a publication of Life Action Ministries
The Love of Jesus Overflowing His love to a desperate world
Spring 2014 Volume 45, Issue 1 www.LifeAction.org/revive
6 Love That Overflows Life Action Ministries
Love Can’t Flourish Apart from God Jon Bloom 12 God Turned My Mess into a Message Maryann Loveing
16 An Encounter with Love
Joel and Melanie
22 Return to Me Wilson Green
26 The School of Love Dan Jarvis
Spirit of Revival
Love Starts Here
Come and See
Del Fehsenfeld III
15 From the Heart A Lie About Love
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
31 Next Step Love Like God
Hard Questions Is it really possible to love like God?
Making It Personal Apply principles discussed in this issue.
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Assistant Editors: Kim Gwin, Creative Director: Aaron Paulus Elissa Thompson Senior Designer: Thomas A. Jones Art Director: Tim Ritter Graphic Designer: Liza Hartman Photography: Liza Hartman, Elizabeth Meadows, Laura Wilson, Katie Bollinger, istockphoto.com: Elexa Grey, Inc., RichVintage, johnwoodcock, martinwimmer Volume 45, Issue 1 Copyright © 2014 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved. Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides, and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free of charge, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. To purchase additional copies of this issue, be placed on our free mailing list, or contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations.
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL
Love Starts Here
y friend recently told me about the first time he was on television. It was a talk show, and the interviewer was a former two-time Miss California winner. She was intelligent. Engaging. Successful. Beautiful. After the interview he went to lunch with her and her husband, and my friend shared with her a compelling description of God’s love. Following, she disclosed her deepest longing when she tearfully related, “I don’t know if anyone loves me for anything but my body or my fame. I do not feel loved. I have never felt loved.” As the cultural winds blow around us in many different directions, one truth seems obvious: People are always, ultimately, looking for love. And so many, as the song says, are looking “in all the wrong places”! When Jesus held up the cup at the Last Supper to symbolize the blood He was about to shed on our behalf, He was demonstrating the kind of supernatural, selfless love the disciples were only beginning to comprehend. Jesus’ love wasn’t calculated, cold, or compelled by some ulterior motive for self-fulfillment; His love was pure. His sacrifice was real. Jesus’ body given for us is what makes salvation possible, forgiveness available, and grace amazing. God Himself was lighting the way to a different kind of existence, a different way to do life. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, but “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). I suppose, deep down, this is what the world is looking for, somewhere, somehow, amid all the confusion and rancor and debate. Love is when a person genuinely puts someone else’s needs above their own. It’s when someone honestly cares, and even sacrifices their own self because they value someone else more. As our team here at Life Action began constructing this issue of Revive, we had a few points of reference in mind which have shaped the words you will read and the articles that have been selected. First, we want to challenge the church to “keep the main thing the main thing,” in an age where there are so many distractions. Hopefully this publication can serve as a friendly challenge to believers who need to take a fresh look at Jesus’ “new command” that we “love one another” (John 13:34). Second, revival is related to love. We might argue that love for God and others is a fruit of revival; on the other
hand, it is a cause as well. What else brings “life” back into a relationship, a church, or even a nation that is “dead,” other than genuine, spiritual, selfless love? Listen to this story of how the love of our heavenly Father moves a person to revival and transformation: God has worked in me in such painful, beautiful, almost indescribable ways during this revival. I have come to realize He is my Daddy and fills my aching heart with true, unconditional love! I have had healing from scars of being touched by a step-dad in a sexual way in grade school. I have understood forgiveness in a whole new way. My husband and I have greater intimacy. I’ve found anger, pride, and idolatry that was hidden deep and wrapped in pretty wrapping paper. I have been completely broken and restored. God restored the years the cankerworm had stolen (Joel 2:25).
Love is when a person genuinely puts someone else’s needs
Finally, the foundation of Christian unity is a generous commitment to both truth and love. How do we work together with believers toward God’s kingdom purposes? What happens when disagreements arise in that process? In the next Revive magazine, we plan to explore that topic more thoroughly, and we hope this current issue, dedicated to love, will help set the stage for important conversations in the days ahead. As always, I am grateful for readers like you who, in the course of your ministry and work, set aside time to interact with us through this publication. If there is ever any way we can serve you more personally, please let us know! v
above their own.
Executive Director Twitter: @ByronPaulus
IMAGINE YOUR CHURCH DISPLAYING THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST AND SPREADING THE GOSPEL THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
A 4-DAY CONFERENCE FOR YOUR ENTIRE CHURCH The OneCry conference is an opportunity for your church to step inside the circle and cry out for the manifest presence of God. OneCry is a worshipful, prayerful, challenging event that calls people to TURN, PRAY, and UNITE for spiritual awakening.
NOW scheduling for fall of 2015 . . .
This conference includes elements for the whole church family. It features creative environments for children, high-impact worship, cutting-edge media, and practical application of biblical truths for adults and youth.
Visit www.LifeAction.org/OneCry or call Lane Gordon for available dates: 574-276-1677.
Come and See
his is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23).* As Christ-followers, that simplifies our job description. But how are we to encourage faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His law of love? The most understood answer to that question is delineated in Paul’s letters, where we find an emphasis on preaching the gospel. Paul breaks down this logic for us in Romans 10. “How can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? . . . ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’” (vv. 14-15). For Paul, then, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (v. 17). But there is a second biblical answer to our question. John paints the problem of unbelief as a cosmic clash between light and darkness. Without the light of life coming into the darkness (John 1:4-5), it is impossible to see God. “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (v. 18). In the face of Jesus, we see the face of God. So for John, faith comes not only by hearing the message of Christ, but also by seeing the person of Christ. John develops the theme of seeing Jesus throughout the first half of his gospel. Here are a few glimpses:
This critical need for people to see Jesus sets the stage for the disciples’ confusion and consternation when Jesus tells them He must go to the cross and then return to His Father. You can almost hear their incredulous question in the background: How can Jesus, the light of the world, be seen . . . if He goes away? So Jesus begins to explain His cosmic plan to be seen by all the nations of the earth—a plan so unexpected and mysterious that John records the longest prayer of Jesus in the New Testament to unpack it. Don’t miss the profound message of Jesus’ words in John 17: Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world. . . . I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me (vv. 11, 22-23).
Love would be His ongoing face to the world long after His
Unity with God and with each other. According to Jesus, this love would be His ongoing face to the world long after His departure. Toward the end of his life, John would sum up his “theology of seeing” in his epistle: “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us” (1 John 4:12). People can still see Jesus today. How? By looking at us. I wonder, what do they see? v
• “The Word became human and made his home
among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (1:14). • John the Baptist sees Jesus passing by and dramati- cally points to Him, saying, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (1:35-36). • Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus and ask Him where He is staying. He replies, “Come and see” (1:39). • After seeing Jesus, Andrew finds his brother, Simon Peter, and tells him he has found the Messiah, and brings him to see Jesus for himself (1:41-42). • Jesus encounters the woman at the well, and after He reveals to her who He is, she goes back to tell the whole town, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” (4:28-29).
Del Fehsenfeld III
*All Scripture quotations in this article are from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.
To fully love another person, we must first learn to love from the One who is Love.
Vertical First A common refrain heard on the platform during Life Action’s events is “vertical first, then horizontal.” The vertical refers to a person’s relationship with God; the horizontal, to a person’s relationships with others. Most of the time, when discussing love, people jump right into questions like these:
New Love, New Power Vance Havner said, “Revival is the Church falling in love with Jesus all over again.” If that happened—if we did really fall in love with Jesus afresh— what might the results be? Would we not see: • More compassion for those in need?
• What if I don’t feel much love for my spouse anymore?
• Greater forgiveness extended and embraced?
• How can I show more love to my children?
• Increasing levels of generosity?
• What about the people in my life who are difficult
• More marriages healed from brokenness?
(or even impossible) to love?
• How can I minister lovingly to those in need? • What does it mean to love my brothers and sisters
We believe that the only way to fully love another person is to first learn to love from the One who is Love; to experience God’s presence; to step into a living relationship with Jesus. Initially, this involves embracing the gospel (1 John 4:19; Romans 5:8). Then, as we mature in our faith, it means continuing the things we did at first and being ever renewed in our love for Him (Revelation 2:1-7). The surest path to getting our horizontal relationships right is to ensure that our vertical relationship is right. That leads us to questions like these: • What does it mean to have a close relationship
• How can we love Him with the best of our worship
• What is standing in the way of our loving God with
• How should our love for God be expressed in prayer? • Practically, how do I keep the greatest commandment,
to love God with all that I am?
The vision of our ministry is to help ignite people with fresh passion for Christ—to ask God to send the revival of His Spirit that we so desperately need. Our prayer is that this issue of Revive helps you run headlong into His presence, into a love so indescribable and so dramatic, it changes everything. Because once God’s love changes you, it overflows and impacts your family, your church, and your community.
• A growing vision to share Jesus with the unreached?
• Better priorities among families?
Once God’s love changes you, it overflows and impacts your family, your church, and your community.
A revival of love for Jesus would have direct impact on the way we love people. The vertical would pave the way for the horizontal.
A Beginning Prayer “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
The fullness of God is never something we could comprehend or attain, but it is something with which we can be “filled to the measure.” You might call that revival. You might call it restoration. You might even call it the deeper Christian life. For Paul to the church of Ephesus, it was an answer to passionate, get-onyour-knees-and-ask prayer. The powerful, supernatural, tidal-wave changes we need today won’t come from looking “within” or looking “around”; they’ll come from looking up. Because what we need most is to be filled with Jesus, and ultimately, to overflow His love to a desperate world. v
APART FROM by Jon Bloom
ECORDING ARTIST JOHN MAYER’S CATCHY SONG CAPTURES the way many people end up defining love in total: “Love Is a
Verb.” The problem is, that’s not the whole truth. Love is not only a verb.
Now, I know what Mayer’s getting at. He means that lip-only love isn’t love. Love is displayed in action. That is true. The apostle John agrees when he says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).* But it’s still a massive and potentially dangerous oversimplification. If we reduce love to mere action, we will miss love at its source. Making love only a verb will likely make us Pharisees. Because just like you can talk loving without really loving, you can act loving without really loving. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can look like we’re fulfilling 1 John 3:18 and still not love. To understand love correctly, we must see that love originates as a noun that necessarily produces verbs.
Love So Amazing, So Divine Let’s turn to John, the “Apostle of Love,” for help with this:
• “God is love” (1 John 4:8). • “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). • “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). “GOD IS LOVE” By saying this, John is pointing us to the origin of love. In the previous verse, he writes, “Love is from God” (1 John 4:7). True love is a part of and comes from the most beautiful, most valuable, most satisfying Treasure that exists: God. “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT” It is true that love is a verb. In English, we use forms of the word love as nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. But that doesn’t change the fact that love, in its divine origin, is an action-producing noun. Even used as a verb in this verse, we end up understanding love as a noun. The word that makes all the difference. It tells us that God’s love for his Trinitarian glory, and for the Bride he determined to purchase for his Son, was the motive that moved him to the action of giving his Son.
God is love, and love is from God. Therefore, loving others is doing whatever it takes for them to have as much of God as they can. “BY THIS WE KNOW LOVE” True love is revealed in Jesus’ death on the cross. He laid his life down for us “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) in glorifying his Father (John 17:1), receiving glory from his Father (John 17:5), and providing full, eternal joy for his redeemed Bride (John 15:11). That’s what love looks like. The most helpful, single-sentence definition of love I have found is from chapter four of John Piper’s Desiring God: “Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others.” Love is not merely the action of meeting others’ needs; it includes the motive of the action. True love cherishes God supremely as the supreme Treasure and therefore wants others to also cherish the supreme Treasure and be eternally happy. God is love, and love is from God. Therefore, loving others is doing whatever it takes for them to have as much of God as they can.
Demands My Soul, My Life, My All This has huge implications. It means that true love can’t flourish apart from God. Anything that looks like love that we do for others—being patient or kind, not being boastful or irritable or resentful, giving away our possessions, even martyrdom (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 3)—that isn’t done for God’s glory and with a desire that others may taste and see that God is good (Psalm 34:8) is not true, vibrant love. Godless love is a hollow shell, a love that has lost its soul, a flower cut from its root. Godless love is sin (Romans 14:23).
Godless love is a hollow shell, a love that has lost its soul, a flower cut from its root. It makes you catch your breath, doesn’t it? How often is your “love” sin? Oh, how wonderful is the precious gospel! Jesus fulfilled the greatest commandments for us sinful lovers! There is therefore now no condemnation for us if we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). But, if you’re like me and see the frequent hollow sinfulness of your love in light of biblical love, you’ll realize that this whole “pursuing love” thing is a much deeper issue than we first thought. And the remedy is far more than us trying to do more verbs— to produce more actions. We need a deeper transformation, a profound reordering of our souls’ affections. And this only happens by looking at the glory of the great Noun until we delight in him more than anything else. So that’s where pursuing love begins: look at the Noun—gaze at God in his love. Dive into the greatest commandment before getting consumed in the second. v Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog. *All Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
God Turned into a
MESSAGE by Maryann Loveing The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word mess as “disorderly, offensive, or unpleasant because of blundering, negligence, or misconduct.” If you could put a face with this definition, it would have been mine!
UTWARDLY, NO ONE WOULD HAVE ASSUMED I WAS a mess. My parents took me to church. I was active with the youth group. I even dated a pastor’s son. But nobody knew the darkness of my world, or how desperately I longed for acceptance and love. After looking for love in the wrong places, I found myself single and pregnant at the age of 18. In the swirling confusion and pain of my pregnancy, I decided to abort the child. Nobody would know. This secret, I would take to my grave. So, in November of 1980, I had an abortion. I hardened my heart and buried the regret deep in my soul. And I honestly thought I would leave it there.
That plan seemed to be working, and within a few years, I was a confident woman on top of the world. I landed a new job that took me far away from my troubled adolescence to an exciting fresh start as a professional in a bustling city. Somehow, I also felt new winds of God’s grace blowing on my barren soul. I found a new church. I began to worship. And gradually I told God I loved Him and wanted to commit my life to serve Him. I met a wonderful Christian man, and we married. A few years later, we found out we were expecting a baby! My joy felt complete. But I was totally unprepared for what was about to happen.
On the day of my first ultrasound, I was given a glimpse into the miraculous world of the womb. I watched my child breathing and moving inside me, her little body exquisite, delicate, and vulnerable. Suddenly, the full impact of my past came flooding over me. I recoiled, my stomach trembling and lurching inside. Somehow I made it out of the hospital before the avalanche of emotions overcame me. I collapsed in wave after wave of bitter weeping. But in this deep place of grief, I discovered that God’s love is deeper still. Quietly, the Holy Spirit began to whisper something unexpected and almost too good to be true. “Maryann, I love you, My daughter, and I am trusting you with this life.”
Quietly, the Holy Spirit began to whisper something unexpected and almost too good to be true. “Maryann, I love you.” In that terrible moment, I was learning the true definition of God’s love. A love that led Jesus Christ to leave heaven to choose a cross. A love that enabled Him to bear all of God’s wrath against sin, so that He could freely give life and forgiveness to all. A love that was for me, the self-centered and confused girl who had aborted her baby. About a year after our child’s birth, my husband decided to surprise me with a trip to the Daytona 500. I like racing, and this was our first extended time alone as a couple since our daughter’s delivery. But it wasn’t long before I started crying in the car. My husband jokingly states that he thought the tears flowed out of sheer excitement about going to the race. But I was about to burst—I had to tell him about the haunting secret from my past. I sensed that oneness in our marriage meant no more hiding. I needed him to know the shame and regret present inside me. I no longer wanted to hide the tears that always flowed on Mother’s Day. We never made it to Daytona. Instead, we spent two days talking through the mess of my past. We experienced the beauty of praying together at a new level of openness. When we finished, I will never forget his response. He said, “Babe, I forgive you for not telling me sooner. But I really sense that God wants to use your story to help others.” I thought, NO WAY! THIS IS AS FAR AS IT GOES!
I’ve since discovered several powerful principles about healing from the things that bind us. First, the power of sin is in the secret. The years I spent hiding from what I had done allowed the pain to fester into wounds of paralyzing shame, fear, and self-loathing. All that time, Jesus wanted to set me free. But my secrecy kept me in a prison of my own making. Colossians 1:13 tells us that God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness.” But I can so easily slip into the domains of discouragement and depression. Isolation is the enemy of our souls. Second, we need others in order to heal. The apostle James tells us, “Confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). We need not only the forgiveness that comes from confessing our sins to God (1 John 1:9) but also the prayers, encouragement, and accountability of others. Finally, God uses us most out of our areas of weakness. The apostle Paul tells us of a time he was in such trouble and under so much pressure and distress that he “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). But in the same letter, he tells us what the terrible experiences in our lives are for: God “comforts us in all our troubles” so that we can comfort others going through trouble (1:4). But that can’t happen unless we are willing to share our messy stories!
I blew it so badly, but God refuses mercy to no one— not even me.
Today, God has given me an unexpected ministry out of the brokenness of my abortion. On the heels of sharing with my husband, I began volunteering at our local pregnancy care center. The center’s director asked if I would speak at their annual banquet. After prayerful consideration, I said yes. There was no way I could let pride keep me from giving public praise to God for His love and forgiveness. My husband and I travel into churches across the country, presenting how the biblical truths of honesty, humility, and forgiveness set us free for lives of obedience and impact for Christ. In most of those contexts, I share my story with scores of women. In the process, I now realize that I am not alone. My secret of having and hiding an abortion is one that many women share. They attend church for years, but far too often they are totally alone with the guilt and shame of their past. I have had women from 18 to 80 come up and say, “I have never told anyone about my abortion.” Pastors’ wives come to me and share about their abortions. One dear woman who had an abortion in college and kept the secret from her husband for twenty years wanted me in the room while she told him. I couldn’t believe the change in her countenance—the joy of freedom radiated in her every motion. Time and time again, I’ve seen how women who risk diving into the deep end with God end up with His blessing of freedom— the power to love and worship in a fresh way. For me it’s been an amazing journey of God’s grace. I now have six amazing children! I blew it so badly, but God refuses mercy to no one—not even me. And my life is not about me anymore. Yes, there are many times I don’t want to share, to reopen old wounds in front of new faces; but so many women come up to say, “You just shared my story.” It’s really beautiful. God turned my mess into a message! v Maryann and her husband, Ryan, have served with Life Action since 1995. Currently they and their children travel and minister full time with one of the road teams.
FROM THE HEART
A Lie About Love
od doesn’t love me.” Few of us would actually admit to believing this because, in our minds, we know we are supposed to believe that God does love us. But for many women, there is a disconnection between what they know intellectually and what they feel to be true. And therein lies one of our problems: We trust what we feel to be true, rather than what we know to be true. We look around at our relationships—a loveless marriage; rejection by an ex-mate; grown children who won’t call home or come to visit; approaching forty, and not a suitor in sight—and our feelings tell us: “Nobody loves me— not even God. He may love the world, He may love everyone else, but He doesn’t really love me. If He did, I wouldn’t feel so lonely and unloved.” We’d never say this aloud—but that is what we feel to be true. So the seed of a lie is planted in our minds; we dwell on the lie until we believe it to be true; sooner or later, our behavior reflects what we really believe; and we end up in bondage. Perhaps you can relate to “Victoria’s” background: I came from a somewhat difficult and distant family, in which love was always conditional. As a result, it was very hard for me to believe God could really love me unconditionally. That brought undue condemnation whenever I would make a mistake and sin—not that sin is anything to be overlooked, but I did not believe God would forgive me.
It is no small matter to give in to the lie that “God doesn’t love me.” The implications are enormous and affect every other area of our lives and relationships. Tiny little seeds, allowed to take root in our minds, grow up to produce a great big harvest. The truth is, God does love us. Whether or not we feel loved, regardless of what we have done or where we have come from, He loves us with an infinite, incomprehensible love. God loves me—not because I have loved Him since I was four years old, not because I seek to please Him, not because I speak at conferences and write books. He loves me—because He is love. His love for me is not based on
anything I have ever done or ever could do for Him. It is not based on my performance. I do not deserve His love and could never earn it. Scripture says that when I was His enemy, He loved me. You say, “How could you have been God’s enemy when you were a little girl?” According to the Bible, from the moment I was born, I was ungodly, a sinner, God’s enemy, and deserving of His eternal wrath (Romans 5:6-10). In spite of my alienation from Him, He loved me and sent His Son to die for me. He loved me in eternity past; He will love me for all of eternity future. There is nothing I could do to make Him love me any less; there is nothing I could do to make Him love me any more. Hannah Whitall Smith invites us to contemplate the vastness, the height, the depth, the greatness of the love of God: Put together all the tenderest love you know of, the deepest you have ever felt, and the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you, and heap upon it all the love of all the loving human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin, perhaps, to have some faint glimpse of what the love of God is.* v
We trust what we feel to be true, rather than what we know to be true.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Revive Our Hearts Radio Host
*Hannah Whitall Smith, quoted in Daily Strength for Daily Needs, comp. Mary W. Tileston (Boston: Little, Brown, 1899), 333. Adapted from Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, pp. 50–52.
The personal account of a couple whose experience with the love of God enabled them to overcome the pain and betrayal of infidelity.
M y story starts many years ago
with a seemingly innocent friendship at work. At this point my wife was my one and only. We had saved ourselves for our wedding day, and I had no thoughts of a romantic relationship with this woman. But what began with normal, work-related conversation in groups of people turned more personal. After a while, I found myself seeking times to talk one on one, still in public, and then one on one in private. It was a slow fade to sexual intimacy. Once I crossed that line, sin was so exciting. I had just violated my vows to Melanie and turned my back on the Lord, the One I claimed to know, at least till that point. For the next few years, I turned my back on all that I knew was right. I began using alcohol to numb the Holy Spirit and the guilt. These were the deepest, darkest years of my life. It seemed like the more I sinned, the less the Holy Spirit bothered me. I put on a really good act at home to mask who I had become. Out of necessity, I got good at lying and keeping two lives separate. I became a chameleon. My work schedule kept me busy seven days a week for four months out of the year, so I had an excuse not to go to church. And on the other months, I would take the family on day trips on Sundays so I could keep my exposure to God at a minimum.
What I really did in this time was create my own prison. The guilt was overwhelming, but I couldn’t tell anyone, and I really didn’t want to. I had brief moments where I thought about crashing my car on the way to work, but I feared meeting God. Trying to unlock the chains I had bound myself with seemed impossible. I was very aware of James 4:8: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” The problem with that was, when I drew closer to God, the conviction was so strong I couldn’t take it. The thought of confession to Melanie scared me to death. I tried to break off my extra-marital relationship many times, but I couldn’t walk away. Then one day, Melanie told me about a man from Life Action Ministries who had been a guest speaker at our church. He shared how God had rescued his marriage during a Life Action summit—how he and his wife had confessed to each other that they had been unfaithful, and now their relationship was stronger than ever. I immediately felt sick, wondering if this was Melanie’s way of telling me she knew about my affair. A few weeks went by, and then a Life Action team arrived at our church to conduct a summit. I’m happy about it now, but I wasn’t happy that morning. I only remember the beginning and the end of that first sermon. I remember guardedly raising my hand in the beginning as a “yes” to some (continued on p. 18)
If God could forgive me for my sin by sacrificing His Son, how could I not forgive
oel and I have been Jmarried for 24 years,
and we have two children. We both work full time and have busy lives. Two years ago, the four of us attended the first service of a Life Action summit. At the end of the service, the speaker asked the men of the church to come forward and get on their knees to pray. I thought for sure my godly husband would go . . . but he didn’t. He sat in his seat with his head down. I sat there wondering what was troubling him. Joel had not taken communion for many years, and now he hadn’t gone forward with the other men. I sat in my seat and prayed that God would release him from whatever was keeping him from being close to God. We stood to sing the closing song, and my husband looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked me to take the kids home and meet him to go fishing. I asked him if everything was okay, and he said he just wanted to spend the afternoon with me. I picked up lunch for the kids, took them home, changed my clothes, and drove to meet my husband by the creek. All the way there, my mind was racing. Did my husband just want to spend time with me without the kids, due to the hectic schedule of our lives? Or did he have something deeper to tell me? I arrived at the creek, and within moments of my arrival, my husband embraced me and started crying. He proceeded
to tell me that he had been living a lie. He had been unfaithful to me with a girl he’d developed a friendship with at work many years ago. It started as an innocent friendship and slowly developed into a physical relationship. For many years he had been living two separate lives, trying to keep them apart. I was in shock. I started to weep. I could not believe this was happening to me. How could this happen to me? I’d done everything right. I met Joel when I was 15. He was the first boy I had ever dated. He was a believer. He came from a family of three generations of believers. We had kept ourselves pure until we were married. How could he possibly have had a physical relationship with someone else? How could I ever trust him again? We spent the next several hours talking. I realized different times in our lives where now things suddenly made sense. Now I understood that our lack of fellowship with other believers was due to his guilt and not wanting people to get too close to him. But I had some confessions of my own. I was never sexually unfaithful, but over the years I was never completely honest with him about how much debt we had. As a banker, I was in charge of handling the checkbook in our house. I knew that there were a couple accounts in my name that he didn’t know about. I never set out with the intent to deceive him, but I never wanted to tell him about the balances on our accounts, because I never wanted to have “that argument.” (continued on p. 19) revive 17
Joel’s Story (cont.) questions he was asking about end-time economic issues. The rest of the sermon I spent wrestling with God. I could lie to everyone else, but I couldn’t fake it with Him. By the time the sermon ended, the Lord had done His work. My heart was broken. With tears in my eyes, I looked at Melanie and quietly asked her to take the kids to her parents’ house and then come meet me by a stream where I frequently fished. I couldn’t believe that this moment had actually come. I was excited about getting right with the Lord but petrified by the thought that I would be sharing with my wife that I
had been unfaithful to her. I had no Idea what would happen when I told her. Would she hit me, push me into the water, scream, tell me she didn’t want to ever see me again, try to kill me? My heart raced as if I were going before a judge to get a death sentence. Between sobs, I told Melanie about my double life. She wept uncontrollably while curled up like an infant. I didn’t know what to do. Could I, or should I, hold her? I have never seen anyone cry that hard before. I had just smashed my wife’s heart to pieces. By the end of the first hour, the tears had slowed enough that we could speak almost normally. Then the words came from her, and really from the Lord, that I will never forget: “I have always loved you. I still love you, and I forgive you.” I realized that God was working not only in me but very powerfully in her as well. Without His help, there was no way this could be happening. I read and prayed Psalm 51 too many times to count in the first week or so, and God has answered those prayers in a mighty way. I have been a recipient of His unfailing love, and He has restored me to the joy of His salvation. The tears of sorrow have turned to tears of joy. Coming from having no prayer life, prayer has turned into the most anticipated times of the day. Running from God has turned to constant praise and thinking about Him. Blending in at work has turned to boldness for Christ. God has restored Melanie and me to each other. We do feel already that our relationship is stronger and deeper than it has ever been. It’s crazy! I can’t say it enough, God is amazing! It is so great to look Melanie in her eyes and have her look back in mine and know that there is nothing to hide. We are committed as a couple to seek intimacy with Him on a daily basis, on our knees, where God is faithfully meeting us.
“ 18 LifeAction.org/revive
I have been a recipient of His unfailing love, and He has restored me to the joy of His salvation.
Melanie’s Story ’ ’
Every time he would get the mail, I would be nervous that he would open a bill envelope and start questioning me. Every time we would talk about finances, I would be afraid he would ask me point blank what our balances were, so I would try to change the subject before it got that far. Somehow that made me understand his fear in confessing—he didn’t know what my reaction would be, and he feared the loss of his family. After all, don’t most families with infidelity in their marriages wind up in divorce and with broken homes? That afternoon, sitting next to the creek, I recalled the story of hope from the man from Life Action—how he said that his marriage was stronger than it had ever been after he and his wife confessed their affairs and forgave each other, with God’s help. At that moment, I knew that God’s timing was perfect. He had sent the Life Action team with this story of hope. I still loved my husband. I knew that God’s grace was working through me at that moment, and I knew that I could forgive him. If God could forgive me for my sin by sacrificing His Son, how could I not forgive my husband for sinning against me if he was truly repentant? We went home and attended the evening service of the Life Action summit. I think I slept that night just from pure exhaustion. The next few days were difficult. I couldn’t get images of Joel with another woman out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about how long this relationship had gone on, about how many times I was fooled. I had a knot in my stomach most of the day and felt nauseous. Then we attended the next Life Action meeting. The message was on forgiveness, and how the pain of the past would never go away if you were still harboring bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart. God was suddenly speaking to me that I still hadn’t forgiven the woman Joel was involved with. I had felt like I didn’t need to, since I didn’t even really know her.
After the message, I realized that I would never get past the hurt and pain if I didn’t forgive her also. That night, I told Joel how God was prompting me. He couldn’t believe how God was working in both of our lives. As his confession and repentance freed him from his prison of sin, forgiveness was freeing me from the hurt and the pain. This was a turning point in the thoughts that were haunting me. That night, we both got on our knees and prayed. The next eight days were like a roller coaster. We attended every Life Action event at the church—which meant getting to bed after 11:00 almost every night and Joel getting up at 4:30 for work. We would be at church late every night, come home, get the kids to bed, and then spend time talking, crying, reading Scripture, and praying together. God was giving us the strength we needed for each day. Suddenly, we were dependent on God even for the little things in our lives. I had witnessed such a change in Joel. He was present with us. His attention wasn’t divided. We could accomplish things together. Even though he was exhausted, he was helping around the house, which allowed more time for us to spend together. God was working a miracle in our marriage. Today, Joel and I are experiencing a second honeymoon. Yes, there are times when Satan attacks with doubts or fears, but I am trusting God to be my refuge. We look forward to spending time together, and we truly have a much deeper love for each other. We have been faithful in spending time on our knees in prayer each night. We have been faithful in studying God’s Word, and we have family worship at least weekly. Through the power of love, we have a new beginning, with hope and a future. v Joel and Melanie were married 24 years in January, but they now celebrate a new anniversary in April, when God restored their marriage. They have two children, a 16-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. They continue to seek God’s will for their lives as they desire to serve Him.
MORE THAN A
ANT TO EXPERIENCE A SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION IN CHURCH? This “call to spiritual awakening” doesn’t have to be for just you and your family. It can be an experience for your entire church. Life Action's newest release, OneCry: A Call to Spiritual Awakening, is a journey for spiritual transformation—and now with companion resources for small groups and pastors, it’s also an amazing tool for the whole church!
The OneCry Experience kit provides everything needed to unite as a congregation to experience personal revival as well as cultivate a vision for seeking the Lord together for community, regional, and even national spiritual awakening. For pastors we are providing an overview of the entire OneCry Experience, including eight sermon outlines and sermon starter videos. Our desire is for you to lead your people to join with thousands of others across the nation in the one thing that seems to move the heart of God. Use this time to equip people for a new way of living and praying until revival and awakening come. We also offer church promotional tools, including posters, PowerPoint slides, bulletin inserts, and videos. These can be used to promote the event before and during your OneCry Experience. For small groups there are discussion guides for each session, prayer guides, and an accompanying DVD teaching series. The discussion guides are simple to use and will help small group leaders guide their groups to an encounter with our great, reviving God.
AN ENTIRE THERE IS A REASON WHY THOUSANDS ARE UNITING IN ONE CRY ACROSS AMERICA. The OneCry book gives voice to a surging movement of diverse Jesus-followers who recognize the profound brokenness all around us. It embraces the hope that God powerfully delivers and restores people who cry out in repentance, prayer, and obedience. This is a journey to revival. Its aim is to catalyze a resurgence of Christ-followers to unite in repentance and fervent prayer for the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in our day.
A NEW RESOURCE FROM LIFE ACTION MINISTRIES BYRON PAULUS serves as Executive Director of Life Action Ministries, the largest organization in North America dedicated solely to the mission of revival. For more than four decades, he has inspired thousands of believers to seek the Lord for widespread spiritual awakening through his writing, speaking, and leadership roles.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
BILL ELLIFF leads the pastor emphasis of the OneCry movement. As the senior teaching pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas, his passion is to see both genuine revival and methodological renewal in the church. Bill is a frequent conference speaker, writer, and consultant to churches, drawing from more than forty years of pastoring and revival ministry.
CHURCH EXPERIENCE WHAT IF YOUR CHURCH SET ASIDE TIME
TO SEEK GOD FOR REVIVAL? The OneCry Experience was designed to help your church embark on an extraordinary journey together—a journey to revival! Inspire your people to unite in repentance, fervent prayer for revival, and seeking an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit. The OneCry Experience offers companion resources to turn the OneCry book into a church-wide theme.
THE CHURCH EXPERIENCE KIT INCLUDES: ¡
Church Promotional Resources ¡ Small Group Leader’s Guide ¡
Small Group Video Sessions ¡ Prayer Guides ¡
ORDER THE ENTIRE CHURCH EXPERIENCE AT
Return t Me No matter how far we’ve wandered, Jesus invites us to return. He longs for us to rediscover the love that once defined our experience with Him.
KNOW. THERE WAS A TIME IN MY LIFE AS A PASTOR when I shipwrecked my relationship with Jesus by allowing busyness to dominate. In one particular month, I remember 28 days with activities that kept me away from home. Living on the run was the pattern of my ministry. Needless to say, I had ignored the biblical priority of relationship in the midst of activity. I was disconnected and prayerless. And I was losing the hearts of my children. Thankfully, Jesus rebuked me during a Life Action revival summit at our church, and I was deeply broken over my pride and neglect. I sought forgiveness from Jesus, my family, and the congregation. Then I resigned from a number of commitments in order to make time for the ones that mattered most. By God’s grace, I have a great relationship with my children today, and I am enjoying fruitful ministry. But there is no doubt that I owe all of that to Jesus’ severe mercy that turned me back to Him in personal revival so many years ago. Here’s the important lesson I learned from that experience:
When Jesus shows you a need for Him, you can either run, or you can return! Jesus’ words to the lukewarm believers at Ephesus tell us what’s involved in recovering spiritual passion: “Consider [Remember] how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5). Remembering from where we’ve fallen means several things. It means taking an honest look back to discover how “small” compromises led us away. It means agreeing with God 22 LifeAction.org/revive
about the condition of our hearts rather than continuing to ignore or excuse our hardness. And it means being specific about the other loves that have taken Jesus’ place in our lives. Perhaps you stopped gathering with other believers—you were too busy, or too bitter, or too proud—there could be a thousand reasons. As weeks went by without Jesus-focused interaction, fellowship, and worship, you lost your spiritual passion. The truth is that when we pull away from God’s family, we start pulling away from God Himself (Hebrews 10:19-25). Perhaps you drifted from spiritual disciplines. You ceased praying as you once did; you chose to relax in your struggle against sin; you set the Bible aside for a while, preoccupied with life’s demands. Days became weeks, and weeks became months. Perhaps you had an improper response to trials or suffering. You allowed a tragedy to jolt you away from your first love with the Lord, just at the moment when you needed Him most. Your love and spiritual interest grew cold. But remembering is only the first step. Jesus also says that we must repent. It does no good to recognize a lack of love without an about-face! Repentance means turning from our sin while turning to Jesus. It involves choosing to leave the world behind and embrace Him. And then Jesus gives one final command that is vital to completing the restoration process: “Do the things you did at first.” What did you do when you first fell in love with Jesus? Didn’t you spend time talking to Him about everything, worshiping Him with your whole heart? Didn’t you share about Him with friends? Didn’t you give generously of your time and money, out of overflowing gratitude? Didn’t you devour your Bible, out of deep desire to learn from Him?
by Wilson Green
Making the choice to intentionally do these things again is a response of our will. When we start acting by faith like someone who loves Jesus, our feelings for Him will follow. Rekindled love for Jesus often follows careful attention to obey His Word. Maybe you find yourself at a fork in the road of your devotion to Christ, much like I did. I pray that God would show you how much hangs in the balance. Jesus warned the Ephesian church that prolonged neglect of Him—a failure to remember and repent—would lead to their light going out: “I will . . . remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5). Personally, I interpret Jesus’ words like this: “If you fail to return to Me, I will remove My power and presence from your life, leaving you an empty shell. You will lose your effectiveness, and your life will not accomplish anything of eternal value.” No one wants to waste their life, to miss the big purpose. But the abundant life Jesus offers cannot be separated from Jesus Himself. All the treasures that come from God are literally found in Him (Colossians 2:2-3). So how is your relationship with Jesus? Is it burning, passionate, evident in every area of your life? Or have you settled for something less? To wanderers everywhere, Jesus still has one simple message: “Return to Me.” v Wilson Green pastored for 21 years in Virginia and Illinois, and today serves full time in Life Action.
A TIME TO RETURN
HEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOUR CHURCH REFRESHED
its love for Jesus? A time where the people were specifically challenged toward spiritual and family renewal? A time when priorities were reset, vision was recast, and hearts were refocused?
Whether your church is healthy and vibrant (ready to take a next step with Christ) or distracted and plateaued (in urgent need of revival), Life Action’s local church events can provide a time to return. Over the past 43 years, thousands of churches have taken our challenge to pause their Sunday-after-Sundayafter-Sunday activities, setting aside sacred time for spiritual renewal.
“Lord, should my church be next?” To learn more call 800-321-1538 or visit www.LifeAction.org.
? ? ?
Hard Questions Is It Really Possible to Love Like God?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Dr. Richard Fisher
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
e all feel a need to love and to be loved.
But many of us live in frustration and disappointment—even hurt—because whatever we thought love was, or wished it were, never came to us. Our souls have been left unsatisfied. In turn, we also feel guilt and regret for not having loved others as well as we know we should have. Yet all the while, God’s love stands ready to be received and shared.
Theology of True Love
The love of God shines out against a backdrop of darkness—it stands in stark contrast to the mess, the chaos, the evil, and the death we humans have created. God’s love can be seen in His compassion, His patience, His grace and mercy, His provision of a way of salvation, and His presence. Even more, God’s love offered all of this to us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). “What great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
Love Through the Bible
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). This verse tells us that our desire for and ability to love originates with and is founded in God. “Love comes from God” (v. 7).
Jesus discusses and defines love in John 15:9-17. Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. John expounds on the origin, power, and responsibility of love in 1 John 4:7–5:6.
The Bible tells us that love is most clearly demonstrated in the gift and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world . . . as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (vv. 9-10).
Even in the book of the Law (Deuteronomy), we see love and its attributes being discussed. (In fact, as I read Deuteronomy, I cannot help but catch the compassion the Father has for His children.) The prophets also abound with God’s heart of love for mankind.
For example: • Isaiah 54:5-9; 55:3 “With everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you.” • Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” • Ezekiel 18:23, 32 “Repent and live!” God’s heart of love reaches out to all mankind. It is not a fickle love; it is not a naïve, foolish love. It is grounded in creation, in reality, and in commitment to redeeming those God cares for—all His children. It is based in truth. • Hosea 11:1-4 “I led them with cords of human kind- ness, with ties of love.” In the face of destructive living and foolishness, God binds himself to Israel with bonds of love. • Jonah 1–4 “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people . . . ?” In the presence of rebellion and denial, God extends His compassion to lost mankind.
self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. Peter prescribes this process to cultivate the seed of faith into a heart and life that reflects God’s love. This process will require focused effort (v. 5) in order to prepare us for eternity (vv. 10-11). But God’s “divine power” (v. 3) makes it possible for us to develop the kind of heart and character that loves like He does! The qualities mentioned are the building blocks of a loving life, filling a believer’s heart with the kind of love Christ demonstrated for us on the cross. As our Lord said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our lives, we will develop the qualities of heart and spirit that support a life of love as children of God. v
Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
To say that “God is love” means that God Himself defines love and demonstrates it at all times. It is, in fact, all around us, even though many do not recognize or appreciate it.
Growing in Love
Because God is love, it is inevitable that His true children will also move ever more deeply into the way of love. In fact, 1 John 4:20 makes a stunning statement: “Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” We might acknowledge that God is love. We might even define love properly. But if we do not develop the heart of love so that we actually do love, all of our words and deeds are worthless. Love reveals our core identity—whether or not we are children of God. And because God is love, the more mature we are in Him, the greater our capacity to extend His love to others! Second Peter 1:3-7 explains the process of growing in love: His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge,
in the Believer
1 Goodness 2 Knowledge 3 Self-control 4 Perseverance 5 Godliness 6 Kindness 7 Love
WELCOME TO CLASS
N GREEK, THE LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, there are different words that translate into the English word love. Studying these four words can equip students with the knowledge to excel in relationships.
Storgē [STOR-gay] is the natural love a person has for relatives. This is the most basic level of love that we learn in the context of our family, and it can be extended out to close friends or a church community. The apostle Paul wrote, using this word, that we should “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10 nlt).
Phileō [fil-EH-o] is a brotherly love that is friendship driven. It is a genuine concern and care for the needs of the people around us. Peter wrote that we should share this type of love: “Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” (1 Peter 3:8).
Eros [EHR-os] is sensual or romantic love—the kind God designed to be shared within marriage. This kind of love was made to showcase the ultimate joy, affection, and harmony a man and woman can experience when they are united before God and totally committed to each other.
Though the Greek New Testament never uses the term eros, the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon is romantic love poetry that fits the context of eros love. It is rumored that Hebrew boys long ago were not permitted to read the Song of Solomon until later in life, for obvious reasons!
Agapē [ag-AH-pay] is the pinnacle of love—the kind of love that is sacrificial and selfless. This is what Jesus demonstrated when He gave His own life for the salvation of others. This all-giving love is the deepest and rarest type of love. It is the love that will make a marriage work for a lifetime, the love that will keep a family together in difficulty, the love that God wants to build into each of our lives. When asked about the greatest commandment in the whole law of God, Jesus replied that agape love is required: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
GRADUATE PROGRAM “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! . . . Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:32-36).
Learn more about love by reading: 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12; James 2; the book of 1 John v
Making It How Well Am I Loving? This tool is designed to help you evaluate your current obedience to the Greatest Commandments: loving God with all that you are, and loving others as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).
Part 1: WHAT I Love Love is a choice of commitment and loyalty; it is pursuing, protecting, and providing for what we care about most. From 1 to 6, rank each item by the order in which it consumes your thoughts and captures your daily attention:
___ Earning, managing, and investing money
___ Great experiences with entertainment and food
___ Social media connections and reputation
___ Personal devotion to God and holiness
___ Time with my immediate family members
___ Sharing the gospel, locally and globally
Part 2: WHO I Love (Circle any words that apply.) I would describe my love for God as: Passionate
Name five people God has put in your life to love, and one thing you could do to show your love for each of them this month (mate, children, siblings, etc.): 1. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ 5. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Part 3: WHEN I Love The depth of our love is tested by trials, betrayals, wrongdoing, and annoyance. Is there anyone I am loving less today because of a negative situation between us? Yes No How would Jesus like me to address that? _______________________________________________________________ Is my love for God conditional, based on circumstances being favorable? Yes No Here is one example of how I have loved God during a time of great difficulty: ________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Is my love for others conditional, based on how well they perform or please me? Yes No Here is one example of how I kept loving someone even though they hurt or disappointed me: ________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Is my love for others conditional, based on their returning that love to me? Yes No Here is one example of how I loved someone who did not or could not love me back: __________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Part 4: WHERE I Love Answer each prompt with a statement about one way you have shown love in the given context: At my office, I have shown Christian love by ______________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ In my home, I show God my love for Him by ______________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ In areas of town that make me feel uncomfortable, Iâ€™ve shown Jesusâ€™ love by ________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ In public, I display love for my spouse by __________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ At church, I have visibly shown love for others by _________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Part 5: HOW I Love Grade the quality of your love in different areas with a letter (A–F); then jot a line about why you gave yourself that grade: _____ Generosity _______________________________________________________________________________________ _____ Patience _________________________________________________________________________________________ _____ Attentiveness ______________________________________________________________________________________ _____ Sacrifice __________________________________________________________________________________________ _____ Kindness ___________________________________________________________________________________________ _____ Forgiveness ______________________________________________________________________________________ _____ Compassion ______________________________________________________________________________________
Part 6: WHY I Love While love is commanded, it shouldn’t be a forced exercise. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives (Galatians 5:22), love should naturally flow out toward our families, our friends, outsiders, and even our enemies. Write a sentence of prayer to the Lord about your desire to love each of the following: God ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Family __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Church __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Non-Christians ___________________________________________________________________________________________
Applying Biblical Love in My Life Look up the following Bible verses and use them as the basis to complete each statement. These personalized commitments regarding love can be used for prayer and further study. Romans 5:7-8 God’s love for me has been clearly demonstrated by ___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Ephesians 5:1-2 The kind of love I have for others should be ________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Two of love’s virtues that I need more of in my life are ___________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ John 13:35 My love for others will show ____________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
NEXT STEP Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).
Love Like God
od loved the world, so much. So much that
He shared Jesus with us, His one and only Son. So much that He put the offer of eternal life on the table for “whosoever” believes. We’re talking about agape-level love here—of the most faithful, most patient, most compassionate, most forgiving, most gracious, most unexpected, and most undeserved sort. Everything about God is right, pure, good, holy, and true; everything about me, isn’t. And that’s really why His love is such a shock. He didn’t love me because I earned it, deserved it, paid for it, or found it; He loved me while I was still a sinner! God in heaven, the Almighty Creator, loved a “wretch like me” enough to extend His amazing, eternal grace! Whenever I’m speaking about the gospel, I find myself moving into this familiar territory, John 3:16 and Romans 5:7-11. It is here, in these verses, that the essence of the greatest news in history can be found—news about the love of God, offered, extended, made known, revealed to a world so blind that it couldn’t even recognize Jesus when He walked among them. But there is more we need to reflect on about the love of God than simply receiving it, or understanding it. It’s not enough that we say “yes” to God’s demonstrations of lovingkindness, learn theology/textbook definitions about grace, or even thank Him for His mercy. God wants us to experience His love at such a deep level that we begin to share it with others. It should overflow from our lives, as a fruit of His Spirit. God’s design is that His rich, abundant, dramatic, compassionate love would flow to me, and then through me! Such a pass-forward of divine love is actually important evidence that my faith is authentic. If I’m not overflowing God’s love toward others, I have little more than ritual religion. John wrote this in the most obvious of terms:
Of course, those verses pertain directly to loving our fellow believers in Christ. But as a next step, I’m going to suggest something radical—something I see in the life of Jesus, and something I read in the biographies of so many Christians who have lived the kind of life He died to provide. I’m going to suggest that we love the world, like God did, as John 3:16 describes. So much. Really? Even when it doesn’t love me back? How would we even begin? The best way to learn is to observe the Master, and imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1-2). He looked people in the eyes and saw their deepest need (John 4). He was patient and direct with those slow to understand (John 3). He befriended the outcasts and sinners (Luke 15). He did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). Then, He went to the cross. As His representative, His follower, can I love the world like that? The broken and beaten I pass by on the road? Those I find hard to get along with? Those who have hurt me? Those I don’t even know? God’s love led Him to share Good News with a world in need. It should compel you and me to do the same. v
God’s love led Him to share Good News with a world in need.
Daniel W. Jarvis
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay our down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:16-17).
P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 269-697-8600 • www.LifeAction.org
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Igniting Movements of Authentic Christianity Life Action Ministries exists to mobilize believers across America to seek God for another great spiritual awakening, and to help them experience God’s power and presence. Our family of outreaches is igniting movements of Christ-centered revival among God’s people in innovative, life-changing ways.