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Love in Practice | Romans 12:9-16

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:9-16

How do we renew our minds? How do we transform the Church into a people that loves the world well?

Some say when we change our thinking, it will change our actions. Yet, often the opposite is true. Because when we change our actions, it actually changes our thinking.

Most Christians have heard they’re supposed to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). But if you ask people how to experience a renewed mind, you’re apt to hear hundreds of different answers. Yet, the Bible doesn’t expect us to guess. Scripture explains exactly how to renew our minds.

First, the apostle Paul reminds us that no one can do the Christian life on their own. We are relationally connected and we need each other (v. 3-8). Then, Paul spends the rest of the chapter listing the kinds of actions that will transform our thinking.
Romans 12 reminds us to put our love into action. For Christians, love is a verb, not just a feeling. We don’t simply think our way into loving actions. Rather, we act our way into loving thinking.

When we take action and put love into practice, it transforms us. We experience the feelings of love most powerfully when we take loving actions. It’s the practice of love that transforms the Church and changes our world.

If we want to experience God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for our lives, then we must put love into action (v. 2). Our love “must be sincere” (v. 9). Our God is love, and as the children of God, we must be people of loving actions.We need to love the people of this world better than the world loves them. We need to love with the heart of Jesus.

Admittedly, it’s difficult. Surely we can’t do it on our own. We need God’s help. But that’s also why we practice—we practice taking loving actions so we become a people who love extremely well. This is how God changes our hearts and minds to be filled with love. This is our transformation; our renewal.

What if you actually loved people with the heart of Jesus? What action can you take today to put his love into practice?

By Patrick Meyers

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Love in Practice | Romans 12:9-162021-08-12T14:00:17-06:00

Prayer Walking | Jonah 4:6-9

Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.  He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:6-9

I like to believe the book of Jonah is the beginning of his story, and he became more mature in his spiritual walk after this experience. The book of Jonah demonstrates God’s relentless pursuit of his prophet and God’s extravagant love for all people. Jonah does not understand this God; his whole world view has been shattered. He is angry, disappointed, and depressed. I can relate with Jonah; I have had periods of time where I was angry at God and not understanding the pain I had to walk through. For many years after our special needs son Joshua was born, it was nearly impossible for me to see any way that this situation could possibly be used for good. I had times of being angry and often I asked God “Why?”

As Joshua grew, and we learned how to care for him, and how to navigate the insurance and school systems, it became a little clearer to us. Each lesson we learned, we were able to share with other parents of younger children and ease their path through the systems. As we learned to trust in God and his love for us and for Joshua a little more each day, we were able to see how God provided for us. Often other parents would come our way who needed spiritual encouragement to stay the course, have faith, and look to God to provide for their child. God would orchestrate these meetings and conversations and we were able to comfort and encourage them.

Paul explains one purpose for our pain this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” II Corinthians 1:3-5

Take a walk today, talk to God about your personal pain, your personal struggles. Ask him to show you people in your life you are uniquely qualified to pray for, to encourage, to walk alongside in their pain. Spend some time praying for those people. Reach out and encourage them this week.

By Grace Hunter

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Prayer Walking | Jonah 4:6-92019-07-22T16:35:16-06:00

Freedom for Freedom | Galatians 5:1

How many of us, when our parents set a boundary, thought, “Someday, I’ll be old enough to do whatever I want.” We dreamt of all the things we would do when we were free. Where we would go. How much money we would spend. How late we would stay up. And then, just like that, we were old enough to move out on our own. The sweet nectar of freedom!

I remember going to college, with unlimited freedom, and no one to oversee my actions. It was bliss – at first. Before long, however, I had spent all the money in my meal account because Taco Mayo had such good burritos and was open until 2 am (who could blame me?). Plus, I had flunked out of school because I found it inconvenient to regularly attend classes. What I perceived as freedom became a huge hardship.

When you read, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” what comes to mind? Does freedom really mean doing anything we want? Is that always the best path? Going hog-wild without boundaries can ultimately leave us in more bondage. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23, You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. True freedom submits itself to the lordship of Jesus. Grace isn’t a license to do anything we want – it’s the power to operate in a healthy way when given freedom. If you’re courting the line of, “how far can I go with this?” or if you’re actually living in bondage rather than true freedom, remember the Father waits for the prodigal to come home. True freedom comes from laying aside our own indulgent pleasures and pursuing the mind of Christ.

REFLECT AND RESPOND

Have you been indulging your freedom in areas that don’t fall under the Lordship of Jesus? What is one step you can take to bring that area into alignment?

 

By Larry Boatright

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Freedom for Freedom | Galatians 5:12019-07-22T16:35:30-06:00

Dwelling in Us | 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The Spirit in us. We know the story. Jesus came to accomplish something – to establish his kingdom in this world and to work in the hearts of individuals. Words from Jeremiah echo the promise that “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)

Shortly before Jesus indicates the completion of his task, “It is finished,” he told his followers of the Comforter he would send to help and be with us forever (John 14:16). Paul’s words paint additional details for his readers: we are temples of the Holy Spirit, being built together into a dwelling where God lives by his spirit. He lives in me and in us.

If you are like me you may be asking, “Is there evidence of the Spirit’s work in and through me?” While this is a natural question in the West, in Eastern cultures the question might be, “Do people see evidence of fruit in us?” The texts support both ideas, but for those of us from the West, it may be helpful to consider that although Jesus indeed loves me, he does much of his work through us, the collective body of Christ.

The fishermen among the apostles, who Jesus made fishers of men, did their work as a group. During this Advent season the Spirit works in and through us as a family, community and church so that we and others can be filled to the fullest of Christmas joy.

REFLECT + RESPOND

Early Jesus followers had the conviction that their bodies had become the new temple, housing God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Imagine that, the sacred space where heaven and earth overlapped was now humanity. Consider how much dignity and worth that exuded to people who had been walking in darkness.

 

By Harvey Shepard

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Dwelling in Us | 1 Corinthians 6:19-202019-07-22T16:35:31-06:00
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