Equipping Christians & churches for whole-life discipleship in the world.

The Power of Love (4): Loving Others

February 4, 2013
04 Feb 2013

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour 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… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Matthew 5:43-46

Many of the people we come across on our various frontlines struggle with life. Behind the smiling masks are relationship breakdowns, bereavement, debt, addictions, worry and fear. The workplace is not always a safe place to let anyone see behind the mask – especially if that painful situation is then relayed, with embellishments, down the office grapevine.

Yet the workplace and other frontlines are our places of ministry – where we are brought into contact with hurting, sinful men and women, and given opportunities to bind wounds and wash feet. Of course, it takes time to love our neighbours, especially when everyday life is so task-focused and hectic. Giving people time and a confidential ear can be costly.

Eugene Peterson puts the challenge this way in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (IVP):

‘Every day I put love on the line. There is nothing I am less good at than love. I am far better in competition than love. I am far better at responding to my instincts and ambitions to get ahead and make my mark than I am at figuring out how to love another. I am schooled and trained in acquisitive skills, in getting my own way. And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily – open myself up to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.’

The power of love is most evident not when we love those who are loveable, but when we love the people that, in the eyes of the world, we should naturally despise. Yet to love those who may wound, hurt or reject us is to make ourselves vulnerable. Each day the challenge of loving is to allow the love of God to flow through us, expressing forgiveness and compassion instead of responding in kind. Why do we do this? ‘We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). And his love has the power to heal our wounds and drive out our fears.

On 11 February we launch our fourth prayer pathway, ‘The Power of Love’. Together we will explore the power of God’s love flowing through us to others. Join this exciting prayer journey!

 

Bev Shepherd
Bev is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).

The Power of Love (3): Loving God

January 28, 2013
28 Jan 2013

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’
John 21:15

Imagine one of those days when you fail to achieve anything, despite your best efforts. Then, in what can only be attributed to God’s provision, everything changes exactly as needed – the inspiration comes, the technical problem is fixed, colleagues cooperate, relief comes, and you see a way through. Then, into this context, Jesus asks ‘Do you love me?’ Surely it would be easy to answer in the affirmative to someone who has just met our most immediate need.

This was the question Jesus asked Peter three times, following Peter’s threefold denial of him (John 21:15-17). Since love is at the heart of both the old and new covenants, it’s a question that reverberates down the centuries for each of us.

What does it mean to love God? Unlike God’s love of us, our love of God will always have an element of ‘need’ in it. We acknowledge this when we come to him with our requests, and we are encouraged to do so (Philippians 4:6). Yet if our love for God is solely about fixing our problems, getting our needs met and easing our pain, it does not qualify as love. The result might be that when we are well, happy, and everything is going our way, we will ignore God. Sadly, our relationship with God can become about ‘using him’ rather than knowing him, and growing in our knowledge of him.

When we love someone, we want to know them – what matters to them, their likes and dislikes, their character and motivation. We enjoy spending time in their company; we talk with them and listen to them. The same is true of loving God. And this love permeates and changes every aspect of our lives: how we work, how we make decisions, how we organise our time, how we relate to others, how we spend money or use our possessions. The change is at the most fundamental level – that of ownership. ‘Our’ lives are no longer ‘ours’ – they belong to God and are intimately joined to his.

So may we reply with Peter, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’

 

On 11 February we are launching our fourth prayer pathway, ‘The Power of Love’. We will explore together the power of God’s love and our response to it. Join this challenging prayer journey!

 

Bev Shepherd
Bev is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).

The Power of Love (2): The Cross

January 21, 2013
21 Jan 2013

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:18, 25

Which of us hasn’t wished, on occasion, for more power in a situation – to challenge a directive from the boss, to influence a team member, to reorder the organisational priorities, or simply to go home on time? We all experience or exercise power of one type or another in our places of work, and they can all be used either positively or destructively. The motive underpinning their use is key.

Yet the ‘power of love’ is very different. It doesn’t seek to manipulate others into a particular action; nor does it bully and coerce in order to provoke fear. In fact, it can look weak – as did Jesus on the cross.

In The Cross of Christ (IVP), John Stott wrote: ‘Look at him [Jesus] there, spread-eagled and skewered on his cross, robbed of all freedom of movement, strung up with nails or ropes or both, pinned there and powerless. It appears to be total defeat. If there is victory, it is the victory of pride, prejudice, jealousy, hatred, cowardice and brutality. Yet, the Christian claim is that the reality is the opposite of the appearance… The victim was the victor, and the cross is still the throne from which he rules the world.’ The kingdom of God is ruled on a very different basis from earthly kingdoms; it is ruled by love.

The cross not only elicits our worship but directs our conduct in relation to others – family members, close friends, and work colleagues. We are called to ‘walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Ephesians 5:2). And walking the way of love – the way of the cross – is powerful.

In February we are launching our fourth prayer pathway, ‘The Power of Love’. We will explore together the power of God’s love, demonstrated on the cross, to change the world – and especially that part of God’s world where we live and work.

Join this powerful prayer journey!

 

 

Bev Shepherd
Bev is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).

 

The Power of Love (1): God’s Love

January 14, 2013
14 Jan 2013

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you…
Deuteronomy 7:7-8

Summarising, somewhat cheekily, what this gifted Christian management consultant had just implied, I said: ‘So God is really rather lucky to have you on his team!’ My friend is not alone in his thinking. Our human pride likes to devise a list of clear and logical reasons why God should love us: our attractive personalities, our wisdom and achievements, our compassion and hard work on behalf of others, to name but a few.

On those days when we are painfully aware of our lack of ‘lovability’ we can feel vulnerable to rejection. Yet the truth is that there is not one logical reason for God to love us – he loves us simply because he has chosen to love us. He loves us because he cannot help loving – it is his very nature.

The wonderful corollary to this truth is that no failure or flaw in us can rob us of his unconditional love. Paul concludes that nothing ‘will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:39). We cannot earn his love, nor can we lose it, escape it or be separated from it. No wonder Paul prays that we, ‘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).

It is as the revelation of his love penetrates our hearts and minds that we are enabled to love: ‘We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). And just as his love has the power to transform us, so his love flowing through us to the person in front of us or at the other end of the phone – be they colleague, customer or boss – has the power to change everything!

In February we are launching our fourth prayer pathway, ‘The Power of Love’. We will explore together the power of God’s love, demonstrated on the cross, to change the world – and especially that part of God’s world where we live and work. Our faith will be stirred as we see and share answers to our prayers.

 

Join this encouraging prayer journey here!

 

 

Bev Shepherd
Bev is the PrayerWorks project leader and an LICC associate speaker. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of ‘Insight into Stress’ published by CWR.