Month in Review - February 22, 2016 - by Victoria
WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US
February’s theme was "LOVE". It’s a big, very significant, destiny-changing word. So for our review this month, I thought we should take a closer look at love from a scriptural viewpoint with one simple takeaway:
How to Love (even the unlovable)
As Christ followers, it’s important to understand God’s view on love. Extending love, receiving love and even loving ourselves is not always easy or natural for every person. So what does our Lord, the author of love, have to say about it?
The Great Commandment: Love God first; second, love your neighbor as yourself (1 Corinthians 13:13; Matthew 22:36-40)
We all have had relatives, co-workers, neighbors, ex-spouses, and acquaintances who seem to challenge us on following God's “Great Commandment” to "love your neighbors as yourself". We might lean on grace at times as an excuse to not even try, because they just make it so difficult, right? But we know as followers of Christ, it's our duty. Yes, duty. We don't have to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about someone to love them. Love is first a decision, and with God's help is followed by the heart. (But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44). So how do we love? Even those who we perceive as hard to love? The truth is, we can't in our own strength. We must rely on Christ within. What are some of the ways that we can tap into the power of Christ within us?
According to Bible Gateway, research has shown that “the key process in training ourselves and others to fulfill the Great Commandment is to grow in scripture engagement. Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on scripture. A maturing Christian continually grows in love for God and others”.
If you think about it, scripture tells us that the Word is God, so if we are to draw closer to God, we must draw closer to scripture. In so doing, we will learn who God is, about His character and about the incredible love He has for us. This is crucially important, because I don't think people - even some believers - truly understand and believe just how much God really and truly loves them - just as they are! No exceptions – the whole world, including those who reject Him! Once someone truly gets it, they can't help but fall madly in love with God. It’s only then that we begin to feel His love as it fills us to overflow! That’s the beauty of the Gospel. This is why He said in all His wisdom, that we must love Him first, and then second, love our neighbors. He knows that we can't truly love on our own without Him, but would need His love living in us to truly love others unconditionally…even those we consider hard to love.
So WHAT is Scripture Engagement? I love the way Bible Gateway describes it, so I have posted it here for you:
“It is a way of hearing and reading the Bible with an awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily meet God. It is a marinating, mulling over, reflecting, dwelling on, pondering of the Scriptures, resulting in a “transformative engagement” with God. While all reading of scripture is better than not coming to the bible at all, scripture engagement tries to correct common but inadequate approaches to the Bible. With this approach many stop reading thinking that something is wrong with the Bible or with themselves. With a little training and encouragement, the life-changing nature of the Scriptures can be experienced by anyone”.
What about the HOW of Scripture engagement? To engage in scripture, we cannot approach the bible in a casual manner, and read it like just another book. It is far too great and glorious a love letter written for us by the God of the Universe whose wisdom is infinite. Bible Gateway goes on to say, “The Bible itself teaches us how we are to approach God’s Word. Words the Bible uses include “meditate” (Psalm 1:2, Joshua 1:8, “reflect” (2 Timothy 2:7), “look intently” (James 1:25), “dwell” (Colossians 3:16), “ponder” (Psalm 119:95), “consider” (Jeremiah 2:31), and even “eat” (Jeremiah 15:16, Revelation 10:9-11)”.
Here are 7 simple steps to engage with scripture:
Regular reading is an obvious start, followed by
Regular study on your own or with a group,
Going deeper through Journaling,
Memorizing the scriptures,
Praying the scriptures,
Singing the scriptures through praise and worship songs,
And last but not least, sharing God's word.
There are many tools and resources available from online sources, apps, bookstores and our local churches to help us stay in the word and study the word on a regular basis. Social media has also opened a wonderful gateway for sharing the gospel. At Passages Forever we also aim to provide support and tools to help you on this great journey. The Christian walk is an ongoing journey. We are never so mature that we can't take it to a new level, Amen? It's my hope that this blog will inspire you to get to that next level of love with God and others. Praying for you for deeper scripture engagement. Love you.
~We Love because He First Loved Us~