Jesus is our Gift

Jesus is our Gift

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

What better scripture could describe “the gift of Jesus”?  God gave us His one and only son to give us the best gift:  Jesus!

Can you imagine giving one of your children to save a corrupt and dying world?  I can, in some ways, and I can’t because I was never blessed to have any children.  I know how devastated I was not to have any, so I can’t imagine giving one up, not even one.  So how did God feel to give us His son as a gift?

A few weeks back Amber Curry talked to us at Among Friends about the Samaritan woman that Jesus asked for a drink of water.  She was astonished that a Jewish man would even talk to her, much less ask for a drink.  And Jesus said to her, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  John 4:10

Living water to a Samaritan woman! This was unheard of in those days, but He offers it freely to us as a gift.

Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac?  The Lord had given Abraham a son in his old age and then He asked him to give him back as a sacrifice.  Abraham was going to obey and the Lord told Him not to lay a hand on Isaac.  The Lord said to him: “…you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  Genesis 22:12  And God provided a ram as a sacrifice in Isaac’s place.  What a precious gift from God to Abraham!

In James 1:17 he warns us not to be deceived because “every good and PERFECT GIFT is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  Jesus was and is that perfect gift offered freely to each of us for our salvation. 

As a child, we would go to church occasionally and I would go with friends every once in a while.  When I was in junior high, I went with a friend and was introduced to Jesus as my savior.  I didn’t understand some of what I heard, but I fell in love with Jesus.  I knew I needed Him but still didn’t understand all of the gift of salvation.  I served Him for 21 years at that church, but still didn’t know all I needed to know. I would feel very condemned for not knowing, but I served because I really loved Jesus.  I fell away for a few years because of the condemnation I felt, but I never lost my love for Him.  I lived with condemnation for too long, but He never left me like I left Him. It was a true gift from God that He never left me.  Jesus is my gift!  “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 

Now we are in the Christmas season, giving and receiving gifts from our friends and loved ones.  The stress and concerns to get everything done and to make everything PERFECT in our homes.  Decorating with lights and garland and cooking all of the things that our family loves.  These things are all good and a blessing.  But, sometimes during this time we get so busy that we can leave Jesus, our best gift, out of all of the preparations.  I know I have before, but this year I have been trying to let some of it go and focus on the true reason for the season, THE GIFT OF JESUS.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be.”  This scripture is usually used when talking of tithing, but if we have Jesus as our treasured gift, He will have our heart.  I know I don’t need anything else!

In Acts 2:38 Peter tells us to repent in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.  Then he says; “And you will receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.”  When we think of a good gift to give to someone, tell them about Jesus.  And because God gave us Jesus as a gift, we also get the gift of Holy Spirit.  When you hear the phrase “the gift that keeps on giving”, think of Jesus.  

May the Lord bless you and keep you and may His face shine upon you. May He give you peace during this season of celebrating Jesus, our true GIFT.

We would like to thank Debbie Crosby for writing this blog post.

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

December is an exciting time of year. The anticipation of Christmas morning: opening gifts, fellowship with family, singing carols…When I was a little girl, I knew Christmas was coming soon the day that the Sears catalog arrived in the mail! I would sit for hours checking the items that I wanted to add to my Christmas wish list:

  • A new baby doll ✅
  • A new pair of skates ✅
  • A new bicycle ✅
  • A new pair of pajamas ✅

I was always so excited to see the latest, greatest toys and I would picture how I would feel opening those gifts on Christmas morning!

Spiritual Gifts

Fast forward many years later and my wishes have changed. I’m not looking for a new baby doll, unless I’m shopping for my granddaughters. As far as skates, are you kidding me? I don’t need to break a leg…or a hip…I could use a new bicycle or a treadmill and I’m all about a new pair of pajamas. However, the gifts I’ve been searching for lately cannot be found in the Sears Christmas catalog.

What I’ve been thinking about lately are spiritual gifts. I find myself “checking off” my wish list in the Bible just like I did as a little girl with the Sears catalog:

  • The gift of wisdom  ✅
  • The gift of prophesy ✅
  • The gift of healing ✅
  • The gift of tongues ✅

However, God has been speaking to me lately about what these gifts are all about.

Lessons learned

To begin with, all gifts that I check are not gifts that I’m ready to get…yet! As a little girl, I had a long list of wishes, but didn’t always get what I had on my list. My parents loved me so much and wanted to give me good gifts. My parents would’ve never given me a gift that I wasn’t ready to receive. For example, they would’ve never given me a bicycle if I hadn’t learned to ride a tricycle. Or they would not give me a new car until I was responsible enough to use it correctly.

Each child in my family received different gifts. My parents didn’t give me the same gifts as they gave to my brother and sister. They were older than me and had different desires than me. My parents knew that I didn’t want a football and they knew my brother wouldn’t appreciate a Barbie. They were good, good parents and gave us appropriate gifts because they loved us. They got to decide what was best for each of their children!

Just like my parents, God loves me and wants to give me good gifts. 

He knows when I’m ready to receive certain gifts and even though I have them “checked”, He decides when I am ready to receive them.

Maybe I’m ready to receive the gift of wisdom, but maybe I’m not ready to receive the gift of prophesy. Does He love me any less because He doesn’t give me the gift of prophecy? Absolutely not! I have a friend who has received the gift of tongues. Does he love her more? Is she a “better Christian” than me because she received that gift and I didn’t? NO! God is a good, good Father who knows what gifts we need in order to grow His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 12:11 says that “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” God gets to decide when I’m ready to receive an extra gift!

Be content in all things

As a little girl, I don’t remember a time when I woke up on Christmas morning and was disappointed because I didn’t receive a certain gift that I had checked off in the catalog. I was content with the gifts that I was blessed with.

I am content with the gifts that God has given me through the Holy Spirit. Do I want more? YES! However, I trust Him to give me the gifts when He says I’m ready for them!  Psalm 37:3-4 says to “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Using my gifts for others

I remember one particular Christmas, I received an Easy-Bake Oven. I was so excited to use that gift to “bless” others. My dad ate lots of tiny brownies that I made using this amazing Christmas gift! It was a gift that kept on giving!

God gives us spiritual gifts, but they are not meant to be consumed on ourselves. As we receive, we give it away and then more is given to us. When I feel like I’m not doing enough with my gift, I need to step back and reflect on how God is using my gifts to grow His kingdom. Recently when attending the Holy Spirit class at church, I heard something that struck a chord with me. I heard that we need to “establish evidence of how God is using your gifts that He gave you.” Begin to write down how God is blessing you with the gift of wisdom, or the gift of prophesy. Has He blessed you with the gift of healing? What have you done with that gift? Whatever gift you have received, use it well and I believe that He will bless you with more gifts!

Trusting that your gifts are good

I never doubted that my parents would give me good gifts! Although they threatened telling Santa to put coal in my stocking when I misbehaved, deep down I knew that I would get good gifts for Christmas. You can trust God to give you good gifts as well! Luke 11:11-13 says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Merry CHRISTmas!

You can trust God, our good, good Father, to give you gifts that you need to receive in His time. I pray that during this holiday season, you unwrap your gifts and receive your spiritual blessings with the same kind of excitement as receiving the Sears Christmas catalog in the mail!

Be Blessed.

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this blog post!

Serving Jesus by Serving Others

Serving Jesus by Serving Others

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

One of my favorite books to read to my children during the month of December is The Giving Manger. It’s about a dad who carves a wooden figure for his kids each year and this year he carved a manger. The kids are disappointed because they thought they would be receiving something greater. The dad goes on to tell them they will receive more gifts than before by serving one another. Each time they serve someone, they put a piece of straw in the manger. At the end of the book, the dad put a wood carving of baby Jesus in the manger.

This time of year it is so easy to get caught up in my to do list. I get overwhelmed with all of my children’s activities, the traditions I want to continue in my home, and all of the family gatherings. What I love most about the book is how it reminds me that the best gift I can give is to serve someone else. Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” When we are serving others, we are serving Jesus

The humble birth of Jesus reminds me that how I serve does not have to be extravagant, but it’s the little things that can be most important. Things like doing a chore for another in my home, serving coffee to a friend, running an errand for a friend or family member, or just being a good listener. 

This next part is for all of my mama friends out there. I’m in a new season myself this Christmas and I am a stay at home mom for the first time. The repetitiveness of chores can be draining at times and I tend to get frustrated with it. Today I had a friend over to my home for coffee and I was reminded that I do the chores in order to serve others. My home isn’t spotless by any means, but today it was a safe space for a friend to bring her one year old and enjoy some social time. To my working mama friends, I would encourage you to save energy to be a servant in your home. I know that I often gave too much of myself to my job and my family would get the little scraps I had left. I’m not saying do your job poorly, but I am saying it’s okay to say no so that you can say yes to something more life giving. 

When we are serving others, whether it be big or small, we are serving Jesus. The heart of Jesus is shown to others when we serve them. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

We would like to thank Chelsea Criswell for writing this blog post.

We are a Gift of Jesus

We are a Gift of Jesus

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16. Jesus is our ultimate gift, and this verse is one that I think of often during this time of year.  We have been given the most amazing gift, one that allows us to know Him, walk with Him, and the best thing of all, to live with Him for the rest of eternity.  Nothing can top this gift. 

This season of our life has really shown me that Jesus goes with us no matter where we live or work.  Moving to a new town is an adventure but leaving what you know behind is hard. One thing that it has taught me is that those people we choose to do life with are another aspect of the gift of Jesus.  I look back and I can see all the different gifts in everyone, and I know that all of them combined make up the body of Christ. Everyone represents a part of who He is because we are all made in His image and are equipped with different gifts that we are to use to further the Kingdom of God. 

A few examples are that I see the gift of Jesus in that friend who lives across the street that I can run to whenever I need help with parenting my kids in a kingdom way or the gift of prayer when I call the Pastor’s wife because I am going through something, and I need someone to agree with me in prayer.  I also see Jesus in a friend we can go to when we need help discipling our son because he is going through things, and we want to make sure we are setting him up on the right path.  The gift of love is in a couple that I serve with at church who are always there and give the best hugs and in someone I work with that sees things in me and helps me develop my giftings to give to those around me.   You see, each and everyone of you has a gift inside of you that Jesus gave you that is special. This gift is to be shared with others and when you do, you are sharing the gift of Jesus. I always knew I had friends who could speak life into us but didn’t realize how much of a gift they were until we moved.  What this has taught me is that wherever God places you He has a plan for you and new ways to show you His gifts.  It may not be the same, but it is always for a reason.  

A good friend of mine once shared a word she received, and it was about a glass jar.  When you fill a glass jar with water it eventually fills to the top and overflows.  The water then spreads and touches everything around it.  We are to be just like this jar.  We are to fill ourselves up with Jesus and we do this by spending time with Him in prayer, worship, and the word.  As we fill ourselves up, we will eventually overflow and then everything we touch spreads the gift of Jesus. It could be that hug we give someone at church, the cup of coffee we buy for the person behind us or the friend who reaches out to us because they need help.  Every one of us is a gift of Jesus.  When we are walking in our calling and our purpose, we bring that to those around us.  Love on those around you, spread the gifts that God has given you, and allow those around you to speak life into your life because in the end it is really God speaking to you.

We would like to thank Kaylene Vanbebber for writing this blog post.

The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

What a wonderful time of year this is! What makes this time of year special for you?  It might be being with family and friends. Maybe it’s the decorating, food eating and gift buying that brings you joy. What about Jesus? Does He have a place in your life during this season?

Let’s talk about gifts. Gifts are exciting! All the pretty wrappings and the suspense of what is hidden beneath those wrappings. We have all heard and probably sang the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Someone tried to add up how much it would cost to give the gifts named in this song.  The grand total came to about $15,000! It seems we get all tied up in the busyness of the season and we forget about the simplicity.

Christmas, a wonderful story and a gentle reminder of the true meaning. It is about the gifts. However, it is not about the gifts that can be purchased with a credit or debit card.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “ Isaiah 9:6

The real message is not the gifts we give each other but the gifts God has given to each of us.  His gifts are the only ones that keep on giving.  Let’s look at 4 things:

1. God’s gift to us was a total surprise.  Who would have imagined that Jesus would be willing to leave perfection to come into a sinful world and in human form?

2. God’s gift came to us in humble wrappings. He wasn’t born in a palace.  We all have been taught that He was born in a stable. The reality is He was born in a cave. This cave was a cave where lambs were born to be used for religious sacrifices. The lambs had to be perfect, it was mandatory that they were unblemished. Therefore, they were wrapped in rags to prevent blemishes. We know ultimately Jesus became our sacrificial lamb, which will become another gift in the future. Just as the lambs were wrapped, Jesus was wrapped in cloths or rags and laid in a feeding trough.

3. We don’t deserve this gift. We usually give gifts to those we love and care about. We don’t usually give gifts to those that have been unkind to us. Yet, God still gave us His Son as a gift, because of love, even though the human race had become an enemy of his. They broke religious laws. To top it off,Jesus was already rejected even before his birth when there was no room in the Inn. (Luke 2:7)

4. The gift tells us something about the giver.  Just as we think ahead and plan what we want to give to others, God did the same for us. Through Jesus, our gift, He gave us an opportunity at eternal life. However, we first have to accept the gift. Then we must unwrap that gift. What are you going to do with the gift after you unwrap it?  Push it to the side and think about it later or start utilizing it and discover everything it has to offer?  If we choose to utilize it we will discover that not only is Jesus THE gift but He also brought other gifts with Him. He brought peace, hope, forgiveness, healing and purpose. He also brought a new way to live and see, a joy that can’t be taken and a way to relate to others. He brought so much more that we are still trying to unwrap it all.

It’s not about the gifts that will be under your tree. These gifts are temporary and will be gone one day. Life is about knowing the God who made you and gave you the greatest gift you will ever receive. His gift is eternal and will never wear out. His gift always fits and you never have to return it. Most importantly, His gifts are worth more than $15,000, they are priceless.  Jesus is THE greatest gift of all.

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Being Generous with Our Love

Being Generous with Our Love

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Have you ever given someone a gift that you made or created just for them? I love to write and when I was a girl, I would write stories for my little brother. Since I didn’t often have money, this was something I could give him that came just from me.  As I grew older, I became a little more hesitant about sharing things I write with others, but sometimes, I write a poem or a passage for a close friend or someone I love. And the things I value most are those treasured, handmade gifts that have been given to me. These things are, in a sense, part of the person who made and gave them and that makes them special.

In this passage in 1 John, we see that ‘love comes from God’.  It is both His gift to us and the essence of who He is.  God is giving himself to us when He is giving us love. But this is a gift we are not to keep to ourselves – it is something we are asked to share with others.  

When I was in fifth grade, my mother made cookies for my school Christmas party.  They were sugar cookies with red and green colored icing. We didn’t have much money at the time and cookies were a rare treat in our household.  I remember struggling all the way to school with the temptation to hide the cookies. I didn’t want to keep them all to myself, but I didn’t want to share them with everyone in the class. I only wanted to share them with my friends so there would be cookies to take home and share with my brothers.  Unable to hide a plate of cookies, I ended up setting the cookies with the other goodies for the party, and I was pleasantly surprised that there were a few left after the party.  But I still remember the struggle to share with the kids in my classroom that I did not know or like. 

How generous are we with our love? John gives us a simple command here, “Dear friends, let us love one another,” and there is a love that we can easily offer to others because it flows from God, in and through us. However, I think we’re often called to something more – particularly in regard to fellow believers who worship and fellowship with us. However, if we’re honest, it’s probably not easy for most of us to offer more than just greetings to those we don’t know. Most of us realize that the more we know someone and the more intimate the relationship whether family or friends, the easier it is to love them. John even says this about our relationship with God, “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 

People need to be seen and known. There are lonely people all around us who are just waiting for someone to see them – really see them – and to know them.  They may know they are loved by God, but still long for loving relationships with other believers. I was once one of those people, and while I had Sunday acquaintances and companions at church, I was still lonely. It was years before I had friends that knew me and encouraged me in the gifts and calling God has placed on my life.  So, to offer love to our fellow brethren, we may have to offer connection – something more than a warm greeting, short general conversation and well wishes for their day. We may need to offer to exchange phone numbers or an invitation to coffee.  I asked earlier how generous are we with our love, but the real question may be, how generous are we with our time?  For it too is a gift from God. So, like John, I encourage you, ‘Dear friends, let us love one another…’

We would like to thank Sheila Campbell for writing this blog post.

Me Love Big?

Me Love Big?

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Loving big.  In I John 3 and 4, the disciple who calls himself the one that Jesus loved gives his readers much counsel on how and why they should love:

“Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”  I John 3:10

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life.”  I John 3:14

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”  I John 3:18

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.”  I John 4:11

My favorite, though, is I John 4:16: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.”  In theory, all these admonitions from John make sense to me, and I know that I really am called to love not only fellow believers, but Jesus even goes so far as to tell me to love my enemies!  (Luke 6:35).  I have found, though, in my own life, that there are obstacles to loving big.  

One of the big ones is rejection.

I was a baby when I was adopted into my family.  My adoptive parents raised me and treated me as their very own, and I knew I was adopted from as far back as I can remember.  It wasn’t a big deal, even though my mom gave birth to my younger brother.  That was my family. One day when we were kids, my little brother said, “Your mom and dad didn’t want you, so they gave you away.”  Well, I told my mom, and my brother got in trouble for saying it, but that stuck in my head.  Those words introduced me to a spirit of rejection that I battled for most of my life, and which still tries to rise up on occasion.

This spirit of rejection can be caused or enhanced because of many life circumstances:  abuse by a parent or loved one, death of a parent or someone dear, negative words spoken by teachers or caregivers, rejection by a group at school or by a boyfriend or girlfriend, failure at a job or school, divorce; the list goes on and on.  As a person experiences these things as a part of life, she may begin to believe that God has also rejected her.  Rejection also has self-fulfilling consequences.  A person feels rejected, so she pushes people away, afraid to get close to anyone, and she often causes the cycle to continue.  She pushes people so far by her words and actions that they reject her, so it’s confirmed that no one wants anything to do with her.  

Rejection causes me to focus on hiding myself, when love wants me to reach out to someone who is lonely, who is hurting, who needs someone to listen and to pray.  Rejection says to me, “Who do you think you are?” Love says, “Who can Holy Spirit touch through me today?”  Rejection’s focus is self-protection, while love’s is ministry.  Rejection is always looking inward.  Love is always looking outward.  

It’s clear that a person can’t go around living in this rejection mode and still fulfill the law of love, right?  In Philippians, Paul tells his readers, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4).  The only way I’ve found to move forward is to realize that I AM accepted in the Beloved (in Jesus). (Ephesians 1:6).  The more I receive the love, and believe the love that HE has for me, the more I can open my arms to the people around me and love THEM.  It’s scary, at times, because there is always a risk that people will reject me, but Jesus never will reject you or me.  We can love despite the risk. 

“Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection.  Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.”  I John 4:18-19

“Afraid of punishment” means “fear is suspicious” in the Aramaic.  We can overcome our suspicious fear of rejection and love BIG, knowing that we are safely in the family of God, no matter what.

We would like to thank Sheri Warren for writing this blog post.

To Love as Christ Loves

To Love as Christ Loves

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

In order to love big, one must first know Love—not just head knowledge, social-media profile, surface kind of know. Rather, a gut-level, day-in-day-out, wash-the-dishes, clean-the-poop, kind of know. It’s knowing relationally through life’s messes and celebrations.   

Head knowledge remains such a valued commodity in our society (in Jesus’ society too)and yet, application of that knowledge makes all the difference. Head knowledge means nothing without gut-level application. Pharisees’ head knowledge and religious application set them apart. Yet Jesus frequently called out this “brood of vipers” as bad fruit condemned to judgement (Matthew 12), as hypocritical blind guides leading themselves and others to destruction (Matthew 23). Jesus contrasted these criticisms with storing up good in your heart and accompanied them with warnings about caring meticulously for appearance while ignoring internal decay. Knowing and even doing what is right is abhorrent without the right heart and motivation.

Our knowledge of love, our knowledge of God who is love, must well up from within. So how do we love? Ask.

1 John 4:15 says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”

Choosing to follow Jesus is eternal salvation, yes, but as believers, we are also called to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Praise the Lord for eternal salvation. Praise the Lord that salvation includes the Holy Spirit who empowers us to walk in love now, empowers us to live in God’s kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. If you have not yet made the decision to follow Jesus, please do today. Contact your Christian friends and we will celebrate with you! Without this relationship, we cannot love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  

So how do we continue in love? Walk in love? Abide. Remain.

John 15:1-17 speaks of bearing good fruit by staying connected to the vine. Verse ten says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” It’s not a to-do list. Verse 12 says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus lay down his life for us, for sinners. Verse 17 repeats, “This is my command: Love each other.” How do I remain in God’s love? Obey. What’s the command? Love each other as Christ loved. Because of God’s love, I am able to love.

Practically, what does loving each other look like? In Jesus life, ultimately laying down his life. Until that point, his ministry was full of loving others. He loved crowds, taught them, healed them, fed them. He took time away from the crowds to remain in God’s presence. He saw what the Father was doing and did it too.

At my house, loving each other looks like doing dishes, scrubbing toilets, watching basketball, reading books, playing games, wrestling, tackling, tickling. Yet these mean nothing unless my heart is right. They are useless acts that drain unless my heart does them out of love. When I walk in love, these acts are life-giving, joyful responses to knowing who I am and whose I am. 

Loving big is patient, kind, humble, honoring. Loving big protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.

My constant prayer from Psalm 139 is “Search me, God, and know my heart…lead me in the way everlasting.” Friends, our words and actions overflow from the abundance of our hearts. What are you filling your heart with? May love well up from the core of who we are. As we abide in God, may the fruit of our lives be expressed in love.

Holy Spirit, empower us to love big!

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for writing this blog post.

Loving BIG

Loving BIG

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Jesus loves you and He loves me…BIG!! This love is different than the love the world knows or recognizes. The world does not know this love because they do not know Him. As we look around at the world today, it seems as if the spirit of love is hidden or even lost. Let’s be honest, people are messy and sometimes hard to love. Yet our verse for the month, 1 John 4:7-8, tells us to love one another. He’s not just telling us but He is commanding us to love.

What does your relationship with Jesus look like right now?

The past couple of months God placed the following in my spirit: Do you have intimacy WITH me before doing work FOR me? Or are you trying to do work FOR me BEFORE seeking my intimacy?

When we jump into doing work for the Lord before seeking Him, we are relying on our own works, our flesh. That includes loving people. We are called to open ourselves to God’s love so God can love others through us. When we love one another we represent God to the world. When we leave intimacy with God last, loving each other is hard.

What does being intimate with God look like? For me, it’s being in His Word first thing in the morning before the activities of the day begin. Personally, I enjoy following verse by verse studies of what is really being revealed in His Word or diving into a particular topic or theme. I enjoy the stillness and quietness of the morning and just being with Him. Enter in worship music off and on during the day. Your intimate time with God may look different. Whatever that may be, it is CRUCIAL that before you do activities FOR God that you have spent time WITH God. It is in this moment where His Spirit guides and directs you.

Loving others is a call to action. John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Jesus makes love a priority. Love stirs the spirit and makes an impression on the soul. Genuine love requires more than calling someone tender names. We often think that love is a sweet, sentimental feeling. Biblically, love is self sacrificing, caring and committing. It’s always searching for the good in others. There are so many ways we can love each other. Here are 10 ways to get started:
1. Pray for each other ( James 5:16)
2. Worship together (Hebrews 10:25)
3. Fellowship/ show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9)
4. Serve/ help each other (1 Peter 4:10)
5. Be humble (Ephesians 4:2)
6. Be encouraging ( 1 Thess. 5:11)
7. Forgive (Ephesians 4:32)
8. Be in peace with each other (Romans 12:18)
9. Speak the truth in love ( Ephesians 4:15)
10. Be loveable (Romans 12:10)

Love is not an optional virtue for the believer. It is to be the distinguishing mark of the church in the world. Despite what language you speak or what nation you live in, love has the ability to be understood across the broad expanse of this universe. Since God lives in us, we are to give the love God has given us and give it to the world. It’s a gift to be given and not kept for ourselves. We are called to love again. Will you be obedient? It’s time to bring the light called love into the dark places. The time to love big is now!

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Heart to Serve

Heart to Serve

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

“Can we go home now?” was the usual complaint from me on a Sunday afternoon. My family was the first ones to show up and last ones to leave any given church event. Serving was modeled for me long before I could walk it out. One of my favorite memories is getting to sneak out of “Big church” and help my mom serve in nursery, but I’m not so sure my heart was in it for serving as much as it was for the snacks.

For many years serving was something that I just did; just did to be with friends, just did to get the approval of my parents, just did to play out the “good” Christian girl. What I didn’t realize was that serving from myself and for myself would lead to disappointment and exhaustion. When we serve out of our own need for approval, we end up pouring from an empty cup. God created us with a heart to serve. It says in Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. If Jesus, who was God, was meant to serve, how much more are we, who were created by God, meant to.

Serving is an inside-out reality that requires a constant connection to the Father in order to be life-giving. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”. We can’t serve without God’s strength. His strength allows us to push past our own desires and love without promise of return.

As you are empowered by Him, He will reveal the desire of where to serve. For some it will be front and center, but for others, it might be more behind the scenes. My call to serve came when I was a teenager sitting in youth group. My desire to help walk students through difficult times and watch them encounter the Gospel stirred my heart to serve in the children’s ministry and then youth. I am encouraged by the bold faith of the next generation. As pastor Brad always says, “there is no junior Holy Spirit”. The wisdom that comes from their innocent faith teaches me how to live unashamed of the Gospel.

Serving was never optional. We must consistently realign our heart to want to serve God first and through that love serve others. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try serving in a new area. God just may awaken new desires in your heart. Serving, when done from a full cup, leads to the abundant life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10.

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this blog post.