Monthly Archives: February 2018

Love the One You’re With

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Love The One You're WithDoes anyone out there remember this song?  I looked it up and it was released in 1970 by Stephen Stills and became a number one hit.  I used to make fun of it … I mean how pathetic can you get,  saying, if you can’t have the person you really care for, just give up and love the one you’re with — any old person, it really doesn’t matter.  However, thinking about it from a Christian perspective, isn’t this exactly the kind of preposterous love Jesus calls us to?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48

We’re to practice agape love, the kind of love God shows to us and the rest of the world.  So love your neighbors, love your enemies, love your coworkers, love your fellow church members,love those who are different and unlovable, the people who really annoy and irritate you and yes, love the one you’re with!

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Let’s Go On An Adventure or Fanning the Flame #3

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“He set out, not knowing where he was going.”  Hebrews 11:8

Before my mom went into a nursing home, my siblings and I were doing our best to care for her in her own home.  Each day one or more of us would stop by to make or take her a meal, straighten the house, give her a shower and sometimes take her out for a ride.  One of my sisters said she would say to mom, “let’s go on an adventure” — mom would smile and her eyes would light up.  She loved to get out and just ride around. She didn’t worry because she trusted her daughter to bring her back safely.  Bev said they would explore the country roads nearby, just getting on one and following it to see where it went.  Sometimes they came back out in a familiar location, other times they’d just have to backtrack in order to get home.

Well, our congregation is about to go on an adventure.  The Fanning the Flame program was approved at our voters’ meeting by an approximately 2-1 majority.  Now the hard work and anxiety really start.  We’re setting out on a journey, and we don’t even have the map!  We know we want to end up as a healthier church body, but we’re not sure what that means or will look like. We don’t know exactly what it will require. We may end up with a totally unexpected result.  We must trust the process and trust God.

P.S. I read from two different devotionals today and the theme in each was going out in trust.  This is probably not a coincidence.  The first scripture is at the beginning of this article.  The second is below:

Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  Matthew 14:28-29

Pray with us friends and readers as we step out onto the water!

Sibling Love (And Rivalry)

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The stories about Mary and Martha are among my favorites.  These sisters are portrayed in such a human and realistic way.  Martha is obviously an extrovert who is quick to say exactly what’s on her mind.  Mary listens and ponders (typical introvert).  They also have different talents — Martha quickly takes on the tasks of organizing and serving, while Mary sits with the guests and wants to learn from Jesus.  Of course, the crux of the story, the part we always remember is Martha’s cry:

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”  Luke 10:40

I hear this sort of complaint often in the church, where we are also brothers and sisters.  When we take on a task, we want and expect others to help us.  Of course, that isn’t unreasonable, and we should be willing to do our share of the Lord’s work.  However, often we don’t stop to think about the fact that others may simply be using their gifts in a different way.  The member who doesn’t show up at the Yard Sale may be someone who enjoys taking a meals to shut-ins;  the person who refuses to teach Sunday School may be a whiz at fixing things around the building.  Some may even be involved in Christian activity we don’t know about — caring for a sick relative, or working hard in a community organization or spending hours in prayer.  Of course, you probably also remember how Jesus answered Martha:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;  one thing is needful;  Mary has chosen the good portion which shall not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41

The Bible tells us to use our gifts to build up the church, and to be cheerful givers.  It doesn’t tell us to worry about what others are doing.  Sibling rivalry doesn’t help anyone.  If we focus on our own gifts and calling, we won’t feel aggrieved or envious of others;  we’ll be joyful and fulfilled.  We’ll have chosen the needful thing.

Love Yourself?

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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.  Matthew 22:37-39

As I’ve been thinking about the theme for this month my brain keeps coming back to the thought of loving yourself.  I have a really hard time with this concept as a Christian.  I know that God loves me and created me (and God don’t make no junk!) but my brain gets scrambled with the worlds’ concept of loving ourselves.

We are bombarded everyday with advertisements about making ourselves better.  If we do this or buy that we’ll be so much better, so much prettier, so much more desirable as a person.  Beauty products, hair products, vitamins, gym equipment, clothes, shoes; the list goes on and on.  Go to this spa, this gym, this hairdresser and they will make you look wonderful.  Maybe we don’t love ourselves if we are constantly trying to fix something or maybe we love ourselves too much because we spend so much time and money, and we’re worth it?  Then there are the self-esteem and self-image problems and I, truly, don’t even want to go there. There are so many self-help books, just pick a problem and then pick up a book to fix it.

What does loving myself look like?  I look at myself and I see a corrupt, sinful being.  How can I love that?  I know that Jesus loves me and that he died for me.  I was created for a purpose.  That makes me think that, perhaps, I might be worth saving.  Jesus certainly thinks so.

Then I’m to take this new found love for myself and turn it on my neighbor.  Oh boy.  What a task!!  Although, I think that sometimes it’s easier to love our neighbor then it is to love ourselves.  I have no problem taking care of others; I’ve proved that with my care-giving roles.  I have a tough time taking care of myself and I think that is where my problem is.  I need to stop looking at the world for the answer to my dilemma.

As a child of God I should respect and take care of myself so that I’m ready to do God’s will.  I don’t need to go overboard and try to be a fashion or makeup model.  I have to be me, the person God created.  I know, that’s easier said than done.  But in the future, I will try to love myself more as the Lord loves me.  Then it will be easier to love my neighbor and I’m sure that the quality of that love will be much better.

 

 

Martin Luther on Married Love

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“The first love is drunken.  When the intoxication wears off, then comes real marriage love.”

Martin Luther

Which kinds of love is Luther talking about?  Eros and then agape? storge?  philia??  Or is married love really a combination of all of these?  We feel different sorts of love for each other at different times?

All the Loves

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“He who does not love does not know God;  for God is love.”  1 John 4:8

The other night I asked my husband, a pastor, which of the Greek words for love best describes God’s love for us?  Of course, we first thought of agape love.  God loves everyone, regardless of our looks, ethnic background, temperament, intelligence, or worthiness.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

However, we realized that God’s love is also eros.  In a number of places in the Bible, Israel, and later the church (the new Israel), are referred to as God’s wife or bride.

“Return faithless people”, declares the Lord, for I am your husband.” I will choose you–one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion.” Jeremiah 3:14

The fact that God is our father, and Jesus our brother,  exemplifies storge, or family love.  Jesus teaches us:

“And call no man your father on earth, for you have a Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 23:9

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy, are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Hebrews 2:11

Of course, philia is part of God’s love nature as well, because through the incarnation, Jesus became our friend.

“I no longer call you servants. because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

So, God no only is love, His is all the loves, and we find every love and everything there is to know about love in Him.  What a wonderful gift!  Remember, He loves you and so do I!

 

 

More on Brotherly Love

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“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion, For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.  Psalm 133

If you’re part of a family, you know the truth of the Psalm above, and you know what the reverse feels like.  Family is wonderful when everyone is getting along and helping each other– it’s a blessing.  When the family quarrels bitterly, life becomes miserable.  Family members have the power to lift us up or tear us down.

In many places the Bible refers to the church in terms of family.  It is the “household” of God.  We are to treat older people as parents, honoring and respecting them.  We are to treat those of our own generation as brothers and sisters.  When a child is baptized into our congregation, we all take on the responsibility of raising them in the faith.

Unfortunately we don’t always take these “family” responsibilities seriously.  When we don’t agree with someone, or they are rude to us, we just leave, thinking we’ll find a more congenial group;  or we stay and gossip, forming cliques that divide and weaken the body of Christ.  When a brother or sister in Christ stops attending worship or Bible study, instead of calling them up to encourage them and see what’s wrong, we just shrug and say, “oh well” or maybe we think, “the Pastor should check in on them.” We don’t want to risk confrontation or unpleasantness.  When an older member can no longer drive, we consider our own convenience instead of offering them a ride to church.  When a job needs doing, we tell ourselves, we just don’t have the time or the money or the talent to help.

The list can go on and on, and we’re all guilty of neglecting God’s family at times.  It’s true no individual can do everything– but we can all do something, and we should prayerfully consider what it is God wants us to do right now — at this time, in this place, with the family He has given us.

“Let brotherly love continue.”  Hebrews 13:1

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

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I’ve been to several funerals already this year, no doubt an indication of my age and being the wife of a Pastor.  Of course, Psalm 23 is a familiar and comforting reading that is often used.  Meditating on Jesus as my shepherd has reminded me of this lovely hymn that expresses God’s agape love for us.

Practicing Brotherly Love

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The Bible not only tells us to continue in brotherly love, it gives us instructions on how to do that.  I’ve heard them called the “one anothers”:

  • Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you (Romans 5:17)
  • Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
  • Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
  • Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2)
  • Be kind and compassionate with one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)
  • Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

Then there are some “do nots.”

  • Don’t pass judgement on one another (Romans 14:13)
  • Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Do not slander one another (James 4:11)
  • Do not grumble against one another (James 5:9)

How do you do with this list?  If you’re like me, you fall down quite a bit.  I have to admit patience and not grumbling are areas I really need to work on;  serving and submitting deserve extra attention as well.  What about confessing sins to one another — I would really rather not go there!

It boils down to this:  brotherly love requires humility and sacrifice.  It involves imitating the one who loved us like a brother — Jesus.  He did all these things and did them perfectly.  He’s the one who teaches us to love.