Monday, May 17, 2010

Loving One Another

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written; "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary; "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -
Romans 12:9-21

Today (7/14/17) I am editing this blog and after reading the Scripture with it, I realize it could have been made into twenty blogs. Over the years I have slowed down and begun to focus on smaller chunks of it so that it sinks in to the heart.

John 13:35 says, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." That could be one of the reasons Paul gave such practical advice about loving in this passage. As we look at Paul's description, we see love is real, transparent, and sincere. It despises evil and clings to what is good. Love is being kind when a person deserves it and when they don't. Love is not being conceited, but choosing to put others' needs above our own. Love is not robbing our bosses of time or resources; it is giving them our best and using their resources wisely. Love is seeking to meet the needs of others. It is serving God by serving others passionately. Love is choosing to bless those that persecute us, instead of cursing them or trying to repay evil with evil. It may mean we must trust God to be our defender and seek to overcome an evil act with a good one. It means not avoiding or running from an enemy, but dealing with them honestly and respectfully. Love is being willing to enter into the emotional world of others by rejoicing with them when they are rejoicing and weeping with them when they are weeping. It’s choosing not to show partiality to the wealthy. It is being honest so our words are trustworthy and assuming the responsibility to make peace with people when it is possible.

There are three things that stick out to me in verse 12. When I was going through a long painful trial I prayed with a friend and realized I was not living out this verse. I have not been rejoicing in the trial and my friend exhorted me to remember that God was a God of miracles and a God who changes hearts. I realized I could rejoice because of who God is -- even though the situation appeared hopeless He was not! I had not been patient in the tribulation. Because I wanted the trial to end and I wanted to experience peace. However, to become more like Christ, to love like He loves, and to learn to face trials with courage and grace, I had to face the long trial. I also realized I wasn't diligent in prayer. I have learned to pour out my heart to God, but I neglected to praise him in the midst of the trial. I had neglected to pray for those involved in the trial or to ask God how He would want me to respond and how He would want me to demonstrate love to the one who was mistreating me.

It is important that we ask how we are doing in the love department. To love sincerely requires God’s transforming power. To be kind when we are tired, being mistreated, or under lots of stress requires we let His kindness shine through us – especially when we have nothing left to give. To keep working when exhausted may require we allow God to help us stay focused and energized. Giving to other's needs and sharing in hospitality requires we make sacrifices and depend on God to meet our needs. To rejoice and weep with people requires we be transparent and let others see God laughing and weeping within us. To love our enemies is a mark of maturity and of walking closely with God. Elizabeth Elliot went to the tribal people who had murdered her husband and shared Christ with them. I don't know if I could do that, but I want God to get me to the place I could. No matter what our circumstances and trials are,  we can rejoice in serving a God who is powerful enough to change the hardest of hearts into loving and kind hearts. We can rejoice that we serve a God who is powerful enough to calm the most violent storms. We can rejoice that God is a God who is capable and willing to heal even the deepest wounds. Do we trust Him enough to be patient in a tribulation while He is doing His perfect work in us? Are we diligent in prayer, no matter whether it is good times or hard times? When life seems hopeless it is time to praise Him for all He is to strengthen our faith. When our heart hurts, it is time to focus on His love so that our hearts may be healed! When circumstances seem stormy it is time to focus on His goodness and His grace to keep us safe through the storm. We would do well to remember His light shines the brightest during the darkest moments. Looking to Him will enable us to see Him clearly and become more like Him. Christ’s love shined brightest during His darkest moment, will mine? Will yours?

Prayer: Father, You have loved us with a perfect, sacrificial, and eternal love. You have called us to learn to love as You love. Sometimes the only way we learn to do that is to go through a trial that strikes at our pride, overwhelms us, or breaks our hearts. Give us teachable hearts and help us to be patient in our trials so that we can be that ray of hope and love to other people. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!