Meditations on Love or Die by Alexander Strauch

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Read Ephesians 3:14-19
“Love is something which can be contemplated… If love does not make you think, it is not love; it is a purely physical instinct. Love enjoys ruminating, dwelling upon, looking at, dissecting, analyzing and considering… Love is to be studied, and the more you study it the more you enjoy it.
We must never fall into the error of imagining that because we are Christians we therefore know all about the love of God. Most of us are but as children paddling at the edge of an ocean; there are abysmal depths in this love of God of which we know nothing. The Apostle is praying that these Ephesians, and we with them, may go out into the depths and the deeps, and discover things which we have never imagined.” Martin Llloyd-Jones

Why should we study love? Why do we need the Bible to understand love?

Scripture directs all believers to pursue love (1 Corinthians 14:1), keeps ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21), abide in Christ’s love (John 15:9), walk in love as Christ loved (Ephesians 5:2), and consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds. (Heb 10:24)

Read 1 Corinthians 13- What is the main point?

In paraphrase form Paul is saying:
Without love even heavenly tongues sound annoying
Without love, knowing it all theologically and philosophically helps no one
Without love, powerful, risk-taking faith is worthless
Without love, giving everything to the poor is unprofitable
Without love, even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life is pointless

“In these familiar words we possess one of the most central principles of the Christian faith. It is this. No religious act is of any value in God’s sight if it does not accompany and flow from Christian love.” – Maurice Roberts

It is distressing to see self satisfied Christians who refuse to grow in love. Repentance is at the heart of restoring our first love.

“What is meant is not merely an intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance, but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which results in “fruit in keeping with repentance.” Of course all this assumes that mans actions are fundamentally off course and need radical change.”- DA Carson’s definition of repentance

The chief duty of life is to love God supremely above self, others, or all material things.

Just as marriage is a commitment to love one another in good times and in bad, so love for God and neighbor is a commitment to love God and neighbor despite changing feelings or difficult circumstances.

Why do you think family relationships at home provide the best testing ground for the practice of Christlike love? 1 Peter 4:8

“A true love for people,” says John Stott, “leads to labour for them; otherwise it degenerates into mere sentimentality.”

Why is it necessary to pray about growth in Christlike love?

As believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we have an immense capacity to love all people, even our enemies and those who are unlovely or disagreeable. (Luke 6:32) We all have to admit, however, that growth in love is a struggle. (1 Thes 4:9) He who is the source of love is also the best teacher of love, and he has given to his Spirit the unique work of inspiring and prompting love within us. The more we see how inherently and perversely selfish we are, the more we recognize our need to as God to help us love.

Although Christ commands us to love as he loved (John 13:34-35), he doesn’t leave us powerless to accomplish the task. He graciously gives his life-empowering Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit- who is God and is love- produces within every believer a supernatural capacity to love as Christ loves.

What practical steps can you take to guard your love relationship with Christ?

Keep yourselves in the love of God. Jude 21

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Zeal vs Self

Zeal is that pure and heavenly flame

The fire of love supplies;

While that which often bears the name

Is self in a disguise.

True zeal is merciful and mild,

Can pity and forbear;

The false is headstrong, fierce and wild,

And breathes revenge and war.

While zeal for truth the Christian warms,

He knows the worth of peace;

But self contends for names and forms,

Its party to increase.

Newton via Patrick Schreiner

Additional comments from Mark

Beyond the Jordan, into the Jordan, to Tiberias picking up Simon, Andrew, James, John and Matthew in Capernaum. Staying at Peter’s mother-in-laws house, traveling to the synagogues. Going missing completely sometimes to pray. Hanging out with sinners. Wow.

zeal for His house

It’s pretty awesome how Jesus starts his ministry. He settles and kind of puts up shop in Capernaum (which is the hometown of brothers Simon and Andrew, John and James, and Matthew himself) in Galilee.

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,” Matthew 4:15.

Now, Jesus grew up in a town not far from this called Nazareth which was up in the mountains. Jesus didn’t start his ministry in Nazareth though. He spent about thirty years there and worked as a carpenter (more likely a stone mason) under his earthly father, Joseph. Probably around the time Joseph died Jesus went to visit his cousin John, who had been baptizing in the Jordan and preaching repentance.

The Jordan river stems from the Sea of Galilee which is for all practical purposes surrounded by desert. Jesus spends 40…

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Immanuel

The Lord has really blessed me with a new church body. This past Sunday in community group we discussed briefly how Israel as a geographical place is not Holy by itself, and that there is no mountain that we should be worshipping on (John 4). It is very clear though that God puts certain people into your life to worship with.

This week I am in Kansas City and presently I am on the IHOP missions base campus. I drove here for a Family Medicine conference, but my joy was to get to be in this place again. Now, God does allow us to have experiences in certain places where we feel closer to Him; in fact I find that to be a very common thing. I realized though,as I pulled up to the parking lot of the campus, that this place is not special because of the building. God is not more present in this building than He is in any other place, but in a nostalgic emotional way He felt closer. In the prayer room I was able to really pray for my church body and the CMDA Bible study. Maybe it takes an eight hour drive and some awesome worship music to feel separated enough to express myself in prayer.

We started singing “Jesus I love You,” and it transformed into “We are lovers of Your Presence, lovers of Your Presence, lovers of Your Presence.. and that’s all we wanna be.”

I just got to meet with my friend Sarah that lives here in KC who I hadn’t seen since 2009. I’m staring at a portion of the coffee shop where I studied 1 Peter with my friend Jackie three years ago. This place has great significance in me in encouragement to share the Gospel and to be continually in prayer and to be sober minded as Peter says. Let’s add one more.. it’s something God keeps trying to teach me. Sarah asked me, “What do you love about your new church?” My first response was because the preaching is amazing and the prayer is consistent, but I dug deeper and said “because they are so humble that they let the Spirit in to change our lives despite the knowledge and style, and God has really changed me there over the past year.”

Finally, when I sat down again to write I remembered. My new church is called Immanuel.. so was my first church.. and the church I went to for my theology group.. so what? Immanuel means “God with us” or “the God that is with us.” He wrote a song for me called “Home to us” when I moved to Louisville.. I was homesick and needed to be close to Him and the place was unfamiliar and didn’t feel like I could be. He changed that, but I still need to realize that He is my home. God is the Gospel. I can’t get away from Him and I need to be a “lover of His Presence”.. and that’s all I wanna be.

Amazonas

This summer the University of Louisville School of Medicine sent a team to Manaus, Brazil on the Amazon River for a medical missions trip with Amor Brazil. We went to 5 different villages in ten days, the biggest had over 100 families. The biggest problems we ran into there were tenia versicolor and gastritis and worms. We also provided education, glasses, and toothbrushes. We could only treat these problems for a short amount of time, but the local pastors were able to share the Gospel effectively. Over 30 people were saved and hundreds of families and kids were reached with the Gospel of grace. Please keep praying for the Amazon River Valley (Amazonas) and the effect of the Gospel in that area.

Why Service?

Read Mark 10:31-45

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

Jesus is the ultimate, perfect example of a man who walked by the Power of the indwelling Spirit of God, and He did not Lord His leadership over us. He came to serve and die by serving.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)

“God doesn’t need your good works, but other people do.” Martin Luther

Where do we get caught in the snare of the devil?

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)

Check your hearts, is there pride in you for serving the needy? Ask God to change your hearts to serve others for His sake, not to look good.

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17 ESV)

How do we keep ourselves focused on Christ’s finished work of the Gospel?

Who is really giving/serving here?
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” (James 1:16-18 ESV)

“The Giver gets the Glory,” John Piper. Read Colossians 1:15-20.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18 ESV)

Effort should from gratitude, contentment, and acceptance in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Favorite CS Lewis Quotes so far

CSL: Anxiety is not only a pain to be assuaged but also a weakness to be pardoned by God.

God’s love is relentless in its determination that we be cured of our sins, at whatever the cost to us or to Him.

Either Jesus is the Son of God; or a madman or worse. But His being just a great teacher? He’s not left that open to us.

How monotonously alike all tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.

“Be Ye Perfect” isn’t a command to do the impossible. Christ is going to make us creatures that can obey that command.

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We’re half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition. When infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum, because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. -The Weight of Glory

If the universe is so bad… how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?