Love God. Love Others…blemishes and all.

About a month ago, we started a new sermon series at church. It reveals our new mission statement: Love God. Love others. In the weeks that follow, we’re going through what that means…the why and how of loving God and loving others. (If you want to jump in and follow along, sermons are available online.)

I actually missed the first week, but I asked my husband to pick up a wristband for you, so I could start wearing it right away as a reminder. When I got home, I put it on. As people in our church started using #tcclovegodloveothers to express encouragement, moments, and stories, I faced one reminder after another. But my wristband continued to be my favorite. Why? See if you can figure it out:

lovegodloveothers

I noticed the blemish one of the first days I wore it. A bit of beige ink had dropped onto the green. I tried to get it off. It’s permanent. Of the hundreds of wristbands, I had to get the imperfect one? I guess that’s what I get for not showing up at church.

Then I realized it’s the best wristband for me, because it’s a great reminder. I need to love God despite my blemishes, and I need to love others despite their blemishes and mine.

The day I noticed the blemish, I received a passive-aggressive text, someone huffed away when I told them I wouldn’t do something (without giving me a chance to explain why), someone blamed me for something I had no influence upon, I got an encouraging message from a friend in ministry I hadn’t heard from in long time, and a stranger and I had a wonderful conversation at Walmart. I looked at my wristband and was reminded: Love God. Give it all to Him. Thank Him. Ask Him. Receive from Him. Honor Him. I looked again and was reminded: Love others. Not in spite of their messiness but because of it. What I think is their messiness might be mine anyway. Either way, God wants to work in and through me. He wants me to honor Him through every relationship I have, whether it’s long term, short term, or momentary. I can’t figure it out on my own. It’s only when I do it His way that I live and love well. Jesus made it pretty clear: Love God. Love others. He gave me the perfect reminder in Himself. And now I have an imperfect reminder to encourage me every imperfect step along the way.

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)

A Challenge for Today

Listen well.

Respond well. dandelion

My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:19-27)

What do you need to stop today?

What do you need to start or continue today?

No Mistakes

timingThere are no mistakes in God’s timing. You might try to refute God, but His very character is irrefutable. What God does and when He does it is purposeful. There’s nothing unintentional about His Word. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39)

John records Jesus speaking on the last and most important day of the feast. The timing is significant. Jesus stood and spoke in a loud voice. The delivery was significant. What He was about to say was important, and Jesus wanted everyone to hear. The subject of His promise was “anyone.” His inclusion is significant. He spoke about something familiar to everyone: thirst. Everyone has experienced and seeks to quench thirst. Jesus spoke in declarative sentences. He often used questions to teach. Jesus wanted people to process the content of what He was teaching. He wanted people to draw parallels of common, everyday life into spiritual lessons of faith in order to challenge growth. In this case, He spoke with authority as He delivered a promise. He wanted everyone to understand the important truth of what He was promising.

Jesus spoke where, when, and to whom He spoke in order to deliver a promise about the Holy Spirit. It was significant—not only to those listening that day but to us today. God gives us Himself in the Holy Spirit to reside within us to guide, encourage, and convict us. The Holy Spirit equips us to live out our faith every moment. The Holy Spirit nourishes, but you must listen, yield, and obey. You can refute your response, but you will not successfully refute the truth of God.

Challenge:

List the questions you often hear from people (or yourself) about the Christian faith. Consider the hypocrisy people might see in Christians that lead them to have the doubts or questions they have. In what situations do Christians teach one thing but do another? What’s one piece of advice you’ve given someone else, firmly believing it was the right thing to say, but you’re unwilling to apply it into your own life? Ask God to reveal hypocrisy in your own life and trust him to grow you into a mature faith in the most prominently hypocritical area.

Just Enough

Today’s guest post is from Cindy Cannon. Enjoy!

moonThe heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands – Psalm 19:1

Recently while traveling to the hospital, one very early morning, for my dad’s surgery, I noticed something interesting in the sky. The moon was just a quarter moon, but I could plainly see the entire moon. Only a sliver of it was displaying light. It was something that I had never noticed before. It simply appeared as if the Lord had put a piece of cloth or a piece of paper over most of the moon, covering the light. The more I gazed upon the moon, the more I realized that we, too, can be like the moon; sometimes we only display a sliver of light. God has so much to offer us, yet we only want a sliver. If we seek him or ask for the whole thing, we might be asked to sacrifice or be uncomfortable. Sometimes I think we want to seek God and get just enough of him; just enough of God to take away the pain in our lives, just enough to bless us, just enough to see him, but not too much. If we get too much of God, we might do something crazy, like giving something up to help someone else.

God so desires that we seek him! Matt 6:33, tell us to seek him and all these things shall be added unto us. Luke 12:31 tells us to seek the kingdom of God above all else, and he will give us everything we need. What joy and peace we have in this promise. If we seek him first; he will give us everything we NEED. Maybe not everything we WANT, but he will provide for our NEEDS. Often we seek ourselves first, and give God what is left at the end of each day or each week. If we could only see that he wants us to seek Him first. Oh, how he wants to pour out his spirit upon us.

My heart rejoiced as I looked up in the sky and noticed the work on the Master’s hand, how the sky was proclaiming and declaring he is God. No other can hang the moon in perfection. The next time you are out late at night or early in the morning, take a few minutes to just look up and behold the work of his hands, he wants to do work in your life. He wants our lives to be a “full moon” displaying the light of him in us. Search your heart this morning, do you seek him first? Is your life a full moon or a quarter moon? Seek him first and see what beauty can come from it!

CindyConnect with Cindy on Facebook and Twitter.

Let Us Trust

Index-Card-StackLet us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold firmly to the hope that we have confessed, because we can trust God to do what he promised. Hebrews 10:22-23

We can be resolute in our faith. We can determine to live it out daily, allowing God to make a difference in every aspect of our lives: actions, thoughts, attitudes, words. It’s all God’s when we yield to him.

Closely consider how God is challenging you as he pours his Word into you.

Come near to God. Come indicates God as the reference point. You don’t need to go; you need to come. Let God be the center. He’s the reference point of your life, but you need to intentionally move toward him.

Sincere heart. Faith isn’t about going through the motions. Your faith will deepen as you give every corner of your heart and life to God.

Sure faith. There are a lot of uncertainties in life, and we can become overwhelmed by them. We don’t have to be unsure of our faith. God is reliable, and we can stand firm on his promises no matter what is going on around us.

Made free…with pure water. We’re not going to feel completely free while on this earth. We’re limited by our bodies as well as the tension of living godly lives while in the world. Just because we don’t feel free doesn’t make us not free. Our freedom is eternal. We need to extend our vision to the horizon to get the true perspective of where we are and where we’re headed.

Hold firmly to the hope. God wants you to loosen your grip on many things in life, but hope in him is certainly not one of them. Godly hope is not the wishy-washy stuff of childhood dreams. Hope in God is based in the truth of who he is.

We can trust God to do what he promised. There’s no question or debate. This statement is as clear as it can be. Are you claiming it?

Live It. Sometimes it helps to divide verses into pieces in order to claim the power of each phrase. Write each of the phrases on individual index cards, and read them each time you are paused: at the bus stop, in the elevator, at the laundry mat or grocery line. Let each phrase soak into you.

The Water Was Split

imagesThen Moses held his hand over the sea. All that night the Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind, making the sea become dry ground. The water was split, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry land, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Then all the king’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers followed them into the sea. When morning came, the Lord looked down from the pillar of cloud and fire at the Egyptian army and made them panic. He kept the wheels of the chariots from turning, making it hard to drive the chariots. The Egyptians shouted, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them and against Egypt.”

Then the Lord told Moses, “Hold your hand over the sea so that the water will come back over the Egyptians, their chariots, and chariot drivers.” So Moses raised his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its place. The Egyptians tried to run from it, but the Lord swept them away into the sea. The water returned, covering the chariots, chariot drivers, and all the king’s army that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

But the Israelites crossed the sea on dry land, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. So that day the Lord saved the Israelites from the Egyptians, and the Israelites saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. When the Israelites saw the great power the Lord had used against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord, and they trusted him and his servant Moses. Exodus 14:21-31

God provides in unexpected ways. We don’t typically walk up to a river and expect it to split so we can walk across a dry river bed. We look for a bridge, a ferry, or at the very least, large sturdy stepping stones. When pursued by enemies, we stand on the shoreline and feel trapped. We consider only two choices: death by drowning or death by attack. Neither sounds appealing.

God is always present, and he has options beyond what we can see. What we think is our best option might be among the worst. And what we think is the worst option might be God’s choice, which is equal to “the best.” God can be glorified through sacrifice, suffering, and turmoil, because he is glorified anytime we rely on him through such issues. He is glorified in our obedience. He is glorified in our trust. He is glorified in our dependency on him.

How are you depending on God in your current life position?

Live It. Watch for choices today. Avoid taking even the smallest choices for granted. Many choices are automatic because of the habits we’ve created – both good and bad. Be intentional and allow God to reveal additional choices you may have. Choose God.

God Heard

running-awayEarly the next morning Abraham took some food and a leather bag full of water. He gave them to Hagar and sent her away. Carrying these things and her son, Hagar went and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. Later, when all the water was gone from the bag, Hagar put her son under a bush. Then she went away a short distance and sat down. She thought, “My son will die, and I cannot watch this happen.” She sat there and began to cry. God heard the boy crying, and God’s angel called to Hagar from heaven. He said, “What is wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid! God has heard the boy crying there. Help him up and take him by the hand. I will make his descendants into a great nation.” Then God showed Hagar a well of water. So she went to the well and filled her bag with water and gave the boy a drink. Genesis 21:14-19

Hagar wasn’t happy. She loved her son but was in an unfavorable living condition with Sarah and Abraham. She felt the need to get away.

When have you wanted to escape?

When has that escape route proven to be no better than where you were – just a place with another set of problems?

At least where Hagar had been, her son was safe. Now she was sure he would die. How would she provide everything he needed?

She wouldn’t. God would. Of course, God already knew where she’d be. He knew when she’d leave Abraham and Sarah. He knew the details of what she was feeling. He knew when to step in and what to do. He encouraged her. He assured her. He nourished her.

When has God nourished you with encouragement and assurance?

How dry Hagar must have felt. Spiritually, God poured into her, but he also knew she needed physical refreshment. He showed her a well where she and her son could drink. Of course, her first concern was her son, and she shared the drink with him first. Right when she thought she had doomed her son, God provided a way for her to nourish him.

Live It. God will provide for you today. Just as God showed Hagar where to find the water, and she first gave it to her son, God often provides for you so that you can share with someone else. You don’t need to give the leftovers. You can share the first sip.