Christ's call to love everyone is easy to accept but tough to live. While it's a simple message, life is a bit more complicated. We all know people who test our resolve-and our nerves: a tough boss, a gossiping friend, irritating neighbors. So we change "Love one another" to "Be nice" or "Tolerate difficult people." Yet God longs for us to experience a genuine change of heart, as His extravagant love naturally flows through us to others.
He Is My Life is a ten-week journey to enhancing our relationships with God and people. This study shares biblical insights for learning to walk in love. Each day's selection features room for your thoughts, allowing you to journal and meditate on your personal journey. You'll discover how to receive and share God's love, experience healing from emotional wounds, and deepen your personal relationships.
The Design4Living series is designed for women seeking to connect God's word with their daily life. Each guide is ideal for both individual and group study.
About the Author
Debbie Alsdorf is a popular speaker and director of women's ministries at Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, California, where she teaches women's Bible studies and works with prison outreach and women in recovery. She is married with a blended family of four teenagers, two cats, and her beloved dog Bubba. She also wrote Steadfast Love.
Current Title: Living Love
Read an Excerpt
He Is My Life
Living to Love Others as Jesus Did
By DEBBIE ALSDORF
David C. CookCopyright © 2008 Debbie Alsdorf
All rights reserved.
Living Love ... In Our Daily Choices
He who believes in Me—out of his heart will flow rivers of living water—and hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. Now is the time for us to break "the flask" of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him. —Oswald Chambers
Love is one of the few things in life worth pursuing with a godly passion. But loving others is one of the hardest things in life unless all conditions are just right—then, maybe then, we are willing to let go and love. The reality is that Christians don't love automatically. It is a fact that we are ordinary people—human beings with fleshly tendencies. But many of us think that love should flow out of our every pore once we have committed our lives to Christ. Unfortunately, there is no automatic love switch that flips on when we come to Christ. We come to Christ just as the human flesh we are—no more, no less. And as we surrender our lives and our wills to Him, things in our lives begin to take a different shape. It is a process.
God's love is like a key that has been expressly designed to unlock our hearts and the hearts of those we love. Many of us are locked up inside. We are hurting, frustrated, and confused. We need the touch of God's love, because His love is the key to salvation, fulfillment, and relationship with Him. Our relationships can be rewarding, or they can be a disastrous set of unmet expectations. The first step in loving others is understanding God's love for us personally. When God's love for us becomes a core belief and a living reality, it changes the way we look at ourselves and at our lives. It also changes how we look at other people.
From the beginning of time God has created us for relationship with Himself and relationship with each other—but things have gotten in the way. It started with Adam and Eve in that beautiful Garden of Eden. Pride got in the way; they did their own thing and disobeyed God. Then they blamed each other and ultimately hid from God. Sometimes we aren't much different! Like Eve we take the bait, make a selfish choice, blame everyone else, and then hide from God and others as our relationships crumble around our feet. Thankfully, God in His love sent the answer by sending His Son Jesus. From the point of salvation until the day we take our last breath, each of us needs the power of God to live in the rich, full life that has been designed for us from the beginning of time—a life of relationship with God and others.
We must always keep in mind that it is His love, given by His Spirit, that is the key. No amount of love we could muster up in our own strength will unlock the doors to lasting fulfillment in relationships with others. It is God's love that has the power to change our lives and the lives of those we come in contact with. My ability to love others is directly related to the condition of my own heart before God.
Spiritual growth does not happen overnight. In the same way, learning to relate to others God's way is a process of growth and surrender. Loving God's way is the process of recognizing our value to God and in turn recognizing the value of others. When we begin to understand the value God assigns to each person in our life's path, we will have a decision to make—to agree with the value God assigns and treat others the way Jesus would or ignore the value God assigns and treat others the way we feel like we want to. The choice is ours to make, but the choice that changes us is the one that lines up with the truth of God's Word. Jesus loves people and He is our example.
Why is the choice to love so hard? Hurts, misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and personal insecurities are probably the biggest culprits of bad relationships. When we are insecure others easily threaten us. In this place it is hard to honestly esteem others with the significance and value they deserve as God's own beloved children. Women in record numbers suffer with insecurities and low self-esteem. Even within churches, women silently suffer with feelings of being less than enough. But when a woman begins to grasp God's great love for her, and that reality goes from head knowledge to the heartbeat of who she is, she will become convinced that she should honor others with that same wonderful love.
If you are struggling with insecure thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, you need to spend some time soaking in God's love for you. Allowing the truth in God's Word to penetrate those insecurities will be the first step in personal wholeness and stability. Think about what God's Word says to you individually. The first study book in the Design4Living series, He Is My All: Living in the Truth of God's Love for Me, would be helpful to lay a foundation for you, or encouraging as a refresher helping with internalizing the truth of God's love for you. Internalizing the truth of God's love is a good starting point toward replacing low self-esteem and insecurity with peace and confidence. As you fill yourself with God's Word and His thoughts toward you, you will become more equipped for loving others because you will understand the very nature of God's love.
Let's begin our study together—we have a lot of ground to cover.
Day One: The Hope of a New Love to Live By
1. Read Matthew 16:13–19.
In verse 15, Jesus asks who Peter thinks He is. This question is just as appropriate for us today. People hold so many different opinions about Jesus. Nearly all world religions acknowledge Him, but not all religions acknowledge that He is the Messiah or the Son of God. Many don't realize that He is still alive. Christian faith is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in a living God. It is because He lives that we can face any relationship, any challenge, any insult.
Is your relationship with God alive? How do you know?
Do you believe in a living God? Why, or why not?
What was Jesus' response to Simon Peter's answer (Matt. 16:17)?
According to this passage, who reveals to our hearts the reality of who Jesus Christ is? Why does that matter?
(If you are still uncertain about who Jesus really is, ask God to show you.)
What did Jesus say He would give Simon Peter?
Some people use this verse to claim all kinds of things that God never claimed would be unlocked for them. Naming and claiming can leave us confused and disappointed if what we are naming and claiming is not God's will for us. But we can safely say that living in God's love is definitely God's will for us. He gives us the keys of love, the keys of His kingdom, so that His character might be unlocked in us. It is by the love of God that we can become content, joyful women who are filled with hope and security.
It is God's love that will set us apart for His purposes and set us free to love others.
Everything that pertains to life was given to God's Son, and now He gives it all to us. As Jesus walked on this earth, the love of the Father filled Him. It was no ordinary love that gave Jesus the courage to go to the cross. It was the extraordinary love of the Father that compelled Him to commit His life to the will and plan of God. This same love compels us to give our all to Jesus. No other love will be sufficient for the tasks that He has planned for us. No other love will withstand insult and injury. No other love will give us the capacity for forgiveness. Nothing but the love of God will enable us to go the extra mile!
Pray that this love of God will be unlocked and poured out in your everyday life. His love let loose on earth through you is an exhilarating experience. Seek God for His love and seek to be a vessel of that love. A vessel of love is simply a woman God will flow through to love others. As we are filled up with Christ, we can be poured out for others. In this way, we can be God's instruments of love and peace. People moving with the heartbeat of God.
God's love is the key. And His Spirit is the locksmith, waiting to dispense to you what is needed to open the hearts of the people God has placed in your life. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at three different things:
1. What is God's love, and how does it differ from human love?
2. What does it mean to love God with all of our heart, will, and soul?
3. What does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves?
We are not going to learn techniques or methods to learn to love like God. We cannot learn to do what only God can do. What we will learn is
the importance of yielding ourselves to God, thus making better choices;
how to choose to set aside our own thoughts, emotions, and desires that are contrary to God's, so He then will show His love through us.
We can't change our pasts, and we can't make everything in our lives turn out the way we want. We certainly can't change other people, and we can't control circumstances where other people's choices are involved. But we can
keep our eyes focused on Jesus;
yield ourselves totally to Him;
allow His love to flood our souls and overflow into all or our experiences each day.
We must pray and ask that the love of God would be evident in our lives, and that His love would actually love others through us—through our touch, our words, our smile, our actions, and so on. The people in our lives better fasten their seat belts, because by the power of God's Spirit, love is coming their way! It is my prayer that you will become convinced through the evidence in God's Word that walking in love is exactly the path He intends for you. It will take you a step toward unbroken communion with the Father. As you step closer to this type of relationship, you will begin moving in the ways of the Spirit. Love will be the by-product of your personal interaction with Christ.
2. Read Romans 5:5–8
What has God poured into our hearts?
How can we be sure God loves us?
Write out Romans 5:5 and memorize this verse. It is important to remember that the source of love is always God and not yourself or others!
The Word of God clearly tells us that God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). We can do nothing of eternal value without being connected to our heavenly Father. The choice then that counts is the choice to live connected to the Father—abiding and remaining in Him. This is the key. In desiring to live God's love toward others, it is very important never to lose sight of this foundational truth. We want to love, but sometimes people are unloving, difficult, obnoxious, or hurtful. There are other times when we really want to love, but we are hurting, needy, or just too tired to be bothered with thinking of everyone else. This is exactly why we need to rely on a fresh flow of God's love into our hearts and lives each day. It must be His love that flows through us. When it is His love working in us and through us, we can move through life, learning to love despite others' responses or our own current emotional energy level.
3. Read Hosea 2:7–20.
In this passage we see Hosea's love for his unfaithful wife, Gomer. Her unfaithfulness is a picture of Israel's unfaithfulness in her relationship with God. Instead of responding to God in thankfulness and love, the Israelites offered what they had to idols. They went after things and people to find love and fulfillment, instead of being thankful for God and His love.
According to Hosea 2:8 and 2:13, whom did Israel forget?
Maybe you have a habit of forgetting God. Have you ever experienced God drawing you back to Himself as He did here with Israel? (See 2:14.) If so, describe your experience.
Write out Hosea 2:19–20.
Betroth comes from a Hebrew word that means pledged or pledged to be married. It is not a word that we use much today, but being pledged to another person through the covenant of marriage is still significant. We would probably say engaged instead of betrothed, but the meaning remains the same.
What does this Hosea passage say to you personally when you stop and think of God pledging Himself to you and you to Him forever?
Think of what it means to be engaged to someone. It is a connection, an interlocking, a tie-in with someone, a connection of two hearts—a commitment to travel through life together. How is this like the kind of connection God wants with us?
Instead of forgetting the Lord and His love, what does this passage say you could do?
Who or what holds the key to your heart today? (Consider things, people, agendas, or your dreams.)
Have your own feelings of hurt or misunderstanding become your personal idols? If so, how?
Can you trust in the Lord enough just for today to give Him the set of keys that you have and ask only, "Thy will be done"? What would that involve?
4. Look up and record the dictionary definition of acknowledge.
Write out "I will acknowledge the Lord" (based on Hos. 2:20) on a 3 x 5 card and carry it with you as a bookmark. Or put it on your car dash, or tape it to your mirror, or put it somewhere on your office desk. Let this card serve as a reminder to always acknowledge (recognize, be acquainted with, appreciate, give heed to, cherish) the Lord. God wants us to acknowledge Him, have a relationship with Him, be betrothed to Him, and in Him alone find the deepest source of love. Oh ... we get so distracted! But God's love is the key—the necessary component—to living a full life. It is the key of God's love that will enable us to live in love toward others.
Do the following definitions of acknowledge represent your current relationship with God? In your journal, create one list of those that do and another of those that don't.
Recognize—Do you recognize that God is your Maker and holds the blueprint for your life?
Be acquainted with—Do you know Him in daily relationship?
Appreciate—Do you have a habit of thankfulness for who He is and His faithfulness toward you?
Give heed to—Do you read His Word and take His instruction seriously?
Cherish—Do you hold close to your heart all that He is and the example He sets forth for living?
Each day is a precious gift. Each day also holds within it the ability to cause stress, anxiety, troubles, and disappointments. When these things play havoc with us, it's easy to see why we become locked up. It's as if we are bound from seeing the things of the Spirit because we are so focused on everything else around us. It is vitally important to have the right key. Jesus is the key that will unlock us from the distress and the loveless times we experience in the "real world."
I acknowledge You today. Forgive me for the times that I don't remember You—for the times I live in my own strength. I ask You to fill me with Your love. Come now and pour through my life and draw others to You through the power of Your love working in and through me. I realize that loving others might be a challenge, but I ask You to do the impossible inside of me. Amen.
Day Two: Finding Hope in Jesus
1. Read Matthew 22:36–40.
Do you ever wish you could ask God to show you what the most important thing in life is? Well, that is what we find in this passage in Matthew. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus responded with the two aspects of love—loving God with every part of us and loving others. It is clear that learning to walk in love toward others is something to make a priority in our lives. Jesus stated the most important commandment, and it's about relationship—not religion. He was speaking to the Pharisees, and they had religion and understood religious things, but what they needed was relationship. Remember, being a Christian is not about following rules; it's a matter of the heart.
Excerpted from He Is My Life by DEBBIE ALSDORF. Copyright © 2008 Debbie Alsdorf. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Lesson 1 Living Love ... In Our Daily Choices,
Lesson 2 Living Love ... As God Has Loved Us,
Lesson 3 Living Love ... With a New Heart,
Lesson 4 Living Love ... Despite Our Hurts,
Lesson 5 Living Forgiveness ... True Freedom,
Lesson 6 Living Mercy ... As He Is Merciful,
Lesson 7 Living Kindness ... The Refreshed Life,
Lesson 8 Living Real ... The Practical Side of Love,
Lesson 9 Living Unselfishly ... Seeking Another's Best,
Lesson 10 Living a New Pattern ... The Lifestyle of Love,