It’s Time to Love Like Jesus Loves

Here we are again.

The ugliness of impending evil has reared its head and spewed hatred across the country that I love. The events over the weekend in Charlottesville are horrific, and quite frankly,  I don’t have the eloquence nor the bandwidth to break down the reasons for it and the solutions to it. There are countless others who do, and I’ve heard a lot about it over the weekend.

Churches around the country on Sunday opened their doors to grieve and lament. I have the privilege of attending an intergenerational, multi-ethnic & racially integrated church in California called Fellowship Monrovia. We are grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the pillar of reconciliation. Our Center for Racial Reconciliation regularly hosts workshops led by people of every race so we can learn what life is like for those who are different from us. We are one body, and one thing I noticed today is that black, white, hispanic, asian, middle-eastern – we all gathered together like always and were steadfast in our love for one another.

The heartfelt lament of our worship leader today spoke for so many as she read Psalm 13:

1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 
3Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.
And then we sang praise to the Lord. Because even though evil runs rampant through the world, he is still good, and he has the victory.

When events like this unfold, we are shaken but not destroyed. We grieve but we are not moved to despair. If anything, it makes us more resolute in our commitment to spreading love to the world.

It’s so easy to feel helpless and hopeless in the wake of such obvious evil, especially when the evildoers look like me. The important thing for me to remember is the solution starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with each of us. If we are to show the world a glimpse of Jesus, we must carry his attributes in our daily living.

 But there is still much work to be done by the church. The fact that people still have the slightest notion that those who spew hatred at another human being are a representation of christians is the biggest travesty. Why would they think that? The Bible says to love, not hate. Let’s not get into the ridiculousness of anyone thinking they are acting on behalf of God when they spew such horrible hatred. Why does the world believe them and in turn scoff at christians and lump us all together with the evil doers? It’s been such a mystery to me, but now I think perhaps it’s because we have been silent against injustice for far too long.
No, we have not joined our voices with theirs, but we have remained far too silent. We have watched in horror and done nothing. Our sin is one of omission.
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8
In his message today the preacher said a visitor to his church once asked him, “if I come to your church, will I actually meet people who are like Jesus?”
I ask you, “if I came to your church, would I meet people who are like Jesus?”
My prayer today is that God will embolden Christians to reach beyond ourselves and love people like they’ve never been loved before. To show others what Jesus looks like.
It’s time.

GODS’ BALANCE OF JUSTICE AND MERCY

Does life seem unfair to you? You see the unrighteous thriving with enough money to buy whatever he wants.  You question how a God of love could allow an innocent child to be maimed in an accident.  Why does an elderly parent who has been a follower of Christ suffer a long and agonizing illness to death?  A Mom and Pop store is going out of business after 40 years because a large chain store has come to their town and taken their faithful customers.

You have unanswered questions in your heart and mind that don’t seem to make sense.  Life seems out of balance.  Have you experienced unfair judgement yourself, or to those whom you love?  Are you keeping account of it?  Do you want to strike back in revenge?

Problems are a part of life and are inescapable because of this fallen world of sin we live in.  You do not have the capacity to fix everything.  Talk to God.  Seek God’s perspective on the situation.  Ask Him to help you see the person or deed through His eyes.  The answer may not come in your lifetime, but to understand that God knows your heart and motives goes beyond the wondering as to how you will be vindicated.  After all that is God’s business….not yours.

I don’t know why “bad things happen to good people,” as in Rabbi Kushner’s book by the same title, but I do know that “God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)  You see….God is a God of order, with justice and mercy in perfect balance.

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Please be encouraged today in knowing that the God we serve is Sovereign and has a perfect plan for each one of our lives.  He is the only one who really sees the big picture of your life from beginning to end! TRUST HIM.

With Adam…sin entered the world.  This was not God’s fault.  Man had a choice and he decided to disobey God’s laws.  When that happens God’s justice holds up.  As in our courts of law the one who has been found guilty in the due process of a trial must accept the consequences.

God’s consequences and rewards are eternal…. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:22)

Remember that judgement is God’s necessity or He wouldn’t be God…but His nature and essence is love, and with that love comes mercy.  He is the One always calling out to the lost to be saved through belief in His Son, Jesus the Christ.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who have been called according to His purpose.”   Romans 8:28

Give With No Expecation

This is sometimes a difficult one for me….if you are honest, it is for you too. 

Just yesterday I was about to pull out of a parking lot. A guy was walking down the sidewalk and getting close to where I was waiting to pull my car onto the road. He was young, and seemed in a hurry, so I backed up a few feet to let him cross…smiling at him. I had had plenty of time to safely pull out before he got close, but I thought I’d be nice. This wasn’t a pedestrian right-of-way situation.

He crossed without so much as a nod. In fact, he seemed to cast a devious glance of entitlement as he sauntered slowly by… 

That rush of anger welled up inside me. Immediately I thought, what an ingrate! I didn’t have to do that… I was patient and kind, and he didn’t even thank me for it! 

OOPS. Was I? Really? Maybe not so much. 

I had to repent, and then have a little talk with myself. I went into that act thinking I’d just do it because it was nice. But, I came out of it having expected something in return.  

We are to be charitable, and selfless, even with our enemies. Altruism is however, many times, something we do for ourselves to “feel good” as much as it is due our desire to be kind and to help others.  

I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 6 when he said, 

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 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 children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” 

Remember also that Christ willingly gave His life for us, with no guarantee of our acceptance or appreciation. He did it out of pure love. End of story.

We all encounter circumstances every day that range as small as the example I gave, to challenges of deep sacrifice.  

What will I do the next time I have the chance to give with no expectation? Will it come from the right place in my heart? I sure hope and pray so. As humans, our work on ourselves with God’s assistance is never-ending! Let us examine always our motives.

God knows our hearts, and he is merciful and giving. Let us follow in His way.

gift

DO-OVER!

How many kids have you heard shout this out while playing? How many times did YOU say that as a kid? 

Like when you were having a contest, and you messed something up and knew you were going to lose, so you shouted out, “DO-OVER!”  

This way you had the chance to re-do what you just did wrong. This way you still had a chance to win.  

We all want to win all the time, don’t we? But, the truth is we are human, and we fail at various things on a daily basis.  

Unfortunately in adult life, we don’t always have the opportunity for a do-over. For example, if we make a huge mistake at work, we are not likely to get the chance to do it again and do it better. Hopefully we will have the chance to fix it and keep our job, but we can never erase what has been done. That slate can’t be cleaned. We may be forgiven, but many times our mistakes are not forgotten.  

This is not true with God. 

Can you believe HIS MERCIES ARE NEW EVERY MORNING? This is amazing to me. I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept. EVERY day I get to wake up with a clean slate. 

I get a chance to DO-OVER. 

EVERY DAY. 

I used to fall into such a state of self-loathing and depression when I would make a mistake. I would wallow in the wake of whatever I had done, and it would take me days, weeks, or maybe even months to get back up and start again, depending on what the mistake was. FINALLY, I am learning that I do not have to do this. God offers me forgiveness when I ask, and He promises that I will have the chance to try again. Every day.  

WOO HOO! This is GREAT NEWS! For, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) 

How tremendous that when the sun rises every day and our eyelids pop open – we get a whole new start!

Photo by Kristin Coke - Myrtle Beach, SC

Photo by Kristin Coke – Myrtle Beach, SC

 SO…keep on keeping on. Never quit or give up. 

God will NEVER give up on you!

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22 – 24 (NLT)