Love

     God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, caring, forgiving and some occasional foot-washing.
     Our trunk has compartments that contain an inexhaustible amount of all forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can match each recipient with the proper form of love at the appropriate time. 
     When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small was (is) my qualification to be a receiver of such love and how much better my life is now because of that love.

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     The Bible is a love story...not a romance, but a love story none-the-less. It is a story of love freely offered, but often rejected. In the cases where that love was accepted the result was wonderful loyalty, joy and power in each individual's life.
     It is a love story featuring you and me, just as much as Biblical characters.

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     I have grown up with the idea that as Christians we should "Love the things God loves and hate the things God hates."  I think "...and with the same intensity" should be added. This may be an accurate summary statement of being and living as a Christian.
     It seems lately that the intensity of our hating is much greater than the intensity of our loving.

Loving Others ?!?!?!

Loving other people is dangerous. Loving other people can cost us time and money. Loving other people can cause us to travel to frightening places and spend time with frightening people. Loving other people can result in us being with “others” when we would rather be with “our own.”

For children of God, is loving other people a command or an option? Mark 12:31 answers that question for us. And that love for others is to be demonstrated by doing  and sharing,  not just talking and preaching. It expects us to love individuals, as well as groups.

Such love is impossible for us to achieve and maintain unless we are Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The “filling” will provide us with the desire to love and the “led” will  show us how to love. When we feel we are unable to do either of these we need to emulate the love of Jesus and daily choose the life-style described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.

If, for some reason, we want to measure the extent of our love, we need to go to that passage and substitute our own name for the word “love.”  (Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.) Isn’t it wonderful to know that even though we don’t yet love like Jesus does, He loves us anyway and the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us.

 

 

Burden Sharing

One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.

And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.

Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.

But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.

We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which  strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.

We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.

Importance of Intercessory Prayer

How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?

Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.

But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.

And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.

All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.

Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?

When Strangers Visit My Church

They don't want to know about our preacher.
They don't really care about our teachers.
They're not concerned about our parking lot.
They don't care how many elders we've got.
The don't care about the size of our choir.
They don't ask "How tall is your spire?"
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

They don't care about our preacher's degree,
Or if the donuts and coffee are free.
They don't care about our building's size,
Or if our deacons are gals or guys.
They don't care about our recreation,
Or our theology of creation.
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

So when they come to visit us here
We must meet them with a smile or a tear.
Quietly, sincerely without a fuss,
Let them know they're important to us.
A pat on the back. A "We're glad you're here."
Will help us make it completely clear,
That without any doubt, we love them.

Feed His Sheep

In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep…” When He told Peter to feed the sheep, He was giving Peter the responsibility for the care and feeding of the flock.

The sheep belonged to Jesus. He had a personal relationship with each of them. He knew them by name and He loved them . But his earthly ministry was almost over and He was passing the shepherd’s staff to Peter.

He did not ask Peter if he wanted to be a shepherd. He simply gave Peter an assignment He knew was within Peter’s capability. Because Peter loved his savior he was expected to be obedient to the task.

God calls each of his children to help tend his sheep. He intends for each of us to help care for a flock and each of us to receive care from someone else. Such interdependence among Christians will result in the effective spreading of the gospel.

As we each give and receive care, God is glorified in our lives. If we choose not to perform our shepherd’s duties, others suffer. If we refuse to listen to the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we suffer.

Our motive for being a shepherd must be our love for him. We must love others because He loves us. We must serve others because He served us. We must give our time and energy to others because He gave his life for us.

It is dangerous for us to try to serve those He has put into our care if we do not love them. We are likely to become discouraged, resentful and angry. Such emotions disrupt our relationship with him.

It is dangerous for the flock because our attitude will lead them away from him and the blessings He has for them. They will sense our insincerity and rebel against his leadership.

We must always remember they are his sheep, not ours. We must love and feed them because we love him.

Bits, Pieces, Odds, Ends -14

As children of God we should look back and thank Him, look forward and trust Him, look around and serve Him, look inward and find Him.

Desperation is often the starting point to getting a passing grade in Grace 101.

Patience is developed, often slowly, by waiting. We need to be patient while the Lord teaches us patience.

Too often we try to impress people rather than serve people.

When we pray God is more concerned with what our heart feels than what our lips say.

Our greatest test of faith is believing God loves us, even when He is not blessing us like we feel He should.

Dear Christian, if as the song says, this world is not our home, why do we spend so much time and money building houses in it?

About 2000 years ago God had a gift to give me, but Jesus had to die before I could open it.

Being God's servant is an honor because He chose me for the position.

The spiritual success of my interaction with other people is largely dependent on the intensity and extent of my prior interaction with God. 

Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.

Goodness vs Holiness

Goodness and holiness are not the same thing. In fact, in the life of a child of God, good may actually hinder holy.

Goodness refers to those acts of kindness we do in order to help others. Holiness means being set apart and used for God’s glory. Goodness does not always produce holiness.

In Mark 9:41, Jesus talked about giving a cup of cold water “in my name.” Goodness prompts the giving of the water, while holiness causes that water to be presented  in the name of our Lord and Savior. If we give a cup of water, provide free babysitting for the single mother who lives next door, visit a follow church member in a nursing home or help a stranded motorist change a flat tire – and don’t mention the name of Jesus or give God any praise – we are being good. But we are not necessarily holy.

Our good deeds may hinder increased holiness because such deeds cause us to feel gratified and pleased with ourselves. We may continue to look for ways to help others and overlook opportunities to glorify God

There are many good non-Christians in the world. Only the redeemed children of God are holy. We must allow the leadership of the Holy Spirit to show us how our good deeds (which bring recognition only to ourselves) can become holy deeds which bring glory to the Father.

The Holy Spirit creates a greater degree of holiness in our lives when we allow him to change the motive for our good deeds. Good deeds done in Jesus’ name and for the Father’s glory become holy deeds.

Are we willing to go beyond good to holy ?

Do the Easy Stuff

As parents we sometimes ask our children to do unpleasant chores. They are likely to look at the hardest part of the task and complain they can’t do what we have asked. But if they are obedient and willing to try, we will step in and do the difficult part for them.

What we really want from them is their obedience and an honest effort to do as much as they are able. When they are willing to do what they can, then we will gladly help. But we do need them to get started. For instance, Dad will move the heavy stuff in the garage if his ten-year-old will just start sweeping. Mom will wash the really greasy pots and pans if her eight-year old will begin washing the glasses and silverware.

God asks the same from us, his children. He wants us to obediently begin the tasks He gives us. We need to demonstrate our belief that He will take care of the difficult stuff. Our Father will not ask us to do anything that together, with Him, we cannot do. But we must be obedient and get started. Then his assistance will be readily available.

God told Joshua to do the easy stuff. All Joshua had to do was organize and carry out seven marches around the city of Jericho. When he did the simple part, God did the rest.

Sometimes our lack of faith is demonstrated by our unwillingness to get started. We must not allow what we think we can’t do to keep us from doing what we can do.