Love Challenge

www.bible.com/1713/mat.5.44.csb

I would rather be challenged to love those I already love more. I know how they will respond and it will strengthen us. But this is not that challenge.

When Jesus teaches this in the Sermon on the Mount, He is talking to the people of Galilee and more importantly, His disciples. He is challenging them to express love towards a group that they would ordinarily avoid: their enemies.

Enemies can be one of two kinds, personal and impersonal. Personal enemies are people you know with whom you may have once been friends, but have had a falling out. You may have good reasons for your animus, and they might too. But these are faces you know and respond with revulsion.

Impersonal enemies are those you don’t know personally, but hate who they are anyway, be it politics, religion, authority or some other very good reason. Many people hate Trump, but very few know him. They hate what he stands for and the things he says, though he has not done anything personal to them.

And then there is the word used here for “love”. While Jesus probably didn’t speak Greek (but Aramaic), a special Greek Word is employed here to get across His meaning. As the Apostle Matthew records it, Jesus says we ought to agape our enemies, to love with respect and honor, even to the point of sacrifice of necessary. That is the most powerful love imaginable, because that’s how God loved us.

While we were enemies, God demonstrated His own love for us by sending His Son, who died for our sins. We who were enemies of God, were loved lavishly by Him. O the grace and love we have been given. May God never ceased to be praised for His marvelous gift!

So we who have been so lavishly loved. Now we must give that same love to our enemies. We must extend the same love given to us unto others. That is the challenge today. Not to those who will love us back, but to those who may not.

How will you show this love today? Can you? For it is the unique test of the Christian to show love in gratitude for the love showed to him. If we cannot share that love, then we haven’t really understood it.

God bless you in your walk today!

Water and Fire

www.bible.com/1713/isa.43.2.csb

God had proven Himself true with this statement several times, once for the Red Sea and a couple of times with the Jordan River. The other though, passage through fire, wasn’t something that had been tried yet. It wouldn’t be tried for another hundred and fifty years. That’s when Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to an idol.

These promises aren’t just figurative. God had already saved them through water and would save some through fire. But this isn’t the greatest promise. The greatest promise is this: “I will be with you.” Both the midst of the sea and the midst of the furnace are extreme circumstances. Do you suppose that God will be with you in lesser circumstances? Would God be with you in the midst of overwhelming responsibility? How about the midst of a dysfunctional family? Or even a Monday?

The greatest promise is one that we enjoy everyday, in tough times or easy. It’s one that we ought to take advantage of as often as we can, for life quickly becomes unmanageable when we try to do it on our own.

Take this promise with you today. God bless!

Future Love

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.14.21.csb

Does it trouble anyone that Jesus promises love to those who obey Him in this verse? The love of the Father and the Son are both placed in the future for the one who keeps the commands of the Lord, rather than the present. The one who loves will he loved. Hmmm.

Now I have other Scriptures, like Romans 5:8 that say God loved us do much and proved that Love by sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. I have John 3:16, same book, where Jesus says God loved the world before He sent His Son, so I am not worried about not being loved. It’s just that this verse places obedience and our own love for Him as necessary prerequisites for His love for us. Out of context this would be troubling. In context it tells me that additional love awaits me for my obedience and love for God. A father loves all his children, but he also has extra love for those on the same page as he is, who share his interests and pursuits.

My children tell me all the things they are interested in. I can follow some of their conversation. I find myself more drawn when they are talking about things I am interested in. It’s human nature. When my children and I share a common interest, I find extra enjoyment sharing it with them.

I believe God loves all of his children equally, proof being Christ Jesus. But I believe He likes spending time with those who share His interests. Those who by their obedience to His commands and love Him in return find themselves loved by Him even more. This is something that I would not understand if I was not a father myself.

What can you and God do together today? What are the things that interest God? And would we be pleased to do the things that bring Him joy?

If you have kids, you know that one thing they like to do, when they are young, is bring you their artwork. I feel like we do that with God, because we want to feel His approval. But our artwork is satisfying what she has told us to do, so that we might present Him ourselves. We don’t do this to earn His love, but because He loves us first. He only loves us more.

Put your stock in this future love. Look for opportunities today to please your Father, and He will love you more.

God bless you today.

Back to Normal

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.23-24.csb

What we find ourselves doing this week is seeing school start back up and work taking a more normal routine. The local college move-in won’t be far behind and our community will resume normal operations until May. Ugh.

So I want to take this moment to consider the verse above and think about all the things we do. We do many things to make others “happy”. I do things around the house to please my wife. I counsel and direct the kids when they need it, but also get them something special if I think they need that too. I go to work and my supervisor appreciates my presence and the fact I do that consistently. I check in with my folks periodically just to make sure they are doing ok. I do a lot of things for a lot of people to make them happy. But this verse reminds me that none of them are my master. In fact, none of them can deliver what I need most.

I need peace. I need grace. I need an Almighty God to look upon me with favor, and not with judgment. I need greater faith, strength to resist temptation, and the hope that comes with eternity. Those are things I truly need. Without them, I will either, even though my outward man appears healthy. My inward man will draw in upon himself and die while I live. I must have, I crave spiritual sustenance, and that can only come from my Lord. Blessed are you when you hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be satisfied. I pray today that I would be satisfied in these. For then may I live life more abundantly, the better life than what this world offers.

May you share in this quest with me. God bless!

Grace and Peace to You

www.bible.com/1713/num.6.24-26.csb

One of Paul’s favorite greetings to the young churches was this familiar line offering grace and peace. We have grace through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us at the cross, but peace also from the blood which satisfies the penalty of our sins.

So when we look back at this verse from Numbers, we ought to be surprised at what we find here. Before Jesus’s sacrifice at the cross, we see both grace and peace being offered as blessing in the form of hope. The blessing was offered and received by those in Israel long before Jesus came. But the reality of both are there. These things can only truly come from the God who offers both from within himself. For eternity, the grace and peace that matters most comes from God.

But to a lesser degree, it is important to remember that we have a role in this too. Just as Paul extended both to his readers, the Israelites were expected to extend this to one another. They were expended to be conduits of God’s grace and peace to one another.

So the question laid upon you this morning. Just as God have you grace and peace through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will you extend that same grace and peace to others you meet in your travels? Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are expected to forgive others their sins against you.

That unkind word someone said to you. That offense that you took when they cut you off in traffic or stole that cashier from you at the store. That person that hurt you when you were down, or that parent who was drunk. That child that stole from you. That spouse or child that came out to you. That church that broke you. That wife that cursed you and took the kids, or that husband that hit you.

It doesn’t take much to find someone who sinned against us. Do you have grace and peace for them? Jesus warns us that if we cannot forgive, He will not forgive us either. Those are hard words. Honestly there are some people that if I meet them in heaven I may just punch them in the mouth.

We have the right to be angry when we feel wronged. But we don’t have the right to hold on to it. Be angry, but do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Breathe. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember the cost to forgive you.

Something to think about as we rise for worship this morning. God bless you and share a prayer below if you are dealing with something today.

Just a quick one for tonight

www.bible.com/1713/pro.19.21.csb

Sorry for the long delay today. Been a very busy day and life happens. But wants to make sure you woke up to a good word when you rise for worship in the morning.

We make plans. And we ought to. But God is the One who makes sure they work out. And if they are to work out, they must be according to His purposes.

I hope that today you don’t experience that frustration. God be with you today, as you go with God.

God bless!

Examples

www.bible.com/1713/php.4.9.csb

Have you ever been witness to a real Christian? Sometimes they are hard to spot in the wild. Someone who has integrity, honesty, and a winsome personality. Have you seen them? Sadly, many alleged Christians I’ve seen complain, wear sour faces, or forget to act like they were bought with a price and owed their eternity to a loving God who spent the blood of his own Son to save their souls.

I know it’s hard to always appreciate your faith and it’s implications because life happens. Life discourages us. If we let it go too long, it makes us hard. And that’s what I see a lot. People who have been hardened by hardship and sorrow. Like they’ve forgotten who they are. Or whose they are.

Many Christians live like practical atheists until Sunday comes around. Then they take their glum looks to church and glare at those that have any pretense to real worship. I’ve been on both sides of this, among those that disapprove and those that raise their hands anyway. I know the feelings and justifications offered and received. So I know why some, coming into the church, prefer the solemnity to the joy.

Life is supposed to be hard they reason. God is to be respected and worshipped with reverence, not with awkward posing and shouts. Being a Christian ought to be quiet and private, not public and obvious.

I admire those of quiet faith who have been tested and refined and still love the Lord. But I also admire those whose faith is on their sleeve, who speak of Jesus as their best friend and speak of Him constantly. And I believe everyone is needed in the Body of Christ. And everyone is an example to someone. They may be a bad example, but they are an example.

I want to encourage you this morning to look for those that are examples of Christian Faith, be they alive or dead, and learn a little about their journey. What brought them to Jesus? How did they decide to follow Him? What made the difference in life? Take a moment today to learn something about those who have walked the journey before us.

God bless!