Love in Deed

Remember the Whitney Houston song “How will I know”?  Today’s bible passage reminds me of the refrain: how will I know if he really loves me.

Do not be amazed, [then,] brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?  Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:13-18

How do we know that God loves us?  He gave his life for us.  He gave us life.  Look around. The world is a beautiful place.

How will others know that we love them? Words are not enough.  We must love in deed and truth. God shows us His love.  Do we show others ours?

We doubt God’s love, despite everything He does for us.  Yet we sometimes expect others to accept our words.

Lord, thank you for showing me your love. Help me to to share your love with others. Help me to love in deed.

 

 

Love is all you need

Love.  A simple 4 letter word.  But it is the answer to everything.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

John 14:15-23

Love.   My heart swells when I read this passage.  My Father will give me an Advocate who will be with me always.  Jesus will not leave me.  He will come to me. I will live. I will be loved.   Jesus will reveal himself to me.  And God will make his dwelling with me.

What more could I ask?

All He asks from us is to love Him.  And if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  Love God first.  Keeping the commandments will naturally follow.

God loves us.  He wants us to love Him.  That is our purpose.  To love.  To love God and to love each other.  Love.

I love you, Lord!  I am working on loving others (some are easier than others).  I need your help.  Help me to know true love. Help me to show true love.

Let me cling no more!

Oh.  Today the Bible opened and hit me right where I feel most vulnerable.  Jesus’ words expose my weakness.

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;  In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7: 5-8

“You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”  It is amazing that 2000 years later Jesus’ words are still spot on.  Very few things survive the test of time or maintain their relevancy.  But God’s words do.  I should be in awe by this — but in my head my response is “Of course God’s words are still good.”  And my second thought is, why haven’t we learned this by now.

Jesus has hit right on the head where many of my failings start and where I sometimes get lost — following human tradition, following human ways.  It is easier to see and follow human rule.  God’s rules are not so easy and there isn’t always the immediate response to know when we are on the right path.  As humans though we receive money and praise and facebook likes when we have done “good” under human standards.

Wouldn’t it be great if God could send us a thumbs up picture when we do good.  And a quick thumbs down when we do wrong — or even better a big thumbs down right before we do wrong.

But as I think about it…  He kind of does.  It just may not be that blatant.  But I feel the guilt.  It is just easier to ignore.  Particularly when there is human reward.  Oh I am stupid.  I know that God’s reward is far greater.  But I do it time and again.

My hope in today’s verse, is that I am not alone.  For 2000 years this has been an issue.  I need God’s grace and forgiveness, just like everyone who has come before me.

Father,

I am a sinner.  I have disregarded you and your commandments more times than I can count.  Help me to fix my eyes on you.  Help me fix my eyes on the reward in heaven.  Help me to live as you want — not as the human world rewards.  Help me to cling no more to human traditions and human ways.  Help me put my heart into my prayers and into following you so they are not just words on my lips.  I need your grace.  I need your forgiveness.  Forgive me, Father.

 

An Easy Choice

Everyday we make choices.  Some are good.  Some not so much.  Some are important.  Some not so much.  Some are easy. Some not so much.  Tonight, the Bible opened to Joshua:

“Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  If it is displeasing to you to serve the LORD, choose today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:14-15

I have heard the last line before, but never read the context surrounding it before.  What suddenly struck me tonight, was the choice.   Joshua tells the Israelites to make a choice.  If they are going to serve the Lord, then serve Him, commit to it and make a covenant to do so.  Seems like an easy choice.   What really strikes me in this passage is Joshua’s statement: if it is displeasing to you to serve the Lord, choose whom you will serve. I am struck by a statement that seems to make no sense: how could serving the Lord be displeasing?  It might not always be easy, but displeasing? No way!  I cannot think of anything displeasing about serving God.  And yet, I do not always serve Him.  Laziness, taking the easy way, following the crowd, lots of excuses.  But no good reason.  Maybe, it is because I have not affirmatively made the choice.  I have not committed or made a covenant or promise. I have just gone about life.  Choose, Joshua says.  As for him and what he can control, he will serve the Lord.  He encourages the Israelites to do the same, but ultimately it is their choice. Just like it is our choice.

God,

I choose to serve you.

Seek, Fear, Love

The Bible is filled with reminders that if we seek the Lord He will be found.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he destroys.

Psalm 145:18-20

The Lord asks us to seek Him, fear Him and love Him.  The seeking and loving I get – the fearing, I struggle with.

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him. We have all heard this. I certainly want Him to be near.  And yet I don’t seek Him as much as I should.  We should  reach out more.  He should be our first  speed dial.  He should be tagged in all our posts.  Knowing, as we do,  that when we seek Him He is near, why aren’t we constantly and honestly seeking Him?

I have never liked the Bible verses that suggest we must fear the Lord.  I suppose I want the warm, gentle God. The post 80’s Father, where corporal punishment is discouraged – so surely smiting must be out of the question.  I am not sure that God wants us to fear Him, at least I want to believe that He doesn’t. So why is the Bible filled with fear?   I think the fearing is necessary.  I think we need to fear to recognize how much we need God.  Without fear, we think we can do anything. We think we are invincible.  We think we don’t need God. And then where would we be?  God saves us.  He saves us from ourselves.

Ultimately, God is love.  And He wants us to love Him.  This is a hard juxtaposition – fear and love.  God wants us to come to Him in love.  Not out of obligation.  As a parent, we don’t want just the obligatory hug and I love you from our children. We want the warm hug and meaningful expression of love.  We want our kids to want to be with us.  But we will sometimes take what we can get, hoping that as they mature, they will come back. So does God.

I wish I could show Him how much I love Him.  But my love is immature compared to His.

Lord,

Teach me to love. I want to be with you.  I don’t want to fear you, but I fear being without you.  I want to honor and respect you.  You are almighty.  You can destroy or buildup. I am nothing but what you have created. I am nothing without you.  I owe everything to you.  Help me to grow through your love, your grace and your mercy.

Conquer Evil With Good

Another day marked by tragic events. I was led to today’s verse by the radio this morning.  Do not let evil overcome you, the radio announcer said, but overcome evil by good.   Tonight I flipped the Bible to Romans and read the entire section:

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute [you],
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil;
be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

This seems to say it all. If only it were easy to do.  Let love be sincere.  Love is not always easy.  Sometimes we just pay it lip service.  But God’s love is always sincere.  God’s love for us is true even when we do wrong  – even when we hurt Him.  Can we show the same love to others?

Weep with those who who weep (our thoughts certainly go out to those who are suffering). But do not  repay evil with evil.  Live at peace with all.  That is hard.   Even harder is this: bless and do not  curse those who persecute you!

Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit.  It is easy to to rejoice in God when the sun is shining.  We cannot grow slack in zeal when dark clouds surround us.  Even more must we be fervent. Even more must we ignite God’s fire.

Rejoice in hope — no matter the struggle, our hope in the the Lord, in His salvation, is empowering.

Endure in affliction — GOD will see us through!

Persevere in prayer — all we need to do is Pray!

Serve the Lord!

If we do these things, if we persevere in prayer and try to do these things, we will not be conquered.  We will not be conquered by evil. We will conquer evil with good.

Dear Lord,

Take care of those who are suffering tonight.  Wrap them in your loving embrace.  May they rejoice in hope.  And please bless those who have caused the suffering.  I pray that they come to know you.  Wrap them in your loving grace.

 

 

True Glory

Boast in the Lord!  It is a beautiful fall Sunday morning.  The Lord’s day.  It is a wonderful time to rejoice in the Lord!  He is great indeed.  He hears our prayers!

Today, I opened the Bible to 1 Corinthians 2:6, but then the wind blew the pages to Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise boast of his wisdom, nor the strong boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches;  But rather, let those who boast, boast of this, that in their prudence they know me,  Know that I, the LORD, act with fidelity, justice, and integrity on earth.  How I take delight in these—oracle of the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:22-23

The world teaches us to be wise, strong and rich.  All “glory” on earth seems to go to those who have these attributes.  Many of us strive to achieve these things.  It makes life easier on earth, doesn’t it?  It is so easy to get caught up in, and cater to, the world which rewards those who have strength, wisdom and riches.  Today, millions will watch football players who are richly rewarded for their physical strength.  And then argue over whether they should kneel or stand for the flag.  Certainly our country is great — but is it great because of its wisdom, strength and riches?  (it is certainly no longer great because of its commitment to God)   Although many players pray before the game, there is no announcement over the intercom, there is no fly over or fireworks during it.  We don’t stand together or kneel together to do it.  Although our country is great, far greater is our Lord!

We do not reward or recognize those who know God.  The media doesn’t seem to pay attention.  Money doesn’t follow.  We, as humans, make it hard on ourselves by not celebrating it — by not making it more rewarding on earth.  But then, we miss the point if we are looking for the world to reward us.  The world has nothing on God.  The reward is in heaven.  Perhaps it is not suppose to be easy.  All things worth having are worth fighting for.  Wisdom, strength and riches are nothing unless we know God.

We constantly boast about our children.  Facebook is filled with posts and pictures of their every accomplishment.  Let’s boast about our Father.

Almighty Father,

You are beyond all worldly greatness.  You are greater than we can imagine.  I want to know you more!  I want to know your wisdom, feel your strength and experience the true riches that only you can provide.  You alone provide true glory!

 

 

A Brighter Life

This describes how I feel many days:

Is not life on earth a drudgery, its days like those of a hireling?  Like a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for wages,  So I have been assigned months of futility, and troubled nights have been counted off for me.  When I lie down I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.

Job 7:1-4

When I read Job, I often feel like Job is a whiner and complainer.  And so when I read this, I have to reflect that I am often a whiner and complainer too.  In the Bible, one of Job’s friends reminds him:

Still, if you yourself have recourse to God and make supplication to the Almighty,  Should you be blameless and upright, surely now he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful home.  Though your beginning was small, your future will flourish indeed.

Inquire of the former generations, pay attention to the experience of their ancestors—As we are but of yesterday and have no knowledge, because our days on earth are but a shadow—Will they not teach you and tell you and utter their words of understanding?  Can the papyrus grow up without mire?  Can the reed grass flourish without water?  While it is yet green and uncut, it withers quicker than any grass.

So is the end of everyone who forgets God, and so shall the hope of the godless perish.

Job 8:5-13

And later another friend tells him:

If you set your heart aright and stretch out your hands toward him,  If iniquity is in your hand, remove it, and do not let injustice dwell in your tent,  Surely then you may lift up your face in innocence; you may stand firm and unafraid.  For then you shall forget your misery, like water that has ebbed away you shall regard it.  Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday; its gloom shall become like the morning, And you shall be secure, because there is hope; you shall look round you and lie down in safety; you shall lie down and no one will disturb you.

Job 11:13-19

As usual the Bible tells me just what I need to hear.  Make supplication to God.  Set your heart aright and stretch out your arms to Him.

So I sit on the porch, with the Bible on my lap, my arms stretched out to God.  I feel the morning sun’s light on my face and the warmth surrounds me.  And I breathe.  In and out.  Slow and deep. And I admit my weakness — and I hand my complaining spirit over to God.

Lord, Set my heart aright. Remove the inequity and injustice from my hand and heart.  Help me not to compare myself to others.  Help me to reach out to others, all others, with your love.  Thank you for the friends you send me who help remind me of your goodness and your love.  Help me to be that friend to others.  Help me to change the drudgery of the day into the newness and brightness of the morning sun.  Your goodness surrounds me.

 

No false gods

I will have no false gods.  As long as I can remember, I have known that this was one of God’s commandments.  It was an easy one, I believed.  There is only one God.  I don’t believe in any other gods.  I don’t believe any other gods exist.  Check.  One commandment followed.  I thought…

Foolish by nature were all who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing the one who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan; Instead either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.  Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them.  Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them realize from these things how much more powerful is the one who made them.  For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.  But yet, for these the blame is less; For they have gone astray perhaps, though they seek God and wish to find him.  For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.  But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

Wisdom 13:1-9

I do not call them gods, but I have put things before God.  The so called good things in life: food, money, power, jobs, family, friends.  Is it wrong to enjoy life?  “Foolish by nature were all who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing the one who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan.”  The failing in enjoying the good things is not recognizing God in all of them.  The joy that we feel in beautiful things — incomparable to the beauty of their creator and the joy He can bring.  Humans are better than anything we can create.  Similarly, God, our creator, is far greater than what He has created.  Every powerful force that we see on earth, whether natural or man made, is nothing when compared to God who created and fashioned all power.  Because I cannot fathom this beauty and strength, this power and joy, I sometimes let it fall to the back of my mind and instead focus on the lesser things in front of me.

I don’t think of it as worshipping a false god — because I still allow myself to think of this as I did as a child — worshipping is something you do in church,  and I only worship God in church.  And therein lies my problem.  I limit my worshipping to church.  I only worship God in church.  But my focus and energies on these lesser things outside of church is putting these things in front of God.  God gives us so much evidence of his goodness, his power, his strength, his majesty, his beauty and the joy that only He can provide us.  How do we not more quickly find the Lord?

Lord, forgive me.   Sometimes I need the smack in the face to see what is right in front of me. You have made so many wondrous things.  I am distracted by the beauty that surrounds me.  I am mystified by your strength and power.  I am in awe.  My mind wants to know and see what it cannot even begin to understand.  Forgive me, God.  I am lazy.  I settle for what I can see rather than searching for what I do not understand.  Help me.  I want to keep your commandments.  I want to put You above all things.  Help me to keep that focus so that I might do your will.

 

My Spirit Rejoices

My spirit rejoices in God my savior!

Today the Bible opened to Mary’s words before the birth of Jesus.  Mary models how I want to live.  Her strength and faithfulness inspire me.

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

I am stuck on the first line:  My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  Is there a difference between soul and spirit?  For me, soul is that deep inner part, the root of our being, our inner most self, the part that is our truest being.   That is the part that Mary says proclaims the greatness of God.  That is the truest of proclamations — not just a Sunday morning proclamation.  It is not her mouth or her hands or her brain that proclaims it — but her soul.  A part that does not lie or fake or just follow the crowd.

Mary goes on to state: My spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For me, spirit is the part that we share with others. Mary knows to the depths of her soul that God is great, but she does not keep it there, she shares it with others.  Her spirit rejoices in God.

I want to know God in the depths of my soul.  And I want my spirit to rejoice in Him.

God, you are great indeed.  Fill my inner heart.  Fill my soul.  Help me to follow Mary’s model of faithfulness and strength.  Help me to trust in you, like she did.  Help me to share your love with the world.  My spirit rejoices in you!

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners!