“All You Need Is Love”

(1 Corinthians 13: 12-13, The Message) 12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I have always been intrigued by fog. I think it is beautiful, mysterious, and somewhat scary. It isn’t inherently dangerous — it’s just mist — yet it can pose a threat to those of us who pass through it without caution. This is the world in which we are presently living — it’s a fog. Our world is beautiful to look upon. It is a magnificent wonder, created by God for a specific function. It was never meant for our harm, yet it has become harmful because we have chosen to walk through our lives without thinking. We have thrown caution to the proverbial wind! Our lives, this world, even God Himself, are all mysteries that are gradually revealed as we navigate through it all. Yes, we are surely “peering through a mist,” but we aren’t blind…at least, we don’t have to be blind. We just have to slow down and think, pray, consider and observe. Eventually, the fog will lift. The sun will shine. Things will become clear. One day, we will have all of the answers. But…yes, BUT…until then, we must use caution — caution in our decisions, caution before we speak — because we have an enemy who is laying low, waiting for us to trip and fall. He wants us vulnerable and weak — easy prey.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

It is when we become distracted, when we are not careful, that we fall, and we allow ourselves to believe that we are alone, left out in the fog, lost and afraid.

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn

Such a sad insight into the loneliness that life can impose upon us. The thought that we are like ships in the night — in a dense fog — passing right on by one another. We are all in the same situation, just trying to navigate through the fog and darkness, through the pain and heartache. We are operating under the pretense that we are alone, yet here we all are…just a whisper away…close enough to touch. Yet if we are not cautious, we either collide or simply drift past one another. We become reduced to mere hazards and missed opportunities.

In this fog we are not left on our own. We may feel lost at times, but we must continue to trust God. He is our hope, anchoring us when we need to stop for a bit and think. “This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself…” (Hebrews 6:19). Above all else, He is love and therefore our inspiration to reach out to and love others. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Nothing else that we do will ever matter without love.

In the density of life as we know it, let us remember that God is with us, and that we also have one another. We do not have to lose heart in rough conditions. We can choose to look toward the light of Christ in each of us. We can allow the love of God to penetrate the fog, so that we may see one another as allies, rather than happening upon one another in collisions of disagreement and opinion-driven anger. We can, and should, choose caution when we speak and act, using love as our guide, so that we can minimize damage and loss as we all try to just get through this mess. Then, when the fog lifts, we can be proud of what is revealed.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need You more than ever, but help us to remember that we also need one another. Help us to LOVE, for LOVE is what You have commanded us to do…NO MATTER WHAT. Without it, we are just a bunch of annoying, dissonant sounds. Help us to instead be pleasing to Your ears. Amen.

I Gave Them The Same Reply

When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that no gap was left in it — though at that time I had not installed the doors in the city gates — Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message: “Come, let’s meet together in the villages of the Ono Valley.” They were planning to harm me.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.

(Nehemiah 6)

Have you ever noticed that when you start to move in a positive direction, that’s when distractions and roadblocks seem to appear? As long as you are just drifting along, not making any waves, things seem to be so much easier. Sure, you might bump into a rock every now and then, but you can just go with the flow and move past it. But when you decide that you’re not going to just let life come to you, when you set a goal and start moving towards it, that’s when things get difficult.

As is illustrated in today’s passage, people will array themselves against you and try to stop you from accomplishing your purpose. Some will be enemies, as in Nehemiah’s case, but even more perplexing is when it is your friends and family are the ones speaking negativity into you! Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might experience pushback:

1. Fear of Change

Humans are creatures of habit. It helps us make sense of the chaos around us when we can recognize patterns of circumstances and behaviors. When you decide to change the status quo, it throws things off and can create anxiety for others.

2. Jealousy

Some people cannot bear to see someone else content, happy, and fulfilled when they are not feeling those things in their own life. They would rather tear you down or hold you back than to see you receive a blessing that they desire but lack.

3. Control

Some want, consciously or unconsciously, to manipulate others. When you choose to acknowledge God as the Lord of your life, and submit to him, it threatens their desire be in control. When you are heeding and moving with the Holy Spirit, people will see they don’t exercise power over you any more.

4. Conviction/Guilt

When you decide to improve yourself or obey a call of God on your life, it can spark conviction in the heart of others who know that they also need to make some changes. Maybe they aren’t ready to up their level of commitment, so seeing you make strides in your life or walk with God makes them see the need in their own life, and it makes them feel guilty.

As I mentioned above, it’s not always our enemies that attempt to frustrate, dissuade or discourage us, but Nehemiah modeled the perfect response for both friend and foe — “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” — He was confident that he was doing the right thing and would let nothing get in the way of accomplishing his goal. They were persistent in their attempts, but Nehemiah was consistent in his responses.

Someday, we will all stand before God and answer for our actions. We will be called to account for our responses to his leading. When God placed a prompting in your spirit, or an opportunity to be busy about his business, what was your reply? What did you say to those tried to stop you? I hope that we will also be able to say, “I gave them the same reply.”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you have called us to grow in wisdom and righteousness, and we want to be faithful to that call. When others do not understand the call on our lives or are working counter to it, help us to shrug off the distraction and stay focused on what is important. Give us the confidence to be steadfast in our obedience to you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!