Love Always Protects

by Laura Courtney

This begins our final four weeks looking at the characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13 and are the “always” promises: “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:7)

For me, this is perhaps one of my most favorite visualizations of God: our Protector. I have always loved the imagery and idea of Christ and the angles fighting for me, fighting again the evil that seeks to overcome, and fighting in perfect strength and righteousness.

One of my favorite worship songs talks about this very concept:

“I know who goes before me,

I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies,

Is always by my side”

(Chris Thomlin, “Whom Shall I Fear”)

And then another, less traditional song speaks similarly:

“From the armories, the angels sing

You will see them end this suffering

From the armories, the angels sing

You will fear them when they lift their wings”

(Oh Sleeper, “The Finisher”)


And of course scripture itself is filled with this illustration:
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalms 91:11)
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20)
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
How amazing is it to think that we have an army of divine and angelic protection around us; fighting for us and guarding us from the darkness that seeks to overcome this world.


How much more courage would we have if, like Elisha, our eyes were opened to the power that walks with us daily? How much more willing would we be to step out in faith and into what God has called us if we looked and saw an entire army following us wherever we go?

While we may not see celestial beings around us everywhere we walk, we can take courage that we do not walk alone no matter where we are or what we face. Christ walks with us and the Holy Spirit dwells within us. This does not mean that we will have a clear path with no obstacles; but it does grant us the peace to know that we can get press on when we feel stuck, get back up when we fall down, and turn around when we take the wrong road. Because Love is always with us to guard us and protect us if we are willing to open our eyes and our hearts to be directed in where we go.


Do Not Delight in Evil

by Laura Courtney

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)


A Facebook friend of mine (do you know who you are?) posted this a few weeks ago his page. This really stuck out to me at the time and, reflecting on this week’s focus in our summer reading guide, came back to me again.

That question that C.S. Lewis poses –  “Is one’s first feeling ‘Thank God’… or is it a feeling of disappointment” – is one I feel we all need to honestly answer. Because for me, if I’m being honest with myself, I know if have tendencies towards the latter. And if we don’t acknowledge that truth in our own thinking, we will just continue to seek out, and consequently seek to delight in, the evil that we read and hear about in the lives of those around us.

But as we read from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we are not to delight in evil but to rejoice in truth. Clearly this was a troublesome point for the people of Corinth at the time too. Can I rabbit trail here and just say how grateful I am that God’s Word is relevant for us in all periods of our lives… whether we live in the year 50 or 2021!

But if we look at this characteristic of love in 2021, what does this mean for our lives here and now? Do we delight in evil by listening or participating in gossip? Do we follow celebrities or even “friends” on social media to watch and compare how much better we are then them? Are we looking for the bad in others to try to make ourselves feel better?

Love does not delight in evil. Do not let the evil of this world fill your heart. Do not let the black darkness steal the light from your spirit. Maybe this means you need to stop being around those friends that continually gossip, or at least ask them to stop talking about others with you. Maybe you need to unfollow or unfriend friends on Facebook if you are only using their profiles to judge them and their actions. Maybe you need to pray for yourself and ask God to show you where you need to expend love more.

Let us join together and rejoice in the faithfulness of our God and His truth and power above the darkness of this world. Let us share in each others celebrations and pray for one another in our troubles. Let us not let the darkness and evil of this world overcome us and divide us, but let it unify us and join us all the stronger in the hope and truth of our Lord and Savior.

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
(Ephesians 4:14-16)


Not Easily Angered

by Laura Courtney

What makes you angry? Is it waiting, rude or inconsiderate people, when someone else gets something you wanted or prayed for (especially when they don’t deserve to have it and you totally do)? Does it anger you when you are not recognized for the obviously good things you do? When you deserve the recognition or thanks that other receive?

I think its interesting that this characteristic is listed right in the middle of the description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and consequently the halfway point of our summer reading, because all the characteristics listed up to this point can often cause us to get angry.

Having to be patient – anger. Having to be kind or not receiving kindness from others – anger. Jealousy and comparing ourselves to others – anger. Pride leads to anger, dishonoring others is often a result of anger. If we are so focused and concerned about ourselves only we get angry when others do not share that same focus.

Controlling our anger is hard because it is so easy for this human emotion to be triggered by almost anything and everything around us. The devil knows how to get a rise out of us. He knows that in the heat of the moment, we make bad decisions and say hurtful things to those we love. He knows he can tear apart the deepest relationships if our anger is left unchecked. And in today’s tech-filled world, he doesn’t have to try hard to find ways to get under our skin. Social media is a place where everyone is posting as fast as they can type and where hateful and angry comments, which can be posted within seconds, are unable to ever be taken back.

But what happens when we get angry? As we read from this summer’s reading guide anger leads to bad decisions, unkind words, hurt relationships and in its worst moments even irreparable and negatively life-impacting actions. If this one single emotion can cause us to stray so far from God’s will and command for our lives, how can we call it a “natural” reaction? It has only become “natural” because we are so fallen and broken from the perfection we were created to be.

But what would happen if before we made any action in anger, we went to God with our anger? If we asked the One who calms the storms to calm our hearts and emotions? Satan knows that in our own power we will say and do hurtful things. And if we try to take power over our emotions on our own, we will fail (and most likely get angry about that too). But if we take a few moments to seek His power and ask Him to give peace to our hearts before we act or say even one single word, how loving of a place we could find our world in.

So… how have you acted in anger this week (because we all have)?

What made you angry – patience, pride, jealousy, selfishness?

 How can you better handle similar instances – that will almost undoubtedly arise again – instead of turning to anger first?

And looking ahead to this next week’s focus and characteristic of love, are there people you need to ask forgiveness of or give forgiveness to for anger expressed?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)


Love Is Not Self-Seeking

By Laura Courtney

Ever hear the phrase “You do you”? It’s a common one these days, right up there with “Love yourself”, “Do whatever makes you happy” and “Just be yourself”.

These are all nice enough sounding ideas and theories – don’t just fit in with the crowd, embrace what makes you different, and be happy with who you are. But the one major flaw of all of this is we then are seeking to find contentment, happiness, joy and even purpose in our own selves.

And in a culture where the mindset is “I can do whatever I want to do in order to make myself happy”, we put all our focus and attention on ourselves that we no longer care about any side effects or hurt we cause in the process. And the problem with that is we are not created to live on our own or by our own means.

If society and the world around us keep calling for us to seek our own happiness in our job, our education, our relationships, our clothes, our home, our looks, our feelings and ourselves alone we will come up empty and disappointed every single time. And when we only care about ourselves we don’t even see the hope, joy and beauty of everything around us.

If we begin to believe the lie that we don’t have to change our attitude or beliefs and that doing anything that makes us feel good will lead to our ultimate happiness, we are far from the truth. And if we are not careful, the line between what’s right and what makes us happy begin to blur. And this is exactly what Satan wants us to do. These lies are straight from his mouth. To believe that we alone hold the key to our happiness is the greatest lie we can ever believe.

God did not create us as our own. “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) And He did not make a single mistake when He made each one of us. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) Yet He desires us to not remain in our sins, but to come to His goodness that He has created us for. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

I encourage and challenge you this week as we focus on what it means to love without being self-seeking, to turn away from the lies that tell you to follow your own emotions, desires and self-centered focus and instead turn to a God who has created you for a greater purpose than yourself. We cannot find worth, purpose or happiness in and of ourselves. We find it only when we look past ourselves entirely.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)


Love Does Not Dishonor Others

by Laura Courtney
“Love does not dishonor others.”

I don’t like that I keep pointing out how our current society and culture is so opposed to these verses from 1 Corinthains 13. But in a nation where “cancel culture” is pretty mainstream, it’s hard not to make that comparison.

I saw cancel culture described as modern day ostracism. But it has come to a point that if anything you say or do is not approved of by others, we don’t just agree to disagree anymore – we banish you. We shame you and so publicly humiliating you that no one would want to be seen associating with you again.

We don’t like someone’s opinion or public stance so we don’t just let bygones be bygones. We have to win. We have to be on top. We have to have all public opinion in our favor.

Christ knew this culture too. He was “cancelled” by the religious leaders of his time to the point that his own friends didn’t want to be associated with him.

This is not anything new to human history. But it is not love.

Love does not put others down in order to keep a higher public status. Love does not discredit, insult, humiliate and shame others for its own gain.

We as Christians have been commanded to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Romans 12:2) Christ didn’t say it would be easy, but instead He told us:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

I challenge you to seek to love others more intentionally this week, especially those you disagree with or butt-heads with the most. And if you feel like you are being “cancelled” in today’s world, remember that it just means you do not belong to this world. Seek Christ’s truth and His love in your life above this world’s acceptance.


Modern Day Parable of the Hole

from Michael Freeman
I like this because it is reminiscent of the Good Samaritan parable, but adds an element of humility with God’s ability to redeem our fallen moments:

There was once a man walking through a dark area and he fell into a deep hole. He struggled and struggled to find a way out but couldn’t. Finally, in despair he sat down and buried his head in his hands.

Before long he heard footsteps above and called out. They stopped and walked to the edge. They immediately began to lecture hi from the top of the hole. They told him about the dangers of walking through dark areas and the foolishness of falling into holes you can’t get out of and how he should always avoid both. And they walked on.

What they said was true, but the man was still in the hole.

Shortly afterwards, he heard more footsteps above and called out. They also stopped and walked to the edge. There was a look of compassion on their face, and they told him that his problem was primarily a spiritual one. They threw down a Bible and recommended some verses to read. Then they told him they would be praying and suggested he do the same. And they walked on.

What they said was true, but the man was still in the hole.

A little while later he heard more footsteps but this time he didn’t bother calling out. They stopped anyways and walked to the edge. They didn’t lecture or offer spiritual advice; they did something even more drastic – they jumped into the hole with him. He leaped to his feet and said, “What are you doing?! Now there’s two of us stuck in this hole!”

“No,” the other man replied. “I’ve been here before and I know the way out.”

So both men climbed out of the hole together.