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What Does Love Look Like?

Love decor on the window
 
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  I John 3:16-18

What does love look like? 

I have a crucifix in my house in the living room.  It was carved in Ghana out of one piece of teak wood.  It’s beautiful.  Of all earthly possessions, that ranks right near the top for me.

And I think it’s so important to me because every time I see it, I’m reminded what love looks like.  Love looks like Jesus willingly dying on the cross for us.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

So, we know love, because Jesus died for us.  That’s what love looks like.  But love is not confined to what Jesus did for us.  His love compels us to lay down our lives for our brothers.  And John says, in very concrete terms, that helping our brothers who are in need is a way of showing love to others.

Love looks like Christians helping fellow Christians who are in need.  Love is sacrifice.  Jesus sacrificing Himself for us.  Christians willing to sacrifice ourselves for our brothers in need.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Dear Father, we thank You for the gift of Love, Jesus our Savior.  We thank You that You sent Him to die for us, that we might have forgiveness and new life.  Help us to share that Love with our brothers and sisters in the faith, as we meet their needs.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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Heroes

black and pink love me printed textile
 
 
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
 
Do you have a hero? Is there someone who you look up to? Many people do. There are those individuals who impact our lives and inspire us, they may even cause us to do more than we ever thought possible because we have seen it in them.
 
During the current pandemic, there are those in our society who are being called heroes. Frontline workers and first responders, doctors, nurses, and many others who continue to do their jobs despite the personal risk that they might be facing. We owe them our thanks, but especially thanks to God for those who are so willing to serve.
 
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we are constantly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, or examples, of faith. These models, or heroes, of faith have gone before us and shown us what a life that focuses on God can be like. And that most perfect of all examples is, of course, Jesus. Much more than just an example or model though, Jesus is the very founder and perfecter of our faith. It is Jesus who, more than anyone else, we need to keep our eyes on as we continue this race of life.
 
Easier said than done. Our sinful, wandering eyes, so often drift away from Jesus and onto so many other distractions in life. But even when we lose sight of Him, Jesus never takes His eyes off us. He continues to pursue us and draw us back to Himself. He forgives us when we sin and helps us carry on toward the finish.
 
During these challenging days when so many activities have been canceled and businesses are closed, there is perhaps more opportunity than ever to give time to the reading of God’s Word and time in prayer. With all the uncertainty that now surrounds us, the certainty of God’s love will see us through.
 
Prayer: Gracious Father, thank you for sending Jesus to go before us and to be even more than an example, but to be our Savior. May the forgiveness that He brings fill us with hope and peace to face the challenges of our time. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Passing Judgement

be kind sign

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”  Romans 2:1

Few things come as naturally to us sinful human beings as judging others.  It’s so easy.  Doesn’t matter if we’re judging behavior or personality, hair style or work performance.  And, of course, when we judge others we’re instinctively trying to lift ourselves up, make ourselves feel better or superior in some way.

It’s sad, really.

And most of us our pretty good at justifying our judging.  We may even consider it a godly thing,that we’re recognizing and pointing out sin.  But it’s the motivation that condemns us.  We rarely are wishing for the good of those we’re judging.   We just want to put them down because it makes us feel good.

But Paul in our passage presents an even more damning problem with our judging.  We do the very same things as those we’re judging.  Check yourself.  Who have you been judging lately, and for what “sin.”  Are you struggling with the same sin?  I checked myself while writing this…and repented quickly as I realized Paul was exactly right.

Of course the good news is exactly what we need to hear.  Jesus absorbed all the judgment of the Father that we rightly deserved.  Instead of deflecting it to us who earned it, he let it fall on Him – and it killed Him.  But death could not contain Jesus, and sin cannot contain us.  So repent, rejoice that you are forgiven, and leave the judging to God.
 
Dear Father in Heaven:  I confess today that I often judge others.  Forgive me, for Your Word has condemned me so completely.  And help me, that in my relationships with others, I might be one who lifts up and encourages.  In Jesus my Savior’s name I pray, Amen.


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A New Normal?

family photo
 
“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  Numbers 14:3
 
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had delivered His people. Under the weight of Egyptian oppression, the Israelites cried out to God that things could be different. They cried out for freedom from slavery and to be brought to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
 
God heard their cries and raised up Moses to lead His people. Through a series of plagues and the death of the firstborn children of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s own son, God’s people were set free and began their journey to the promised land. God promised that He would be their God and that they would be His people. When they approached their destination, spies were sent in to see what was ahead for them. Behind them was slavery, ahead of them was the promised land.
 
When the spies returned, ten of them gave a report that put fear into the hearts of the people. Even though they told of a land that was flowing with milk and honey, there were also reports of giants in the land and armies that would be too difficult to defeat. Faced with this new reality, suddenly the past didn’t look so bad anymore. In Numbers 14:3 we read “Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” Really? Go back to being slaves? Go back to the grueling life that they faced in Egypt? Was that really better?
 
When the “safer at home” order was put in place, it was not unusual to hear people yearn for things to “return to normal.” People wanted life to be like it was. In one sense, that is absolutely understandable. The restrictions and risks that we face have been very challenging for many. But were the “good old days” really that good? Think about how many young families spent their entire week running from event to event, whether sports or music or clubs. It seemed like we were slaves to our schedules. Or other adults whose calendars were packed with no room to breathe. But now life is different.
 
Do we really want to go back to life exactly as it was? Might we reconsider how we use our time and fill our calendars? While the isolation that many are feeling is a burden, consider the gift of time that God is giving us; time to spend with Him in prayer and reading His word; time to spend with family or to connect with friends. Even in challenging times like these, God is with us and blesses out for Jesus’ sake. Perhaps our future can be even better than our past.
 
Prayer: Father, we can’t go back and we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that You are always with us. Grant us peace and comfort in the assurance of the love that is ours in Christ and it’s in His name we pray. Amen.

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Our Strength

cross mounted on gray painted wall
 
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you
    will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
    will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies,
    you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
    will be as nothing at all.
Isaiah 41:10-12


We are so strong, right? Yes, but most of us forget where our strength comes from. We often sit in fear of many things but forget that we have God Almighty on our side in this journey we call life.

Revenge is something that tends to be in human nature where we really want to get back at someone for doing something bad against us. As much as we want this, it is not in our place to do so! We must stay level headed and offer love. Our strength comes from God and our enemies and evildoers will have what is coming to them from God but all we can and must offer is love and righteousness just as Jesus did.

When I read these passages above, I get reminded that strength comes from God and revenge is no place for us. God provides for us through these times of trial where the evil of the world looks so tempting to us but we must stay strong in the truth that we have, and that is in Christ. All evil will have what is coming to it, and all we can offer is our love because that is the strength and greatest weapon that Christ has armed us with. Stay strong in these times my brothers and sisters; don’t forget to give thanks and pray often.

Prayer: Almighty and Merciful Father, you have equipped us with our strength and have helped us spread the love of your son around the world. Be with us in these times, so that we don’t lose sight of the Cross and continue to spread the Gospel news around despite the evil in the world. Through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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