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Friday, September 21, 2018

I Am Loved—How Do I Pass It On?


Reading: I John 4:12-19

 
“It is true that no human being has ever had a direct vision of God. Yet, if we love each other God does actually live within us, and his love grows in us towards perfection. And …the guarantee of our living in him and his living in us is the share of his own Spirit which he gives us (I John 4: 12-13, Phillips).”
 
A couple of months ago, I wrote a Daily Bible Blast on this same portion of scripture [“The Narthex Game,” June 29, 2018], emphasizing how I finally began to believe that God actually does love me.  Today, I’m thinking about how I might pass love on to others. Verse 19 says that “We love because he first loved us.”
 
That’s the answer, then. If I know I am loved, I want to extend it others. Sounds simple enough, and it’s quite easy to do – for those who are easy to love. But what about fellow believers who are difficult to like, those who are contentious, disruptive, uncooperative, etc? God calls us to love all in the body of Christ, and somehow we need to learn to love the unlovely – something definitely not a natural thing to be inclined to do. So, I may want to love others because I am loved, but how am I able to go beyond my “natural inclination” to love only those who love me or who are easy to love?
 
God has given us a “share of his Spirit” that guarantees that we are living in him and he in us (vs 13).  We rely on his Spirit in us to love others – especially all our brothers and sisters he places in our midst (our local church body), those we rub shoulders with in ways that can rub us the wrong way! May we allow his Spirit to work in our hearts to pass on love from our Lord to his children, that we might live in unity.

 

Dear, Lord, thank you for giving us your Spirit to live in us, helping us love in ways we never thought we could.  Help me to willingly pass on your love and care to my brothers and sisters, not only for their sake but also that those who don’t know you yet will see and “know we are Christians by our love.” Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My Lovable Enemy

The Message version of this scripture text is wonderful and revealing

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. (Matthew 5:43-44)

Love your enemies! How counter intuitive is that? It certainly is not instinctual, but God does command us to do this. What might that look like? There are a few questions that come to mind right away.
  • Who is my enemy? "Someone who gives you a hard time..."
  • Why are they the enemy? "they are good and bad, nice and nasty..."
  • How do I love them? "respond with the energies of prayer..."
  • Why should I love them? "Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst..."

Is the opposing team my enemy? Is the neighbor who installed a 6' fence around his yard my enemy? How about the person who hit my car and left the scene? Is he or she my enemy? How about those people who don't agree with me, my politics, my life-style, my profession?  Just who is the enemy...and why?

Is it the unsolicited phone caller telling you that your vehicle warranty is about to expire, but they will renew it for you over the phone...or is the third caller of the day telling you they are concerned about your student loan...or my favorite - "I am calling from Microsoft and we have detected a virus on your computer..." These unpleasant interruptions feel like attacks from the enemy. They hint of wrong doing or at the very least untruths.

By not allowing these intrusions to spoil our day, by maybe even speaking a kind or gentle word to them, we are loving our enemies. I must try that the next time I receive a call.

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:48 MSG)


Matthew 5:43-48

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Our Regatta Regalia


When I was frequenting a bakery cafe on Ohio State’s campus, there would often sit just a few feet from me the university’s women’s crew coaching staff and key leaders from the school’s national powerhouse rowing team. They met there regularly, seemingly to keep communications wide open in both directions and to minimize potential disruptions to team unity, focus and success. It was good leadership.

One morning, my attention tacked to “headwinds” at the table on my left. A younger member of this select group was wearing a t-shirt of another university, and seeing this, the coach kindly, but firmly took issue with the matter, emphasizing the student’s identity as a team member and educating her on the impact of the individual on the solidarity of the whole. I can’t say whether the rower learned anything that day, but I came away with a deeper appreciation of responsibility and resolve.

To be fair, it is easy to lose perspective in life, and course-corrections are often necessary. For instance, though the believers in Ephesus now belonged to the ultimate championship crew, the body of Christ, some still sported their old t-shirts of darkness—greed, impurity, and obscenity, in their case—inconsistent for the individual and confusing to the team. So, Paul reminded them of their new identity in Him whose jersey they now wore: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light ...”1

What do we wear in their place when we remove the uniforms of our past? Again, we look to Paul. Steering the Thessalonians also from the depths of darkness into the lanes of light, he emphasized self-control, embracing who they were in Christ and aligning their actions with their identity in Him. How? By “putting on faith and love ... and the hope of salvation.”2 For when we really grasp what Jesus has done for us, when we openly accept for ourselves the deep love He has for us, we are overwhelmed to the point we eagerly discard the old and put on the new. Faith, hope and love—these are the team regalia that bind us together as we represent Christ in a watching world.

Father, thank you for saving me and giving me new and eternal life in Christ. Grace me to truly understand who He’s made me to be, and inspire me to live and to give in faith, hope and love. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ in me is freedom.

1 Ephesians 5:8
2 1 Thessalonians 5:8

See today's Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thou Shalt Not Judge … Never, Ever, Ever!



1Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Very popular, very acceptable. I’ll do what I want. You’ll do what you want. Neither of us will dare correct the other or insinuate that one (or both) of us is a sinner. 

2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

So if I ignore everyone else’s sin, then they’ll have to ignore my sin. Or else … the judgment of God! 

3Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Huh? My brother is perfect the way he is. I do not judge him. And what is this plank of which you speak, Jesus?

4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 

What speck? What plank? We’re perfect the way we are. Where are you going with this, Jesus?!

5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

And there’s the issue! We were never called to ignore sin in our own lives or each other’s lives. Quite to the contrary, the Scriptures read: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received,” (Eph 4:1) and, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (Gal 6:1)

We are called to soberly evaluate our sin, repent, and gently restore our brothers and sisters in Christ. Are you doing this?