12/18/16 ~ Generations of Love

RacineBuildingFrom the Preacher’s Pen… Toward the end of most worship services, I make my way to the back hallway in order to speak to people as they leave. Sometimes I’m looking for someone in particular to encourage and many times I rejoice in the encouragement of God’s family.

Oftentimes there is someone already back there. Mothers and dads with little ones often have diaper duty or otherwise have to tend to fussy or overly active children. What a beautiful sight and lesson of love!

In all the comings and goings it sometimes happens that one of our young people end up “stranded” at the doors as they are too polite to go back where they were sitting in the middle of the closing song or prayer.

Often when that happens they end up standing next to me and holding my hand during the prayer. I see them holding hands with their parents, their siblings, and others around them. How precious it is to see love in actions and living lessons from our young people! Consider for a moment the lesson they show…

Generations of Love

Jesus frequently used the word love. It is a vital ingredient of our Spiritual life and yet it is often neglected.

In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” God’s “new commandment” is not that we should love, but that we are actually commanded to love as God has loved us.

Peter would struggle with this concept of such a great commitment (John 21:15-17), but eventually embraced it at the cost of his physical life (verses 18-19). Interestingly, Jesus in telling him all this concludes with the imperative command (Follow Me!) to obey even though hesitant.

Consider how our own worldly definition of love has changed. In my Grandparents generation, the love of children was often defined as “children are to be seen but not heard” and it was normally true that parents ate first and children the leftovers. Why?

Sadly, in a time when a significant percentage of children died the adults who could work and feed the family had to be the priority. (Most western civilizations have seen a relatively steady decline in infant and child mortality for the last few centuries. In the 1700s 300 to 500 deaths per 1,000 were the norm. By the end of the 1800s that number dropped to 150 to 200. By 1950 it had declined to between 20 and 40 per 1,000.)

In that world, the greatest love a parent could show was staying healthy enough to provide for the children that survived.

Following World War II Americans were better off in many ways yet struggling to say and show love in a changing world. As food supplies increased and diseases were controlled it became the expected norm that children would survive into adulthood. Parents literally had the expectation that each child would continue to live and be a part of the family.

With all that came the challenge to love to an entirely new degree. Like so many things that Satan corrupts, an increase in family love was quickly transformed into the permissive “free love” generation. Confusing love with sexual expression they reshaped the world into a no-commitment world ruled by selfishness.

Today? Our world pushes to enlarge the bounds of permissiveness and demands that everyone wins, that everyone is entitled to high self-esteem with no boundaries on their actions and no limits to their licentiousness. And still, real love is neglected.

Love, real love, love like God has for us is that agape love, that committed love. Real love, like an earlier generation, sometimes seems harsh that it might really serve the needs. Even today it remains true that real love of our children includes punishment and discipline.

Jesus had a fondness for children and several times the text points out that they were specifically infants and young children. Do you ever wonder why?

Watch a child love. Before parents teach them to fear and avoid, they shyly offer their gift, their trust until one day properly jaded by adults they learn the rudeness of neglecting love.

So, do we truly love? Are we committed to our Savior and the good of His Kingdom? Or are we simply fulfilling Scripture in being the selfish, jaded, negligent lovers of self that Paul warned Timothy about (2 Timothy 3:1-9)?

Love is something that is instilled by God in a child’s heart. How we cultivate it determines whether it grows and blossoms into Christ-like love in all their lives… or dies in bitterness and strife.

Love is something that is instilled by God and carefully taught to an adult’s heart. How we cultivate it determines whether it grows and blossoms into Christ-like love in all our lives… or dies in bitterness and strife.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in actions and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

— Lester P. Bagley

12/4/16 ~Have I told you lately that I love you?

From the Preacher’s Pen…

RacineBuildingA few times each year we get together with family. If your family is like our family and spread half way around the world it may be less than that. If your family lives relatively close by it may be much more frequent. But it is always a joyful and precious time when we get together with loved ones!

Do we feel the same joy in coming together as God’s family? If we were to make one New Year resolution, could there be a better one than that we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Apostle John reminds us of just how important that is:

“The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” (1 John 2:10)

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

In both cases, the word that John uses for “brother” is a word used for unity and love of relatives and those that are especially close to each other. The closeness of relationship is seen in the same word being used for twins.

Are we really the family twins in relationship with fellow Christians? Consider a bit further:

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

Many of us remember the words of the song by that title and most of us as Christians realize how the thoughts of a love song often reflect our love for each other and for our God. At least two Christian brothers that I know use this song title as a way of reflecting on the special bond we share as God’s children. Isn’t it a beautiful reflection on the family relationship we share in Jesus’ family?

Some have called God’s Word and especially the New Testament God’s love song to His people. Certainly, there is an element of truth to that. How many times in both Old and New Testaments do we see the tremendous love of God displayed to His people? How can anyone read some of Paul’s letters (or John’s, or Peter’s for that matter) and not see the deep love that he had for his brothers and sisters in Christ? “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 John 3:1a)

Just as we all find it important to take the time and make the “effort” to tell our husband, wife, children, grandchildren, etc. that we love them, it is also important, yea essential, that we also remember to tell our Christian family that we love them, too! After all, has not our heavenly father richly blessed us with such wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let’s make the extra effort this week to appreciate just how blessed we are! Oh, and how much do I love you all? Let me borrow the words of my brother Paul:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11)

— Lester P. Bagley