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Archive for the category “TRUE LOVE”

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

The Supreme Inheritance

1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to thisyou were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

            Some of us know what it is to receive an inheritance from a parent or relative. However like most things in this temporal world, we often make foolish decisions and soon the windfall is gone and we are right back where we started … a dollar short and a day late.

From our text we are reminded that when we accept Jesus as Savior, we become a child of God and we also become brothers and sisters with all others believers. God our Father called us to inherit His blessings. Oh wow! I like that…but to qualify we must do what Father God says!

Each of us is to get along with each other.  God only has one family and He expects us to get along. Denominations were unknown in New Testament times and unbelievers observed… “See how they love one another.” We too are to be compassionate and sympathetic with those who are hurting and troubled.  “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” We are to comfort those in grief or pain; to help those who are weak and lift those who fall; to pray for each other and encourage one another. When insulted or evily treated we are not to try to get even but bless them.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do for one another you are doing for me.”

Oh. How thankful I am for those inherited blessings that are mine in this life and for all the countless blessings I shall know when I arrive in heaven above!

 

Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters (1 Peter 3:8)

W.W.

Pray for these churches:

Coldwater Free Methodist Church

First Congregational Church of Bronson

What Have You Seen?

1 John 4:19-20

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

            Imagine yourself, for a moment, in these two scenarios:

            Scenario 1: You’re on a ship. It springs a leak and starts sinking. While everyone flees to life-rafts, you manage to grab a bag with a bottle of water and some canned meat before it all goes down. No one knows you have it. You are all huddled together in the life-raft, bobbing along the open sea. Eventually, someone spots an island in the distance. As you paddle towards it, you see that the island is incredibly bare – not a stick of shrubbery, no sign of fresh water, it’s basically a big rock in the middle of the ocean. Then one of your fellow travelers says, “Boy I’m thirsty.” What do you do?

            Scenario 2: Same deal, but this time the island you spot is luscious, luxurious and full of life. The trees are heavy with choice fruits and a gushing waterfall is in the distance. As you row towards shore, your fellow traveler says “Boy I’m thirsty.” What do you do?

In Scenario #2, you’d be much more likely to give away your water, wouldn’t you? In fact you might even throw the whole bag open and say, “Water and food for everyone!” In Scenario #2, you would treat your little bag of goodies a lot differently wouldn’t you?

Why? Are you a much nicer person in Scenario #2? Are you suddenly more moral? Is your conscience somehow stronger? What changed between Scenario #1 and scenario #2?

Your vision, that’s what. You saw an abundance of life and it liberated you to be generous. That’s the only difference between the scenarios. In both cases you are the same bundle of sins and selfishness you always were, but once you’ve seen, you’re assured that things are going to be ok, and you’re freer to share what you have.

It has nothing to do with the quality of your moral fiber; it has everything to do with what you see. If your vision is captured by a new reality – then you’re freed to be generous, even loving despite the sinful, selfish ball of contradictions that you are.

Life with Jesus is like that lush tropical island. There is abundance of life and infinite love. When we see what God has done for us and know that we are residents of a kingdom of overflowing life, we, who are loved, are freed to go and love others.

We love because God first loved us. ( 1John 4:19)

                                                                         K.N

Pray for these churches:

Coldwater Church of the Nazarene

First Baptist Church of Coldwater

The Deceptive Roots of Hatred

1 John 2:9-11

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Throughout his first epistle, John presents a litmus test for his readers to prove or disprove their salvation. Most of us would probably skim over the list of questions confidently: Do I love the world? Huh uh. Do I have the Holy Spirit? Check. Do I live in sin? Nope. Do I hate my brothers? All-caps, bold-faced, underlined: WHY, OF COURSE NOT! But what if we dared to go a little deeper? What if we dug down to the actual roots of hatred? What might we find? Would our answer, then, be as emphatic?

The Pharisees and other religious leaders were blatantly guilty of hating Jesus and ultimately sending him to his death. But the roots of their hatred?—poisonous self-love, pride and fear. They were afraid of the shift in people’s opinion against their favor (Matt. 21:23-27), personally offended at Jesus’ rejection of their self-imposed additions to the Law (Matt. 15:1-20), and envious of the rise of his acclaim which, subsequently, brought about the decline of their own (John 11:38-48).

Now, of course, when we look at extreme cases of hatred, it is easy to proudly slap an “I ❤ Others” sticker on our own chest and forget about the matter completely. And to ensure our flaws are concealed we hide behind excuses like, “Well, his and my personalities don’t really jive” or “You know, I’ve tried to interact with her, but, she is a little weird” or even “Hey, God doesn’t expect us to make a conscious effort to intentionally love everyone.” The real issue here is that what we are hiding behind these excuses is sin. Plain and simple. We are unwilling to humble ourselves and admit our own self-love, pride and fear.

Later in 1 John we find that outwardly proclaiming a love for God while secretly harboring hatred toward someone is not only lying but, in essence, murder (4:20-21, 3:9-16). Be careful not to deceive yourself into thinking you do not hate anyone. Instead, inspect the roots of hatred in your own life and then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, expose those areas you so effortlessly ignore and dig them out.

 

“He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart” (Proverbs 26:24).

M.R.E.

Pray for these churches:

Church of Christ at Bronson

East Ovid United Brethren Church

A New Commandment

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

            The evening was filled with emotion and every gesture took on special meaning and enduring significance. Jesus prepared the disciples for the moment of His betrayal, arrest and crucifixion and wished to impart to them as much as possible in their remaining moments together. He had washed their feet, instituted the “Lord’s Supper” and then revealed that one of their own would betray Him. The foundations of their lives were being shaken. They desperately tried to comprehend what was happening.

Breaking the silence, Jesus spoke, and said: “I’m giving you a new commandment.” Immediately their attention was arrested and raptly focused on what He was about to say. After three years, at the very end He was about to give them something brand new.  Jesus declared to them: “You are to love one another as I love you and this shall be the authenticating mark of your discipleship.” This command was new and radical. They were to love each other with the depth and sincerity as He was about to demonstrate on the cross.

This command is not “new” to us. It is as old as the Gospel. It is, however, as radical as it was when it was first given. Read the text and allow the enormity of Christ’s command to wash over you and sink into your soul.

The Church has many critics who mercilessly pick at an apparent inability to fulfill this command. It is ironic how lovelessly lovelessness is attacked. But how can we successfully obey Christ and love one another as He has loved us?

First, we must know that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives it is impossible. But when a person has had a genuine and ongoing experience with Christ, they cannot do otherwise. Second, love is an act of will. We chose to love. Someone once asked how you eat an elephant. The answer provided: “one bite at a time.”

Let’s make small steps at first to obey the Lord in this regard. It is easy to love those you worship with regularly. Stretch yourself by warmly greeting fellow Bold Faith wristband wearers who go to other churches. When you see them, look them in the eye and greet them as fellow lovers of Jesus.

JMB

Pray for these churches:

Camp Selah Ministries

Crossroad Bible Church of Sherwood

World Harvest Assembly of God

Love Is

1 John 3-16-18

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.   And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them,how can the love of God be in that person?   18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

            I love God, I love my family, I love to fish, I love warm bread just coming out of the oven. How quick we are to use the love word! You may love French fries and you may love your mom but do you love your mom like a French fry? Of course not. (At least I hope you don’t.)         Love is such a powerful word. The first and greatest commandment is found in Matt 22:37-39: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second greatest commandment is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In his letter, John is quick to note that love is not just a feeling or an intention. Love is a choice that binds us to a distinct course of action. “We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers,” John said. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

This love is not only expressed as a feeling or emotion, but “with actions, and in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). So remember Love is not just a matter of words but also of acts.

“Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth”

  (1 John 3:18)

 B.W.

Pray for these churches:

California Presbyterian Church

Covenant of Grace Christian Church

Union Church of Quincy

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