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.

 

 

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.

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.

Love All Others

It was early in the morning. The day was clear and clean and new and fresh. I was alone with God.

I asked Him, "Father, what do you want me to do today?"

He answered, "Love others."

I thought for a minute and then said, "OK. Which others?"

"All others," He replied.

"Wait a minute," I said. "You don't really mean 'ALL others,' do you?"

"All others," He repeated.

"But Father, there are a lot of 'others' in my life that aren't very loveable. Some of them don't deserve being loved."

"All others," He said again.

"But Father, I don't even like some of the people I'll be with today."

He answered, "I didn't say like them, I said LOVE them."

"But Father, some of them certainly don't love me. Can I wait until they love me first?"

"No, my child. Love them first. Show them that you love them. All of them. Starting today."

"But Father, they are really not worth loving. No one can love all of them."

"I do," came the reply.

At that point I had no more objections. I left my devotional time still unsure I could love as He was demanding, but I knew I had to try.

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.

God’s Firm Grip

Recently received this from David Martin. He gave me permission to use it.

Well, it finally happened.  Violette, our granddaughter, took her first steps.  They were halting and unsure, but still independent.  She was so proud of her little self.  Even though she has a few dozen independent steps under her diaper, she still needs our assistance almost 100% of the time to get around on her own two feet.

As I was making the umpteenth lap around the house yesterday holding her chubby little hands, I realized that the death-grip she had on my fingers was not at all necessary.  I had a firm grasp on her hands that would not allow her to fall.  But that did not lessen the need she felt to hang on tightly to my forefingers.

All too often that is how I treat God.  I think I must hang on to Him with all my might, grasping his hands as tightly as possible.  My ability to hang on to God with my strength is so insignificant as to be worthless.  It is His grasp on my hands that keeps me from falling.  

Isaiah 41:13  For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;  it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." 

His children can rest in the fact that it is El Shaddi, God Almighty, who holds our hands to keep us safe and upright.  How thankful I am that I am in His hands.     



Friendship

Our human nature causes us to seek friends and companions on the basis of our own needs. We choose to be with people who will support us, make us feel good and encourage us. We build relationships in which we can be comfortable and enjoy ourselves. However, in making relationship choices we are to look at the pattern set by Christ and seek to be led by the Spirit.

Christ chose to form relationships with certain people, but his choices were based on their needs, not his. He went into the homes of publicans and sinners because they needed him and his message. He met at night with Nicodemus because Nicodemus needed answers. He chose to remain at the well in Samaria because a woman needed spiritual insights.

We need to be continually in prayer about our relationship choices. If we are in close daily contact with Christ He will become our companion and friend. This will free us to reach out to others on the basis of their needs.

This is part of what Paul had in mind when he said that our life should be a living sacrifice to the Father. He was calling us to surrender our desires, priorities and time on the altar of redemptive, supportive relationships. Then we will be free to encourage and comfort others in the same way Christ helps us.

Jesus calls us to be consecrated servants, not comfortable sponges. He set the pattern we are to follow when he said he came “to look for….people who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 CEV)

Musings #2

 Monday morning I was visiting with a friend when he asked me “What did you do last weekend?”
  
 “Friday morning I went to the grocery store.”
 “So?”
 “I brought home some groceries"
  
 “Friday afternoon I went to see my optometrist.”
 “So?”
 “I can read small print again.”
  
 “Saturday morning I took my car to the mechanic.”
 “So?”
 “It doesn't make that funny squeak anymore.”
 
  “Sunday morning I went to church.”
 “So?”
Based on your last church visit, how would you have responded?
 

Satan says to us “Here are some things wrong with you. They will keep you from ever amounting to anything. You're worthless. You never will be able to improve."
 Self-improvement books say “This is what is wrong with you. Here are some ways you can improve.” (Then you are on your own.) 
 God says "I love you. I know there are some things wrong with you. But that's all right for now. Come sit beside me and let's visit for awhile. Let me hold you. We'll do the improvement stuff later.”
 
 

  Every morning God hands me a sack. It is labeled with my name and the date. In it are everything I will need to live that day the way God wants me to. He allows me the opportunity to put stuff in or take stuff out before I start the day. (Those put-in and take-out choices greatly influence how successful and pleasant that day will be.)
   
 In the evening God sits with me and we open the sack to see what is still there. Many of the things that started out in the sack are gone and some new things are there. Often God will ask me “Why did you take specific items out and what did you do with them.” Other times He will say “Will you explain why those new things are in there.”

  Sometimes the evening discussions about my sack are pleasant and other times they are very uncomfortable. But when we are done I always know He loves me.
 

BITS & PIECES, ODDS & ENDS – 11

We should worship God because of his majesty and power – Who He is. We should love God because of his mercy and grace – What He has done.

IMMANUEL – God with us. I have come to believe this is the greatest word of all. Not God above us or God creating us or God judging us. Just God with us.

In my efforts to advance toward Christlikeness, am I a “stroller” Christian or a “training wheels” Christian or a “ten speed” Christian?

When God shows me a sin in my life I usually try to deny it (I didn’t do it) or distort  it (It’s not my fault) or dismiss it (It’s no big deal.) Seems I will do almost anything but confess it and repent.

Prayer was never meant to be a monologue. God intends for our prayers to be as much listening as talking.

I tend to value God’s promises but ignore or resist his commands. Proverbs 2:1-5 tells me to “treasure  his commandments.”

When I meet others will I lift their burdens, ignore their burdens, or add to their burdens?

God is my Father! When people watch my life do they ever say about me “He’s  just a chip off the old block?”