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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Love them like Jesus

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have love you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”-John 13:34-35

In one simple sentence Jesus established a group of followers that would become known; not by their nationality, military strength, academic achievement, or cultural nuances, but by their love one for another.

Christians were to distinguish themselves not by wearing cross necklaces, donning Christian t-shirts, or by putting a fish symbol on their cars. Christians were to be recognized by the love they showed to one another. A love that they were instructed to demonstrate, not simply declare:

“My little children, let us not love in word on in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”-1 John 3:18

Jesus instructed His followers to love others, the way that He loved them. So what does loving like Jesus look like?

Love requires devotion and honor. Romans 12:10 declares: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Devotion is commitment. It is the willingness to stick by a person’s side even when it is difficult; treating them with dignity and respect.

Love requires forgiveness. 1 Peter 4:8 states: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.”  This passage is not asking us to overlook people’s sins, but that we leave room for forgiveness. Genuine love will break down walls!

Love requires sacrifice. 1 John 3:16 declares: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I think too often we confuse kindness with love. Being kind truly costs us very little, but love always carries a component of sacrifice. Sacrificial love is the laying down of our will for the benefit of another; precisely what Jesus did for us at the cross. Ultimately, love looks like Jesus.

Finally, loving others, means loving them even when it is hard:

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”-Luke 6:27-32. 

It is this type of love that truly distinguishes the followers of Christ from those who simply go to church. They love their enemies! How? Doing good to them, blessing them, praying for them, going the extra mile to help them, and giving when they are in need.

When we do this we are truly living out Romans 12:9:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

Loving without hypocrisy means that love is no respecter of person. We don’t get to pick and choose who we demonstrate the love of God towards. We live in a culture that is desperate for a true demonstration of God’s love; so let us heed the words of 1 John 4:11:

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Story of God's Love

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height no depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-Romans 8:37-39

The story of Jesus is a story about the love of God. It is a story with a magnificent beginning, climactic middle, and fulfilling end. It begins at a stable in a little town called Bethlehem:

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, o be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”-Luke 2:4-7

As I reflected on this passage, I realized that the story of God’s love for us would not have been complete if Jesus had not occupied the manger. Without Jesus, the manger is nothing but a feeding trough. It has no meaning, no symbolism, and no message. It is like an empty jar, it was created to hold something, but the value and purpose of the vessel is not fully realized until it is occupied.

The story of Christ’s birth is bathed in the love of God. 1 John 4:9 declares: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” This foundational passage point to God’s ultimate motivation for sending Jesus. His love for us! And that love is why Jesus occupied the manger. Sending Jesus was God’s way of physically demonstrating His love for you and I.

As we reach the climactic middle of the story of God’s love for us, we are faced with a much more ominous image; the cross! However, the story of God’s love for us in not complete unless Jesus occupies the cross. Without Jesus, the cross is nothing more than two beams lashed together. It has no meaning, no message! The cross, however, became a beacon of faith, peace, and hope because Jesus was willing to occupy it. Jesus transformed a Roman instrument of torture and death into a message of hope, redemption, and love demonstrating from John 15:13:

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

God’s love for us is seen in Christ’s willingness to take upon Himself the penalty of our sinful condition. However, the story of God’s love for us does not reach it’s ultimate conclusion until the love of Jesus occupies our heart!

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”-Ephesians 3:17-19

Without Jesus occupying our hearts; our lives lack the meaning and message God intends to communicate to the world. We are the living message of God’s love. Unlike the manger and the cross which have both been long laid empty, Jesus still occupies hearts today! More important than Jesus occupying the manger or the cross, is that you allow Jesus to occupy your heart. You can do that by receiving Him by faith:

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”-Romans 10:9 

Let God begin writing a new chapter of your life this Christmas by placing your faith in Jesus and allow the love of God to occupy your heart.

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

Monday, December 12, 2016

Loving God (Pt. 2)

(Part 2 of 2)

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.”-Mark 12:30

In addition to loving God with all our heart and all our soul, we are also instructed to love God with all of our mind. What we think about God is vitality important to how we will love and live for Him. Proverbs 23:7 declares “As a man thinks, so he is.” Loving God means thinking rightly about Him.

Unfortunately our minds can be tainted and jaded by the wisdom of this world, the cares of life, and the corruption of sin; causing us to view God in a way that diminishes our faith and trust in Him. That is why the Apostle Paul admonished believers in Romans 12:2:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” 

We must keep our minds focused on the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. The mind is a battle ground for ideas, philosophies, and ideologies; each one trying to gain a foothold into our way of thinking. The mind is where we reason, process information, and cultivate imaginations. This makes the focus of our minds extremely significant.

The Apostle Paul recognized this when he penned Philippians 4:8-9:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-mediate on these things.”

We demonstrate our love towards God when we fill our minds with those things that honor and please Him.

Finally, we are instructed in Mark 12 to love God with all of our strength. To love God with all our strength is to love Him with our faculties, abilities, and time. Loving God is more than lip service:

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”-1 John 3:18

We can do this in several very practical ways. We demonstrate love for God when we demonstrate kindness and good works towards others:

 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”-Matthew 25:37-40.

We demonstrate our love for God each time that we share the Good News with our friends and family:

“And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”-Romans 10:15

We demonstrate our love for God when we worship Him:

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.-Psalm 104:33

When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; we are loving Him with all we are and He deserves nothing less!

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

Monday, December 5, 2016

Loving God (Pt.1)

(Part 1 of 2)

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.”-Mark 12:30

As the holiday gift buying season gets into full swing, many families are changing their approach to Christmas by adopting what is known as The Four Gift Rule. Gift giving has become a source of stress for many families so instead of purchasing a random assortment of items for their family members they are opting to purchase four items; one from each of the following categories:

1. Something they want
2. Something they need
3. Something to wear
4. Something to read

The four gift rule, however, is not a new concept. In fact, God is the original author of the four gift rule! The greatest gift we can give God is our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love, as we learned, last week is far more than an emotion, but rather it is an expression of God’s nature. So what makes God feel loved?

It begins by loving God with all your heart! Jesus declared in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” The devotion of our hearts is determined by what we find value in. What occupies our time, motivates our actions, shapes our daily living? In order for the heart to love Jesus completely, it has to treasure Him above everything else:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then, in his joy, went and sold all he had and bought that field.”-Matthew 13:44

Does Jesus hold this type of value in your life? Would you sell all you have in order to have Him? Loving Jesus means that their is nothing that we possess or participate in that is more valuable to us than our relationship with Him. The harsh reality is that anything that we prioritize over Him is an idol. For many the greatest gift they could give God this Christmas is to place Him back into His proper place of value in their own hearts and lives.

Once we have a proper perspective of Christ, we can then begin to focus on loving God with all of our soul. Our souls is our eternal inner being. It is composed of our attitudes, will, and emotions. It is the core of who we are. C.S. Lewis wrote: “You do not have a soul. You are a soul.”

Where the heart focuses on what we value, the soul focuses on doing God’s will. A person’s soul has the ability to think and the power to choose to do good or evil. How many times have you done something because it was the right thing to do, although your heart wasn’t in it?
It is a demonstration of love towards God when we lay aside our will for His will:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”-John 14:15
This wasn’t simply something Jesus requested of us; it was something that He modeled personally on the eve of His crucifixion:

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.”-Luke 22:41-42

Do you love God enough to say no to your own will; to live out the will of God?

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

Love Defined

There is probably no better time of year, in my opinion, to expound upon the nature of love than during the Christmas season. Christmas is when we celebrate God’s gift of Jesus to a world in need of a savior. I would venture to say that everyone reading this column has their own concept of what love is, but what does God’s word say about it?

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all the mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, it profits me nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though i give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”-1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (NKJV)

Everything we say, believe, and accomplish profits us nothing if we don’t have love! Love gives meaning to our faith and foundation to our hope in Christ. In fact, the Apostle Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV):

“ And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So what is love? Merriam-Webster defines love as an intense feeling of deep affection. It is often used synonymously with romance and infatuation. Biblical love, however, is much more expansive. In order to gain a proper understanding of what love is; we first must know who love is!

“ Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”-1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

God is love! It is His very nature. Many people never experience the love of God because they have confined love to an emotion, however, God is so much more than an intense feeling. In fact, as you read through 1 Corinthians 13 it is significant to note the complete absence of any emphasis on personal feelings. The Apostle Paul’s description of love is defined by action, not emotion. His description of love is focused primarily on how to live it out rather than how it feels.  When we know how to live it out; we can both know how to love and how to recognize when we are being loved!

Let’s look together at the Apostle Paul’s description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV):

“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.”

Over the next four weeks we are going to focus on understanding and applying this passage to our everyday living. We will discover what love is, what love doesn’t do, what love always does, and the one thing love never does.

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church