February is the 'love' month. All because of February the 14th. Focus on expressing love towards our significant other, whether just dating or married, is in high gear. Not that love isn't expressed any other time of the year, it's just a month designated to showing it. Thousands of dollars are spent on candy, flowers and gifts than in any other month. Don't you know the retailers love this month!
When I think about love, not only the love for and from my family comes to mind, I think about God. After all, He's the One that made it all possible to have family. His love far extends any other. His love is so great for us, He planned for our redemption before our very existence. Any other person would have said, "Oh, just let them go to hell, they deserve it." Yet, throughout all history, God's grace and mercy was extended, all because of His love. If you're like me, it's easy to recall to mind all the wrong actions that we committed before Christ. Regardless of the degree of sin, God in His infinite mercy forgave us when we came to Him and blessed us with innumerable benefits.
Since He gave us much grace, when we completely messed up, it only makes sense that we grant it to others that have hurt, offended, or treated us poorly. Don't they deserve the same kind of regard that God gave us? If God, can look past our immoral behavior and grant us forgiveness and love, how much more should we do for others? Despite the error of their treatment toward us and even though they spoke maliciously, forgiveness is necessary. Col. 3:12-14 says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. and above all put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Even 1 Peter 4:8 says, "Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins."
I would suppose that everyone has had some pretty hurtful things happen to them from others over the years. And whether people embarrassed you, tried to defame your character, sent you ugly letters, called you names,or whatever the action, forgiveness is in order. During a season of very hurtful times, God explained it like this to me: "Just like the people that condemned and crucified Christ didn't know what they were doing, neither do the people that hurt you. And just like with Christ, all things work together for good...." It was at that time, that forgiveness towards my enemies no longer was just a faith statement, but became a heart statement. I could truly forgive them and release the pain to God. He then healed my broken heart and freed me from anguish of injury.
Love is more than just giving gifts to the person with whom you have deep affection. Love is what's stated in 1 Cor. 13:1-8a "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 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...."
Don't just read this blog with the idea that 'someone else' needs to hear this! Read this with the notion that "I" need this. Make a decision that even though you may speak with the tongues of men or of angels, in light of all your spiritual or natural knowledge, whether you have great faith or little faith, in spite of all the 'good works' you do, or all the sacrifices endured, you will care for others more than you do yourself. Resolve that you'll be satisfied with what you have, yet have faith for God's promises. Determine you will put others first, keeping control of your own actions and thoughts. Choose to never notice unfounded misconduct done to you, enduring and persevering in grace and mercy, trusting God in everything. Purpose to look for the best, insist on progressing towards the mark for the prize of God, never giving up but remaining in faith & love - because faith works by love! This is unfailing love!
We here at Living Joy, just want to say THANK YOU!
THANK YOU for all the prayers you've prayed. For the times you've spent laying before the Lord interceding for others, even for those you didn't know. We THANK YOU for praying for the people that didn't treat you fairly. THANK YOU for prayers you prayed for those in the ministry, people in leadership, and for the men and women in the military. (1 Pet. 3:12 "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers...." 1 Tim. 2:1 "Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,")
THANK YOU for the times you given most sacrificial. THANK YOU for being obedient to the Lord in your giving, being faithful even when it was difficult. THANK YOU for helping the poor and needy when asked to sponsor or give. (2 Cor. 8:7 NIV "Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything, in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us, [see to it that you come to the front now and abound and excel in this gracious work [of almsgiving] also." Pro. 19:17 "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.")
THANK YOU for your faithful service to the Lord. For all the times you attend church, for your diligence in ushering, greeting, working behind the scenes as technicians, teaching children, and ministering to the babies. THANK YOU for all the encouragement you've given the "Man or Woman" of God, in words of affirmation or gifts of love. THANK YOU for being the arms of God to hug those in need, for being His feet to go share the gospel, and for being the Lord's mouth to build up and cheer up others. (2 Thes. 1:3 "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other" 1 Pet. 4:10NIV "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in it's various forms.")
THANK YOU for remaining stedfast in the faith, not giving up. THANK YOU for your consistency in trusting the Lord. THANK YOU for persevering in trials and tribulations. THANK YOU for your belief in God's Word that never fails. THANK YOU for being responsible in your allegiance to the Lord. (1 Pet. 2:12 GNT "Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming." 2 Cor. 9:8 NIV "And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.")
We give thanks to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere. (2 Cor. 2:14 AMP)
It is our prayer that during this wonderful season of Thanksgiving that you remember to be thankful to and for those God has placed in your life. Some may be blessings and others may be the 'opportunity for you to develop your walk of faith'. No matter what you encounter, we pray that you are able to look past circumstances and find the reason to be THANKFUL to God. "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise, be thankful unto Him and bless His name." (Ps. 100:4)
Living in America brings forth a freedom that many nations do not experience. If we were to visit some of those places, we'd find the conveniences of super markets, shopping malls, or freedom of speech are not available. In many places people live in fear of their life with the threat of slavery or death. We're not tortured, or prisoners, nor are we forced to labor in camps for the country we abide. All in all, if we take a real good look at America we're free. Free to choose where we live, free to choose how many children we have, free to choose if we want to go to college, free to choose our profession, free to marry who we want, free to worship God Almighty. That freedom came with a price of peoples lives that fought to guarantee our liberty. There is much to be thankful!
1 Peter 2:16 says, "[Live] as free people, [yet] without employing your freedom as a pretext for wickedness; but [live at all times] as servants of God.
Just because we're free, we should not use that 'freedom' as a means of justification to live foolishly or immoral. Wrong choices bring us to a place of oppression and in bondage to the worldly views and living. Bernard M. Baruch an American financier, stock investor, philanthropist, statesman and political consultant, once stated "The greatest blessing of our democracy is freedom. But in the last analysis, our only freedom is the freedom to discipline ourselves."
Taking a look around we find that's where the 'rub' really is. People don't want to be disciplined. There's some that rebel from their youth and keep right on rebelling into adulthood. But the truth of the matter is that God gave us precepts and guidelines to live by. Why? To keep us safe and protected and to help us live in the blessings He intends for us to enjoy.
Freedom isn't just the fact that we can do what we want, when we want, where we want, to whom we want. Freedom is the benefit of having choice. And with that choice comes the responsibility of selecting RIGHT above WRONG. It's making the decision to not only live life to enjoy for yourself, but being the benefit to others. It's that place that God has called us to live as servants to Him, being the express of Him in our actions, our words and choices.
I urge you today to live in the freedom of the Word. Titus 2:14 AMP "(Jesus) Who gave Himself on our behalf that He might redeem us (purchase our freedom) from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people [to be peculiarly his own people who are] eager and enthusiastic about [living a life that is good and filled with] beneficial deeds" Live righteously! Be a doer of the Word!
Offense can be one of the most deadly forces against a Christians faith. Take just a minute and reflect on your life and see if there is anyone or any situation that has offended you. The possibilities of being offended right now, at this very moment, are extremely great.
We can be offended at all types of actions: drivers driving too slow or erratic, people saying or doing things that annoy us, not seated quickly enough at the restaurant, or the checker behind the counter behaved rudely. Let's face it, offense comes in many ways. And generally, offense comes because of disappointment, lack of understanding, resentment, or disagreement.
If we would take a minute to truthfully analyze any offense in our life, we would most assuredly find that there are selfish reasons behind the insult we felt. "They said something to hurt MY feelings.", "They invaded MY space.", "They didn't do what I expected or wanted.", or "They weren't listening to ME." Let's face it, offense is an extremely selfish feeling for the one being offended. I'm not saying that all the fault lies in the offended one. The people offending are hugely selfish as well. Perhaps wanting their own way, thinking of themselves higher than they ought, or totally consumed with themselves and their problems. So, what's the best way to handle offense, you ask?
#1) Be quick to forgive. We must let any offense go. It can be a root of bitterness that takes hold and keeps us bound, eventually bringing stress and sickness. Heb. 12:14-15NIV "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."
#2) Pray for the offender like you would pray for yourself. 1 Timothy 2:8 says, to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. When we truly forgive our offender, we can honestly come before God with a pure heart and clear conscience praying genuinely in agape love for them.
#3) Walk in Love. Yes, this is a biggie. 1 Cor. 13:3-8 "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. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek it's own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...."
The true love of God operating in us and through us - never takes account of any wrongs toward us, behaves considerately towards everyone, doesn't wish evil on the offender, and doesn't seek to serve self. True love, God's love isn't just giving magnificent gifts or heroic self sacrifice, but it's expression of His character through us toward others. They can 'see' Him IN us!
So the next time you're challenged to be offended or offend, remember to be the expression of God.
Mother's Day, May 12th. This is the day where we give honor to Mother's. Yes, I know there are people who haven't had a great relationship with their Mom. And there are some who have never felt the love of a Mother. Yet we, for the most part, still take this time of the year to reflect on Mothers. Maybe you had a terrific Mother. The ideal woman who did everything right. That's something to praise God about, and easy to honor.
Mom's are God's extension of Love to their children. It's customary for a mother to protect, care for, love, encourage, enjoy, and pray for her children. However, I have known of some mothers who didn't display those characteristics. It's sad to think there are women who do not love or want their children.
Yet today, as we reflect on our own Mom, let us thank the Lord for all she did for us. After all, she gave us life. We're here because she birthed us. There were probably times, she made sacrifices on our behalf, doing without something for herself, so we could have. She did the best she could with the knowledge she had. Maybe her mom wasn't all that keen of a mother. Remember, back in the day, people learned by example, and if the example wasn't too good, well.... just saying. Despite her selfish attitudes or behaviors, regardless of any anger displayed, forgive her. Pain, hurt and bitterness can cause a person to behave inappropriately.
Keep in mind mother's aren't perfect. They can miss the mark and make mistakes. They can get frustrated, tired, and discouraged, just like the rest of us. If your Mom was/is like this, forgive her for her shortcomings, encourage her in your love for her. Let her know that no matter what happened in the past, today's a new day. Let me remind you, that children aren't perfect either (no matter what age they are).
And if your mother is no longer here on earth, thank God for her life and the blessing she was to you. Then find someone else's mom and bless them with kind words, a card or a special gift, in the honor of your Mom.
For all the mothers - take this day to thank the Lord God for life, yours and your children. Have confidence "of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you." Phil. 1:6Amp (And in your children) God's still working - keep reminding yourself.
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."