Love Thy Neighbor

Something to think about.

Love thy neighbor

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40  (NIV)

The first commandment is about our relationship with God the second is an expression of our relationship with God. We can only fulfill the first command by engaging in the other. If we love God as we are commanded we will be compelled to share him with others.

Loving our neighbor is at the core of what God does and is. God is love and if we understand who God is then we can understand that the heart of God is love. By loving our neighbor we are an extension of who God is. It brings us to our primary purpose. It really brings us to our only purpose.

But how do we show love? In the story of the good Samaritan, we are instructed to care for our neighbor in physical ways. But is that the only way we are to express love for our neighbor. We express love to our neighbor in everything we do. In our business in our actions in our conversations. Loving our neighbor is manifested in our daily living.

Are we living every day doing the best we can in everything we do? Thereby glorifying God by our actions. Are our actions showing our neighbor Christ? Loving our neighbor is not about how we treat them, it is about how God treats them. He sent his son to die for them. Remember John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The motivation for the sacrifice was not punishment for redemption it was love for salvation. 

God gave his best for man. We are expected to give our best to our neighbor. We are to care for our neighbor whenever we can. But more than anything else we are to exemplify Christ in our daily living. This is loving or neighbor. When by our actions people can see us and recognize Christ we are loving our neighbor. Jesus came to do the will of his father. We are to do the same. We are to do the will of our father and his will is that we love because he first loved us.  

God’s primary characteristic is love. Not judgment or commendation. We need to invest all of us in love. In loving God then loving our neighbor. Love has a lot of faces but in the end, it is about caring about one another.  To fulfill the greatest commandment we must engage in the second. It is impossible to fulfill the first commandment without fully engaging in the second.

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Love Thy Neighbor

Something to think about.

Love thy neighbor

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40  (NIV)

The first commandment is about our relationship with God the second is an expression of our relationship with God. We can only fulfill the first command by engaging in the other. If we love God as we are commanded we will be compelled to share him with others.

Loving our neighbor is at the core of what God does and is. God is love and if we understand who God is then we can understand that the heart of God is love. By loving our neighbor we are an extension of who God is. It brings us to our primary purpose. It really brings us to our only purpose.

But how do we show love? In the story of the good Samaritan, we are instructed to care for our neighbor in physical ways. But is that the only way we are to express love for our neighbor. We express love to our neighbor in everything we do. In our business in our actions in our conversations. Loving our neighbor is manifested in our daily living.

Are we living every day doing the best we can in everything we do? Thereby glorifying God by our actions. Are our actions showing our neighbor Christ? Loving our neighbor is not about how we treat them, it is about how God treats them. He sent his son to die for them. Remember John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The motivation for the sacrifice was not punishment for redemption it was love for salvation. 

God gave his best for man. We are expected to give our best to our neighbor. We are to care for our neighbor whenever we can. But more than anything else we are to exemplify Christ in our daily living. This is loving or neighbor. When by our actions people can see us and recognize Christ we are loving our neighbor. Jesus came to do the will of his father. We are to do the same. We are to do the will of our father and his will is that we love because he first loved us.  

God’s primary characteristic is love. Not judgment or commendation. We need to invest all of us in love. In loving God then loving our neighbor. Love has a lot of faces but in the end, it is about caring about one another.  To fulfill the greatest commandment we must engage in the second. It is impossible to fulfill the first commandment without fully engaging in the second.

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The Greatest

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The Greatest

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:36-37 ESV

Why is this the greatest commandment? Is it because God needs our love?

If you believe God is perfect, then you have to include in His complete lack of need. He is totally complete, without need. He does not need or want our love.  He is perfect without it. So again I ask why is this the greatest commandment? It does nothing for God.

Commandment,  is a rule. In this case, it is the single most important rule. It is a guiding principle as crucial to our existence as breathing. It is something we must do. If we must comply? If the recipient of the action does not need it why it’s it so important? Since it is commanded, we can not assume it is not optional. We must love God completely. I’ve written all of this to ask one question. Who does loving God benefit? If God is complete and perfect our loving Him, it does not benefit Him. My love for my wife benefits her because it fulfills her need to be loved. Her love for me fulfills my need to be loved, but that is not the case with God. God will be perfect with or without our love.

We have to look at Jesus’s answer in a different light.  The only way to understand the answer is by answering the question who does it benefit? Jesus’s response is intended for our benefit, not God’s. Jesus was not setting up a priority of laws. He is not putting the compliance of commandments in order of importance.  Even though that was the question and at first glance, it appears as a direct answer. . He answers the question with the commandment most beneficial to humanity.

All of Gods commandments were given for the benefit of man. None of them benefit God. This is no different. He answered the question in the single most important way in which man would benefit. So what is it about loving God that is so important?

Loving God provides us with the most beneficial existence available to man. By loving God, we receive acceptance, love, security, freedom. Our eyes are opened to realities and blessing that do not exist for blind humanity. We are set free from hopelessness and emptiness, we are adopted into the family of God we are recipients of all that God has made available to us. Our future in this life and the one that is to come is blessed for all eternity. Loving God sets us apart and allows us to enter into places only the family of God is invited to. We receive forgiveness. We are restored to our original intended existence. The benefits of loving God of obeying his commandments are that we are bestowed with all the beautiful blessings that are available to His children. It adds everything to us and nothing to God, but it is the greatest commandment because it allows God to bless us going out and coming in. Loving God is not about what we give Him.  It opens the door to us receiving the fullness of his blessing.

Just like every other commandment, it is for our benefit, not His. The only difference is that by loving God, we open the windows of heaven upon our own lives. It is the most important commandment because it is the one commandment that encompasses all the desires of God for our good.

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The Rock

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The Rock

“For who is God, besides the LORD? And who is a rock, besides our God? 2 Samuel, 22:32

He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
Psalms 89:26

A rock, God is described as a rock. This is an interesting metaphor for what God is. In my mind, the rock which is God is an immense structure of unchangeable quality. Something you cannot move. You can’t change you can’t go through you can’t destroy. For me, my rock is indestructible, unmovable with a permanence that is everlasting.

My vision of the permanence of the rock which is Christ is like this.  After the battle of Armageddon after the smoke clears, after the noise abates after all the actions of war are ended. On the top of a hill in full view of all, there will be one and only one figured standing and it will be Christ. Everyone else, the dead and alive will be on their knees submitted before him. And he will stand as the salvation of all humanity. He will be the unmovable rock of our salvation.

He will be as he has always been the God who saves. He will be recognized as the rock which is referred to throughout the bible. The world will understand that he has been the secure, unmovable, permanent foundation of salvation. We will see with opened eyes that throughout all generations he is the one who had always been “the way the truth and the light.” This rock which is Christ is not only the rock that was and is, He is the same rock that always will be. He is the rock of indestructible permanence that has always been and always will be.

The rock is used as a metaphor in the bible to symbolize the continuity of God. But it does so much more than symbolize it helps us to understand the immutable existence of God himself. When everything we know see and don’t see ceases to exist there standing alone as in the beginning will be God. As he was in the beginning so shall he be at the end. The rock of our salvation.

This rock is not a new rock it is not a transformed rock. It is not a rock that came to be after the creation of the world. It is not a rock that is subject to the erosion of time or the forces of nature. This is the rock that existed before time began and will exist after time ends. This rock is our God. The God of all, for all, forever.

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Repayment

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 Repayment

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Deuteronomy 7:9‭-‬10 NKJV

In these contrasting verses, we find two opposite sides of God. On one side we see a loving patient, long-suffering God. On the other, we see a terrifying short-tempered judgemental God. In our Christianity, we have embraced the first and ignored our disavowed the second.

We want so much to show our loving, compassionate God we ignore or at the very least downplay the permanent judgment of God. We want to say listen God loves you more than anything. Which is true, however, need to also preach about the beginning of this chapter.  God utterly destroys seven nations. He destroys them because they will introduce sin to the nation of Israel. The judgment is permanent. It is harsh and merciless.

If we believe God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever we must acknowledge the God who will judge entirely. I am not saying we need to preach fire and brimstone continually but we need to preach the complete picture of God.

We need to let the world know the judgment of God will be fierce, painful and permanent. We need to let them know if they fall on the side of unrighteousness the judgment will be severe.

No one responds to God because he first loved us, we respond to God because of what he offers us. Whatever that may be. We return to God because he fulfills a need in our lives. That need is always selfish and self-centered.

We all have a need for self-preservation we want to protect our selves and those we love. This is the primary source of motivation for the secular world. Their fear of loss motivates them to do whatever they believe is best to fulfill that need. They fear loss, they fear being on the street, they fear not having food to eat, they fear death.

We as a Christian community have ignored this reality. We behave as if what man fears should not be addressed by Christians. We behave as if God should not be feared. I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years and I cannot reminder the last time I read or heard a sermon on the judgment of God. As if this is not part of the character of God.

I love to be uplifted and edified as much as anyone but we need to tell the complete truth. Why? Because those who live in fear will respond to the full reality of God and yes that means preaching the God who will judge. And whose judgments will be terrible and final. I believe a real fear of God is healthy to our eternal life because His judgment will be eternal for everyone. For those who will spend eternity with Him and those who will spend eternity without Him.

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A Testimony

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A Testimony

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

This verse has been an expression of hope. It is uplifting, promising and edifying to His people. I am grateful that it provides hope for those who love him. I am thankful that He has turned my sinful life into something of value and joy.

But why did I entitle this “A Testimony?” As I look back at my life, I can clearly see where God has open and closed doors for my benefit. I can see where he has turned situations around for my good dispute my bad decisions.

I’ve seen His hand in large and small places of my life and find evidence of his resolution. I can see a young man who use to be me who for no more reason than the Grace of God did not end up a drug addict or a criminal. I can look back at the lives of people I grew up with and see them mired in the same sin for forty-fifty years. I see lives that have ended after decades of fruitless living. Who’s legacy is; why was I here?

I look back and can attest to the hand of God leading us away from poorly made decisions. I can see when I joined the Air Force God’s hand in my decisions. He used a clerical error on my part to bring us, my newlywed wife and I to a place of salvation. I can see how he brought us through one bad decision after another. I now see the footprints in the sand where he walked with me and when he carried me.

I can see how He turned a near catastrophic heart attack to my benefit and for His glory. I can see where he patiently and consistently taught me, healed me and saved me. I can not understand the depth of love he has shown me throughout my life.  I would have quit on me if I had been him. Yet through all of my sin, disobedience and wicked insistence, he has never abandoned me. He’s never reached the end of his rope with me.

That is not to say that he has exempted me from reaping the rewards of my sin, it means despite my self defeating actions he has found a way to redeem my life. He has been my savior throughout my life. I may not see it at the moment but as I look back the evidence of His work is undeniable. He has turned a poor, abandoned, confused, isolated, lost child into a member of his beloved family. I can now say and could have said over thirty years ago I am a child of the most high God. I now know the privileged of having a father who never abandoned me and never will.

I am a testimony of Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  

I am a testimony of my life being worked out for good by God for his purposes. He called me according to his purposes before I loved Him. This is not an isolated testimony it is a common one. It is the testimony of every one who is called a child of God. The sin and rebellion might be different but it is the same God working things out for your good. It is the same God who saves you from yourself daily.

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Tribulations And Victory

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Tribulations And Victory

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We don’t want tribulations. We want our lives to be peaceful, joyful, and blissful. If you only listen to uplifting, edifying, empowering sermons and speakers, you may acquire the misconception that Christianity is a utopia.

You might begin to think you are somehow excluded from the blessings of God. Because you do have problems and tribulations in your life.   Sometimes we may give the impression that Christianity is beyond tribulations. If we stay in the empowering side of the gospel, we may lead people to think that Christians who do Christianity correctly will be without conflict. Christianity is not a utopia.

If you’ve been a Christian for a little while you’ve come to the realization Christianity is not a utopia. We face tribulations and spiritual battles some we will win some we will loose. If you’re going to live the Christian life, your life will be and adventure but it will not be without conflict. Some of the battles will come from growing pains. Some from the struggle to get rid of the sin in our lives. Some will be spiritual battles which are intended to destroy you. What I am saying is the Christian life is not the end of problems.

If you look at the lives of men and women of God in both the old and new testament you will find they faced tribulations. In real life past and present the exclusion of trials and tribulations does not exist. Conflicts exist in life.

What makes Christianity different is we win. It may sound simplistic and irrational but we win. The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of the victory!!!!!! This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.” He is saying my victory is not in the moment it is in eternity. It is not just winning the petty battles of life it is in winning eternally. It means despite the tribulations of this life we win. However, we end up in this life, as a martyr for Christ or as His ambassador we will ultimately win.

We who believe in Christ will spend eternity with him. In a reality much different from this one. In a reality of peace, joy, bliss, purpose and love. In other words we will live the life we want now minus the tribulations.  Our hope is not in incremental improvements but in joyous complete victory. Victory embedded in the resurrection of Christ. Since he it’s the first to be resurrected we also will be resurrected in due time. Resurrected to a life with him. That is what “I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 means. Total and complete victory for all who choose Jesus. An eternal secure victory that can never be overturned.

Listen, we are not going to simply sit on a cloud with a harp for eternity. We are going to accomplish things which have yet to be thought of. We are going to work for God according to His will and propose. Can you imagine what awesome things the creator of the universe has for you to do? Can you imagine the things you will see the things you will do? Can you imagine what a life of love,  propose, joy and work will be like in a world where sin does not exist. What will be accomplished there? This is the victory of Christ and more. More than we can imagine, think or expect. Tribulations come to an end but the victory in Christ is eternal.

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Blessings of The Lord

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Blessings of The Lord

“The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.”
Proverbs 10:22 NKJV

When was the last time you received a blessing from the Lord? Was it costly? Did it require something from you? I receive blessings of God on a continual basis. Every day the Lord does something in my life for which I’m grateful. Never have I had to sacrifice anything to receive the blessing of the Lord. It has always been a gift.

Some of the blessings of God are conditional. Even salvation John 3:16 has the requirement of belief in Jesus.

The blessings of God are conditional and unconditional at the same time . The blessings of God are conditional in practice and unconditional in intent. The blessings of God come from the generosity of His heart. For example, redemption is a gift of God. It is something God does for us without condition. You might say that is not true you have to do XYZ to receive redemption. Which is true, however, God did not have to redeem us. There is nothing that required God to redeem us. Forgiveness is another of those unconditional blessings.  He did not have to forgive us. Salvation, restoration, grace, adoption and many other blessing are unconditional. They are unconditional because God is not required to bless us. God is complete and perfect without us. He choose to bless us He did not do it out of need.  A condition is usually in place to benefit the one who grants the benefit. If someone loans you money and the condition is that you pay interest, the interest benefits the one who made the loan. The conditions we must fulfill to receive the blessings of God do not benefit God. By fulfilling the condition in no way, do we add or benefit God.

All of the blessings of God provide us with riches. They may not be momentary but they are rich never the less. When God decided to restore me from my heart attack, it was a rich blessing. Not just because I lived but also because he allowed to serve him. That blessing has turned my life around in ways I didn’t know existed. That single blessing has eternal benefits for me my family and friends and even you a stranger.

Every blessing of God is rich because it is not singular in nature. It does not just bless you but everyone around you. It even extends to people you don’t know. All the blessings of God are positive in there outcome.

In Deuteronomy 28:1 1“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  

God’s blessings are intended to make your life rich spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. Even though there are actual mechanisms for bringing these blessings to life they are from the heart of God. He offers them too us unconditionally because he wants too. He can’t be required to. He chooses to bless us out of his generosity.

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Clearly Seen

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Clearly Seen

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NIV

The evidence of God exists in everything around us. From the air we breathe to the earth we walk on. The invisible qualities of God are on display. Yet, this evidence is interpreted differently by the created.

It is fascinating how two people can look at the same thing and see totally different things. One person looks at our design and sees majesty and wonder, and another sees chance and meaninglessness. One sees unquestionable intelligence and is amazed at the complexity of our existence. Others look at our complexity as evidence of chance. They see the complex intricacies of our existence and claim it to be impossible for something to have designed us.

Yet the word of God clams the proof of his existence is not absent from His creation but through his creation. It says if you look around you will find proof of his existence. The proof lives in and around us now not years or eons ago,  but now, here.

If you look at all that is required for us to exist it is mind-boggling to me that it can be credited to chance. If you take a look at the role of the Bee in our existence, it will make you wonder. For most of my life, I just thought of it as an insignificant bug. Yes, I had been taught when I was in grade school of the significant part it plays in pollination.  However, I never gave any thought as to the impact it has on our food supply. Now because of the loss of bees in the world, I have been made aware of there importance to our existence. A little Bee can have devastating effects on humanity.  Bees are necessary for the pollination of our food. If they cease to exist, we will be in very serious trouble as a species.  It makes you ponder what came first the Bee or the flower. This is but one example of things in life that will make you think.

Chance or evolution says they appeared when they were necessary because they were necessary. There was no intelligence associated with the appearance of the Bee. It just arrived because it was needed for the evolutionary process.  Ok, I will buy that explanation. Once maybe twice, but when you start thinking about it, every evolutionary step came about just because. Then when you begin to contemplate on our complexity, you really have to have blind faith to believe that at every turn of the evolutionary ladder the correct occurrence came into being because it had to.

It is far more plausible for me to believe in an entity of indescribable intelligence brought order and existence into being rather than believe we simply self-created out of nothing. In Genesis 1:1 It says, In the beginning God…….  Not chance, not billions of years it says “In the beginning God……”

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Just One

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Just One

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19 (ESV)

This is what is called the great commission. It is the goal of Christianity. As Christians, we read and accept it as our responsibility. But somewhere along the line, we assigned it to someone else. We somehow placed it on the shoulders of the professional Christian. The pastors and leaders of the church. After all, they have been charged with being the shepherd of the sheep.

We have become adept at passing it off to the more eloquent and charismatic among us.  To the captivating speakers and presenters of our times.  We have become very good at putting on a tremendous spiritual show. Personally I enjoy the show and what’s more, I am uplifted and edified by it.  I sincerely believe it is much needed in our lives and it serves a legitimate propose in our spiritual lives. After all, Jesus spoke to thousands of people at one time at least twice that we know of.

These large gatherings of people for the purpose of advancing the gospel are a great thing. They serve a much needed purpose or no one would come. However, it is not what Christ intended when He gave us the great commission. The great commission cannot be fulfilled in large evangelical gatherings. Or in conferences of specialized training. These events are needed and essential to the body of Christ but by themselves, they will never fulfill the great commission.

To successfully fulfill the great commission each Christian needs to tell one person. If every Christian would tell one person about Christ, we would in a short period of time cover the earth with the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Jesus presented the great commission, it was not intended to be the responsibly of the few. It was intended to be the responsibility of the one.

We are all expected to be involved in the great commission. In the simplest of ways share the gospel of Jesus with one person, just one. Jesus never intended for each of us to be a great orator. He expects us to reach one, just one. Not the masses, not the world, not your school, or your state, just one.

It may sound too simplistic and it is simple. But it will be the only way we will ultimately fulfill the great commission. I am not saying that we should do away with all the good work people are doing. Please continue but to see the great commission fulfilled we need, every one of us to tell one.

The battle cry of the great commission should be, tell one, reach one, bring one. If we all tell one, we will tell all.

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