Love… the greatest thing

From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles.

To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~Romans 1:1-7 (CEB)

“Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world- stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death- and the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?” ~From The Spirit of Christmas by Henry Van Dyke

I sometimes need reminding that love is the strongest thing in the world, that Light will always outshine the darkness. Christmas is the story of how love came into the world. Through Jesus we can see how we are to respond to the hate and evil we see. He was angry when anger was called for, showed compassion when it was needed and forgave freely. Only through God who strengthens me would I be able to live in such a way. But every time I do evil loses some of its footing.

Merry Christmas!

Help me Heavenly Father to keep Christmas every day. May I love and forgive where compassion is needed, may I speak up when strong words are called for, may I always remember that love is the strongest thing in the world. Amen.

To love one another

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. ” ~John 13:34-35 (CEB)

“When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them.   Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another.  When people realize that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.

Many times this happens even without our planning.  Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it.  Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Merry Christmas!

Heavenly Father, help me this day to be free of judgements so that I may be a safe place for others. Help me to be more vulnerable so that walls can be demolished permanently. To be Your hands and feet and to love those I meet are all You ask of me. Help me to do Your will. Amen.

Clothed in human form

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors. ~Luke 2:8-14 (CEB)

“New discoveries about our universe seem to emerge every day. Telescopes in space enable us to see into the created order farther and more clearly than ever before. But even with all of this marvelous technology we have not been able to chart the boundaries of creation. And even if we could, the idea of a created order many billions of light years in depth is too much for us to comprehend. So how can we comprehend the One whom we call the Creator? Clearly, an infinite God has a communication problem with finite humankind. Christians find the answer to that problem in Jesus Christ. The mystery of this magnificent universe finds resolution in the mystery of the birth in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ came and was clothed in human flesh to let us know who God is and what God is really like. In Jesus Christ we see that God is approachable, and to a degree knowable by creatures like us. God can understand our condition because God has made us. We can know God because God has been revealed in Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:15 and 16 say it so well. ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and things invisible. Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers- all things have been created through him and for him.’ In Jesus we have the perfect reflection of God. While the Creator of this vast universe may seem distant and unknowable, we can see, understand, and know Jesus of Nazareth. While it may seem too much to ask the Maker of the complex creation to hear us as we pray, we remember Jesus listened to everyone. So we, you and I, can communicate with the One who is author of all.

Our earthly existence takes on new meaning when we remember that God chose to put on our humanity and chose to wear that humanity as an ordinary working man. Our ordinary existence is not so ordinary when we remember that God chose this existence to give us a true picture of the divine. Therefore there are no unimportant moments in any lifetime. All are precious gifts of opportunity to know and serve the One who made us and chose to stand with us and like us in the great life.” ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

It is humbling to think that the Creator of the universe loves me so much that He stripped Himself of Heaven to enter this world as nothing but a naked vulnerable infant. He clothed Himself as a human just so that I could get a better understanding of how wide, how deep, how high and how far His love is for me.

Merry Christmas!

Heavenly Father, Thank You for coming down to earth in Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank You for loving me so much. Amen.

 

Truly to trust

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. ~Jer 29:11-12

I have a dark secret. I worry about my children. Sometimes it is that deep dark crippling kind of worry where I find that the air has stopped flowing through my lungs. God has recently confronted me about these fears I have for my children.

I have embraced God’s promises and I know that He will take care of me and provide for me. I know deep in my heart that there is nothing that can separate me from God’s love and that He will take care of me. But do I have enough faith in God to think the same things for my children? Apparently not. I so worry about the hurts my children have sustained. I worry over the choices that they make. I can see the long term effects cut deep into them and how it could follow them through life.

God asked me one day. Do you not think that my promises are for your children too? Do you not think that I can use all of these things, their hurts and choices for their future? Do you not believe that I can use all these things for their good?

Despite the choices that my children make, despite the hurts they incur, God is holding them in His hands just like he has me in His hands. God has used all my pain and suffering and turned it into glory for Him. He will do the same for my children. That doesn’t absolve me of training them in the way they are to go but it does release me of the control and give control to God.

Heavenly Father, again I turn my children over to you. Protect their hearts, lead them in the way they are to go. I know that You will use all things to their ultimate good. I know that it will all be for Your glory. I trust that You love my children even more than I do. Amen.

 

What pleases God?

So then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to keep living the way you already are and even do better in how you live and please God—just as you learned from us. Aim to live quietly, mind your own business, and earn your own living, just as I told you. That way you’ll behave appropriately toward outsiders, and you won’t be in need. ~ 1 Thes. 4:1,11-12 (CEB)

1 Thessalonians 4 verse 1 says you ought to live a life pleasing to God. I think that is one of those universal statements that is easily accepted by any of the religions based on belief in God. But then the observation prompts a universal question~

“How do I live a life that is pleasing to God.”

As always, if you keep reading the Bible, answers come to the questions we have.  Starting in verse 11 we begin to find our answers… We are to aspire to live quietly, to mind our own affairs and to work with our hands so that we can behave properly and be dependent on no one.

That just seems too simple…  another universal question arises, “What does God really require of me?” In Micah I find another simple answer. God requires of me to love Him, to be fair and to be compassionate (Micah 6:1-6:8).

That is pretty simple and straight forward. Sometimes it amazes me when I am looking for the complicated answers to “what pleases God” and “what does God require of me” to find that it is really so simple that even a child can understand it.

Heavenly Father, help me this day to live a life pleasing to you. Help me aspire to the quiet, life minding my own business. Help me to be Your hands and feet to others, loving as You would have me love. May I always be fair in what I do. May I always work hard for myself and others through the strength You freely give. Amen.

Mercy as sacrafice

As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 13 Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” ~Matthew 9:10-13 (CEB)

Following the way of forgiveness prepares us to go one step further. Something more is asked of us by Jesus: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13 [NAB]).

This “something more” is compassion. Once we grasp the depth of God’s merciful love for us, he wants us to express that same compassion for others. This is the balm that softens the scars of sinfulness and suffering. As we show mercy to others, so they will extend the blessing to us in turn.

Ask yourself some revealing questions; Do I sense the presence of the suffering Christ in others? Do I share their pain? Am I aware of their vulnerability? Do I know that the need for mercy is often hidden under a mask of self-sufficiency, coldness, and indifference? ~From Divine Guidance by Susan Muto and Adrian Van Kaam

May the sacrifices I bring you this day, be mercy triggered by compassion. May the love I bring hold no judgment or condemnation. May the blessings I bring be given freely, not with strings attached. Amen.

What you do to the least

 

Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’”~Matthew 25:31-36 (CEB)

“I always explain to the sisters, “It is Christ you tend in the poor. It is his wounds you bathe, his sores you clean, his limbs you bandage. See beyond appearances, hear the words Jesus pronounced long ago. They are still operative today: What you do to the least of mine, you do it to me. When you serve the poor, you serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~From My Life for the Poor by Mother Teresa

Heavenly Father, when I go out into the world today, help me to see You in Your children. May I only respond with love to those I meet. Amen.

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