A True Friend

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

(Ruth 1:16-17 NLT)

Naomi lost all that was dear to her–her husband and two sons. With nothing left to offer her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, Naomi urged them to return to their own families. Realizing she had nothing to gain from her relationship to Naomi, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and headed back to her people and gods. But Ruth didn’t. As a true friend (thereby living up to her name), Ruth continued to cling to her desolate mother-in-law. She loved Naomi for who she was and not for what she could offer, and her selfless devotion was greatly rewarded. Ruth later remarried and had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David, the great Israelite king, and thus an ancestor of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

A true friend loves you for who you are not for what you can give.

Restored Relationships

Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care.

(Acts 15:37-40 NLT)

After reading about Paul and Barnabas’ great ministry together, it’s very disappointing to learn about their sharp disagreement and separation. However, they didn’t let it get in the way of the ministry, and Paul’s letters seem to indicate that Paul, Barnabas and Mark eventually worked out their differences (see 1 Corinthians 9:6; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11). It’s painful to be separated from the people that we love because of a disagreement. But the good news is that any broken relationship can be restored and strengthened.

Broken relationships can be restored.

Heart Transplant

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

(Jeremiah 24:7 NIV)

The Bible has a lot to say about the heart. It seems that this God-given organ plays a vital role not only in our physical, but spiritual lives as well. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” David prayed (Psalm 51:10). And Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Therefore, in today’s passage, God promises to give us just that – a pure heart. I picture God performing heart transplant surgery on us. He replaces our weak and sinful hearts with His strong and pure heart. Through time, our hearts begin to respond to His. I’d love that. Wouldn’t you?

God replaces our weak and sinful hearts with His strong and pure heart.

A Sense of God’s Tenderness

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)

A while ago, I began to meditate on this verse, which I had often overlooked while reading the book of Zephaniah. And while I couldn’t quite pin down the meaning of the verse, there was still something about it that grabbed my attention. I think that it has to do with the tender way that God treats His children. He takes great delight in us, quiets us with His love and rejoices over us with singing. I don’t think we meditate enough on the gentle and loving way that God wants to deal with us. Yes, we may have an idea of it but I don’t think we really get it. I didn’t, until I took the time to dwell on this verse, and I encourage you to do the same, so that you, too, can get a sense of the tenderness of our loving, heavenly Father.

God’s treatment of His children is profound.

He Loves Us Just the Way We Are

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Romans 5:8 NIV)

A few years ago, I had a student who I grew to love. At first glance, there was probably not much to love about him. For a four-year-old, he was very tiny, still acted like a baby and had a constant runny nose. In fact, many teachers were quick to push him away. To be honest, I did too, at first. But then he hurt himself. Who wouldn’t feel sorry for a crying child in pain? I befriended that little guy and yes, I even dared to wipe his runny nose!

God loved us in spite of our sins, and “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us while we were still a mess and not worth loving. And while we were pushing Him away in our rebellion and disobedience, He was trying to embrace us. He couldn’t bear to see us die in our sins. It was His death that reconciled us to God and made us His friends. Christ wiped away our sins.

“God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.” Max Lucado 

Pour on the Love

Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain… Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love.

(2 Corinthians 2:5-8 MSG)

Whether Paul is referring to the incident recorded in First Corinthians chapter 5 is unclear, but one thing is clear – the person who had committed the offence had expressed genuine sorrow for his sin and the apostle now counsels the Corinthian church to stop being so hard on him and “to pour on the love.”

We live in an imperfect world and pain is inevitable. There are people who will cause us a lot of pain. And it’s so easy to “pour on the guilt” until that person is “[drowned] in it.” But Paul had a different mindset. The apostle who didn’t carry around a list of personal grudges (2 Corinthians 2:10), advices the Corinthians (and us) to stop pouring on the guilt and instead, to help that person back on their feet. After all, this is what Jesus did when He died on the cross for our sins. He poured on the love.

God has called us to hate sin but to love the sinner. 

Knowledge Without Love

Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.

(1 Corinthians 8:1 NLT)

I’m an inquisitive person by nature, so when it comes to the Bible, I like to know even more. However, I remember the time when I realized that being knowledgeable and winning every argument wouldn’t matter if in the end it wasn’t going to help anyone. The problem is that we can have knowledge without love. The Corinthian Christians whom Paul addressed in today’s passage certainly did. They seemed to have knowledge but it wasn’t motivated by love. So while I still like to know everything there is to know about the Bible, I make sure that it’s motivated by love and not pride. Because in the end, it won’t matter how much we knew, but how much we loved God and others.

Knowledge without love is useless.

Do You Truly Love Him?

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

(John 21:15 NLT)

After Jesus’ death, Peter went back to his fishing gear. When he met the resurrected Lord, Peter, who had claimed a devotion to Jesus above that of the others, was confronted with the question, “do you love me more than these?” “These things” could stand for either the fishing gear or the disciples, who were present at the time of the meeting. Peter answered, “Yes, Lord…you know I love you.” Today, Jesus asks us the same question, “do you love me more than your job, family, friends?” If these things don’t come first in our lives, then we, too, can say with certainty, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Love isn’t a noun or an adjective. It’s a verb. 

He Said it First

Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”

(John 21:17 MSG)

During a game of truth, an engaged couple was asked to admit who said “I love you” first. After hesitating for a moment, the man eventually confessed that he had said it first.

Throughout Scripture, we find that God, who is love, is always the first one to express and show His love for us. We, on the other hand, have no problem articulating our love for God, but have a hard time showing our love for Him. Such was the case with Peter. He had expressed a greater devotion to Jesus than all of the other disciples, but when put to the test, his love fell short. That is why Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. He wanted Peter to realize the significance of the words “I love you.”

Pastor Charles Price once said that when Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, Jesus used two different types of Greek words for “love:” agape, which is unconditional love, and phileo, which is brotherly or friendship kind of love. Jesus’ repeated question prompted Peter to finally realize that his love for Jesus was only a phileo kind of love at the time.

Take time to think about your love for God before you tell Him or anyone else that you love Him. And when you do confess your love for Him, just remember that He said “I love you” first.

This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us.

(1 John 4:10)

He First Loved Us

We love him, because he first loved us.

(1 John 4:19 KJV)

Meet Zack, the most adorable dog ever. When we first moved to the neighbourhood a few years ago, Zack just liked us for no apparent reason. We never owned a dog and if anything, we were certainly not dog lovers. But Zack quickly changed that. He would run over to say hi and roll over the grass in excitement every time he saw us. It’s no wonder that he soon became our favourite dog and we looked forward to see him.

In today’s verse, the apostle John reminds us of another love that was expressed first: God’s love for us. You see, there was nothing we could do to make Him love us. He just did. And because He did, He did His best to show it. He sent His Son to die for us, He sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of us and He’s preparing a place for us, and not to mention the various blessings He showers us with everyday. Therefore, you can’t help but fall in love with such an amazing God!

Someone once observed that when spelled backwards the word “dog” is God. Zack’s love is an example of the love God shows towards everyone even when they are not seeking it. And when received, it’s gladly exchanged.

Love received is love reciprocated.