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You have nothing and you gain nothing without the eternal love of God working through your life. God is love; therefore, love is vital. 1 John 4 commands us to love one another because love is from God. The fruit of being born of God and the fruit of knowing God is the love of God seeking to work through you.

God’s love is relentless toward the world. God’s love is relentless toward you. Therefore, His relentless love should be relentless through each of us. It’s time we look inside the church family to see how well we’re loving one another. We need to get it right in house in order to truly get it right out there in the world.

The world is looking for an alternative community that fills the empty God void of their lives. The problem is not so much the world if you think about it. The world is doing what it’s supposed to do. The world is a dark place and has learned to live in that ever-increasing darkness.

The world functions in their darkness. They play by the rules of darkness. It’s not until children of the light love them like Christ that they awake to the emptiness of their lives. John 13:34-35 commands Christ followers to love one another in the same way Christ has loved us. The importance of why is found in verse 35 where it teaches, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The majority of weddings I officiate ask me to use 1 Corinthians 13 as a scripture reading somewhere during the ceremony. It’s often viewed as a stand along poem. However, it must fuller than that!

Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians is about spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. Chapter 14 then goes on to teach us to pursue love and desire gifts to ministry with. We must never forget that chapter 13 is placed in the middle of those bookends. Love is at the center of God’s alternative community and must be what we are most known for.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV)

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

The more excellent way is love! The gospel calls us to live a love that is beyond self-interest. If you take love out of your home, out of your community, out of your country or out of the world, you have nothing and you are nothing as it relates to eternal value. You are empty. The world is empty. Godless love is empty love.

You have nothing and you gain nothing without the eternal love of God working through your life.

Don’t believe me yet? Don’t read the next three verses. Let the next three verses read you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (ESV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love, the church should stop calling itself a church. Without love, the Christ follower is not truly following Christ. Without love, neither the church nor the Christ follower lay up anything of eternal value.

WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.

We can’t love Him without loving others. Love is an outflow of a true relationship with God. Love is vital.

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When you pray for someone, do you pray from guilt or heart? Before you answer that question, let me give you an example. Over the years,  I’ve received many prayer request by email. I would like to say I’ve prayed for all of them, but I’m human, and from time to time I would file them away to pray over them later in the day, and then forget. I guess that’s the cost of being human. I’m happy to say that is a pattern of the past.

Anyway, there was a time, many years ago that I would get a prayer request and then pray over them out of a sense of guilt. I thought first to myself, “If I don’t lift up a fast prayer, I’m a bad person.” I would then pray a very brief prayer without much thought and purpose. I would then go on with my day and the guilty feeling of praying a hurried prayer would soon fade away.

As you might expect, God wasn’t going to let me cheat myself and the other person out of the blessing and privilege of praying with a slow heart. We are not called to pray with a fast heart. We are called to pray with a slow heart. A quick praying heart is one that is usually grounded in guilt. On the other hand, a slow praying heart is grounded in caring more about others, than for yourself.

God helped me to see that when I pray fast, I’m missing the virtue of love. We are called to treat and care for others as we would like to be treated and cared for. Anything less is cheating everyone involved and most importantly missing the honor of God working through you. I’m happy to say that I now pray slowly, and it has changed my life. I take time to pray over the prayer need like it is my very own need.

Praying slowly for others is a great privilege. Take a moment and honestly think about that today. God is watching you as an audience of one, and when you pray slowly for others, you warm His heart. We have the greatest example of prayer if we just look to Jesus. Jesus looked beyond His own needs, suffering and pain on the cross and directed prayer over the crowd that day and beyond.

He abounded self-concern for the eternal consideration of others and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” How can we do anything less?

I ask you one finally time. Do you pray with a slow heart?