And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

2 John 6

 

Jesus taught often and in depth on what it meant to love others from God’s perspective. This form of love was not for self-gain or gratification. Rather, it was a sacrificial love that was willing and fully able to give up and give away all of self for the sake of others. This love that Jesus brought to the world was even able to love those who hated and rejected its giver, those who we label as enemies. This is the love that God lavished upon all of His handiwork at the beginning of creation, and this is the love that caused the Father to pour out His Son as the absolute sacrifice that was required to heal the separation between God and humanity that sin created.

 

In John’s short letter to the elect lady and her family he is primarily focused on the need to guard the truth of the gospel and to live in its full revelation. Yet, the act of living in truth needs to be surrounded and infused with God’s love. Otherwise we become harsh and defensive so that the sweet aroma of that gospel is hidden under a tight lid of protection and fear. Living in truth and in love is not easy to do. Most of us have encountered situations and people who make it hard to pour out love. In fact, it seems that most followers of Christ have been hurt while attempting to love others. Yet, Christ does not call His people into an easy life. He calls us into a life of humility, obedience, and sacrifice.

 

So, following Christ means that we love in times and places where that is unnatural to us. Obedience to God leads us to seek out people who we would otherwise avoid, and it compels us to turn to God for His grace and understanding so that we can engage in relationship building with people who might otherwise land in the categories of enemy or stranger. As we live in this world, truth establishes the foundation upon which we stand, and love bridges the gap between others and us. God’s love for us is our security. Christ provides us with absolute assurances of the unending and unstoppable nature of that love. So , in the fearlessness of our place as God’s beloved, we can follow Christ’s commandment to live in love with all others and through that love to bring the truth of the gospel to them.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9: 11

 

God is very generous. He gives us everything that we truly need and more. In fact, God’s generosity is very interesting to consider. He gives to people who ignore Him and even to those who reject Him, and He waits like an impatient grandparent at Christmas to give all of Himself to everyone who enters into relationship with Him. God fills His people with all that we are willing to accept; then, He keeps on presenting His bounty of love to us to accept even more. Yet, God’s granting of Himself to us is quite different from the way that most of us operate as He gives to us so that we can give it all away to others.

 

Christ poured Himself out on the cross so that all of humanity would have the opportunity and the ability to know God. This great gift of life is the culmination of God’s plan for the redemption of people from the condemnation of sin. However, a person’s acceptance of this gift is only the beginning of Christ’s infilling of that person with the totality of the gift that we can call true life. This new life reaches toward its highest and best function when we accept these gifts of truth, wisdom, understanding, love, grace, mercy, and acceptance as ours and then, in Christ’s name, grant all of them to the world.

 

Christ does not give to us so that we can possess and hold. He gives to us so that we can bless the world with the presence of God in tangible form. We are to be people who love all other people and all of creation with the same sort of uncompromising and sacrificial passion that Jesus demonstrated for us. He entered into the lives of the people who crossed His path and gave all of Himself to them without precondition or qualification. Jesus knew that many if not most of the people that He engaged with the Father’s message of truth would reject Him. However, Jesus did not cease in His absolute giving. As a follower of Christ, this is a difficult example to follow totally, but committing my life to being a giver of God’s gifts is one of the greatest ways that I can express my thanks to God for the life that I have in Him.

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before God.

1 Thessalonians 3: 9

 

As I read Paul’s prayer for the people that he cared for and taught in Thessalonica I am made aware of just how much more thankful I could be for the people that God has placed into my life. Paul has heard from Timothy about the way that these people that he left suddenly are living out their relationships with Christ. They have true faith and they operate out of God’s love. Although the Apostle desires and prays to God for the opportunity to return to them in order to continue to disciple them, Paul is thankful to God for who these new brothers and sisters are becoming as they grow in Christ.

 

This sort of thankfulness for the people of faith both near and far who contact my life is something that I could appreciate more than I do. As we follow Christ, God places people into our paths. Some of these people will join us on this journey of faith in various roles and settings. There will be those who demonstrate Christ and teach us God’s truth, others will be similarly influenced by our leading, and still others will simply join us along the way. God places people into our lives who encourage us and He grants us the opportunity to encourage others. The Lord provides teachers of His word to us, and grants to us the opportunity to teach others. These people are all God’s gift to me.

 

Lord, I ask you to help me be more mindful of these people. I desire to remember them individually and as a group. Like Paul, I want to be a person who expresses my thanks to God for the gift of people that He has given to me and that He continues to provide on a daily basis. People of faith are the true currency of the Kingdom of God. The love, grace, and mercy that they pour out constitute the tangible bounty of God’s garden. The companionship and support that they provide brings nourishment to my soul. Thank you Lord for the people of your body, and thank you brothers and sisters for your service of love to Christ.

Be filled with the Spirit … giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:18, 20

 

The Holy Spirit does many things with and for us. He is a literal life-changing force in the lives of people who follow Christ. I make this statement from personal experience and base it upon the testimony of God’s Word. When people accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, they are given the gift of acceptability in the righteous eyes of God. At that time we all become new beings, different to the core of our spirits, and we are washed clean of our sinful natures by baptism into Christ’s sacrificial blood. Then the Spirit begins to work in us to transform all that remains of our sin infused selves into the perfect holiness of Christ.

 

This is not an easy process. We are all born with a nature that is directed away from God. People are naturally defiant and rebellious, and we are also wired to be quarrelsome, selfish, and vain. We want things to be the way that we think suits us best, and we desire for other people to bow down to our sense of what is right and wrong. Almost everyone wants to be the one who is calling all of the shots in this life. Then Christ intercepts our journey. He shows us the unconditional and unending love that God, the Father, has for us, and Christ calls us to repentance for our sinful rebellion and into acceptance of God’s grace and mercy. We are changed.

 

So, it is this changed person who can do what Paul instructs us to do in this verse. As Christ is in us, we can understand and live in the true nature of thankfulness. In Christ we are alive! We are beloved children of the Eternal God! We are given wisdom, strength, comfort, grace, and mercy all tendered in love that is endless and complete! The relationship with God that Christ has given to me is more than enough reason to pour out my thanks to the Father. There is nothing in this life that is outside of the boundaries of thankfulness. No pain or loss, suffering or defeat can overcome my ability to enter into the grace that God grants to my soul, for the Spirit of Christ never leaves me and He continually speaks thanksgiving and praise to God into my ear.

And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29: 13

 

We all need to do what David has done as he was speaking the prayer of which this line is a part. It is important to reflect on the many ways that God has entered into our life and to consider the totality of His presence. Sure, we can usually get the big picture of God’s involvement with us, but the breadth, depth, and constant nature of it tends to get lost in the processes of engaging with our everyday existence. From time to time we should do what David is doing and take a good look at the longer view of our personal history.

 

As we do this we can allow God, Himself, to reveal to our minds the many times when He was the real actor in the events that took place. He can open our hearts to acceptance and appreciation of the ways that our Lord took charge and turned the events of the day from ones that were headed toward failure or disaster and how He worked in the forces of nature and in the lives of people to make the outcome one that brought peace, justice, and righteousness into the world. David could see that this was true for him through all of the times and seasons of his life. God had been involved in the lonely and dangerous times in the wild with his sheep, and He had gone before King David in all of the days of his reign. The same is true for each of us. Our Lord is present and engaged always!

 

As this reality of God’s faithfulness, power, and love sinks into the heart and stimulates the mind to see its wonder and uniqueness, the natural response is to express thanksgiving and praise to God. Whether it is done in public prayer or in the quiet of a moment alone, this singing out of our understanding and deep appreciation for who God is and for what He does in our lives should be a daily exercise. My experience is like David’s in that honest reflection on life leads to the inescapable conclusion that the course and outcome of it would have been very different without the involved presence of God. This is a continual fact that leads my heart to want to sing out with words that humbly express my deepest thanks to God.

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20

 

Do you ever struggle to make sense of this world? I certainly do. We are confronted on a regular basis by the stories of events that totally defy reason and logic. People do things to each other that are too terrible to comprehend, and groups of people often bring greater chaos to the scene rather than aggregate reason. It is in these sorts of times that I am reminded that God has truly blessed me with this gift of His that can be called understanding. That doesn’t mean that I have perfect answers for all of the whys or that I have perfect peace and comfort in all circumstances.

 

Rather, God’s Word describes in thorough detail the world where I live. It is a place where the landscape has been tortured and fractured by the forces of satanic evil that are waging war across its surface. This same ancient conflict brings all of the people of the earth into its battle lines. There is no such thing as a non-combatant in this war for eternity. God’s Word provides clarity and understanding to this picture, for God is not the one who brings about the pain and the heartache of life. God’s design for this world was and remains one where peace and relational love prevail. Satan violently lashes out at this reality and seeks to destroy it. He uses advanced weapons such as disease, anger, jealousy, and hatred as tools of destruction.

 

For me, this knowledge helps to sort out cause and effect in my personal life and in the broader spectrum of the world around me. There is one source of goodness and love in this world and that source is God. There exists one and only one source of truth and that too is God. He has given us His Word as a directly tangible resource, and God has also provided His Spirit to His people in order to guide and counsel us as we search for the eternal truths that it contains. This Godly understanding does not eliminate pain, suffering, and grief, but it does eliminate confusion and doubt. Through all that happens in this life, God’s love is absolute and unshakable, His grace and mercy are present, and He continually holds His people close in the Father’s eternal loving embrace.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

John 12: 46

 

These are the profound words of a man who knows that He is facing the darkest hour of His life on earth. Jesus is only a very short amount of time away from the cross, and He is aware of the sort of pain that His body and soul will endure. Jesus also understands the nature of the great darkness that will descend upon the land at that time. He is the source of true light in the world. The light that He brings comes from God, and it is the expression of the glory that continually fills the heavens with a radiance that is beyond all imagining. This is not just the light that comes from the sun, for it is more fundamental than that. The light that Jesus brought into the world is formed in the nature and the character of God.

 

Jesus gave tangible earthly expression to that light. His presence among us brought to life the love, truth, justice, and mercy of God. He demonstrated through words and actions the righteous nature of God, and Jesus brought all of that to culmination in His sacrificial death, an act of great love, which God redeems by an even greater act in Christ’s resurrection to life. It is after His death and resurrection that Jesus’ promise of giving light becomes real. Although He brought the light of God into the world, during His earthly life Jesus was limited by place and time. Now Christ, by and through the presence of His Spirit in all who believe in Him, grants this holy light to illuminate every corner of the world for each moment of the day.

 

People who know Christ also know God’s light. We possess it. Yet, this light is not the sort of thing that should be protected or secured away in some secret place. It is a gift that God gives to His people with the intention that we would share it freely and fully with others. The light of heaven was a part of what made Jesus the center of attention wherever He went. It brought comfort to the troubled, and its glory cut through the darkness of sin to open people’s wounded hearts to God’s pure and healing touch. Now that same light is available to the entire world in the presence of Christ in His people. We are to live each of our days in God’s light, and we are to be bearers of Christ’s perfect light of love in our world

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