Remembrance

The picture above is what I see as I lie in bed at night waiting for my eyes to close.  It is a blue hue of the lights reflecting from our outside bushes in the top of our bedroom window.  What peace these lights give me.  They remind me of a day when Jesus held me close and took all of my daily challenges and worries and brought me through to the other side.  

Psalm 105:5 – Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…

Do you remember what God has done for you?  Do you have any physical reminders?  When Joshua led God’s people towards their new home, they had to cross the Jordan River.  God parted the waters, and His people walked through on dry land.  To create a memorial of this miracle, they took twelve stones from the middle of the riverbed and stacked them on the other side.  When others asked what the stones meant, God’s people would tell the story of what God had done that day.

Joshua 4:5-7  

“And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you.  When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tel them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  When it passes over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

Do you have a story to tell?  Especially during this Christmas season when we think of baby Jesus being born for us?  Physical reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past can remind us to trust Him in the present and with our future.

Our family has had a  Christmas tradition for the past 16 years.  Every Christmas we decorate the outside of our house with blue Christmas lights.  This tradition began just after Thanksgiving in 2001.  I had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and then found out I was pregnant.  After being at the hospital all evening for some diagnostic testing, my husband and I came home to our tree in the backyard being covered with blue lights.  My parents had been at our house all day with our 2 and 4 year old and decided to put the lights on the tree.  That tree brought me joy.  It was such an unknown time in my life. I had to have total dependence on Jesus and His plan for my life and the baby I now carried.  Each night I remember the light that would glow into our kitchen and family room.  If you want to go back and read a bit about our brain tumor adventure you can go back and read about it in the Bible Journal post I wrote on December 10, 2017.

The blue lights that hang on our bushes today are a remembrance for me and my family.  They remind us of the season of life we faced 16 years ago and what God did for our family!  He healed me of the tumor and brought a precious life into this world.  Every year somebody comments on our blue lights and it allows me the opportunity to tell of what Jesus has done for me!  To share the Hope that He gives. 

What reminders do you physically have around you that remind you of what God has done and brought you through?  This Christmas Season start with one thing to remind you of a promise that has come true in your life.  In the stress and weariness of the days leading up to Christmas, the reminders of what God has done bring us back to reality.  The reality that Christ was born for you and me.  That He is real and His promises are true.  We need these reminders daily, sometimes hourly!!

Joshua 4:24      “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your GOD forever.”

Share the Good News!

In the past 6 months we have shown our house to 3 prospective families who are relocating to our town.  Our house is not officially on the market, but a few realtors know that we have a desire to downsize now that 2 of our 3 kids are off to college, so they reach out to us.  Each time after the showing we have gotten a phone call from the showing agent saying, “Your house showed great!  They really liked it!  It is one of their top 2 choices.  We will get back to you soon!”  With this news our minds start reeling with thoughts!  Where will we move?  How much time will we have to find a new house?  The excitement grows quickly.  But, low and behold, 3 times now, we have gotten the same phone call, “They really loved your house, but they chose the other one.”  So many questions go through our minds at this point!  What is wrong with our house?  God, don’t you want us to downsize and save money?  Will we ever get out of this house?  God what is your plan???

Today we read the first chapter of the Book of Acts.  Jesus has spent the past 40 days with His disciples.  They saw and touched his nail pierced hands.  They ate together.  They talked about the Kingdom of God.  They enjoyed being together.  The disciples were asking Jesus exactly this question.  God what is your plan?  If you are leaving us, what are we to do?  

Acts 1:6-8 (ESV) So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Father alone sets the dates and times of our future’s events.  And as much as we want to know what’s next, the answers are not for us to know.  

Jesus had to leave so that we could be armed with the presence of and power of the Holy Spirit.  We are given one mission as Jesus states in the verse above, to be His witness to ALL people.  Everywhere we go, we need to tell people about Jesus.

As we face our day and the unknown days ahead of us, we are not without purpose.  Even though we may not know our next steps.  Or, we may receive answers that we don’t think are right, we are not without direction.  The Holy Spirit is with us and longs to be part of all our interactions each and every moment.  

May we not miss a moment today when: 

talking with our neighbor, the grocery store check out person, the Starbuck’s drive through person, our child’s teacher, our child’s coach, our co-worker, our boss, our parents, and even our own children…

to know that THEY are our purpose! We need to share the love of Jesus with each and every person we encounter!

The Holy Spirit is with us and He will empower us as we tell them about Jesus and who Jesus is to us.  

Share the good news!

Love God, Love People!

We Are His Sheep

I am a visual learner.  Give me pictures, videos, or word pictures and you have my attention.  In todays reading of John 10 we get a picture of sheep.  The first 21 verses in this chapter are titled, The Good Shepherd and His Sheep.  For some reason I have always had a fascination with sheep.  I remember as a young child watching sheep being sheered either on Sesame Street or Mr Rodgers.  It was amazing how all of that wool comes off of them and they are completely transformed!  

Why does Jesus refer to us as sheep?  There are hundreds of references to sheep in the Bible.  God chose to use the word sheep to identify His followers. 

According to answers.com, here are some characteristics of sheep:

1. timid, fearful, easily packed 2. dumb, stupid, gullible 3. very vulnerable to fear, frustration, pests, hunger 4. easily influenced by a leader, by the shepherd 5. stampede easily, vulnerable to mob psychology 6. little or no means of self-defense 7. easily killed by enemies 8. the shepherd is most effective, calming influence 9. jealous, competitive for dominance 10. constantly need fresh water, fresh pasture 11. have very little discernment in choosing food or water 12. best water source is early morning dew 13. perverse, stubborn – will insist on their own way 14. easily “cast” or flipped over on their back, unable to right themselves will die of starvation if not turned over by the shepherd; helpless 15. frequently look for easy places to rest 16. don’t like to be sheered, cleaned 17. too much wool can cause sheep to be easily “cast” 18. creatures of habit; get into “ruts” 19. need the most care of all livestock 20. need to be “on the move”;need a pre-determined plan, pattern of grazing 21. totally dependent of shepherd for every need 22. need “rod and staff” guidance.

Wow!  That is quite a list.  Read through it again and see if any of those characteristics can apply to you.  I have to admit, I see myself in quite a few of those descriptions.  These are ALL the reasons why WE NEED A SHEPHERD!!

Sheep are simpleminded and totally dependent upon the shepherd who tends to them with care and compassion.  Shepherds are the providers, guides, protectors and constant companions of sheep.  

Sheep respond immediately to the care of their shepherd – and only their shepherd.  Jesus said, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  After he has gathered his own flock, he was ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4 NLT).

The sheep have a security and direction because they know their shepherd and respond to his commands.

We have so many similarities to sheep.  There are so many things in this world that can trip us up.  But we have a shepherd who we can turn to and will guide us.  Do you know Your shepherd?  Do you seek His voice daily?  Thank you God for directing our lives!

*If you are fascinated with sheep like I am, check out Ray Carmen on Facebook.  He has a page called Enjoy the Shepherd and he has short daily devotions pertaining to his sheep.  I enjoy them!

Our shepherd is Jesus and He is leading the way.

A Pitcher of Water

“Where do you want us to go?” they asked him.  He replied.  “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him.  At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’  He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up.  That is the place.  Go ahead and prepare our supper there.  They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover supper there.           Luke 22:9-13

Luke 22 tells us of one of the most significant days in the life of Jesus.  He is preparing for a special dinner with His disciples.  It would be the last time they would all be together on this earth.  At this dinner, Jesus will demonstrate a significant way to remember Him and the sacrifice He is about to make. 

Jesus instructed the disciples to prepare for the Passover dinner, where He would institute The Lord’s Supper.  In preparation, He gave His disciples specific instructions on where to go and how to get ready for the dinner.

It all started in Bethany, that morning, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to Jerusalem with the instructions to prepare a place where they would eat the Passover meal.  He told them that when they entered the city they would see a man carrying a “pitcher of water” 

First of all, does it seem odd that Peter and John did what Jesus told them to do and not even question?  That they would just happen upon a man in the city that was carrying a pitcher of water and he would magically lead them to a room that was already set up for their dinner?  Are we that willing to do something like this and follow Jesus?  I think I might have stalled a bit and asked a few questions before leaving.  But these two men followed the instructions given to them and set out to find the man carrying a pitcher of water without question.

The important point to note in this passage is that it was highly unusual for a man to be carrying a water pitcher – at any time.  A man carrying a pitcher of water would be very easy for the disciples to pick out in a crowded public area.

We don’t know the details of this man’s life.  Why was he doing the job of carrying water when usually a woman did this?  Did his wife die?  Was she sick?  Had he made a mistake that left him alone?  No matter the reason he was carrying the pitcher that day, we know that the Lord used him as a sign. The man was just completing a daily chore of fetching water, but he would be leading men to one of the most significant events in the Bible.  

Peter and John found the man and asked him where the guest room is.  This man, who is nameless, led Peter and John to one of thee most historical events ever.  He did an incredible service for the Lord and was used mightily for eternal purposes.  He led the disciples to were they would eat Passover with Jesus.  

God saw and knew the life circumstances of this man.  God chose to use him through a mundane chore of life, carrying a water pitcher.  This man is forever documented in the Bible for leading the disciples to their last dinner with Jesus.  

God uses us no matter what life circumstances we are in.  God uses us in our everyday circumstances.  Are you willing to carry the water pitcher today and willing to let God use you?

The nameless man was carrying a pitcher of water, but Jesus was about to prepare the disciples for the living water that was about to come.  

PRAY

 

This morning as I wake up and prepare for the day, I am easily overwhelmed at my list of to-do’s!  Today contains:  a workout at the gym, mowing the yard along with fall yard clean-up, making a meal for my husbands’ grandpa, writing this Bible Journal Post, picking up the house for the weekend, attending the high school football game to watch my daughter cheer, and anything else that may pop up.  I am totally focused on what I have to do and accomplish.  But this is NOT the work that Jesus calls me to do!  All the things on my list today are good and may serve others, but the focus is not on God.

God tells us in our reading today, Luke 10, that our focus should be PRAYER.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Luke 10:2 (ESV)

We have to shift our focus from our daily work or list of to-do’s and focus on PRAYER.  It is hard to do, because prayer is not busy work, it does not seem to help us accomplish much in the immediate.  But, this is the issue, we focus on our immediate presence and what is before us.  We focus on what we have to accomplish today, right now.  And all this time, God is asking us to pray for workers – not be the worker.

There is so much work to be done.  When we step out of our homes we are faced with the tragedy and crisis all around us.  It is easy to think, “How can I help fix this, or what can I do to help show love to a neighbor in need?”.  We can easily stay busy meeting the needs of all those around us, and this is good work.   We are called to love and serve our neighbors.  But Luke 10:2 first calls us to PRAY!

In this chapter, Jesus is preparing 72 disciples to go out and reach the people.  These 72 are not to do the job of reaching others all by themselves, but they are to PRAY for more workers.  They are to begin by gathering more people to PRAY.  To PRAY that other people will join them in reaching out.

I know that I spend so much more time on my to-do’s then I do in prayer.  What is your focus today?  God calls us to pray for more workers to bring the good news to our neighbors.  Will you pray for this today??

Garden of Gethsemane

As I have been reading Mark 14 this week, I am overwhelmed at the number of events that are contained in this chapter!  There is so much to glean from these 72 verses.  But, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, the most important lesson is that it points us to Jesus, who He is and what He did for us as a human.

I encourage you to read this chapter and see what God has to show you concerning all the events in Mark 14:

  1.  The woman that anoints Jesus with oil
  2. How Judas agrees to betray Jesus
  3. Jesus and the Disciples share the Last Supper
  4. How Jesus agonizes in the Garden
  5. Jesus is betrayed and arrested
  6. Jesus is questioned by Caiaphus
  7. Peter denies knowing Jesus

I want to focus on Jesus and what He faced in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mark 14:32-36                                                                                     32They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  33He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  34“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,:  he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”  35Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  36“Abba, Father, he said, everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus faced his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The meaning of this garden is actually “oil press”.  In this garden, Jesus can actually feel what it is going to be like when the weight of the sins of his people literally crush or press him and take his life.  

He asks God to “take this cup from me” in verse 36.  What is the
“cup”?  It is helpful to look back at the Old Testament to see what the “cup” stands for.  In Psalm 23:4 and 116:13 we see that a cup can be filled with blessing and salvation.  Or as in Isaiah 51:17 and Ezekiel 23:33, the cup can be filled with wrath and horror.  Many Old Testament passages use the metaphor of the cup as a reference to God’s fierce judgment.  

So, when Jesus prays, “take this cup from me”, he is referring to the references above.  He knew that when He went to the cross he would drink the cup of god’s wrath.  He would have to bear all divine judgment.  In the process of drinking the cup, he would suffer horribly, both in the physical realm and especially in the spiritual realm as he is separated from His Father.

In Jesus’ prayer in the Garden, we see that he is a genuine human being, one who is fully human as well fully divine.  I can take away from this passage that Jesus is more like me that I realize.  He is not some superhuman figure that goes to the cross without a second thought or tiny hesitation.  Jesus shows us his gut-wrenching honesty of what he is about to face.

Jesus modeled true openness with his Father as he prayed in the Garden.  He was beyond troubled.  Let this be a model for us, as we know we will face trouble in this world.

John 16:33 states, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

We may speak openly to Jesus just as He did with the Father.  With every trouble we face, be it big or little, we need to make sure we take it to Jesus.  Jesus knew what was coming up for him.  He was overwhelmed with what was set before him.  He shows us 3 things that he did in these verses, we need to do the same when we face troubles:

1-Pray to God (14:35)

2-Seek support of friends and loved ones (14:33,37,40,41)

3-Focus on the purpose god has given us (14:36)

Jesus faced the ultimate suffering for us so that we could live eternally with Him.  Let us take each and every trouble to Him and lay it at His feet.  I am sure relieved that there are two more chapters in the book of Mark and it ends in VICTORY!!!

Through the Roof

Everywhere Jesus went he attracted a crowd.  Most of the people who came to see Him wanted something from him for themselves.  In Mark 2 verses 3&4 we see four men that were more concerned about their friend’s need than they were of their own.

And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.                                           Mark 2:3-4

It is amazing for me to think of these men and what they did for their friend!  But, the more I thought about it, I wonder how the man who was paralyzed felt?  Can you imagine a friend going to all this trouble for you?  I wonder if he was afraid he was going to fall off the mat? And when they dropped him through the roof, I am sure he felt totally helpless.  

I wonder what the men felt when they walked up to the house where Jesus was and saw that it was jam-packed with people?  I hate to admit that if that were me, I would have turned around and felt like there was no more room.  Not these men, they were creative and saw an opportunity and they were not going to pass it up. 

Houses in these days were made with a flat roof and there were usually outside steps leading up to the top.  The men carried the man on his mat up the stairs and then began to dig through the clay and grass till they got an opening just big enough to drop their friend down, right in from of Jesus where he was speaking to the crowd.  

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

This verse says that “when Jesus saw THEIR faith” he forgave the man of his sins.  Jesus not only took notice of the faith of the paralyzed man, but also the faith of his four friends.  God honors those who assist others.  Especially when it comes to assisting someone to the feet of Jesus.  We all know that our faith can’t save someone else.  But, we can assist in the salvation process by helping our friends come to Christ.  

We can do this by praying for them, by listening to them and answering their questions, and most of all by showing Christ’s love to them by loving them!  Look at how much these four men had to do for their friend!  It took much work and creativity for them to come up with the plan to dig a hole through the roof for their friend.  

How creative are we in getting our friends and neighbors to Christ?  When we come to a closed door or a place where we feel like there is no room for us, do we walk away?  We have to be willing to take the time and effort to reach out and find a way to bring them to Christ.  Challenge yourself this week to be bold and go out of your way to  show someone the Love of Christ.

Become Like Children

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.                                           (Matthew 18:1-4)

I have been taught over the years that the verses above tell us about coming to Jesus with faith like a child, to have the attributes of a child when we approach Jesus.  Attributes such as:  innocence, trusting, believing without complication, contentedness, and faith to move mountains.  And, while it is good and helpful to have these qualities, Jesus nowhere in the Bible actually tells us to have faith like a child.  In the passage above, when Jesus says to “become like children” he isn’t talking about faith (although faith is important as stated in numerous Scriptures). Nor is Jesus calling us to be filled with wonder in every moment the way a child so often is.  When Jesus says we must “become like children,” he is talking about humility.

In this passage, we see the disciples seeking prestige and honor for themselves.  Jesus corrects them by pointing to the example of a child.  Jesus points out the importance of humility in the life of those who claim to be His followers.  The life of one who follows Jesus is not about putting the focus on ourselves;  rather, we should be about pointing others to Jesus.  

Faith is a very humble quality, which is perhaps why it is associated with childlikeness.  Jesus was pointing out the truth that a child is completely dependent on adults for safety, sustenance, and knowledge.  Similarly, the faithful person depends on God in a way that is absolutely dependent.  The faith God looks for is humble, like a child.  In this way, we Christians are to have childlike faith.  

Childlike faith is saving faith, because it looks outside itself for salvation.  Salvation is a gift;  man does not pay for or contribute to his salvation, it is only of God.  

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing;  it is the fight of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2:8&9)

Just as a child depends on his/her parents for everything that he needs, we depend on God’s provision for everything.

Faith always has an object, you always have faith in something.  It would be worthless to hope for something and not have a source to hope in.  The faith that saves is faith in Jesus.  To have faith in Jesus means that you have become like a child, you humble yourself and see that God is your Creator, your Father, your Provider, your Protector, your Savior, and your Lord.  

 

 

 

Our Reward

Every morning I have a goal of walking.  One reason, is for my health, but a second is because we have a very rambunctious 4 year old Wheaton Terrier.  Her name is Sami, she has taught us that she has much better days when we start our days with a long walk on the trail.  Sami pulls as hard as she can the first 4 blocks of our walk.  Why???  Because she cannot wait to get to the trail!  Why???  Ground Squirrels!!  Everywhere!!  We have one of those retractable leashes for Sami and it is the perfect way for her to enjoy her hunt of the ground squirrel.  As we walk along, Sami will spot a ground squirrel 40ish feet away and begin her secret stalk.  She very slowly creeps up to the ground squirrel until she is just 5 feet away and then POUNCE!  She takes off and tries with all her might to catch that little guy.  I always hope I have two hands on the end of the leash before she goes.  A couple of times I have been caught off guard when she pounces and I can feel every muscle and nerve in my arm give way when she reaches the end of her leash and the handle pulls my shoulder out of joint!  To this date, Sami has never caught her reward of a ground squirrel. She has come close, but never won.  What will I do on that day that she actually captures one in her mouth??  You may hear my scream no matter where you live!  Even though she has never captured her squirrel, she never tires of trying!  Every day she can’t wait to get to the trail and secretly stalk her reward!

We all like getting rewards!  (ok, maybe not a squirrel in the mouth!)  Rewards motivate us, congratulate us, and keep us going.  They tell us we have done a good job.  Rewards make us feel worthy.  There are endless types of rewards we enjoy:  likes on a social media post, winning a game, fitting into a smaller size, good grades, buying an item that has been saved for, paying off a debt, getting a promotion, graduating from high school or college, rewards from hotel stays or flights, and even rewards from certain grocery stores!  

We also see rewards offered for certain things…like a missing person, a lost dog, or a lost piece of jewelry.  These are things that mean so much to a person and they will pay a high price to get what they love back.  

Today, in Matthew Chapter 6, we see the word REWARD used 7 times.  Jesus is teaching the Sermon on the Mount and one of the things He is stressing in this chapter is where we will find our reward.

Here are 3 topics that Jesus discusses in Matthew 6.  

1-Giving – Matthew 6:4  “so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

2-Prayer – Matthew 6:6  “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

3-Fasting – Matthew 6:18  “so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen;  and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

All three of these verses state the words, will reward.  These 2 words in the greek language comes from the word:  apodidomi – apo=from+didomi=give  This means to pay for or give back, implying a debt.  This word carries the idea of obligation and responsibility for something that is not optional.  To give back or pay back or to do something necessary in fulfillment of an obligation or expectation.  The idea is that God will fulfill His promise to us because it is His obligation.  There is no wondering if we will be rewarded.  It is a promise that if we do what He is asking in secret (not for the honor of men) then He will reward us.

People are motivated by rewards.  I know I am!!  There may be those who think the idea of being motivated by an attractive reward is unspiritual.  Yet God has filled the Bible with promises of amazing rewards.  He makes promises to keep us from giving up hope, to inspire us to persist in the face of adversity.

God built the desire for reward into our hearts.  He created us with the desire to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭NIV‬)

As Christians, we should spend more private time with God.  Our relationship with Him should be the most important relationship we have.  All that we do should be done to His glory, for His cause, and in His name.  Whether it be meeting the needs of others, spending time in reflection and prayer, or fasting for some specific purpose. What God sees us doing in secret, He will reward us!

Heaven promises to be more than we ask or imagine.  Paul says, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Corinthians 2:9).  What motivates us to give, pray or fast in secret?  The God who sees what is done in secret has promised that one day it will all be made right.  He will reward us beyond our wildest dreams.  It is so easy to let this slip our minds in our busy day to day life.  

Every morning, my Sami reminds me of this in our first 4 blocks of our walk!  She never forgets what is waiting for her on that trail!  She pulls and pulls until we get there.  We should have the same motivation every morning we get out of bed.  Yearning to spend time in secret with our God, getting to know Him deeply, knowing of the promise of His reward!!

Love People

 

1 John 2:7-11

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.  This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.  Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.  They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

The Apostle John calls the people he is writing to “Dear friends.”  John was writing to remind his dear friends about an old commandment they have known from the beginning.  This is also a new commandment that is true in Jesus and those who believe in Jesus.  

The old commandment John is referring to is found in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus gave His followers the second greatest commandment to follow, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  He also told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another: (John 13:34).  Loving our neighbor is not optional, it is a command.  All of Jesus’s commands benefit all people.  Loving people is living in the light and proves a person is a true believer in Christ.  A person who says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in the darkness of sin.  The person loving his brother lives in the light and does not stumble.  The person hating his brother walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because no one can see in the darkness.  The test for genuine Christianity is loving people.

This time of year is BUSY!!  No matter the age of your kids, as a parent you are running around getting everything needed for “back-to-school”!  From the sports physical to school supply list, it is never ending.  I am the first to admit that I get caught up in my own family and getting things done.  Then, I read todays reading and it was a HUGE reminder to me.  I need to stop!  God does not command me to make sure everything is perfect for my kids to go back to school.  He commands me to love my neighbor.  What have I done for any of my neighbors recently??  

This was made clear to me 2 weeks ago.  My husband travels out of the country frequently and on a Wednesday, he found out he had to leave on that coming Sunday for Germany.  He was to be gone for 2 weeks.  This was not a happy surprise to me.  We had end of the summer things we were going to do as a family and he would miss sending his son back to college.  After a bit of time and discussion I came around and decided to make the best of the situation as there was not much I could do to change the fact that he would be gone.  But, one thing that God wanted to make clear to me is that my neighbors cared about me!  The day after he left I received an email from Starbucks.  I had to reread it a few times, but it was from my friend!  She sent me a Starbucks gift card to enjoy with my kids while Tim was out of the country.  She said she knows from first hand experience how it feels when her husband is gone and wanted to make sure I knew she was thinking of me!!  Wow!  When I saw her a few days later I told her how thoughtful it was and she told me how she follows through with every thought she has about how she can bless others.  I was honest, I said, “I have lots of thoughts, but I don’t usually follow through.”  But, I also said that her love for me showed me tangibly what that means, and I will do much better at following through to actually show others that I love them.  

This is our commandment!  That we love one another!  Both, physically and tangibly.  What have you done to go above and beyond to show someone that you care about them?  If you love your neighbor, you are living in the light!  

Choosing to love people well shows the world what God is like.