind of connection today, but this leads to lots of misunderstanding. Needing someone isn't loving them, and controlling them by any form of manipulation isn't in their best interests. Real love is a choice, it's open and freeing, demanding nothing in return. In Romans 12, Paul dives into what it means to live out love in our daily relationships.

In the Word

• Read Romans 12:9-21 today and pay special attention to verses 9-10:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
-Romans 12:9-10

Sincere. Devoted. Honoring. Paul used these words when talking about true, unselfish love. When you and I interact with other people, are we more focused on getting…or giving? In every healthy friendship, there is a give-and-take. We bear each others' burdens, walk side by side through the struggles of life, and share who we are.

In their book Relationships, Les and Leslie Parrott write:

If you try to find intimacy with another person before achieving a sense of identity on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself…The best you can hope for is a false and fleeting sense of emotional closeness. 1

There are three Greek words that signify different kinds of love. Eros is sensual, sexual love; phileo is when we love someone because of their notable qualities or they do something to make us feel good; and agape is unconditional love, the kind of love God has for us. The first two include conditions; but agape loves in spite of the negative traits of the other person. Jesus said that loving people who make us feel good is no big deal. Even unbelievers love that way.

But selfless love is very different - and very rare. It reaches out to those who can't give us anything in return: the ugly, the annoying, the petty, the time-consuming, and anyone else who can be a drain on us. Jesus also said that showing love for the outcasts of society - the hungry and thirsty, strangers, prisoners, and those who are naked (see Matthew 25:34-36) - is a sign that we really get what love is about. Christ calls us to actively care for the unlovely.

Some women, though, have never experienced the joy of true friendship. They feel the pressure to "rescue" anyone who they interact with…to take control, be strong, provide a shoulder to cry on, but never let anyone into their own ups and downs. In contrast, other women "let it all out," wearing their hearts on their sleeves, without a second thought about the needs and struggles of other people. What about you?

Make it Real

We don't naturally love unconditionally. It takes a supernatural transformation of our self-absorbed hearts to produce this kind of radical love for unlovable people. We love, John tells us, because God loved us first.

The life of Christ can only flow out of us if the Spirit has filled us with his truth, grace, and strength. Jesus told his followers, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:37-38).

Who do you know who best models authentic agape love? Describe this person's attitude and actions toward the unlovely.

Read John 7:37-39. How does Jesus' statement here apply to his words in Luke 6 about loving, giving to, and serving those who can't pay us back?

Who is one person you can love unconditionally today? How will you do it?

Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart.

• "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32 ).

• "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7).

Heart to Heart

It's not enough to try to be "nice Christians." Authentic love can't be faked, at least, not for long. To love others with God's love, we have to experience His love in the depths of our hearts, let it seep into the crevices of our souls to heal our secret hurts and calm our hidden fears.

Then, with a full heart of gratefulness and grace, the love of God can overflow to those around us - even an insensitive husband, a selfish teenager, an annoying friend, poor people we pass by each day, and any other unlovely people in our journey. And in fact, we'll change our paths so that we come into contact with those who desperately need to experience a taste of God's amazing love.

John Bunyan wrote one of the bestselling Christian books of all time, Pilgrim's Progress. He knew a thing or two about the nature of authentic love, and he wrote:

Christians are like the flowers in a garden, that have each of them the dew of Heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other's roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other. 2

Lord, your love for me overwhelms me. I feel like it's impossible to ever love somebody else like that…but I guess that's why it's not up to me! Grow in my heart an unselfish love that truly cares about the people in my life, not just for what they can do for me…but as individuals with needs, hopes, fears, and desires. Give me wisdom in my friendships…

References:

1 Les and Leslie Parrott, Relationships, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), p. 20.

2 John Bunyan, The Works of John Bunyan: Experimental, Doctrinal, and Practical (London: Blackie & Son, 1850), 570.

About The Author:

Julie Clinton M.Ad., M.B.A. Is president of 'Extraordinary Women' and host of Ewomen conferences all across America. A woman of deep faith, she cares passionately about seeing women live out their dreams by finding their freedom in Christ.

Copyright ©2016 Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk All Rights Reserved

Do You Block God's Love?

by Kelly Balarie

My son lives like a son. Meaning, he takes all momma wants to give him. If I walk in with a plate of cookies, he dives into them. If I offer him a hug, he runs up to get it in full. If I sit down with him, he delights in showing me things. If he gets injured, he runs to me and asks how I might help. He takes what I give, eagerly and willingly.

Somehow he knows where he is - is safe. And, what I am giving - is good.

Christians aren't always good children. It's not because we aren't loved, adored and chosen, we completely are, but it's mostly because we grew up.

I've been meeting a lot of children of God in need lately, but when he tries to use me to love them, they shut it down.

Here's how it tends to go:

I say, "Need prayer?" They say, "Nope. But, I know someone who does."
I say, "Are you struggling with anything?" They say, "Nope. Not at all."
I say, "I'd like offer you a gift - God has put you on my heart." They say, "Nope. I never take gifts from others."
I say, "You are courageous." They say, "I don't want to talk about me. Let's talk about you."

Rather than living as a needy children, we are living as arrogant adults. To turn away the love of Christ is to turn down the greatest gift moving on earth. We do it often.

Why?

Maybe, because we don't want to owe people things. Maybe, because we feel guilty or embarrassed. Maybe because we feel undeserving.

The maybe's don't matter.

What matters is, like children, we open our arms up to hold the gifts God is outpouring through others. What's important is that we see all the ways he is trying to love us. What is important is that we let this love in, so we can let this very love out.

God wants us to sit at his feet and feel his love. He wants us to grow in community. He wants us to receive the glorious inheritance of his riches, which often walks into our life through the other body parts of Christ. He wants us to stand in need, so we see that he can stop what is making us bleed.

10 Questions to ask yourself: Are you not receiving God's love?

Do you let his love in?
Do you embrace what God is offering you?
Do you make time to sit next to God?
Do you listen?
Do you remember God's goodness?
Do you notice God through your day?
Do you seek spiritual eyes to see?
Do you trust by faith?
Do you push off distraction?
Do you renew your mind when it gets off track?

About The Author:

Kelly Balarie is a passionate national speaker who has spent nearly ten years leading groups of women in spiritual growth, marriage building, and general Bible studies across the nation. Kelly is a featured blogger at Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com. Kelly Balarie is the author of 'Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears'. She also hosts Purposeful Faith blog.

Source: Purposeful Faith blog

What Love for God Looks Like

by Jon Bloom

The greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:36–37).
But what that looks like can shock us, as it did to Simon in Luke 7:36–50.

He had the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 54:5) in his house, reclining at his table. The Prophet that Moses had foretold (Deuteronomy 18:15) was sharing dinner with him. The Lord of glory, the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), was speaking with him face to face. The great climactic moment of history he claimed to be living for had arrived. It should have been a deliriously wonderful, breathtaking honor for Simon to host the Messiah.

But Simon was not amazed. As he looked at Jesus, all he saw was a dusty Nazarene whose claims could be interpreted as, well, delusional.

And Jesus' feet were still dirty. Offering foot washing to guests had been a deeply ingrained custom for Near Eastern peoples for thousands of years. To not offer it was to dishonor one's guest. It's not likely that Simon simply forgot.

But Jesus showed no sign of offense. And with the meal on the table, superficial pleasantries were exchanged. A few polite questions were asked.

Suddenly all eyes facing Jesus were filled with confused concern, focused toward his feet. Jesus looked back.

A woman was standing near him, clearly not part of the household. She was looking intensely at him, cradling a small jar in her hands. She began to sob and dropped to her knees. And as her tears flowed, she leaned over and let them drop on Jesus' soiled feet and wiped them off, along with the dirt, with her hair.

Then she kissed Jesus' feet.

Gasps and murmurs were heard around the table. This woman had a reputation known to all the local guests. It was improper even to speak openly about what had given her this reputation. She was simply called a "sinner." Everyone knew what was packed into that word.

So everyone was mortified by her clearly inappropriate, even intimate contact. Except, apparently, Jesus. He did not seem shocked. And he did nothing to stop her.

An alarmed servant moved toward the woman but Simon waved him off. This was a revealing moment.

As Simon watched the woman pour fragrant oil from her jar on Jesus' feet, he felt both contempt and pleasure. His appraisal of Jesus was being vindicated before his eyes. Nothing spoke more eloquently of the falseness of this so-called prophet than his stunning lack of discernment regarding this immoral woman. No holy man would have let her pollute him with her touch. He began to rehearse what he would report to the Council.

"Simon, I have something to say to you." Jesus' words snapped Simon's attention back. "Say it, Teacher," he replied.

"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt."
And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."

Then turning toward the woman Jesus said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much."

Then looking back, penetratingly into Simon's eyes, Jesus said, "But he who is forgiven little, loves little." A shocked silence hung in the air.

And then with tender authority Jesus spoke to the woman: "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

-----

As a Pharisee, Simon enjoyed a reputation as a godly man. He had significant theological education, had memorized extensive portions of Scripture, exercised rigorous self-discipline, prayed religiously, and tithed meticulously. The sorts of things men admire.

The woman's reputation was sleazy. Her law breaking was public knowledge. No one mistook her as a servant of God. Though men had desired her, no one admired her.

Yet in front of all the dinner party guests Jesus declared that the debauched woman actually loved God much, while the ritually clean Pharisee loved God little. Why? Simply because the woman believed that she desperately needed the forgiveness Jesus offered in his gospel, while Simon did not.

"He who is forgiven little, loves little." This little sentence reveals a mammoth truth for us: we will love God to the degree that we recognize the magnitude of our sins and the immensity of God's grace to forgive them.

That is what Jesus is looking for. This is the kind of worshipers the Father is seeking (John 4:23).

For at its essence true worship is a passionate love for God, not moralistic rule keeping or feats of self-discipline. For sinners like us, the fuel of that love is a profound realization, in the words of former slave trader-turned-pastor, John Newton, "that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour." 1

Notes:

1 Jonathan Aitken, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 347.

Excerpted from the book 'Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith' by Jon Bloom (Crossway, 2013).

About The Author:

Jon Bloom is the author of the book 'Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith' and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994.

An Everlasting Love

by Greg Laurie

"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you." (Jeremiah 31:3)

We may think sometimes that we must do certain things to merit the love of God. But what we need to remember is that the love of God is consistent, and it is persistent. God says, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jeremiah 31:3).

What a contrast when we compare the love of God to the so-called love in our culture. Our culture loves you when you are young and beautiful, but God loves you when you are old and not so attractive. Our world loves you when you are a celebrity, but God loves you when you are unknown and a complete nobody. Our world loves the rich and the powerful, but God loves the poor and the weak. Our world loves the extraordinary, but God loves the ordinary - people like you and me.

And God has demonstrated this love for us in a tangible way. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus, showing His love, died for us. We read in Revelation 1:4–5, "Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood."

Notice the use of the past tense, which means that it is done. If you have put your faith in Christ, then God has forgiven you through Christ for all of the wrong you have done. God loves you. He has loved you. And He always will love you.

Source: Greg Laurie Daily Devotions
Copyright © 2012 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

Finding Perfect Love

by Gwen Smith

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
 (Zephaniah 3:17)

My kids are both sweet and sour on a regular basis… as are all of us. Depends on the minute. Depends on the day. Every once in a happy while, however, one of my children surprises me with an unexpectedly sweet moment that becomes a heart treasure.

I had one of those special conversations many moons ago with my middle child Hunter when he was just nine years old. It was bedtime. Teeth were brushed. Jammies were on. Prayers had been prayed. The smell of shampoo lingered from his freshly showered head. As I brushed a stray hair from his eye, the sweet conversation began with an innocent question…

"Mommy, do you know what I love?"
"What do you love, Hunter?" I whispered.
"I love being loved," he said thoughtfully. "Yep. I really love being loved."

Lying beside him in the dark room, I could scarcely process the vastness of his statement. It was the simplest of thoughts, delightfully honest, yet one of the most profound and insightful statements I'd ever heard come from his lips - from his heart.

When he spoke those four little words, "I love being loved," I heard several things:

He had a deep longing to be loved.
He knew he was loved.
His love tank was being re-filled as I tucked him in.
His greatest need is love.

Like Hunter, my greatest longing and need is also to be loved… to feel safe, adored, and content in love.

I don't know where this devotion finds you today, but I sense God nudging me to tell you that He loves you. Completely. Perfectly. Eternally. (Yes, I'm talking to you!) He knows your name, He knows your heart, He knows your circumstances, and He hears your prayers. He loves you and desires for you to rest in His love. God's Word says so.

You. Are. Perfectly. Loved.

God's love is not based on performance or beauty. It's not based on your position or abilities. Many times we mistakenly think that if we could just do this or that better – that God would love us more. That if we just hadn't done this or that – God could love us more. The truth is this: God will never love you more or less…no matter what. His love is complete and you are the object of His heart's affection.

But don't take my word for it – take His! The Bible tells us that God's love for us is unstoppable, unsearchable and unbreakable: …that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

No matter what you've believed in the past, choose by faith to believe this now: you are valued, priceless, and adored by God. "Take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18–19, MSG).

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Let those words sink in. Savor the special sweetness of God's love for you today. Take it very personally. Linger long on thoughts of His affection for you. Let them find and fill your heart in wounded places.

When you embrace the deep love of Christ as a personal reality, you will gain traction for powerful, meaningful living that begins with forgiveness and continues on in truth and grace. Go in His love today. Be assured of it. Share it. Be changed by it. Love Him back. Change others with it.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Thank You for loving me beyond what I deserve and understand. In a world of uncertainty, I'm so grateful to know that Your love never changes, never waivers, and never fails. I love You, Lord. Please move my heart to love You even more today.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen!

Now It's Your Turn

God loves you and takes pleasure when you go to Him in prayer. Why? Because you are His – made by Him for Him – treasured by and restored to His heart through Jesus Christ. Allow Him to quiet you with His love today. Spend a few moments in prayer right now. Thank Him for His love. Worship at His feet. Be still before Him.

Copy right (c) 2015 by Gwen Smith
Source: Girlfriends in God Devotional

God's Amazing Love

by James MacDonald

1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.
- Isaiah 43:1-4

I probably don't know your name. But as you read this, let me assure you that God does. I'm going to write to you personally. God's going to single you out as you read today. In fact, I'm going to insert blanks here, and I want you to say your name when you get to each one. Here's what God wants you to know.

______, do you realize how much God loves you? Just you?

The Bible says, "I have engraved you upon the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16). Picture God with a tattoo of your name where He sees it all the time. Jesus said, "Even the hairs of _______'s head are all numbered" (Luke 12:7). The Lord lets you pray, "You . . . put my tears in your bottle" (Psalm 56:8), meaning He doesn't miss any of them. In fact, let me include this message to you, _______, from Isaiah 43.

Let God speak these words over your life: "Fear not, ______, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, ________, I will be with you . . . when you walk through the fire, ______, you shall not be burned . . . . For I am the Lord, your God . . . Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, ______."

Do you see? That's a message that is personally for you. It doesn't matter where you've been, what you've done, or even what you've experienced. Set aside what you may have thought about yourself or other people may have said about you. This is what GOD says about you! You are honored, you are precious in His eyes, and He loves you! Isn't that a wonderful thing? It is. Knowing that in your bones will change you!

Every person who reads this, if you have turned from your sin and embraced Christ by faith, you can claim the words above! God loves you; yes you, with an everlasting love. Becoming aware of that love is like a panoramic view to a person who is blind and a symphony to a person who has never heard. Open your soul up to the idea that God loves YOU with an everlasting love! It's incredible. It's the punch-line of Christmas.

Journal

  • When I insert my name into God's Word, does the truth of His love resonate in my heart? Do I know "in my bones" that it is true?
  • Does Christmas remind me of God's amazing love or just all I want to accomplish by today?

Prayer:

Father, words aren't enough to express what knowing You actually love me means to me. Help me to remember the real reason for Christmas is the proclamation of Your love for Your creation. Thank You, Father. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Source: Our Journey Online

On the Necessary Order of Love

by Msgr. Charles Pope

A reading in the breviary this week from the preaching of St. Augustine offers sound advice on what theologians often call "the order of love."

It is a general obligation that that we must love all our fellow human beings. It is also true that we must love God with our whole heart and mind, above all people and things. Loving all humanity presents problems, though, because we have not met most other people on the planet, nor have we met those who lived and died before we were born. Loving God fully also presents problems because we cannot possibly return Him the love that He is due. Due to our wounded hearts, we also struggle to love Him above all people and things.

These difficulties speak to the practical need for an ordered love that helps us to deepen and perfect the love to which we are called.

The word "order" refers to putting or doing things in a proper sequence. It also means directing something or someone to the proper end or purpose.

In both these ways, love must be ordered. We learn to love greater things by properly loving lesser things. And thus there is a sequence to love and also a goal for love. We often love certain things too much and other things not enough. Spending our love on foolish or inappropriate things dissipates it. Focusing our love on what is good and proper for us enriches us and makes our love grow higher and broader.

While we are obliged to love all others, our capacity to do that requires a proper order. We are first and foremost obliged to love people we know and to whom we have natural obligations. As we learn to love our family members, benefactors, friends, and neighbors, our love can grow outward to include an ever-wider number. Charity begins at home, but it does not end there. The growing love of neighbor also equips us to love God more deeply.

Some of these insights are taken up by St. Augustine in a short, practical treatise on love:

The Lord, the teacher of love, full of love, came in person with summary judgment on the two commandments of love. … Love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

Love of God is the first to be commanded, but love of neighbor is the first to be put into practice. … Since you do not yet see God, you merit the vision of God by loving your neighbor. By loving your neighbor, you prepare your eye to see God. Saint John says clearly: "If you do not love your brother whom you see, how will you love God whom you do not see!"

In loving your neighbor and caring for him you are on a journey. Where are you traveling if not to the Lord God, to him whom we should love with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind? We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbor at our side. Support, then, this companion of your pilgrimage if you want to come into the presence of the one with whom you desire to remain forever.

Begin, then, to love your neighbor…. What will you gain by doing this? Your light will then burst forth like the dawn. Your light is your God; he is your dawn, for he will come to you when the night of time is over. He does not rise or set but remains forever.
(From a treatise on John by Saint Augustine, bishop (Tract 17, 7-9, CCL 36, 174-175)).

Thus, we see how our love is to be increasingly set in order, to be ordered to an ever wider and higher goal. Paradoxically, if we are to love God with our whole heart (the first commandment), we do so more fully by better observing the second commandment (loving our neighbor as our self). We go to the highest love by mastering (through grace) the lesser or secondary love. The highest things are mastered through the humbler things.

In loving our neighbor, who has great dignity but is still a fellow creature, we enlarge our hearts to love God, who is the creator of all. St. Augustine teaches elsewhere,' What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing.' The lesser prepares us for the greater.

St. Augustine alludes to a text from Isaiah. Here it is in context:

Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, "Here I am" (Isaiah 58:7-9).

To this I would only add that today the corporal works of mercy are fairly well accepted as important, but we ought not to forget the spiritual works of mercy; we have to care for the spiritually poor of our times with similar intensity. We must instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses, console the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.

Love has many aspects: physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual. May our love for one another grow in abundance and overflow in great love for God each day. Grant us the graces, Lord!

Video

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

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