FROM THE HEART
Relevant blogs about living as a Christian in the world today.
We all go through seasons in life when we need the encouragements written in Psalms 91. Many Christians quote the verses about the protection and victory that God promises us, but only few realize what is needed for them to become real in our lives. God loves us unconditionally and all He asks us to do is for our own good. But if we choose to doubt the love of God, fear the hardships, and worry about what will happen, we miss out the protection and blessings that are already in store for us.
Many theologians believe that Moses wrote this psalm, because he is mentioned as the author of the previous one and it has similarities with his writings, but even if we are not sure of the identity of the writer, we can be sure that his inspiration was the Holy Spirit. The first 2 verses, as well as verses 9 and 14 show who may benefit of the promises of this psalm. This protection from evil is not for those who just visit the presence of the Lord on rare occasions, especially when in need, or are desperate. These promises are for those who remain, and even dwell, in the shelter offered by God. To dwell in the presence of the Lord means having a constant relationship and resting in Him. The NIV and some other versions, translate the Hebrew word for “abide” with “rest,” and I can understand why. We need to feel so comfortable under our Lord’s shadow that we can rest. We give Him our worries, fears, problems because we are sure that He has the best solutions for everything.
The words we speak are very important. Let us remember that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21a) and the quality of our lives depends on what we say. When we declare and believe that the Lord is our place of safety and that we trust Him, we have what we say. Knowing that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He cares and helps us solve every problem we have, we can live relaxed and enjoy life. To get to where we rest in the Lord, we must know Him and trust that He saves us from trouble, surrounds us with His protective walls, and wants our good even more than we can wish for ourselves.
Verse 3 says that the Lord will not let us fall into the snares of the evil ones, and protect us from the contagious diseases and their consequences. God's truth is a strong shield that protects us, but we must choose not to fear any evil of the kingdom of darkness or of the world we live in. Even if there are thousands of victims around us, if we choose to sincerely love the Lord, live in His presence, and trust His protection, we will be safe and only watch how expensive disobedience is for the wicked ones.
If we do not understand how this kind of amazing protection is possible, verse 9 reminds us.
How wonderful it is to know that we can have a safe place in the Lord, where we are protected from the destructive attacks of the enemy. We continue to see that God commands His angels to guard us in everything we do according to the will of the Lord, and even if we have to go through difficult situations, we will be victorious.
And the ending is even more wonderful:
Our Almighty God says that He saves and protects us from evil, because we love Him, we know who He is and how powerful the proclamation of His Name is. Our prayers are heard, the Lord is with us, for better or for worse, we are never without Him, because He lives in the heart of every born-again Christian. The most amazing thing is that He does not only saves us from evil, but also honors and blesses us with long lives and saves our souls.
What can be more beautiful and desirable than to love God and be loved by Him? Let us know that if we trust in the Lord, we can rest in His presence, be guarded from anything that could destroy us and in any difficult situation, not have to fear.
With Jesus, even if we leave these physical bodies we still gain, as Paul said:
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34
If God's mercy (kindness, patience, grace and compassion) is everlasting, it means that it never ends, and that our heavenly Father is on our side and has the best feelings for us at all times. The Lord truly deserves all our praise, love, and gratitude.
In difficult times, that seem to have no way out, the Lord reminds us of how important it is to praise Him. When we praise God for who He is and for all the wonderful things He has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our problems no longer seem so serious. Why? Because we remember how good the Lord is, that nothing is too hard or impossible for Him, and that He does not leave us alone not even for a moment. Let us not forget what Jesus said in John 10:10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” and that we were created for love, joy, peace, and all that results from the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the born-again Christian (Galatians 5:22-23). Thoughts that lead to negative emotions, whenever we are worried or afraid of something that may or may not even happen, do us no good.
King David understood the power of praising God very well, as through praise and worship he was able to get through difficult times in his life. The psalms he composed inspired by the Holy Spirit have helped and comforted believers of all times.
When those around us see that we choose to praise God no matter what we go through and that we have the right attitude in any situation, they will want to have what we have. Personal example is the most effective method of evangelism. We do not only obey God, but we can also keep our peace and joy in hard times and help those around us to trust the Lord and desire to become His children.
If we wait to be happy and rejoice only when everything goes our way and we accomplish all our plans, we may not have much joy. Is there any benefit in being sad, depressed, unhappy, or frustrated? Do we solve anything when we are worried and lose sleep thinking about things we cannot change or bad memories from the past?
And Jesus concluded by saying: “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:31). When we are focused on what the Lord wants us to do and what pleases Him, we can keep our hearts pure, because we no longer seek the things of the world or what can hurt us. Everything God wants for us and what He expects from us is always for the best. The more we love the Lord, the more we will praise Him and the happier we will be.
Life with Jesus is a happy life here on earth and for all eternity in His presence. When we choose to praise the Lord, we rise above the problems and allow Him to show us the best solution for our situation. A thankful heart is a happy heart that lives in God’s will and utilizes this key for a blessed life and making it to heaven!
The troubles that happen in our lives are used by the Lord to show us what is in our hearts and needs to be corrected. The Lord loves us fully, with pure and perfect love, and does not enjoy our suffering, but only in hard times are our weaknesses revealed. The Lord never forces us to do what is right, because He has given us free will. We ourselves, must choose to renounce whatever is wrong and ask Him to help us change.
Have you ever wondered, why God allows the devil to attack us? There are several biblical scenarios that answer this question.
Whenever we sin, we do the will of the evil one (Romans 6:16), giving him the legal right to hurt us, until we ask God to forgive us. Sin opens the "spiritual door" for the enemy, and it seems he never misses the chance to use it.
Let's see how Jesus characterizes Satan:
Satan is the master of twisting the truth with lies and cunning deception. The thoughts he brings into our minds are not usually obvious sins, because we would not accept them. There are often grains of truth in the enemy’s temptation, so that we may fall into its trap. He uses things from our past, old worldly patterns of thinking, the opinions or actions of others, etc.
The devil has no power over us as born-again Christians because Jesus paid for our redemption and set us free from the power of sin. When we believe the enemy’s lies, we empower him to do to us what we believed. Job said, "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me." (Job 3:25). We need to pay close attention to the thoughts that go through our minds, to identify what is coming from the evil one, and to oppose it.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, while the devil condemns us. When we lose our peace that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit, we may have sinned. That is why we pray to the Lord to show us what we have done wrong, repent and ask for His forgiveness. If we continue to feel condemned after sincerely repenting, it is certain that the devil is the source of those accusations and not the Holy Spirit. And it is time to use the spiritual authority we have in the Name of Jesus Christ to resist the devil, as we read in James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
But what do we do when the free will of another person causes us aggravation or suffering? For as long as we live on this earth, we are in relationships with our relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others. It is sad that the devil has access to some of them, as they have rejected Jesus and are not living by God's laws. There are also those who have chosen to obey the evil one and find pleasure in what is evil. We can handle the wickedness of those around us better, if we know that Jesus Christ, who is in our hearts, is greater than the devil who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Through the Lord we are already victorious. Even if we go through trials, we are not defeated. We pray for those who want to harm us to renounce their evil ways and be reconciled with God, and for us to keep our hearts pure without hatred and wickedness. By doing so we can keep our peace and trust in the Lord's protection during hard times. No matter how hard the season we are in is, it will end at some point, and the Lord certainly will not allow us to be hurt beyond our ability to endure. Our heavenly Father loves us to the fullest and wants us to make heaven. He will never, ever leave or forsake us. Praise God!
If we wholeheartedly desire to do God's will, nothing, not even physical death, can rob us of our salvation. Paul said in Philippians 1:21 that for him, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain." The life lived for Christ is a victorious life. When we see everything with a heavenly perspective, we can stop loving the world and the material things as we did before we were born-again. The more we seek to know God and have a heavenly focus, the better we handle the wickedness of men, and whatever goes wrong. If we know that physical death means just leaving this body and that our spirit will be instantly in the presence of Jesus, we do not fear death. On the contrary, in heaven there will be no suffering, sorrow, torment, or pain, only true eternal happiness.
No matter what we have to endure, let us stand firm knowing that God is on our side, wants the best for us, and will help us overcome anything and everything. The Lord "... heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalms 147:3) and it is worth it to praise Him and live for Him, no matter what happens in this world.
Were you involved in sports in your youth or as a teenager or maybe later as an adult? If so, then you know it gets harder as you go. For the young ones, the balls are often bigger and softer, the rules are quite lax. If you stay with it, the older you get, the harder the balls and tougher the rules become! In a sense, it is similar to what has happened in the world we are living in today. If you were playing any kind of softball before, those days are over. It is a hardball world today with tough rules, high-speed fast balls and wild curve balls that are often difficult to see coming.
In order to make it, one has to be diligent. It does not take much, and you can be “out of the game.” Praise the Lord, He is with us and cares about every facet of our days and lives. Praise the Lord, even if the world were to go completely insane, He is still Lord and He is still with us. My prayer is that no matter what happens in this world, you will be so attuned to the Lord, that He will be able to guide you through it. There is a measure of evil that will be allowed in the last of the last days. Are we there yet? Personally, I think we are on the edge, but even if I am wrong, we are closer than ever.
So what do we do? The most important thing anyone can do is be right with God and draw close to Him no matter what. If times get harder, this will become even more important. One needs to have their soul fed with the water and the word. What does that mean? We need to be strong in the Holy Spirit and the Bible. This is done through prayer, study, and worship. By worship I mean praise and adoration. Praise is being thankful and glorifying God for who He is and for His provisions, mercy, and grace. Adoration is something more. It is intimate. It is not usually loud. It comes from intimately adoring the Lord because of knowing Him. All these things, make one stronger in Christ and it is more important than ever to be strong in the Lord. It is not enough just to be a milk-toast Christian, one needs to be resilient in the Lord.
As for hearing the Lord, if you are not quite there yet, just pray and listen for His voice. He still speaks today. Do not let anyone’s negativity hinder you. He speaks in the heart area (the spirit), kind of where your gut instincts come from. It may seem like you hear Him in your head, but in reality, He is directing you and speaking by the Holy Spirit to your spirit. And usually after asking the Lord for help, you know deep inside what to do. Sometimes He speaks in a calm, soft voice. He speaks in this manner on purpose, so that we must listen to hear. He does not force this kind of voice on people who will not listen. Learn to pray and learn to listen.
Learn God’s Word. The devil knows the Bible. Yes, the devil knows the Bible and he knows very well how to twist it. That is his specialty. But how would we know when it is being twisted if we don’t know the truth of it? How can we stand on the promises of God if we do not know them? This is the time to dig into God’s Word! Not just read it, but read it to seriously learn and get it correctly and deeply into our hearts. There will come a day when the Bible will be outlawed. It will happen because the enemy does not want the truth known. How will anyone learn then, when anything godly has been removed from stores, the internet, and libraries? Eventually church will even be outlawed. I bet many people will wish they had gone when they could have. We must get deeper in God’s Word today. We must intensify our relationships with Him. The Bible says, if we draw close to God, He will draw close to us. The days of easily making it to heaven are probably days behind us. The days of playing church are quickly disappearing. A line has already been drawn. One side will have it easier in the world but will regret it for all eternity. The other side, will stand faithful to the Lord no matter how much pressure and persecution comes, but will have eternal peace and joy. The choice is up to us. It is time to get serious in our relationship with the Lord.
As we pass from one year to the next, it is natural to pause, reflect and set our hearts to go forward. In the last two years, the whole earth has faced new and exceedingly difficult challenges. The gravity of living in this current age is very serious.
As we move forward, we must set our hearts to be faithful to the Lord, no matter how much pressure the wicked of this world and the devil put forth. What will give us the wisdom and strength to hold fast in our faith and trust in the Lord’s provision on these stormy seas? The answer is found in keeping our eyes upon the Lord and purposefully staying close to Him, having Him guide us through whatever comes.
I find what Jesus said when closing the parable of the persistent widow, quite interesting,
As one who believes that Christians will go through a measure of tribulation (not God’s wrath) before the rapture, this section of verses really speaks to me. God will avenge what is done to His people and speedily. And imagine Jesus looking each one of us in the eye saying, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
In Matthew 10:22, 24:13 and Mark 13:13, Jesus has said we need to endure to the end to be saved. We can trust the Lord for provision, even if we have to be like Elijah and Elisha where we see how the Lord provided for them in very miraculous ways during harsh times (1 Kings 17, 18; 2 Kings 4).
Let’s look to the heroes and heroines of our faith. Abraham struck out from his homeland, trusting the voice of the Lord and after many years, really did become the father of many nations. Joseph’s faith stood fast even when his own brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery. Though his prayers did not get answered in the way he wanted, God used him to save many lives, including the lives of his own family and heal their dysfunctional hurts. David was anointed to be king but had to endure years of being hunted down by the “wrongful king” wanting to kill him. In the end, God used him as king of Israel and a psalm writer whose verses still help people and bless God to this day. Daniel stood fast, even being taken captive when his country was overtaken, and many killed. God used him mightily in his day and even gave him incredible dreams, visions, and prophecies for the future.
Ruth (a Gentile) married into a foreign family (Hebrew) and became a widow, along with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law becoming widows too. Through her faithfulness, God provided for her and her mother-in-law in amazing ways. She became part of the lineage of Christ. Rahab was a prostitute but when the opportunity of faith came her way, she yielded to the Lord and helped save God’s people. She also became part of the lineage of Christ.
The Lord will take care of us in His wisdom, as we put our trust in Him. Our choices not only affect us currently but have the potential of eternal value. And not only do our decisions affect us, but affect our families, coworkers, and many others, whether we realize it at the time or not. And most importantly, our main motivation should be the Lord. Whatever we do, matters to Him. And He is the one who has given His all for us, (even with great pain, taking upon Himself our sins and even with much rejection) we can love and respect Him in return, and trust Him through whatever lies ahead. Both He and His love for us, have been proven to mankind since the Garden of Eden. Let us hold on to the Lord, let us hold on.
The night Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord, said to the nearby shepherds,
The angel spoke these great words of encouragement to the shepherds that day and since then, these words have blessed more people than we could count. The angel was announcing the Messiah, Christ Jesus. And even more, the angel said “a Savior” was born, and not just for the Jews, but for “all people.”
John, the apostle, recorded in 1 John 3:8b, that the Son of God came to “destroy the works of the devil.” Not only did Jesus come to be our Savior, paying the price for our sins, but He came to deliver us from the fallen nature that came with sin.
The first Adam was created pure and to be sinless, but when he disobeyed God and sinned, we, his descendants, have no longer been naturally born in the image of God, but instead, have been born with a fallen sinful nature. But the second Adam, Jesus Christ, came to us sinless and stayed sinless. And through the Lord and His sacrifice, we can be born-again. Jesus has made the way, for us to get back to the image of God, that man was first born in. We are still, born first, from our parents with a sinful nature, but when we become Christians, we become born-again in our spirits, which no longer have a sinful nature. This was a huge part of the mission of Jesus Christ when He came! Hallelujah!
In the flesh, we have the carnal, fallen image of the devil. In the spirit, we (born-again Christians), have the image of God. As long as we are in these bodies, we will have the war. The born-again us, has to constantly rule over the carnal nature. This is why we each, have to pick up our cross and carry it daily. It is our flesh, our carnal nature, that we must keep crucified.
In the following verse, we can see that each one of us, is either a child of the devil, or a child of God. Everyone, is one of the two.
We were born "children of the devil" through our earthly parents, but through Christ, we become the children of God!
This is what Jesus made possible! Not only did He acquire forgiveness for us, but He made it possible for all who will repent, believe upon and follow Him, to be able to be one with God. And when He ascended to heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, comfort, strengthen and guide us! When we belong to the Lord, we are in Him and He is in us. All this is possible because Jesus came and made the way! When Jesus came, He brought life for us, and destroyed the works of the devil, for all who will receive Him!
Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.
1 John 3:1a
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.
The goodness of God is an undeniable truth and so are all His attributes. Therefore, if we do not recognize His goodness in our lives, the problem is not with God, but with us. God is perfect, He does not have to change, nor does He need to do anything better than He already does. We are the ones who need to change.
Let us not forget that all that is good comes from God (“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” - James 1:17). On the other hand, sickness, all that is evil and can destroy us, come from the devil (“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” - John 10:10). Even the evil that our fellow men do to us, has its origin in the evil thoughts and impulses of the carnal nature or in what they receive from the evil one, and not from God (“... God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”- James 1:13).
Maybe you are going through a difficult time, and have many reasons one could complain about, frustrations, fears and perhaps even lost a loved one and the pain you feel could only be fully understood by the Lord. Circumstances, feelings, previous experiences and traumas inherited from previous generations, all contribute to the level of suffering that each one of us has to endure at some point.
Maybe you have a difficult situation in the family, at work, at school or with people who are very important to you. Whatever the situation, if it is not up to us to change it, we must ask the Lord to show us how to handle it. He has the best solution for any problem. Maybe God has allowed us to be in a difficult place, that we can learn something from it, that we would not have learned any other way. Perhaps the Lord wants us to detach ourselves from problems and draw closer to Him through Bible study, prayer, praise, and worship. Maybe we need to learn how to love those who are hard to love and help them change. Maybe it's time to change something and get out of the environment we are in and where we do not belong anymore. Sometimes, the very fact that the situation becomes unbearable can be a sign that victory is near and the enemy is doing his best to make us doubt that the Lord is helping us and to accept defeat. The Lord's timing is very important. Let us not be ahead of Him, nor too late in what we have to do. When we act in God’s timing, success is guaranteed by the One who can do everything and for whom nothing is too difficult!
In any difficult situation it is very important to keep our heart pure, because the springs of life come out of the heart. If we allow frustration and dissatisfaction to build up, they become the source of the words we speak and our attitude becomes hostile and negative. It is well known that even if we cannot control the circumstances, we can control how we respond to them. We do not solve the problems if we get upset, agitated, lose sleep or even have a pity party. The correct solution comes from the Lord, and when we put our trust in Him, we find the patience we need and do what He leads us to do. Let us choose to believe that the Lord has the perfect solution for our problem and ask the Holy Spirit to show us God’s will and help us see the good side of the situation.
Let us remember what the following verses say:
Jesus is full of mercy for us, because He lived in a human body and was tempted in all aspects, even though He did not fall into temptation and sin. Jesus was the perfect “blameless and spotless” lamb, who was needed to be the perfect sacrifice for all the sins of mankind, including for each of us. So we can come boldly to “the throne of grace” with everything that bothers and upsets us. The Lord always cares about our suffering, He always has a solution, and He always wants to intervene for us, if we will but ask Him and choose to trust that He will. We reach the throne of the heavenly Father, only through Jesus Christ, and there we find all the love, mercy, and favor we need when we are struggling.
You may be wondering how we get to God's throne? The desire to communicate with the Heavenly Father is the first step, and if you have not yet surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus, this must be the second step (Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”).
Because Jesus is the only way to God the Father, after He becomes the Lord of our lives, we can reach the "throne of grace" when we pray sincerely. The Lord looks at “the heart” of the one who prays and not at how sophisticated their prayer is. He wants us to tell Him the truth about what we feel, what hurts or makes us happy, and especially to want to receive His answer to our requests and obey it.
Sadly, many Christians believe that God must do or give them anything they ask for, regardless of His plans or wisdom. And when they do not receive what they asked for, they become frustrated and turn away from the Lord. The truth is, that when we choose to follow Jesus and receive salvation through His sacrifice, we are redeemed from the penalty of death for our sins. We then no longer belong to ourselves but belong to the One who paid for our salvation. Therefore, we must obey God’s will, that He teaches us through His Word, and what He tells us through the Holy Spirit. Everything God asks us to do is truly for our own good and has eternal implications. That is why it is up to us to give all our hurts to Him and take time daily to study and meditate on God's Word. By knowing the Scripture, it helps us learn to hear when He speaks to us and to recognize which thoughts are from the Holy Spirit or not.
Let us ask God to reveal more of Himself and of the depths of His love and grace to us, and help us to trust Him more. When our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to God for all He has done for us, we can face difficult situations more easily and may even be filled with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit as we focus on the Lord and not on the circumstances.
We live in a time when society is deeply divided by the choices we have to make; the fear of “what will happen tomorrow" is rampant and even more people have less hope for better days. Each of us has gone through different traumas throughout our lives, and each has responded to them, in his or her own way.
One person's trial, could be much worse than we could ever imagine, but because they are choosing to be strong, they will not be defeated by their circumstances. On the other hand, for a very sensitive person, their trial might seem much less, but the impact to them, might be much more devastating. What I mean is that, no one has gone through life from one happy moment to another. Even if optimistic people see something good in bad situations, and recover better, they still go through hard times, face discouragement, and even depression. God offers grace for all who trust in Him, to be able to handle hard situations, of which many are beyond our control, or caused by people who do not want to obey the Lord, but choose evil over good and hurt those around them.
Have you ever considered that when someone does not treat us right, it might be because of what they are going through, or because someone else treated them wrong? How often do we find ourselves in situations where we do not treat someone else as we should, because we are frustrated or in pain? We could better tolerate and forgive those who treat us wrong, if we would ask ourselves, what would we do if we were in their shoes, and if we would consider that they might have bigger problems than ours. Sometimes it is enough to remember what we already know about the person's past or current situation, to stop judging them, or even feel sorry for them. We do not even judge ourselves correctly every time, why would we think we can do it when it comes to someone else? Everything related to human nature is relative and subjective. Only God and His Word are the truth. Whatever the Bible teaches us is the standard we must follow.
Our minds store everything that happens to us and sometimes not accurately, because our memories can be influenced by past experiences, physical and emotional state and diet. There are many factors that contribute to our well-being. God created us for love, joy, peace and all that is good. When we live in fear, dissatisfaction, hatred, anxiety, stress and any negative emotions produced by toxic thoughts, our brain reacts by producing harmful chemicals, which lead to all sorts of imbalances that result in pain and sickness. In Romans 12:2, we are urged to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, through the Word of God. This is something we need to do, by replacing the worldly way of thinking with the truth of the Bible, so that we can have healthy, scriptural mindsets that restore our brains and help our systems to function properly.
Even if we cannot control what those around us are doing, we can ask the Lord to help us control our reaction to what we do not like, or what hurts us. I know from personal experience that when I try to think what may be behind the words or deeds of those who hurt me, the feeling of compassion helps me to get over it and forgive them more easily. When we do not forgive, the suffering is even greater and can have long-lasting effects. Any event, thought, image or sound that reminds us of what happened, will reproduce the initial pain and we will re-live what happened, strengthening its memory stored in the subconscious mind.
Jesus gave us the most perfect and useful commandments and counsel. Whatever we do contrary to His words, it costs us.
The better we understand this truth and choose mercy, compassion, and love for those who do us wrong, instead of having negative emotions, the happier and more pleasing to God we can be. When we do the opposite, no one wins and the biggest losers are ourselves. Whoever wronged us may not even know that they did it, while we lost our peace and joy. When we choose to respond with love and do good to those who hate us, we keep our hearts pure, pleasing to the Lord, and we have the greatest chance to change our relationship with those people for the better. Prayer is communication with God and when we tell the Lord what hurts us, and give Him the burden and pain, we release ourselves and make room for peace, forgiveness and "agape" love for others, which is the source of true happiness.
There are countless examples in the Bible that show that love overcomes hatred, good overcomes evil, and when we do what the Holy Spirit leads us to do, we overcome, no matter what we have to go through. Here are just a few of the verses that urge us to choose to do what is right.
When we take the time to pay attention to those around us, we may become a blessing to them, by acting right or saying the proper words. Jesus said that “‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35b). The satisfaction of serving or giving is greater than the joy of receiving. Also, when we give, it means we have something that someone else needs. Giving is not just about money. We can give of our time, warm words, encouragement, affection and whatever the Holy Spirit urges us to give. If we obey the urge to give, even if we do not have much, the Lord will bless and multiply what we have left. In God's economy, we first give, and then we receive. When we serve others, even if it is just a smile or a hug, we turn our attention from our problems to the right solutions for those whom we help. We are created to feel useful and to help each other and this is why wholehearted service is full of satisfaction.
Whenever someone bothers us, especially when we are driving, if we choose to pray to the Lord to help them be better drivers and be more careful, then we calm down more easily and keep our hearts pure. In any circumstance, prayer is the best solution, through which we give what upsets us to the Lord and receive the power to react correctly and not sin. The mission field is everywhere we meet people, we just have to look around and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we can do for them.
If we want to receive God’s mercy and not what we deserve, then we need to show mercy to others. Let us not be quick to judge other people’s gestures and words, because at times, we might be the ones who triggered it by what we said or did in the first place. When we choose to replace the selfish thought “what about me?” with “what can I do to be a blessing?” our lives can change for the better and we can more enjoy our daily walk with Jesus. When we want to understand what other people go through, our hearts become more sensitive to the needs of others and to what God desires from us. As a result, we can smile more and help more people to find their joy and salvation in Jesus Christ.
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
There is much to meditate upon involving these verses. What I would like to search out at this time is, “love” in them. As it has been written in Greek here, the word for love is “agape.” Hence, what does “agape love” really mean?
These are commandments. But how can the Lord command us to love? Is love not a feeling? Can feelings be commanded? How can this be?
“Agape” is a noun and “agapao” is its verb, which is Greek. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon says the following about both.
Agapao, NAS Word Usage in the New Testament- Total: 143 times
beloved 8, felt a love for 1, love 1, love 75, loved 38, loves 20
Agape, NAS Word Usage in the New Testament - Total: 116 times
beloved 1, love 1, love 112, love feasts 1, love's 1
The definition from Strong’s says: perhaps from agan (much) [or compare <H5689> (`agab)]; to love (in a social or moral sense) :- (be-) love (-ed).
The truth about “agape love” is that most Bible dictionaries and lexicons do not do it justice.
We know that it is “a godly love.” The kind of love that is of God. It is the first fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
We know from 1 Corinthians 13, that it is “the highest level of love” and without it, nothing else matters.
We could be the most gifted, the most knowledgeable or even do the most righteous deeds, even laying down our own lives for the poor, and without agape love, it is meaningless.
So what really is “this most important love” and how do we get it?
We can see it is a fruit of the Spirit. So He has it. We can see that this is the love listed in John 3:16. So God has “agape love for us” enough to send Jesus to make a way for our salvation.
We see it in our text verses, where Jesus, in His use of the Greek language, spoke it in Matthew 23:37, referencing Deuteronomy 6:5.
A lawyer of the Pharisees had asked Jesus "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36). But in the reply of Jesus, He answered referencing two Scriptures and an explanation. Next Jesus said, “And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:39) and then followed it with an explanation, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:40).
Jesus was referencing
I think we can all understand that if we would do right by God and our fellow man, in the manner the Lord has commanded, that we would not err or sin.
This is the same love word as in:
And also in
This is powerful. This is the dividing line between those who call themselves Christians and those who really are.
This is akin to the forgiveness verses. God has forgiven us a great debt and if we refuse to forgive others, then our forgiveness is cancelled (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:35, Mark 11:25-26). The Lord has said that if He extends us such great mercy, who are we to withhold it from another human? And that by comparison, we are forgiven so huge, and with another human, it so much smaller in comparison. This is a pale example, but what if we gave one of our adult children one million dollars, as a free gift. And his neighbor was in desperate need of 10 dollars, and he was asked to help and refused, so that he could hang on those ten, and the other 999,990 dollars. The Giver of all, Who owns it all, says this type of behavior is unacceptable. He rules. And He is also fair.
If we demand accountability of others to God, then by default, we must be accountable too. And with God, we all need the righteousness of Jesus, for we cannot save ourselves. And if we accept the love of God, but refuse to share it, then we put ourselves on the wrong side of God. We cannot eat from the Lord’s table of goodness and not share it with others. He will not have it.
So God chooses to love us, and says we are to love others with the same agape love and that if we do not, then we do not know Him. And for certain, on the day of judgment, we would hear,
We can say we believe, but obviously, if we have not love, then we are not really believing in the true life-changing way the Lord wants for us.
How could we accept such huge love, grace and forgiveness from God and be too stingy to pass it on? We would really have to think we are something and that His love and grace for us is not much. It is obviously possible to talk the talk, but not really be with His program.
We must realize that agape love is not a feeling. Agape love is a choice. If you choose to love in a hard case (an enemy or someone that in the natural you feel is undeserving) then you are doing right, feeling or not.
In researching for this message, I came across a great definition of agape love in someone’s message. They said it means, “to show preference to,” but I think “to give preference to” is more correct. With much research, I think they must have found the Helps Study of the Discovery Bible which says the following:
agapáō – properly, to prefer, to love; for the believer, preferring to "live through Christ" (1 Jn 4:9,10), i.e. embracing God's will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power. 25 (agapáō) preeminently refers to what God prefers as He "is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16). See 26 (agapē).
There may be similar definitions in the world, but this is the only I know of, that says it so clearly.
Jesus and the Father, saw our need and chose to sacrifice their own comfort, feelings and needs for our sake. It was the most expensive choice ever made.
Even on the cross, Jesus was choosing to love. He “loved” the thief next to Him who came to repentance, and Jesus cried out for mercy for those who treated Him cruelly, even those unto death, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I have spent many years loving some people who have repeatedly done me wrong. In this situation, many people have said to me, how can you do it? I can most honestly tell you, it is because of Jesus. But for Him, I would have shook the dust from my feet and let them hang their own selves. But I have chosen to love them anyhow and not allow hate to have its way. I am the winner. They are bound by hate and ugliness and I am free. And I pray they will wake up from the lies of the devil (I say this all humbly, believe me, I learned it the hard way, and God’s way is the best).
All of it, is only possible with God. If emotions happen to line up with agape love choice, great. If not, just do it with your love to God, in honoring what He commanded of us. If we want to go to heaven, then we must follow Jesus all the way. This is what the Lord who owns heaven and earth has done and this is what He expects of us.
The message that I found that really helped me and might bless you also, can be found at https://www.compellingtruth.org/agape-love.html.
For comparative analysis and meditation, each section of verses in the KJV and then the NIV2011.
Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV) But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV2011) Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Mark 12:28-31 (KJV) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-31 (NIV2011) One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Lately, there are fewer and fewer constants that we can rely on and be sure of. Many freedoms and options seemed very normal to us, and we did not think we could ever lose them, until recently. We don't even realize how much we value what we have, until after we lose it and if we don't see the truth about what is going on around us, we can become discouraged and depressed. What are the constants that do not change, regardless of the circumstances, the time we live in, or of what is going on in the whole world?
The most valuable assurance is that God is alive and never changes. God is perfect and does not need to become better in absolutely any way. The Lord is the truth and He can never lie (Numbers 23:19). God is holy, faithful, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, good, sovereign, kind, loving and even more. We can be sure that He loves each of us, knows everything about us, keeps His promises, can do more than we ask or think, has the best solutions to our problems, He is never too early or too late and He never leaves or forsakes us. All these are constants, and we can be sure that they never change.
On the other hand, everything related to our human nature is variable, as are the characteristics of the world we live in. We rejoice when bad things do not last forever and we grieve when what we like suddenly ends. Human nature is changeable and what we like now, we may not like later, and what we want today, tomorrow may be something we want to get rid of. Thank God that when Jesus ascended to heaven, the Lord did not leave us alone! He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each of us to whom Jesus is Lord, to guide and teach us, so that we may enjoy how reliable and consistent the Lord and everything about Him is.
No matter what we go through, let us never forget that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and because He is the Lord of our lives, He will help us get through all the storms of life.
The following verse teaches us a very useful truth, even if we would prefer that it would only partially apply in our lives. We would prefer that the part about suffering, which is referred to as something normal, to not be there, but it is an inherent aspect of life in this fallen world.
God shows us mercy, compassion, and goodness, without deserving any of it, if Jesus is our Lord. After realizing that only with the help of the Lord we can face the challenges and pains of this life and trust that He is with us in the good and bad times, God will change and complete us to become what He intended us to be. Only the Lord can equip, strengthen and establish us to be able to live for Him.
Unfortunately, none of us can become what God wants us to be without suffering. It is certain that everyone suffers in this life. But it is also true that all of us who love Jesus Christ and keep His commandments (John 14:21, 23), are helped by God while suffering and will spend our eternity in the most wonderful place with our Lord. The apostle Paul rightly emphasized that it is worth it to suffer here, in order to live for Christ and as a result, spend our eternity in God’s glory.
We can rely on God’s goodness, faithfulness, grace and love, even if, when it is hard for us, the enemy tries to convince us that God has forsaken us and no longer loves us. In this world we are tested by various trials, which the Lord uses to help us become what He wants us to be. Everything the Lord wants for us is wonderful, perfect, and desirable. The One who gave His Son to die in our place, so that we can spend our eternity with Him, loves us unconditionally and gives us the chance to live for Him until the end.