One of the things that so many people struggle with early on and into marriage is to put their spouse’s needs above their own. From the time we’re born until we’re married, life is about us. We make our decisions based on our needs and wants. We become selfish unknowingly. Part of the process of learning to be married is learning to quit being selfish and to focus on the other person in the relationship as well as who you are as one. Many times it’s hard for people to learn, and instead of learning to put their spouse’s needs ahead of their own, their selfish nature learns how to manipulate their spouse into taking care of their needs. In that situation, it’s hard for love to bloom because only one person’s needs are met. Deep love is the process of putting others ahead of yourself.
Think of what Jesus did. John tells us that creation was made through Him. Philippians tells us that He was equal with God, yet in an act of love, He chose to humble Himself, and become human. While He was here, He didn’t claim the privileges of being the King of Kings. Instead, He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. When they crucified Him, He didn’t call on 10,000 angels to come rescue Him from the cross. Out of love for us, He put our need for salvation ahead of His own needs and endured a humiliating death. He gave us the example of what love is and what love does. Philippians 2:4 says, “Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (MSG).
The kind of love Jesus showed is the kind we are to show as His followers. We are to have His mindset. Just like marriage, there’s a process we must go through as believers where we put aside our needs and learn to look outward to the needs of others. Salvation isn’t just about the decision to make Jesus lord of your life. It’s learning to be like Him. It’s leaving your selfish, sinful nature and its thinking behind and adopting the mind and mentality of Christ. WWJD bracelets we’re supposed to help us to remember that, but instead they became a joke. If we truly ran everything we did through the filter of “What would Jesus do,” how would our lives change? Better yet, how would this world change? When Jesus said the world would know us by our love, He was talking about us showing love the way He did. When we learn to love like that, it’ll be revolutionary.
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I grew up hearing my dad jokingly say, “Do as I say, not as I do!” I didn’t understand it as a kid, but as a parent now, I definitely do. It’s funny how the one thing you don’t want them to repeat or do is the one thing they seem to pick up on. The good news is that they pick up your good habits as well. They’re just not as noticeable sometimes because they’re not embarrassing. I love that every trash day my son offers to take our next door neighbor’s trash can to her house. At church, he wants to open the door as people exit. He watches our behaviors and then mimics them. It makes us proud as parents when our kids do the right thing, show kindness to others and make us look good as parents doesn’t it?
Sometimes we forget that you and I are children of God and our actions reflect on Him. Galatians 5 gives us the Fruit of the Spirit that we are to exhibit in our lives. When we spend time with God and learn from Him, our lives reflect the qualities He has. The great news for us is that it’s already in our DNA. Genesis tells us that we are made in His image. Just like a child naturally does things that their parents do, so too we do things naturally that God has put in us. There are times though that our sinful nature takes over and wants us to behave opposite of the way God wants us too. That’s why it’s important to choose ahead of time how we will react to things, know what we will say and choose our attitude daily to reflect the love of God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (MSG). One of the greatest ways we can reflect our Heavenly Father on this earth is to start loving others the way He does. The verse, “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NASB),” comes to mind. We need to love others extravagantly whether or not we think they deserve it. The world will know us by our love in action. Don’t hold back. Give God’s love out like you’re made of it, because you are.
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I remember doing a paper in college on the brokenness of the United States’ Social Security system. All the research I had done showed that the system was upside down and would not be able to sustain the retiring Boomers. It was recommended that Xers and younger should invest in their retirement through 401k’s and other means. Because of all that, we each have a mindset of doing what we can now to make sure we have enough in our former years. Even this week, I spent a few hours researching stocks, their performance, their diversification and ability to grow over time. I think it’s good to have a plan for the retirement years, but I’m left to wonder how much time, effort and energy do I spend planning for eternity.
When compared to eternity, a lifetime here is nothing more than a nanosecond. How much more should we be investing in the afterlife? In Matthew 6:20-21, Jesus said, “Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure” (TPT). That last verse should have each of us looking at what we’re pursuing in this life. Where are your energies focused? Are they for things that matter now or for eternity? Again, I think it’s wise to plan for your financial future here, but it’s critical to plan for your eternity there. God’s economy is different than ours and how you invest in it is different too.
You and I must value the same things that God values if we’re going to store up treasures in Heaven. God has always valued and cared for people, especially the members of society we seem to ignore. He values giving justice to those who need it, but don’t have a voice to get it. He values mercy and grace, specifically to those who don’t deserve it. He also giving of our possessions more than hoarding them. Finally, later on in this chapter, Jesus reminds us that we must seek His Kingdom first before we seek our own. I believe when we put His priorities above our own, we store up treasures in Heaven. You can’t check your heavenly bank account through an app, but you can measure it through lives changed.
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A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a man named Peter Strople. He was at the Re:Write conference as a speaker. Honestly, I had never heard of him even though he was known as the most connected man in America. When he got up to speak, you could see and sense his humility. It wasn’t what I was expecting from “the most connected man in America”. I quickly understood his humility and his ability to connect when he said his personal motto is “When in doubt, love.”
In a room full of writers who wanted to bless God with our talents, there was one person in the room who didn’t appear to belong. He had jet black hair done up like an 80’s band member. I think he even wore a leather vest that showed how his arms were covered in tattoos. Peter called him up to the stage to demonstrate what he meant. As he asked questions, diving into this man’s story, it was like watching a flower bloom. The one who was different, and an outcast, became the most beautiful thing in the room and everyone wanted to get to know him more.
Peter demonstrated what it mean to show love to someone. He didn’t just talk about it, he showed us how to do it. My whole life, I’ve read that we are to love one another, and have been taught about it as well from the pulpit. This was the first time I remember watching it in action and saw the result. Peter showed this man love by genuinely getting to know him and listened intently. It wasn’t about making himself look good. It was about valuing this person and showing them that they mattered.
Romans 13:10 says, “Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love” (MSG). Wherever you are today, there are people around you who need value added to them. Make a choice now to look for them and to show them love. Let’s not just talk about loving them, let’s do it. Don’t ignore someone because they’re different from you. Get to know they’re story and show them that they matter.
“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back.” “You fly, I’ll buy.” “Quid pro quo.” “You buy this time, I’ll buy next time.” Ever used any of these expressions? Of course you have. We all do favors for favors. It’s an offer to help in exchange for help. You’ll give them what they want if they’ll give you what you want. Everybody wins. We all play the game, but what we forget is that Jesus changed the rules on it. He expects us to do for others who have no ability to pay us back.
You see, there’s no reward in doing something for others who can pay you back. It’s not really a favor if you get a return favor. Part of our Christian DNA should be to do for others who can’t pay us back. It should be a part of who we are and be a regular thing we do. When Jesus was describing who got into Heaven, this is what He said in Matthew 25-35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me” (AMPC).
In all of these examples, it was about helping someone out who couldn’t return the favor. He went on to say that when you do something for the least among us, you’ve done it to Him. There’s no reward in helping those who can pay you back. Of course, you can still help your friends out in a quid pro quo fashion, but you can’t just do that and expect to be rewarded for doing good. You got your reward when they paid you back. The life Jesus is calling us to is doing things for those who can’t pay you back.
In Luke 14:13, Jesus said it another way. He said, “But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind.” He mentioned several times in the Gospels that we were to give to those who couldn’t pay us back. When you think about it, Jesus did that for us. He set the example of giving at a high cost for those who couldn’t pay Him back. If you’ve accepted Him as your savior, then He paid your debt for sin in full. There’s no way to repay Him for that. The best thing we can do is to follow His example. Give to those who can’t repay you, and don’t hold it over their head.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
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