Warm Love

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12, NIV)

Sadly, this verse seems to sum up the current climate of our culture. We are a spiritually, morally, and politically divided people. We disagree on what is “wicked” and are quick to criticize those whose definition differs from our own. People engage in hateful dismissiveness rather than loving discourse. It is discouraging and leads us away from far more life.

Although it is right to be sad about the current state of affairs, we should not be surprised. It was predicted over 2000 years ago and has always been true to some extent. But we can consider this a call to be counter-culture and put the warm love of far more life into practice. As society’s standard of righteousness moves further from God’s standard, we have an opportunity to INCREASE our love for others and reveal God’s true character. Jesus tells us how in his first sermon:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? … And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

Love your enemies; this includes people who actively oppose us. Pray for those who persecute you; this includes people who attack us or call us names. God sets the example for us. As Creator and Judge, He would be justified in withholding all good — even sunshine and rain — from those who oppose and attack Him. But He does not. And He does not want us to withhold good, either. Looking out for the welfare of those who oppose us is an example of warm love. It sets us apart from the majority and reveals God’s Spirit living inside of us. We find far more life as we strive to be like God in our love.

…Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39, NIV)

Give the same regard to others that you give to yourself. Do kind acts for them that you do for yourself. Some people pay for the order of the person behind them in the drive thru, especially when that person has been impatient or otherwise indicated they are having a bad day. This is one way of responding with warm love. We regularly offer our neighbor warm love by clearing the snow from a significant portion of his sidewalk. It feels good to bless him in this small way. Perhaps one day it will open the door for a conversation about Christ. But in the meantime, we find far more life by showing him love.

…Urge the younger women to love their husbands and children. (Titus 2:4, NIV)

Sometimes the people we serve the most are the people for whom our love cools the most. Caring for those in our own homes day after day can become wearing. We can get bogged down in what we are doing and forget why we are doing it. When my children left home, I thought I would have a vacation from daily cooking. But soon I realized my new attitude of doing as little food planning and prep as possible was not loving toward my husband. I had to choose whether to adopt a “fend for yourself” attitude of cold love or to be a vessel of God’s warm love by continuing to regularly prepare foods we could enjoy together. When I chose to show my husband love, I discovered another level of far more life!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30, NIV)

Our love for God is the most important of all. If we let that grow cold, we will be miserable and unable to find far more life. But as we devote ourselves to loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, our love for Him and others will grow warmer and more vibrant. This love flows through a circle: as we get to know Him better, our love for Him deepens, giving us more love to give others. Then as we pass His love to others, we discover new aspects of far more life that motivate us to keep deepening our love for God. Growing our connection to God keeps our love warm.

A deeper connection to God also enables us to see others as He does. God is not surprised when people who have rejected Him increase in wickedness. The cycle of righteousness, rejection, wickedness, and revival has been repeated over and over throughout history. God also sees beyond people’s actions to their heart, and knows they are often trying to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. When we see people as God does, we offer compassion rather than judgment. Rather than cooling our love, this produces warmth.

The Bible points out that the love of most will grow cold toward their fellow humans. But a deep and genuine connection to God — far more life — gives us warm love to share with everyone around us. Friends, enemies, family, and strangers alike.

Sisters,
How has the wickedness around us impacted your love for others?
What individual or group is your enemy? What would it look like to love them?
How do or can you love your neighbor as yourself?
Is it easier or harder to love those in your household than those outside of it? Why?
Is your love for God growing warmer or cooler? How can you deepen your connection to Him?
Thank God for showing you His love — and blessing you with far more life!
-Shari

Far More Fight

We can think of far more life as a leisurely, pleasure-focused existence we will have someday. When we are more spiritually mature. When we are not simply surviving. When we sin less. When we are out of a bad situation. When…

But far more life is not about us. And it is not a level of maturity we will achieve someday. Far more life happens each moment we choose to walk in the Spirit. Consider these examples:

  • Every time we do what is right even though our sinful nature is pulling us toward doing wrong we seize far more life.
  • Every time we express patience we are responding with far more life.
  • Every time we give our worries and fears to God rather than being swallowed by anxiety we release far more life.
  • Every time we focus on thanking Him in the midst of a hard situation we reap far more life.
  • Every time we forgive someone who hurt us rather than holding on to anger or resentment we unlock far more life.
  • Every time we seek God’s direction and adopt His mindset we discover far more life.

Far more life is a simple choice to trust and obey Him. Simple, but not easy.

I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10b, PHILLIPS)

A relationship with Jesus is the only source of far more life. But His promise falls in the middle of a teaching about the spiritual battle we face. Surrounding verses describe our enemy, Satan, and his agents as thieves and wolves who want to kill, steal, and destroy us. Far more life is hard to maintain because we have an enemy working against us! Did you realize you are engaged in spiritual battle every day you live on this earth? Or have you been under siege without even knowing it? God provides all we need to overcome Satan. But He does not miraculously extract us from the battlefield; He expects us to fight.

Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. (Ephesians 6:11, VOICE)

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12, NLT)

Even though we have to fight, He doesn’t want us stuck in a deadlock. We can win more battles and enjoy far more life as we follow our Commander, God. As we learn to replace the beliefs that underlie our worry, fear, hopelessness, apathy, and sinful choices with His truth we are strengthened and become victorious more consistently.

Some of the spiritual war we are fighting is around us:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (I John 5:19, NIV)

Satan has transformed our culture into a minefield of anti-God pursuits: Destroying sexual purity and cheapening sexual intimacy. Seeking wealth, power, and fame. Bullying, disrespecting, and harming other people for personal gain. Failing to care for His creation. Ignoring His priorities and making creation the top priority. And many, many more. Sometimes we can skirt the minefield, but other times we find ourselves surrounded by danger. We can find far more life in Christ from either position.

The spiritual war is also fought in our minds:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8, NIV)

Satan actively advances anti-God ideas to draw people away from God: Heaven and hell aren’t real. People are good at their core. Each person has the right to decide what is right and wrong for them. We deserve to be spared from pain and difficulty. And many, many more. We walk securely in far more life when we reject Satan’s lies and cling to God’s perspective on this life and eternity.

Since battle is imminent, we are wise to keep our spiritual armor and weapons in the best condition possible. This, too, is far more life. Maintaining a close connection to our commander, God, results in far more life. Making relationships with other spiritual warriors a priority can also provide far more life. Recognizing and working to overcome our weaknesses produces far more life.

While we need to be prepared for daily battle, the intensity will vary. Some moments we will fight hand-to-hand. These are times we wrestle with our sinful nature and fight hard to achieve or maintain righteous actions and thoughts. I have engaged in sin and had to fight my way out rather than being pulled deeper. (Those moments in your life may not feel like victories, but they are!) Other times we will recognize our enemy from a distance and evade his attacks. I have learned to avoid certain situations where I know I will be tempted to sin. I am learning to recognize my “emotional hot buttons” so I can step back when they are close to being hit.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:6b, NIV)

Far more life is not our future goal; we can experience it today. In moments of victory over sin and Satan, we find far more life. In our moments of defeat, we can also find far more life through God’s forgiveness, comfort, and direction. Each moment we walk with God, whether in training or battle, is far more life. And when the final battle is won, every moment in heaven will be far more life. Praise God!

Sisters,
Are you waiting for far more life? Or do you embrace it in daily moments?
Are you aware of our enemy? Or is the news that you are in a battle surprising?
Where do you see the battle around you? Within you?
Stick close to your Commander this week to find far more life in and between your battles!
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Blake Bottomley