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Archive | God’s love

5 Signs of Authentic Faith

Are we living out true, authentic faith in Jesus or simply fooling ourselves? It’s easy to tell, if we take an honest look. The apostle John challenged first century believers – and believers today – to do just that. In his first letter, John clearly laid out signs of authentic faith. And he clearly stated his purpose in writing:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

John wanted his readers to be sure they were saved. He longed for them to stand firm in God’s truth and not be swayed by false teachers. And he wanted “false believers” to wake up.

He did not tip toe around the truth. That would not do them, nor us, any good. In the first two chapters of First John, the apostle gave us 5 signs to test our faith. His “If we…, then…, but…” style describes what a true relationship with Jesus will – and won’t – look like.

5 Signs of Authentic Faith

  1. If we walk in darkness, then we do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light we have fellowship with God.
  2. If we claim to have no sin, then we are deceived and we call God a liar. But if we admit and confess our sin, God will forgive us and give us Jesus’ righteousness.
  3. If we do not obey God’s commands, then the truth is not in us. But if we obey God, it reveals we truly know Him and His love is made complete in us.
  4. If we do not love fellow believers, then we still live in darkness and prone to fall. But if we love other believers, we live in the light.
  5. If we love the world, then it proves we do not have God’s love. But if we do not love the things of the world it shows we truly have eternal life.

So, how are we doing? Are we walking in the light or in the darkness?

You may also be interested in: How to have a relationship with Jesus

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In the Midst of Change, the Best Remains the Same

I feel as though my life is all boxed up, but change is coming…

Literally, our life is in boxes. My husband’s retirement in December started it all. He had planned to work another two years, but when his company offered an early retirement opportunity, we knew it was time. We decided to move our plan forward – to sell our home in Houston and move to the Dallas area where our daughters and their families live.

After the holidays we began working to get the house in top shape. Power wash the driveway. Weed the flower beds. Paint some walls. Then came all the staging work – pack away the family photos, take the animal heads off the walls, and pack up the “extra” decor.

The house officially hit the market April 20th. We really expected it to take a few weeks at least. But we received three offers in the first three days. The biggest problem was we had no where to go. So, we took a quick trip north to find a new home.

We closed on the new place last Wednesday and minor renovations began the next day! The movers come to help us make the actual move next week! All our stuff should be inside the new place by mid-June!

In the meantime, I’m packing. And packing. Selling a few extra things and donating some others. Everything else has been put on the back burner. That includes blogging! But I wanted to work this one in to give you all an update.

Oh, and in the middle of it all, I received a contract from my publisher for a new book! That project is at the top of my list – right under “unpack boxes!” (Watch for more about this later!)

I’m in the midst of a lot of change right now – husband’s retirement, moving away from a church family that I love, selling one home and buying another, changing cities, and moving my elderly parents from Louisiana to Tennessee to be near my brother (that’s a whole other story!) But the best of it all remains the same. My husband has been consistently at my side for almost 34 years. Our family still loves and supports one another.

And, most importantly, my God is the same faithful, all-powerful, gracious Father I’ve always known. He is the same God in Dallas that He is in Houston. Or New York. Or Mozambique. We will find a place among His people in our new home. And He will have work for us to do there. I can’t wait!

 

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14 One Anothers for the Church Today

God does not intend for us to live out our faith on our own. When He saves us, He saves us into His family, the church, so we can live and grow together with other believers. We cannot be everything God desires for us, we cannot fulfill God’s purposes for us, we cannot receive everything God has for us, without a vital connection to a local church.

One another churchGod designed the church to be a unique fellowship. The Bible uses the Greek word koinōnia to describe this spiritual relationship between believers (Acts 2:42). Koinōnia means “having in common, sharing, partnership, fellowship.” Individual believers both receive what they need and give what others need within the context of the church.

 So, what does this giving and receiving – this koinōnia – look like? There is not one single passage in the Bible that gives a detailed, all-encompassing description. However, the New Testament is peppered with examples, principles, and commands about what believers should be for each other. For example, the phrase “one another” is frequently used to point to a specific way believers should relate to other believers. Although the following list is not comprehensive, these 14 “one anothers” are a great start to helping us understand the koinōnia of the church.

14 “One Anothers” for the Church Today

  1. Love one another (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:7)
  2. Comfort one another (2 Corinthians 13:11)
  3. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10)
  4. Restore one another (Galatians 6:1)
  5. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  6. Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  7. Build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  8. Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  9. Do good to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
  10. Meet one another’s physical needs (James 2:15-17, 1 John 3:17)
  11. Pray for one another to be healed (James 5:16)
  12. Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  13. Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16) – correcting wrong belief and behavior and instilling correct belief and behavior
  14. Spur one another to good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

These “one anothers” reveal the scope and depth of our koinōnia relationship – from putting the needs of others before our own to allowing another believer to hold us accountable for our behavior. This spiritual relationship is so different than anything we can find in the world. Only in the church can we give and receive everything God intends. He has provided everything we need through “one another.”

In what ways have you experienced the unique koinōnia of the church?

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4 Questions Answered about Real Love

Real LoveWhat is real love? If you believe the movies, it’s defined by two beautiful celebrities locked in a passionate embrace. Our culture equates “love” with sexual attraction.

But that’s not real love. That’s just physical desire. And it’s fleeting at best. Like chocolate on a hot day, it doesn’t last long.

Why do we love? If you follow the example of our culture, we “love” to benefit self. We love those who deserve it or those who can help us in some way.

But that’s not real love. That’s simply shallow selfishness.

Our culture – and even ourselves – cannot teach us about real love. Only God can.

What is real love?

But God’s Word has the answers. The Bible defines love. The Bible tells us how to love, who to love, and why to love.

Real love is divine love. God calls us to love one another like He loves us (John 13:34-35). The Greek word translated as “love” is agape. It is love of volition, not emotion. We can choose to act in love toward another. Agape is also based on the character of the one acting in love and not the worth of the recipient. God loves us because of His perfect, holy nature, not because we deserve His love.

God loves us because of who He is not because of who we are. He loves because it is His holy nature to do so. That’s why God’s love is completely unconditional. It is based on His perfect self.

God’s love should be our example. Not our culture. We love others because God loved us first. Even when we didn’t deserve it.

How should we love?

This is a tall order. Jesus said we are to love each other like He loves us. Jesus gave His life for us. He put our needs ahead of His own and trusted the Father with the outcome. (See John 15:9-14.)

Who should we love?

Jesus told us to love three groups of people. First, we are to love our fellow believers (John 15:12). Second, we are to love “our neighbors” (Matthew 19:19). Third, we are to “our enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Huh. That sounds like pretty much everybody to me.

Why should we love?

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We are to love others because God loves us. He made us in His image. He calls us to reveal the love of Christ to the world. He is a God of love and we are to be people of love.

Love others like God loved us. Big assignment. But we also have a big, loving God.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16b

Love. God is our reason, our example, and our enabler.

What do you find the hardest about loving others as God loves you?

 

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A Glimpse of Heaven

heavenI feel like I got a little taste of heaven yesterday. It was “International Day” at our church – a special day set aside to celebrate the diverse cultures, nations, and peoples represented in our church and community. Displays with traditional clothing, special items, and food filled the Great Hall. We freely sampled yummy dishes from India, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, and more.

The food made my belly happy, but the service touched my spirit. Dozens of people holding the flag of their home country lined the front. Then as individuals from 15 different countries each shared John 3:16 in their heart language, my eyes filled with tears. At first I was surprised my reaction, then the Holy Spirit brought a passage from God’s Word to mind:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:  “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

International DayPastor Bruce’s message yesterday focused on the glorious truth that Jesus came for all people. He reminded us of the angel’s words to the shepherds the night Jesus was born:

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  Luke 2:9-11

Yes, at Christmas let’s remember that Jesus came for all people. But let’s also remember that Jesus came to die for all people:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18

Heaven will be a bit like “International Day.” People of all shapes, sizes, colors, languages, and cultures will fill the throne room to worship the King of Kings.

I don’t know what language we will speak in heaven, but there will be no language barrier. We will be one people. All brothers and sisters with the same God and Father. Praise Him!

Will you be part of the heavenly throng? If you’ve never made a decision to receive the gift of life Jesus offers, why not do it today? (Find out more)

 

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We Are Not “All God’s Children”

All God's ChildrenI hear it all the time: “We are all God’s children!” Sounds good, doesn’t it? That would be great! All humanity united in one family. With one Father.

Just one problem with that. That’s not what the Bible teaches.

Yes, all humans are creatures of God. We all belong to Him because He formed and fashioned us. We were made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). Made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Made for His glory (Isaiah 43:7).

And yes, God loves all people (John 3:16). He longs to be in right relationship with each and every individual (2 Peter 3:9). He desires that all people come to eternal salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-6). In fact, He desires this so much that while everyone was still in utter rebellion against Him, God sent His Son to die to save us (Romans 5:8). That’s how much He loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

But not all people are children of God.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are “God’s children” and those who are not. Only those born by God’s Spirit through faith in Jesus are children of God (1 John 3:1-10, Galatians 3:26, John 8:34-41).

“To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13, NIV

The Bible also tells us what a child of God looks like. How they will behave. Here is a short list of some of what God’s Word says.

5 Characteristics of a “child of God”

  1. They love Jesus (John 8:42).
  2. They believe that Jesus is the Savior (1 John 5:1).
  3. They love God’s children (1 John 3:10, 5:1).
  4. They are controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 14).
  5. They obey God (1 John 2:29, 3:7-9).

Are you a child of God? You don’t have to wonder. God longs for you to receive His gift of salvation and be assured of eternity (Find out more here.) And there are so many benefits in being a child of God!

8 Benefits of being a “Child of God”

  1. God’s children have been “redeemed,” set free from sin and eternal death by Jesus’ sacrificial death (Galatians 4:4-5).
  2. God’s children are His heirs, inheriting spiritual rights and privileges and eternal life (Romans 8:17).
  3. God’s children have direct access to their Father (Galatians 4:5-7)..
  4. God’s children have a special intimacy with their Father (Galatians 4:6).
  5. God’s children will grow to become like Jesus (1 John 3:2).
  6. God’s children have peace, unity, and equal status with each other (Galatians 3:26-29).
  7. God’s children will experience a future resurrection (Romans 8:11).
  8. God’s children have the presence and confirmation of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16).

Have you every heard the incorrect statement “We are all God’s children?” Maybe you’ve said it. Why is it important that we understand the truth?

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Where is Peace?

peaceOur country is in turmoil. Peace alludes us. One group pitted against another. Hatred, violence, and fear feed an ongoing stream of tragedies.

Thursday night, snipers fired on police officers during a protest in downtown Dallas. Twelve were shot, five of them died. Two more police officers were ambushed Friday in two separate incidents in Georgia. Philando Castile killed by police in Minnesota. Alton Sterling killed by police in Baton Rouge under questionable circumstances. And these things happened just last week.

One sinful act fosters another. Grief, pain, and loss overwhelm us. We seem to be caught in a downward cycle with no escape. What is the answer? Where can we find peace?

In America today, tension and even open hostility exists between races, political parties, economic groups, and faiths. But this is nothing new. Divisions and hatred like this have existed since creation in every generation.

When Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, there was no stronger example than the hostility between Jew and Gentile. But even with them peace was possible.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:13-18, NIV

Lasting peace is not possible outside of a saving relationship with Jesus. Our sinful humanity keeps getting in the way.

Plus, peace is not simply a state of being. It is a Person. No matter how vast our differences or great our hatred, all people can find commonality and peace in Christ Jesus. When individuals are reconciled to Jesus, they are also reconciled to each other.

When we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus, His Spirit begins to transform our hearts and minds. He begins to chisel away the hatred, fear, and pride and fills us with His love, security, and selflessness. Walls break down. Relationships form.

Yes, let us both preach and practice peace. Let us reach across the aisle with hands extended. But let us also share the Gospel message of Jesus. Because without Him there will be no lasting peace.

 

 

 

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Lasting Joy DOES Depend on Your Circumstances

joyI’ve heard it said that, unlike happiness, Christian joy has nothing to do with our circumstances. Makes sense right? Jesus both assured us we would have trouble in the world (John 16:33) and promised us that no one would take away our joy (John 16:22).

Difficult circumstances and lasting joy. So surely, Christian joy has nothing to do with our circumstances. Circumstantial “happiness” and lasting joy have to be different. Right?

But wait just a second… when I looked up the meaning for the Hebrew and Greek words most often translated as “joy” they have essentially the same meaning as “happiness.” Biblical joy can be defined this way:

Joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness; the opposite of grief and sorrow; feelings that result from circumstances

 The difference in fleeting joy/happiness and the joy no one can take away is the circumstances on which we base it. If we look to our temporary, earthly circumstances for joy, it will be stolen from us time and again. But if we rely on our eternal circumstances, our joy will be firm and secure.

3 Circumstances for Lasting Joy

Although I know my list could be longer, here are three reasons for lasting joy God gives us in His Word:

  1. Salvation (1 Peter 1:5-9) – Peter beautifully shows how rejoicing in our eternal salvation far outweighs the grief of our temporary earthly trials. In the midst of our trials we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
  2. God’s Love (Romans 8:35-39) – Paul experienced great hardships and persecutions in this life. In spite of these things he experienced the joy of Christ (Philippians 1:18). How? No matter what he suffered, nothing could separate him from the love of God.
  3. Intimate Fellowship with Christ (John 15:5-11) – On the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus wanted to make sure His followers knew how to find their joy in Him. As we “abide” in Christ – stay closely and vitally connected to Him in obedient relationship – our joy will “be complete.”

Are you experiencing this kind of joy? You can! Read these Scripture passages and ask God to show you how to find joy in your eternal circumstances!

What other “reasons for joy” do you see in Scripture? Let’s share them with each other today!

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14 Ways to Show Love to Those You Love

14 ways buttonIt’s that time of year again. People are busy deciding how they will show love to their Valentines. Sales of cards, chocolates, and flowers will go through the roof! But even for a big chocolate lover like me, those things don’t show real love.

How will you express your love? It’s easy to buy a gift and say a few words. But, the Bible’s definition of love sets the bar much higher.

The apostle John said it this way: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18, NIV). So, if love is action, how do we love? Below are 14 ways from Scripture that you can actively show love to the people you love.

14 Ways love printable

This is printable! Click to enlarge & print!

14 Biblical Ways to Show Love

  1. Help them out of a tight spot – When Jesus attended a wedding with His mother, she asked Him to help the hosts when they ran out of wine. We may not be able to miraculously solve a problem, but God has gifted us in other ways to help. (John 2:1-11)
  2. Get them help when you can’t help them – A paralyzed man received healing from Jesus because his friends dropped him through a roof at Jesus’ feet. They were willing to do whatever it took it to get help for their friend! (Mark 2:1-12)
  3. Pray for them – The Bible is full of people praying for the ones they love. The church prayed for Peter in jail (Acts 12:5). Jesus prayed for the disciples (John 17:6-19). Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers (Ephesians1:15-23).
  4. Rebuke them when needed – Sometimes the best way we can love someone is by confronting their sinful, destructive behavior (Proverbs 27:6, Matthew18:15-17).
  5. Freely forgive offenses – Jesus eliminated the limit on forgiveness when Peter asked how many times he should forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). Some hurts seem unforgivable, but with God’s help it’s possible to “promote love” through forgiveness (Proverbs 17:9).
  6. Humbly serve them – Jesus set the example (John 13:1-17). He calls us – His followers – to also humbly and graciously serve others (Gal 5:13).
  7. Meet their physical needs – Scripture is clear. If we see a brother in need, have the means to help but don’t, our love for God should be questioned (1 John 3:17).
  8. Rejoice and mourn with them – We show deep care for others when their hurts and joys are also ours. Don’t hold back. Let the tears and the cheers flow! (1 Cor 12:25-26).
  9. Show kindness to someone they love – King David expressed his deep bond of friendship for Jonathan by caring for Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:1-13).
  10. Intercede with others on their behalf – Could your influence help a loved one? Barnabas smoothed the way for Paul with the Jerusalem church leaders (Acts 9:27-30). Paul wrote to Philemon appealing for Onesimus the runaway slave (Philemon 8-11).
  11. Help two loved ones work out their differences – Does strife exist between two people you love? Be a mediator and help them mend their relationship. Paul asked the believers in Philippi help two women in their church (Philippians 4:2-3).
  12. Introduce them to Jesus – Does a loved one desperately need to know Jesus? Share the Good News! Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus (John 1:35-42).
  13. Encourage and disciple them in their relationship with Christ – The author of Hebrews tells us to “spur one another on to good works” and “encourage one another” daily (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  14. “Lay down your life!” – Seems pretty drastic, but that’s exactly how Jesus showed His love for us (John 15:12-13). The basic principle has much broader application than actual physical death. Jesus calls us to unselfishly seek put others ahead of ourselves.

Wow! Buying a card and a box of chocolates is a lot easier. But Hallmark and Hershey doesn’t say love like real love in action. Show somebody you love them today!

Who can you show love to today? How will you show it?

 

 

 

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The “Delight” and “Desire” of Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Psalm 37:4How many times have you heard this verse quoted or even quoted it yourself? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? By itself, that one statement seemingly holds great promise. “If we delight in, love God, and find joy in Him, He will fill our lives with all the things we enjoy and value.”

Just one problem. That “interpretation” is taken out of context and totally self-focused. As we’ve been doing together for the last several Thursdays, let’s step back and consider the greater context of the verse – Psalm 37 – so we can better grasp the meaning of verse 4. (If you have time, read Psalm 37:1-9 now.)

In this psalm, David – the shepherd boy God made king – contemplates an age-old dilemma. Often, evil people prosper while those who faithfully follow God struggle to pay the bills and provide for their families. It’s tempting to envy “evil” people who enjoy wealth and all the things the world offers. We may even wonder what’s the use of following God? Maybe we should just do things the world’s way?

Things really haven’t changed throughout history. Since the fall, people have acquired wealth through deception. Innocent people have gone hungry. Evil people enjoy luxury while righteous people suffer great need. The wicked gain at the expense of the godly. The ways of the wicked both tempt us and harm us.

David saw this plight in his own day. He knew this earthly life is not fair. But as horrible as the situation was and is, he knew it was temporary. He wrote Psalm 37 to encourage God’s people to see things through an eternal lens. To realize that the spiritual far outweighs the physical.

The wicked and their wealth will one day perish (Psalm 37:20), but the spiritual inheritance of the godly will “endure forever” (Psalm 37:18). The things of this world are fleeting and temporary. The things that only God can give will remain for eternity.

Now that we’ve looked briefly at the larger context, let’s reconsider verse 34. “Delight” means to be “soft, pliable” and to “pamper oneself.” We are tempted to “delight” ourselves in the world, to be molded by it and to lose ourselves in its offerings. But God calls us to yield ourselves to Him, to be soft and pliable in His hand so He can shape us into His image.

In the surrounding verses, David helps the reader understand what it means to “delight yourself in the Lord.” Here are three ways David encourages us to do this:

  1. Trust in God through active obedience (Psalm 34:3).
  2. “Commit” our way to Him by living under submission to His will (Psalm 34:5).
  3. Wait patiently for God to act on our behalf (Psalm 34:7).

A Christian who “delights herself in the LORD” will be pliable in God’s transforming hand because she trusts in, submits to, and waits on Him.

But what about the “desires of your heart?” The context helps us understand this as well. God’s people saw the seeming success and prosperity of the wicked, even at the expense of the righteous. The purpose of the psalm is to encourage those who trust in God that the wicked will not win. If God’s people will continue to “trust in, submit to, and wait on” God, their “desire” (request and petition) for righteousness to prevail will be satisfied.

5 Ways the LORD Will Fulfill the Desires of the Righteous

  1. Justice will be done. The wicked will be punished (Psalm 34: 2, 13, 17, 35-36, 38).
  2. The Lord will protect His children and give them strength in times of difficulty (Psalm 34: 15-17, 24, 39-40).
  3. The righteous will receive an eternal inheritance (Psalm 34: 18, 29, 37).
  4. The Lord will sustain them in times of need (Psalm 34:19).
  5. The righteous will experience the Lord’s love and faithfulness (Psalm 34:28).

When we patiently trust in God and submit ourselves to His care and protection, He will be faithful to sustain, protect, and provide. And we will see His justice carried out in His time. The wicked will not prevail.

Do you see this verse from a different perspective? How has your understanding changed?

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