Love Your Neighbor

Commands of Jesus Series


Matthew 22:39  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Romans 13:8  Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

That is a pretty amazing command, think about what Jesus is saying, he taught us that everybody around us that has a need is somebody that we need to be neighbors with. And then he tells us that loving those neighbors is almost as important a command as loving God.

That’s enormous, we can all agree that loving God is really important but for me to care about my neighbor almost as much as God that is absurd from a human point of view. God, do you really remember how I was treated, did you see what happened the last time I went out on a limb to help somebody? Chances are that your neighbor isn’t Fred Rogers.

To live by Jesus rule requires for me to speak and act out of great love for my neighbor, Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary says:

By this rule we are taught to bear with, love, and forgive him; to rejoice in his felicity, mourn in his adversity, desire and delight in his prosperity, and promote it to the utmost of our power: instruct his ignorance, help him in his weakness, and risk even our life for his sake, and for the public good. In a word, we must do every thing in our power, through all the possible varieties of circumstances, for our neighbors, which we would wish them to do for us, were our situations reversed.

This is so opposite of our human reasoning that I will have to work on applying it until the Lord takes me home.

Lord, it seems almost impossible to live out this rule, it is too easy to give my neighbor what he deserves rather than showing him grace and mercy. Help me to show grace and mercy just as abundantly as you showed it to me.

May This Cup

Knowing His inevitable end, the pain, the suffering, and the pain that would come in the form of His sacrifice;  stricken, smitten and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4), Christ waited patiently for the appointed hour in which the prophesies would be fulfilled.

The truth is, it had to be hard for Him, and we are given a brief look into the mindset of the Blessed Savior as He prayed to His Heavenly Father, pleading “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) He knew it wasn’t. After all,  His entire purpose would be fulfilled in the stations of the cross. Had God found a way for “this cup” to be taken from Him then there would have been no reason for Him to have been made man, no real point to His ministry. Anything and everything He was could have easily be fulfilled through the Prophets who came and went before Him.

Yet perfect God and perfect man, there was a nature to Christ that was much like our nature. How could there not when, to be our substitute, He had to be as we are?

Still, as disciples of Christ, given to His teachings, do we have those moments when we pray for whatever it is that we are facing to be lifted from us, to be taken from us? And when we do, how often do we put that last statement in, “Not as I will, but as you will”? When God does not take “this cup” from us, do we then associate it with Him not hearing us or being carefully absent from us? Or do we see it as something different altogether?

You see, though no suffering, no pain comes from God, from our loving Heavenly Father, it does not exclude the possibility and the fact that, in a sinful world so far from the nature that God has intended for us, suffering does exist. In promising to hear our prayers (Psalm 34:15) God does not promise to end every trial that we face. What He promises is that it will never be more than we can take or that we can handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Through His blessings He gives us the strength to endure (Philippians 4:13) as He makes us more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37)

The truth is, God is never absent from our lives, whatever it may be that we are forced to face, whatever struggles we may find that we have to endure. Yes, we can pray that they are removed from us, that the burden of them, the pain that they may bring, is something that we no longer have to shoulder. But God does not guarantee to remove it from us because it is perhaps something that we are meant to go through in order to get where we are going, to become the person that God intended for us to be.

This is, at times, hard for us to understand but the struggles that we have to face are not won by being removed from us. They are won through perseverance and hope in the knowledge that everything serves a purpose according to God’s love for His children and the strength we are given through the power of the Spirit. (Romans 5:3-5)

Consider for a moment whatever struggles you may face, whatever challenges that are there in front of you, consider how you pray and have faith in God during these times. Now consider the struggles of Christ and the prayer He offered to His Heavenly Father, the trust He had that even during the greatest of trials and the most enduring of tribulations there was a divine purpose in it all. Yes, pray according to hope, but more importantly pray according to God’s will and God’s plan for your life, understanding that it is greater than anything you could have known or thought, even when the times are tough and the struggles are before you.

Patience, strength and courage through the most difficult of times, the understanding that sacrifices must be made in our lives, even when they are hard to understand — these are the lessons of our blessed Savior during this Easter Season. The question then is, how will your faith guide you when it seems as if it is just too much to endure? Will you pray for God’s will for you or will you demand for your will to be done by God?

Receive the Gift of Power

The Commands of Jesus Series

  Luke 24:49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere–in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Those of us that know the Lord have an awesome source of power that we need to be sure doesn’t come unplugged.

The Holy Spirit takes care of us directly and he gifts us gifts so that we can do things that we couldn’t have imagined doing. (1Cor 12:11). Check out what he does for us:

  • He is our Advocate that will always be with us (John 14:16).
  • He will be there to lead us into truth, he will teach us and he will remind us of the things that Jesus already taught us (John 14:26).

It was not intended for me to follow Jesus commands without any help. I need to be sure that I am as powerful as I can be by staying in the word each day and praying for God’s direction in every detail of my life.

Faith as Love

If, as James tells us, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17) then it must be remembered by the disciple of Christ that faith, in its purest form, is an act of love. After all, “saved by faith, through grace, and not of our works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), what is our redemption and the sacrifices that give it its power but an act of love strengthening and preserving us even unto life everlasting?

Considered rightly, in accordance with the teachings of our blessed Savior that admonishes us to love one another to show our life given to Him (John 13:34-35), the two are intrinsically bound together. In this what it offers to us is an understanding that teaches us that without love there can be no faith.

In this relationship love is more than a feeling. It is act, a commitment, a sense of duty that only really and truly exists through actions, through thought and deed that strive towards the individual call to do more with the gifts that have been given to us by the blessings of our Creator. It is the hope that we offer in the lives of others, hearing the words of Christ, living by His example, each and every step of the way seeking to uplift and edify others according to their needs as we hear the call to service.

You see every one of us, we have something to offer. The God who fearfully and wonderfully created us did so that our lives could and would be in service, offering to us strengths, talents and abilities that are meant to be used. (Luke 12:48) The question then for the disciple, living amidst a world where there is so much need, is what will I do to meet it? If our faith lives within us then, in love, we must ask ourselves what will I do to ensure the betterment of others?

Perhaps, in a busy and hectic life, we think to ourselves that we just don’t have the time. After all there is so much that could be done that to worry about it, to try and take it on, would be overwhelming. Yet the truth is that hope and love, it begins one life at a time. We don’t need to take on the world. If each disciple took it upon themselves to take up one cause, to effect change in one life that is in need, working to truly help one person before moving on to the next, true and lasting change could be made to significantly help others. All it takes is a little sacrifice on our part.

Consider, for a moment, the life of Christ, the one whose example we, in our faith, are to live by. (1 Corinthians 11:1) There was never a time He took on more than He could handle. Most of time He healed one or two at a time, He worked on the individual spirits and souls, body and minds before that great, encompassing sacrifice that saved us all. For us it serves as a lesson that teaches us that no person is expected to do more than they can, but they are expected to live according to a love that heals, that strengthens, and that calls others through the love that they have.

Look around, consider the lives of those who surround you and the need that is there. Give of your time and yourself to those who are struggling and find themselves in desperation. Be the disciple that God knows you can be, the disciple that He calls you to be. Take the time each day to consider the world around you, to think of those in your life who are struggling and how you can help them. Look for causes, worthy causes, that you can donate to, volunteer with, and help those who live in a constant battle find some sort of sense in their life.

In faith, our lives can be given to love that the blessings we have been endowed with can bring happiness, joy and strength to others. This can be our testimony that shines forth from hearts and souls if we are so inclined to hear the calling of Christ. The only question then left to ask is what sort of disciple will you be and how will your life offer of the love that saved you?

Watch Yourselves

Jesus is Coming

Luke 21:34-36  34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” 

Are you ready?  When Jesus returns it will be sudden and unexpected, we won’t have time to get ready once things begin.  Are you ready for it?  Or are you caught up in the cares of this life?

It’s so easy to get distracted from what really matters.  There are things all around us to keep us occupied.  If it’s not the TV or the internet, it’s all of the apps that are now available on our phones.  We literally never have to go without some form of entertainment or distraction.  So how do we keep our eyes on Him, awaiting His return?

The answer to that question lies in Romans 12:2.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect

We can’t be caught up in the things of this world if we’re going to be ready for Christ’s return.  That means being transformed by the renewal of our minds.  That simply means trading in our understanding of the world for God’s.  Looking at things from His point of view.  If we do this, we won’t find the distracting things of this world appealing at all and we’ll look to the Lord’s business.

Do Unto Others

The Commands of Jesus Series

 Matthew 7:12  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

What a huge saving that our country would have if we could all live a lifestyle full of kindness. We could shut down most of the courts and we could get rid of a bunch of the law makers in Washington, how about the size of the police force? What a big pile of money that we would have to use on more important things if we treated everybody that we come into contact with just as good as if we were treating ourselves.

Jesus gave us an awesome example of how to live and how to treat other people, it wasn’t enough to show us what to believe, he also showed us how to allow our beliefs to affect our lifestyle. Living by this simple rule will help you get rid of envy, slander, theft, adultery, we would become a lot more like our Savior.

Jeremiah 7:5 But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice.

It is time to stop the never-ending cycle, we all want to be treated good but somehow we don’t allow that to affect how we treat others, we want to receive mercy but we are slow to give it out.

Help us Lord to put aside our jealousy and envy and concentrate on treating the other people around us as well as you have treated us. After all you took better care of us than we ever deserved.

Lent and the Theology of Asceticism

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

“What are you giving up for Lent?”

Most Christians who have spent any time in a church that observes the Liturgical Calendar have probably had that question asked of them. The idea itself is not a difficult one, at least not as difficult as the actual faithful compliance to it. In the simplest of terms the Christian carefully reflects on their life, picking something that brings them pleasure and enjoyment but that is not necessarily spiritually fulfilling. For the period then that marks the beginning of Lent until Easter Sunday they give up that one thing, and in doing so, use that time to focus on their faith, on the pious acts and thoughts of devotion that will lead to their own growth.

So popular is the concept of Asceticism Theology during this time of the year that even the faithful who couldn’t name another Feast Day, Festival, Fast or Observance on the Church Calendar are, at the very least, vaguely familiar with the concept. Some even go as far as to partake in those acts of abstinence and self–denial that mark that ceremonial sacrifice.

In and of itself Lent is a perfect example of how the disciple of Christ can strive, as commanded by Scripture, to live by the example of our blessed Savior Himself. (1 Corinthians 11:1) After all, each step in the life of that perfect Son of God was marked by sacrifice, from the humble birth that marked His entrance into this world, (2 Corinthians 8:9) to the forty days in the desert fasting and praying before beginning His ministry, (Luke 4:1-13) to the very act on the cross that surrendered His life for ours. (Mark 15:21-41) Yet, in this Lenten tradition, do we miss something of the true nature of sacrifice and spiritual growth?

You see, if we generally accept that something isn’t spiritually fulfilling, if we generally accept that something doesn’t offer to us the spiritual growth we need in order to become the disciple that we should be, that we believe that we can be, to the point where we believe it is beneficial to us to give it up for a period of time, is it beneficial for us to take it back up after Easter Sunday? Given to Christ, we must constantly consider the nature of what it means to be a true follower of Him. In this our lives must be given to careful examination as to what we do and who we are, realizing ‘”Everything is permissible” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” but not everything is constructive. “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

Perhaps, at Lent, one may give up television to focus themselves on Scriptural Study during the time they might otherwise be watching it, perhaps someone may give up their Saturdays to volunteer somewhere and meet a need that is there. Yet if this is important to do, if we believe that these sacrifices mark something significant for our growth, then why limit it to a short period of time rather than taking it back up again? It might be that during our Lenten observation we abstain from candy or junk food and soda. What if, instead of going back to the candy bar or the potato chips after Easter, every time you crave that snack fix you put the money you would have spent on it in a jar and later donate it to a charity or to someone in need?

There are any number of things that the disciple, in their lives, can point to and pick out knowing that it perhaps does not have a spiritual application and that sacrificing it will do them good. It doesn’t mean they have to give up everything in their lives that gives them enjoyment and pleasure. Still, if it is something worth sacrificing for a short time in order to better yourself, if it something you can sacrifice in order to edify and uplift others in love and hope, setting an example with your life for others, then why limit yourself to only giving it up for a short time?

In faith the life of a disciple should be one given to self-examination, reflection and sacrifice. This is not just a Lent Theology or one that should be marked on our calendars with a countdown as to when we can stop depriving ourselves. It is a way of life meant to focus our hearts and our soul so we can be better people, guided by hope and love in the examples of our blessed Savior.

Study your life, examine yourself for what is in your life that you can give up, and if you already have, don’t just run down the clock. Make a commitment to yourself, to your faith and to God, and let your life be a testimony to the nature of our Savior. Give up so you can give of yourself, and let this be a daily witness to the love that you have and the love that guides you.

The Nature of True Beauty

With love and hope in our hearts how do we, as Disciples of Christ, measure beauty? How do we see it, not only in the world around us, but in the people who surround us?

When this question runs through my mind there’s a verse I often like to consider. It’s from the story of David, when the prophet Samuel sought to anoint a new king over Israel to replace Saul, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

You see, the shepherd boy, when placed side by side with the other sons of Jesse, standing beside his brothers, was not much to look at. In fact, when considered with them, it could hardly be thought that he would have the capacity to lead, to offer the strong guidance that the nation itself needed. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, it wasn’t the strength, or the height or any of the outward appearances. After all, He had Saul, a mighty man of renown, strong and charismatic, as the chosen King and it had met with such disappointment as He had watched him waver to the point where his fall would become inevitable. Now the Lord sought a different sort of man to lead His people.

Still, it wasn’t hard for Samuel to fall into a trap that each of us can so easily find ourselves amidst, looking at the strongest, the best looking, the mightiest as the one who catches our eyes somehow believing that they have more to offer because of their appearance. We so often see beauty as an outward appearance, as only being significant and worthy of our attention if it somehow can merit a second look from our eyes. We see it as it is, by the standards of our present age, and by the focus that is given to it by society as a whole. It is there that we mark worth and assign value by what captivates our eyes and captures our attention.

Yet the truth is true beauty is marked by what is in our hearts, by the love, the hope and the inspiration that we offer in the courage and the perseverance of our spirits. It is in the wisdom that we show, it is in the way that we offer our hand to one another to be a force for good, edifying and uplifting them, by the charity that spurs on optimism despite whatever despair it may offer. Each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) have, by the power of God, an enormous capacity to offer of ourselves through the gifts that we have. This is the true mark of beauty, the true mark of our strength.

Perhaps, at times, we don’t see ourselves as we should. We look in the mirror and we see our every physical imperfection, whether it is real or perceived. We hate our glasses, we’re not model thin, our hair is falling out, our body doesn’t look like we think it should. Perhaps, at times, we look at others, and we don’t necessarily see them for who they are. We see them for what we can only see with our eye. By this sight we don’t even always necessarily know what it is about their appearance, maybe it’s a little bit of everything, but we just find them to be unattractive.

As imitators of God, given to His love, captured by His grace, we need to strive to see more in ourselves and in others, to see beauty for what it really is. It is not in waist sizes or in hairlines or in any other physical standard that we can mark it by. It is in what is given, and the guiding presence of a spirit and a soul, a heart and a mind given to the greatest capacity we have to live in the image of God that we are created in. It comes through a God who is, in and of Himself, love. It is to take the lessons of Christ and to use it to create a spiritual makeover, one that focuses on the elegance and the strength of our inward appearances.

It is only in this way that we see true beauty for what it is as we let it encompass our being. It is being moved not by the vain eyes but by the pure heart in the wonders of all of God’s creation. In this we become more than we ever hoped to be as the character of our splendor is marked by the blessed exquisiteness of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who offered us the greatest example of what it truly means to be attractive.

Fear Not

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 10:28-31 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

What do I have to worry about? Not a thing! The only thing, the ONLY thing that matters at all is where I am going after my life on this planet is finished and since that issue is settled then what else is there?

The God of this huge universe takes care of the smallest of his creation, the insignificant details of creation are personally known to him. Surely he will take care of me, after all I am made in his likeness, I have a soul that will live on after this body is worn out and gone, certainly he knows the details of my life and cares about everyone of them.

God has said “Fear not!” over and over again all through the Bible, he knew that we would struggle in this area, he wants his people to live by faith in him without fear that comes from relying on yourselves.

Romans 8:35, 37 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

I stand in awe of you Lord. It is amazing that you created an infinite universe and placed me in one little corner of it and yet you want a relationship with “little old me.” Thank you for taking care of me.

You might like to read:
Christ Passion For His Lost Sheep  //  Helping God When He Needs It  //  Focus On God