Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Seeds of Love

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry 
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song
Songwriters: Rev. Benton Vespew Ellis
The Love of God lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

God loves us! In fact, God created us in love. He created us to love and to love Him back. So, what is love? Unfortunately, we bandy around the word “love” making it so common place that many people don’t have any idea of what love really is. For, we say things like, “I love chocolate”, “I just love that new iced coffee drink,” or “I love the color on that car”. That type of expression about love, though, is not really “love”. Love is more than an expression, and it is more than a feeling. For, true love requires action and is shown by the actions of love that we express toward others whom we profess to love. Moreover, true love can grow stronger over the years as we continue to express loving actions toward the other person whom we have professed to love. That is why, long-time married couples often tell their spouse that they love them more today than they did when they first got married. Indeed, love grows deeper and greater the more that we express our love.

The greatest love of all, though, is the love that is expressed by God to His children. Just look around at the beautiful world that God created in His love for us. But there are even more ways that God’s love has been expressed for us. However, it is hard for humans to comprehend, let alone understand, the depth of God’s love for us. Even with our glorious gift of Salvation, most of us cannot understand the depth of love that God expressed to us in sacrificing His only Son so that we would not have to spend eternity in hell upon our physical death here on earth. Moreover, we often take for granted the love that God has for us even when God expresses His love in His answers to our prayers, in blessing us and in providing for us. But, for those that have not yet accepted God’s loving gift of Salvation, there is no understanding at all of God’s love for them. However, for those of us who have received the gift of Salvation, there is just the beginnings of our understanding about God’s love. Unfortunately, we still just can’t completely comprehend it.

 The Apostle John wanted us to understand God’s love, so he wrote about God’s love for us. John wrote specifically about God’s love in the book of I John.  It is in I John 4: 7-19, where we discover that God’s love is the source of all human love. We also learn that we can focus on God’s love for us by showing God’s love to others through our own actions. For, in verses 11-12, John wrote: “Dear friends, since God loved us that much (sending his Son to die for our sins), we surely ought to love each. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love has been brought to full expression through us. And God has given us His Spirit as proof that we live in Him and He in us.  But it is in verses 16-17 where John tells us that “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So, we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.”

Still, even with John’s explanation of God’s love it is hard for us to understand the depth of God’s love for us; both the love He gave in creating us and the love it took to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us. Notice that both those things required God’s overt action in order to express His love. However, we truly can’t comprehend the depth of God’s love for us until we recognize what it took (the sacrificial love it took) for God to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to His horrible death on the cross even knowing that it would be through Christ’s subsequent resurrection from the grave that we would no longer have to face eternal death and destruction. Until we understand that it is only through God’s love and through His loving sacrificial action of sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross and that it is only through Christ’s resurrection that each of us can be saved, we will not completely comprehend God’s love. Only when those of us who believe on Christ and those of us who are truly born-again finally reach Heaven to spend eternity with God will we finally comprehend the depth of God’s love for us.

The Apostle Paul also tried to explain the greatness of God’s love for us in Ephesians 3: 17-19. Here Paul said, “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how long, know high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.” Paul is telling us that it is through our Salvation that we can experience the love of Christ, yet that Christ’s love is so great that we will never fully comprehend it.

Then for those of us who have truly accepted Christ as our Savior, the Apostle Paul gave us this assurance in Romans 8: 38-39: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the power of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wow! What an assurance even if we can’t comprehend God’s love for us.

From the above verses we have learned at least four things. One that God is the source of all love. Secondly, we have learned that God’s love was shown through the sacrificial action of the giving of His Son to save us from eternal damnation. Third, we have learned from within the Gospels that Jesus is the perfect example of what it means to love others, for everything that Christ did in His life and death was supreme love in action. And, last but not least, we have learned that for those who are Saved, nothing can separate us from the Love of God.

Relationships and God’s Love

Did you know that just as God lovingly created humans that God also created the concept of relationships? Well, He did. In fact, the Bible tells us in Genesis 1: 27 that we are all created in the image of God. This doesn’t mean that we look exactly like God. For, an image can be a reflection without being an exact picture of someone. Obviously, humankind is not an exact picture of God, because we are all so very different in so many ways. However, in creating us, God wanted us to have some of His attributes, especially the attributes that He thought would not only help us in life but that would also allow us to enjoy each other as well as certain attributes that would allow us to communicate and respond to Him in love. So, God gave humans the ability to love other people, just as God loves us.  He also gave us the ability to develop relationships with other people and to be able to use those relationships to express our love, help, compassion, concern, and kindness toward others.

God, understood our need for loving and kind relationships, because God, Himself, is in a relationship with the other essences of the Trinity of God, i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who are all in a loving relationship with each other. So, in creating humankind God knew that relationships would be an important part of our being created in His image. Moreover, without the ability to form relationships, humans could not have a relationship with the Trinity in which we could express our love, our honor, and our praise for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Moreover, without the ability to form a relationship with Christ our Savior, we could not be Saved and share the Gospel message with others. Furthermore, without the ability to form relationships we would not be able to express love to others or be able to receive love from another person.

So, first and foremost, we were all created to be in a relationship with God and created to able to be in relationships with other people. The relationship that we have with God enables us to live in this fallen world, because we know that God and His love will help and bless us even within all the trials and sorrows we may have to face. Moreover, with our Salvation relationship with Christ, we have the certain knowledge that we will someday spend a glorious eternity with the Trinity of God. However, it is within all the other relationships, which we form here on earth, that we are able to discover that God has given us people to love and to love us back. These relationships give us people talk to, people to lean upon, and people with whom we can intellectually bounce ideas around, as well as giving us people who will come along side of us in times of despair. 
Indeed, we often need another person to come along side of us to comfort and encourage us at specific times in our lives, and to provide compassionate, loving, and caring relationships for our needs. In fact, no person is an island in and unto himself in this life here on earth. That is why relationships are the key to maintaining a healthy, happy, and interesting life here on earth. But how do we develop our relationships?

God Plants Relational Seeds of Love Between Humans

God plants relational seeds between people to help people navigate this world, as well as to give us opportunities to express love, kindness, compassion, concern, and caring toward another person. But, God also plants these relational seeds between people in order to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. So, what are these relational seeds that God plants? Well, God plants seeds of godly love. Eventually, the planted seeds of love develop and grow into a Christian’s understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” At other times, God’s a single planted seed of love often matures into a loving relationship between two people that has the love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the foundation of their life.

When the seed of love is then planted in the soil of service to Christ, Christian mentoring relationships or other evangelical relational services can start to grow with brotherly love and with the love of Christ as the focus. But it takes the right kind of watering, fertilizing, and nurturing for God’s seeds of love to germinate and develop into a Christ-centered fruit bearing relationships that are based upon the love of Christ. That is why the type of watering, fertilizing, and nurturing that is needed includes, but is not limited to: care, concern, patience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

The Seeds of Love

Throughout God’s Love Story, i.e., the Bible, we read over and over again how much God loves us and how much God wants us to love Him and others. Here are just a few examples of some verses in the Bible that speak about the importance of having the seeds of love in our lives.

I Corinthians 13: 3 from The Message says: “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

2 John 1: 6 from the New Century Version of the Bible says: “Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is this: Live a life of love.

In Galatians 5: 14 of The Living Bible Translation, the scripture reads: “The whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love others as you love yourself.’”

I Peter 2: 17 says: “Show respect for everyone. Love your Christian brothers and sisters.”
In John 13: 35 in The Living Bible we read that Jesus said, “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Then, in I Corinthians 14: 1 the Apostle Paul tells us to: “Let love be your greatest aim.”

Why do you think that the Word of God speaks so much to us about the love that we are to espouse for each other and for Christ? Well, it is because God wants us to not only love Him, but to let our entire lives be focused on Christian godly love toward others. To answer this question even better, turn to 1John 3: 16. Here the Apostle John says, “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” In other words, real love can be seen in our selfless and sacrificial giving actions. Even the sacrificial giving of our time to help mentor another through Active Relational Christian Mentoring can be an expression of real love. Remember, though, real love does not expect anything in return. However, Jesus said, “… if you give a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”  -- (Matthew 10: 42. NLT). In other words, God’s relational seeds of love when watered, fertilized, and nurtured, will bring the action of love into focus and its growth will be rewarded. For Jesus is telling us that God notices every kind and caring deed that we do. Even the loving act of giving a cup of cold water to one of Christ’s followers will be rewarded. If in godly love, we help another, it is as if we are showing our love to God. Put another way, our treatment of others actually shows God how much we love Him.

Finally, in John 13: 34 (NLT), we learn that Jesus expects us to love as He loves us. For, Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” In other words, we are to love others with the same type of sacrificial love that Jesus showed to us by going to the cross. That doesn’t mean that we are expected to die for another even though some people will do so. But, it means that Jesus was a living example of God’s love for us, so we are now to be a living example of Christ’s love to those we encounter. This means that instead of focusing on self, we are to focus on what we can do to show our Christian love to others.

Christ-Centered Relationships and Seeds of Love

Our Christ-centered relationships, which are based upon God’s seeds of love, should eventually produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God, whether it is from a Christian mentoring relationship (ARCM), a friendship, a spousal relationship, a work-related relationship, or within the relationships that are made in the missionary field for Christ. Just think! From God’s relational seeds of love that we in turn plant in the soil of Christian service, to the sharing of our knowledge of God and His Son and their love for us, great and wonderful things can happen for the glory of Lord and for the other woman within a mentoring relationship that we have established. For, when the mentor shares her talents and resources (as needed), the mentor can develop a wonderful fruit-producing Christ-centered relationship with the mentee that will empower the mentee to be so much more for God, herself, her family, and her friends. Ultimately, the mentoring process becomes a “… planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” – (Isaiah 61:3. NIV).

That particular verse is taken from the book of Isaiah. I will end this posting with the first three verses of Isaiah 61 so that you can see how we are to use God’s seeds of love to help others. First, this is a prophetic message given to Isaiah about the coming Messiah. So, Jesus read these verses while He was in Nazareth in the synagogue there, to indicate that this prophetic message regarding Christ the Messiah as the Servant of God was that day fulfilled in Him. In fact, these three particular verses give us a picture of the Spirit of God resting upon and anointing the Servant of God, Jesus Christ, to accomplish specific tasks, which He did accomplish. But, secondly, before Jesus went back to Heaven, He commissioned His disciples to bring the Good News of Salvation to all nations. In other words, the apostles and now those of us who are followers of Christ have been given the responsibility of sharing the Good News, i.e., the Gospel message, to other people. We can do this by showing God’s love to others through our loving servant-oriented actions and words. The Apostles became God’s servants and ambassadors for Christ and now we, too, are to become God’s servants and ambassadors who are willing to share the love of God and the Good News of Christ’s loving gift of Salvation with everyone who will listen. Following are the verses from Isaiah 61: 1-3 of the NIV.

“1. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
2. To proclaim freedom for the captives,
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
3. And provide for those who grieve in Zion –
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

Although Christ, is the Servant that is being referred to in this prophecy, as “born-again” Christian servants of Christ’s, I believe that we, too, have been anointed, i.e., we have also been given the specific purpose of bringing the Good News to the poor. We can do this by developing relationships and by watering and nurturing the seeds of love that God has planted for those relationships. In addition, we have been given the specific purpose of reaching out to the captives with the Good News, which could mean that we are to reach out to either actual captives in prisons or to those who are captives within their own emotional prisons. In either case, we can share the loving Gospel message with them.

In these three verses, the prophet Isaiah spoke of God’s Servant, i.e., Jesus Christ, as setting the prisoners free. The freedom that Christ proclaimed to the prisoners could mean that they were literally released from bondage like when Peter was released from prison supernaturally as recorded in Acts 12: 1-19, but it could also mean that the Christ brought the prisoners from the darkness of sin and oppression to the light of Salvation and happiness. Obviously, we cannot literally set prisoners free. However, we can visit the prisons and share the Good News by mentoring those that need to hear the Good News of Christ. As “born-again” servants of Christ, we can share the light of Christ with those who are in bondage, thus expressing God’s love to them and letting them know that God wants them to be free from sin.

In verse 2, “the Year of the Lord’s favor” refers to the Day of Jubilee, which was to come every 50 years and was to be the clearing away of all debts and the healing for the land. Although the Day of Jubilee is no longer celebrated as such, God expects His commandments to be followed, including the celebration of the Day of Jubilee. That is why there was reference to “the Year of the Lord’s favor” in this prophecy. But, never forget that God keeps track of the years even if we do not. Moreover, there will be a Day of Jubilee in the future.

Within the second verse, “the Day of vengeance of our God” refers to God’s future judgment, which we can read about within the book of Revelation. Certainly, we can be assured that Christ explained both the Day of Jubilee and the Day of vengeance to His disciples while He was here on earth, although many, except the eleven closest to Him at that time, did not listen to Him. But, the apostles who believed on Christ understood that they were to continue sharing the Truth of God’s coming vengeance or judgment with everyone who would listen. And now as Christ’s followers we are to also continue to share the Word of God and God’s Truth, including the day of judgment, with those within our sphere of influence or with those with whom we have the ability to develop a godly relationship. In fact, everyone needs to know that Christ will come back to judge the people of this earth who have not accepted Christ as their Savior. For, there will indeed be a judgment day! That is why we must share the Good News with everyone we can.

In verse three, we discover that Christ while here on earth came to comfort those who grieved. So, just like Christ comforted those who grieved and mourned, we, too, are to comfort those who mourn. We are to show compassion, godly love, and understanding to those who have lost a loved one. Obviously, Christ did and will also again transform their mourning into joy, by giving them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes” just as He did for those who were mourning for Lazarus. In such a situation, those who mourned would have been given a festive oil and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Obviously, we cannot do that, but we can be there for those who are suffering and mourning. We can hold their hands and comfort them. And, for those whose loved ones have indeed gone on to be with God because of their wonderful Salvation, we can rejoice with their loved ones!

All the services that we perform for God through the seeds of godly love and our willingness to share with others the Good News, our talents, our gifts, and our abilities to help others will lead to God’s seeds of love growing into wonderful glorious plants, i.e., relationships that give God all the glory and honor which He so richly deserves. The relational seeds of love that God has planted between His children will then become a “planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor.”

Active Relational Christian Mentoring as explained in my book, The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring, is a great way to grow and nurture the relational seeds of love that God wants us to fertilize and nurture for Him. You can do it! You can reach out to another woman and be there for her. You can share your knowledge, talents, and gifts easily by giving just a few minutes of your time a week. Just think! You could empower another woman to be all that she can be for God, herself, her family and her friends. You can do it. And if you want to know how easy it is to become a Christian mentor who can empower another woman, read my book which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, iTunes, Google Play, and at Christian Book Publishing Company.

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