Love!

1 Peter 4 8 NLT

 

“The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them to serve one another.” – 1 Peter 4:7-10

 

We are told by Jesus that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God… [and] love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31) We are also told by Paul that if we don’t operate out of love, “it profits [us] nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Love, without a doubt, is the defining characteristic of someone who has been saved by Jesus Christ (see John 13:35). However, what does this “love” look like? Is it merely something we say to each other, or is it something much greater?

 

This passage in 1 Peter 4 has been my crutch throughout my brief time in ministry. I am absolutely thankful to my mentor in ministry for showing me this passage, as it has helped me through years of hard times and heartbreak. For all of us, there will come times when we say or do the wrong thing and upset someone that is near to us. It is in love that those wounds can be mended and a relationship restored. As my mentor taught me, “You will mess up eventually. The difference is in whether or not they know you love them. If you show love for those people, they will forgive you. If they don’t know you love them, that relationship may never be restored.”

 

Love is an action; it is something that is shown to others through deed, not just word. Love is something that is felt and seen, not simply something that is heard. You need to show love to others in order for it to be real. Sometimes it is as simple as showing up to a graduation ceremony or taking someone out for a meal, or as difficult as forgiving an individual for a serious sin against you. Love can be shown in a variety of ways, but still needs to be shown, not just said.

 

How will you show love to others around you today? This week? This year? Is there someone who needs a phone call or a comforting shoulder to cry on? Is there someone who needs a roof over their head, or a meal in their stomach, that you can help provide? What are you willing to do to show love?

 

Talon Paul

 

We are preparing to Seek Grow and Love in 2020 with a chronological Bible reading plan.  Now is a great time to download and print your plan  2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and subscribe to SeekGrowLove.com to receive daily devotions based on each day’s Bible reading.  Show your love for your Heavenly Father by reading His love letter to you.

I believe, I believe

strengthened in his faith.png

Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

–Romans 4:20-21

There is a line in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” that I find myself playing repeatedly in my thoughts whenever I become discouraged or tempted to completely forsake any number of particular dreams I have. Little Suzy had finally come to believe that Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus and she dared to ask him for the biggest thing she could imagine, a house for her and her mother to live in; complete with a big tree in the backyard from which a swing hung. Christmas day had come and was just about over, when she finds herself sitting in the back seat of the car with her mother and Mr. Gailey, Santa’s lawyer. As they drive through a quaint subdivision, little Suzy says over and over, “I believe, I believe; it’s silly, but I believe”, with so little enthusiasm that the movie-goer can practically feel the hope drain out of her heart. With one last gigantic sigh, Suzy looks up and out the window to see the exact house that she had asked Santa for. All of a sudden her downtrodden countenance becomes full of life!

Now please don’t mistake my comparison of Santa Claus to the Almighty, but I do think that God instills in each one of us really big hopes and dreams that He alone can execute. In today’s scripture, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Roman believers by reminding them of how big God is and how there is nothing that will prevent God from fulfilling a promise that He makes to those who call Him Father. Abraham and Sarah’s situation was laughable when put next to the promise that God had made them – but the soon to be father of many nations “strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God”.

How about you? Is there a call, purpose, dream, vision that you completely believe came from God and you have no idea how he’s going to get it done considering your present circumstances? I have several and I have my days when I look up to the sky and ask God, “Were you really serious about this because I don’t see it happening.”  The reasons for any delay are as varied as the number of hairs on your head, but that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten. He’s waiting for the perfect time to bring your dream into fruition.

In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your hope alive and it starts with diving into His Word daily. The more you immerse yourself into what God has already done, the easier it will be for you to state, “I believe, I believe, God loves me, and I believe.”

Dear Friend, God sees you, He hears you, and He’s making something beautiful of your life! So be encouraged and remember to give Him Glory.

Bethany Ligon

 

Daily Diving Into His Word!  Indeed, a great way to keep your hope alive in 2020.  A great way to help you SEEK God and His kingdom First (not with your left-overs).   A great way to strengthen and GROW your faith.   A great way to motivate you to LOVE God and others.  SeekGrowLove – it’s our new blog name and we are gearing up to jump into 2020 with daily devotions based on a chronological reading of the Bible in a year.  Later today the reading plan will be available to print from the SeekGrowLove.com site.  Print it and share it with your friends, family, and church group.  Help them SeekGrowLove, too!  Follow the site to receive daily devotion emails based on your reading for the day.  The plan starts January 1 with Genesis 1-3.  I can’t wait to see how God is going to reveal Himself and work with His children as we read through His Word in 2020 and sharpen our SeekGrowLove skills. 

Praying for your journey, 

Marcia Railton, editor

Seek Grow Love

(We had a name change last night!   What was formerly FUEL Bible Reading Blog – Grow16BibleReading has changed to a simpler SeekGrowLove.com.  Here you will still find daily devotions from various writers, all based upon God’s unchanging Word, encouraging and instructing us on how to Seek His Kingdom, Grow in Our Faith, and Love God & Others.  SeekGrowLove.  In the New Year we will begin a Chronological Bible Reading Plan – but more on that tomorrow.  Now for today’s devotion from Bethany!)  

Hebrews 4_14

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate and unexplained kinship with them? The connection between you and your new friend provides the opportunity to relate in unique ways. 


About a decade ago, I was attending a fairly large church and looking for a small group Bible study to become involved with. The church had an online catalog of all the small groups that met and I chose to visit one that coincided with my demographics – single and thirty-something. 


Within minutes of meeting the existing members of the Bible study group, it felt as if we had known each other for years. We talked about ourselves and eventually our conversation turned to where we had grown up and gone to school. We discovered that two of us had attended the same high school – I was just a few years younger. While we didn’t know each other back in the day, we realized that we had a few mutual friends. Our instant familiarity now made sense. 


There’s something special about the people that you grow up with – even if you don’t know them at the time. You share common experiences, mutual friends, and a general understanding of the community that helped shaped you as an individual. 


For my friends and I, we were able to share more deeply, quickly and our friendships are still some of the most important more than 10 years later. 


Hebrews 4:16 starts off with “Let us THEN approach the throne of grace with confidence…” What allows us to do this? What’s the THEN there for? We need to back up and read verses 14 and 15 to be clued in. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence, because the one who sits on the throne is able to sympathize with weaknesses because He had been tempted in every way, as we are, yet was without sin. 


Jesus is familiar with what it’s like to live on this earth with all of its guts and glory because He’s done it Himself. Jesus is not a high priest who is oblivious to our situations. Our confidence comes from knowing that He can relate to us. The mercy and grace that we are offered is because Jesus first walked in our shoes. He knows what we need, when we need it, how we need it and why it’s needed. 


What an incredible gift this is to us! To know that our Savior is approachable because He can relate to our needs is such a comfort. 


So let this be your reminder that there is nothing too big or too small for you to bring before the Son of God. You will find all that you need to sustain you. Have confidence in this Good News.

 

Bethany Ligon

Cleaning Up

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5 8

I’m going to start this by stating very plainly that I’m normally a super hygienic person but there are some times in life when showering just is not an option. We all know that feeling like your skin has an extra layer of grime and you just feel nasty.

I remember one of those times when I felt particularly gross and grimy was after my first backpacking trip. I hiked 4 peaks and climbed something close to 12,000 vertical feet with a 45 lb backpack and the temperature was in the mid 80’s. Luckily the trip was only two days and I really only missed one shower. Needless to say by the time I reached the parking lot at the end of the trip I was feeling pretty dirty. The natural thing to do is to go take a shower and clean ourselves up. Right when we get dirty we wash it off. This way we won’t royally offend people’s nostrils with our B.O.

It’s easy to realize when we’re physically dirty. We can literally feel the grime and (hopefully like myself) try to maintain good hygiene. Sometimes the thing that we fail to recognize is the condition of the heart. We allow our hearts to want, wish, and hope for things that it shouldn’t be hoping for. In our day to day lives it is easy to let the world distract us. Some of the things that we desire aren’t bad things at all and may even have godly results. In essence we can let the world contaminate our hearts or desires to become skewed.

I believe that the life God wants us to live is really just an outpouring from our hearts. Our actions are an indication of the condition of our hearts whether this causes godly or worldly behavior.

How then are we supposed to cleanse a heart when it gets dirty and we allow things in that shouldn’t be there? The answer is pretty easy. We need to ask God to purify it but we also have to put in personal effort. We obviously have to want to have it clean – that means asking God for help in submitting our hearts and minds to focus on Him. Also, not allowing ourselves to focus on things we shouldn’t. The thoughts you allow yourself to dwell on will eventually be imprinted on your heart. Think of your mind as the arena where battle for your heart and life is won and lost.

James 4.8 tells us “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded.” The truth here is that the double-minded do need to have their hearts cleansed. This is exactly what happens when our hearts become contaminated. We need to be singularly focused on God.

The best way I have found to do this is just praying two phrases as often as needed throughout the day. “Lord, I give you all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength. Help me stay focused on you.” Feel free to change the phrasing to suit you but I think praying a prayer like this will go a long way helping you stay focused on God.

So all this talk so far and we haven’t even gotten to our beatitude. Consider everything before this the pre-requisite for the beatitude. Today’s beatitude is Matthew 5.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Of all the beatitudes and really all the promises of God there isn’t another which I want to be realized in my life so badly. For a Christian I don’t think there is a reward higher than this. I think that the greatest of all human desires is “to know and be fully known.” Obviously one aspect of that is already completed by God. We are already fully known by God. He knows our minds and our hearts. We, though, don’t fully know God. I don’t know if we ever will but I want to know all that I can. On this earth we do all we can to know him. We pray, read scripture, look to see his glory in nature and we catch glimpses of him in all these things but it isn’t seeing him. It is not viewing him on his throne in real life. I feel like we only get to see God’s social media account and we never get to see him in person. Except God’s social media doesn’t come close to the majesty and beauty that he actually has. I don’t think our physical bodies could handle beholding a holy God in all his beauty and magnificence.

This is why we need to keep our hearts pure. So that one day we could see God for all that he is.

Daniel Wall

Poor in Spirit

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3

Matthew 5 3 niv

Having just finished Revelation I thought it would be beneficial to revisit Jesus’ teaching for the next six days. There really is no better place to do this than the Sermon on the Mount. In my opinion this is the most important teaching that Jesus gave us. We will be expanding on six of these beatitudes over the course of the next week. Hopefully, a beatitude a day will keep the doctor away and make us spiritually healthy. And yes, my corniness knows no bounds.

So today let’s explore the first beatitude found in Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Let’s start with this first word “Blessed”. What does blessed actually mean? The debate over this topic is varied but I think we can generally assume it simply means happy. I don’t think it means momentary happiness. I believe what Jesus is aiming at here is long term, lasting happiness, the kind of happiness where you know all you are doing and being is worth it.

Now, for the command “poor in spirit”. For the longest time, like longer than a decade, this phrase left me confused. I have talked to all sorts of different pastors and people seeking an explanation but always walked away unsatisfied. I was left feeling like their definition was somehow incomplete. Finally, I heard it defined as spiritual brokenness and this finally made sense. But what does that really mean, right? This story may help.

When I was twenty years old my sister and I swapped vehicles because I was doing a lot of driving and had a truck with terrible gas mileage. My little sister wasn’t driving a lot and she wanted to drive my truck because well, it was really awesome. It was jacked up with a wicked exhaust system. Basically, it was every teenage boy/country girl’s dream truck. One super early Saturday morning my dad woke me up saying “There is something wrong with your truck” and hands me his cell phone with my sister on the line. He then left the room and probably went back to bed.

Much to my surprise on the other end was my now “frantic and scared for her life” sister. She explained to me how the truck had just stopped moving. Even though the engine was still running. Now this probably wouldn’t have been an issue if it was a normal situation but it wasn’t. The truck broke down during the middle of morning traffic on one of the few bridges that stretches for miles across the Hudson River with no shoulder or pull off at all. Even this would have been fine if it had been bumper to bumper traffic which is typical in New York City but it wasn’t. Traffic was moving well, really well actually and cars were flying past her at 60+ mph. She was stuck in the right hand lane of traffic literally praying to God that they would miss the truck.

In this moment she was experiencing the hopelessness of my truck’s brokenness with danger coming fast directly behind her. It is the same way with spiritual brokenness. Without God we are spiritually broken and helpless. The honest truth is that we are in danger and that without God and Christ our “trucks” are not moving on the middle of a highway, that if we were to stay there – it would end in our deaths.

We adopt this attitude of being “poor in spirit” when we realize how much we need God, his son’s sacrifice and how broken we are without him. We acknowledge God’s holiness and that we don’t deserve his grace or his love. We realize there was/is nothing we can do to earn any of what he has done for us. This isn’t condemnation for the sake of making ourselves feel ashamed or worthless rather it is acknowledgement of how much we need him and all that he has done for us. You can look at your sin and say “I suck” or you can look at your sin and say “I have a great, merciful God who loves me more than I understand.”

This is summarized well in the quote “Those who feel their spiritual need.” by Goodspeed.

So, let’s adopt this attitude of brokenness and helplessness before God because not only will we be happy but we will also have the kingdom of God as well.

 

Dan Wall

Keep Running

FREE THEME

Hebrews 12 1 (2).png

 At our house, fall Saturdays (and several summer Saturdays, too) are all about cross country.  My son is a senior and has been running cross country since 6th grade. And this momma has grown to love watching the boys compete.  I wonder how much more our Heavenly Father loves to watch, encourage and cheer on His children who are giving it their all out on the course. 

Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was a runner himself, or had been to the games to cheer on his runner.  He wrote, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1). There are indeed so many parallels between the sweaty, tiring, exhilarating, physical sport of cross country racing and the spiritual race we are all in – for even when we are hunkered down, unmoving – the race is going on around us.  

First off – it is most important to know that the race isn’t just what is done on Saturday morning on the course.  It is all week long, all season long, all the training – effort – preparation – dedication – time – perseverance – discipline.  Likewise, if your spiritual race consists solely of an hour or two at church on Sunday morning, it will not be a very impressive race.  God desires more. The daily workouts – Bible reading. The high protein snack after a work-out – digging deeper into Scripture study. Hydrating daily throughout the week – prayer.  Avoiding the ice cream, pizza and pop – staying away from negative and harmful influences, entertainment and activities.  There are disciplines to follow to be a great runner – just as there are disciplines for being a follower of Jesus.  

Paul also got some good mileage from the racing metaphor.  He wrote to Timothy, “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)  On the cross country course it goes without saying that you actually have to run the assigned, mapped out race and follow the rules in order to compete.  Yet, in our spiritual race so many times we try to create our own course or our own rules.  

One thing I didn’t know about cross country 6 years ago was how much it is a team sport.  Sure, every runner wants to compete their best, finishing the race in a shorter time than before.  However, a team won’t win if they have just one or two top finishers. Their team score is compiled by what place their first 5 racers take – and the lowest score wins the meet.  So, it is in the best interest of every member on the team to run the best race they can – while at the same time helping and encouraging and motivating their pack of runners to finish well.  Similarly – the spiritual race is not an individual event. We are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), gently restore one caught in sin (Galatians 6:1), and of course, love (lots and lots of verses, including John 13:34).  How can you help a fellow runner better prepare for a strong race this week?

It’s God’s course – run it well according to His rules.  

Jesus makes an awesome coach – he’s run the race and knows what you need to succeed on the course of life.  Keep your eyes on him.  

Be disciplined – daily.  Your race requires dedication

Help your fellow runners.

 

Keep Running with Perseverance,

Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

Growing Love

FREE THEME – Loving through Service

Matthew 22 39

This past week I went to Love Grows, a weekend youth retreat focused on growing your love for others through service. Throughout the weekend we were striving to follow Jesus’ teachings when he told us the two greatest commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).  This is so important to live by daily. If we love God then we will love others. We need to express unconditional love to everyone, always. By doing this we can train ourselves to see God’s work that needs to be done. Ask God for courage to step out of your comfort zone to do His work. Thankfully, God has given us spiritual gifts, talents, and passions to serve those around us. So use them.  

 

One easy way to show love to others is to serve them. As Christians it’s our responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Thankfully we can look to the best example of a servant’s heart. Jesus. The most exciting part is that there are so many different ways to shine and serve.  It could be as simple as giving someone a hug or a high five. Or even easier, smiling. Whatever it may be, take a minute of your time to invest in someone else’s life. Compliment. Listen. Encourage. It’s amazing how big of an impact a little kindness can have. We just have to keep our eyes open for opportunities. 

 

 I want strangers to be able to know that I am different. I want people to see God in me. And I hope you all have similar goals. The only hitch is that it has to be more than just a goal. We need to act in order to make it reality. We should make it a priority. Jesus called us to be different. Be the change. We have a higher calling. Higher standards. Higher expectations. Jesus is calling you to love. 

 

Makayla Railton