“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.

“The Heart of the Matter”

(Matthew 15: 15-16) 15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”  16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”


Jesus came to bring freedom…freedom from sin, and yes, freedom from the legalism of the past.  The life and death of Christ, though not easy or simple in any way, took place so that our faith could be simplified and our redemption more accessible. 

In his ministry, Jesus told many parables and gave even more examples of and metaphors for the moral situations we face in life.  He was a gifted teacher…a relatable source of God’s own mind and heart…and through His words we find that a life of faithfulness and righteousness is attained through living out one word:  love.

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

It isn’t about rules…what foods are bad, when to wash your hands, whether or not you should shave your beard or get a tattoo…rather, it is a matter of the heart.  In all things, the condition of the heart is what governs our choices and actions. 

I teach children at church, so I spend a lot of time finding ways to make scripture easy for them to relate to their lives, and I have found that the thing that I say to them most is that it all comes back to love.  Is it hard to memorize a bunch of laws?  Sure it is!  Is it hard to remember to love others?  Nope.  Well, it certainly shouldn’t be hard to remember that.  Sure, it’s hard to do at times, but we all know that it’s what we are supposed to do.  Right? 

Think about the ten commandments:  would you commit any of them if you are loving God first and others next (above yourself)?  Noooo.  Many times we try to trick ourselves and justify things we are doing that are contrary to the truth…things that don’t reflect God’s love.  When we are not reflecting His love, we are rejecting Him, because His very existence is just that…love

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.  (1 John 4: 7-12)

Because of Jesus, the very embodiment of love…because He came that we might have abundant life…because He died to free us…we don’t have to hem and haw over every detail of our lives wondering, “Is this wrong?  Am I sinning?”  It’s basic really.  Ask yourself, “Is this loving?  Is this kind?”  If the answer is no…well, don’t chance it.  The acronym that was so famous in the 90’s might be corny but it’s always applicable to EVERY situation:  WWJD  (What Would Jesus Do)?  The answer is:  Jesus would love


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to keep a watch over my heart and what I allow to occupy its space.  Fill me with Your love, so that I am walking and living a righteous and faithful life, reflecting and magnifying You in all that I do. 

Sometimes We’re All Just Teenagers

(James 5: 16, NLT)

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Righteousness and prayer go hand in hand.  It just makes the most sense, doesn’t it?  If you are a parent (especially parent to a teenager) then you probably already have a sense of this concept.  I have a teenager, and I have to tell you, when he is pleasant, when he is following our rules, when he is being respectful and loving toward us, it makes us much more likely to listen to what he has to say when he is ready to ask for something or express his feelings to us.  I’m just sayin’!

It works pretty much the same way with us and God.  John 9:31 tells us, “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.”   I am telling you now, when we come to God as petulant, disobedient children – when we should (and often DO) know better – He isn’t going to hear it!  I’ve been there with my own child.  When he is out of sorts, raising his voice and completely in the wrong, I shut him down immediately.  I tell him to come back when he is ready to apologize and do the right thing.  I love him so, my son, and because of that love, I know it is not in his best interest to allow that sort of exchange to take place between us.  He must learn respect and humility, and when he is able to come back to me from a loving place, I am waiting with open arms and ears, ready to work with him and be a blessing to him in any way that I can – if that is what is best for him.  There has to be a certain level of love, respect, and trust there.

Likewise, we must love God first – coming to Him with respect and honor, and humbling ourselves at His feet.  We have to be willing, before anything else, to ask God for His grace – getting our failures and sins out of the way so that there is room for God to work within and bless our lives.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.

(Psalm 37: 3-5)

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, there is nothing that I want and need more than to be heard by You.  Help me to keep myself humble and righteous so that You are able to listen to me.  Amen. 

It’s a Slippery Slope Indeed

(1 Samuel 18: 12-15) 12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.


As we grow older, it’s inevitable that someone younger will come along who threatens our status in some way.  Maybe they will be better looking, smarter, funnier, more talented, sharper, more charming, have better ideas, or create successes in our areas of failure.  However it happens to manifest, there always comes that time when we are no longer the latest and greatest at what we do.  For some people this is unbearable, and it slowly begins to breed negative thoughts and feelings such as envy, jealousy, resentment, and even hatred.

Jealousy is nasty business.  It’s not a sin to FEEL jealous.  It’s not a sin to FEEL threatened and cast aside.  We are human beings and God gave us our feelings.  However, when we begin to allow those feelings to take root and bear their ugly fruit…that’s when sin is born and latches onto us like a hungry baby, feeding off of our every whim like sweet milk.   

James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

We can’t allow jealousy to exist.  Instead we must cast it down with the truth of God’s word, knowing that because we have the spirit of God dwelling within us, we have power over our minds.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Instead of allowing jealousy to lead us into sin, why don’t we try reevaluating our roles in the lives of others?  If we are called to love, then let’s truly do that.  In the body of Christ there is no room for competition and envy.  We have a responsibility not only to the world, but also to one another.  We must take part in the spiritual growth and development of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and consider doing so a privilege. 

So encourage each other and build each other up… (1Thessalonians 5:11)

When we are focused on love and encouragement, we become willing to take a back seat to someone else for a change.  We begin to realize that being an usher for the a new generation of leaders and “doers” is an honor.  When you have taken the time to feed into the life of someone else, when you have been willing to be humble and truly crucify the flesh, when you have resolved to walk beside (and yes, sometimes even BEHIND) someone with similar gifts and talents…that’s when you begin to conquer the “green-eyed monster” within.


Prayer:  Father God, I recognize my own tendencies to allow jealousy to become more than just a momentary feeling.  I see its potential to cause harm and all of the ways that it can damage lives and relationships within the church.  Help me to love and support my spiritual family and to remember the beauty and blessing that comes from sowing seed and watching it flourish in the lives of others.  Amen.

You Want Me To Do WHAT??

(John 13:12-15) 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Feet can be very gross.  Unless you have just been for a pedicure, your feet are probably kind of rough and maybe even sweaty and stinky.  I don’t know of anyone, beyond maybe a person with a weird hang-up with feet, who would just think, “Man, I really want to get on my knees and scrub those dirty feet!”  It’s an awkward, uncomfortable, and undesirable thing to think of doing!  Well, serving often means doing the stuff that no one else wants to do.  It is having the humility to go beyond your talents and the things you’re comfortable with, and just doing what needs to be done.  Jesus was a gifted teacher and somewhat of a celebrity…everyone knew who he was.  To his disciples, he was Teacher and Lord — their rabbi.  Jesus would never have been asked to wash their feet!  No one had to ask, because he selflessly volunteered.  He was doing what all good teachers understand is necessary — he was modeling the desired behavior.  Did Jesus mean that we should all literally get down and wash one another’s feet?  Well, yes and no.  Yes — because sometimes an old-fashioned foot washing can be a symbolic and spiritual way to show humility and love toward someone else, just as Christ did when he washed the feet of his disciples.  No — because Jesus wasn’t just modeling physical behavior.  He was showing his disciples (and ultimately us) what it means to humble and to have the heart of a servant. 

Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  Because of the love and the sacrificial blood of Christ, we have been set free.  When we use that freedom to serve our own flesh, we are squandering the priceless and precious blood that was shed — the blood that paid the price for our freedom.  Serving others takes on many different shapes, colors and sizes.  It changes and shifts as we grow and mature in the Lord.  Sometimes it looks like ugly feet waiting to be scrubbed (you know…like changing poopy diapers and rocking crying babies in the nursery on Sunday…like scrubbing church toilets and floors…like pulling weeds and stacking chairs…), and sometimes it looks like that thing you’ve always wanted to do (you know…that thing you know you’re good at…that thing you feel called to do).  I’ll be honest, there’s a lot of the dirty feet…and more dirty feet means more hands are needed to wash them!  Literally, figuratively…either way, there’s work to be done.  If Jesus Christ — Savior of the world, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Alpha and Omega — could get down on his knees and wash the dirty feet of his followers…if he could suffer humiliation and pain like nothing we have ever known…then surely there is nothing that any of us is above doing when it comes to serving one another.  We are the church…we are family…brothers and sisters in Christ…joint heirs with Jesus.  It takes a village, friends.  When we come together in love, humility, and with a spirit of commitment and purpose, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, it is by You and through You that we are free.  May we never waste that freedom on selfish motivations.  Instead, help us to find joy in serving…however YOU see fit for us to do so.  Give us willing hearts, and humble spirits, so that we reflect You in all that we do.  Amen.

Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

(Psalm 133) 1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.


I look back on some of the most difficult times of my life and I am amazed to think of how much better bad situations were made by simply choosing to be in unity with my family.  Discord only serves to exacerbate the negativity that is already at hand, but when we instead become unified, with one mind, we are bound together…made stronger by love. 

God hasn’t promised us that life will be perfect.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We are guaranteed, because of sin, to encounter hardship and temptation.  How we opt to react is entirely up to us.  “Good and pleasant” doesn’t refer to the circumstance, it refers to our reaction TO circumstance!    When you’re in the midst of opposition, whatever it may be, it’s always “good and pleasant” to be able to come home to a family who speak lovingly to you and to one another.  It’s “good and pleasant” to have a church family that is unified…that will edify one another in truth and love…that is a safe place to come to when your home life is falling apart. 

You know, we serve a loving God, but there are certain things that He cannot abide.  I bet you would never dream something YOU do would be on that list…but let’s have a look anyway.

(Proverbs 6: 16-19) 16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him, 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

I don’t know about you, but if God hates it…I don’t want to be doing it!  A family is a delicate thing, and the church family is no different.  It is to be respected, each member treated with love and kindness.  This is where unity begins.  When you feel “good and pleasant” feelings toward your brothers and sisters, you are then able to come together as one, rather than a clique here and another clique there.  Setting all else aside, a body of believers can be a very powerful force in the lives of one another and more importantly in the world.  But…it takes unity…and unity requires love. 

We ought never allow Satan to send us on a detour through the desert by giving into our own pettiness and weakness of the flesh.  Instead, we have to bite back that untamed beast of a tongue, resist the temptation to have those whispered conversations in the church hallways and restrooms, and work together to create an atmosphere that is, yes you guessed it, “good and pleasant.”


Prayer:  Father in Heaven, I am humbled by the promises of Your word.  I know that through it, I am corrected, instructed, and made better.  Help me to never sow discord among Your people, but to always remember that unity is the lifeblood of Your church.  Amen.

“Fear Not”

(Psalm 147: 1-5, NLT) 

Praise the Lord!

 

How good to sing praises to our God!
    How delightful and how fitting!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem
    and bringing the exiles back to Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name.
How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!

 

I kept trying to write last night before bed, and I knew I wanted to use this passage, but I just couldn’t get any thoughts together, so I decided to get some sleep and revisit it all in the morning.  Then this morning I wake up to a newsfeed full of reports of yet another tragic, seemingly random, shooting of innocent people…this time on the streets of Las Vegas.  I don’t usually comment on current events, nor do I make it a habit of using the tragedies and horrors that are happening in our world right now as a writing prompt.  Normally I just keep my thoughts to myself and I pray.  I ask God for protection for my family, for peace in the midst of so much hatred and violence, and for His name to be glorified and magnified despite it all.

But today…

In the face of even more death and violence, I want to be of encouragement to you all…because we so quickly go into fear mode.  We begin to wonder, “Am I next?”  We rush out to get guns and permits to carry them (I’m talking to myself on that one), we worry about End Times, and we begin to see our brothers and sisters – our fellow Americans – as potential threats.  Essentially, we allow Satan to have a stronghold on our minds and hearts – we give him exactly what he wants…which is for us to be afraid.

So what I want to say this morning is:  remember who God is.  When we stare evil in the face, remember that our God – Creator, Redeemer, Healer, Deliverer, Soon and Coming King, Alpha, Omega, Lord of Everything – He is bringing back the exiles!  Sometimes it takes heartache and complete brokenness to catapult change and restoration…like a dilapidated, condemned building that has to be torn down completely before it can be rebuilt, or until something new can be constructed in its place.

Don’t ever forget, all of the hurting hearts will be healed, and all of the brokenness will be mended…because our God is making all things new!  It has been promised – a promise of victory!

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”  (Revelation 21: 3-5, NLT)

There is no denying that every day things are getting worse.  We may not know the minute or the hour that He is coming back for us, but we should have enough wisdom to realize that such a time is drawing very near…but we don’t have to worry or fret when things like this happen.  No!  Though we experience heartache, we can’t allow that to take us to a negative place.  Instead, we have to buckle down and prepare to work harder – reaching out, in love, to a world that truly is lost and dying.

 33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

So, as for me, I’m going to continue to say, “Praise the Lord!”  All of my days, I’m going to praise Him.  I’ll hand Him my sorrows, because I know He can (and will) turn them into great victories that bring joy unspeakable to my heart.  I’ll trust Him – no matter what – because I’d rather have hope than fear!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I lift up the victims of all of the violence in our country and in our world today.  Specifically, I pray for those hurt and killed today in Las Vegas.  I ask that You send armies of Your people – people who are full of Your love – to reach out and encourage these families as they deal with the trauma and grief in the aftermath of this tragedy.  I pray that Your healing hand would be upon each of them today and in the weeks to come, and may it all be for Your glory and for Your Kingdom.  May we not fear.  May we not give up.  Rather, I pray that Your children are encouraged, strengthened, and upheld in Your hands.  Amen. 

“To Love the Unlovable”

(Luke 5: 29-32, NLT) 29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

 

At my son’s pediatrician’s office, there are two waiting rooms – one for sick children, and one for those who are well.  The purpose of separate waiting rooms is to keep the well children from getting sick, obviously.  Children are young, and they have weak immune systems, so they have to be protected from infection and disease.  But who is there with them?  Sick or well, who is by the side of each child?  And who is it that moves among them, reaching out to administer healing to the sick, and to make sure that the ones who are well stay well and continue to develop properly?

Just like children in a pediatrician’s waiting room, some of us are sick and some of us are well.  We are all growing – some of us are much less mature than others – some of us need more attention…more care – and the ones of us who are sick have to take precedence over those who are in good health.  That’s just the obvious, natural way of it.  Wouldn’t you be in shock if you were at the doctor’s office with your sick child and you kept seeing all of these well children getting called back while your baby is leaned up against you, helpless, miserable and worsening by the moment?  You’d probably get up out of that chair and find someone to confront – you would advocate for your helpless child, wouldn’t you?

Well there are a lot of sick and helpless children of God out there, and they are stuck in a waiting room and they need someone to speak up for them.  They need to see the doctor, and they just don’t know how to get there…nor do they have the strength to figure it all out.

Brothers and sisters, we are not called to sit amongst ourselves.  We are not called to simply live out the ideal – the American Dream.  We weren’t created to sit back and enjoy a good, privileged life in the “well” waiting room of life while others are struggling and hurting – sick and tired.  The fact is, we were each created according to the purpose and call of God for our lives – which is to further His kingdom, to reach out and love those who have been deemed unlovable, to be the literal and physical representation of Jesus Christ to a lost world that is broken by sin.  That’s it, folks.  That’s our collective purpose, and sometimes we have to step out of our now to assess the how how are we living out that purpose?

The truth of the matter is that we often get wrapped up in each other – in our church lives –  and, subsequently, the heart of what we should be trying to accomplish gets lost amid the fellowship, the fundraisers, the projects, the systems, and even our worship.  Don’t misunderstand me…I fully recognize the importance of these routines.  We have to minister to the body, and it has be done in a very different way than how we reach out to the rest of the world, but we do have to continually ask ourselves, “Are we reaching far enough?”

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.”

Jesus said it.  So the truth is, you’re probably going to have to associate with scum from time to time.  You might have to hug someone who is dirty.  You’ll probably have to go places that shock you and make you sad from time to time.  That’s part of it, because that’s our broken world.  That’s why we have to solidify our own faith and be the strongest and best that we can be, so that we are able to withstand the things that we encounter as we seek to fulfill our purpose as ambassadors for Christ in the world.

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for my life.  I know that I am blessed far beyond what I deserve, and I pray that You will help me to never forget that.  As I continue to grow and mature in You, give me all of the boldness and compassion that I need to reach beyond my surroundings and love those who are broken by life.  May it all be for Your glory and honor.  Amen. 

 

 

“Only Your Love”

(1 John 5: 1-3, NLT) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

If God’s commandments are not burdensome, then why is it so hard for us to keep them?  It shouldn’t be so difficult really — to be honest and kind, to be true and loving, to be content and faithful — but we fail so often!  We are given choices every day — to sin or not to sin — and we mull over these decisions, allowing them to become burdens to us.  It should be so simple, right?  But it isn’t.  We have made these choices difficult and heavy, and because of sin, the black and white become fused together, forming a gray area that was never intended to exist…for with God there is no gray area.  His commandments are time-honored, steadfast, and never-changing.  And though He has given us choice in each matter of our lives, it is always this or that.  There is no in between.   

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! (Revelation 3: 15-16, NLT)

We spend too much time worrying over these moral choices, and we waste time and energy trying to figure out how to justify certain actions and decisions — looking for loopholes in the laws.  Well, there are no loopholes.  God doesn’t play games, and He doesn’t mince His words.  It is what it is.  Don’t lie means don’t lie.  The end will never justify the means.  There is nothing that you can do to manipulate things in your favor when it comes to sin.  It’s just sin.  Yes, there is grace to cover it, but the condition of your heart is what is truly in question.  The Lord knows your heart — every hidden motive and thought — and He is gracious and willing to forgive when He sees a repentant heart that is saddened by its own sin. 

What it all boils down to, and what will clear these muddied waters, is love.  Operate in love, because when you think, live, and emanate God’s love, there is really never any doubt over what to do.  You see, when Jesus came to us, He came that we might have everlasting life, but He also came to simplify things for us, so that we have every chance to bridge the gap that sin created between God and His children (us).

(Matthew 22: 37-40, NLT) 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

And there you have it…from the mouth of Christ Himself…it all goes back to love.  Pretty simple, huh?  Think before you act, and if it doesn’t reflect God’s love in you, don’t do it.  And when you do make wrong choices, because of God’s Spirit and love in you, you will be grieved by sin and, in turn, repent. 

Love God.  Love others.  Everything else will come. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your love.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to show us how easy it is to obey Your commandments, simply by living out Your love first.  Help me, Lord, to remember this first and greatest commandment, so that I am making choices that glorify and honor You.  It’s only by Your love…Amen.

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Luke 6:27-36- “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

 

If you’ve been keeping up with the news in any form: television, radio, newspaper, social media, etc., you’ve no doubt seen hatred and animosity at every turn. Riots, protests, violence and hate speech seem to be the norm for some people. It’s heartbreaking when the reality of how shallow some people are in their opinions of others sets in.

As Christians, we should know this kind of behavior and rhetoric is entirely unacceptable in the eyes of our Savior. We are commanded to love everyone on this earth, as they are His children- precious in His sight. We talk as if this is very easy, and for the most part it probably is- but- seeing that we are human, there are times we have to make a conscious effort to keep our actions, words, and hearts in check.

When someone wrongs us, or wrongs someone we care about, it’s easy to “justify” our attitude towards said person. We feel we’ve been given the right to “write them off,” “put them in their place,” or “teach them a thing or two.” If our Example is to be Jesus Christ, (which it is), this ought not be how we handle situations. Our thoughts, comments, (or lack thereof) when driven by spite, are not Christ-like in the slightest. He tells us to love our enemies… do good to those who hate us… bless those that curse us… and pray for those that abuse us. THAT is the true spirit of Christ. Can you fathom such love? Such humility? It takes practice, if you will, for us to get our hearts right. We know we are to use wisdom, be selective in whom we place confidence and choose to spend a lot of time with for our own protection; still, we must be ever so careful to not use that knowledge to make excuses for our selfishness, greed, or frustrations. After all, how often do we need someone to overlook our shortcomings? How often does Christ do that for us?

My pastor’s wife shared something on this topic today on Facebook, and it was so beautifully spoken, I had to copy it here:

 

“There are people that we like better than others…there are people that are easy to forgive…others, not so much. But, the Word that I read and profess to believe doesn’t make allowances in terms of my obedience to love as He first loved me. He loved me when I was not easy to love, when I was inconvenient to love, when I didn’t deserve it, not waiting until He felt like it…He just loved me. When I am frustrating…when I am immature…when I am stubborn…He welcomes and embraces my sad, sorry self. He forgives me. He crowns my life with goodness. He removes my guilt. He removes the stain of my sin and washes me in His blood, makes me whiter than snow. He covers me. He forgets forever, my failings. He calls me daughter. He lavishes me. He takes care of me. He provides for me. I have been and am loved. I WILL love whoever He places in my pathway along my journey home. Heaven. That’s where I’m going. It’s a place too big for small thinking and behavior. By His grace…”

 

I appreciate so much the truth and transparency exhibited in this post. Christ didn’t make me earn His love. He didn’t wait until I had everything together. When I failed at the same thing for the 10th time, He didn’t write me off and tell me He was done. He loves me unconditionally, and oh so deeply! He loves us all that way! And this is why He expects us to do the same for each other. We don’t know what others are facing, or what they’ve been through… what makes them hard or cruel. While rudeness and targeted hurt is never something that is expected to be excused, two wrongs don’t make a right. We are still to love! This world is in desperate need of His kind today… Find someone to show that to today and everyday. 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for loving me unconditionally, for blessing me when I do not deserve it, and for gently correcting me even when it takes me forever to listen. You are so patient with me, and I pray that You help me show that same love and patience with all those I encounter. I love You, Lord. Amen.