Light of Love

Do you prefer the light or the dark? Do you want to be in the right or wrong? Do you desire love or hate? Do you adhere to your desires or chase after someone else’s? Do you adhere to your advice to others or do the very thing you complain about?

I dare say most of us prefer to be in the light, we want to be right, and we desire love. Yet, I also see plenty of evidence of our chasing after other people’s desires and failing to adhere to our own advice. We do the very thing we complain about someone else doing. The Apostle Paul would call all of us hypocrites.

Read today’s passage. See the Apostle John state that hating a brother or sister in Christ causes us to live in darkness. In other words, we have fallen prey to Satan’s schemes. We have allowed the world to trick us into thinking it is alright to hate one another, even if over the simplest disagreement.

John says to live in the light we must love our brothers and sisters. Notice he did not put any qualifications on loving them. In other words, he didn’t say, “love them as long as you agree with them.” Or, “love them as long as they do what you prefer.” Or, “love them when they are behaving properly.”

We are not merely called to love one another, we are commanded to love one another by Jesus (Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27). In fact, Jesus also states that if we love only those who love us, there is no reward for us (Matthew 5:46). Though that may sound harsh, it is nothing Jesus did not do Himself. He has set the bar high with His own love.

I pray we all love our brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray we choose to follow Jesus’ example. I pray each one of us choose to live up to expectations and follow Jesus’ command to love. Love one another. Love as Jesus loves. Follow His example. Love the unlovable. Show God’s love to everyone.

1 John 2:9-11 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.

A Just God

Do you desire justice? Are you looking for judgment for those who commit crimes? Do you long for crimes to be punished? Do you wish fairness would find its way into our culture? Are you sure you want sins to be punished as they deserve?

We often talk of justice. We scream for justice when a horrible crime is committed. We talk of people receiving closure following a horrendous crime. We wish the crime could be undone, reversed. We cry out for punishment of the wrongdoers.

Far too often, we want immediate retribution. We think we know what happened. We may even convict the accused before a trial has been conducted. This has been the cause of many people to be wrongly convicted.

On the other hand, when we are put on trial, we seek mercy and lenience. It is only when we stand alone at the gallows that we ask for a deep investigation and long to provide our side of the story. It is when we come to grips with our own offenses that we can truly understand the justness of God.

Each of our sins requires punishment. Our disobedience requires payment. In the Old Testament, God required the Jews to bring two goats for the atonement of sin. One was sacrificed. The priests laid their hands on the other to signify putting the nations sins on it and it was turned loose in the wilderness to carry Israel’s sins away. Hence the term scapegoat.

God atoned for our sins in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in His resurrection. Christ has carried our sins away, much in the same way the scapegoat did for Israel. God is just. Sin is and has been punished. It is because of His justness that we have been justified in our faith in Jesus.

I pray we all see that God is just. I pray we understand that God’s justness is complete, whole. I pray each one of us put our faith in Jesus and accept God’s justification. God is just. Sin deserves punishment. Your sin has been atoned. Put your faith in Jesus. Accept God’s justification.

Romans 3:25-26 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Eagerly Serving

How willing are you to help someone in need? Are you willing to step in and lend a helping hand when there is a task to be done? Will you help those suffering from a disaster? Are you willing to mentor someone facing challenges?

Most of us are willing to help family and friends. We help them move their household from one location to another. We will provide financial assistance when they are in need. We encourage them when they struggle. We lend a helping hand when there is a need.

But what are we willing to do for people we don’t know? Our typical response is to donate money or items to disaster relief organizations. We contribute money to various assistance organizations. We rely on government assistance offices. We may even give blood. But read today’s passage. What service are we performing?

There is nothing wrong with contributing financially. For some of us, that may be all we are capable of doing. But for many of us, we contribute financially because we don’t want to mingle with people we don’t know and may even look down upon. We don’t want to get our hands dirty. We say we don’t have time. And…we lie to ourselves.

We make time for our priorities. Our priorities should be the same as the Lord’s. His priority is that we love one another, which includes serving one another. Not just family and friends, but all God’s children. Opportunities to help those in need come in many forms. There is a plethora of needs.

When the love of God invades and inhabits our hearts, we are eager to help others. We are to be especially eager to help those in the family of God but be also eager to help everyone. When we are serving one another, we are following Jesus’ example.

I pray we all are eager to help those in need. I pray we are willing to get our hands dirty. I pray each one of us will make it a priority and make time to be in service to others. Be eager to help. Make helping a priority. Take time to help. Look for opportunities to help. Follow Jesus’ example of serving.

2 Corinthians 9:1-2 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.

Sacred Communion

Have you wondered about the mystery of communion? How is it that Christ joins us at the table? It doesn’t make sense to our human understanding.

We can only understand it as we come to fully know deep within our hearts that Jesus lives today. We may call it faith. But it also comes from experiencing the presence of God in our lives.

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, Communion, the Eucharist when He ate His last supper with His apostles. He tells us the bread is His body and the wine is His blood. Let’s not be confused. Jesus did not mean the bread nor wine were transformed into His literal body or blood. After all, He had not yet been crucified.

However, the bread and wine He used were part of the daily sustenance of the Jews. They understood the meaning of what Jesus was saying. Our bodies require solid food and drink to be sustained in this life. Jesus is our sustenance for eternal life.

Through His willing sacrifice, He has provided us with the hope of eternal life with Him. Not just any hope, but a hope that is confident in it being fulfilled. A hope in His promises.

When we participate in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is our host. He is present with us though unseen. His Spirit fills us during this time of divine interaction. The reasons He can be with us as our host is He is alive today!

I pray we all view communing with Jesus around the table as an exercise of our hope in Him. I pray we view the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to participate in a divine meal with our Lord. I pray each one of us desires to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as we can. Desire communing with the Lord. Obey Jesus’ command. Jesus is alive. He is our host. Accept His divine gift.

Matthew 26:26-28 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Dealing With Betrayal

Have you ever been betrayed? Have you had to be in the same room with your betrayer? Have you had to be kind to your betrayer? Do you continue to hold a grudge against your betrayer? Can you see their face?

We experience someone betraying us as we live out our lives. It may be as small as someone tattling on us when we were a child. It may be as serious as someone putting the blame for a business catastrophe on us. But make no mistake about it, we have been betrayed.

However, none of us have been betrayed like Jesus was betrayed. He was sold out, not to be fired, not to receive a small bit of punishment, but to die a horrible death on a cross. His betrayer committed the ultimate betrayal. Yet, Jesus allowed it to happen.

Jesus could have turned His betrayer into a pile of ash with a simply thought. Yet, He did not do that. He allowed him to sit at the table and eat the Passover meal with Him. He allowed him to walk away. He allowed him to bring the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers to arrest Him. Jesus allowed Judas to come to his own realization of what he had done. And here is the kicker, Jesus did not allow any of it to worry Him.

We can take a lesson from Jesus. Rather than allowing our betrayer to rule our lives with worry and distraction, we can continue to focus on our purpose. If we are distracted, ask God to remove the distraction from our thoughts. Ask God to remove our hatred and forgive our betrayer. We have the key to release ourselves from the prison we have put ourselves in with our focus on our betrayer.

I pray we all overcome our feelings of betrayal. I pray we ask God to remove us from our prison. I pray each one of us will choose to follow Jesus’ example. Forgive those who betray you. Be released from your prison. Focus on your purpose. Ask Jesus to walk with you. Follow His example.

Matthew 26:20-21 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

Jesus Messiah

Have you ever experienced a loved one being told they had a short time to live? Have you experienced grief the moment you heard it? Has the grief been so overwhelming that you didn’t hear anything else said for a few moments?

If we live long enough, we will experience the sorrowful news that a loved one doesn’t have much longer to live. I’ve been through that a few times in my life. Grief, worry, and maybe even despair set it. It can cause us to miss what is said shortly thereafter. I can cause us to walk around in a fog for a few minutes, hours, or even days.

The disciples missed what Jesus said after He said He would be betrayed and killed. They missed Him say He would be raised to life on the third day. When they heard He was going to be killed, their brains went into shock, grief, sorrow, and despair.

Why would we think the disciples would react any differently than we do? Jesus was a close companion of theirs. He had become both mentor and friend. They acknowledged Him as the Son of God, the Messiah, but I’m not sure they fully recognized what that meant yet. Don’t we do the same thing?

Don’t we fail to recognize what it fully means for Jesus to be the Son of God? We look at Him as though He were another person. We look at Him as a friend, a co-worker, a loved one, but fail to see Him as the Son of God. We fail to see that He overcame death. Oh, we acknowledge it intellectually. We just don’t comprehend it fully.

We live our lives in a fog, not fully seeing Jesus for who He is. Otherwise, our lives would be much different. And, unfortunately, every other person we meet is living in the same fog. We’ve never seen anyone who has been resurrected. It’s tough to wrap our brains around it. But if we can get just a glimpse, it will alter our lives dramatically.

I pray we all make the attempt to see Jesus for who He really is. I pray we see Him as the risen Savior. I pray each one of us will gain a deeper understanding of what it means to conquer death. Seek to see beyond the fog. Seek to understand Jesus. Know that He overcame death. Allow Him to alter your life.

Matthew 17:22-23 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

Creative Obedience

Are you a person who needs checklists to maintain order? Do you need to be told exactly, step-by-step, what to do? Or are you a person who works best with general guidance? Do you work better when you can be creative to accomplish a task?

In general, there are two types of people when it comes to needing direction. One type needs explicit instructions. The other needs a goal and nothing more. However, it is rare that any of us are only one way or the other. We typically fall somewhere in between, leaning more to one side or the other.

I remember being a Marine and having to learn to think and learn to follow Commander’s Intent. A unit commander would give a subordinate commander a task, but not the specifics to accomplish it. For instance, he may say to defend a hill. The subordinate commander had to determine how to deploy his small unit, whether fighting holes needed to be dug or not, and where to post listening or lookout sentries.

In many ways, this is just what God has done through Jesus Christ. He has given us the command to love our neighbor, but He didn’t give us specific instructions as to how. This is what Paul is talking about in today’s passage when He compares the letter versus the Spirit.

Think about it. If we were given explicit instructions and failed to follow them exactly, we die. That’s what the old Law did for the Jews. However, by giving us the freedom to tackle the general commands Jesus gave, we are provided the opportunity to be creative to accomplish them. We can allow the Spirit to direct us according to our situation. This gives us life and reduces the possibility of failure.

I pray we all choose to follow the Spirit. I pray we learn to obey the commands of Jesus creatively. I pray each one of us ask God to lead us by His Spirit and open our minds. Be creative. Learn to think. Ask God to open your mind. Follow the Spirit. Seek freedom. Seek life.

2 Corinthians 3:4-6 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Eternal Covenant

What do you know about covenants? Have you been told they are like contracts? Have you heard a covenant is similar to a promise? Do you think of a covenant as a legal document? Have heard of a covenant being an agreement between two parties?

We often hear someone explaining a covenant with God being similar to a contract. We hear of it being like a legal agreement. Perhaps that is due to our lack of understanding of God’s promises. Perhaps we need a better understanding.

In one respect, it is true God’s covenant is between Himself and us. Yet, in another respect, it is God making a promise we can accept or reject. In every case of a covenant in the Bible, blood was required. In the Old Testament, it was the blood of an animal, usually a lamb. In the New Testament, it was Christ’s blood that sealed the New Covenant.

However, equating a covenant to a legal contract does not do it justice. Though similar, the difference is God will never break His covenant with us. We hear of and may even break a contract ourselves. God never will. In our culture, we know people go to court over the legalese within a contract. Not with God’s covenant.

I sometimes like to think of God’s covenant with us like a blood brother’s oath. If you are old enough, you have heard of this or may have done it. Two people cut a thumb or finger so that it bleeds, and they rub their blood together, making an oath to be true to one another forever. Typically, both parties take it very seriously and do not break their oath.

God’s covenant with us is even more serious than a blood brother’s oath. It is more serious than marriage vows. It is more serious than an oath of office. It is more serious than any contract. It is a promise of God that He will never break, even if we reject His covenant.

I pray we all take God’s covenant with us very seriously. I pray we accept His covenant. I pray each one of us will live within the covenant God has made with us, accepting eternal life. Know that God does not neglect His promises. Know that God’s covenant is forever. Trust God’s promises. Accept God’s covenant. Accept an eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Be United

Have you noticed the division across our country? Have you noticed division in your local community? Is there division within your workplace? Is there division within your local church? What will come from all the division?

We cannot miss the division we are continually bombarded with in the news. It seems every news story is about and exacerbates division on whatever topic it covers. Division results in the organization that is divided to fall.

I know. The arguments on both sides have valid points. Both sides dig in their heels and refuse to budge. The result is ruin. We can continue to dig in our heels, or we can choose to give in so we continue to stand. That is not to say we cannot have healthy debate. But healthy debate does not include slander, hatred, stubbornness, nor mudslinging. Healthy debate results in an agreed upon way forward. It results in remaining united.

Jesus knew this hard truth and stated the obvious to those who were accusing Him of casting out demons in Satan’s name. Yes, it is obvious that a person or group who works against itself will be torn apart and fall. It doesn’t take much thought to see the truth in Jesus’ statement. If a husband and wife are continually pulling in different directions, they will eventually separate. If one part of an organization is going in one direction and another part is going in another, the organization will experience failure and eventually go out of business.

Jesus prayed that we, the church, would be united (John 20:20-23). He did so on purpose. He knew the truth He speaks in today’s passage. If we are divided, why would we believe we will succeed in reaching a broken world? Why would we think we can grow God’s kingdom (and our churches) here on earth? We must be united as the body of Christ if we are to do His will.

I pray we all seek to be united in Jesus Christ. I pray we set aside our differences to do the will of God. I pray each one of us spend time praying for unity in the body of Christ, the church. Eliminate division. Seek unity. Pray for unity. Trust in the truth of Christ. Know that He has prayed for us.

Matthew 12:25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

Strength in the Father

Have you ever felt betrayed? Was it a family member who betrayed you? Was it a friend you considered to be close? Was it a co-worker you thought you could trust? Was it a spouse? Were you devasted when it happened?

The likelihood of us being betrayed at some point in our lives is high. The betrayal may be relatively simple and easily overcome or it may be very significant and hurt deeply. But make no mistake about it, it will come sooner or later.

What can we do to prepare ourselves for the betrayal? The same thing Jesus did. Have a great relationship with the Father. Our strength to get through that extremely trying time comes from Him. Jesus forewarned His Apostles they would be betrayed. His warning is for us as well. He set an example for us. He knew He would be betrayed. He knew He would need the Father’s strength. We will, too.

I know this personally. I was unceremoniously relieved of duties a few years ago, meaning I was fired. I was the fall guy for a failure by a junior person who was halfway across the country. I’m not even sure who the real betrayer was. It may have been my boss, his boss, or our client. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is I had a good relationship with my Father and trusted in Him to get me through the difficult time. My relationship was built on years of not merely going to church, but actively participating and studying God’s Word and spending time in prayer.

Each of us can be prepared for the betrayal to come by building our relationship with God. He is patiently waiting for us to come to Him. He desires a close relationship with each of us. But He won’t force us to come to Him. It is our choice.

I pray we all choose to participate in church activities. I pray we choose to study God’s Word. I pray each of us choose to build a close relationship with God before the betrayal comes. Be prepared for betrayal. Rely on God’s strength. Build a close relationship with Him. Be an active member in your church. Spend time studying God’s Word. Spend time in prayer.

Matthew 10:21-22 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”