GOD’S LOVE GENERATES OUR LOVE

There are many things taught about Christianity, but I think the most important truth to understand is God’s love for us.  I have only managed a small inkling of knowledge about God’s love for me.  However, I have recently realized that my ability to love others depends on my degree of awareness of God’s love for me. The more I receive of God’s love, the greater the reservoir from which love flows from me to others.

The Apostle Paul gave us a definitive list of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Love is patient, Love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  He adds in verse 8, Loves never fails.

I believe this passage describes God’s love in action.  All of these aspects of his love stream to us 24/7.  The more we allow his love to permeate our lives.  The more we will be able to love those we encounter.

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Love and the Ten Commandments

If you truly love someone you will treat them well.  You will honor them, and you will certainly not murder them.  You will not cheat on them, steal from them, lie about them, or covet what they have.  At least, if you love them, you will surely try.

To pull this off you’ll have to be patient, kind, not envious, and not work to look more important than the person you love.  I can’t imagine that you’d be rude to them or easily angered by them.  When they‘ve wronged you, you’d forgive and forget.  You’d protect them, trust them, and hope the best for them.

You may have guessed that what I’ve done here is to connect the Ten Commandments and Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  The Ten Commandments are not just rules to contain us, they are truly about love.  The first four commandments are about loving God.  The other six are about loving each other.  You cannot adhere to the Ten Commandments without love.  As a matter of fact, if you don’t love God or your fellow humans, why would you even try to adhere to the Ten Commandments?

Jesus summed it up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  “This is the first and greatest commandment.”  “And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  There you have it.  Love is at the root of what God commands.  Love as well as you can, and ask God to increase the love in your heart.

Humbleness, an Attribute of God

One of my favorite scripture passages is Matthew 11:28-30.  In this passage Jesus refers to himself as “gentle and humble in heart”.  Doesn’t gentle and humble sound safe.  I am drawn to him when I think of him being gentle and humble.  Paul supports Jesus’ statement that he is humble with this declaration in Philippians 2:6-8,

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Jesus not only declared himself humble, but he unequivocally demonstrates his humble nature on the cross.  When you think of God, do you think of him as humble?  That’s not my first thought when I think of God, but he truly is humble.  So, what is humble? In all the definitions of humble, I find that not putting yourself first seems to clarify its meaning.  Jesus did not put himself first.  He put our needs ahead of his.

Adam and Eve were humble because they were created in the image of God.  They lost this attribute as a result of the fall.  They then became self concerned.  At the start of Philippians chapter 2 Paul is exhorting us to return to being humble.  He tells us, (Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  He follows this with the scriptural illustration in Philippians 2:6-8 of Christ’s humility.

In our desire to be more like Jesus, humbleness should be near the top of the list.  As I looked at this attribute of God, I had to ask myself, am I gentle and humble in heart?  Am I safe for others?  These questions will dominate my self reflections for the rest of the week.  How about you?

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

GOD WANTS US TO COME TO HIM

Hosea 11:1-4 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  But the more they were called, the more they went away from me.  They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.  It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.  I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.

This passage of Scripture moves me to the heart of God.  I clearly see that what God wants from me is to come to him.  He is calling to his child, “come to me”.  Jesus said, “Come to me”.  He wants me to come every day into his presence.  He wants to hear what I have to say, and he wants me to hear his words for me.  However, I often go off on my own way and ignore his call.

Forgetting to come to Jesus every day is indicative of my human frailty.  I go on my way feeling unloved and unwanted falling for the devil’s lies.  I forget that the reason Jesus calls me is because he loves me.

I find it very comforting to know that Jesus won’t condemn me, but he will always reach out to me when I come to him.  Thank you Jesus! I am so rewarded when I answer his call.  I gain peace and perspective just by being in his presence.

REBEL, THE RETURN HOME

Mrs. Grady’s eyes sparkled when she saw James standing in the doorway of her pantry.  “Come in James,” she said with revealing enthusiasm.  “I heard you were coming.  Have a seat here at the table.  Just so happens I’m making some of those cherry tarts you’re so fond of.  The tea’s ready.”

“I’d love a cup, thank you.”  James said with warm appreciation.

Time passed quickly as Mrs. Grady seemed to have an endless supply of James’ favorite foods and sweets.  He was also enjoying her flow of conversation.

When the servant let James know that the package was ready, he looked at his watch and realized he’d been there quite some time.  He thanked Mrs. Grady for her kind attention and headed out to the carriage.

“Come back soon,” Mrs. Grady said with affection in her voice.”

James turned and smiled.

The carriage was ready to go when he arrived at the stable.

“You’re all ready to go James,” the servant said.  “The master offers his apology for the wait.”

“That’s okay,” said James. “The time passed quickly.”

The servant gave him a knowing expression then said, “The fog’s beginning to set in, so be careful.  It’ll be especially thick near the river.”

James took his place on the carriage seat, gave a nod of thanks, and he was on his way.

The long trek to the river progressed well.  The two horses managed the road smoothly.  Rebel seemed to follow Josh’s lead without concern.  The sun was getting low in the west, but it still gave plenty of light.  The dappling of the light from the trees along the road produced a peaceful feeling.  As they progressed the fog began to appear first as a light mist then ever thickening.  They approached the river just as the sun set.  The fog was dense and visibility was minimal.  As the fog thickened Rebel’s trust began to thin.  James could see his uneasiness.  Near the bridge Rebel tried to bolt.

James stopped the carriage, gave a moment’s pause, and then proceeded slowly.  Josh was so familiar with this foggy bridge crossing that he moved ahead with confidence.  Rebel, not being able to see where he was going, was apprehensive and skittish.  Trusting Josh was out the window.  He felt on his own and afraid.  Rebel inched forward jumping at every sound and rearing at every dip in the footing.  James was patient, allowing the team to move as slowly as they needed.

On the descent from the bridge, the fog was especially thick.  James couldn’t even see the horses in front of him.  Fortunately, the road was wide and flat here.  They moved forward cautiously.  Josh could feel the edge with his hooves, and he was able to keep them on the roadway.  Eventually the road began to ascend, and with the ascent, the fog thinned.

Barney greeted them as they approached the stable.  “Good to see you finally home,” He said.  “We were worried.”

“There was a three hour delay at Grantham Estates,” James offered.  “I had to wait for the package.”

“Mrs. Grady take good care of you?” asked Barney as a friendly dig.

James just smiled.

 

Epilogue 

 

I had two scripture passages in mind as I wrote this little story.  Like Rebel I struggle with trust issues.  These scriptures delight my soul and challenge my flesh.

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Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct you paths.

 

I recognize that Rebel has trust issues, and I see that his journey would have been easy if he was able to trust in Josh’s knowledge of what lies ahead.  Being yoked with Jesus requires trust, but the rewards of that trust are peace and contentment.  I’m working on it. How about you?

REBEL

This is a repost from November of 2016.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

The groomsman backed Rebel into position and commenced hitching him to the carriage.  This was a new experience for the brown brindled and white colt.  He had never been pared with another horse.  The wildness in his eyes reflected his inner apprehension.

“Hey Barney,” greeted James the carriage driver.  “So the master wants to try this guy in a side-by-side.  You think it’ll work?”

“We’ll see,” replied Barney.  “Rebel is well named.  He always wants to go his own way.  I’m hoping Josh will keep him in line.

James smiled, “I’m headed down the old river road to the Grantham Estates.  That road will test the mettle of a good pair, but Josh knows the road better than I do.  If Rebel’s gonna make it, Josh is his best hope.”

Barney looked on as James took his seat, “God be with you.”  He waved goodbye and said, “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

James backed the carriage a few feet then swung to the left.   With the forward command, Rebel jolted forward.  Josh on the inside of the turn anchored the swing.  Rebel looked silly as he lurched forward and then stopped like he’d hit a brick wall.  Josh, twice his weight and probably twice as strong, held the inside of the turn.  He was in control, and Rebel had to conform.

They headed down the hill toward the junction with the river road.  Rebel had a hard time adjusting to Josh’s steady pace, but eventually he fell into rhythm.  Then they came to the right turn onto the river road.  This time Rebel had the inside of the turn.  Josh quickened his pace on the outside, but Rebel failed to slow.  For James it was a nightmare trying to keep control.  When they finally settled down from the turn, James chuckled to himself.  “He’s learning.”

The team ran along rather smoothly until they reached the bridge.  Rebel had never crossed a bridge.  He bucked and started as they approached.  James finally set the wagon’s brake and went forward to comfort Rebel.  He patted and stroked the horse till he settled.  “You’ve got to learn this too, young buck.  Just follow your lead.  Josh’s got this.”

Josh stood like a rock, stable and sure.  James return to the driver’s seat and gave the command for forward.  Josh slowly moved up the rise to the bridge. Rebel moved ahead tentatively.  At the sound of their hooves on the planking of the bridge, Rebel gave another start.  James let them hesitated for a moment then moved them on.  By the time they reached the other side, Rebel was reasonably settled.

The rest of the trip to Grantham Estates went as expected for a horse in training.  He had his own idea for each bend in the road and how to negotiate the ruts.  Josh held position, and Rebel conformed, mostly.  It was a long trip over the rolling hills to the estate.  As they neared their destination, James could see that Rebel was settling and beginning to trust Josh’s lead.

Upon arrival a servant greeted James with the news that there would be a several hour delay before the package he came for would be ready.  “We’ll take care of your horses,” he said.  “I’ve got some oats and water for them, and I’ll put them in that small corral for the wait.”

“Thanks!” James responded.

“Mrs. Grady has some tea and biscuits for you in the pantry,” the servant added.

“Thanks again,” James said with a noticeable smile.  He loved Mrs. Grady’s cooking.

 

(Next week the return home)