Who Is Up For A Challenge?

It’s the start of a new year. I wasn’t sure what God had planned for me. Early last year I found a devotional I wanted from my favorite author so I purchased it and put it back; anticipating for the New Year to roll around so I could start using it. I was excited as I got the book out and read day 1. It didn’t disappoint.
One of the focus points in this book is the Fruits of the Spirit. I have read them and studied them many times, but have not really taken the time to delve into them like I should. After reading day one I started doing my daily chores, but something kept nudging me. God kept my thoughts on the fruits of the Spirit.
I went and grabbed my book. Maybe I was to put them into practice and make each one of them the focus for each month of the New Year. I took my book and began to count the fruits of the Spirit. I soon realized there were nine of them. Then God quickly shared with me it takes nine months for new life to be born. Yes on occasion it could take less time, but ideally it is supposed to be nine months. Nine months for a new life to be formed and ready to live life. As I thought about this I thought about how if I took each fruit and applied it to my life each month and built upon it until I got all nine of them studied I could be a new creature in Christ at the end of the nine months. God was challenging me to put into practice those fruits of the Spirit for nine months. I grabbed my book once more to see what the first fruit was. I opened my Bible to Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” The first one listed is love. Well, I must say I was a little disappointed; love? Really? I think I do that really well. After being nudged by God I thought maybe I should rethink whether I do love well or not.
It’s so easy for us to love our family and friends. It’s so easy to love those who love us, but what about those who don’t often like us? Or how easy is it to love those who get mad at us? I was quickly reminded of Luke 6:32, “”If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” I am no different than anybody else if I just love those who love me back. I have to be different. What would make me different? Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,…” The key is to love everyone even those who wish to do you harm. Can I honestly say I have done that? How many times have I held my love back because of some silly reason or something they did or because they didn’t deserve it? Has God held his love back from me because of something I did, said or because I didn’t deserve his love? Not a chance, God loves me all the time, not just when he chooses to love me. I have to work on that one.

How many times do I flippantly say I love someone without really thinking about it or acting like I really do? Sometimes I think of it more as a gesture than a heartfelt emotion. Again, I can think of a few times people has said to me, “I love you” and I replied back I love you too, but did I really mean it or was it simply a reply? Guess I have to work on that one too.
So as you can tell I do have to work on love in so many ways. Love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling towards others. It’s not the romantic kind of love God is looking for. It’s more than all those things. It’s letting God love others through you. It’s all about agape love; unconditional love. Love is seeing others as Christ sees others and loving them through it all.
As I reflect back I really do need to work on the fruit of the Spirit called love. I need to love others the way God loves me all the time, in all ways; not when it’s convenient for me, but all the time.
This month I will be studying about love; looking at scriptures about love and trying to get the love right. I will be praying about love and what it is God wants me to learn about love and loving others. When next month comes along I won’t forget about love I will just add to it. It’s going to be a challenge, but one I am ready to take on.
I challenge you to join me as together we begin to look at love the way God looks at love. I challenge you to look at scriptures, pray about love, and find ways to express your love not only to family and friends, but to those who might challenge you. The next time you tell someone you love them, think about what you are saying; do you really love that person or is it just a nice gesture or a reply that makes everyone comfortable?
We often challenge one another at the first of the year about losing weight or changing habits or whatever I challenge you to become a new person in Christ with me by taking on the Fruits of the Spirit for the next nine months.   Won’t you join me?
1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Dear God I don’t always get the love right. Help me as I begin to look at love. Help me this month to understand what love really is and what you are calling me to do as your disciple. Teach me about agape love and unconditional love. Let me love others through you. But, most of all help me to show love toward others this month. 
God bless each of you!

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