For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. —Romans 15:4

Friday, March 28, 2014

Love God & People

Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Wordle: Greatest is love

On occasion, I enjoy a cup of steeped black tea. The preparation of the Earl Gray or English Breakfast drink is as enjoyable as sipping the warm liquid. I fill the kettle with water and turn the heat up to almost boil. Then I dip tea leaves into the sieve in the top of my ceramic tea pot, pour the hot water over, and allow the tea to flavor the water. Without the little screen or sieve the leaves and stems would fall in the cup. Yuck.

What does a cup of tea have to do to with loving God and loving people? It’s all about the filter. When one of the “important” Pharisees in the community asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… And…Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our minister (thanks Kenny) pointed out in his sermon last week that as a disciple of Christ I need to apply this command as a filter for everything I do. Yes— everything. Before I speak, act, pray, worship, work, prepare for my day, help my neighbor, go to the grocery store, talk to my spouse, I need to run my thoughts and actions through the sieve of love. Every commandment and law hangs on this— loving God and loving people. And what a joy to know that God loves me back!

To read more about love, go to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Amid the Noise

Revelation 3:19-22
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Our grandson plays basketball on an Upward Bound team in his community. As often as we can, we sit on the side lines and cheer with other fans. As I watched last week, I couldn’t help but notice the noise level in the gym. As Aiden dribbled the ball down the split court shared by two games; fans clapped, cheerleaders shouted, and team members encouraged. Despite the loud din, he heard his coach’s voice and followed his directions. Because his coach’s voice was familiar to him, and he depended on him for instruction and encouragement, he focused on his voice.

Too often my days fill up with voices from temptation, commercials, radio programs, negative people, talking heads, and on it goes. God’s voice is in there too, but do I recognize it? How often does God’s voice go unheard because I choose not to listen? Aiden could ignore his coach and do his own thing, but he knows that this man, who volunteers his time, is there to guide him. He knows his voice because he’s spent time with him at practice. How do I recognize God’s voice amidst chaos and confusion? Or even in silence— how do I know it’s him? I spend time with him in prayer and in his word. His voice always aligns with his truth. Whatever way he communicates, through the Holy Spirit, friends, family, books, sometimes even billboards, God’s voice is the one I want to hear. The one I seek.

How do you know when God speaks to you? 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cast Fear Away

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

“Don’t live your life in fear. Live your life in faith. Faith trumps fear every time!”     
— Andy Andrews

 Author Andy Andrews speaks out about fear because he lived in fear’s shadow for many years. I was listening to him on the Wally Show (Star 93.3) the other day. When I heard what he had to say— it gave me pause. He said that the more intelligent a person is, the more fear they create in their minds. In other words, people let their imaginations go wild and conjure up all kinds of imaginary fears. Whether intelligence plays a part or not, fear can be devastating, especially irrational fear.

In John 4, John writes that perfect love casts out fear. He reminds me that perfect love comes from God and if I truly trust God, fear is diminished. It’s easy to let fear creep in to my heart. Then worry follows and pretty soon anxiety starts screaming and brings me to a screeching halt. What’s the solution to overcoming fear? Prayer. Sounds simple, but it’s true. I pray. Sometimes I ask others to pray with me. When that happens, God restores me and fills me with his love. I place my concerns, fears, worries in his hands and I pray. I may need to pray often, but whatever it takes He hears my prayer and pushes my fears aside. His perfect love is the only solution to fear. Praise God for his love.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Confession Time

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Confession time— I struggle when it comes to resting and relaxing. Productivity is ingrained in me. Even when I watch a television show, I tend to work on the computer, crochet or read (yes I can read and watch TV at the same time.) Yesterday, after a day of helping with the staff retreat at work, I intentionally tried to rest. And I did it all wrong. I plopped on the couch and watched a show on the DVR. At the same time, I played Candy Crush. On top of that, I thought about what I should be doing and felt guilty because I wasn’t.

In Matthew, Jesus called his disciples to rest. Many of them labored as farmers or served as soldiers. They carried heavy burdens, both physically and spiritually. Many of the farm workers literally placed a wooden yoke on their shoulders and dragged plows. Others lugged whatever they needed much like a pack mule. They knew what it was to work and be weary. Jesus offered them rest. He understood the importance of laying down a burden. He calls me to rest in him. Had I grabbed my Bible yesterday and spent time in prayed instead of the TV, I know that I would have found rest. If I’d gone outside and reflected on God’s creation, my soul would have been renewed. I thank God for times of renewal and I plan to be more purposeful when I seek rest.

How about you? How do you find rest?