Love First

August 19, 2014

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul composed an inspired poem of love in which he declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been, and should be read in every generation of church history.  That includes you and me.

His teaching about spiritual gifts in the previous chapter concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.”  (I Cor 12:31)  Paul begins the next chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.” (LB, NEB)

A SUMMARY PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence or in tongues without love, we’re just a lot of noise.  If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as a prophet and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all those things, we are nothing.  If we give all our money to feed the poor and our body to be burned at the stake as a martyr, if we give and die without love, it profits us nothing.

Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority. Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


The Bulls Eye of your Priority Target

November 12, 2013

“Let love be your highest goal…”  (1 Corinthians 14:1)

What are your priorities?  Paul challenges us to let love be our highest priority at the end of his inspired love chapter.  We should follow after love, make love our greatest pursuit, and love should be our highest goal, depending on how the verse is translated in your Bible.

A practical way to make love our greatest goal is to take the 15 virtues in the middle of the love chapter and apply them in our relationships. It will not take long to realize we cannot love in these ways on our own.  These are the ways God loves.  The miracle is He can love in these 15 ways through us!

The love virtues are all others-centered, unselfish ways of showing unconditional love.  They are not natural, but unnatural for us, because they are supernatural.  They are the fruit and evidence that God lives in us and is expressing the essence of His character through us. The dynamic effect of His love upon those we love in these ways will convince us this love is God and deserves to be our highest goal.

I have been loved in these ways and by the grace of God I have loved in these ways.  I am committed to making this love my first priority.  I resonate with Joyce Kilmer who summarized the essence of the lives of the fallen who lie beneath poppies in French military graveyards when he wrote: “Loved and were loved, but now they lie in Flanders Fields.”

Paul prescribed these love virtues believing they could solve the problems in the worst relationships in his worst church.  I believe they can solve the problems in all our relationships if we will graciously apply them, through Christ.


The Greatest Thing in the World

November 8, 2013

“There are three things that last — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What is the greatest thing in the world?  The Apostle Paul sifts his answer down to three things:  hope, faith and love.  Hope is the conviction that there can be good in life.  God plants hope in the hearts of human beings. People sometimes commit suicide because they lose that conviction.

On the positive side, hope gives birth to faith, and faith is one of the greatest things because faith brings us to God.  However, when Paul compares these two great concepts with love, without hesitation he concludes that love is the greatest thing in the world.  This is true because love is not something that brings us to something that brings us to God.  When we experience the special love Paul describes we are in the Presence of God.  There is a particular quality of love that is God and God is a particular quality of love.

To acquaint us with that specific quality of love, in the middle of this chapter he passes this quality of love through the “prism” of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect.  It comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues. All these virtues of love are others-centered, unselfish ways of expressing unconditional love. If you study these virtues you will find in them a cross section of the love that is God–and is the greatest thing in the world.

One reason Paul presents these three concepts as the greatest things is that they are the things that last.  Love is the greatest of the three because one day we will no longer need hope and faith when throughout all eternity we will love.

Therefore, pursue the greatest thing in the world – love.


Godly Fitness

October 18, 2013

“Exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for…the life that now is and of that which is to come.”  (1Timothy 4:7, 8)

As a young man Timothy was probably very interested in physical fitness.  If he lived in our culture he would be the type to join a gym and work out regularly.  Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable.  But, he declared that godly fitness was more profitable.  Paul reasoned that physical fitness improves the quality of our life here and now, but godly fitness improves the quality of our eternal life.

How real and practical is our faith in the life to come?  I am intrigued with this question: what is godly exercise?  The word “godly” means “like God.”  What is God- like?  We are told in the Word that God is a Spirit (John 4:24.)  To exercise ourselves toward godliness therefore means to submit to disciplines in the spiritual dimension that grow us spiritually.

We also read in the Scripture that God is love.  To exercise toward godliness means to commit ourselves to a study of the love that is God.  At the heart of the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), Paul passes the love of God through the prism of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues.  Pursue intentionally what the 15 virtues are and what they will look like when you apply them in all your relationships.

God is light.  Exercise yourself in this dimension of God likeness by filling your mind and heart and life with the truth (light) you find in God’s Word.  Walking in that light will profit you in this life and in the life to come.

Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?