Lesson in Love 5

Technologically challenged, I get frustrated when I must struggle through how to operate a new cell phone, navigate Facebook, or work with a new computer.  I often have to turn to my teen-age children for assistance.  I don’t understand how they do what needs to be done; I just know that THEY know what is going on.

We can face the same frustration in our faith.  It can be so easy to fall into a religion where our relationship with God and our life as a Christian is no more demanding than attending church as often as we can and giving what money we can.  Now and then we might even be willing to help out with special services or programs.

But when we are confronted with the knowledge that ministry to God involves caring for people we do not want to be around things get uncomfortable.  When being the church involves something beyond the church building and people outside of our circle of acquaintances we might get a little antsy.

Like the psalmist (Psalm 71) we may have to rely on trusting God for our strength and guidance.  And like the prophet Micah we may have to trust that we don’t always comprehend what God is doing.

The people in the synagogue where Jesus spoke thought they understood what this teacher was talking about.  He was speaking some words of comfort for people who were struggling in life.  But then he talked about going beyond this small circle of people and sharing God’s grace with everyone.

They were upset.  They were angry.  They were so angry they were ready to literally throw Jesus off a cliff to get him to stop.

But they couldn’t stop him.  He went on with his ministry.  He went beyond what was accepted and showed love to all people – the sinner, the stranger, the enemy.

We must know as Micah did, the plans of God are beyond our understanding.  We do not know the thoughts of God.  We must simply obey when we are sent.  We must follow our Lord when He tells us to love our neighbor, even if it frightens us.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can help you trust in God?

Lesson in Love 4

It can be a frightening prospect to consider the fact that God has chosen each of us to be His representative in the world.  It can be intimidating to know that we are supposed to be the image of God to others.  We are challenged with this task.  By showing love to everyone we meet we are going into territories – not just physical lands, but spiritual and emotional realms – that are strange and worrisome.

But we should go forward with confidence.  Not only has God chosen us to do this work, He will be with us when we go out.  The psalmist calls on the Lord for help in Psalm 71.  From whom does he want to be saved?  What confidence does he have in God?

By showing love to other people we become vulnerable.  We open ourselves up to rejection and criticism.  We may fear that we will be humiliated and embarrassed.  We may also be doing something new, something we have not done before.  Sharing love may bring us discomfort.

But we can put all of our fears aside because we know what we are doing is the will of God.  We can hand all of our worries and hesitations to God.  He will deliver us, protect us, bring us through the challenges when we are faced with people who will want to reject us and criticize us.

We can abandon all the self-doubt we have by trusting that God will give us ability.  We may think we have no skill at sharing love the way we should.  We may think we are not capable of being the people god wants us to be.

But the Lord is our hope.  He is the One who can bring us the confidence we need to go out into the world and truly care for others.

When we feel we are not ready to share love we must call on God.  He will give us the tools and the words and the thoughts we need to show love to others.  He will guide us in our actions if we will simply rely on Him.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can remind you that God is always with you?

Lesson in Love 3

Love is more than a simple act.  Love is more than being kind and tolerant.  Love is at the core of who we should be as children of God.  It should be that quality that brings substance to the way we live and deal with others.

And sharing love is likely to take us to uncomfortable places.  We may need to do things in a new way.  We may need to show love in places we are not familiar with and to people we may not like.

So, we can ask ourselves if we have what it takes to be a person who loves.  And in the asking we have those doubts.  Maybe love is too difficult for us to live out.

When we have our doubts about where we might be heading in living out love we must look to the people who were blessed by God to do the difficult things.  Jesus was chosen by God to preach the good news of salvation, to free those who were prisoners of sin, to give sight to the spiritually blind (Luke 4:18).  And he was going to do that with Jew and Gentile alike.

This made the people who knew him very angry.  But Jesus walked on in his ministry.  He went ahead and shared love.

The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to do wonderful things.  And this frightened Jeremiah.  But what assurance did God give the prophet?  What has God done?

Can we be like Jeremiah too sometimes?  When we hear the message that we as Christians are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we are not just to embrace the idea but live out the words, do we sometimes feel upset?  Do we get angry that so much is expected of us?  Does it bother us to know that people we consider to be sinners are supposed to receive love from us?

And with all this emotion we might be like Jeremiah and try to avoid the obligation of sharing love.  We might say “I don’t know how to do this.  I am only a child.” (see Jeremiah 1:6)

We must remember that God knows what He is doing.  God created us.  He knew us before we were born.  And as believers in God, as Christians, as children of the Lord, we are set apart from others.  We are special.

God appoints us to be the people who share His love with those who do not know love.  We are the ones who must move ahead in a ministry of sharing love.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Who is someone who needs to know God’s love?

Lesson in Love 2

If we are going to talk about love – the love we have for one another, the love we have for God, the love God has for us – then we really need to gain an understanding of what love is all about.  At almost every wedding you will hear the reading of “The Love Chapter” – 1 Corinthians 13.   It is Paul summing up a beautiful definition of love.

We are familiar with the words of Paul on love.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  It does not envy.  It does not boast.  That seems to be the meat of the love message.  And so we overlook what he has to say at the beginning of this message of love.

What abilities does he mention?  What attitude does he talk about?  What does all of this amount to if we do not have love?

These opening statements in 1 Corinthians 13 lay the foundation of the importance of love.  Paul talks about wonderful and noble qualities that a person or a church might possess.  Speaking in the tongues of men and angels could be a description of any person or group of people who are able to say compassionate and loving things.  We as Christians and as a church may “say” the right things about loving and caring for others.

But if we do not actually possess the ability to love, if we cannot live out love and see that love goes beyond ourselves and our tight circle of friends, then we really have nothing.

If we have all knowledge, if we are brilliant thinkers, if we have faith, or at least claim and believe we have faith we may feel very good about ourselves.  We are great people.  But if we do not possess the ability to care for others, especially strangers and people we may not like, then we have nothing.

Love is more than being patient and kind.  It is more than being humble and selfless.  Love must be at the core of what we do.  And we must see that if we will truly love everyone, if we will love the way God wants us to love, we must be willing to live that love in all we do.

And living love will take us beyond the familiar that we know and beyond the places where we find comfort.  And if we really love we will accept and embrace this adventure of loving.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Will you take on a new way of sharing love?

Lesson in Love 1

Luke 4:28-30
When we think about Jesus and who he was and why he came we likely think about the love and compassion of God.  Jesus came to us as an expression of the Lord’s incredible love for us.  Jesus came to save us.  And yet there are so many people who did not want to accept what Jesus brought.

Beginning in Luke 4:16 we have the story of Jesus in his local synagogue.  He is handed a scroll, the book of the prophet Isaiah, and he reads about God anointing someone to proclaim good news, to heal, to set people free.  And then Jesus announces that he has fulfilled this prophecy.  Jesus is the one who is anointed by God to do all these good things.

Such news really pleased the crowd.  They were glad to hear the good news.  But Jesus doesn’t stop there.  He talks about other stories from the Old Testament scriptures that show that Jesus will have his ministry go beyond the people of Israel.  And this upset the crowd.

What did the people do with Jesus?  What did Jesus do?

As is so often the case, we can shake our heads in disbelief at the reaction the people gave to Jesus.  But we at times overlook the fact that we can do the same thing.

We can feel tremendous comfort and satisfaction in knowing that we are loved by God and that Christ came as our Savior.  We can find comfort and peace as we gather to worship with other believers just like us.

But when we are confronted with the idea that God’s love extends beyond us, that God also loves other people – people we may not care for, people we may truly dislike – we can get upset.  It can get worse when we learn that we are expected as Christians to go out to these people we don’t like and offer them God’s love, or we should welcome them into our presence.

As with the story in Luke, God’s love moves ahead no matter how we react.  Jesus walked away from the crowd and went on with his ministry.  We may be upset or uncomfortable with the work and ministry of our church, but we must remember that God’s ministry, God’s kingdom, God’s love is beyond our understanding and control.

We must trust that God loves us and accept and even rejoice in the fact that this love is great enough to encompass all people.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can help you remember how powerful God’s love can be?