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.

 

 

Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends…15

It is the king's right to command and the servant's duty to obey.

Why was Jesus born a king? Because His father owned the kingdom.

Obedience must be attitude as well as actions.

I must be as willing to serve God as I am to worship Him.

Partial obedience to God is disobedience to God.

If I become more like God I will behave more like Jesus.

I am not a great servant of God, but I am the servant of a great God.

Obedience to God, without a close relationship to God, produces Pharisees.

God's future blessings to me depend largely on how much I have shared His past blessings.

It is more important that we talk to God than about God.

Christians and Social Media

Has Twitter replaced prayer? Has Facebook replaced intimacy with God? Have cell phones replaced prayer closets?

The attraction of social networking comes from the fact that we all want to feel needed and need to feel wanted. We are comforted when we believe (accurately or not) someone is interested in what we like, where we go and what we do.

We want to “reach out and touch” across the city, state, nation and world. Our sense of worth is enhanced if we have a lot of “friends.” We value the fact that we can express our feelings, fears and victories to people who are significant to us. We hope they read our messages, understand our feelings and respond with sympathy and support.

For the Christian an intimate relationship with God provides all this and more. We can reach out to Him from any place, any time, across any distance. Prayer is that 24-7, no-limit, instantly received Tweet to the best friend we can ever have. We are never in a “no-service” area.

Our spiritual Facebook includes the friend that loves us like a brother and has the love and power to solve our problems. When our need for earthly relationships becomes greater than our need for God we are missing the joy, peace and power that Jesus, our best Friend, died to provide for us.

Alone With God

Being alone with God is more than being isolated from others, reading the Bible and praying, sitting quietly and meditating on spiritual things and trying for a few minutes to strengthen the relationship we have with Him.

Being alone with God means being without our “stuff,” entering his presence emotionally, intellectually and spiritually naked. Then allowing Him to change us as He sees fit.

It is possible to be alone with God even when in a crowd, but such intimacy is more likely when there is no one else around. We must cease to be concerned with family relationships, vocational success, recreational pleasure, health, prosperity and all else we consider important in this life. Until we reach this degree of trust these things go with us when we enter his presence. They are unnecessary baggage.

Each time we pray, we should begin with the request for the Holy Spirit to empty us of everything except an awareness of His presence.

Jesus Sinless On The Cross

Mark 15:23 records that Jesus refused to drink a mixture of wine and myrrh that would have reduced the pain of his crucifixion.

Why? Was there a certain level of physical pain He had to suffer in order to accomplish the purpose of his death? Did the Father require a minimum amount of physical trauma before salvation’s plan would be complete? I don’t think so. For Jesus the physical aspect of the cross, with all its horror, was not the worst part of his sacrifice.

Jesus refused the myrrh because He still had work to do, even after the nails had been driven through his hands and feet. He needed a clear head to to stay sinless until his death.

For thirty-three years He had lived a life of sinless perfection, always obedient to his Father’s will. Even though the crucifixion had begun He still had six hours during which He had to continue to resist temptation. To sin at this late stage would have been to negate all previous acts of service and obedience. He had to remain the perfect Lamb right up to the moment of his death.

The myrrh might have clouded his determination. (He was, after all, still fully man.) By refusing it, He was choosing spiritual purity as a higher priority than the relief of pain and placing obedience to the Father’s assignment above comfort. He could not allow a chemical crutch to interfere with his most important task.

The temptations of those six hours on the cross must have been greater than all the other temptations of his entire life. Truly He was a man among men, masculine, heroic and courageous in every sense of the terms.

Acting On Faith

The second chapter of James deals with the importance of acting in ways that demonstrate our faith. Faith that is not put into action is basically dead (James 2:17)

The question is “Faith in what? What must be the basis of the faith we display through our actions?” Certainly we need to have faith in the Bible and we need to have faith in God’s promises. But the deep, unshakable faith we must show to the world is faith in God himself.

Abraham had faith only in Jehovah God (Genesis 12:1-3). He had no scripture to read and none of the New Testament promises such as “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) or “I will come again and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3). Abraham’s faith was in the person of God, the character of God.

To develop such faith we have to know and understand what He has told us. We must search the Scriptures. We must sit quietly and listen for His still, small voice.

Then we must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to believe His words. (This has been described as letting knowledge go from the head to the heart.) The Spirit will give us concrete, every-time, every-place, in-every-situation belief that all his words are true.

Such a belief will then enable us to act in obedience to those words and show our faith. This is the type of faith demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. It had it’s basis in their personal relationship with God.

Our faith must be only in the God that created the universe and allowed his Son to die on the cross. The closer we are to him, the more we will have the faith that enables us to base our behavior on his words.

The Outward Joy of Worship

My relationship with Jesus gives me daily strength that may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of euphoria. My relationship with Jesus gives me joy and peace that may or may not be accompanied by the need to sing and shout. My relationship with Jesus gives me confidence and a sense of security that may or may not be accompanied by a mountain-top sense of revival and rapture.

Corporate worship should lead me to new heights of spiritual excitement, but it should also reinforce my existing levels of spiritual belief. It is not a wasted worship experience that says “You are on the right track. You are headed in the right direction. Keep fighting the fight. Stay on course.”

Should I ever become satisfied with the level of my devotion to Jesus? Of course not! But is it wrong for me to be pleased that I am growing in Him? I don’t thing so.

I don’t feel a time of corporate worship must be deemed a failure if I am not transported to the throne of God and emotionally thrilled by the activities that transpire there. If I approach Him in my own quiet way, if I take joy in my time with my brothers and sisters, if the Holy Spirit reinforces my devotion and submission to Him I will feel my time has been well-spent.

There are times of corporate high, holy excitement. The valleys are endurable only because of the mountain tops. But it may be unrealistic to think that every Christian can attain a mountaintop every Sunday morning. And undue efforts to attain such worship levels may prevent other desirable worship experiences.

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. 

Becoming By Changing

Acorns become trees, tadpoles become frogs, caterpillars become butterflies. This is God’s plan for orderly change within nature.

In much the same way He intends for each new Christian to become a fully devoted, dedicated disciple of Jesus. Galatians 5:22-23 describes some of the characteristics He intends us to develop during this process.  It is a process directed by the Holy Spirit but it can be stopped or slowed by disobedience on our part. No matter how long ago we became his children He expects us to continue to become more and more Christlike.  

Too often our selfish nature sees no advantage for us in this growth plan and we ignore it. Other times we judge our growth by comparing ourselves with other Christians. This leads to jealousy, anger and interrupted growth. If we are to become what God has planned for us we each have to develop humility as the Holy Spirit guides us into devoted, dedicated discipleship.

Before our salvation experience we had to learn we needed a savior. After being born again we now need to remember we have a savior…and He has plans for us.