Devotions

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Growing in Love

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:9-10 

Paul gets right to the point here. Let’s have our love be genuine. Part of Paul’s request here is contingent upon genuine love not coming from any place of evil or wickedness. Instead, Paul wants us to hold fast to what is good. What’s interesting to me is that it seems even Paul knows it can be a challenge for people to hold fast to what is good. So interestingly enough, he brings in some words of implied competition to prompt people to meet this challenge!  

 Growing up with many activities in the Athens community, I wanted to outdo others in many things. On the basketball court, I wanted to outdo others in hustle. On the soccer field, I wanted to outdo others in skill. On the chess team, I wanted to outdo others in strategy. But I never thought about outdoing others in love. I must admit this is a strange request from Paul as I read it. However, I don’t think Paul used that word—“outdo”—to motivate our thinking that we are better than other people. Instead, I believe that Paul is motivating us to keep growing in love. This is a personal investment that impacts the world around us. On the basketball court, on the soccer field, and at the chess table, it took practice for me to get better at those activities. I had to practice so that my hustle, skill set, and strategy could improve. Love takes practice, too.   

 So often we think of competition as a means of triumphing over other people. Yet, Paul introduces competition here as a means of inspiring more and more love in Christ on this earth. Therefore, if we see someone else showing the love of Christ well on this earth, then Paul’s words should push us to grow in our love, too. The end goal is not our own edification, but a growing desire to make the love of Jesus Christ known upon this earth. As we grow in love, so does our faithful and genuine sharing of the Gospel message. So if it takes words of competition to help prompt us to grow in love, then Paul’s job here is complete.   

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    Posted by Josh Miles
    in Church

    Coming Home

    So the son got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son.” Luke 15:20 

    A man had two sons… One left and one stayed behind. Both had trouble in their hearts they needed to sort out, and neither knew how to do that. Eventually both of them came back to the father, or actually, the father came to them – one on the road out front of the house, the other hiding out in the barn. And we know when this story was told for the first time, both brothers and the father were easily identified as examples of humans who hide and God who seeks, just like the shepherd looking for the lost lamb, or the woman sweeping the house looking for the lost coin. Yes, God is always searching for us, hoping beyond hope that we find our way home. We constantly struggle with our tendency to move away from God. Human beings are a fallen race… and we all build our own structures that keep us from God by what we say, how we act, and what we refuse to do. We turn away from God even when we know it is not what we want to do. 

    Coming home is about getting back to God. Unfortunately, we have to keep doing that on a daily basis, for it is a constant striving as we “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” as the Apostle Paul puts it. I don’t know about you, but I have to confess my sins and pray for God’s mercy every day. I’m always coming home to God. Let’s be honest, we are all still finding our way home, day after day, and God is still receiving us with love and forgiveness. 

    God, like the perfect parent, loves us so much that we cannot get so far away we cannot be found. Whether we are lost on the other side of Timbuktu or just lost in our own hearts and minds, God is close enough to receive us back. I invite you to come home – come back to God no matter where you are. 

    I have three children. I love each of them with all my heart. I didn’t have to fall in love with my children. I loved them from the first moment I ever saw each of them, first time I held them in my arms, my love was as complete as anyone can love anyone else. Now I know them as the wonderful and caring adults they are, but – This is important – I did not have to fall in love with them or learn to love them. I loved them from the very beginning. When the doctor put that precious little one in my hands, I was instantly in love. That’s exactly how God feels about you. God loves you because you are God’s child. 

    Yes, God loves us and no matter where we go, or no matter what we struggle with, we can always come home. The younger son took his fortune and left town, hit the road for the far country. He left his brother and his father with the family business, wasted all his money, then came crawling back home. And what was the father’s reaction? Open arms! His daddy welcomed him home with open arms, a big hug, and a party with all the family and friends! 

    Why not send him to the spend the night in the barn? Because he loves him too much. I encourage you to read the whole story in Luke 15. Let God speak to you again the words of grace and acceptance. 

    God loves all of his children too much to let any of us wander off permanently. I know we are not meeting in the sanctuary, but instead we are gathering online each week right now. I cannot think of a better time to make a new commitment to your life of faith, taking your place as a child of God in God’s family. The gospel story is an invitation from a loving God: Come home. 

    Daily Devotions Podcast

      You can listen to devotions read aloud by following or subscribing to the Athens First UMC Daily Devotions on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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      Posted by Bob Winstead

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