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Perhaps you’ve heard the term “random acts of kindness”. In my opinion, acts of kindness should not be random, but should be the norm. I think that the world would be a better place if we took others into consideration more often. You may be the kind of person who counts the cost when you give to others, but if we all gave more we wouldn’t lose out, because others would be caring about us too.

Verses like Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 tell us to be kind to one another, but what does that really mean? How do we do it? Romans 12:9-21 gives us concrete, practical suggestions. First of all, Paul tells us that our love, our kindness, must be genuine. We must truly care for others, and not just show them kindness because of what we might get out of it, but do what is best for them, and do it enthusiastically. We must do what we can to meet others’ needs and show them hospitality. Provide a meal or a place to stay for the night. Care enough about others to know what they are going through; celebrate when they celebrate, and mourn when they mourn. Don’t judge people or think less of them based on what they look like, how they are dressed or what they own. Do your best to get along with everyone. Don’t start needless arguments, and don’t fuel arguments that are started by someone else. Bless, say good things to and about, others even if that is not the way that they’ve treated you. Treat others the way that you would like to be treated. (Luke 6:31) Do not respond to unkind behaviour by being unkind. Satan just loves to win you over to his side by giving you an excuse to justify your actions. You may convince yourself that you are justified, but you won’t convince God. Always strive to be the person that God wants you to be, rather than following bad examples that you may see around you, because God sees how we treat others as the way we are treating Him. (Matthew 25:40)

There are sad, hurting and needy people everywhere, but you can’t always see the need. Many people try to keep up the appearance that they have everything under control, but you can be sure that they don’t. No one does completely, so everyone could use a little kindness. It starts with love, the first manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit and the essence of the two most important commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40) If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God’s love will flow through us, and showing kindness will become more regular than random.

There are many references to love in the Bible. John 3:16 is probably the best known, and the one that clearly tells us how much God loves us, and the gift that awaits us if we believe in Him. Matthew 22:37-40 outlines what Jesus considers to be the two most important commandments. Both of them require us to love, both God and others. 1 John 4:7-8 commands us to love because love is from God. If we do not love, we do not know God, because God is love.

But 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter; it is the passage that describes most thoroughly what love is. In my last post, I said that the fruit of the Spirit is produced in us because we invite the Spirit into our lives to work through us. It is not through our striving that we achieve these qualities. But that does not mean that we should not work to exhibit these characteristics in our lives. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do it, but it is through our cooperation that He is able.

In Greek there are three words that are translated ‘love’. Eros is a self-centered, physical love, the kind displayed between a husband and a wife. Philos is a considerate, affectionate love, as we would (or at least should) show to our fellow human beings. Agape is a term that was coined to express Christ-like love. It is recognized not by the feelings it invokes, but by the actions it displays—the actions described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

True love, God’s love, will never end. Prophecies, language and knowledge will all end, but love will not. Faith, hope and love will remain, but the greatest of these is love.

In my last post, August 1, 2011 I said that being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit would give us the tools we need to develop discernment. That made me think of Galatians 5:25. Being led by the Spirit, requires that we make a conscious choice to follow the Spirit. This should not be considered a burdensome task, but part of the freedom of living for Christ. Let’s look at the context of this verse beginning today with Galatians 5:13-14.

Galatians 5:13 tells us that we were called to freedom; God never intended for us to be bound by religious legalism. But there is a wide span between legalism and lawlessness, and we should not use the freedom we have in Christ to indulge our sinful nature. Just as a rock climber needs a foothold to get to the next step, we provide a foothold to Satan if we give in to our sinful desires. Being free does not mean having no boundaries. A.T. Pierson has said:

True freedom is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow, only between banks: without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets, uncontrolled by law, would only bring wreck to themselves and to the universe. The same law which fences us in, fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also insure and protect it. It is not control, but the right kind of control, and a cheerful obedience which make the free man.

Instead of using our freedom to indulge ourselves, we should use it to serve one another. We are of course expected to obey the laws of our land, (Romans 13:1) but we also need to obey the most important commandments of Christ, which are to love God with everything we have within us, and love others as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) Love should be the motive and the result of all Christian behaviour.

In conversations that I’ve had with atheists, they have claimed that there is no God, and then seconds later talked about their perception of God. For example: God does not exist; if He does, why does He allow bad things to happen? People who believe in God believe in fairy tales. Why would He allow us to make our own choices? Romans 1:18-20 addresses both sides of this issue. In this post I will examine God’s wrath, and in the next, the proof of His existence.

Sometimes God shows His judgement in historic events like the flood (Genesis 7) or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:15-26), but sometimes His wrath is shown by letting us face the consequences for our own choices. We have the option of looking to Him for guidance, for asking Him to direct our paths, (Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 26:7, Psalm 37:23) but we often wait until after we are in trouble and then plead for His help.

God is holy, completely unique in His perfection, and because He is holy, He cannot tolerate sin. Therefore He pours out His wrath and judgement against this world’s sinfulness. God’s wrath is not like human anger; He does not have an emotional outburst of fury, but a controlled reaction to that which is against His nature and against His will (ungodliness) and also to offenses against his people (unrighteousness). There are those who think that it is unfair of God to hold us to His standard, rather than lowering His expectations to our level of sinfulness. After all, we are imperfect beings; how can He expect us to be perfect? Yet, if He changed to make Himself more like us, He would not be holy, He would not be worthy of our worship, and He would not be God. If God did not get angry at sin, Jesus would not have needed to go to the cross, and we would not be in need of God’s great love and mercy.

Some people prefer to focus on God’s grace and love rather than on His wrath, and I can’t say that I blame them. He loves us more than we will ever be able to fathom, and because of His love we do not have to face destruction. Lamentations 3:22, in the New International Version says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” But the wrath of God is real. The gift of salvation that has been made possible by Christ’s sacrifice is what will protect us from God’s wrath. Those who choose not to accept it, will ultimately have to pay the consequences.

A lot of kids grow up without knowing that their father loves them. Sometimes it’s because he doesn’t live with the family. Sometimes he’s there, but is either too busy, or just doesn’t know how to show his love to his children. Other children grow up having the great benefit of a father who loves them and knows how to show it. What a wonderful example they are of God’s love for us.

I am convinced, however, that God loves us more than our human minds can comprehend. Throughout the Old Testament we see the Israelites constantly messing up when they should have been trusting and honouring God. He would get angry with them, but would always forgive them when they repented of their foolish ways. (II Chronicles 7:14) He never completely rejected or disowned them. Instead He said that He would remove the judgement against them and protect them from their enemies. (Zephaniah 3:15-16) In the New Testament, God showed His remarkable love for us by sending His son to take all the punishment for our sins so that we could be made righteous enough to come into His presence and enjoy eternal life with Him. (John 3:16) Throughout the Bible God’s love is demonstrated. (Romans 5:8, John 14:21, John 15:9, John 16:27, I John 3:1, I John 4:10, Titus 3:3-7, Ephesians 2:4-5, Ephesians 5:1-2, Luke 15, Psalm 136:2, Jeremiah 31:3)

I suppose there are some who would say that parents have to love you because they are your parents, and they may feel the same way about God. The amazing thing is that God not only loves us, but He likes us too! Zephaniah 3:17 says that He takes great delight in you and shouts for joy over you. The New International Version says that He rejoices over you with singing. Now seriously, how many people burst into song when they think of you? God does.

Do you ever feel like God has forgotten you? Do your trials just seem to go on and on, forever without end? I feel like that sometimes, and I know a lot of people who are in worse situations than I am. The good news is that God has not forgotten us, and nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from His love.

In Romans 8:35-39, Paul thinks about all the things that might separate us from the love of God. He comes up with a long list, two of them in fact, (Romans 8:35, Romans 8:38-39) that range from troubles on earth to powers in the heavenly realms, but after consideration, and adding the words “anything else in all creation” to cover whatever he may have missed, he declares that none of them could. If they could, it would have happened long before now.

The Bible, and history, tell us that Christians will face trouble. (John 16:33, II Corinthians 4:11) Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 to remind his readers that facing trials is not a new thing, but he goes on to say that even still, nothing can separate us from God’s love. That love is not dependent on our strength, our wisdom or anything that we have done. Because Christ was willing to give up His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins (Philippians 2:5-8, John 3:16-17, Romans 8:32), we are forgiven of anything that might otherwise separate us from God.

Did you notice in Romans 8:38, Paul includes the present and the future in his list but not the past? Our past and all the mistakes we have made have no relevance in determining how much God loves us. Christ paid the penalty for all of those things on the cross, and they have been removed from us, as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:10-14) The cross is the basis for our victory. (Romans 8:37) The New International Version says that we are more than conquerors. We not only have victory over our trials in that we can survive through them, but we will benefit from them. We learn to depend more on God, we become more like Him (Romans 8:29), and we are able to be a comfort to others when they go through similar things. (II Corinthians 1:3-4) By doing so we bring glory to God. (Romans 15:5-7)

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan for our lives, a good plan, and Romans 8:28 says that God works all things together for good to those who are called according to His purpose. That doesn’t mean that only good things will happen to us, but that God can turn anything that happens to us into good. We can rely on God’s promises. God loves us more than we could possibly imagine, and He has not forgotten us.

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I find these verses so reassuring that I recommend memorizing them, so that no matter what situation you are in, whether you have your Bible with you or not, you can be reminded how much God loves you. For tips on memorization, read my post from March 9,2011.

I am constantly amazed at the love that God has for us. You may feel love from your family or friends, but nothing on this earth compares to how much your Heavenly Father loves you. Of course, there will be some of you who don’t feel that from anyone, and so it will be even harder for you to fathom, but I hope that today’s verses will help.

In Luke 15:3-7 Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, which is actually just the first part of the three part parable told in Luke 15. It was in response to an accusation from the Pharisees and experts in the law who were accusing Jesus of socializing with “sinners” (Luke 15:1-2), something that just wasn’t done by upstanding Jewish men. Talk about bullying. You can’t associate with her because she’s from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s not cool enough; what are you talking to him for? To be honest, it was more like he is not noble enough so he is not worthy of your attention, but it made me think of a schoolyard bully. Jesus, however, gave His attention to the most despised of society, and He called the Pharisees hypocrites. (Matthew 23:13) In reality, the Pharisees were just as lost as the rest of the “sinners”, but they were in denial, and refused to see their need for Jesus.

The shepherd in the parable believes that one sheep out of a hundred, one per cent of the flock, is worth searching for. What did he have to go through to find that sheep? Did he have to cross streams, climb rocky crags, crawl through thick brush? When he finds the sheep, it is obviously too weak or tired or hurt or confused to find its way home on its own. He picks it up and carries it home on his shoulders. Was one sheep out of a hundred worth that effort? Yes. Jesus feels that way about us. Every one of us is worth enough that Jesus gave up His life for us. His search for us took Him to the cross. There is no greater love than that.

“When the world says you’re not good enough, get a second opinion.” These words were spoken by Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without arms and legs, and who now spends his time travelling around the world speaking to audiences that range from high school students to prisoners. He tells them how much God loves them and how valuable they are in God’s eyes. (Nick’s website is: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org)

In Psalm 139:17-18, David cannot fathom how much God cares for him. Think about this. The creator of the universe cares for each one of us so much that we could not possibly count the number of thoughts He has about us. You might think that those thoughts were just for David, because after all God chose David to be king, and David was a man after God’s own heart. Perhaps you think that these verses don’t apply to you. They do. So many other verses in the Bible reinforce this point. (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5, I John 4:10, Romans 5:8, II Thessalonians 2:16, Romans 5:5, I John 3:1, Romans 8:38-39)

The psalmist elaborates in Psalm 139:1-16 how well and intricately God knows him. This is how He knows us too. God is aware of everything you do, everywhere you go, every word you say. He is with you each step of the way, and He is there to steady and guide you (verse 10). He knew you before you were born, and He is the one who formed you in your mother’s womb. (Jeremiah 1:5) He knows us this well, better than we know ourselves, and yet He still loves us. Realizing all this prompted David to give thanks to God. (Psalm 139:14) We might not always understand how awesome and amazing God is. We might not be able to get our heads around His power that is so much greater than ours, but even then God is with us every step of the way, and we should remember to thank Him for it.

I believe that the grace of God is much more amazing than we as humans can comprehend, and yet it is available to each one of us. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the dire situation that the human race was left in because of Adam’s sin. Then verse 4 starts with “But God”. It begins the explanation we find in Ephesians 2:4-7 of God’s mercy and grace. Mercy means that we are not given the punishment that we deserve. Grace means that we are given the salvation that we don’t deserve. Both are given to us because of Christ, a fact that is repeated three times in these four verses, and they are gifts that are available to anyone, even the thief who was minutes from death on the cross beside Jesus. Because of Christ we have been transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. We have been raised up in Him, and when this life is over we will be with Him in the heavenly realms. Spiritually, we are already there. This was made possible only because He loved us enough to die as a sacrifice in our place. Can you even begin to imagine this?!

I am also encouraged by Ephesians 2:7 which tells us that the surpassing wealth of His grace will be demonstrated to us in the coming ages. It is only going to get better and better. We will continue to know God more and more, but what I find most uplifting is that we are not expected to know it all right now. God’s love and grace is beyond what we can fathom, but there is a lot that He has already made known to us as well. He has given us the gift of the scriptures, His Holy Word, so that we might learn more about Him and His great love at our own pace. No pressure. It’s a gift.

I was having a conversation with my husband the other day, and I said, “The opposite of love isn’t hate; it is the absence of love. It is indifference.” He pondered that for a moment, and then did what every good techie does: he googled it. It turns out that, even though I was processing that thought for the first time, others had said it before, most famously holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel.

So, how do we know whether we are truly being loving or not? It’s not about feelings; it’s about conscious decisions. It is a choice. I John 5:2-4 tells us that we know we are loving others when we love God and keep His commandments. His commandments as summarized by Jesus are to love God and love others. (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus also said that obeying his commandments is a natural progression of love for Him. (John 14:15) Later in the Gospel of John we read that if we obey Christ’s commandments, we will remain in Him just as He has obeyed His Father’s commandments and remains in His Father. (John 15:10) One assists the other: If we love God we will obey His commandments, and if we obey His commandments His love will remain in us.

These days, we use the term “love” quite loosely. I love chocolate. I love blue skies. I love my husband. These are examples that represent emotions and expressions of enjoyment. The kind of love discussed in these verses is unconditional, from the Greek word agape. A good summary of what that means and how it can be demonstrated practically is found in The Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13, particularly I Corinthians 13:4-7 ), but in general it means that we choose to love. Our love is not based on what we can get out of it, or even what we can give (and then feel good about). It is about loving others because God commands it, whether we particularly like them or not. That is something that is not easily done even if we really want to. It is only possible if we let the love of our Heavenly Father flow through us.