FOR ME / FOR YOU / FOR ALL OF US!

WEEK SIX, DAY FOUR, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY FOUR THEME: GOD LOVES ME?

SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 8:31-39 (CEB)

“So what are we going to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.  Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? 

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people?  It is God who acquits them.  Who is going to convict them?  It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. 

Who will separate us from Christ’s love?  Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter.’  But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord:  not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not power or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.”

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

SOAKING IT IN: When we left the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, we found a life of strife.  The Garden was perfection – every need easily at hand and no worries.  The only thing that got in the way there was the nagging wonderment about “that tree”. 

Children are very willful and naturally curious.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were innocent as children.  I wonder if Adam and Eve ever asked God about that tree and why it was to be left alone.  Whatever, the curiosity won and the Garden is a thing of the past leaving us to all deal with the  fallen world.  A place where every turn offers us insecurity and concern. 

We easily become overwhelmed and distriacted with it all and begin to forget that we are God’s own people, worthy of the sacrifice of his holy son who faced down death and gained victory through resurrection.  This power allows us to be back in the Garden of Eden a bit, but only as we remember who God is, what God has done and continues to do, and continually accept the fact that all of it was because of his great love for me / for you / for us all. 

If we allow ourselves to forget our forgiveness or to deem ourselves unworthy of God’s love for any reason, we are instantly overcome by the world and all its horrors.  But through the Holy Spirit, and through our own determination of our commitment to our God, we can have strength to walk into and through all the uncertainties of this life.  We walk in a way that is certainly unusual, even as we are walking it, but we walk in the light of the love of our God who never leaves us or forsakes us, who walks ahead of us, with us, and behind us through every moment of every day.  Praise be to such a God of such love for me / for you / for us all. 

Lord, help me remember!

FORGIVEN LOVE

WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION

SCRIPTURE: LUKE 7:36-50 (CEB)

“One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him.  After he entered the Pharisee’s home, he took his place at the table. 

Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house.  She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster.  Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. 

When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him.  He would know that she is a sinner.’ 

Jesus replied, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’  ‘Teacher, speak,’ he said.  ‘A certain lender had two debtors.  One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work.  The other owed enough money for fifty.  When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both.  Which of them will love him more?’  Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.’  Jesus said, ‘You have judged correctly.’ 

Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?  When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in.  You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has poured perfumed oil on my feet.  This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven, so she has shown great love.  The one who is forgiven little loves little.’ 

Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  The other table guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this person that even forgives sins?’  Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.'”

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

SOAKING IT IN: This Pharisee is rather open-minded having invited Jesus into his home for a meal.  Jesus attends and as a cordial guest, enters and takes his place.  He doesn’t make a lot of fuss or assert himself socially, he simply takes his place at the table.  But when Jesus is present, you can count on learning something new and energizing! 

A certain woman “from the city” knows that Jesus is there and she cannot stop herself from barging in on the gathering and taking the opportunity to thank Jesus for the forgiveness that she has experienced.  I can only imagine the scene that unfolds as this woman kneels at Jesus’ feet, wets them with her tears and wipes them with her hair and THEN anoints them with the perfumed oil.  Her total humility as she cares for the feet of her savior is certainly not seen in social settings often – if ever!  

The Pharisee who is hosting this occasion loses his open mind and judges Jesus harshly for allowing “such a woman” to touch him, thinking, “obviously this ‘Son of God’ is not so ‘holy’ after all to allow such riff raff to come near him much less touch him.”  You can just feel the tension in the room as the discomfort and disgust rises. 

To me, the  Pharisee and the woman are great examples of the broad love of our God.  The Pharisee has been steeped in tradition and taught all the laws to make him “holy”.  The woman is obviously some sort of sinner – I guess a prostitute or such based on the thoughts of the Pharisee – so she has either strayed from any such upbringing of tradition and law or never experienced it.  If she has strayed – that heaps on shame and guilt on top of whatever her “sin” is.  In either respect, God loves them both.  As humans, we put varying importance on the degrees of sin… a lie is simply no where near a murder, etc. The Pharisee was not in touch with any of his sin – in his eyes he was a good and holy man – a “religious” man of God because of his keeping the law and attending temple, etc. The woman was fully aware of her sinful ways and knows how she is looked upon in society, but full of forgiven love she must thank Jesus!  

I am a traditional “churched person”.  I have grown up with all the do’s and don’ts of Christianity, and for a long time my living and all that I did was based on those do’s and don’ts of the 60’s and 70’s. It was as if keeping those do’s and don’ts would make me holy.  I did the best I could – and a lot of times it was mostly because I didn’t want any of my family to be disappointed with me more than thinking about what God thought about those do’s and don’ts.  In my mid to late 30’s I began doing a lot of indepth Bible study through Disciple Bible Study.  I began getting hungrier and hungrier at what God’s Word says verses all the do’s and don’ts I had been taught.  Some of my do’s and don’ts were being challenged through Jesus’ ways. I wanted to understand the “why” behind it all.  I realized that a lot of the do’s and don’ts were forumulated to keep me in safer environments and less exposed to sinful temptation and therefore from making some pretty serious mistakes.  It seemed that as long as I stayed away from the mistakes of life I would go to Heaven – which kind of makes me my own savior. 

Through Bible Study and looking at the examples of numerous characters throughout the Bible, I learned that even the most “holy” people in the Bible had very dark areas where they made some pretty big mistakes.  And I learned that is why God is SO AMAZING – the mistakes don’t bother Him.  He can forgive our mistakes, and in the process we learn more and more about Him and through that He can use us more and more for the benefit of others. 

I think that one danger of the church worldwide is that it tries to make a “holy” environment rather than embrace “THE HOLY ONE” who makes us holy from within.  We are all on different parts of our journey towards our Heavenly Father – some of us are comfortable in safe places when things are all “as they should be” – but don’t rock our boat!  Others of us have learned to let go and let God, facing ourselves as who we are and be who we are in God’s sight.  Where we are not ‘holy’ – we allow God to work on those areas to bring holiness and wholeness.  In life, we always find ourselves in various types of storms where we are challenged to let go of the traditional do’s and don’ts for the sake of the Kingdom of God and allow our lives to be a living testimony to His great love and abundant forgiveness for all. 

The true Bride of Christ, the Church, doesn’t hold judgment over others as the Pharisee had in this scriptural account. The true Bride of Christ – the Kingdom of God – has room for all people who are at various levels of living for numerous reasons to come together and learn more and understand more about the God who loves us all!

Lord, help us to embrace each other letting go of all judgment and disdain, differences and imperfections, in order to expand Your Kingdom through inclusion. In You, dear Father, nothing separates any of us from Your love. Thanks be to God that He sent us Jesus who taught us to always look to God for holiness and nowhere else!!!

CONFIDENT LOVE

WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION

SCRIPTURE: JOHN 15:12-13 (CEB)

“This is my commandment:  love each other just as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.”

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

SOAKING IT IN: Jesus’ ways are easy and His yoke is light.  However the one thing he asks of us, commands us – to love one another – is often the very most difficult thing to do. This commandment was not just for those who heard it that day. It is for us today. It is contrary to our human nature – survival and success – to think of laying down our life for another. How did Jesus do it?  How did he keep from getting caught up in all kinds of divisions and rules?  How did Jesus “just love” without worrying what others might think or say? 

Could it come from his confidence in God, His Father.  As early as twelve years old, Jesus had a confidence and understanding of his faith.  Shocking his parents by staying behind at the temple at that age to discuss with the teachers and elders shows a young confidence that must have only grown and grown.  He practically scolds his earthly parents for their worry of his whereabouts. “Why were you searching for me?…Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” He felts certain that they would know he was in His Father’s house. I often wonder if Jesus knew from the very beginning – as a young child – that he was God’s Son – God’s only Son, or did he mature into his role over time.  In any case, as a twelve year old and on into his early ministry Jesus exudes confidence. 

Come to think of it, it is only in times of extreme confidence that I am able to speak boldly and convincingly.  When I know what I experienced, what others might think often does not matter when I speak, because I know what I know.  When times of confusion come about, I usually begin to sort them all out by going back to the beginning.  I go back to my first understanding of the thing and begin again from there.  Often in the process I find the truth, and that truth is very empowering for the rest of the deliberation of whatever nature it may be. 

This has taken time. I can remember early in ministry at one of our churches, we had a Bible Study Group cover a book of prayer written by a United Methodist Bishop. For the conclusion of that time together, we invited that Bishop to come and speak to us. During the Bishop’s talk to us, I was so incredibly impressed and envious of how much faith this man of God had in the power of prayer. I have been taught to pray my whole life, but never felt such confidence in what it could really do, what prayer really meant. That night I began to long for my faith to grow deeper and to learn more about releasing all things into God’s hands.

Several years later, came the diagnosis of Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma. My first thought was to pray that God would use this all for good – totally not me, but God’s Holy Spirit at work in me to put this all in perspective, and then the next thing I was inspired to do was to put my news before as many others as possible asking for their prayers of healing and peace. This was my “nail it down” time. Terry and I were overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and the promise of unceasing prayers on my/our behalf. As I write this, it has been a little over five years of continuing to pray and release and this difficult diagnosis both by Terry and I and then by countless others. I learned the power of praying people. Through great doctors and great prayers, the signs of cancer left – came back and now has left again – I am cancer free! I have thought several times of my desire from the teachings of that Bishop years ago to “know because I know” about the power of prayer in my living. A struggle with cancer brought it home, and I give God thanks that He uses all things for good!

Jesus goes back – he knows because he knows and he does each and every thing without permission but with pure confidence.  When his disciples pick grains to address their hunger on the Sabbath, Jesus is confident that they are far from breaking any law….Jesus has a deeper understanding for the root of the law.  Jesus has come into our lives in our own special way to allow us to know the Father and to gain this same confidence. 

As we take on Jesus and walk in His light, we also take on his confidence and are able to be who we are created to be in Spirit and Truth.  Sure we will experience times when others will not “get us” and will scorn us, but God will sustain us as we place our hope and trust in Him to guide our steps, our actions and our words.  As this all matures in our living, loving one another becomes easy and fulfilling and joyful.  We experience the Kingdom of God!

Letting God’s Kingdom take root in our living helps His Kingdom come on earth more and more. Thanks be to God!

HATRED IS MURDER

WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION

SCRIPTURE: I JOHN 3:11-24 (CEB)

“This is the message that you heard from the beginning:  love each other.  Don’t behave like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he kill him?  He killed him because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were righteous. 

Don’t be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.  We know that we have transferred from death to life, because we love the brothers and sisters.  The person who does not love remains in death.  Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

This is how we know love:  Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  But if a person has material possesions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care — how can the love of God remain in him? 

Little children let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.  This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.  Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.  Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence in relationship to God.  We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 

This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us.  The person who keeps his commandments remains in God and God remains in us, because of the Spirit that he has given to us.”

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

SOAKING IT IN: One of the most confusing passages of scripture is where God accepts Abel’s offering but not Cain’s leading to Cain killing Abel – his own brother!  The brothers were different – Abel a man of the flocks and Cain a man of the fields and each brought forth their offerings to God.  Cain brought an offering from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat.  Abel seems to better understand somehow the idea of first fruits and complete giving – “offspring” seems to be plural here and Abel did not even hold back the fat – he gave all. 

Our scriptures today references this story and simply says that Cain killed Abel because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were righteous.  Earlier it says that Cain belonged to the evil one.  Cain and Abel had the same parents and the same upbringing.  They were different in their responsibilities but both seem to do well.  It seems to boil down to the matters of the heart.  Each one decided to make an offereing to God.  Had they been taught this at some point in their upbringing or was it a conviction that came to them?  Did one decide to do it and the other felt they had to do it?  It feels that Abel had the right motivation in his sacrificial giving to God.  He gave a complete gift and Cain was differently motivated by giving a portion – it seems that Abel gave it all and Cain withheld for himself.  Whatever the motivation of their heart in their offerings, Cain was filled jealousy and hatred in the end inspiring the killing of Abel. Love was certainly not present in his heart for his brother. God had warned Cain in Genesis 4:7, “If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it.” 

Cain’s heart had turned to stone. Cain, though the oldest, couldn’t handle his brother’s excellence.  Somewhere along the way, love was lost and murder entered and ended the relationship all together.  Hatred cannot allow us to celebrate another’s success. Several times throughout scripture – the oldest child seems to have the hardest time when it comes to matters of the heart:  Essau and Jacob, the Prodigal Son and the Elder Brother, Martha and Mary, etc.  Does duty and responsibility rob us of love.  The oldest is usually the one to inherit from the parents – do they see the possessions differently than a younger sibling who will always be somewhat dependent?  Does this privilege go to their heads and they feel more privileged? Do younger children, therefore, more easily become dependent on God, is trusting for them just easier from the get go?  Do oldest children suffer from responsibility  overload? 

In any case, the simple answer is in developing our relationship with our Heavenly Father who shows no favoritism to birth order at all but pure grace as was given to Adam and Eve when He clothed them to help them cope with their shame.  To Him we are all the same and will be loved unconditionally no matter what.  God did not condemn Cain for his offering, he was simply pleased with Abel’s….Did Cain allow embarrassment to take over when he saw how selfless Abel’s offering was? 

When we let go of all social and personal stigmas and concerns and release ourselves and all that we have to God opening our hearts to love, great things happen.  People can become “the oldest” as they embrace traditions that alienate and oppress others and adopt them rather than lean on God for understanding and direction.  When God opens our hearts and leads us by his Holy Spirit, the only result will be love.  In love, Cain would have accepted, even celebrated that his brother did well in the eyes of God, and learned a better way from the example that was set rather than kill his brother and be banished.  There is always grace and more opportunities in the Kingdom of God. 

We will not be excellent in all that we do, but we can strive for excellence as we are motivated by love.  God helps us to see all others through a different lens than tradition or modern society will ever allow.  God encourages us to see ourselves honestly and with courage and to embrace the parts that we are not super thrilled with – allowing ourselves grace for not being perfect and loving ourselves as God does.  He will then continue His great work in us and through this experience allows us to allow others the same opportunities for growth and Kingdomship. 

As we love ourselves – warts and all, loving others comes very easily.  As we live confidently as a child of the the Most High God, we are not threatened by any learning curves that may come our way.  Lord help me appreciate the me that you created and praise you for the complete gift of me that you can use and enjoy, even though I am not perfection …..YET!  

FROM BITTERNESS TO BLESSEDNESS!

WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEMe: LOVE

DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION

BOOK OF RUTH – PART B

(The previous post was the Scripture for today, the entire Book of Ruth to take in again and glean from all that God does for His Own. It is a fascinating story of God’s grace and providence to one who feels defeated and bitter. The love story of Ruth and Boaz restores Ruth’s mother-n-law, Naomi, to wholeness and joy. This post will be the “SOAKING IT IN” part of what is normally one post when the scripture is not so long. If nothing else, take time to read the Book of Ruth previously posted or from your own Bible to understand more about God’s unwavering love that sustains us still today!)

SOAKING IT IN: I can remember early on reading portions of the Book of Ruth or the whole story and wondering why it was called the Book of Ruth rather than being titled, The Book of Naomi. Naomi is the tragic character here. She and her husband determine that in the midst of a famine in their hometown of Bethlehem, they need to take their sons and strike out for another land with better resources. Is this their faith talking, or is it their fear, or even their stomachs, talking – to leave everyone else behind and find a way to survive. It makes sense to do all that you can to provide for your family – but some question whether it is their lack of faith in the providence of God that has them striking out on their own for survival’s sake. In either case, within 10 years of settling in a more hopeful place, Naomi’s husband and two sons all died. Her two sons had married Moabite women prior to their death, but had no children. Without their husbands, Naomi and her daughters-in-law – Orpah and Ruth – were destitute. Naomi had no other choice but to return to her people, the Ephrathites. Likewise she released her daughters-in-law to return to their parents home and gods. Naomi was now bitter and hopeless and alone. There was nothing more to do.

Naomi must have been a fine mother-in-law to both Orpah and Ruth – neither one of them were anxious to get back to their own families, but were inclined to travel on with Naomi to Bethlehem and remain family with her. Naomi reminded them that she had nothing to offer them and they would do better to return to their parents and their gods. Orpah reluctantly agreed and went home in grief, but Ruth would not hear of it for herself. In many weddings we hear the words of Ruth at this moment proclaimed between the new husband and wife – but originally they were spoken from an immigrant daughter-in-law to a broken mother-in-law. “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. WHEREVER YOU GO, I WILL GO; AND WHEREVER YOU STAY, I WILL STAY. YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE MY PEOPLE AND YOUR GOD WILL BE MY GOD. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.”

This beautiful message of dedication and pure love from Ruth does not restore Naomi’s hope nor her joy, but she can no longer protest and they journey on together to the home of Naomi and to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God has not abandoned nor forsaken Naomi in her time of shame and disgrace and loss – God provides a daughter! And God is not finished yet!

The people of Bethlehem are delighted to welcome Naomi back and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, the Moabite. In this instance, Naomi’s boys had sought wives from the Moabite people since that is where they had relocated during the famine. Ruth is now considered Naomi’s family, but nonetheless, she is not a local, she is an immigrant who is accompanying Naomi. Naomi’s reaction to their welcome home remained full of defeat and bitterness. Certainly she was now back with her family and friends, but the loss is too great and difficult to move forward from. Naomi is stuck.

Ruth gets straight to work to go gleaning in the fields for food. Gleaning is a survival tactic from the heart of God that became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor. God constantly reminded Abraham and those after him to take care of the poor by leaving some of the crops behind for them. He also reminded them that they have been immigrants and they should not shun immigrants in the midst. Ruth has no idea where to go, but does anyway and lands in the field of Boaz. Boas takes notice of her right away and makes sure that she is welcomed to glean the entire harvesting season and that she is kept safe from being assaulted by the young men. Gleaning certainly had its hazards for young women, and the watchful eye of Boaz prevented any harm. God is hard at work on behalf of Naomi and Ruth.

Ruth’s gleaning is very successful – also enhanced by Boaz;s desire to take care of Ruth and Naomi, and God has provided greatly for their stomachs and safety. Once Naomi learns that the field that Ruth went to was the field of a kinsman – Boaz – she gets busy working on their redemption. She instructs Ruth when and where to go and what to say to Boaz so that he will become there Kinsman-Redeemer. If Boaz was willing, he could buy the fields of Naomi’s husband and sons and take care of both Naomi and Ruth as family the rest of their days. It was a traditional practice to keep the land and possessions of the “down and out” within the tribe – in this case, the Ephrathites. Boaz is very willing to become their redeemer, but there is closer kinsman who is first entitled to become their redeemer. Boaz is obviously an upstanding citizen and wants to do what is right in their traditions. The elder kinsman says he will buy the land that Boaz has told him about, but when he learns of both Naomi, a widow, and Ruth, an immigrant widow – he cannot see his way clear to follow through with his offer- he has the first right of refusal, but he is not obligated to act. Upon his decline, Boaz is then free to buy the land and take on the care of Naomi and Ruth. They have moved from poor and broken to restored and redeemed. And even beyond that, Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife. He obviously has admired Ruth, and this redemption allows them to marry.

Then, to take the providence of God to its delightful climax in this story, Naomi moves back from bitterness to blessedness. The birth of Boaz and Ruth’s son is an unbelievable blessing and Naomi’s heart is restored from brokenness to joy! She has purpose again in the life of this baby who she is now guardian to, and recognizes the hand of God in such providence. Here relationship with her Heavenly Father is restored. Praise be to God for His mighty works of love and providence and compassion

The child’s name is Obed, and wonder upon wonders, Obed will become grandfather to King David of Israel and is ultimately in the lineage of Jesus. Through the love and compassion of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law, King David – with a heart like God’s – and Jesus Christ, God’s Son, come forth. What God does is never for just that moment – though that moment is precious. God’s work is eternal for the good of all. Through a poor but loyal immigrant daughter-in-law, the salvation of the whole world is at hand! Naomi never knew who Obed would become and who his children and children’s children would be, BUT GOD DID!

AGAIN, THANKS BE TO GOD!!!

AN AMAZING LOVE STORY

WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION

BOOK OF RUTH – PART A

(This particular assignment from Week Six, Day Three is the whole book of Ruth. I type the Scripture myself rather than copying and pasting. It is a very helpful way to take in the Scripture. The Book of Ruth is almost like reading a mini novel of tragedy and love underscored by God’s providence. Today we will only focus on the four chapters of Ruth – the whole book. The next post will be the “Soaking It In” portion reflecting on this amazing book of love, providence, and hope. The historical impact is another amazing part. Read the Book of Ruth about two women in a time long ago with very different practices than ours of today. Watch for God Who is ALWAYS at work all along the way – even when Naomi is broken and bitter – yet blessed by God through an immigrant, Ruth! This book alone, has days and days of “stuff” to focus on and let sink in.)

SCRIPTURE: THE BOOK OF RUTH (CEB)

“During the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. A man with his wife and two sons went from Bethlehem of Judah to dwell in the territory of Moab. The name of that man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the territory of Moab and settled there.

But Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died. Then only she was left, along with her two sons. They took wives for themselves, Moabite women; the name of the first was Orpah and the name of the second was Ruth. And they lived there for about ten years. Both of the sons, Mahlon and Chilion also died. Only the woman was left, without her two children and without her husband.

Then she arose along with her daughters-in-law to return from the field of Moab, because while in the territory of Moab she had heard that the Lord had paid attention to his people by providing food for them. She left the place where she had been, and her two daughters-in-law went with her. They went along the road to return to the land of Judah. Naomi said to her daughters-in-law, ‘Go, turn back, each of you to the household of your mother. May the Lord deal faithfully with you, just as you have done with the dead and with me. May the Lord provide for you so that you may find security, each woman in the household of her husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

But they replied to her, ‘No, instead we will return with you, to your people.’ Naomi replied, ‘Turn back, my daughters. Why would you go with me? Will there again be sons in my womb, that they would be husbands for you? Turn back, my daughters, Go. I am too old for a husband. If I were to say that I have hope, even if I had a husband tonight, and even more, if I were to bear sons — would you wait until they grew up? Would you refrain from having a husband? No, my daughters. This is more bitter for me than for you. Since the Lord’s will has come out against me.’

Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth stayed with her. Naomi said, ‘Look, you sister-in-law is returning to her people and to her gods. Turn back after you sister-in-law.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.’ When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her about it. So both of them went along until they arrived at Bethlehem. When they arrived at Bethlehem, the whole town was excited on account of them, and the women of the town asked, ‘Can this be Naomi?’

She replied to them, ‘Don’t call me Naomi, but call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has returned me empty. Why would you call me Naomi, when he Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has deemed me guilty?’ Thus Naomi returned. And Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, returned with her from the territory of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Now Naomi had a respected relative, a man of worth, through her husband from the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field so that I may glean among the ears of grain behind someone in whose eyes I might find favor.’ Naomi replied to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she went; she arrived and she gleaned in the field behind the harvesters. By chance, it happened to be the portion of the field that belonged to Boaz, who was from the family of Elimelech.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem. He said to the harvesters, ‘May the Lord be with you.’ And they said to him, ‘May the Lord bless you.’ Boaz said to his young man, the one who was overseeing the harvesters, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ The young man who was overseeing the harvesters answered, ‘She’s a young Moabite woman, the one who returned with Naomi from the territory of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean so that I might gather up grain from among the bundles behind the harvesters.” She arrived and has been on her feet from the morning until now, and has sat down for only a moment.’

Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Haven’t you understood, may daughter? Don’t go glean in another field; don’t go anywhere else. Instead, stay here with my young women. Keep your eyes on the field that they are harvesting and go along after them. I’ve ordered the young men not to assault you. Whenever you are thirsty, go to the jugs and drink from what the young men have filled.’

Then she bowed down, face to the ground and replied to him, ‘How is it that I’ve found favor in your eyes, that you notice me? I’m an immigrant.’ Boaz responded to her, ‘Everything that you did for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death has been reported fully to me: how you left behind your father, your mother, and the land of your birth, and came to a people you hadn’t known beforehand. May the Lord reward you for your deed. May you receive a rich reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you’ve come to seek refuge.’ She said, ‘May I continue to find favor in your eyes, Sir, because you’ve comforted me and because you’ve spoken kindly to your female servant — even though I’m not one of your female servants.’

At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come, come here, eat some of the bread, and dip your piece in the vinegar.’ She sat alongside the harvesters, and he served roasted grain to her. She ate, was satisfied, and had left-overs. Then she got up to glean. Boaz ordered his young men, ‘Let her glean between the bundles, and don’t humiliate her. Also, pull out some from the bales for her and leave them behind for her to glean. And don’t scold her.’ So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed what she had gleaned; it was about an ephah of barley. She picked it up and went into town. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She brought out what she had left over after eating her fill and gave it to her. Her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where did you glean today? Where did you work? May the one who noticed you be blessed.’

She told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, ‘The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ Naomi replied to her daughter-in-law, ‘May he be blessed by the Lord, who hasn’t abandoned his faithfulness with the living or with the dead.’ Naomi said to her, ‘The man is one of our close relatives; he’s one of our redeemers.’ Ruth the Moabite replied, ‘Furthermore, he said to me, “Stay with my workers until they’ve finished all of my harvest.”’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It’s good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, so that men don’t assault you in another field.’ Thus she stayed with Boaz’s young women, gleaning until the completion of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, shouldn’t I seek security for you; so that things might go well for you? Now isn’t Boaz, whose young women you were with, our relative? Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. You should bathe, put on some perfume, wear nice clothes, and then go down to the threshing floor. Don’t make yourself known to the man until he is finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, notice the place where he is lying. Then go, uncover his feet, and lie down. And he will tell you what to do.’ Ruth replied to her, ‘I’ll do everything you are telling me.’

So she went down to the threshing floor, and she did everything just as her mother-in-law had ordered. Boaz ate and drank, and he was in a good mood. He went over to lie down by the edge of the grain pile. Then she quietly approached, uncovered his legs, and lay down. During the middle of the night, the man shuddered and turned over — and there was a woman lying at his feet. ‘Who are you?’ he asked. She replied, ‘I’m Ruth you servant. Spread out your robe over you servant, because you are a redeemer.’

He said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter! You have acted even more faithfully than you did at first. You haven’t gone after rich or poor young men. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I’ll do for you everything you are asking. Indeed, my people — all who are at the gate — know that you are a woman of worth. Now, although it’s certainly true that I’m a redeemer, there’s a redeemer who is a closer relative than I am. Stay the night. And in the morning, if he’ll redeem you — good, let him redeem you, then — as the Lord lives — I myself will redeem you. Lie down until morning.’

So she lay at his feet until morning. Then she got up before one person could recognize another, for he had said, ‘No one should know that the woman came to the threshing floor.’ He said, ‘Bring the cloak that you have on and hold it out.’ She held it out, and he measured out six measures of barley and placed it upon her. Then she went into town. She came to her mother-in-law, who said, ‘How are you, my daughter?’ So Ruth told her everything the man had done for her. She said, ‘He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said to me, “Don’t go away empty-handed to your mother-in-law.”‘ Sit tight, my daughter.’ Naomi replied, ‘until you know how it turns out. The man won’t rest until he resolves the matter today.’

Meanwhile, Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there. Just then, the redeemer about whom Boaz had spoken was passing by. He said, ‘Sir, come over here and sit down.’ So he turned aside and sat down. Then he took ten men from the town’s elders and said, ‘Sit down here.’ And they sat down. Boaz said to the redeemer, ‘Naomi, who has returned from the field of Moab, is selling the portion of the field that belonged to our brother Elimelech.’ I thought that I should let you know and say, ‘Buy it, in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you won’t redeem it, tell me so that I may know. There isn’t anyone to redeem it except you, and I’m next in line after you.’

He replied, ‘I will redeem it.’ Then Boaz said, ‘On the day when you buy the field from Naomi, you also buy Ruth the Moabite, the wife of the dead man, in order to preserve the dead man’s name for his inheritance.’ But the redeemer replied, ‘Then I can’t redeem it for myself, without risking damage to my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself. You can have my right of redemption because I’m unable to act as redeemer.’

In Israel, in former times, this was the practice regarding redemption and exchange to confirm any such matter: a man would take off his sandal and give it to the other person. This was the process of making a transaction binding in Israel. Then the redeemer said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself,’ and he took off his sandal. Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I’ve bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. And also Ruth the Maobite, the wife of Mahlon, I’ve bought to be my wife, to preserve the dead man’s name for his inheritance so that the name of the dead man might not be cut off from his brothers or from the gate of his hometown — today you are my witnesses.’

Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord grant that the woman who is coming into your household be like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel. May you be fertile in Ephrathah and may you preserve a name in Bethlehem. And my your household be like the household of Perez, whom Tamar bore in Judah — through the children that the Lord will give you from this young woman.’ So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.

He was intimate with her, the Lord let her become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi, ‘May the Lord be blessed, who today hasn’t left you without a redeemer. May his name be proclaimed in Israel. He will restore your life and sustain you in your old age. Your daughter-in-law who loves you has given birth to him. She’s better for you than seven sons. Naomi took the child and held him to her breast, and she became his guardian. The neighborhood women gave him a name, saying ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They called his name Obed. He became Jesse’s father, and David’s grandfather. These are the generations of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab, the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.”

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

An Explanation of “The Kinsman-Redeemer”: This Law (from Leviticus 25:23-55) helped to protect the poor from being exploited and the rich from taking property from one tribe to another. The redeemer had to be a near kinsman who was able to redeem and willing to redeem. He was not obligated to do so, but it was expected of him. To refuse was to hurt the family and tribe as well as his own reputation. By being born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ became our near kinsman. He was able to save and willing to save; He saves all who will put their trust in Him.”

–Nelson’s Quick Reference by Warren W Wiersby, Page 157

JUST AS I HAVE BEEN LOVED!

WEEK SIX, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY TWO THEME: STRENGTH OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE: JOHN 13:34-35 (CEB)

“I give you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.”

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

SOAKING IT IN: Today’s verses are simple but strong and usually very hard to let in.  We are to love.  Jesus’ only amplifications on this commandment is that we are to love each other as He has loved us.  Are we able?

We can get all carried away and praised out on the amazing and wonderful love of God as we accept it for ourselves and are grateful.  We can focus on how unworthy we are of such sacrificial and unconditional love and we can cry and praise and worship in truth and joy over this and it is very real and it is very humbling and it is cleansing and it is pure and it is holy. 

The hard part of being a disciple of Christ is when we have to apply what we have so freely been given to others…love others.  There are some who are so loveable and the task is easy, but there are many, many more that are not so easy to like, much less love.  They are “different” from me in so many ways.  I don’t like what they like and I don’t do things that they do, I don’t use words that they use … Judgement pops its ugly head right up and says to me that there must be conditions where loving is not what I should be doing – “they” are simply not deserving.  They need to change something in order for me to show such love.  Once they make the necessary changes – then okay, I can love then!?!

In that moment I forget how undeserving I am of God’s love and put myself up a notch over the other in the circumstance of the moment and give them the task of measuring up.  Once they measure up, I decide within myself if I can love them, then I can love them – they will have earned my love and then we can be God’s children together.  To love the way that Jesus is commanding here – it is not a suggestion, it is a command – requires me to stay in that worshipful love fest that I feel as described earlier and let that oooooze all over others – letting go of all judgment.  I must allow the Holy Spirit to flow within and through me and just love – just as I have been loved.  I don’t need to have understanding over another – I need to love – just as I have been loved.  It is a verb here, not even an emotion.  It is Christ in action through me, allowing acceptance and hope to everyone I meet whether on the street or in a Sunday School Class. 

Birds of a feather do flock together in nature, but in God’s Kingdom we are all the same bird – there are no distinctions and love is the common denominator.  As we embrace this calling on our lives, we live in God’s Kingdom in perfect harmony and it can happen each and every moment of each and every day.  Love is God’s tool to us to change the world – bringing in God’s Kingdom! Praise be to God!

LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

WEEK SIX, DAY TWO, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY TWO THEME: STRENGTH OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE: I JOHN 4:7-21 (CEB)

“Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God.  The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 

This is how the love of God is revealed to us.  God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him.  This is love; it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.  Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 

No one has ever seen God.  If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us.  This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us. because he has given us a measure of his Spirit.  We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world.  If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. 

We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.  God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them.  This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. 

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment.  The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.  We love because God first loved us.  If anyone says, I love God and hates his brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sisiter who can be seen can’t love God who can’t be seen. 

This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

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

SOAKING IT IN: The litmus test for remaining in, staying in, being at peace in God’s love is how we feel toward any one other person in the moment.  These scriptures are very clear that we simply cannot – it is not possible – to both have love and praise and worship for God and feel contempt and hatred for even one other person, much less a whole “group” of persons.  Hatred is not an element of the Kingdom of God.

In these very personal scriptures we have to go down to the core of who we are and examine who is in charge of the “others” of the world.  Is it God who is in control of all of us? Or do we hold a spot where we maintain the right to both pass judgment and hold on to resentments and even entertain hatred for one or more others in the world? 

I personally am convicted that there are times that I present myself unkindly and judgmentally towards others.  I don’t believe them, I don’t trust them, or they have hurt me or someone I love, so I have that spot – those moments – where I allow myself to reign superior to them because I think I can.  With God, I cannot.  But when I make those choices, I put God in a box and have not allowed Him to love through me in those toughtest moments to show love.  Suddenly, in that moment, Jesus died on the cross in vain, because I chose to withhold love and instead fester hatred.

It is time to examine those moments and bring them into the whole surrender to God’s love.  I don’t have to agree with all persons, but God would have me love – even the most unlovely – for the Kingdom’s sake.  This takes a lot more than is humanly possible, this takes the Holy Spirit doing it – loving them (whoever “them” may be in the moment”) in a way that only God ultimately and truly understands.  God help me!

My parents had four children. I am the oldest and then my brother, and then my sister, Jeanne, and then my baby sister. Jeanne left us in 2017 and lives with God and those gone before her and now Daddy has joined her there. Jeanne died at 54 years old from damage to her lungs from aspirating. As her oldest sister, but really this is true of my brother and my baby sister, we all had a protective nature about Jeanne. Jeanne had Downes Syndrome. In the 60’s and beyond, folks like Jeanne were considered “retarded” and “not right”. A nurse recommended to Mom when Jeanne was born that they institutionalize her and forget they ever had her! She looked a bit different – she stayed very young even into her fifties, her educational abilities were stunted – BUT JEANNE KNEW LOVE! There is not one person – no matter how they may have behaved toward Jeanne – that she did not love. Her ability to talk was never strong and decreased a lot in her later years – but she showed love. If Jeanne was with me, and I introduced her to someone, it was always with the attached phrase – “watch out, you are fixing to be hugged”. People may not have understood Jeanne or were afraid of Jeanne (because they didn’t understand her) or simply labeled her and looked another way – but if you got a Jeanne hug, you were never the same. Jeanne understood love like none other – and she didn’t mind sharing it one little bit.

Jeanne taught me SO MANY THINGS, but most importantly in my living today, she taught me not to judge or label persons. All other persons are worthy of love. We may be different in many ways – and that is okay! – we can still share in God’s Kingdom through love – unconditional – freely given and received! I try desperately to never make an assumption or label another person in any way – because I simply don’t know what has gone on with them to bring them to the current moment, but I know they are deserving of love and need love and acceptance – JUST LIKE I DO – JUST LIKE I WANTED FOR JEANNE! Terry is the first one I heard say this in a sermon he preached about Heaven one day – he said, “the most common word in Heaven will be…’OH!”!!! That statement keeps me humble as I understand that when I walk in Heavenly places – even here on Earth, I will be and am joyfully amazed by the crowd of witnesses who will and do walk with me and now without any labels! This is Kingdom Living!

We are all first and foremost – above anything else in our living – we are God’s own – each and every one! That understanding allows for love, SWEET LOVE! That understanding brings peace and unity. There are no “those” or “them” or “they”, there is only US!

THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS PERFECT LOVE

AND FOR PEOPLE LIKE JEANNE WHO GET IT AND SPREAD IT!

SUFFERING LOVE

WEEK SIX, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY TWO THEME: THE DEFINITION OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE: I PETER 4:1-8 (CEB)

“Therefore, since Christ suffered as a human, you should also arm yourselves with his way of thinking.  This is because whoever suffers is finished with sin.  As a result, they don’t live the rest of their human lives in ways determined by human desires but in ways determined by God’s will. 

You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire — living in their unrestrained immorality and lust, their drunkenness and excessive feasting and wild parties, and their forbidden worship of idols.  They think it’s strange that you don’t join in these activiites with the same flood of unrestrained wickedness.  So they slander you.  They will have to reckon with the one who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 

Indeed, this is the reason the good news was also preached to the dead.  This happened so that, although they were judged as humans according to human standards, they could live by the Spirit according to divine standards.  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.”

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

SOAKING IT IN: I Peter 3 ends with a focus on Christ’s suffering on account of sin.  I Peter 4 begins with “Therefore” and goes on to say that God’s people are to arm themselves with the thinking of Christ, saying, “This is because whoever suffers is finished with sin.”  Then in verse 8 this section concludes with, “Above all, show sincere love to each other, because love brings about the forgiveness of many sins.” 

Inbetween the “Therefore” and verse 8’s Forgiveness, there is a contrast drawn between those who live their lives according the Spirit of God (as Christ did) and those who live according to human desires which inevitably ends up in all kinds of excesses – “unrestrained immorality and lust, drunkenness, excessive feasting and wild parties” – basically putting all things humanly enjoyable ahead of God – idolatry. 

I keep going back to the suffering that I Peter indicates we are to take on.  Is the suffering a result of any feelings of isolation at walking in a way that is contrary to those living their life full of humanity as listed earlier.  I can remember as a child thinking that belonging to God meant that you just were not allowed to have any fun.  There seemed to be lots of “don’ts” that didn’t feel like there was any room left for many do’s.  That  did seem both impossible to do and lonely over all. As life expands and our walk with Christ is an open door to great joy and much reward in living, things become clearer and we wish it for everyone.

At that point I wonder if the suffering that God’s people experience is a result of the heaviness they feel because of those around who are consumed with such living as mentioned earlier and their lives begin to spiral out of control, becoming victims of their own choices.  There is a helplessness that comes with allowing the people we love and hold most dear the same space that God has allowed us to have free will even if our own experience shows that path’s consequences to be detrimental and hurtful.  Where do we speak up, how do we intervene, what is our role as people of the Kingdom of God?  There is suffering that we can experience in the period of time necessary to allow that loved one to reach their “pit” so to speak and be ready for any influence we may have to offer.  Our ‘meantime’ is painful, but is best spent in prayer and focus so that we will be able to extend the loving hand and open heart that brings help to lift our loved ones out of the pit when God’s time comes. 

I’m sure that Christ suffered humanly when the Pharisees, Sadducees – the “religious people” of the day – would call him out and try to elevate themselves by looking down on him and his followers…trying to catch them being unGodly by twisting the words of God for their own purposes.  Staying the course for Christ was full of selfless acts and many lonely moments, personal suffering, when even his closest followers were not yet on board.  He constantly had to make “unpopular” choices to counteract the disturbances caused by those “religious” people of the day. Our religiosity can get in the way of our experience with Christ, and our ability to love those around us. Religiosity leads us into judgement. God leads us into unconditional love!

There are moments when only love for others can allow you to stay in touch when nothing else in the situation is favorable.  That love will carry you foward as you embrace others – even if from a distance – until God’s timing is right and the relationship can ignite in God’s plan.  I’m sure the cross was the lonliest time of all for Christ, but his obedience out of love made it possible for all those who would follow Him to do so in a perfect relationship with our Father and Creator God.

God’s great love is the perfect motivator for us if we will allow it to seep into every nook and cranny of our living. May it be so!

LOVE FOCUS!

WEEK SIX, DAY ONE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE

DAY ONE THEME: THE DEFINITION OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE: I THESSALONIANS 4:3-9 (CEB)

 “God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him.  This means that you stay away from sexual immorality and learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way.  Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God.  No one should mistreat or take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue.  The Lord punishes people for all these things, as we told you before and sternly warned you. 

God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be dedicated to him. Therefore, whoever rejects these instructions isn’t rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. You don’t need us to write about loving your brothers and sisters because God has already taught you to love each other.”

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

SOAKING IT IN: I can remember when as a child and teenager wanting to do things that I heard my friends or others were doing. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to be consistent with those who seemed to be having all the fun. My parents – who knew me better than I knew myself – often had their reasons for not allowing me to participate in the “thing” of the moment. My retort would always go something like this: “Well everyone else is doing it!” Patiently and lovingly they would use some sort of reasoning why I didn’t always want to be like everyone else. Often it went something like: “Well if everyone else wanted to run and jump off a cliff would you want to do that too?!” My parents wanted me to learn who I was and not just follow along with any plan. Even better than my parents with me, God has a better idea for how our lives can be the most enjoyable and fruitful as found in these words in I Thessalonians.

God is love: A simple and pure and essential equation to always keep in the forefront of all of our thinking. When any impulse toward any other person comes forth that does not reflect love for that person (resentment, lust, hatred, vindictiveness, harm and on and on the list could go) – we need to question our focus. What is the emotion that is driving such thoughts, such impulses. Is God wanting this for that person, or is it us, in our humanness, wanting such unGodlike actions toward another.

These scriptures point out that our focus at all times must remain on God. As we keep our focus, it will be difficult for us to do anything toward another person other than love that person. We may not approve of actions taken by that person and we may be confused by their motivation, but our call from God is to love and to love unconditionally. When we lose our focus, we find ourselves in the judgement seat condemning others for what we may simply just not understand. Our focus is love for one another – God given love – God’s job is to handle all the rest – He is the judge, not us! We are not put in control over others, we are called to love them unconditionally, just as we are loved unconditionally. This is freedom!!!

Also in this scripture there is a point of separation – God’s people and the Gentiles. It seems to be understood that Gentiles will behave in ways that are not in accordance with the Christian understanding of God’s plan. That is because they do not yet know God and they are not yet focused on God. We will see others living out lives of sexual immorality, hateful behavior, vengefulness and other such things until they are able to know of God and of God’s plan for them. God is the only one who can save us from ourselves.

This scriptures warns its readers against sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is one of the many ways that we demonstrate a focus on ourselves and our wants rather than focus on the life that God calls us to. Until we all can relate to God as Father and Lord, we will all behave differently reflecting the attachment to our human desires. Again, those who are called by God are called not to judgement but to love. We are to take what God wants for our lives and be responsible there and let God use us in His ways to show leadership and control.

We do not need, nor are we entitled to understanding and reasoning concerning the action of others. We are called to love. God knows the whole story on each of us and why we have different quirkinesses and concerns and scars. God loves us just as we are and he takes us forward from there. God knows…and we can rest assured that He is always at work on our behalf to steer us in the way forward. As we tend to our own relationship with our Father and walk in His light, guided by His Holy Spirit, following the example of Jesus, we have more and more empathy toward all those in our path and can love them just like our Father does! We will want for them also the peace and freedom that can only come from God.

Lord, help us be your vessels of love – throwing aside all judgments and misunderstandings – allowing you to handle our own stuff and allowing you to handle the world as we love unconditionally and purely always reflecting you. Forgive us when we fall short. Strengthen our focus on You and use us for Your Kingdom’s sake!