Posts Tagged "love"

Love Is – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Love Is – Cassi Piper

I have always struggled with the concept of tough love. To be honest I have often felt the term was used too broadly. Some have used it when they don’t want to enable someone to make unhealthy choices or continue to engage in sinful behavior. Others apply it when the hard work of loving becomes too inconvenient, using “tough love” as an excuse to move on rather than acting in the best interest of someone else.  Few of us would admit to the latter. But I think if we were to examine our deepest motives, the ones we don’t want others to see, in one way or another we have all used the “tough love” card as an easy out rather than doing what real love requires.

So in the spectrum of the relationships we have with others, where does tough love fit? What is it and how should it be applied? When should it be used and what should the state of our hearts be when we use it? These are the questions that have been rattling in my head lately. I wish I had a definitive answer. But scripture does give us a true definition of love and that’s where we should start.

In the renowned 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians Paul lays out for us what love is. Many of us are familiar with at least a few of love’s many defining traits: “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” When I look at this list I am reminded of how my sinful nature is quick to defy loving others.

How often am I really patient with others? How often do I walk through one day without an envious thought? How often are my motives truly not self-seeking? I am humbled by this passage, especially when I think about how God’s love is perfect towards us in all of these categories. No matter what we do, God’s love does not fail.

When I think of love as Paul describes I do not picture a warrior toughened by battle ready to protect themselves from an oncoming enemy. Instead I see a shepherd with a staff ready to look out for the needs of others. I see a father patiently waiting for his son to come home. I see a savior, entitled to all things divine, but choosing to be hung on a cross so that others might live.  I see love emanating from within rather than a protective barrier keeping things unloving out.

This type of love is radical. It’s open. It’s freely given. And it can be heartbreaking. To give of ourselves in love of another and not have that love take hold in their life is painful. But we are still called to love. How often do we grieve the Holy Spirit with our thoughts, our actions or our apathy? But still God loves. And so must we.

It is my conclusion that real love is tough. It’s tough to be patient. It’s tough to be kind. It’s tough to always hope, to always persevere, to keep no record of wrongs. But the reward is worth it. For when we love we get a glimpse of God’s undying love for us. And the more we realize His love, the more we love others. Thus a beautiful cycle of grace, redemption and growth is begun.

Our love for others is not conditioned on others. It is conditioned on Christ’s example for us. We love unconditionally for we are unconditionally loved. It is my heartfelt prayer that as a church we recognize our need for God’s love while fulfilling our calling to love others so that they too recognize their need. May others see Christ in us because of the depth of our love for them and may we continue to bow in worship of the One whose love knows no depths.

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Enemies – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Enemies – Pastor Matt

We have been talking a lot about love at Immanuel.  In Matthew 5, Jesus gives us the ultimate command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  Presumably, Jesus is not talking about people that you simply do not like; nor is he talking about relationships within the church.  He is talking about enemies that would like to see you ruined, destroyed or worse.

How are we supposed to love people like that?  One clue is verse 45 of the same chapter.  Jesus says, “(God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  In other words, God’s love for humans is indiscriminate.  His love is such that it highlights our limitations to love.  For instance, if I were in God’s place and I was aware of the hearts of all men, I would certainly want to bless the good guys with rain and hurt the bad guys with some type of acid rain.

But God doesn’t do that.  Why?  Because I’m pretty sure we’d all get the acid rain.  Who really deserves the love of God?  If my enemies don’t deserve God’s love than I certainly don’t.

The book of Romans talks about enemies too.  But in this case, we are the enemies.  It says that we were once God’s enemies; and in spite of this, he sent his son to die for us.  So if God loved us, even though we were his enemies, what should be our response to our enemies?  Love!  It’s the kind of love that wants the enemies’ good just as much as the good of those for whom we are affectionate.

God’s love falls on our enemies just as much as it falls on us.  And the only reason we are no longer considered his enemies is because of his love.

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My Work, or God’s Work? – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

My Work, or God’s Work? – Pastor Matt

What is the difference between someone who tries to earn their righteousness (person A) and someone who knows that righteousness can only be received by the work of Jesus Christ (person B)?

Person A works really hard at doing things that will prove they’re righteous.

Person B knows there is nothing they can do to earn righteousness.  It has to be received as a gift.

Person A asks, “doesn’t all my good work account for something?”

Person B says, “God doesn’t owe me anything, yet he loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me.”

Person A wants credit.

Person B wants Jesus.

Person A says, “God loves me, and the proof is all the good things I do.”

Person B says, “God loves me, and the proof is Jesus on the cross.”

Person A is resentful of other people’s blessings.

Person B celebrates when good happens to others.

Person A hides their sin that cannot be seen.

Person B confesses to others their sin that cannot be seen.

Person A defends their righteousness by comparing themselves to others.

Person B loves others because they are keenly aware of their personal need.

Person A puts themselves in the position to never be wrong.

Person B puts themselves in the position to receive God’s transforming grace.

Person A doesn’t actually need Jesus.  They have it all figured out.

Person B understands that every breath is a gift from Jesus.

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Where Does Jesus Come From? – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Where Does Jesus Come From? – Pastor Matt

Where does Jesus come from?  This may sound like an odd question, but in actuality, the truth of the gospel hinges upon its answer.   The prof of its importance can be found in John chapter 7.  The religious leaders and the Jews are arguing and debating the place from which Jesus comes.  Their argument is logical: the prophets say the Messiah will come from a place no one knows.  If Jesus comes from galilee (a place many people know), than Jesus cannot be the Messiah.

Jesus rebukes them and cries out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from.  I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true.  You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” 

Jesus does something amazing here.  He validates the truth of the prophets, and simultaneously shows that the religious leaders are misunderstanding the prophets. Jesus says they do not know his origins, not because they don’t know his hometown, but because they don’t know the one from whom he was sent: In other words, they don’t know God.

Our human hearts are laid bare in this scripture.  We become staunch in our own understanding rather than our relationship with God.   We want to have God, but on our own terms.  We want to know Jesus, but only based upon the knowledge we already possess.  It’s like falling in love and not expecting anything to be different.  The contrary is true.  Falling in love, by definition, is a falling away from our old selves into something new, leaving us different people.

And Jesus rightly says that they don’t know where he comes from because they don’t know the Father.  In other words, true knowledge is dependent upon knowing the Father.   If you don’t know the Father, you will not know the place from which Jesus comes.   Likewise, if we know the father, we don’t find comfort in what we know but in whom we know.

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Surprised by Kindness – Cassi Piper

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Surprised by Kindness – Cassi Piper

My heart was recently touched by the kindness of a stranger. I had traveled almost an hour one afternoon to attend the funeral of a good friend’s mom. In tow I had all four of my children, ages eight down to 15 months. About thirty minutes into the drive I realized I had not given my third oldest his medicine to prevent car sickness. Shortly thereafter he threw up in the back of my van. Needless to say by the time we reached the service I was a little harried!

After a quick cleanup of the van we entered the church and was greeted by the funeral director. He took one look at me and my crew and pointed me towards the nursery they had made available to little ones during the service. My kids took one look at that unfamiliar room with new faces and clung to my legs. With a sigh I headed to the sanctuary where the funeral had already begun. Peering through the doors I could tell it was a packed house.

While contemplating where to sit I heard a shuffle behind me. The funeral director had grabbed some extra chairs from the lobby and was headed into the sanctuary. Several trips later he had created an extra row in the back just for us. Grateful, I quietly thanked him and we all took a seat.

About ten minutes later my youngest started to squirm in his stroller next to me. I pulled him out and held him in hopes that he would remain quiet.  Those were soon dashed as he began babbling quite excitedly. I was about to get up to take him to the lobby when I spotted the funeral director headed my way. Oh no, I thought. Here he comes to tell me that we are being too loud. To my surprise however, when he reached my chair he kneeled down and gently offered to take my son so I could stay in the service. When I told him that I didn’t think my son would go to him he then offered to sit with my three oldest children so I could take the baby for a walk.  Sure enough, after I had left my seat he took my place and began quietly joking with my kids.

Knowing they were not alone I was able to pace in the lobby with the baby while listening to the service. Periodically I would peek through the sanctuary doors to make sure the older kids were behaving themselves. Not only did they sit quietly throughout the entire service, but time and again I saw the funeral director answering their questions and patting their heads in affirmation of how good they were being. I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to have someone be so thoughtful. After the service the director again approached me and asked if he could give the kids a sucker for behaving so well. I appreciated the gesture and my kids eagerly took the candy from their new friend.

In Hebrews we are exhorted to “… not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV) Now I am by no means claiming to be an angel, but I am thankful that the director of the funeral that day took this passage to heart. Through several small acts of kindness he allowed me to be present in support of a dear friend in the midst of her grief. For that I am very grateful.

I believe that God gives each of us an abundance of opportunities to be kind to one another. From sharing an encouraging word, to displaying patience, to offering prayer or financial support, as Christians we are called to reach out in love to those who cross our path. It is my prayer and challenge to us this week to intentionally look for ways we can be of loving service to others we may not know. In doing so we may or may not show hospitality to an angel, but I do know that we just might make someone’s day while exemplifying Christ’s love.

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