Our world is more polarized and divided now than ever in my lifetime. We’re divided politically, socially, on masks, on justice issues and just about anything you can think of. I’m a person who loves to read comments on social media because I love how creative and funny people are. However, lately, I see a lot of arguments in the comments with hateful attacks toward each other over the littlest things. I watched a video by a comedian recently and then went to the comments. People were attacking him, his humor, his lack of humor, people who thought it was funny and people who didn’t. It’s easy to think that the division of people is something new, but it’s been around since the beginning. It’s one of the most effective tools in our enemy’s belt.
Satan used his divisive techniques on Adam and Eve to get them separated from God. He used it on Cain to kill Abel. Moses and the Israelites dealt with it over and over in the wilderness. You can’t read something in the Bible hardly without seeing the conflict. When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, Nero was the ruler and he was decapitating Christians and using their heads as torches to light the city. There were people named at the end of chapter 1 who were opposed to the message of Christ that Paul said that he handed over to Satan to be rid of them. Interestingly though, immediately after that verse, chapter two starts and Paul takes a different tone towards those who were polar opposites from him and the faith.
1 Timothy 2:1 says, “Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion” (TPT). The next verse says to pray for political leaders, even those opposed to your way of thinking, referring to Nero. You and I have a responsibility right now, in today’s climate to bring unity through prayer. It’s hard to hate someone you pray and intensely intercede for. Are we so busy arguing our side of things that we’ve forgotten to pray for those opposed to us? Romans 12:20 said if our enemy was hungry, we should buy them lunch. Where is that kind of love today? I’m praying that God would give me, and Christians everywhere, that kind of heart instead of an argumentative one. I think there’s a time and place to defend our way of life, but they shouldn’t know us by our arguments or eloquent defense. They should know us by our love.
Worthless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that word to describe someone. It comes out of my mouth and into my head too often to be honest. There was even a time when that word would come into my head as I looked into the mirror. Rejection and pain have a way of doing that to you. The problem is that when you say it about someone or yourself enough, you start to believe it. When you think or say those things about yourself or someone else, you’re capable of doing anything to that person simply because you don’t see any value. It’s hard to live in harmony or to be at peace with someone, especially yourself, if you don’t value them.
One of the things I love about Jesus is how He valued people. When I read the Gospels, that’s something that always jumps off the page at me. When Jesus looked at people, the Bible said He had compassion on them. Because He valued them, He poured God’s Word into them, fed them and healed them. Think of the disciples He called. The world said they were uneducated and worthless, but Jesus saw more than that. He didn’t see a wispy washy man. He saw a rock in Peter. He didn’t see a doubter in Thomas. He saw a person that carry His message outside the Roman Empire. With Matthew, He didn’t see a worthless, traitorous person, He saw someone who could reach the rejected.
What do you see in others or in the mirror? Can you see beyond the present? Do you see value? Romans 12:16 says, “Live happily together in a spirit of harmony, and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own” (TPT). How can you love someone if you don’t value them? We’re to be known for our love. We’re to carry out the Great Commission, but we can’t if we don’t value people. Worthless shouldn’t be in our vocabulary when it comes to ourselves or others. Christ loved and valued each of us enough to die for us so that we could spend eternity with Him. God created each one of us in His image as well. If we value God, and Jesus’ work on the cross, then we must value ourselves and everyone else. When we value them, we can love them. When we love them, we will see them as Jesus does.
One day, there was a religious leader who wanted to trap Jesus. He asked Him which of the commandments was the most important. Jesus knew what was in his heart and replied that we must love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. What the leader wasn’t prepared for was what Jesus said next. He said, “A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself” (NLT). He knew if we could do these two things, we could fulfill the law.
The first one seems easy enough. We are to love a perfect God with everything in us. The second one, that’s equally important, is the tough one because people are imperfect. People do things that make us mad, offend us, hurt us and drive us nuts. Yet Jesus is telling us to love them with everything in us as much as we love God. Why would He put that pressure on us? Why can’t we just love God and go to Heaven?
I believe God wanted us to learn to look past each other’s faults to see what He sees in them. Genesis 1:27 tells us what to look for. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Each of us are made in God’s image, even the people you can’t stand. God put His likeness in each one of us and it’s up to us to learn to see it the way He does.
If you look for the best in others, they will look for the best in you. If you can see God’s image in them, you can learn to love them because we can easily love God. It’s tough sometimes to dig through their layers to find it deep inside them, but His image is in there. When we learn to see Him in others, and to help them see His image in themselves, we begin to see the world through different lenses. We begin to know as we are known and also to fulfill that second, but equally important commandment. Look deeper into to others today to find God’s image and fulfill the law of Christ.
We’ve all heard the saying that actions speak louder than words. We can probably all think of someone who is all talk and no action too. We have very little confidence in people who rarely do what they say. You never know when to believe them. I’ve had friends, coworkers and acquaintances who are like this. It’s no fun to be associated with them because it creates a lack of trust in you as a person. I don’t ever want to be known as a person like that. I want to be known as a person who does what they say or can at least own up to it when I can’t deliver on what I promised.
As Christians, we need to be concerned about our reputation because we don’t just carry our name with us. We also bear the name of Jesus Christ. It’s not just our reputation we’re tarnishing, it’s His. Knowing that, our lives should reflect the work He’s done and is doing in our lives. The love He’s shown us should be something we give out each day. 1 John 3:18 says, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality“ (MSG).
A life lead by love is one that doesn’t just talk about loving others, it does it. It shows up in the smallest ways throughout our day. Too many times we try to think of doing great things to the point that it keeps us from doing anything. I love the quote by Mother Teresa that says, “We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” If you and I will focus on doing small things today, showing God’s great love, we will make a difference in the lives of others. Doing great things isn’t what makes the difference in life. It’s doing the small things consistently. Today, look for something small you can do with great love, and bless someone.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the things I enjoy doing is cooking. Whether it’s on the stove, in the oven, on a grill or over a campfire, I love making food that tastes good. Life is too short to eat bland food. No matter what I’m cooking though, one seasoning is almost always present. I store it in the cabinet, but when I’m preparing a meal, I have to take the salt out and put it on the meat. I can’t just set it on the counter and expect the food to absorb it. For it to season the food, i must apply it to the unseasoned meat. That is the only way it will work. Coincidentally, that’s the only way our witness works as well. If we don’t come into contact with people who aren’t seasoned with Jesus, how else are they supposed to know Him?
In Matthew 9, Jesus was walking through Capernaum when He came upon a tax collector named Matthew. The Jews thought he was a traitor because he was taking taxes from the Jews and giving them to the Romans. Jesus walked up to him and said, “Come, follow me.” Later, Jesus went to have dinner at Matthew’s house and Matthew invited all of his tax collecting friends who were society’s outcasts. The religious people lost their minds and questioned how Jesus could dine with such people if He was holy. Jesus responded in verse 13, “Now you should go and study the meaning of the verse: I want you to show mercy, not just offer me a sacrifice. For I have come to invite the outcasts of society and sinners, not those who think they are already on the right path” (TPT).
Jesus didn’t come so Christians could insulate ourselves from the world. He came so that the whole world would be reconciled to Him. If you’re not engaging with people who don’t know Jesus, you’re doing it wrong. Jesus didn’t preach at this dinner either. He simply hung out with them and His flavors rubbed off on them so much so that at least Matthew gave up his way of living to follow Jesus. Jesus looked at people as people first and not by the label of their sin. It’s easy to be religious and look at how someone sins differently than we do. It’s Christ like to look beyond their sin and to see the person He died for. If we’re going to spread His salt throughout the earth to all nations, we’ve got to look at people through His eyes rather than our religious ones. Jesus made it a habit to hang out with society’s outcasts and sinners. When is the last time you or I did that?
Part of my personality type is that I do really well with a to-do list. If I don’t have one, I tend to live my life jumping from one squeaky wheel to the next. The problem with that is that I can find myself living crisis to crisis, but never do the day to day things that need to get done. Another problem on the other side of the coin is that I can reduce Christianity and my faith to a series of to-do lists. Read my Bible daily – check. Spend time in prayer – check. Give my tithe – check. It can easily become very sterile or even about my works when I do that. So when I read Micah 6:8, in my head, I create a check list of things to do so that i make sure I’m doing what God requires of me.
That verse says, “No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God” (GNT). If we dig deeper than the surface on these, they are more than things you can easily check off of a box. These are a way of living that flows out of a forgiven heart. I can’t just give justice according to man’s laws and ways. We must treat people and protect them according to God’s ways. To show constant love to others is nearly impossible in my own strength and selfishness. It flows out of a heart that has been shown what true love is from the One who is love itself.
All three of these really hinge on the last one. We must walk in humble fellowship with God if we are going to live out the other two correctly. Fellowship with God cannot be checked off a box as a duty. We’ve all had people in our lives that we were forced to be friends with. Love doesn’t grow in that type of relationship. When we learn to make our relationship with God less about us and our needs and focus on Him, we’ll have that fellowship that heals our brokenness instead of feeding it. These three things that God requires are not about us (which should remove the to-do list). They are about others and their needs. When we begin to live life for Him, it becomes less about us and more about seeking justice for others and showing the love and compassion He has for the world. Look around today and see the people He’s placed around you that need justice and love. Ask Him to use you to in their lives and to help you put down the to-do list.
When I was younger, I thought I was Holy and pure. Looking back, I can see it was a lot of self righteousness. I was full of myself which meant there was not much room for Jesus in my life. You see the more there is of me in my life, the less there is of Him. The less there is of me, the more there is of Him, and that corresponds to how much grace I give as well. We live in a world that desperately needs grace, but many of us can’t give it because there’s not much grace in us to give. It’s time for us to rise up, be vocal about the Jesus who lives inside of us, but because of where society is, we back down.
I believe we stay quiet because we are afraid of how we will be attacked by others for our beliefs. 1 Peter 5:8 says that devil roams around like a roaring lion. He isolates us, pretending to be a lion, making us think we will be devoured, but what we forget is that we have the Lion of Judah on our side. He is our protector, our defender and the one whom we should get courage from in today’s world. If He is for us, who can be against us? Yet, even though He is standing with us, we fear what the world will do, so we stay silent.
Psalm 59:16 says, “But I will sing about your strength; every morning I will sing aloud of your constant love. You have been a refuge for me, a shelter in my time of trouble” (GNT). It’s time for us to not be afraid to show the love and grace of Jesus to others. It’s time for us to be free to speak about our faith. The more we love Jesus, the more we should love others. That love should be overflowing from our lives and spilling on to those we come in contact with. If we want the world to change, we need to be showing and sharing His love because it covers a multitude of sins. We can’t be stingy anymore with His love and we can’t stay silent because of our fear of today’s society. We must break out of the silence that society has forced us into, speak out for what’s right, give grace freely and live out loud.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
1 John 4:7-12 NLT
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Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
To me, one of the scriptures taken out of context the most is 1 Corinthians 13, also known as “The Love Chapter”. It’s been used in nearly every Christian wedding, hung on the walls of our homes and quoted to people in Love about how they should love their spouse. The truth is that it has nothing to do with loving our spouse. It’s about loving people with God’s love that’s in us in order to point them to him. We can do all sorts of things for people that bring us glory, but if we don’t love them in a way that points to Him, it’s pointless.
The last verse in the chapter is probably the most recognized one, but I want to look at it in the Amplified version which adds context to the original meaning. It says, “And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.” I believe love, in this context, is the greatest because love of this sort offers God’s grace and makes us more like Him.
The first verse in the next chapter continues Paul’s thoughts on the matter. It says, “Pursue [this] love [with eagerness, make it your goal].” That kind of love isn’t natural for most of us. It’s something we’re going to have to desire to have, and we’re going to have to pursue it. It’s going to require us to pray for it and to put it into practice in our lives until it becomes a part of who we are. To have unselfish love for others should be the goal of every one of us, especially since Jesus said we would be known for our love for one another.
Today, think about what that love likes like coming from you. What can you do to show someone God’s love? It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that goes viral on social media. It can be a simple word of encouragement, a prayer for a friend in need, a purchased cup of coffee for the person in line behind you, a warm meal for a homeless person, or a call to someone feeling lonely. These unselfish acts of love don’t have to change the world, but if we do enough of them out of God’s love for us, it just might.
A habit that I’ve noticed in some of the most effective Christians is the habit of service. Most people who have this habit are not noticeable until they are gone. They give of their time and energy, but prefer to stay behind the scenes. They are rarely recognized because they don’t require public praise. They do what they do because it’s what God has called them to. They recognize that for big things to happen, there’s a lot of little things that need to be done behind the scenes.
Jesus told us that the ones who do these little things with an humble spirit are the greatest in His kingdom. In Matthew 23:11-12 Jesus said, “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty” (MSG). Jesus modeled what it was like to be a servant to others. He spent His life giving instead of taking. He did things to recognize God, not to be recognized. When you live a life of service in a selfish world, you stand out.
Look at the life of Mother Theresa. She spent it serving people who had no ability to pay her back or offer her any recognition. She once said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” I believe that’s the key to the habit of service. Understanding it’s not about doing big things. It’s about the little things that few see. It’s about doing something for someone without posting it on social media. It’s done out of a heart of love for someone in need.
I believe if all Christians would take the time to develop this one habit, we could change the world. If we did things for His recognition instead of our own, we’d have a lot more converts. A life of service yields great results in the kingdom. It’s marked by looking out for the needs of others more than our own. Take time today to look for someone you can serve in some small capacity. Make a difference in their life today and you’ll understand why it’s more blessed to give than to receive.