Tag Archives: Loving One Another

Negative Filters

Advent
December 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
–1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

We live in a world that wants to blame others, castigate others, judge others to solve its problems. Perhaps we would reap more positive results if we plumbed deep within ourselves seeking God’s sanctification. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Sanctify* means:

  1. to make sacred or holy-set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use: consecrate, hallow
  2. to make free from sin: cleanse from moral corruption and pollution: purify
  3. to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, title to reverence, venerability, or
  4. to make efficient as the means of holiness: make productive of holiness or piety

We rarely if ever are capable of changing another person. With God’s help, we can change ourselves. Each of us has a set of filters, some stronger than others, that color the way we view the world around us. These filters become a part of our mentality from the moment we are born. Hopefully, the first filter is one that says we are loved and wanted. Many filters are good and provide shortcuts for our brains, so we do not need to start every action or interaction from scratch. Some filters are not good. It is these filters that’s removal is necessary for us to each serve God productively.

I love item four above. We do not realize how much effort we waste by allowing those negative filters to rule our lives. Our negative filters obstruct our attempts to love God and love as Jesus loves because they incorrectly define the person we are striving to love. The only definition of any other person that matters is their creation in the image of God. When we judge another by any other criteria, our love cannot be productive. Particularly when we feel the need to force others to be like us before we can care for or about them, we fail God.

Prayer: God, forgive us when we pull away from you in search of things that will never satisfy our needs.  Make us whole so that we can fully become the people you created us to be. Cleanse us and make us your productive servants. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Sanctify

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Unconditional Love and Eternity

Living in the Spirit
November 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:31-46

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’—Matthew 25:41-46

What does Jesus mean by eternal punishment? If we do not understand what eternal punishment means, we easily let it go as unimportant. We do so at our peril.

The Greek word, kolasis, translated as punishment means chastisement, punishment, torment, perhaps with the idea of deprivation*.  In the Bible it appears only here in Mathew 25:46 and 1 John 4:18 which reads: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

1 John may provide the insight we need to understand Jesus’ meaning. It is my understanding that the Kingdom of God started at Christ’s resurrection. If so, then eternity began then too. We practice every day of our lives loving the way Jesus loves training for perfection in our loving now and throughout eternity. 1 John suggests that fear is our greatest impediment to reaching that perfection. To love God and to love any other opens us to the vulnerability of not being loved in return. The ways of the world dictate that we must receive just return on any investment we make. The unconditional nature of God’s love negates that idea. If we give in to the way of the world regarding how we love, we condemn ourselves to live without accepting the unconditional love that God so freely extends to all.

Prayer: Lord, many of us having been hurt by what we perceived to be love but wasn’t. Asa result we built walls of fear to protect us from fully accepting your unconditional love. Tear those walls down and heal the wounds that enslave us keeping us from fulfilling our call to love as Jesus loved. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Intercessory Pray

Living in the Spirit
October 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’ –Exodus 33:12-16

My Bible labels our scripture today as Moses’ Intercession, his prayer for his people. We have a service of intercessory pray each Sunday accompanying the pastor’s prayer where participants are invited to call out the name or names of persons or situations in need of prayer. These are usually brief with no detail, Bill, The Smith Family, those recovering from the hurricane. They are always heartfelt and thus important. After each name or situation is named the congregation responds, “Here our prayer O, Lord,” a community of faith joining together to asked God’s presence in the lives of others. Intercessory prayer is at least as old as the time of Moses while being just as relevant today. God already knows the detail of the need for prayer; we just want to join our prayers together to build the synergy of love that is needed to heal an individual, a family, community, or the world.

The interesting thing about intercessory prayer is that just by naming the ones in need we commit to working harder to bring into fulfillment the type of community and world God envisions for us. It is when we turn our eyes away from God and from our neighbors’ needs that paths open for evil to intervene.

Prayer: Here our prayers O, Lord and in the process of sharing in prayer open our hearts and minds to your service. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Let Love Be Genuine

Living in the Spirit
August 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:9-21

; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. –Romans 12:9-13

I find the praise translated Let love be genuine intriguing.  Admittedly, I may be grasping at something that is not there. I am more social worker than theologian. I am definitely not a Greek scholar. The phrase seems to imply that love is a natural phenomenon among humans around which we might construct barriers keeping love from being fully actualized. The word love used here is the Greek agape* often used to describe God’s love, which centers in moral preference. God chooses to love us without condition, which does not mean we do not have to deal with the consequences of our actions. God calls us to choose to love God, and to love one another.

I borrow M. Scott Peck’s definition of love, which shortened is wanting the best for another. God wants the best for us, and we likewise are to want the best for all people. The problem arises when we try to define what the best for another might be. Such an act on our part is not in our job description. We can ask God for wisdom in dealing with people who seem to be traveling a bad road, but my experience is that trying to prescribe another’s behavior rarely succeeds. Each of us must work out with God our own salvation*. Our unconditional love, like God’s, if we are willing to let our love be genuine may be a catalyst toward someone  identifying and implementing changes needed.

Paul continues the scripture giving examples of how we can let love be genuine. Most regard choices we make in our interactions with one another.

Prayer: God of Mercy, instill in us the desire to choose to love unconditionally and nurture us to love in such a way that others can see the path you desire for them. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/26.htm
**Philippians 2:12

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Politics of Jesus

Living in the Spirit
August 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. –Matthew 16:13-17

Why did Jesus ask the disciples how people perceived him? Was he checking to see if he was getting his message across? Was he testing his team’s understanding or fidelity? Preceding this scripture are stories of the religious leaders of the day asking for a sign from Jesus to prove who he is, and a warning from Jesus for the disciples to beware of these same leaders. I think Jesus was trying to address both questions. He cared that people understood his message. He cared that the religious leaders did not misconstrue who he was to further their purposes. Jesus dealt with politics.

We tend to tie politics to civil government, but everything we do involving groups of people includes some form of politics. We even try to influence one group’s politics with another group’s. Politics is a branch of ethics concerned with the state or social organism as a whole rather than the individual person:  a division of moral philosophy dealing with the ethical relations and duties of governments or other social organizations*. Much of the Gospels include reports of Jesus’ handling the politics of his faith community. He was a threat to the power of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He called for the formation of a kingdom that was vastly different from their concept of God’s Kingdom. Many of them, not all, were certain their understanding of the Kingdom of God was God’s understanding. Sound familiar? Are we following the path of the Pharisees and Sadducees rather than Jesus’ way? How do we know Jesus’ path when we seek it?

Jesus was a minimalist. He had two basic rules love God and love one another. He illustrated both with lots of stories and lots of examples that passed to us through the ages. His message was not a new one. It was one his faith community were called to follow very early in its formation. The lesser gods of lust for power, greed, pride, envy, and sloth continually play their political viewpoint against God’s all the time wooing us away from the basic rules. If love is wanting the very best for everyone, then these lesser gods cannot be a part of God’s Kingdom.

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me**. Amen

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/politics
**Psalm 51:10-11

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Exercising our Love

Lent
April 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. –Matthew 28:1-6

Matthew 27:54 reports an earthquake occurring while Jesus hung on the cross. Perhaps the resurrection quake was an aftershock. To say the least, the world order was turned upside-down by the events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, or was it turned right-side up?  As I write this I have an ice pack on my thigh nursing a sore muscle recently challenged in a physical therapy session. There are right ways and wrong ways to use muscles and if we do not use them, they weaken. The world is like that too. There is a right way, a just way to interact with one another and there are destructive ways. If we do not routinely practice the right ways, justice weakens.

Amos talks about this very issue. In chapters one and two, he castigates the neighboring nations of Israel for some horrible behavior assuring Israel that God would hold those nations accountable. When he gets to Judah, he takes a totally different approach saying (emphasis added)
Thus says the Lord:
For three transgressions of Judah,
   and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;
because they have rejected the law of the Lord,
   and have not kept his statutes,
but they have been led astray by the same lies
   after which their ancestors walked.
So I will send a fire on Judah,
   and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem. (Amos 2:4-5)

Amos calls them to task for failure to live the way God called them to live. Evil is evil in any circumstance, but evil practiced by God’s people is an affront to God. There has been a lot of that going on lately.

We serve a risen Savior who gave his life to turn the world right-side up an enlisted our help in making it stay that way. If we truly love him, we must invest our whole beings in answering that call.

Prayer: Lord strengthen our love making us conduits of your love bringing  justice to our world today. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Applying the Way of the Lord

directionLent
February 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27

Teach me your way, O Lord,
   and lead me on a level path
   because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
   for false witnesses have risen against me,
   and they are breathing out violence.

 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
   in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
   be strong, and let your heart take courage;
   wait for the Lord! –Psalm 27:11-14

The wisdom of this scripture lies in its plea for the Lord to teach us his way. While studying scripture is important, how we apply it is what really matters. Paul realized this is his words in
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I believe if we just do two things, we fulfill our call from the Lord: Love God and Love One Another. Of course, it helps to have the stories of our ancestors in the faith telling us how they did or did not do this and yes, I value the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount to his parables. Yet they all condense to these two actions, loving God and loving one another.

How did Jesus love? He did not judge, he usually responded to people by asking “What do you want?” or “What do you need?”. He did not determine what was best for others, he helped them to see that for themselves. This was his way.

Prayer: Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path. Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Answer is Love

BrokenEpiphany
January 26, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’ –Jeremiah 1:9-10

Jeremiah felt called to turn the world upside-down in the process of making it upright. There are a lot of politicians wanting to do exactly that today. How do we know to whom we should listen? How do we know who speaks for God and who speaks for the other gods that strive to rule our land? Those other gods are being quite successful it seems.

There are no easy answers in a diverse society. Jeremiah got one thing right for sure. All of us have to change some for all of us to experience some level of life’s adequacies. Food, clothing, shelter plus, I think, hope and a sense of wellbeing, good health and a sense of making a contribution to the world are necessities.

Actually Jesus, some two-thousand years ago, gave us the simplest answer of all: love. For some reason we find it hard to implement. Love requires us to consider the needs of the other. It is hard to quiet the voice in our head that fills our subconscious’ filters with the debris that say, “If the other has enough, I won’t have.” Or “I am no one unless I have more than another.” The saddest thing is that God took care of all that need to covet when God created us. We were all made in God’s image unique. Worth is not measured on any scale but God’s.

Prayer: Lord, heal our souls, clean our clogged inner filters from years of distrust and fear, let your love so overwhelm us that we can do nothing other than love one another. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.