When God Writes Your Story

I’ve heard it said, and perhaps you have too, that we shouldn’t plan our lives because we will under plan them. Rather, in order to realize your full potential and fulfill your purpose, allow God to plan your life. This simply stated, not easily practiced principle, has proven true over and again in my life. There have been times that I have shot for the moon hoping to hit a star, not realizing that God wanted to give me the sun. I only had to wait for Him to write the story.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:(Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It’s not always easy to give up the pen and allow Him to write. I think I know what’s best for me. I need to know the plan. I don’t have time to wait. And I have found that when He is writing, I often don’t see much more than the next step of faith. When He is writing, there are often unexpected plot twists and turns in the road that leave me overwhelmed and saying, “I didn’t see that coming.” When He is writing, I’m not in control, I’m under His control. And I have to constantly fight the urge to take the pen from His hand and write in characters and scenes where I think they should be.

So I fight every fleshly urge to know the future, to be in control, to speed up the story, and I allow Him to write.

Because when He is writing and unfolding His masterpiece I find true peace. When He is writing I realize that I have every thing that I need. When He is writing I face and overcome all of my fears. When He is writing, everything in me that I am ashamed of rises to the surface and He takes it out. When He is writing, I become the man He wants me to be.

I am just learning to allow Him to write the story. And over the last few months He has written exciting adventures that I could have never planned and He has penned in beautiful people who have changed my world forever. He has filled my story with a love that exceeds every expectation that I ever had for human love and companionship. In doing so, He has answered prayer requests that I have prayed for years and given me my greatest earthly blessing.

And I can truly say, it was worth waiting for the story to unfold. I wouldn’t change a thing. And I am full of anticipation for the chapters ahead.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Psalm 37:4).

Love Is The Goal

Studies in First Corinthians – XXIII

“And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Faith. Hope. Love. These three are constantly found together in Scripture. Where one is found, the other two are often found lending support.

“Being justified by faith…we rejoice in hope…because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts” (Romans 5:1-5).

“…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:4-5).

“…your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Faith is trust that rests upon evidence and leads to action. Hope is confidence in the future. Both are related to love. In fact, it is impossible to separate them. Faith looks back, claiming the saving work of Calvary. Hope looks forward and lays hold of a future glory. Love dominates the present. Faith says Jesus Christ came to save me; hope says He is coming again to take me to be with Him; love says He abides in my heart today.

Faith is nothing but an intellectual conviction without hope and love. Hope is just a dream without faith and love. Love is just a feeling, a temporary emotion, without faith and hope.

Paul says that the greatest of these three is love. Why? Because faith and hope are means to the end, but love is the goal. You cannot rest in faith and hope, but you can rest in love.

Love is greatest of all because God is love. God has no need for faith; He knows everything. God does not hope; He possess everything. But God loves, because He is love.

Love of God, eternal love, shed Thy love through me!
Nothing less than Calvary’s love would I ask of Thee.
Fill me, flood me, overflow me,
Love of God, eternal love, shed Thy love through me!
-Amy Carmichael

The Permanence of Love

Studies in First Corinthians – XXII

1 Corinthians 13:8 – “Love never fails.”

Love is so often reduced to a feeling and emotion, but it is so much more. Feelings fade. Emotions end. Love lasts. Love is permanent. Love stretches from one end of eternity to the other. This truth is not only the heart of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, it is the whole message of God to the church at Corinth who had forgotten how to love.

Love God. Love People.

The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, not for our benefit only, but that we would be a demonstration of the never failing love of God in this world. The Apostle John wrote, “Every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (1 John 5:1). Every child of God should be characterized by a love that never fails.

The greek work translated “fails” in this chapter has several different meanings. Let me give you a few so that you can see the power of the love that God puts into our lives.

1. Love never “falls to the ground,” like the petals of a flower or the leaves of a tree in seasons of death and decay. Love never does that because there is no decay in love.
2. Love never “loses its strength,” like a storm that has exhausted its powers. Love is completely inexhaustible.
3. Love never “leaves its place,” because love is immovable. Even the stars sometime fall, but love stays put.
4. Love never “drops out of line,” like an undisciplined soldier. It always stays its course.

This kind of love, true love, originates in heaven and its perfect expression is in Jesus Christ, who “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). This is the love of God from which nothing can separate the Christian, and this is the quality of life by which you and I are to be distinguished from everyone around us. May we always be realizing more fully than ever the breadth, the length, the depth, and the height of the love of God with passes all knowledge!

The Life of Love

Studies in First Corinthians – XXI

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This chapter, the love chapter, is the greatest thing ever written on the subject. Short though it may be, we see here the definition and power of pure love. The words paint a picture of Jesus Christ and His very nature. We are looking at the original Love. He is looking back to us, calling for us to be a reproduction of His love in this world.

To love like this is to be like the Lord, and our unlikeness to Christ is proportionate to our failure to love.

Sin has robbed us of all likeness to God’s love nature, but here we have an outline of what the grace of God and the power of the Holy Ghost can do in our lives. There are fourteen “ingredients of love” in these four verses. In each one we see the life of Jesus Christ.

1. Love suffers long. Having been wronged, love is patient. It refuses to give in to anger even when unjustly treated. Love doesn’t strike back.

2. Love is kind. Enduring wrong could be a victory of discipline but to show kindness to the one who has wronged you requires love. Love not only takes the hurt, but shows grace and kindness to those responsible.

3. Love envies not. It doesn’t mind that others have greater privileges and gifts. It rejoices in the blessings of others. Love sees all the inequalities in life and finds content in its own place.

4. Love vaunteth not itself. “Love makes no parade” (Moffatt). It doesn’t show off or brag. It isn’t proud or conceited. It doesn’t seek the praise and applause of others. Instead, it seeks to serve.

5. Love is not puffed up. It is never arrogant. It doesn’t think too highly of self. Love excels in humility.

6. Love does not behave itself unseemly. It is not rude, but always courteous. It says and does the right thing in the right way at the right time.

7. Love seeks not her own. Love is not selfish, it is self-forgetful. It never grasps for its own rights.

8. Love is not easily provoked. It doesn’t have a temper. Love can be angry at sin, but it isn’t irritable. It is not vindictive and it never retaliates.

9. Love thinks no evil. It keeps a faithful record of kindness and forgets all wrong.

10. Love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. “Love is never glad when others go wrong” (Moffatt). It does not rejoice in exposing the weakness and sin of others. It sorrows when others fail and celebrates when they repent.

11. Love bears all things. It gets underneath the burdens of life and lifts. It always seeks to the load of others.

12. Love believes all things. It is not easily deceived and it is not blind, but it also is not suspicious. It always seeks to find the best in others.

13. Love hopes all things. Though disappointments come, love holds on to hope. It never gives up on or dismisses anybody.

14. Love endures all things. Love cannot be conquered. It holds its ground in the midst of defeat and still it endures.

As I mentioned before, this type of love has only been perfected in Jesus Christ. If you would learn to live like this, it will only be by the power of His indwelling Spirit. Allow His perfect love to work a perfect work in you.

The Sovereignty of Love

Studies in First Corinthians – XX

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

In these first three verses we see a life without love. We have a picture of an individual who is blessed with many gifts and talents, but without love that life is empty and worthless. We learn from these verses three area’s over which love must be sovereign: the heart, the mind, and the will.

1. Love – Sovereign in the Heart

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (13:1).

Alan Redpath said, “The power behind your tongue, your speech, is not determined by the extent of your vocabulary but by the depth of your heart, by how much you love.” The tongue possesses incredible power to build up and to destroy. Our words hold incredible weight and reveal the condition of our heart.

I have heard preachers, and you probably have too, who were simply incredible public speakers. Their mastery of language and words was tremendous. One moment, they have people laughing. The next moment everyone is in tears. It is easy to admire an orator like that but while oratory can command admiration, only love can reach the heart. When love is sovereign in the heart, it will be manifested in what we say.

2. Love – Sovereign in the Mind

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understanding all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing” (13:2).

There are men in the Bible who illustrate this point. For instance, Balaam was a prophet, but he had no love, and therefore betrayed his office and God’s people. Caiaphas, the High Priest, had discernment, knowing that one must be killed for the nation, but he was without love, and become a leader among those who crucified Jesus. Judas Iscariot had knowledge from his three years at the side of Jesus, but he had no love, betraying Him in the end.

Love is not a gift, but a grace, and it is the primary proof of a genuine new birth.

3. Love – Sovereign in the Will

“If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing” (13:3).

How dangerous it is to be willing to fight and die for our faith and yet lack the spirit of love. It is pointless to die for the wrong motive. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “I know thy works, and they labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear evil men…and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left they first love (agape)” (Revelation 2:2-4). What a picture of busyness, patience, work, and endurance! And yet it is lacking in the most important thing: love.

We must allow His love to be sovereign in our lives: heart, mind, and emotions.

Love Is

Studies in First Corinthians – XIX

1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:1-3

I imagine love lights up the face of Paul as he dictates the next words of his letter. For twelve chapters he has dealt with issues concerning the low spiritual state and disunity of the Corinthian church. As he said in the beginning, they “came behind in no gift” (1:7), but they were tragically lacking in love. It must have been the climax for him to finally give the answer to every problem they faced: the love of God.

Love remains the answer for us today. In fact, Paul tells us quite plainly in these verses that if we have no love, we have nothing; but if we have love and lack much else, we have what matters most.

The word that Paul uses for “love” (translated “charity” in the KJV) is agape. It means an actual absorption of every part of our being in one great passion. It is used most often in relation to God: “God so loved [agapao] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This word has little to do with emotion; it indicates love which deliberately, by an act of will, chooses its object, and through thick or thin, regardless of the attractiveness of the object concerned, goes on loving continually, unconditionally, eternally.

It suggests complete self-denial. Loving in this manner means never thinking of self over the object of love. There is only One who has ever lived up to its definition.

It is the only word used to describe God without any qualification or explanation: God is agape. No explanation needed.

Whatever love is, Jesus is. Jesus suffers long and is kind. Jesus envies not; Jesus vaunts not Himself, is not puffed up, does not behave Himself unseemly. Jesus seeks not His own, it not easily provoked, takes no account of evil, rejoices not in unrighteousness, but rejoices with truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails.

Love is the one thing that is completely indestructible. It is the most powerful force in the universe. While everything else fades, love lasts. It is not dependent on anything outside of itself. It is not affected by the worth or worthiness of its object.

God is love. Love is. That is the greatest truth you could ever know. To know Him is to love Him.

Love, Liberty, and Limitations

Studies in First Corinthians – XIII

In the eighth chapter,Paul deals with a controversial question from the Corinthians, “Can a Christian eat meat that has been offered to idols?” The cheapest meat in town would have been the leftover parts from the pagan temple sacrifices. Some of the Christians, with the understanding that there is only one God and idols could not contaminate food, saved money by buying these cheaper meats. However there were other Christians who were offended by this and could not understand why a child of God would have anything to do with something offered to pagan idols.

We don’t deal with this particular issue today but we do need to have an understanding of the principle. What are the limitations of Christian liberty? Paul gives us an answer which should guide us in making personal decisions in areas that may be questionable.

According to Paul, we don’t answer these questions based on knowledge alone. We answer these questions based on knowledge governed by love. As a Christian we do not live our lives unto ourselves, we live them unto the LORD. We must always remember that others will be impacted by our decisions.

If we make our decisions about what we can or cannot do (perhaps I should say “will” rather than “can”), based only upon what we know, we err because there is someone else involved. We must ask, “What example am I setting for my fellow believer? For the new convert? For the unbeliever?”

“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (8:9).

Paul says that knowledge puffs a man up, making him spiritually conceited and proud. However, love (charity) builds up (edifies) (8:1). If we have knowledge only, we are incapable of judging right. But if knowledge is mastered by love for our fellow believer and a concern for those who do not know the LORD, then that love leads us to think first of others.

We must recognize that our example can be a stumbling block to others. The love of God, put in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, must be the deciding factor. Ask yourself: “If I watch this, how would it effect the young people in the youth group?” “If I go there, could it impact the witness I have with my unsaved coworker?” What example are you setting for those who are watching you? And trust me, they are watching you.

If you could make even one step to the cross easier for one person by denying yourself something which knowledge says you have a right to, wouldn’t it be worth it?

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Love and Holiness

I recently read an article highlighting the letters of Francis Schaeffer. The post called attention to Shaeffer’s emphasis on the Christian’s responsibilty to reflect both the love and the holiness of God. It was Schaeffer’s conviction, and I believe he was correct, that these two characteristics could coinside in an individual only by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Photo by leicadog1

Here is the quote from an undated letter:

Increasingly I believe that after we are saved we have only one calling, and that is to show forth the existence and the character of God. Since God is love and God is holy, it is our calling to act in such a way as to demonstrate the existence of God–in other words to be and to act in such a way as to show forth His love and His holiness simultaneously. Further, I believe that the failure to show forth either of these is equally a perversion.

Of course, in one’s own strength it is only possible to show forth either love or holiness. But to show forth the holiness and love of God simultaneously requires much more. It requires a moment by moment work of the Holy Spirit in a very practical way.

In the flesh we can exhibit a pharisitical vengance against sin or we can exhibit a benevolance that dismisses sin. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit do these characteristics come into balance.

“All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalms 25:10

He Sees

I recently read that proportionally the surface of the earth is smoother than a billiard ball. Just think, if we shrunk the whole earth down to a size that rested easily in the palm of our hand, we wouldn’t be able to perceive Mount Everest or the ocean floor! Those differences matter much to those who live on this planet, but from God’s point of view, they are hardly recognized.

Photo by Suzan Marie

Remember this the next time you are in the valley and you can’t find your way. Remember this when you aren’t sure if you can climb that next mountain. Remember this when you are on top of the mountain unless you find yourself soon in the valley of despair. To us these differences matter much, but from God’s view they are not the obstacles that we perceive. He sees you and He is with you.

Remember this when you feel inadequate compared to others. Remember this when your past haunts you. Remember this when the enemy tells you that you have sinned too much to live for God. Remember this when you begin to feel like you are holier than everybody else. To us the difference between the pastor in the pulpit and the sinner in the street matters much, but from the perspective of God’s righteousness, all our righteousness is as filthy rags. He sees His child and He loves you.

End Offense, Choose Love

“Work like you do not need the money.
Dance like nobody is watching.
Love like you have never been hurt.”

No doubt you have heard this quote or some variation of it at one time or another. It can be heard during speeches at a wedding reception and sermons at church. You will find it written in graduation and birthday cards. Chances are, you have shared these words of advice with someone yourself. But do you know who said them?

It wasn’t a poet or some great philosopher who gets credit for being the first to string these three lines together. Was it a preacher or some wise teacher? No! It was none other than Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, a professional baseball player, who is credited with this quote.

Significance is added these positive words of wisdom when you know a bit about the man who said them. ‘Satchel’ Paige was one of the first African Americans to play in the major leagues after they integrated in 1947. He was one of the greatest pitchers who has ever played the game and today he is the Hall of Fame, but in those days, he was on the front lines of a battle that extended far beyond the baseball diamond.

You can imagine the prejudice that he had to face every time he stepped into the locker room to prepare for a game. He endured the chants from the crowds not only when his was the visiting team but also in his home stadium. He was mocked and belittled by those in the media who disapproved of the integration. Yet in spite of all of this, ‘Satchel’ Paige determined that he was going to love like he had never been hurt! He refused to live his life offended.

Mark Twain said that if you ever find a dog on the side of the road that has been hurt and abandoned and you take that dog home and feed it and care for it, that dog will never bite you. And therein lies the chief difference between a dog and a man.

It is the people that you love the most that can bite you the hardest and hurt you the most. Just as sure as you are reading this someone is going to hurt you; someone is going to let you down; someone is going to stab you in the back. You have to choose, are you going to be offended and hold a grudge, or are you going to love like you have never been hurt.

If you want to end offense, choose love.