Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Depart from me...

Hello, gentle readers.

As you can tell from past blogs, God has been dealing with my heart on the subject of LOVE. My partner and I were on our way to work, and a very simple verse came to me with such power and presence. As we shared our thoughts, I felt God speaking. Consider this with me.

Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as 'Lord' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But, I will reply, 'I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.'" NLT

Jesus summarized the Commandments in Matthew 22:37-40, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." NLT

How does that speak to us today? Very simply but very deeply: It's all about LOVE. Jesus very plainly said we can do all sorts of great things; prophesy, deliverance, miracles. But only one thing truly matters. Do you LOVE? If God tells us to LOVE, are we in obedience? I dare say that not many of us walk that walk of faith with consistency. We are so busy doing that we fail to LOVE.

So, what is being the LOVE of God in another's life? On the short list would be things like listening and caring, avoiding gossip and vile talk, even providing food and shelter to one in need. Are we the good Samaritan? (Luke 10:30-36) Or are we the priest and the Levite? Interesting how often Jesus used the religious leaders of the day to show us how not to be. The priest passed by on the other side of the road. The Levite passed by on the other side. But the Samaritan had mercy on the man who was robbed, or was heartbroken over his condition. The Samaritan went directly to the injured man, bound his wounds, and then carried him on his own donkey to a place where he could be properly taken care of. Not only did he pre-pay the inn keeper for his trouble, but promised to pay anything over and above that the inn keeper had to pay out!

In v36, Jesus asked those listening, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law responds in v37, "The one who had mercy on him." And Jesus replies, "Go and do likewise."

It stands to reason that if we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, that the whole world is our neighborhood and deserves our very best. It's not good enough to say to someone who is hungry, "Peace be with you. Be well." We must step outside of our own selves and feed the hungry. That is LOVE. It is not good enough to say to someone without a job, "Peace be with you." Help them find the job that God has for them. And if you are a business owner, give them a job! That is LOVE. It is not good enough to say to someone who is homeless, "Peace be with you." Open your home to them. Pay for an apartment if you are able. Don't just wish people well. Be the answer to their prayers! Be God's LOVE in their life!

This is the commitment that God requires of us as Christians. It's all about the LOVE. You can have all the spiritual gifts in the world, but if you don't have love you're just so much noise.
(I Cor. 13:1-3) You can preach the best sermons on the earth, but if you don't have love, you are voiceless. Jesus said that all humankind will know that we are his disciples if....we pray a lot?...we give our tithe?...we sing really well in worship?...go on visitation every Tuesday night? No. A thousand times no. Jesus said that all humankind will know we are his disciples by our LOVE! John 13:34-35 says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another."

That pretty much sums it all up, doesn't it? We can only claim to be his disciples if we show love to one another. How's your "love level" today? Have you passed by on the other side of a hurting and needy world? Or are you the one who will stop and meet the needs of those God puts in your path?

May God bless you richly this day.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Persecution Complex?

Hello gentle readers,

Recently I was reading Luke 6:22-23 which says, "Blessed are you when others hate you, when they exclude you, and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets."

During the verses before and following, Jesus is teaching. All of the people from surrounding areas were bringing their sick and oppressed to be healed by him. During this, Jesus turns to his disciples to teach them a special lesson. In the midst of this, Jesus gives the above. He says that those who are persecuted and marginalized for his sake, will be blessed and receive a heavenly reward.

That made me think about all of the times I've just labeled something I've gone through as persecution and skipped along thinking I was blessed and rewarded.

Am I truly persecuted for Christ, or am I simply offensive in my witness? To be persecuted for Christ means one must actually be living for him. Pseudo-religion doesn't get it. Living for Christ requires complete selflessness and love. If we are mistreated, it is often in response to our lack of love. I have never seen someone mistreated for being the love of Christ in this world! But, I have most certainly seen well-meaning Christians mistake judgment for love and bring upon themselves ill-treatment.

It's not about a persecution complex! If we fail to show the true love and acceptance of God, it is not blessed.

Many years ago, I worked with a young woman who walked out in her life the love of God. She walked the walk. Always. I know she did because I watched her diligently for failure. I couldn't believe anyone could have that loving spirit on the inside. But she did. Every day. She was a strong witness to me of how Christ loved the world. And to this day, when I have unloving moments in my life, Lynn's walk with the Lord comes back to me as a witness...30 years afterward! Don't ever think that what you say or do won't affect folks in the long-term. It will.

Was this woman persecuted? No. There was no need because she showed the love of God to everyone with whom she had contact. Was she misunderstood? Definitely! She loved everyone and was always kind and courteous. There was no doubt whose she was and why she was that way. She witnessed to the love of God every single day we worked together. Jesus literally beamed through her to everyone around her.

So, if we are not seeing a positive response to our witness, maybe we should start to check our "love level." We live in a world full of people who are desperately seeking peace, love and personal acceptance. Let's take the time to check our "love level" and reach a hurting world for Jesus!

May God richly bless you this day! Love someone for God today...


Thursday, July 07, 2005


Hello, gentle readers...

It's been some time since we shared with each other. My mind and spirit have been so busy with a myriad of thoughts and prayers. I have felt overwhelmed by the mean-spirited talk between ministries and social groups. There are times when I think I am the only person who sees past the veil of self-promotion into the heart of God. (Yes, I know that's not true. And I say it not to seem haughty, but to let you understand my brokenness over how we act toward one another.)

In Philippians, Paul talks of others jumping into ministry positions after he was put in jail. He says, "How am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!" (The Message/Remix)

I realize that Paul is speaking of specific happenings, but I wonder if it is applicable today. How often do we criticize others' walks of faith or preaching? Quite often, actually. We all seem to think we are the "chosen", the one with the answer. We all read our bibles differently. We all have our own interpretation of what each scripture means.

There are groups and denominations who teach that, unless you conform to their image of what the christ-life is, you will be eternally damned. Why can we not accept each others' teachings and be thankful that Christ is preached? Instead of picking each other apart for our differences, why can we not cheer each other on for our similarities?

When all is brought to its primary thought, isn't it really about reaching the world with the Gospel? Is it really about who thinks women should keep silent? Is it really about who speaks in tongues and who does not? Is it really about whether the wine and bread literally transform into the body and blood at communion?

I say it is not! It is about bringing God to man. It is about being a conduit through whom others can find their way in a difficult world. Paul says that regardless of the others' motives, he cheers them on because he knows that the Gospel is being brought to the people! I think this is a strong lesson for us. We should cheer on our brothers and sisters who seek to show God to the world, regardless of their motives. You see, in reality, we are but planters in this vineyard. It is the Spirit of God who brings to fruition the labor we offer. It isn't because of our own goodness, or our own motives, but because of the Holy Spirit of the One God, in the Message of Jesus.

So, today let us examine our own motives. Let us commit to be an encourager of others and not a criticizer or complainer. When you meet someone today who seeks to bring the Gospel to others, don't argue over doctrine or dogma. Agree to encourage each other in showing the love of Christ to the world around you. You will find that your harvest increases because you are operating in the Spirit of the One God, and that is a position of blessing!

May God richly bless you this day as you seek to bring the Message of Jesus to a world full of confusion and strife.