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Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
This section of scripture is called “Love in Action,” revealing that sincere love is not reflected merely in our words but in our interactions with one another. From this one verse, it seems like real love acts a lot like Jesus, thinking of others first and clinging to what is good. Looking at love through this lens, I see the conditional, pretend love that can far too easily manifest in my relationships – love that depends on how the other person treats me or my mood.
Real love, loving others like Jesus, isn’t always easy. It takes working through our natural response and choosing to respond with the other person in mind. Real love speaks the truth when it could be easier to say what the other person wants to hear. It can mean asking questions to get to the root of the other person’s perspective and motivations. The good news is that we do not manifest this love ourselves. We love, because God who is love, loved us first. Our capacity to love is much more than a natural response to a feeling. Our capacity is supernatural because we are children of God, and through the Spirit, God lives in us.
Father, Son, and Spirit, thank you for including me in your life and love. May your love overflow into all of my relationships, and help me to choose actions that reveal your love.
By Michelle Fleming
GCI Media Director
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The story of the lost sheep is one of the most beloved of Jesus’ parables. How encouraging to hear, as a sinner in need of continual repentance, that God pursued you while you were still lost. Surely, you delight in the thought that God chases after you.
God’s movement toward you is profoundly personal. God was delighted to choose you before the creation of the world and embrace you into the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. And based on this parable, it is correct for you to perceive yourselves as being sought after individually by God. Yet what if your only gaze for this parable is on God’s pursuit of you? Could you be missing part of the beautiful imagery and meaning? What gets lost when you are focused solely on your own salvation?
In the metaphorical language of Luke 15, to be rescued from wandering, to be saved from individual lostness is only the Shepherd’s first salvific action. The story is incomplete without the Shepherd restoring the lamb to the other ninety-nine. This is so important! We have all been gathered back, not just back into union with God but back into fellowship with one another. It is within this context of a community, a holy people, that we participate in the mystery of God’s renewal and we experience being conformed to Jesus’ image.
Dear one, be encouraged that your story does not end at Jesus saving you from your personal sin and private darkness. That was just the beginning! You were made for so much more than to merely be saved from something. You were saved for true life and flourishing in communion with the Triune God and with your sisters and brothers.
Prayer: Father, Son, and Spirit, open our eyes to the wonder and hope that we belong to one another. Plant it in our imaginations, to be expressed in our creativity, and to be lived in our bodies. Thank you for the privilege of participating with your eternal, loving purposes through your Body.
By Elizabeth Mullins
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30
A.D. 2020. Any description would have to include the words pandemic, unrest, social distancing, recession, upheaval, and disconnection. The first half of this year has left many physically weary, financially burdened, and carrying the heavy emotional and spiritual weights of grief and loss.
But Anno Domini (A.D.) 2020 means, “in the year of our Lord” 2020. So, let’s look at the year through his eyes. When we do, we notice brothers and sisters in Christ learning to share the gospel in new ways. We see people “loving your neighbor” daily and personally rather than generically. We see brothers and sisters crossing human lines of separation and seeking unity over division. A much better view, huh?
When we struggle, Jesus calls us to himself and promises to yoke with us, making our burdens easier and lighter. He promises rest for our soul. He only asks that we come to him and join in what he is doing.
This day, this week, this month, and this year belong to Jesus. Will you join him?
Prayer: Lord, we lay our everyday burdens at your feet and thank you for inviting us to learn of you and be embraced by you. Please grant us rest for our souls and empower us to offer that same rest to those who need it today.
By Jeff Broadnax
Regional Director, Northeastern USA
The Word of Christ dwells in abundance in you.
Colossians 3:17 states, “And whatever you do, be it in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This is an invitation for us to have works of love in the name of Jesus.
I am impressed by the people of my city, Bogotá. In the midst of this poverty, one of the poorest families in our congregation gave us a moving example of service. Alirio and Cecilia have too long a story to tell here. They are displaced from rural areas. They had to come to town. They have three children, and they live in one of the poorest areas of the city. They are unemployed. But in the midst of their need, they were serving a sick elderly neighbor in a wheelchair, whom no one wanted to approach. Alirio and Cecilia fed him for several days until the local authorities learned of his case and came to take the old man to a hospital. What a great example! In the midst of this tension, of the crisis, of unemployment, of concern, the Christian rises to speak well, to bless, to inspire, motivate, to give words of encouragement and to act in the name of Jesus by doing what is good.
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Let us not run from the evils of the world, but be helpers to others at this time. It is time to serve, to preach, it is the time of the church, of the gospel, of the witness of the saints, that Christians show our light to the world, in the name of Jesus.
Prayer: Well-founded on your rock and established in you, Lord, let us be columns of support to those who are going through tests in this pandemic. We are your reference points. Keep us strong. Let us encourage those around us, starting with our families. Let us continue “giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Amen.
By Hector Barrero
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
This scripture is easy to remember, but much harder to live.
We often go through our lives trying to control every aspect. Then the time comes when there is a job loss, a death of a loved one or a pandemic that shuts down the world. In these circumstances it becomes crystal clear who is really in control. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has every detail in his hands.
In the Bible, we see time and again where God says, “be still, stand and do not be afraid.” Why? He knows that we will be fearful, want to move or want to help the situation along when the strongest stance we can take is to wait and trust his plan. This does not mean we are to be inactive; applications may need to be filled out and some decisions will need to be made. It does mean we follow his lead and his direction.
We need not worry or strive when we face challenges and difficulties. The Lord is with us and he is our stronghold, security and strength. So, let’s “be still and know.”
Prayer: “Lord, we give you praise, for there is no one who deserves it more. We are grateful for your grace, mercy and provision yesterday, today and tomorrow. We stand in amazement as nothing catches you by surprise. Lord, we place our problems, our plans and our lives in your hands. Our faith and trust are in you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
By Tamar Gray
Pastor, Grace Communion Cleveland
“I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.” Psalm 85:8, NLT
Many times I partner with people to create music, or complete projects in which we mutually have an interest. We connect, exchange ideas, make plans and naturally speak words of encouragement to keep the embers lit for the project. I confess I am so excited for it that I can hardly sleep or concentrate on other things. My focus appears as if I have blinders on. It’s a battle of balance for me. Whatever I’m working on at that time, there’s a process I take myself through.
Every day, I speak life into what I’m doing by writing the words on little pieces of paper and stick them on my wall right beside my bed. This practice has proven to keep my focus in line with wherever the Lord is leading, teaching or trying to help me to grasp. So, at those times when I’m working on a project, I have the correct words that fuel my passion and fire.
During one of these times, I recall wanting to push forward with an idea to help hurting women who had suffered traumatic pasts. Within three months of connecting with a friend on the idea, we had erected a vision, mission statement and a few guidelines. It was a session of dreaming and planning. We set a date for the next meeting and then…life happened. We both got very busy with family, children, school, health issues and travelling. The embers were just lit but not blazing. Wanting to move forward with the project, I looked on my wall and I began to go through the words that the Lord had given me regarding this project. I sensed that he wanted to teach me something. I did not know what that was, but at this moment, it was about to unfold.
That same day another friend called and asked me about the projects I was working on. Without thinking, I flowed out all my ideas and workings with the women in trauma project. Immediately, my friend became annoyed that I did not consult them about it and that I had somehow left them out of the planning on purpose and without consideration for their interests and feelings. They had expressed an interest in doing something like this project, and we had spoken about it months before my initial brainstorm meeting with my other friend. I had forgotten that conversation, sadly. This friend was hurt and responded in silence to my attempts at an apology. After our conversation, I was left confused and hurt, and the words of condemnation began to fuel my heart with disappointment. I forgot the words on my wall. Fueled by shame, I forgot them so quickly. The blaze I had, soon blew out because I had hurt my friend and I didn’t know where to turn or what more to say.
However, in time, the Lord in his mercy revealed to me that I needed to listen carefully to my friend. She needed my empathy, for she had suffered trauma and wanted to be a part of this helping project to heal. I totally missed that reality in our conversation. But, instead of condemning myself for the oversight, I needed to fuel my heart with peace, therefore being at peace with my wounded friend.
The word of the Lord came to me as I prayed earnestly for my friend and my guilty heart. He led me to Psalm 85:8: “I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.” I was both comforted, strengthened and disciplined in love. My friend and I were reconciled and the project is on hold until we can set aside the proper time to bring it to fruition. To continue to blaze for things that our hearts want to do is beautiful. However, consulting the Lord, and watching with wisdom as we move forward, is my lesson in living, loving and manifesting the love of the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for fueling our hearts with a passion for loving and helping your people. Let us listen fondly to your whispers of love leading us on your peaceful path, and showing us how to best respond to people in our lives with patience and understanding.
By Keysha Edwards Taylor
Worship Director, GCI Miramar, FL