“Giving My Best”

(John 12: 3-8, NLT) 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. 4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. 7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Perspective is such an important part of our spiritual growth.  The goal is that we can and will eventually see things through the lens of our faith in Christ and our devotion to that faith, yet our vision tends to get easily skewed.  It is very easy to get caught up in the habits and motions of the things that we do for the cause of Christ.  We have these ideas in our minds about all of the things that we should be doing — all of which are good and righteous deeds…worthy causes indeed — but if we are not careful, something momentous gets lost among the bustle of our church business.  When we are constantly in motion, we begin to miss out on moments of intimacy — opportunities to just sit in the presence of Christ and just love on Him…to bless Him with the sacrifice of our time…giving Him the best part of ourselves first. 

Christianity is most definitely intended to be a life of service to others.  We should give of our time and resources to help support those who are needy and lost.  We should be creative in our programming and events…making sure that we put forth our very best…in an effort to reach people who might otherwise be unreachable.  We should work hard in all ways to better and further the Kingdom of God.  It is, after all, our Great Commission.  However…what good is any of that if we lose sight of the most important part of who we are in Christ…love…our first love…the greatest commandment of all?  It is only then, when we have taken the time from our busy work, that we are able to reset and rest in that place of freedom and peace that is only found at His feet.  Before we ever attempt to love others, we must make sure that we have first given Jesus the time and consideration that he so deserves.  We simply cannot not love others adequately if we are constantly missing out on these invaluable opportunities with our Lord.    

(Matthew 22: 37-39, 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.”

It truly is all about perspective.  We desperately need to see this world through the eyes of Christ, and in order to do so, we desperately need to spend time with Him…to better know His word, His heart, and His will.  It is very similar to a marriage, actually!  When you get too busy and start to simply co-exist parallel with your spouse, things start to fall apart.  You may say you love your husband or wife, you may do all of the things you’re supposed to do for him or her, but if you never take the time to sit and share your heart with that person, it all just seems pretty pointless. 

Perspective.  Don’t let your work for Jesus overshadow your love for Him.  Give Him the best part of your day, and the biggest part of your heart.  He will, in turn, fill you with all of the time, resources, and anointing that you need…to the point of overflowing…in order to do His work.  All things for, through, and by Christ…He’s the only way.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I get distracted so easily by my busy schedule.  My heart is always in a good place, but not necessarily always in the best or right place, because when I am neglecting my time with You, I become misguided and I begin to see things through my own perspective rather than through Your eyes.  Help me to stay focused on You.  You deserve my best, and that is only accomplished when I love You first…before anyone or anything else.  Amen.

“You Only Get What You Give”

(James 2: 14-17, NLT) 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Recently, I saw a need within a family that was far greater than what I could supply, yet their situation would not leave my heart and mind, so I decided to take action.  I began to reach out to people, and I was absolutely stunned by the response that I got on behalf of this family who had captured my heart.  I had become anxious — worrying about “how” and the Lord kindly urged me, “Just ask.”  So that’s what I did…and He did not disappoint.  Money and donations came absolutely flooding in, and I am still overwhelmed when I think of it all.  People were steadily asking me what they could do to help out, and I know that this was a direct response to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The need was quickly supplied — exceedingly and OVER-abundantly!   God did that, and He was able to do so because of His children putting their faith into action. 

You may see a need, have compassion in your heart for the situation, and even consider the ways that you could help, but without the actual administration of care and concern — by ministering to the physical needs through provision, shelter, resources and attention — your compassion is a farce.  Fake.  Phony.  …it is dead and useless.

Compassion is that compound emotion that should move our hearts so deeply that we have no choice but to take action.  An extension of love, compassion will set our minds, our hearts, and our lives into motion — moving forward in our faith, knowing that through our own sacrifice there is a greater reward for all who are a part of the activation of faith and love. 

(1 John 3: 16-19, NLT) 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

As children of God who are devoted to our faith in and love for Him, we must be so in tune with His heart that the things which grieve and move Him, are the same things that break our own hearts and push us face first into the busy, sometimes messy, yet always joyful activity that is true, sacrificial compassion.  And when we do respond, doing so together — as a unified body that represents Christ to the world — miraculous things take place.  We are never left wanting when we put our faith into action. 

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for this reminder today that simply noticing a need and mentioning it to you is not always enough.  Help me to be more aware of the ways in which I can make sacrifices in order to help lift the burdens of the poor and oppressed people that I encounter.  Let me always be a light in the darkness, representing You with love and compassion that comes directly from Your heart.  Amen. 

“To Love the Unlovable”

(Jude 1: 22-23, The Message) Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

I have found that we like to put sin in boxes.  We categorize it all from what we deem understandable or acceptable, to what is most unforgivable and horrendous, and then all of the stuff between.  I’ve done it, and I know you have as well.  But really, isn’t it all just sin?  It’s all bad, it all separates us from God, and it all “stinks to high heaven.” 

Not many people who know me would consider me an optimist.  I tend to be more of a realist than anything.  However, I have a deeply compassionate heart, and I always seem to find a way to see the good in others.  In this way, I am hopeful.  I see the beauty that is the human soul, made and formed in the image of God, and I am often able to look past what people are doing or have done and love them anyway.

I wasn’t always so loving.  For many years of my life, I had a very distrustful, resentful and hard heart.  I had to ask the Lord to help me open my heart to others, and He has.  In my walk with Christ, I have learned that compassion and love are simply not optional…they are requirements!  We are not asked to love others…it is a commandment…in fact, it is the greatest of all commandments…that which must govern and influence every aspect of our lives, and will ultimately keep us from many of the sins that may tempt us.  Love and compassion must be evident and ever growing in our lives…

The most difficult part of love is extending that grace and compassion toward those who are the most difficult to understand and forgive.  Because of our “sin boxes” that we have created, there are just some things that we can’t seem to get past — the big, bad sins — the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made of — the things on the news that make our stomachs turn and boil our blood with anger and outrage.  But where does love fit into it?  We must remember that it has to…we have to make it fit.  If we are to “go after those who take the wrong way,” then we have an obligation to stretch ourselves — to love the unlovable, right?

So what do we do?  How are we to be tender with the sinner, yet hard on the sin?  The answer will always be the same:  just love.  Open your eyes and see a person, a soul created by God, imperfect, yet never too far gone for God to reach.  When you pray, ask the Lord to restore that person, and instead of rebuking them, rebuke the powers of hell that have been allowed to take hold of that life.  You see, we can hate sin all day long, but we have been commanded to love others. 

A few years ago, my husband and I were at big youth conference in Knoxville, TN.  We take teens from our church every spring.  That particular year, a singer named Matthew West was there.  He sang a song called “Forgiveness,” but before he sang it, he told a story that has stuck with me.  I want to share what he said about why he wrote that song:

“The song is about Renee, who lost her daughter Megan in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, a 24-year-old named Eric who was by all accounts a great young man, but made a tragic mistake. Renee’s been on a journey of hatred, and bitterness, and she’s learned how to forgive the young man who took her beloved daughter’s life.

In a miraculous way, after Megan’s death in 2001, Renee began giving presentations, and in time, God put it on her heart to forgive this man and reach out to him in prison. She learned that until she was set free of the anger and bitterness she held towards Eric, she was going to be the prisoner even though he was the one behind bars.

As a result, Eric found his own personal faith in Christ and they developed a unique friendship to the point where she feels like she gained a son, and she even went to the courts to cut Eric’s sentence in half. He made a terrible mistake taking the life of two young girls, and yet he’s been forgiven. Renee told him that she serves a God who commands her to forgive and she needed to be set free as much for herself as for him.”

It took a lot of love, that could only come from God, for this mother to not only forgive the young man who caused her daughter’s death, but also for her to reach out to him and show him compassion.  Because she was obedient to God in her own life, she was able to be used of God to change his life forever, bringing healing to both lives in a remarkable and miraculous way — God’s way — the only way that it could ever take place.  That’s what I call a beautiful exchange.  And this, friends, is the perfect example of being tender toward sinners — of going easy on those who waver in the faith.  It may seem impossible, but we are called to go beyond what we think we are capable of, and we are commanded to love.

Show me how to love the unlovable

Show me how to reach the unreachable

Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness

-“Forgiveness” by Matthew West

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to see others through Your eyes. Give me Your heart, and help me to be brave enough to love those whom everyone else seems to reject.  Soften my heart, Lord, and help me to always let love win.  Amen. 

“Just Walk Away”

(2 Timothy 2: 23-24, NLT) 23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.

Part of being a parent to a teenager is having pointless arguments.  As with every stage of life that children go through, the teenage years are proving to have some very frustrating moments.  My son will be fourteen years old this fall, and let me tell you…some of our conversations can be MOST aggravating!  I will find myself getting sucked into these merry-go-round exchanges with him, and after a few moments spent in a quickly escalating debate, I stop and think, “Why am I doing this?”  Then I simply say to him, “No sir.  This is not up for debate or argument.  You are not on trial, and this is not a discussion.  Accept it and walk away.” 

Just like these annoying and pointless exchanges that I have with my son, all of us can become easily enticed into engaging in foolish debates and arguments with others.  Sometimes it’s with other Christians who simply see and interpret things differently, and then other times it’s with people who don’t believe in anything at all…or in things that are contrary to our own faith and values. 

When this happens, instead of getting deeper and deeper into dispute, we need to be mature enough to realize that many times it’s better to just walk away.  You know…agree to disagree.  Witnessing to others on behalf of Christ has a lot more to do with what we do and how we make others feel, rather than what we attempt to prove to them.  We can’t bully and argue people into accepting Christ, nor into feeling and believing the same things that we do.  We must instead love them, choose our own actions and words wisely, and have self-control over our attitudes and reactions. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”    – Maya Angelou

While feelings shouldn’t govern our every move in life, they are still an integral part of who we are — what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.  So we must always take them into account.  We have to be selfless and mature enough to realize that the feelings and opinions of others do matter, and that respecting someone does not mean you have to agree with him or her. 

Our Christian faith, our relationships with Christ, and greater than all  — the love of Christ — should be the driving forces in all that we do.  So when you are tempted to make that snarky comment on social media, to defend your stance in a spirit of indignation and offense, think about how it might be interpreted first — how it might make someone else feel when he or she reads or hears your words.  You might think, “I really don’t care what anyone thinks!”  Well, you should!  It should absolutely matter, because you are not just a representative of yourself in this world.  When you carry the name of Christ, as a child and ambassador of God Almighty, you are representing Him through your words and deeds.  How you make others feel is as important as any Biblical stance you might take on the many controversial issues that come up in conversation.  Let go of your offenses and your pride, and just let God use you to be a light.  All of that other stuff can be worked out individually, as people grow and mature in Him.  Let the Holy Spirit take care of conviction, and you just love the stuffin’ out of everyone that you can.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank You that where I am weak, YOU are strong.  When I get sucked into arguments and disputes that could be detrimental to my Christian witness, help me to be aware enough to bow out gracefully.  I pray that my life would be a positive light in an ever darkening world, and that Your love would evident in all that I say and do.  Amen. 

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever;

the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever;

the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever

(Psalm 136:1-9)

One of the most disconcerting situations you can ever find yourself in is to be lost. It’s not a situation that many of us deal with on a regular basis, given the availability of maps, smartphones and GPS systems. However, if you don’t have these tools and find yourself in unfamiliar territory, it can be quite scary. Whenever I think of famous explorers from history, I am amazed at the courage they displayed…driven to see what’s out there, not knowing where they were going, what they would find or even if they would ever return.

For those who were brave enough to make the journey, they needed some kind of fixed point to help them orient themselves and make sure that they were still headed in the right direction. For centuries, sailors used the stars and constellations, specifically the North Star and the Southern Cross, to help them navigate. The known, fixed position of these celestial bodies allowed them to continue their journey with confidence and gave them a reference point that they could check if they ever experienced a moment of doubt or uncertainty. Without these fixed points, calculating their heading and progress would have been infinitely more difficult if not impossible!

Like explorers, we can never be certain of where our lives will take us. We may have an idea of where we would like to end up but, many times, circumstances in our lives knock us off our intended course. Whether it’s the consequences of poor decisions that we’ve made, injustice suffered at the hands of others, or just bad luck, when that happens we can feel lost and disoriented. In those times, it is important that we have a fixed point, a foundational, bedrock principle or belief that helps us to regain our bearing.

For the Psalmist, that fixed point was the “steadfast love” of God that “endures forever.” Whatever life threw his way, he knew that he could depend on the unwavering love and mercy of God. It had been there from the very beginning, from the creation of the world, carefully crafted for our benefit and enjoyment. And God’s love remained evident in the many ways that he intervened in the lives of his people Israel. Everywhere he looked, the Psalmist saw the reality of God’s love manifested and it never changed. It would endure forever!

Unfortunately, we do not always feel God’s love in a real and palpable way. Sometimes our insecurities and the weight of our particular struggles prevent us from feeling in our hearts what we know to be true in our minds. In those times, we should meditate on the Lord — consider the nature and character of God — to reveal the truth of who He is, even if we’re not “feeling it.” God is not hiding himself or holding back from us. He is actively listening, speaking, protecting and comforting. It’s just who he is. We just have to trust that his steadfast love will endure a little longer…and it will!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your unwavering love. When all else in our lives is a chaotic mess, we can return to the sure knowledge of your love for us. When we don’t know how things are going to turn out, we can rely on your complete sovereignty and the fact that you are actively working on our behalf. Thank you for being our North Star and helping us to keep our lives oriented in the right direction. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Hypocrite?

(Romans 2: 1) You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

Hypocrisy is not a fun subject to contemplate and discuss.  It’s just uncomfortable, because no one wants to be called a hypocrite, and we should always hesitate before pointing the finger in the direction of others. The word itself gets thrown a round a lot, and the meaning is often misunderstood.  Growing up in the church, I heard it over and over, being used in reference to church people who struggled with sinful behaviors.  I would hear people say things like, “He’s in the bar on Saturday and on the front pew on Sunday!  Such a hypocrite!”  Well, that always made me angry.  Being an avid reader and a word/book nerd, I knew that wasn’t the correct definition of a hypocrite, and I couldn’t stand hearing it.  I didn’t like the misuse of the word, which I found annoying, but mostly I just didn’t (and still don’t) like the harsh, judgmental attitude behind the use of it.  So, I just want to take a minute to address hypocrisy…because I think it’s important to know what you’re saying…and, because maybe just you shouldn’t say it at all.

The word “hypocrite” is defined as: (via dictionary.com)

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

In short, a hypocrite is someone whose actions do not line up with his or her mouth.  This is a person who is talking a whole lot of talk, but walking very little walk…if any at all.  If I am constantly condemning others over sin and mistakes, yet I am continually making the same sinful choices…then I am a hypocrite.  Please don’t mistake this with a person who is struggling to repent.  I have seen so many people who have come to know Christ, yet walked away from the church because they have felt judged and condemned, labelled a hypocrite by friends and family, because they were having trouble walking away from sin.  Well, friends, it’s just not that easy for everyone.  Sin is habitual and addictive, and when you’ve spent a lifetime separated from God by sin, it’s not always so cut and dry.  No one is perfect, and we all sin, don’t we?  Romans 3:23 tells us, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” 

Let me propose a notion then, that we just stop using the word hypocrite altogether.  Why?  Because the examination of the human spirit can only be done by God’s Holy Spirit.  In Jeremiah 17:10, the Lord says:  “But I, the Lord, search all hearts, and examine secret motives.”  He sees it all, knows it all, and reveals it all in His own time and way.  Luke 8: 17 tells us that, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”  His timing.  So if you think someone is a fake, phony, hypocrite…fine…think it.  Then pray about it.  Lift that person up in prayer, because that is how to deal with it in love.  The Holy Spirit will take care of conviction…that’s not our job.  Our job is to love.  And no, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold one another accountable!  Of course we should!  In love, and with graceful words, we should privately have those kinds of conversations with one another…because that’s part of being a family.  However, don’t backbite and judge.  You just don’t know a person’s heart the way that God does.  You don’t know their struggles, their pain, their circumstances, and on that front pew is the best place that anyone (no matter what they’ve done) could be every week! 

When we enter into relationship with Christ, we begin a journey toward holiness and sanctification that is never quite completed.  We become more mature as the years pass…as we learn from mistakes and turn from old habits and ways…but we are never fully righteous until that day when we see the face of our Savior.  Until that day, we must keep on keepin’ on, and we can’t be tearing one another down with our words and preconceptions about each others’ lives!  Romans 8:1 reminds us of something that we sometimes forget:  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  There is always grace, friends.  Always.  And we must be just as willing to give it as we are to receive it!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for the truth of Your Word.  I love knowing that through it, I am able to receive gentle, loving correction.  So I ask You now, Lord, to forgive me of the times when I have been so quick to judge and to turn my nose in the air when I have seen people in the midst of struggle with sin.  Help me to remember the “log” in my own eye, before I point out the “speck” in someone else’s.  Help me to love others the way that You have loved me.  Amen.

Where are my keys?

(Matthew 22: 37-40, The Message)  Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Sometimes I rather enjoy reading The Message Bible.  It often puts scripture passages that I have read so many times before in a new perspective for me.  I love the idea of these two most important commands from Christ as pegs, on which everything else is hung.  If you are like me, then images and metaphors are one of the best ways for you to understand ideas and concepts.  When I can see something in my mind, I gain a more complete understanding of it. 

Love God.  Love others.  These are the two pegs, and on these two pegs EVERYTHING hangs in balance and has a place to rest. 

I can’t help but think about keys.  My parents-in-law have a key rack on the wall by their back door.  Because there are so many of us who come in and out of that house on a daily basis, and because of the various sets of keys that all of us own, this key rack has been a life-saver on so many occasions.  Before the key rack, keys were getting misplaced and lost (making people late because of having to search for them), keys were having to be replaced (which got expensive), and we even got keys mixed up from time to time.   Then, someone had the amazingly bright idea to hang the key rack, which is adorned with several lovely pegs from which we all can hang our keys…keeping us safe from the woes of key loss! 

In a rather roundabout way, what I’m trying to say here is that everything in our lives — our routines, our priorities, who we are, what we do, and how we live — the “keys” that make us who we are and that keep us going, are so easily lost and misplaced without that most essential “peg” on which to hang them all — LOVE. 

(1 Corinthians 13: 1-7, The Message)  If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Without love, all else is lost — bankrupt.  Nothing you do will ever matter without love.  It just won’t.  Every good thing, every word spoken, is all in vain if it doesn’t come from a place of love.  Without love, you are just a noisy, motionless, waste of space.  That sounds harsh, but sometimes that’s the way the truth is — hard to hear, but needful.  Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t want lead a pointless life!  I don’t want to just walk in circles making noise!  I want what I do to matter, I want what I say to be meaningful, and I want how I live to make a difference. 

(James 2: 14-17) Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

Let love be your motivation.  Love God.  Love others.  Hang the keys of your life on those two pegs and allow that love to keep you from getting lost in the doing of life. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you today for your love.  Help me to love You in return, even more, by loving others and allowing your love to flow through me.  I do sometimes get lost in my daily life.  When I do, Lord, help me to remember that my keys need pegs.  Love God.  Love others.  Amen.

“Rainy Days & Mondays”

(Numbers 6: 24-26, NLT)

The Priestly Blessing:

24 ‘May the Lord bless you

    and protect you.

25 May the Lord smile on you

    and be gracious to you.

26 May the Lord show you his favor

    and give you his peace.’

Well…it’s Monday again, y’all.  I know that a lot of people hate and dread Mondays, because they don’t want to return to work and get back into the “race” of things, but I must admit…I usually like Mondays.  I guess because they usher in a new week full of different challenges and problems to solve,  they present various opportunities for me to start over and do better, and — as an educator — they mean I get to see my kiddos again (yes, I really do miss them over the weekends), and I do love my job.  However, the closer to the end of the school year that we get, the harder it is for me to devote myself to the routine and to get pumped up about Monday mornings!  I get summer fever.  I think of my parents and going to stay with them for two weeks after school gets out, seeing my old friends, hugging the necks of people that I miss and cherish dearly, and I seem to spend each Sunday night wishing for another day off…and another…and another…

Maybe for you it’s simply a Monday thing.  But maybe it’s more than that.  Maybe something you once loved — your spouse, your family life, your time with the Lord — has become stagnant…lifeless…something you no longer enjoy.  Many of us enter our adult lives under the false impression that things will always be as good as they are in the beginning.  We think we will always look at our spouse and get that knot in our throats.  We think our little newborns couldn’t possibly ever become sources of anxiety and exasperation.  We think that our walks of faith will always be enveloped by the glow and excitement that we feel when we first come to know Christ.  But…BUT…the truth is that all of these pieces of our lives get turned around from time to time and sometimes feel as if they don’t quite fit.

All of which to say, even when we love our lives and all of the responsibilities that come with living them, we all need some encouragement at times.  We all need to know that when things get harried and feel out of control, when we long for the next season of our lives to occur, and when we start to feel the urge to give up on something that we love, there is hope for peace and blessing.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to do better with encouragement.  Instead of always jumping straight to advice, why not simply speak blessing over one another?  Instead of standing by and watching others crumble, and then wondering what in the world happened, why not speak blessing into their lives when we see the struggle?  Our words are powerful, and should be used carefully and with love. 

So, whether you simply have a case of the “Mondays” or you’re dealing with the turmoil and stress of a significant part of your life, I leave you again with this blessing that Aaron prayed over the Israelites. 

‘May the Lord bless you

    and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you

    and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor

    and give you his peace.’

Let’s make a united effort, starting today — this Monday — to lift one another up as we face life together in Christ.  We all find out, rather quickly, that life isn’t always manageable.  We all get overwhelmed and discouraged from time to time, and as the time of Christ’s return draws nearer, we simply have to love each other better.

23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.  (Hebrews 10: 23-25, CEV)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, if I am to truly proclaim You as my Lord and Savior, then help me truly practice Your love in all that I do.  Help me encourage where I see despair and fatigue.  Help to me speak blessing over others, because I know that through my words your love can and will shine through when I am committed to Your ways.  Amen.

Dare to Love

(Matthew 25: 34-40, NLT) 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Yesterday, while driving with two of my good friends, Leslie and Kelley, we saw a homeless man by the side of the road with a dog.  He was holding a cardboard sign that read, “Need Help.  God Bless.”  He smiled, despite his obvious situation of destitution and despair, and he lovingly patted his dog.  Leslie looked over at him and said, “You know, that really hurts my heart,”  which sparked a short dialogue amongst us about how we, as Christians, respond to this type of circumstance.  In that moment, we all felt bad that we had no cash on us to give to him, and Kelley mentioned that she wanted to make up some bags of necessities to keep in her car to hand out in situations just like this.  I mentioned that I try not to give out cash if possible, but instead I will sometimes buy food and drinks to take back to someone like that.  Leslie admitted that, for her, it is sometimes hard to know whether or not someone like that is truly in need, to which I agreed.  Then Kelley said something that stuck to me.  She said, “You know I wonder that too, but then I remind myself that it’s not our job to decide if someone is in need.  It’s our job to respond to them,”  to which Leslie responded, “Exactly.  What if that was Jesus?”  I was instantly reminded of the above scripture and I quoted aloud verse 40:  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

Yesterday afternoon I wasn’t even thinking about this blog post.  Honestly, I hadn’t even sat down to read the daily scriptures for this date to decide what to write.  So when I did finally look at it, I couldn’t help but smile when this passage was there.  Okay God, I see what you’re doing here. 

We are too quick to pass judgement on the lowly and poor.  We pick and choose who we want to help…deeming only a select few worthy of our charity, based on assumptions and appearances.  We are hesitant to give our hard-earned cash because of the chance that it might be spent on an addiction.  We are in such a hurry all the time, that we don’t think to take a few moments extra to grab something to eat and drink and take it back to someone who is begging for food.  We don’t respond anymore.  We think someone else will do it.  We think, “Get a job like everyone else.”  We think so many things…some of it true, some far from it.  And the problem with all of this thinking?   It just isn’t good enough!  We are thinking more and doing less, and God did not call us to think about loving others in His name.  He has called us to respond in love without question.  And that is how the light and love of God will shine through the darkness of this world.  That is how we bring honor and glory to His name.  Love.  Always love.

Feed the hungry,

    and help those in trouble.

Then your light will shine out from the darkness,

    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

(Isaiah 58:10)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for Godly friendships, because as Your word says, “iron sharpens iron.”  Thank you for the gentle correction that sometimes comes in the form of a friend’s point of view.  As Your children, may we always work together to radiate Your love.  In a dark, sinful world, we can only be seen if we allow your love to shine through u.  So, Lord, help me become brighter and brighter, honoring You in all that I do.  Amen. 

Coated With Love

1 John 4:7-12 ESV- 7“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! What an appropriate day to talk about love! The day where hearts and roses and mushy cards are floating all over the world. When love is oozing from nearly everything and running rampant throughout the land…

Or is it?

It’s no secret that the world is lacking in the love department these days. Racial division, religious animosity, fearing anyone that looks or acts differently than we’re used to… the list could go on. Bullying is at an all-time high. Deception, assault, and even murder are not lagging far behind. So many people are filled with hatred and disgust for no good reason at all.

This breaks my heart.

Mostly, because it confirms that a big portion of the world does not know God. (1 John 4:8) This leaves a huge responsibility for Christians. We have got to make sure that we love people the way Jesus would. It has to go beyond talking about it, or reading and writing about it… We have to show it. It’s not a suggestion or a recommendation. It’s a commandment. (John 15:12) It’s expected of us.

Why? Because that’s how the world will know we’re His. (John 13:35)

Although we can’t always sufficiently explain how God knows these things, we know He does, so we should just follow His instruction by faith. Yet, so many times we fall prey to the lies that we have to be tough to stand for what’s right, act repulsed by someone’s sinful ways, and voice our spiritual opinion at every given opportunity. We have to dress like this and stay away from that because we think that’s how the world will know. But, guys, we don’t know more than He does. His ways don’t need perfecting. When we think we can fix God’s plan, you know- help Him out- we mess it all up. We simply need to obey. And He told us to love one another.

When we recall the grace He’s abounded to us over and over; when we remember that Christ was mocked, spat upon, and nailed to a cross for our sins; when we accept the fact that without His mercy we would be lost and miserable and without hope- humility nestles itself in the center of our hearts. When He bestows such great forgiveness and unconditional love to us, how could we ever be okay with giving anything less?

I have failed Him miserably at times. I’ve been selfish, hurtful, ungrateful, self-righteous… And yet, He continues to love me and bless me. He encourages me daily in His Word, tells me how precious I am to Him, and how much He believes in me. I can run into His open arms and receive undeserved grace for every mistake. So how could I, one who has done nothing so selfless and kind as Him, hold others to a higher level and treat them with disdain or disappointment when they falter?

Friends, we are loved immensely by the God Who reigns on high. He didn’t want Heaven without us… so He sent Jesus to fix that. He thinks we are to die for! Precious. Valued. Irreplaceable. Useful. Filled with Potential. Strong. Important. Special.

He feels that way and believes that about every single person on this earth. The vilest human on the planet is adored by Jesus. He died for us all. So, when you take a stand- exhibit humility. When you voice an opinion- coat every word with love. Give mercy. Portray grace. Smile at strangers and hand out encouragement liberally.

We should love… because He first loved us.

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for your unmatched love… for showing me new mercy every single morning. Thank You for seeing worth in me when I’m at my worst. Lord, I don’t deserve Your grace… still, you smile every time it’s bestowed on me. Help me love like You, Jesus. Let it cover my every word and action. I want people to come to know You, and I know these opportunities will arise as I allow Your love to be perfected in me. Amen.  

 

%d bloggers like this: