A Lesson in Love

The man asked a burning question, “What must I do to be saved?” And he knew all the right answers – love God and love your neighbor. He even claimed to practice them regularly. But he wanted to “justify himself,” as the Greek says to “exhibit oneself such as he wishes to be considered.” He wanted to appear supremely righteous – even more righteous than Jesus – so he asked another question: “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus told a story of a wounded, broken man and the “righteous” people who passed him by. But an unlikely person came along – one who was considered most unrighteous.  It was he who stopped and rendered aid – he cared for the man and about the man.

Then Jesus turned the question around. “Which of these was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  See, the man wanted to know, according to the Law, whom he had to love. Jesus said love isn’t done according to the law, but according to the heart. The Lord pointed to the neighbor not as the one in need but as the one who met the need.

People are sad.

Lonely.

Hungry.

Abused.

Hurting.

Broken.

Homeless.

Afraid.

Grieving.

Helpless.

Sick.

Mistreated.

Hopeless.

And yes, angry.

There is no end to the needs in the world.

But I can’t fix everybody. Where do I start?

With the person God sets in front of you.

“Who is the neighbor. . . ?”

“The one who had mercy on him.”

“Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37

Devoted

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I’m writing a paper for my grad class on Romans 12:9-21. Paul wrote the book of Romans to address the tension between the Jewish and Gentile believers.  He explained that they were all sinners in need of God’s grace through Jesus Christ and that God didn’t favor one group over the other. Then he told them how that grace should be lived out every day as a community – a unified body.  He talked about choosing good and overcoming evil.  He talked about being zealous in serving the Lord, about being Joyful, hopeful, patient, generous, and hospitable.  He talked about how to endure persecution with grace. All good stuff and all very important.  But the verse that keeps drawing my attention is “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (v. 10). I have to ask myself, “Am I?” and I don’t like the answer.

The word “devoted” implies affection that parents feel for their children (and grandchildren). It is tenderness and compassion. It is concern and earnestness to do what is best for the beloved. If you know me at all you know I am “devoted” to my granddaughter and I will do whatever is necessary to care for and about her.  I know you feel the same toward your own children and grands. But how am I toward those outside of my own home? Not as devoted if I’m honest. Ah, but in my defense, I’m busy. I work. I’m a grad student. I am very involved in caring for Joy. I teach Sunday School. I write every day. I’m trying to keep my household running. (I don’t cook much – props to my husband.)  And your life is very full as well. We probably all feel that we’re doing the best we can.

I think busyness is one of the devil’s favorite tools for shutting down real relationships – and real evangelism. With work, school, family, church, and community responsibilities, we just don’t have a lot of time to get involved in other people’s lives.` But then again, it comes down to love, doesn’t it? I don’t know . . . maybe this word is just for me today.  Maybe not.  The truth is we will always make time for what we love: making money, sports, entertainment, leisure, T.V., scrapbooking, gaming, Facebook . . .  and hopefully squeeze in some time for Jesus, Bible study, prayer, and people. Beloved, who or what are you devoted to?

Daily Bread

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The doorbell stirred me from my studies and I opened the door to find a dear friend from church standing outside with bags in her hands. “I have something for you,” she said and we unloaded bag after bag after bag of groceries from her car. “The Lord told me you needed some food,” she said very simply. I cried as I hugged her over and over. “Yes ma’am, we did – thank you so much!” She quickly made her way back to her car and was gone in minutes as my family stood in shock at the bounty God had provided. There was enough food for two weeks – milk and eggs and bread and sandwich fixings and meat and vegetables and even baby food for my granddaughter. I had told no one that we were down to a half a bag of grits in the pantry – and it was another week before payday. But God knew, and He gave us “our daily bread.” That evening our family sat down together and enjoyed a delicious meal of spaghetti and grace.

The first part of The Lord’s Prayer is praise, worship, and surrender. That’s so important to our relationship with God and our hearts. When I begin my prayers with praise and acknowledge God’s sovereign authority in my life, my attitude and desires shift from self-centered to God-centered. The more I focus on God, the less I focus on me.

But Jesus wanted His disciples and us to know that God is deeply concerned for the needs and cares of His children, so He taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). That’s exactly what God did for us.

In my fifty-something years of walking with God, we have been in some hard places financially, but we have never gone without a roof over our heads or food on our table. God has always provided for us. Sometimes just in the nick of time, but never too late.I don’t know what your need is today

Beloved, but I know that the God who sent His Son to redeem you and give you eternal life is also the God who loves you and cares for you and about you. He is Jehovah Jireh – “the Lord the Provider” (Gen. 22: 14) and He lives up to His name every day.

Needy People

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I was so tired. It had been a hectic morning in a busy week and I just wanted to eat my lunch in peace. I had chosen the farthest corner to get away from everyone else in the cafeteria. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. I tried to make myself small and unnoticeable. But she noticed anyway and set down her tray on the other side of the table. “I’m so glad to see you! I need to talk to you.” And she launched into her latest drama. “Why couldn’t she see that I wanted to be alone?” I thought. I listened to her non-stop for thirty minutes and as she prepared to leave, the Spirit prompted me to pray with her. She hugged me tightly and said, “Oh thank you! You always know how to make me feel better.” As she walked away, I stared at my half-eaten lunch just as my phone chimed. I opened the daily devotional app to read Luke 9:10-11: “Jesus took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” He welcomed them. Not just tolerated them. He received them with delight. And He shared the kingdom with them. His time alone with His disciples had been hijacked. Or was it a divine interruption?

The truth is, I was once a needy sponge myself, searching out kind faces and willing (more like reluctant) ears to listen to me. No doubt I wore some folks out. But somebody cared enough about me to pour into my empty heart and lead me to God’s healing touch. Now I try to be the one who cares and listens. When a needy friend comes around I remind myself that Jesus welcomed people who interrupted His life. People like me.

Maybe, Beloved, God wants you to be His conduit of love and kindness – and patience – to lead someone into His healing arms. You could be the hinge on which their life turns around. Jesus welcomed needy people. He welcomed me. And He welcomed you. Somebody needs you today. Will you welcome them in Jesus’ name?