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Archive for the tag “Love one another”

Express It Well

Many times as I listen to God’s Word through different channels, the same message will be repeated. This week’s message was about love. It seems I am in a new season of learning and I need to understand this important teaching. This same scripture came up over and over throughout the week – the lawyer questioned Jesus on the greatest commandment.

The text is found in Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34. The greatest commandment taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 says we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” A similar text is found in Luke 10:25-37 called the Parable of the Good Samaritan where Jesus simplifies the message about being a good neighbor and showing mercy to the one who has fallen. In the Gospel of John 13:34-35, Jesus said this about his disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In Bob Goff’s new book Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People, he wrote that Jesus saw these two commands of loving God and loving others as “one inseparable mandate.” Bob mentions that we can’t really love God if we don’t love others that are put on our paths. God puts people in our lives to love. Difficult ones too. Bob mentions also that there is no school to learn these things expect for the next door neighbor. It’s a daily process of growing our love and expressing it well.

James MacDonald is in a sermon series called Vertical Living. His focused passage was on Matthew 22:37-40. He brought out the point that human beings are made in the image of God. The central characteristic of God is love. If we are made in His image, shouldn’t our central character be love as well? This is where sin came in and broke us. We don’t love well. However, when Jesus saves us from our sins, we are given His Spirit to help us love well. We are to grow in that capacity to love through His Spirit. We are to grow in loving God more and loving others more.

Pastor James brought out a point that I had never considered before. God made us all uniquely and we love uniquely. God doesn’t love us equally but uniquely. We are not clones in Christlikeness. We are different so why shouldn’t we love differently as well? We are to love God individually as He made us. I express my love differently than you do. I’m not a touchy, feely kind of person and you may be. But we are all supposed to grow in our capacity to love as we are made in His image. We are to express it well. It’s the only thing that will change our world.

When the Gospel message was just getting started, it was the love that the followers of Jesus showed to others that changed the world. When plagues broke out, the followers of Jesus stayed behind and cared for the sick. When babies were left on the side of the road, it was the Christ followers that picked them up and took them home as their own. They were different and people noticed. Shouldn’t it be the same today? Shouldn’t we be more like the Samaritan and show mercy?

Many have said that the Samaritan in the story is the image of Jesus and we are the ones who were beaten and left for dead. When Jesus found us in that condition, He stopped and helped us up so that we could help others in that same condition. We can love because Jesus loved us first. He came to us first. Because of His love, we too can love. We have all been given the capacity to love. We just need to demonstrate it more effectively.

Everyday we’re given an opportunity to love. This week, I didn’t do it very well. I had opportunities that I missed. I am learning to recognize these opportunities more and more but sometimes I mess up like this week. I am growing in my awareness so maybe next time I will do it better. Love is an expression. I need to express it more often in ways that it can be received more effectively. Forgive me when I don’t and show me mercy as I will do for you. Let’s get better at this, shall we? This is my season to love well. How about you?

I will leave with you the apostle Paul’s teaching on love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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Be the Light

Have you ever had a dream that left you feeling unsettled? The last two mornings, I have had that feeling. I don’t know why I dreamed the things I have dreamed, but they were disturbing nonetheless. This last one was about a storm brewing that I could not escape. The winds were picking up and the black clouds were rolling in. I was not at home and I couldn’t make my way there because I couldn’t find my car – actually it was a van which is a bit more unsettling to me as well! Anyway, I woke up in that state of “what am I to do?” “Where am I going to go?” Yuck. I didn’t get to finish the dream. I guess that’s why it’s so unsettling; there’s no conclusion. Did I make it through the storm? Did I ever find the hideous van? (Nothing against vans, but this one was a wreck.)

Maybe this dream was because of the unsettled times we’re in. The storm brewing feels like it’s never going to end. And we are, for sure, not at home in this place. I don’t usually write about the tragedies we are experiencing. But I read some of the comments on Facebook last night about gun control, mental illness and politics that left me feeling a bit unsettled. There is a lot of anger coming from all corners. I don’t have kids so I really don’t think about the things parents think about, but I understand the anger.

I don’t have a problem with guns, although I don’t like them. I feel sorry for those who are dealing with mental illness. And I am sorry that all they are given are drugs instead of helping them with the problem. There has to be a different course of action. Background checks will continue to fail the system. Evil is still a problem that cannot be legislated. Parkland maybe the latest but unfortunately will not be the last. There is always a way for evil to find its way. “Where there is a will there will be a way.” It does feel hopeless and unsettling.

We have been on this slippery slope for quite some time. I can remember the unsettling times we had when I was growing up. Back then it was rioting and knives were the course of action. Guns were not an issue. I don’t remember what set it all off. I was in grade school when the riots happened in the local high school. When the high school kids came onto our school grounds, the principal made them leave – and they did. There was respect for authority back then.

Maybe it was my generation that began this slippery slope. We didn’t like the rules we had growing up and we relaxed them for our kids. Maybe the baby boomers got it wrong and the generations coming from them are experiencing the consequences. We took out spanking the kids when they broke the rules – I know; child abuse and all that – I get it. We have to be politically correct and not allow any mention of God in school life. No prayers; although I don’t remember prayers in my school at the time. But the things I grew up with, seemed to have gone away. School isn’t the same as it once was. I don’t know whose fault it really is but culture will not change any time soon. We’re too far down the slope to turn back now, right?

The real problem we’re facing is a heart problem. Somewhere along the way, the heart problem got more pronounced. It’s the law of sowing and reaping. We haven’t sown into the heart the ideas of right and wrong; of love and kindness; of respect for authority. We have gotten way off track. I think we started chasing the almighty dollar and left the family to fend for itself. The dollar has failed us. The family unit is no longer the same. When the family unit has been destroyed, so will the community as a whole. The threads of life are unraveling at a faster pace than ever before. It’s hard to get the family and the community back together again. And the systems are failing because of it.

So, what is the answer we are seeking? Yes, the correct answer is Jesus. However, the community needs the church to wake up to the problem. We need to stop chasing the dollar and start paying more attention to the family. We need to bring back the heart of Jesus’ message to the church and to the community. Love God and love one another. When we follow those commands, it will change the family and the community. It’s not a simple change. It’s a small ruder to turn this boat around.

The church has quite a bit of accountability for this slippery slope. We have allowed evil to reign in our communities and in our families. The church has to be more proactive instead of reactive. It’s not about our programs that will change this world. It’s about the heart of Jesus and showing it to others outside of our walls.

You do know who the church is, right? It’s you. And me. Anyone who follows Jesus has a part to play in solving this problem. And we need to get more involved – even if we don’t have kids – yes, I am talking to myself now. The light will dispel the darkness. We have to be out there showing the love of Jesus to those who have no idea He will change their lives – He will change their hearts. We can’t just talk about it anymore. We have to demonstrate it. Let others experience this love for themselves. It changes everything.

Maybe we need to experience it again too. Maybe we’re part of the problem. We have forgotten God’s love for us and we feel unloved as a whole. Are you on your knees? It’s time, church. We can make a difference. One child at a time. One family at a time. One community at a time. One state. One nation. One world. It’s our purpose. Let’s get on with it.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

To My Dad…

You might think this is a delayed Father’s Day posting. For those outside of the United States who don’t know our traditions, the third Sunday in June is set aside to honor Dads. We have a Sunday in May to honor Moms as well. I don’t know when or how these two days were first celebrated. I don’t remember them being that big a deal when I was growing up. Anyway, this posting is not about Father’s Day. It’s a posting celebrating my Dad because of his 90th birthday tomorrow. My Dad doesn’t really enjoy presents. He could care less about them. His love language is spending time with him. So I will make the trip to see him and love on him the way he enjoys it.

My Dad has been my champion all my life. He has never let me down. He showed up whenever I needed him. Of course, Mom may have instigated the trip to me when I had my car accident. However, Dad has always been the one I turned to when I have needed advice or needed a helping hand. He was a great handy man and could do almost anything. I never had to hire a man to do odd jobs around my house until my Dad was no longer able to handle those types of things.

I was my Dad’s shadow most of my growing up life. On Saturday’s I looked forward to “help” him do those things around the house. Mowing grass, changing oil in the car, anything he did, I was right there with him. The only thing I couldn’t do was play golf with him on Saturday mornings. Even though he taught me to play when I was quite young, Saturday mornings were for his standard foursome. On one or two occasions, I would be allowed to go with him. He taught me how to drive a golf cart long before it was legal to do so. When I took driver’s education, the instructor wondered why I drove so well until I told him I was a golfer. And my Dad was the one who helped me learn to drive on real roads too.

My Dad is pretty special to me. Sure we had our difficulties during my teen years. It was a struggle one summer between my first and second year in college. I was testing my wings, and my parents were keeping me from such a “good” life. All my life, I had boundaries set for my protection to keep me from getting hurt or going down the wrong path. I could have so easily strayed (and did for a time), but they kept instructing (and punishing me) to keep me on the straight and narrow path. Of course I resented it at that time. But looking back on it, what a blessing it was to have those boundaries. I rebelled for a few years, but came back when I realized it was not the life for me.

Dad didn’t have an easy childhood. Growing up in the depression meant his family didn’t have much. His father had a small grocery store so at least they had food on the table. They had a small farm too and had pigs, cows and chickens. During that time, they were probably considered rich. Dad and his brothers were mischievous. Some of my best memories are the times his brothers and him would tell the stories. They would laugh until they cried and of course we would laugh just as hard while listening. Those days are gone now. Two brothers are with the Lord, and it’s hard to tell the tales without his sidekicks. So I guess my Dad did have a rich childhood, and it had nothing to do with money.

Dad has always been a good provider. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to give his girls their hearts desires (that includes my Mom too!). After my Mom died a few years ago, Dad would call me every night. Before he said goodbye, his last words were to remember your Dad loves you very much. He still reminds me every now and then how much he loves me. He is a sweet, sweet man. I love him dearly.

You know the best thing about my Dad? He was a good reflection of Jesus and God the Father. If you see some of the same attributes in this posting, it’s not by accident. There isn’t a negative thought toward God when I think of Him as a Father. Dad was a good example of what it’s like to be God’s child. Provider, yes. Protector, always. Loves my unconditionally, oh yes! Mentor, Mediator, and Instructor. God the Father does it all for me. Jesus is my Rock and my Salvation as my Dad once was for me as a young child. Dad gave me the example early so that I could grasp the concept later. When I need advice, I go to my heavenly Father now. When I need assurance and a champion, Jesus is my man. When I want my heart’s desire, I look to God to provide as He wills.

Dad did his job. He raised me and my sisters to be women of God and disciples of Jesus. Dad shaped my character and helped hone my skills. Dad gave me all that I needed to live a good life. Dad, I love you! Thanks for loving me as you do. I thank God every day for such a good Dad. May God continually bless you richly for the rest of your life. See you soon!

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3 (NLT)

Peace in Chaos

This week is the annual family beach trip. As I sit here typing away, children are squealing in delight. The television is blaring with cartoons. But I am in my happy place even if it’s chaotic. I love this place with the family under one roof. The youngest is under one year and the oldest – my Dad – closing in at 90 this month. The baby had a hard time adjusting to my Dad; I guess old just doesn’t come across well to the young. Anyway, family is very special to me. I love being with my nephew and their kids. The kids go strong from sun up to sun down; and I think the adults are a bit jealous to have some of that energy!

God blesses the young with the energy and the old with the dreams – the young can accomplish what the old no longer can manage. We pass the baton to the young and let them run the race. We can give guidance and instruction. But they have to pay attention to what we have to say. Many times, the young resent the boundaries we impose on them. Boundaries are there for protection. As the young grow more mature, the boundaries are adjusted to reflect their new maturity.

I think God gives us boundaries as well. We all need those protective boundaries. The ocean only goes so far. God set those boundaries at the beginning. Climate change is a big topic right now, but I believe God already allowed those boundaries to expand and contract through time. We are the ones who have built where we shouldn’t have built.

The beach where we stay is located on an island. At the point of the island, we can see across to the next island. The other island has houses built to the very tip. However, there is a multitude of sandbags lining the shore to protect the houses that were never meant to be there in the first place. The planners didn’t plan for the shifting sands to shift, but it has occurred just as God allowed from the beginning.

God knows the boundaries will be pushed. Culture resents the boundaries He established from the beginning. Those houses will be long gone in a few years; the sands on the island shifts as the tide flows. But we are to be ones who never shifts as the tide of culture shifts. Our foundation is on the rock of Jesus. Our foundation does not move according to culture change. Right now that is unacceptable. We might experience blow back from our narrow view. God, however, is not pleased when culture shifts away from Him.

As the people of God, we are not to judge but to love. God never gave us the right to judge others. That is His right. His Word tells us our right is to love as Jesus loved. It’s easy to love my family. They are a loving bunch. I think God gave us a picture of a family in order to show us where we stand with Him. He wants all of His children to get along. He wants His family to show love to others outside His family. God is all about adoption and would love to graft all the people of the world into His family.

As my family has grown over the years (with new people being grafted in), we have all had to make adjustments. But we live with the same rules when we come together. We have the same understanding. There may be chaos in our midst, but there is a peace that fills the room. Love is the undercurrent that never shifts from our foundations. Yes, there is discipline when someone breaks the rules. There is crying involved at least once a day. But at the end of the day, we know that love always prevails.

So it should be with God’s family. Our foundation is built on love. Chaos may happen all around us, but peace is always part of our DNA through Jesus; and love always prevails at the end of the day. God has allowed what is taking place today, but it’s never His will to let others dictate how we live. When we live by His rules and His boundaries, we are in a happy place. Our lives work better and the peace fills the room of our hearts. This is God’s way. His foundation never shifts, and we can stand on that promise. The beach is a good place to learn how to be in a loving family.

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NLT)

The Gathering

Last week, I wrote about having unity in the body for prayer. This week, I was reminded that we are to be in unity as a community. I have heard it said that as Christians we don’t have to gather together to worship. We can do it as individuals: anytime, anyplace. True. But there is something about being together that makes a difference. We are told in Scripture that angels are gathered together before the throne in worship. Revelation 5:11 says there are many angels – thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They are gathered around the throne singing “worthy of the Lamb.” It reminds me of a Beth Moore conference at the end of the gathering when Travis Cottrell sings a song based on that verse. It’s powerful. There are several songs he sings that is that powerful. It’s worth the price of admission!

Have you ever been to one of Beth’s conferences or another big gathering of believers (besides church gatherings on Sundays)? I have been to several Beth Moore conferences and simulcast. I have been to a Billy Graham conference back in the day. When we stand up and sing certain songs together, I will get cold chills running down my arms. It’s powerful to hear all the voices together singing in unity. I love going to those conferences. I get encouraged by the Word spoken and sometimes I get a word directly spoken about a prayer request. It’s great when that happens.

However, gathering together isn’t really about the Word being spoken – although it’s good to gather to hear God’s Word; but the real power is gathering together to worship our Lord. There’s nothing more glorious because it replicates what will take place when we all gather in heaven. We will join with the angels in their praise of our Lord and King. This down here is just a dress rehearsal. We’re trying to get it right down here. But up there, everything will be right! There will be no one singing off-key or off the beat. It will be perfect!

So I get that we can do it on our own and we should. But as the writer of Hebrews says we shouldn’t neglect gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). The writer says especially in this day and time at the nearness of Jesus’ return. It’s important to encourage one another. It’s important to live as a community, helping each other through these tough times – especially as persecution breaks against us. And it will eventually. Actually, it has already started in some regards.

When I was growing up, it was the norm to gather together on Sundays. Not so much now. It is very rare for all the neighbors in the neighborhood meeting at the intersections in a rush to get to a gathering. Matter of fact, when I walk around the neighborhood on Sunday mornings, it’s downright peaceful. There is no traffic at all. No one is out walking either.

Contrast that with a Saturday afternoon college football game where the home team is playing. There is a rush to get to the game. Thousands upon thousands gather to watch men clash on the turf. There are lots of cheers going on and lots of singing of the fight song. Encouragement to the team members are shouted from the stands. The fans have no place on the field. There is nothing significant about the event. Sure some team will be victorious at the end of the game. Fans will leave and go about their own business. Their lives were not changed by the outcome of the event. Sure, someone will be a little down because their team lost. But they still go about their business.

The gathering of the church is much different. It should be as enthusiastic as the football game. However, we’re not fans. We are on the field playing! We all have a part to play, and it’s not being on the sidelines cheering. We should be encouraging our teammates just as zealously as those who gather for the football game. The gathering changes us. It inspires us. The glory of the Lord is revealed through us, and helps us shine brighter in our neighborhoods. We are to go out and be the light we are meant to be when this dark world knocks on our door. Gathering together is good for our benefit and for others.

The gathering though is more than a cheering session. It’s about community. It’s about sharing our lives with one another. The people who gathered together in the first century shared everything. No one was in need. The people were persecuted for their faith and were cast out of society with nothing. The ones who still had resources shared with those who have nothing because of their faith. That’s the picture of the true church.

In these last days, we need to come back to that picture of unity; of community. Scripture tells us we are to be known for our love for one another. That’s what gathering is all about. We can worship on our own, but we can’t love one another well without gathering together. Do not forsake it. Our neighbors are counting on us whether they realize it or not. We have the hope that will change their lives. Let’s be the church we’re called to be, and do good to all as we’re called to do.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Philippians 1:27; 2:1-2 (NLT)

Father’s Day

Over the weekend, I reflected on our family vacation. A couple of thoughts came to mind that I would like to share. My nephews have turned out to be good Dads. All my nephews have children now and to see them interacting with their kids is very heart-warming. Throughout the week, I observed the interactions with father and son, and fathers and daughters. Right now, we have an abundance of little girls. The girls’ interaction with their Dads is a little different than the father and son relationship. The father interacted more robust with tossing the son about, while the girls were handled with greater care. But in all, love was very obvious toward their little ones.

I saw the Dads taking care of the children’s needs. When cries were prevalent, Dad was there to soothe the hurt. When falls happened, the Dads scooped up their child into a tender embrace. When words were exchanged, Dad came to solve the issue. There was discipline as well. The smack on the rear got the offenders attention. Discipline isn’t showing a lack of love for the child but a matter of training those young children. Regardless of the offense, their Dad still loved them just the same. The Dad would open his arms to his child, and the child would come running. Kisses and hugs were in abundance.

What I saw in those moments of a Dad loving a child reminded me of my relationship with my own Dad. My Dad will turn 89 this month. He isn’t the same as he was twenty years ago. Age has crept in and robbed him of strength and vitality. His interactions with me are different today as well. I still feel his love toward me even though his actions are different. We don’t have meaningful conversations anymore. He isn’t able to play golf with me now. It was one of the ways we spent time together. Now, we spend time sitting in front of a TV; or in the case of the beach house, we sat on the porch and watched the clouds go by. It’s different now. We can’t get the years back. It’s different, but the love isn’t. I love him just as he is today.

As I watched my nephews and been in a father/daughter relationship all my life; I have a good idea who God is as a Father. I know what it’s like to have a loving Dad. But even in my Dad’s love there is imperfection. There isn’t the perfect love that my heavenly Father has for me. I really can’t comprehend the perfect love that my heavenly Father has; I have a good idea because of my earthy Dad. But my heavenly Father loves over and beyond anything that I could imagine.

When the boys took care of their children, I saw how God interacts with us. When we hurt, He comes to comfort us. When we fall, He comes to pick us up. When our feelings get hurt, He speaks tenderly toward us. And when we do wrong, He comes to discipline us to correct us for our overall good. It is all done out of love. And when we please Him, He showers us in blessings too numerable to count.

God’s reflection is evident in my nephews’ actions toward their children. It makes me awestruck at God’s love for humanity. We wonder at times where God is when tragedy strikes. But God is still on His throne, still loving us, and still waiting on us to respond to Him. Tragedy happens because we live in a sinful world. It doesn’t mean that God has turned His back on us. He still loves us as a Father loves a child. Our defiant behavior will not be ignored for long before our loving Father will get our attention. Sometimes it takes a smack on the rear; sometimes it’s just a rebuke with words. But it never is done out of a lack of love.

I love the picture Luke painted of a prodigal son returning to his Father’s house (found in Luke 15). There wasn’t a day that the Father was not looking for the son to return. The moment the son was in view, the Father waited no longer; he ran toward his son. The Father wrapped him in the finest robe and put a ring on his finger. The son was restored to the family. God is the Father waiting for our hearts to turn toward Him. He is waiting to lavish us in His love. On this Father’s Day, remember God’s love for you. If you are a prodigal, it’s never too late to return to your Father’s house. He is waiting to wrap His arms around you and love you like you have never experienced before!

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

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