WALK A MILE…

WEEK SEVEN, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SEVEN THEME: HOSPITALITY

DAY TWO THEME: EXTENDING INVITATIONS

SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 13:1-3 (CEB)

“Keep loving each other like family.  Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.  Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: The dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. Expanding further that empathy is “the sensing of other people’s emotions, and the imagining of what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”  Hebrews 13:1-3 calls for empathy. 

According to this short and very challenging scripture, the thoughts and actions of a Christian will take them above themselves and their humanity, and require more of them than they may be able to do on their own.  Christians are to treat each person as family.  Well, that is hard.  There are things about some folks that we don’t like or approve of, but we are to treat them as family?  That is stretching our human abilities. This call on our living is taking us to the point where we let go of all prejudices and judgments and simply “love anyway” and do all we can to make a difference rather than ignore what we don’t understand.  

And further, we are to remember prisoners as if we were in prison with them…in their place.  That’s hard to do when you don’t know how a person gets to that place in their living when they feel okay with committing a crime or worse.  And it is also fairly common that many prisoners have been falsely accused and can’t get un-trapped from it. This scripture is almost summed up with the often said phrase, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” This scripture reminds us that we could very well be in that same circumstances and need rather than judge and shake our heads to reach out and have empathy and see where we can help and comfort. It is hard, but it is a call on all who want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  

These scriptures desire for us to move from judgment to compassion.  How many of those in our prison systems today only have known a life of violence or theft as survival?  How has life treated them that has put them now in prison? What is their “why”, and how can God’s people help?  How can that chain be broken to give folks alternatives to the horrors that surround them and have surrounded them from a very early age – things that are not of their own doing?

Christians are never to become content in the comforts that are afforded them, they are to always be accepting and reaching out to others to make a difference in how their lives might be better too.  How can our hospitatlity affect change for those who find themselves in need – whether it is the need of material things or the need of love. 

As we open our arms and our doors and our hearts to all who cross our path, then we share in the opportunity to bring God’s Kingdom into daily living!  Praise God for His unbounding grace and love to us and through us to others!

Joe South wrote and sang a song, ‘WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES’ elaborates on this Hebrews scripture for me:

If I could be you
And you could be me
For just one hour
If we could find a way
To get inside
Each other’s mind, mm-hmm

If you could see you
Through my eyes
Instead of your ego
I believe you’d be
Surprised to see
That you’ve been blind, mm-hmm

[Chorus]
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse
Criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes


Now, your whole world
You see around you
Is just a reflection
And the law of karma
Says you’re gonna reap
Just what you sow, yes you will


So unless
You’ve lived a life
Of total perfection
You better be careful
Of every stone
That you should throw, yeah

And yet we spend the day
Throwing stones
At one another
‘Cause I don’t think
Or wear my hair
Same way you do, mm-hmm

Well, I may be
Common people
But I’m your brother
And when you strike out
And try to hurt me
It’s hurtin’ you, Lord have mercy

[Chorus]
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse
Criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

There are people
On reservations
And out in the ghettos
And brother, there
But for the grace of God
Go you and I, yeah, yeah

And if I only
Had the wings
Of a little angel, yeah
Don’t you know I’d fly
To the top of the mountain
And then I’d cry, hey

[Chorus]
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse
Criticize and accuse
Better walk a mile in my shoes

TIME TO GET BUSY SWAPPING SHOES AND EMPATHIZING AND LOVING ONE ANOTHER!

TRUST HIS HEART!

WEEK SEVEN, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SEVEN THEME: HOSPITALITY

DAY TWO THEME: EXTENDING INVITATIONS

SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:13-36 (CEB)

“On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  They were talking to each other about everything that had happened.  While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey.  They were prevented from recognizing him.  He said to them ‘What are you talking about as you walk along?’ 

They stopped, their faces downcast.  The one named Cleopas replied, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?’  He said to them, ‘What things?’  They said to him, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth.  Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet.  But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him.  We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.  All these things happened three days ago. 

But there’s more:  Some women from our group have left us stunned.  They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body.  They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said.  They didn’t see him.’ 

Then Jesus said to them, ‘You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about.  Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.  When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead.  But they urged him, saying, ‘Stay with us.  It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.’  So, he went in to stay with them. 

After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.  They said to each other, ‘Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?’ 

They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem.  They found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying to each other, ‘The Lord really has risen!  He appeared to Simon!’ Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread. 

While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'”  

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: I was brought up from my birth in a Christian home, baptized as a baby, practicing all the seasons of the Christian year, hearing all the Bible stories and believing in God and Christ and the Holy Spirit and eternity. 

But it never fails that when faced with some type of crisis, I have to remind myself and think through what I really do believe.  When my Daddy began his eternity in November of 2019, I had a new season of wrestling with my faith and what I believed about my Daddy’s current situation in eternity with his Heavenly Father and all those who had gone before him.  I could say it, but my heart clung to his physical self and didn’t want God to have him though he had gotten to the point where breathing was no longer automatic and his body at the age of 87 simply let go.  Though I feel there are times of spiritual maturity, in times like these I find I still have skin on and feet of clay. 

These disciples on the road to Emmaus are going through their own grief and “non-understanding” of who Jesus really was and what Jesus really did during his Earthly walk.  Once Jesus joins their journey, he listens for quite a while to their bemoaning the emptiness and grief that Jesus’ crucifixion seems to have left with them.  They even include the story of the women’s visit to Jesus’ tomb to find Him missing and what the angels had told them.  For them it was too much to try to believe.  It was easier and much more practical to feel that all was now lost rather than to try to remember what they had believed when Jesus was physically among them.  We just do better when things don’t change and challenge us!

Jesus listens as long as he can, but then he has to speak and he does so a bit angrily and with sarcasm….“You foolish people!  Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about…”  Jesus then proceeds to tell the whole story of faith from Moses to the Prophets….all preparing the way for Jesus’ mission.  Apparently the disciples took it all in, they didn’t dispute anything that Jesus said to them, but they were unchanged, still grieving and trying to understand….UNTIL that evening with the breaking of the bread!  Jesus was revealed to them in a split second in the breaking of the bread!  Instantly, they breathe in the Spirit of God are renewed and their faith is filled. Communion brought them back to that special relationship that now could take on the possibility of resurrection and life after death.  Though they had traveled all day, they instantly went back and told the others of their experience and heard of other Jesus visits.  And then, while they were all there, suddenly Jesus was too!  There would be no stopping them now! 

Our lives definitely take all kinds of twists and turns and bring us to all kinds of brick walls that we think are impossible to get beyond.  But with Jesus, as we take Him in and listen within to His voice and leading through the Holy Spirit, obstacles are diffused and opportunity is abounding.  These disciples were basically new “Christians” – at the most traveling with Jesus for three years …. it is understandable that it would be a lot to take in.  But even when you’ve traveled the path with Jesus for years and years, we all still have Emmaus moments when we need a time to remember and focus on what we do believe and experience Jesus anew in our midst – a moment of “commuinion” with Him. 

Thanks be to God who never leaves us nor forsakes us and even if He is frustrated with our questions – which I doubt He is because He’s gotten used to it – He keeps close to us – travels with us, until we have THAT MOMENT of clarity and return to our faith, letting go and trusting our Heavenly Father!

I miss my Daddy every day, and my Mom joined him less that a year later. We had lost my sister who had Downes in 2017 – it has all been a difficult pill to swallow each time for many of the same reasons – but looking back, we see more clearly God’s hand and know that we can always trust His heart!

This song got me through a tough time that had nothing to do with the death of my parents or sister, or others I love and adore – but it taught me to hang in there when I don’t understand the things of life – I hope it is helpful today:

TRUST HIS HEART

All things work for our good though sometimes we don’t see how they could. Struggles that break our hearts in two sometimes blind us to the truth. Our Father knows what’s best for us – His ways are not our own. So when your pathway grows dim and you just don’t see Him, remember you’re never alone.

God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind. So when you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand, Trust His Heart!

He sees the master plan and he holds our future in His hand, so don’t live as those who have no hope, all our hope is found in Him. We see the present clearly but He sees the first and the last – and like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me, to someday be just like HIm.

God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind. So when you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand, Trust His Heart!

He alone is faithful and true, He alone knows what is best for you…

God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind. So when you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan, when you can’t trace His hand, Trust His Heart!

GOD IS GOOD – ALL THE TIME!

ALL THE TIME – GOD IS GOOD!

OH!

WEEK SEVEN, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SEVEN THEME: HOSPITALITY

DAY TWO THEME: EXTENDING INVITATIONS

SCRIPTURE: LUKE 14:1-24 (CEB)

“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to share a meal in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. A man suffering from an abnormal swelling of the body was there.  Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?’  But they said  nothing.  Jesus took hold of the sick man, cured him, and then let him go.  He said to them, ‘Suppose your child or ox fell into a ditch on the Sabbath day.  Wouldn’t you immediately pull it out?’  But they had no response. 

When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable.  ‘When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor.  Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host.  The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give your seat to this other person.”  Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place.  Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place.  When your host approaches you, he will say, “Friend, move up here to a better seat.”  Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.’ 

Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, ‘When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors.  If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward.  Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will blessed because they can’t repay you.  Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.’  When one of the dinner guests heard Jesus’ remarks, he said to Jesus, ‘Happy are those who will feast in God’s kingdom.’ 

Jesus replied, ‘A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people.  When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, “Come!  The dinner is now ready.”  One by one, they all began to make excuses.  The first one told him, “I bought a farm and must go and see it.  Please excuse me.”  Another said, “I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them.  Please excuse me.”  Another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”  When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master.  The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, “Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.”  The servant said, “Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.”  The master said to the servant, “Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled.  I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.”‘”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: There are lots of elements in these scriptures that have caused me to ponder.  To begin with, Jesus is in the company of the Pharisees.  In today’s experience, these would be the churched folks – those who have been churched all their lives and maybe even have an air of superiority as a religious person – one who has earned respect by doing the right things, or at least all appears to be that way.  It doesn’t mention the Disciples so I’m not sure whether or not they are there.  But Jesus is, and there is never a moment when he retreats from being the Son of God – never letting down his hair and just being.  Everything about him was “kingdom first”. 

At this fine dinner party surrounded by lawyers and Pharisees, Jesus cannot simply ignore the other guest there who was suffering from an abnormal swelling.  This gathering is on the Sabbath, and Jesus is aware that he is being watched closely, so he asks before he acts…“Does the Law allow healing on the Sabbath or not?”  Jesus is asking them to look further into what they believe.  As good church people, they would not want to break any of the religious rules – but surely they cared for this other guest who was also at the dinner.  Surely they longed for him to become whole again and be free of his suffering – surely! 

Getting no response from the religious people around him, Jesus took charge and healed the man. He brought the situation to the human standpoint – “Suppose your child or ox fell into a ditch on the Sabbath day.  Wouldn’t you immediately pull it out?”  Of course – we would do anything – especially for our children when they are in need – regardless of the day or time.  Urgent need supercedes religion.  That is God’s call on our lives – not that we be good religious people – that we see the needs – open our eyes and see people around us – and do anything in our power to lighten their load.  It is not enough to feel sorry for them or hope and pray for something to relieve their suffering – we are to look within and do our part.  We share in the healing that God offers to each and every person. 

After that incident, Jesus is observing the behavior of those attending the dinner.  Everyone wanted to  have the best seats – everyone wanted to be important and to be noticed, loved, significant.  Within all of us is that basic need to matter. But what we have to do is to acknowledge the value we are in God.  God’s love truly overrides any other opinion.  God loves us no matter where we sit at the party or what role we play in society.  God can use someone with no status just as much as God can use the most important among us.  That is the point of the ending of this parable – in my opinion – that if the important and socially significant don’t accept God’s invitation to serve in God’s Kingdom, then he will invite in others who will from every nook and cranny and ourskirt until His House is full.  God came first to the Hebrews, the Jewish persons set apart for His Perfect Plan.  But never does He force His plan on us, even His chosen Jews. 

We become more and more of God’s image as we see each other as God sees us – all worthy – all sinners – all His children.  I first heard it from a sermon Terry once preached …. “the most used word in Heaven in going to be “OH!”….  We see a glimpse of Heaven from time to time dimly – let us lean into being God’s adorable ones and sharing that with each other.  Amen.

O LET ME NE’ER FORGET!

WEEK SEVEN, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SEVEN THEME: HOSPITALITY

DAY ONE THEME: BIBLICAL HOSPITALITY

SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 4:7-11 (CEB)

“The end  of everything has come.  Therefore, be self-controlled and clearheaded so you can pray.  Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins. 

Open your homes to each other without complaining and serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts.  Whoever speaks should do so as those who speak God’s word.  Whoever serves should do so from the strength that God furnishes. 

Do this so that in everything God may be honored through Jesus Christ.  To him be honor and power forever and always.  Amen.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: What do we do when life as we know it and prefer it ends or at least drastically changes (say…like the Covid pandemic) and we must move forward, onward? 

This scripture selection starts off with “The end of everything has come.”  I am not sure with just this much information what has happened, but it is certainly clear that what was is now no longer the same.  The end has come.   So what do I do – what do we do?  Obviously I am still around and still functioning… but what do I/we take those next new steps? 

For me, the first clue here is to be self-controlled and clearheaded.  Life has become devastating, but I need to maintain a clear head and have self control.  My fight or flight may be engaged, but I must go beyond that and stay grounded.  But not only am I to do that, I am to do that so that I can pray.  If I am fearful and panicking, I won’t have what it takes to pray.  Here I must call on the Holy Spirit, dwell in the Holy Spirit, whose gifts include self-control, to allow me to be lifted beyond my circumstances so that I can call on the One from Whom all my help comes. 

In the meantime, while I wait on God’s path, I am to sincerely love.  Really!  So the end is here, and I have to keep a clear head and have self control and pray AND I have to love.  Really!  The scripture explains that love brings about the forgiveness of many sins.  In other words, whatever has happened and however it has happened, sincere love – like the love we receive from God – will smooth out the relationships at hand and allow for the healing and renewal to come.  As we open ourselves up to this loving approach, we will see more clearly how to open our homes and hearts and our resources to any in need.  We will serve each other and use our God-given giftedness to make a way when there seems to be no way. 

God goes before us and behind us every day of our lives, and it is in these most difficult moments that God provides in ways that we cannot imagine.  It will supercede our understanding and amaze us as we let go — in all things — and become the vessels God needs us to be in this world when the “end of everything” occurs. 

As God’s children who love ourselves because God loves us first and loves us without requiring the first thing from us except to accept this great love, we then love and pray and be the vessels who allow such love to flow to everyone with full joy. 

From my childhood I remember the words of the hymn, “This is My Father’s World”. Amy Grant revised for how it a bit from how it reads in the hymnal and in the lyrics posted, followed it with a verse of scripture… It speaks to times when we are distressed and lost and not sure what the next steps need to be:

THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD (Amy Grant Lyrics)

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass
He speaks to me everywhere.
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass
He speaks to me everywhere.

“I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you HOPE for.”

This is our Father’s World – however it may change – whatever may happen – and we are here for His good purposes.  As we grow into His likeness, our burdens are light and our ways are bright.  Thanks be to God!

SEE THE NEED DO THE DEED

WEEK SEVEN, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SEVEN THEME: HOSPITALITY

DAY ONE THEME: BIBLICAL HOSPITALITY

SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 25:31-46 (CEB)

“Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne.  All the nations will be gathered in front of him.  He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right side.  But the goats he will put on his left. 

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father.  Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began.  I was hungry and you gave me food to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear.  I was sick and you took care of me.  I was in prison and you visited me.’ 

Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?  When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you or naked and give you clothes to wear?  When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of mine, you have done it for me.’

Then the king will say to those on his left. ‘Get away from me you who will receive terrible things.  Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels.  I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat.  I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink.  I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me.  I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear.  I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stanger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’  Then he will answer, I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 

And they will go away into eternal punishment.  But the righteous one will go into eternal life.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: The only time for judgement is when the Human One comes.  It is a time ‘out there’ when the sheep and the goats – all of one flock – will then be separated from one another.  At that point all that will matter is whether or not the life in question has grasped the value and importance of being God’s chosen first – ahead of anything else in life. 

Kingdom living shows up as we see a need and do the deed to meet the need.  God’s call upon our life is to recognize all kinds of needs and oppression and be liberators for the Kingdom’s sake – bringing more and more sibling sheep into the flock of God.  Our job is to go through our every day life with eyes wide open to what need may be staring us right in the face and not pass it by. We never know when we might need to make that phone call because someone is really on our heart and they just need to hear from us. It may be that moment at the red light where the only dollar in our wallet needs to go to the one holding the sign. Having our eyes open and making sure that we are sharing and not hoarding things – food, clothing, blankets, coats, furniture, anything, everything – that we are helping to meet the need of others in mysterious and wonderful ways.

It is interesting in this parable that the ones who receive ‘good things’ are not sure what they have done to deserve these good things.  They ask the Human One – when did we do any of these things you mention? The response given by the Human One is the most convicting of all… “when you do it to any of the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it for me.”  It is a concern for me that often in our world – the least of these are the very people that often receive looks of disgust and judgment rather than empathy and a helping hand. Jesus never met a stranger or someone disgusting – everyone he met or encountered he loved and accepted and blessed – even those who disagreed with him. It is a challenging life for sure!

Our lives are not to be filled with doing things that may or may not satisfy God – much like the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  It is when, because of our identity with God, our lives reach out in empathy to any other human in need – no matter why or what — and extend that helping hand, doing all in our power to meet the need of the moment.  Is it hunger, is it acceptance, is it clothing, is it a smile…. In any given moment we will encounter folks who are in need of something that is in our power to meet. 

It is a good thing that our churches have great ministries beyond their boundaries to make provisions in our communities and even the world to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and care for the sick. We can become involved in any of these and find great joy in such service. We give from our resources through our ongoing tithes and offerings that help with such ministries and missions. But additionally, our tithing of ourselves is where the true Disciple finds Kingdom living such a joy…it comes naturally as God’s love courses through us and is used by God’s Spirit to bring wholeness and healing to this world.  It is when we are at the grocery store or on our way to visit family and we see a need and are able – in the moment – as it crosses our path – to be the one to do the deed! In those actions, we are the hands and feet of Christ in our daily living and respond to such opportunity with His love and empathy.

Those going into eternal punishment are equally surprised that they had never experienced the Human One in need of anything or else, of course they would have responded.  It is when we do not recognize the whole world as God’s people too, that we will miss the mark.  It is a matter of our heart and the things we hold on to and the things we are willing to let go of in order to be God’s precious children…those with their Father’s eyes unconditionally loving their brothers and sisters. 

Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts to our Father and opens our hearts for the good of the world around us, bringing Heaven on Earth! 

LOVING ME

WEEK SIX, DAY FIVE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY FIVE THEME: LOVE IN THE CHURCH

SCRIPTURE: Galatians 5:13-14 (CEB)

“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. 

All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: Here it is again – love your neighbor – all those around you – AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF.  Our work of love begins with ourselves.  If we find fault and loathing for anything that we do, how can we find good in others. 

We begin with God’s love for us which is unmerited and free and then we learn to love ourselves because He loves us – He deems us worthy of love.  Kingdom living is a process – a day to day movement complete with successes and failures – victories and defeats.  Some days it all comes easy, my hair does good, my makeup is just right – I even can see my eyelashes! – and my clothes fit well and comfy.  I’m good – its a good day.  Bring it on world, I’m ready – or am I?

If everything about my ability to love has to do with the outward appearances and the feeling of well-being within myself, then I will easily become deflated and defeated.  What if my hair is going its own way, and once again I have more pounds and inches than I should or want, and I don’t even feel like putting on make up.  Obviously I probably am not feeling at all good about myself and will not even want to leave my home much less love anybody.  Again, I am relying on my feelings about my love-ability rather than the fact that I am loved. 

Our real work is looking at the me that God created each and every moment of each and every day and seeing a loved person based only on the fact that my Heavenly Father loves me – just as I am.  I don’t have to do anything to obtain that love – it is unconditional and perfect and it is solely for me.  Gratitude then is the only expression there is room for.  No self help books or programs of cause and effect will make me love me – just accepting God’s love and acceptance of me – no matter what – is my beginning point.  God makes me worthy – not one other thing – and in that worthiness I can find love for myself.  I can make goals as needed to improve my health and my wishes – but not because any of those things can make me more deserving – they might be expressions of love for myself, but not must-dos for God’s love to continue toward me. 

As I ongoingly accept this free gift of love and acceptance for myself and fall in love with myself again each day (not narcisism but love and appreciation for what God has created in me) then I can begin loving others with complete Godlike love.  It does not have to be at full tilt and there will need to be rechecks all along the way to make sure that I’m not out there earning God’s love, but accepting it freely and passing it on more and more to others that come across my path.  God is the One who loves us and loves through us as we become more and more His child. 

Lord, help me seek only to please you and in doing so increase your Kingdom of kindness and love for all people.  Amen!

(This completes Week Six’s Theme on Love – probably one with the most scriptures for our focus. Next time we begin Week Seven: Hospitality.)

KINGDOM LOVING

WEEK SIX, DAY FIVE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY FIVE THEME: LOVE IN THE CHURCH

SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 12:9-13 (CEB)

“Love should be shown without pretending.  Hate evil, and hold on to what is good.  Love each other like the members of your family.  Be the best at showing honor to each other.  Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic — be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!  Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.  Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: These few verses are loaded with “Be-ness”  a different set of “BE – ATTITUDES”!  It is as if these scriptures sum it all down into a few verbs that define what Godlike love looks like.  The first part is a full sentence that leads to the verbs of living out this sentence.  Love EACH OTHER (all folks – everybody) as MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY!

This one thought requires a lot for us to wrap our minds around.  The scripture says to “love each other” … that is without boundaries – “each other” encompasses a whole multitude of possibilities.  Sick people, rich people, dirty people, stylish people, people with issues, people who have everything…. and the list goes on and on.  In our churches or our communities and certainly the whole world there are all kinds of God’s people. 

Ultimately to love is to break down all barriers and simply love – action verb – LOVE. We are not to pretend to love or love only on the surface and grimace on the inside.  We are to LOVE, treating everyone with the same compassion and empathy we would toward a family member. 

I think that is where the true test comes in.  If this person I am “leary” of were my own family, how would I want others to treat him or her.  When someone is in our family we have more information – we know their insecurites and their shortcomings and we make allowances for them because they are our family and we can’t help but love them – we know them deeper than what is on the outside, we know them even on the inside and we want all things good for them no matter what their struggles may be.    We take the time to get inside their skin and understand at least where they are coming from.  We have relationship and relationship opens doors for understanding and care and love and growth and God’s Kingdom. 

That is the same attitudue Romans 12:9-13 would have us adapt for all people that come across our life’s path.  We must guard against evil – hate evil and hold on to good – but all within the same boundaries of family.  If a child behaves badly – they may be put in time out or spanked – but not forever.  Love for that child had not ended and they are just tossed aside. There is a time when the correction is over and the living and loving goes on. 

God’s people love first, developing deep and meaningful relationships that can grow from such love not divide out and bring strife against one another.  Once we establish love – family love – for others, then the verbs just keep on coming:  honor each other; be enthusiastic (on fire in the Spirit); serve; be happy in hope; stand your ground; devote to prayer; contribute to the needs of God’s people; welcome strangers into your home.

All these verbs and verb phrases show God’s Kingdom people who do not let the day catch them lazy and who are always about building their place in exuding the love of God that they have received so fully and abundantly.  Just like the simple children’s song says – If you are happy and you know it then your life (face) will surely show it!  People who grasp the immense love the Father has given them cannot sit still and watch others and only have hope for them – they must – WE MUST – get verbing and spreading the precious love that they/we have received. 

Pass it ON!  The best stewardship ever – loving all others out of the abundance of God’s love for us!

Keep receiving God’s love and then keep on PASSING IT ON!

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us! THAT WE SHOULD BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD! God’s Kingdom is all around us if we will only open our heats and minds and eyes and enjoy loving each other with God’s love.

LET IT BE SO!

LOVE = DO NO WRONG

WEEK SIX, DAY FIVE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY FIVE THEME: LOVE IN THE CHURCH

SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 13:8-10 (CEB)

“Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law.  The commandments, ‘Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have’, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is what fulfills the Law.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: To say “Love is the answer” sums up the teachings of Jesus.  God wrote ten different commandments, but Jesus (and here through Paul) sums up all of them into one equation: LOVE.  This scripture simply says that if we love others – and that love has to start with us loving ourselves first – then we will do no harm.  According to Romans, the only indebtedness that we truly have is to love each other.  We are ‘obligated’ to LOVE. 

I think the continuing root in all of this love understanding begins with us loving ourselves.  What is it that keeps us awake at night – what is it that nags us ongoingly throughout the day…. it often, maybe even usually, has something to do with an inner loathing of something we see in ourselves that we simply cannot handle, we abhor. 

Sometimes we take that into many channels trying to free ourselves of the conviction – pointing out others’ actions or lack thereof that annoy us – only to find that as we point to others, three fingers are always pointing back to ourselves:  that imperfect self that won’t allow me to just be – that I simply cannot accept;  that part of who I am that I want changed but often feel helpless to change anything.  Then, in that cycle, I spiral downward and out of control. 

Self control is a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit – not something that I can will myself into.  I can set goals, I can write charts, I can call myself into accountability in all kinds of ways, but unless I allow God to love me as incomplete as I may feel – I will never be able to love myself.  God does not require much – all that we have to do is accept His grace and take on His love.  Only then – each day – can we truly find love for ourselves that radiates onto every other person we shall ever meet – without condition or proof but because each of us has the same Heavenly Father and we all fall short of perfection and we are all on a journey towards His perfection in His time.  This ongoing understanding must be continually renewed within our relationship with our Eternal Father – daily, hourly, minute by minute. 

Many of our daily steps have to be taken in recognition of the fact that we are not all that we want to be.  Releasing our imperfections keeps us open and focused on God’s work in our lives and not on what we can or cannot do.  God can use us in the exact condition that we are in… but only as we release ourselves into His work first on us and then through us. 

Why did Cain kill Abel?  Was it that he loathed himself for any unacceptable offering he had made and took that loathing out on Abel rather than working on himself.  Why was the Woman at the Well lonely and stuck in a sinful life… was it that her sin was her own shame and self-loathing that assumed that there would never be another option for her therefore spiraling her down and down and out of control.  When Jesus spoke love into her living, she no longer hid – she was no longer ashamed…. she instantly became and evangelist for such love. 

As I approach God – My Eternal Heavenly Father with all that I am and with all that I wish I was, may I let go of it all and release myself to be His …. Just as I am. 

Lord, lift the heaviness of perfection and use me as your vessel. 

Praises for Your Amazing Grace!

(I have not been able to continue these posts since October when I had brain surgery to remove a metastatic tumor from the cancer I have been fighting since 2015. I was not sure if I could continue, but my recovering is going well and I can’t think of nothing more important than remaining in God’s Word and listening to His still small voice. Making it through the surgery and now recovering well from it has overwhelmed and blessed me beyond measure – may God use us all for His good in all of our struggles and imperfections. Thanks for your time!)

GOD’S FAITHFUL LOVE!

WEEK SIX, DAY FOUR, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY FOUR THEME: GOD LOVES ME?

SCRIPTURE: PSALM 136 (CEB)

“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good.  God’s faithful love lasts forever!  Give thanks to the God of all gods — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  Give thanks to the Lord of all lords — God’s faithful love lasts forever.

Give thanks to the only one who makes great wonders –God’s faithful love lasts forever. Give thanks to the one who made the skies with skill — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  Give thanks to the one who shaped the earth on the water — Gods faithful love lasts forever.  Give thanks to the one who made great lights — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  The sun to rule the day — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  The moon and the stars to rule the night — God’s faithful love lasts forever! 

Give thanks to the one who struck down the Egyptians’ oldest offspring — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  Give thanks to the one who brought Israel out of there — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  With a strong hand and outstretched arm — God’s faithful love lasts forver! Give thanks to the one who split the Reed Sea in two – God’s faithful love lasts forever.  Give thanks to the one who brought Israel through — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  And tossed Pharoah and his army into the Reed Sea — God’s faithful love lasts forever! 

Give thanks to the one who led his people through the desert — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  Give thanks to the one who struck down great kings — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  And killed powerful kings — God’s faithful love lasts forever. Sihon, the Amorite king — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  Og, king of Bashan — God faithful love lasts forever.  Handing their land over as an inheritance — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  As an inheritance to Israel, his servant — God’s faithful love lasts forever! 

God remembered us when we were humiliated — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  God rescued us from our enemies — God’s faithful love lasts forever.  God is the one who provides food for all living things — God’s faithful love lasts forever! 

Give thanks to the God of heaven — God’s faithful love lasts forever!

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: Gratitiude.  This litany of remembrances of God’s mighty acts of salvation and power is a good exercise to do on a regular basis.  Once a month, once a week, once a day – depending on the circumstances for sure, but when life is overwhelming and uncertain – maybe even as an ongoing mantra throughout the day. 

We could also challenge ourselves to rewrite it and put in the details of all the ways that we have personally experienced God’s power and salvation in our own story.  Surrounding each occurrence with “God’s faithful love lasts forever” underscores and highlights that this action on God’s part and on our behalf is not earned, but it just simply is who God is!  He endures forever.  His love never ceases no matter how we may feel in a given moment and what storms are raging in our own personal lives.  There is corporate salvation where we stand with others and see God’s saving grace for us all, and there are times of personal salvation that can only be understood between oursleves and our maker. 

This reminder and this proposed exercise envokes calm and assurance as we prepare our next steps or as we simply worship our God for the simple truth that His love is faithful and endures forever.  This is a scripture for every day of our lives and a good focus for our living. 

God’s faithful love endures forever – take that Satan and leave me alone!

Now to move forward in such amazing love!

This hymn re-emphasizes the message of Psalm 136:

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Source: Musixmatch

EVERYONE!

WEEK SIX, DAY FOUR, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY FOUR THEME: GOD LOVES ME?

SCRIPTURE: JOHN 3:16- 17 (CEB)

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.  God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!

SOAKING IT IN: These scriptures are not for special and perfect people, they are for EVERYONE!  God did not differentiate who He sent His Son for, He sent His Son for EVERYONE!  God does not draw boundaries or separate people into categories.  Every person – EVERY person – has the same opportunity and privilege to God’s love as I do.  If it is for me, then it is for EVERYONE!

In our “fallen” state, we set ourselves apart from one another based on differences and likes and dislikes, etc.  We assume, in our elevated state as Christian, that we understand God’s love to be for us, because somehow we marvelously were privileged to see the light and are blessed and favored over “those” other poor souls who just need to get their act together so that they too could see the light and become blessed.  When they do, they then will be just like “us” and therefore they will be easy to love and we will see everything identically the same and the world will be a better place. 

That is all illusion and fake.  We are all created equal in God’s sight and we all bear his likeness whether or not we recognize Him as our Father or not.  God, the perfect parent, does not throw any of us out as impossible but holds out eternally, just as he did for the prodigal, all while remaining constant with the elder brother who spiritually was just as lost as the prodigal though sharing the same space. 

It is possible to call God our Father out of tradition or even hope and never align ourselves with Him for the Kingdom’s sake.  When each of our children were born, we held out the same hope and joy and desires for them individually.  Nonetheless, we knew that each would come to their point of demarkation when they would need to choose their path and they would have days of discouragement and fear and experience lostness on their way to finding their true path.  There is only so much earthly parents can do for their children in directing their steps.  Unconditional love and constant prayer are the only Kingdom tools that parents have to offer their adult children endlessly through their days regardless of ages or stages. 

Our perfect parent, God our Holy Father, multiplies into infinity what we as earthly parents feel and do.  He never gives up or gives in.  This kind of love is unimagineable.  There are many times that we put conditions on our love for our children … “as long as…”  But God keeps holding out hope for all of his children without strings attached.  As God’s healthly and loved children, we continue to grow in grace.  As we continue to grow in grace, we are more and more able to love as God does – without boundaries or distinctions.  We see EACH AND EVERY PERSON as a child of God also and we use each opportunity together as Kingdom building moments. 

With God, we are loved unconditionally and without fail.  Through God’s Spirit, we forward and express that same love – unearned and amazing – onto each person who crosses our path – without judgment or doubt or even fear – freely given to others as it has been freely received by us.  This life is not about getting us into heaven, it is about bringing heaven – Emanuel, God with us – wherever we are and living out loud all that we have received from our Heavenly Father.  Heaven’s streets are already packed full of folks who were not perfect and who never “measured up” in earthly terms, but who learned to love as they had been wondrously loved.  Once we love in this way, we can do amazing things for all of humanity and for God’s Wondrous Kingdom. 

Let it be so, Lord, and begin with me!