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Love Your Enemy?

green cup on saucer
 
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?   Matthew 5:43-47

OK.  Receiving the love of God is wonderful.  Loving those who are my brothers and sisters in the faith isn’t too hard.  But loving my enemy! Seriously!  Why?  What have those people done to deserve my love?  

The answer is simple:  nothing!  These people have done nothing to deserve our love.  Jesus knows this.  But Jesus also knows that we did nothing to merit His love.  Paul reminds us that, God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The amazing grace of our Lord has brought us the forgiveness of sins, new life today and life eternal to come in heaven.  All this is simply because He loves us.  His love claimed us.

Our love for others, especially our enemies, may claim those who live outside faith in Jesus.  Our love for others just may turn their heads.  Our love for those who don’t love us may cause them to see the love of Christ.

We have the freedom to love—even our enemies.  This is the power of the love of Jesus that He shares with us.  It is a love that heals and restores.  It is a love that gives life.  We have it—let’s share it!

Loving Jesus, thank You for saving me while I was still a sinner.  I pray that Your love for me would be the initiative I need to love others—especially those who oppose me.  Free me from the chains of hatred.  Keep me from the prison of grudges.  Free me that I may freely love.  I pray in Your powerful name.  Amen. 


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Care + Compassion

Person Holding Heart Shaped Cut Out
 
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  (John 12:1-8)
 
Judas!  A scoundrel.  A thief!  A traitor!  Nobody names their child “Judas.”  And for good reason.

Mary anoints Jesus with a very expensive perfume and uses a goodly amount to do so.  As mentioned in our devotion on Monday, Mary’s actions were a reflection of her heart.

But Judas steps in.  He scolds Mary for her extravagance.  Moving into a conversation that Judas thinks might be up Jesus’ compassion alley, he interrupts the beautiful moment and says, Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?  Ah, Judas is all heart.  Unfortunately, his heart was all for himself.  Using the guise of caring for the poor, Judas would have slipped his hand into the money bag and provided a little extra spending money for himself.

How easy it is for us to point a finger at Judas.  Selfish Judas.  Ignorant Judas.  Critical Judas.  We want to tell him to stop and take a good look in the mirror as he criticizes others.

Perhaps we should stop.  Maybe we should take a good look in the mirror.  At times we can be Judas.  It is easy for us to criticize others for a number of reasons.  When others succeed, we criticize out of jealousy.  When others are recognized for their contributions to a cause we accuse them of volunteering for all the wrong reasons.  When others come up with a good idea, we want to shoot it down simply because it wasn’t ours. 

Don’t you wish Judas would have spoken up with words of appreciation for Mary’s wonderful witness?  Don’t you wish Judas would have volunteered to go out and buy more perfume for the rest of the dinner guests to anoint Jesus?

We can make a positive impact by giving a word of thanks to those who provide service.  We can make a world of difference by speaking words of appreciation to others.  President Reagan had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office which read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  How wonderful the world would be if we all lived by this truth.
 
Prayer: Blessed Jesus, forgive my arrogance and ignorance.  Give me joy in working with others and give me Your Spirit that I may impact their lives with words of care and compassion.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus.  Amen.

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Love One Another

black fountain pen on white paper
 
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.   John 13:33-35

If you knew you only had one last chance to speak to the people closest to you before you left this world, what would you say?  As I reflect on this question I think I would want to express how much I love those people I cherish.

Here, in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is sharing a last meal with His closest companions.  He also shares with them some of His last words.  “Love one another,” He says to them.  He even issues this as a command.

They are to love one another because He has loved them.  They are to love one another to be a witness to the world of the difference God’s love makes in the life of any human being.

Do we show our love to those within our homes?  Do we tell our spouse, our parents, our siblings that we love them?  If not, we should—we must!

But Jesus, by His life, death and resurrection reminds us that “love” is not just a word.  “Love” is an action.  Love is lived out in our relationships as we forgive one another, as Jesus forgives us.  Love is acted out in a helping hand, a listening ear and a shoulder for a friend to cry on.  

Yes, love can be hard work!  Just ask Jesus!  By the results of loving others are amazing.  Love gives meaning and purpose to life.  Love heals broken relationships.  Love brings hope.  

Blessed Lord of love, because of Your love for us we love one another.  Forgive me for those times I have been less than loving. Give to me a spirit of joy that I may reach out with Your love to make the life of others filled with peace.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus. Amen.  


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Extravagant Love

brown cross on brown rock during daytime
 
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
(John 12:1-8)
 
From reading the Gospels, it seems Jesus was a regular guest in the home of Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus.  On this occasion Jesus is invited for dinner.  The custom was to wash the feet of visitors.  Mary goes beyond the normal expectation as she takes a pound of pure nard and puts it on Jesus’ feet.  Extravagant!  An entire pound?  Wouldn’t a little dab do the trick?  An entire pound? 

I remember visiting my grandparents as a child.  Our family would pack the car and travel nearly 4 hours to spend a week with them.  When we arrived my grandparents would be waiting.  Grandma would embrace each of her grandchildren and shower us with kisses.  Perhaps one hug and a simple kiss would do, but not for grandma.  Over the years, I watched my mother smother my children with physical affection.  Now I watch as my wife does the same with our three grandchildren.  Extravagant?  Perhaps.  However, I don’t think any grandparent would considered it extravagant.  It is merely an expression of their heart, which they gladly share with their loved ones.

Jesus was extravagant in His love for us.  He sacrificed Himself on the cross, pouring out His last breath that we would have forgiveness, life and salvation.

It is the extravagant love of Jesus that led Mary to extravagance in her relationship with Jesus.  It is the extravagant manner in which Jesus shared His love with us, that we in turn share our love with Him.  We give Him our heart—our all, in response to His love for us.
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the love You shower on me each day.  You forgive all my sin.  You restore my soul.  You walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death.  You promise to use all things in my life for good.  You prepare a place for me in heaven.  Give me Your Holy Spirit that I may respond to Your love with mine.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus.  Amen.

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Why Should We Rest?

photo of hammock outdoor

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. [Genesis 2:1-3]

“Get some rest. You’ve earned it.” There’s nothing quite like being able to sing along with the Beatles, “It’s been a hard day’s night, I’ve been working like a dog. It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log.” Forget about what we get home to, there’s something to a well-deserved rest. 

But what about when you don’t deserve it? What if you haven’t worked hard enough? What if there is more to do? What if you’re dissatisfied with your performance? What if you aren’t tired? Is that now justification to avoid resting? 

Retirement can play into this mindset, too, doesn’t it? “I’ve put in my time, now I’m done.” But the truth is we cannot earn rest. How could we ever know for sure we have done enough? There is always more to be doing, or thinking. There are always other opportunities or people. There is always more service to offer. So… why should we rest?

Resting is the act of ceasing. It is the act of stopping, putting an end to our productivity. And we do it because God did it first. God made stopping, ceasing, and resting a holy act, because even God himself stopped and said, “Enough.” On the seventh day, God did nothing but step back and enjoy what he had made.

Ultimately resting is an act of trusting God. We put all of our effort- all of our blood, sweat, and tears- into God’s hands when we follow God’s example of resting. “I feel like I need to keep working,” we might say, “But I’m trusting you, Lord, to provide.”

On the seventh day, Jesus also rested from his work. In a brand-new tomb, not far from the hill where he died. Isn’t this also why a cemetery is a holy place? “By your three day rest in the tomb, You hallowed every grave,” pastors say at burials. Jesus submitted to three days in a tomb, even though he had already conquered death, to show us the holiness of trusting God even in the rest which is death. We trust God with all we have accomplished, and we ask Jesus to do with our lives whatever is his will. 

Rest today. Set aside some time to do nothing. Let go of “productivity” and “earning a break.” Spend some time enjoying the God who made you and uses your life for his glory. Find your rest in Jesus, find your peace in Jesus, and follow the example of God, who made rest a holy thing. And let God do what he wills: he promises to sort the “rest of it” out. 

Dear God, thank you for creating us and showing us how to live. We want to honor you; help us today to find our rest in you, letting go of all that holds us captive and enslaved to “more.” We trust with our whole lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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