Practical Love

“Love is patient.

Love is kind. 

 Love isn’t jealous.

It doesn’t sing its own praises.

Love isn’t arrogant.

 Love isn’t rude.  

Love doesn’t think about itself. 

 Love isn’t irritable.  

Love doesn’t keep track of wrongs.” 

                                                                                                 1 Cor. 13:4-5

Let’s get practical.  Love is practical.   So…..

 

  1. Read each description from Paul’s writing.
  2. Note a person that you know has been difficult for you to Love in each particular way.
  3. Ask God to give you one of His Thoughts toward that person.
  4. What practical action can you take that demonstrates that facet of His Love for him/her?

 

 

 

Morning Song

“But I will sing about your strength.

In the morning I will joyfully sing about your mercy.

You have been my stronghold and a place of safety in times of trouble.”  

Psalm 59:16 GW

David was absolutely freaking out.  Although he was destined to be King, he was being viciously targeted by the current King Saul.  Saul wanted David dead, and he had sent his top henchmen to do the job.

Yet, in the midst of David’s panic and well-warranted fear, knowing the absolute reality of what was intended as his physical demise which literally surrounded him, he looked Up.  What is it about those nighttime fears that can send us into a tailspin of hopelessness?   It seems that the Enemy of our souls does his best work in the night.  It’s his primary domain.  He loves the darkness…hates the Light.

BUT, thinking of “morning” literally, it begins at 12:01:01 AM.  It’s the official start of a new day.  Though everything seems to look and feel worse in the darkness of night, it’s all “Light” to God.  And it’s in the midst of that darkness of a new day that God’s Strength, Mercy, Stronghold of Safety and Protection become the most critical place for us to be.

It’s definitely something to sing about, right through the darkness and into the Light.

Gentle Reminder

 “Ask, and you will receive.

Search, and you will find.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Everyone who asks will receive.

The one who searches will find,

and for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8

 

I have known this verse since I was a child. Sometimes the most familiar things lose their meaning.  Today, this was one of those moments….

What strikes me today is the gentleness of the tone of the passage.  Yet, there is power behind each phrase….There is a Response following each one-word instruction.  The Response is from God.  There is a tenderness here.  There is a Listening Ear.

It’s the way a child would be spoken to….taught something very simple, very basic.  The simple repetition of each, and the subtle re-wording is as a teacher would use when speaking with a child.

What if it’s this simple?  Uncomplicated?  Clear and straightforward?

There is One on the other side of the Door, ready to open it.   Ready to give what we need.  Ready to reveal what we can’t find.  . . . He’s just on the other side of the Door.

Ask…………       Search………….        Knock

Measuring Faith and Love

“We always have to thank God for you, brothers and sisters.

It’s right to do this because

 your faith is showing remarkable growth

and your love for each other is increasing.”

 2 Thessalonians 1:3

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What do you usually thank God for concerning your spiritual brothers and sisters? What do you look for in them?  Often, we focus on ways they have impacted our own lives.

Paul is noting something special in his spiritual family.  It does not seem to have anything to with himself personally. He notes two specific characteristics(measurements) he sees growing in their lives in regard to their relationships with God and with each other.

  • Their faith is showing remarkable growth;
  • Their love for each otheris growing.

He is talking to them as family….as his brothers and sisters.  And the growth he notes is combined in the same breath. They go together…..faith growingand growth in loving each other.    

How is faithmeasured?  It is deeply personal…an internal thing.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faithisconfidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Paul had been seeing this increasing faithin the lives of his spiritual family.  How does that look in someone’s life?  It is a growing confidence in what we hope for, and growing assurance about what we don’t even see yet.  There will be more confidence as we step into the future…more surety with each step forward….not fear that stops us.  One will not fear for what is ahead…but rather, hope.  There will be a willingness to take the risk, even if other voices are telling us “you can’t.”  You will cling more tightly to His Hand as you move forward, trusting Him more with each step. It’s like trusting your GPS to be guiding you to your destination rather than guessing your own route.  Except that this GPS is perfect.  “God’s Perfect System”

Paul’s other measurement is seeing the lovethat is growing for each other.  Whereas faithis more connected to personal relationship with God,  LOVE is evident in human relationships.   It is very “normal” for there to be challenges when strangers begin to move into relationship.   It is significant for Paul to see noticeable love growing between people who were not in relationship before becoming part of the Family of God.

What would Paul note if he had been watching us?  What areas of growth would he notice about our faith?  What would be the evidence he’d see concerning our love for our spiritual family?

Keep It Simple

“You mortals, the Lord has told you what is good.

This is what the Lord requires from you:

to do what is right,

to love mercy,

and to live humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8   GW

I don’t know about you, but I think I hear a little frustration in this short message to us. We mortals have a lot of issues concerning how to “do life” on this planet, don’t we?   We love to make things so complicated…to try to understand all the details and implications as they will impact our lives.  We are our #1 concern, after all!

I almost chuckle as I read these key points that God gives us through His Prophet Micah.

“You mortals…”   Reminding us of who we really are…finite, tied to this earth, made from “dust”, having a beginning and an end in regard to this earth.  We are not God, though we tend to think that we are when it comes to who’s in control of our lives….

“…the Lord has told you what is good.”    God has told us in so many ways….through His Word, through His Spirit’s presence in our lives,  through nature itself,  and through the words of those who have gone before us, are currently with us. . . people who have experienced God and are much further down the road than we.

Here comes the simple, basic reminder of what we should already know: 

  1. “Do what is right.”  Actions….my actions….whether toward another person, or towards no one at all…  simply making choices, dwelling on thoughts, holding attitudes, or making decisions that perhaps no one at all will know about.  This focuses on the internal thoughts that lead to actions.
  1. “Love Mercy.”    Mercy is not dependent on being deserving, nor earning, nor “rights.” Mercy chooses to do good to another, whether known, seen or deserved.  Mercy is a heart condition.  Mercy holds my hand back from doing what may be deserved…what might be justified in the opinions of others.  Mercy bypasses reason and logic, and     comes from ones very heart in situations we face that, in the natural unfolding of events would result in a natural suffering of another.  Mercy chooses to withhold the “judgement” or natural consequences, and instead offer kindness, forgiveness, softness. 
  2. “Live humbly with your God.”   When we put God in His rightful place in our lives, we can take a step back from putting ourselves in what should be His rightful place in our attitudes, thoughts, and actions.   It’s remembering Who He Is, and who I am.

The perfect “3-Point Sermon”….keeping it simple, open-ended for personal applications, and easy to remember.   These are not points that are focused on the “me.”  It’s all for “the other.”

God knows all too well who He’s dealing with!

 

Something New Coming

“The Lord makes a path through the sea and a road through the strong currents.

Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago.

I am going to do something new.

It is already happening.

 Don’t you recognize it?

I will clear a way in the desert.

I will make rivers on dry land.”                    

Isaiah 46:16, 18-19

Do you ever feel like you’re floundering in a sea, unable to make headway, fearing that you will be pulled under at any moment? Perhaps you’ve had tragedy, or past trauma that has power in your life which you can’t escape?  God has something wonderful to say about that in this ancient passage.  He has set a Plan in motion for your life. . . He is beginning a change for the future. Watch for it….pay attention.

First, He refers to something He did in the past….

“The Lord makes a path through the sea

and a road through the strong currents.

Forget what happened in the past,

and do not dwell on events from long ago.

 …..does it not sound like the miracle of parting the Red Sea, and the road His People were able to follow through that impossible, deadly situation?   Yet we do not have to only hang onto that!  He is still working…still doing the impossible….now.

In the Sahara Desert, where I have spent much time, I can look as far as the horizon, in all directions and see nothing but the sand.  Traveling through the sand is difficult at best.  The dangers of being lost are very real.  You long to see tracks of any truck that has passed through, but the winds quickly cover tracks.  You long for a path or road to follow, always with the nagging fears of the absence of any water.

In that reality….the harshness of a desert. . . the Promise of God in these verses is truly life-saving.  Not only does He provide a clear way, a road through the vast, unbroken desert in our lives, but He makes a river.   Not just a cup of water, or an underground well.  He promises to make riversthat flow on dry land.  What a picture!   What an impossibility by human effort.

What HOPE He gives us in our desert experiences of life!

~Janet

Surprise

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The young soldier came through the gate with books in hand.  He enjoyed the quiet, early evening hours in our schools listening lab to work on his already fluent English.

Stopping to greet me, we began to chat.  I have read the Injil (New Testament) five times.  It is very interesting to me,he said.  Curious, I asked him, What story have you found most surprising?”   It took only a moment for him to respond, The story of Jesus bringing a dead man back to life.   Anyone who has the power to do that.!”  

Power had infiltrated the evening air.

Me versus We

toa-heftiba-399392The four-year-old little Saharawi girl had just opened her gift from the American visitors:  a pretty baby doll wearing a blue dress.  With a squeal, she immediately darted out of the tent as fast as her little legs could take her, waving her new doll overhead.  “Look what WE got!!!!   Look what WE got!”  she announced to all her little neighborhood friends.  They came from every neighboring tent, all excited to touch and hold this treasure from a far-away land.

There was no fighting, no possessiveness.

There was only joy.

Joy to be shared by all.

Winter Warmth

dmitry-sovyak-454068-unsplashCharcoal embers glow in the blackened fire pot.  Wrapped in thick blankets and jackets, the circle of friends huddle close on an old worn rug, sharing the warmth this cold desert night.  Their hands cup the little glasses of hot, sweet tea with its added milk and spices. Sweet comfort.  It’s hardly enough to stave off the cold of the desert, but the gentle conversation, chuckles, and stories create a cushion of warmth among friends this dark winter’s night.  A million stars sparkle overhead…a vast umbrella arching above the sea of tents.

These refugees find warmth in one another.

Stranger in the House 

Part 3

36 “Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age.

People said she couldn’t have a child.

37 But nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”

Then the angel left her.”

 

The Stranger (Angel) has been interacting with young Mary, giving her the news that her entire life was about to change, and a Path was being laid for her that no other human being had ever walked. Patience and gentleness was extended to this young teenager as they spoke together in her family’s home.  The Stranger had given her a brief glimpse of who this Child would be . . . in her body, her life, in her world, in history, and in the entire story of Eternity.  To say it’s a lot for a young girl to take in is the gravest understatement ever.

She would have to agree to everything the Stranger had told her.  It would be her choice.  Nothing would be forced upon her.  I wonder how many other young women had been approached with this invitation.  Had others encountered this Stranger, but been unwilling to hear?  Unwilling to consider the Proposal?   Unwilling to say “Yes”?  We don’t know….nothing is written of such a story.  But God has always used humans to carry out His Plans.   Some have said “Yes,” and we have all those stories to read in His Book.  How many were invited to join Him in His Plans, but knowingly or unknowingly refused to say, “Yes.  I will.”?

Mary did say yes.  She had no idea of the repercussions of that choice which would echo throughout time and all of history.

In this Story, the Stranger had one more thing to tell Mary:

36 “Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age.

People said she couldn’t have a child.

37 But nothing is impossible for God.”

What a Gift this was to Mary!   Her relative, Elizabeth, was six months ahead with her own miracle baby….who would be called John the Baptist.  Elizabeth was someone she knew.  Someone she trusted.  Someone her family would trust.

God, Who’s Timing is always perfect, had brought into being another child, one who would be among the greatest Prophets of God in all of history.  A miracle conception.  A miracle birth.  A Divinely-orchestrated Destiny that would be interwoven with the life of Jesus throughout His time on earth.

Mary would have many months with Elizabeth….watching the phases of pregnancy that she would soon experience, in a safe, loving environment. It would be away from the gossip and condemnation of the townspeople of Nazareth who knew Mary and that she was not yet married.

The babies would be cousins, both carrying the Message of God….John’s message focusing on the One Who would make it possible to know and be reconciled to God….Jesus being the Perfect Picture of God and the Great Sacrifice to make it possible for mankind to find forgiveness from sin and reconciliation with God.

As young Mary spent her days with Elizabeth, all those conversations that Mary may have not been able to have with her own mother were safely shared with Elizabeth.  And all the experiences of each stage of pregnancy were shared together, including Elizabeth giving birth and those critical first weeks/months as a new mother. Mary had a close view of Elizabeth’s “new mother” experiences.  And Mary lived under the shelter and protection that Zechariah and Elizabeth provided.

Mary watched a miracle baby and his mother and father for 6 months, before returning home to Nazareth and all the life-changing experiences that lay ahead.  She could not have known that her own baby would be born in a dirty animal stall, in a strange town and only her new husband with her, not her mother.  Then their flight to Egypt through the desert with their baby boy.  Mary had learned what to expect in caring for a new baby through her time with Elizabeth.

God alone knew what was ahead for that young family.  He had it covered.  Not in a way that would have been humanly preferred nor planned.  But covered, nonetheless.

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How willing are we… am I… to say “yes” to something God is asking of me?  Without the full plan, the details, the purpose, strategy, financial impact, the “what will people think” considerations all thought through?  Though those things are valid, God does not seem to work on those terms.    I need  to simply trust that HE has all of that worked out, and it’s my most important role to put my eyes on Him, slip my hand into His, and say, “Yes.  I will.  I will trust You.”