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Archive for the category “TRUE LOVE for Others”

You Don’t Get to Pick Your Neighbors

Luke 10:30-37

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Lionel and Charlene were the kind of neighbors everyone wants. When Julie and I moved in, they made us feel right at home. They introduced us to other neighbors, answered our questions and cared for us. Nice neighbors are easy to love. If all I had to do was love Lionel and Charlene ‘as myself’, I could coast into Heaven!

One day Jesus was asked a question by a very pious Bible teacher; “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with the Two Greatest Commandments of loving God completely and loving neighbor as self. At hearing this answer, the pious professor asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Instead of defining an area where the guy would need to act neighborly, Jesus told the story of The Good Samaritan.

It’s important to note here that Samaritans claimed to be Levites and the keepers of the ‘true’ Jewish faith. Samaritan literally means, ‘keeper’. The rest of the Jews rejected their claim, and Samaritans were ejected from Jewish life. No worship in the Temple. No eating with ‘true’ Jews. Outcasts.

Back to the story— a Jewish man had been mugged and left for dead. A priest walks right by, and later so does an off-duty priest (Levite). Then an enemy comes by—a Samaritan— someone who would normally expect to be disrespected by a Jewish man. He has pity on the bleeding Jew.

Jesus asks this pious teacher, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…?” The law expert replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus is extending the boundaries of our thinking here. As we go about our day, who is our neighbor? The answer is: everyone. Who was the Samaritan? Outcast, needy, hurt, helpless, mistreated, enemy, less-than-you. Who was the Pious Professor? Holier-than-you, smarter-than-you, better-than-you, richer-than-you.

Everyone’s a neighbor to everyone.

After eleven years of being our neighbors, both Lionel and Charlene succumbed to cancer in the last few months. I miss them. I find myself wanting to pray for godly new neighbors, but what if God wants to put me right next to someone else – nosy, uncaring, belligerent, hellion, noisy, huge family, a cohabitating couple, sex offender, scoffer, flaming homosexual or constant complainer? The truth is, these folks already are my neighbors, whether they live right next door, on the other side of town or the other side of the world.

God, help us to love all our neighbors as ourselves, and give us the grace to be genuinely merciful.

“Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

R.T.

Pray for these churches:

First Baptist of Coldwater

Northview Christian Church

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Ambassadors For The Lord

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

            Ambassador. What a title! It is significant and it is what you are as a Christian. As a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven you are God’s representative to this world. You no longer have to look at people in regards to their past. You now get to look at people in the light of their future, if they become Christians. Wow! What a wonderful responsibility the Lord has given to you. Congratulations!

As God’s ambassador, what is your responsibility? Love others into the Kingdom of Heaven. How? Inform your family, friends, and acquaintances that God won’t count their sins against them. God will wipe their slate clean. They can be a new creation and have a new beginning! God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for their sin. When? This happened when He died on the cross. Why? So that we could be made right with God through our acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for us! Reconciliation!

God makes His appeal to people you know through you!

What is required on their part to be reconciled with God? A lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ. This message was proclaimed by the apostles on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:37-41 and continues until the Lord returns. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day anyone can deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus!

So, Ambassador __(your name)___, do a great job loving your world by giving them the opportunity to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

 

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

(2 Corinthians 5:20)

J.D.B.

Pray for these churches:

East Ovid United Brethren Church

Lockwood Community Church

We Imitate the People We Admire

Ephesians 5:1-2

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

            Take time today to admire God. Look at Creation and admire his strength. Look at yourself and admire his patience. Look at the cross and admire his love. We become like those we admire.

The apostle Paul urges us to become imitators of God, as dearly loved children. Children who are raised in an environment of love naturally admire their parents, imitate their behaviors and adopt their values.

I recently attended my Uncle Bill’s funeral and had a chance to catch up with his sons, my cousins. Not having been around them for years, I was surprised by how clearly I could see my uncle in their faces and hear him in their voices. Their speech patterns were sometimes astoundingly similar to his.

That’s what Paul wants for us. He wants us to look and speak like our Father.

When Pastor Mark Thompson was recovering from a violent assault, he was unable to attend the state championship cross-country meet in which his son was competing. And so he sent his brother, who is also a pastor, telling him: “I want you there at the beginning of the race. Holler a lot. … Then at the end, I want you to really cheer loudly. And I want you to make your voice sound like mine.”

That’s what Paul wants for us. He wants us to make our voice sound like God’s.

But we can only succeed in imitating God to the degree we know that he loves us. That’s why Brennan Manning said, “… it’s more important to be loved than to love. When I have not had the experience of being loved by God, just as I am and not as I should be, then loving others becomes a duty, a responsibility, a chore. But if I let myself be loved as I am, with the love of God poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit, then I can reach out to others in a more effortless way.”

Ask God to show you, during the course of this day, how much he loves you – just as you are, not as you should be. See how he loves you! Then go and imitate that love as you talk with, work with and even argue with the people in your life.

S.L.

Pray for these churches:

Crossroad Bible Church of Sherwood

Gospel Lighthouse

Jesus Sets A High Standard

Matthew 5:43-48

 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

            It is often said by those who are far from God, “I don’t see any real difference between the words/actions/attitudes of my friend who never attends church, and another friend who professes to be a Christian and attends church regularly.”  Jesus actually made a similar observation in the Sermon on the Mount.  How many times have you made that observation among the circle of contacts you enjoy on a daily basis?

In today’s Scripture passage Jesus notes that even pagans know how to be kind and courteous (loving) to those who are kind and courteous to them.  But Jesus challenges His followers to do more than extend everyday common courtesies to those who are kind and loving to us.  For if that is all we do, He asks this disturbing question: “What are you doing more than others?”  In other words, your behavior is not any better those who don’t profess to be His followers.  And in some cases, perhaps it isn’t even as loving!

As followers of Christ, Jesus not only calls us to love one another, but to love even those who might be considered as enemies.  Yet, He sets the bar even higher when He says in vs. 48, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  In other words, strive in every relationship to love as God loves.  Jesus knows we cannot perform perfectly, but he nonetheless calls us to continually strive to this kind of love towards others, not being content to simply love those who love us in return.

As you examine your own heart and life, could it be that someone would observe or say of you, “I can’t tell any difference between you and my pagan friends.”  Ask God to give you His help, by way of His Holy Spirit, enabling you to “do more than others” in loving the people around you, and demonstrating Christ-like words, actions and deeds.

 

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)

N.B.

Pray for these churches:

Covenant of Grace Christian Church

First United Methodist Church of Bronson

Love Is

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecyand can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

            There is a Knock-Knock joke out there which may get us thinking about this passage on love. It goes like this: “Knock, knock.” [“Who’s there?”] “Olive.” [“Olive who?”] “Olive you.”

            What is the Biblical definition of love? Certainly, we can see love defined in reality through the life—and the death—as well as the Resurrection of Jesus. But here in these verses and in the verses that follow (which should be read, too, by the way), the definition of love is put into words. They are classic words at that, these two millennia later, as we regularly hear this passage read at weddings and perhaps anniversaries, and shared on other occasions as well. The words are as powerful today as ever, just as they were so compelling and impressive, no doubt, to the Christians in the city of Corinth two thousand years ago when they received these words in a letter from the Apostle Paul, a letter we now call First Corinthians.

            Paul is saying that without love, we are nothing, unless a bunch of noise really is something. He also says that even the possession of super powers is meaningless without love—and he ought to know! If we read on, we see that love is described as more than an emotion, too. We need to hear that in a society such as ours, where way too often what we label as love is as trivial and silly as a Knock-Knock joke saying, “Olive you!” Paul further elaborates on what love is and what love is not, indicating that real love is more action than it is mere emotion. Finally, in the end, Paul says that love is eternal. In this regard, we should realize that everything else we accomplish in this world will one day be left behind, but love will endure. Indeed, love DOES endure. Simply put, and supremely so, love is . . . always . . . period.

            At the end of it all, in fact and in faith, only two things really matter in this world: 1) our relationship with God and 2) our relationships with others, all lived out in love –that true love which will never, ever end.

Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (Common English Bible)

S.Y.

Pray for these churches:

Coldwater United Methodist Church

First Congregational Church of Union City

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