Love God. Love Others.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

This was the text for the sermon our pastor preached on this weekend. Isn’t it funny how you can read a passage over and over – even memorize it, and then one day it jumps off the page like you have never read it before? That’s what happened last night when I read these verses.  As children we sing, “Jesus Love Me” and are taught to follow the golden rule. Love is the premise of the Christian walk. Unfortunately, I think it becomes like the picture you hang on the wall. When you first purchase it, it’s all new and you notice it every time you walk past it.  Fast forward a few months or years, you still love the picture, but you rarely notice it. It’s just become a comfortable part of your life.  I just love those light bulb moments when you see something fresh and new, as if you are seeing it for the first time.

Pastor began his sermon sharing a story of Green Bay Packer’s football coach, Vince Lombardi who delivered a powerful speech. He walked in with a pigskin in hand and one the group quieted down said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He went on to describe the fundamentals of football. You take this football and get it across the opponent’s line. You keep the ball from crossing our line. You tackle and block to accomplish this.  Pastor then when on to say John 13:34 is a lot like the speech Vince Lombardi gave his team so many years ago.

The Christian life can be summed up in two things.  Love God. Love others.

What a great reminder! Life can get so busy – How refreshing to stop and focus on what really matters. But, Pastor didn’t stop there. He made it practical. What does love mean? It means doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. Ouch. Now that’s making it personal. I thought about the times in my heart when I just couldn’t get there – when I just wanted my way so badly. I wanted to love, but I wanted my way so much more!  I knew at that moment God was asking me to go deeper with Him. He was asking me to make a commitment to love others and love Him, so the next time I was faced with a choice, the decision would already be made. I would remember this commitment and regardless of my feelings, I would choose love. As I’m mulling over what this commitment would look like, Pastor shared a story from Corrie Ten Boom on forgiveness.  If you know anything about Corrie, you know she was a prisoner in the concentration camps and suffered greatly. She spoke about forgiveness of a guard who mistreated her.  This video shares her story in her own words. It’s just a few minutes and so moving – it’s well worth your time to watch it.

As I’m listening to the suffering Corrie faced and processing all the suffering Jesus faced, my own seems so small.  Yet, I know when the going gets tough, I will be tempted to turn back to my selfishness and choose to love myself over God and others. I pray and ask God to show me clearly, beyond a certainty that I am to love, whatever the cost to me.  Wouldn’t you know it, Pastor concludes with a series of verses on love. One right after another.  After the first two, I told God I understood.  But Pastor kept reading verses and reading verses.  It became almost comical as I’m thinking, “God, I got it….really, I got it.”  But, I think He knows me and knows I will quickly turn from obedience and love to my own self-centered choices.

It’s so clear. The whole Christian life is summed up on loving God and loving others.  It seems so easy – but in reality it is impossible without God’s help. Love is a choice. Make a commitment before emotions get involved.  Then, follow through on that commitment regardless of how you might feel in the moment.  Trust God to meet you where you are and help you when you don’t think you can do it.

Luke 10:27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself

Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

James 2:8   If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well

1 Cor. 14:4-7 “ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Eph. 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Rom. 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”

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His Grace is Amazing

 

Sitting, head bowed, I feel the weight of the morning wash away. It was one of those mornings I’m none to proud of. Knowing what I should do, yet unable to reach past my emotions I ended up in a complete meltdown.  During the meltdown, which I knew it was illogical, I felt paralyzed to stop the hurricane of emotions that spilled forth. Thankfully, my dear husband sopped up the emotional mess before everyone else in my close proximity saw it.  Bless him.

But,  after all was said and done the guilt didn’t dissipate.   Rather, it grew. “If I was a better Christian I would have…”  or “I should be beyond such immaturity”. No matter the cause, it’s so discouraging to fail. My afternoon was overcast with the earlier episode.  How I wished for a do-over button – I would be gracious and kind and smile too.

As the afternoon progresses to evening, my sour mood continued and now I found myself at church. The words of the songs that usually bring delight to my soul felt like gravel in my mouth. The final song before the message the pastor suggests we sit quietly and pray if we’d like. As I listened to the words, truth, forgiveness and freedom flooded my soul. My shortcomings weren’t any surprise to God. He’d already forgiven me when I’d asked. The guilt wasn’t from Him, nor was it accomplishing anything positive.

Thank you Jesus for your unfailing love.  One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 136.  Twenty-six times David repeats the truth that God’s love endures forever. It endures through the good and the bad. How thankful I am that Jesus is enough. He is good and does good things.  He made the heavens and the sun – yet He remembers us in our lowly estate.  Wow!  I just have no words.  Thank you, Jesus!

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights
His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever