Tag Archives: relationship with God

Loving Your Neighbor

How would your life be different if you really cared about others? Think about it for a second. We say we care about others, but do our actions reflect that? Right after Jesus told us what the Greatest Commandment was, He said, “The second one is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Loving your neighbor is as equally important as loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. So why is it easier to love God that way, but not our neighbor?

I’m the same as you. I’ve got neighbors I like and ones that I don’t. They mow their grass at inappropriate times, they host parties until 4 AM, they don’t keep up their yards or houses and they aren’t friendly. Jesus didn’t allow for those excuses here. He didn’t say love them if they’re easy to love. He said love them as you love yourself. If you would do something for yourself, you should be willing to do it for your neighbor. You should put their needs above yours.

I know this isn’t easy and I’m guilty of not loving my neighbors as I should. If we’re serious about our faith and we’re serious about seeing God’s Kingdom grow, we’ve got to shift the focus from ourselves and onto others. In Luke 10:29, someone asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” He then told them the parable of the Good Samaritan. When He finished, Jesus asked, “Which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” They replied, “The one who showed mercy.” Then Jesus told us to go do the same.

Loving our neighbors, as illustrated in that parable, isn’t just those who live next to you. It’s anyone you see or come across who is in need. We are to love them and do for them what we would do for ourselves if we were in that situation. I saw a man yesterday sitting outside the 99 cent store playing guitar with his case open for money. I asked my wife, “Why is he sitting outside the 99 cent store and not in front of a store where people who have money are?” Her reply was, “He knows they carry cash.”

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the people going in there are more likely to give to him than someone at an expensive store. Even though they only have a little, they’re more willing to give. Most people who have money aren’t willing to let go of it easily. Jesus illustrated that in the Good Samaritan as well. The people who should have helped the man who was robbed, walked by on the other side of the street. The one who no one thought would help, put the man on his own donkey and walked to the next town. He took care of the stranger’s wounds. He paid for his food, lodging and medical bills. He loved his neighbor the way we’re supposed to.

What neighbors in need has God put in your life that you’ve passed up constantly? Who can you show mercy to today? I think there’s no better way to show God we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength than to love others who need it most like we love ourselves. How would your life change if you really loved others that way? How would your relationship with God grow if you did? Open your eyes today to see what neighbor God puts in your path and then love them the way you love yourself.

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Love With All Your Heart

And you must love The Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. – Mark 12:30

What does it mean to love God with all your heart? We tell others we love them with all of our heart, but what does it really mean when we say that? Have you ever loved someone with half a heart? I don’t think so. Love requires that you go all in. It demands that you give up what you want for the other. I Corinthians 13 tells us all of the great attributes of love. We apply that chapter at weddings to marriage, but what about to our relationship with God?

When you love with your whole heart, you don’t care who knows. There’s a feeling of euphoria that makes you feel like you’re walking in the clouds. You smile for no reason at all. You think about the other person all the time. When is the last time you had those feelings or thoughts about God? It’s a tough question for any of us to answer, especially those of us who have been Christians for a long time. Just like a normal relationship, those feelings of euphoria change and the relationship has to be built on something more than feelings.

When we first believe, we experience those feelings and thoughts, but over time they wane. We have to learn how to keep our relationship with God fresh. We have to put work into it. We have to dedicate time to the relationship to help it grow. If we don’t make our relationship with God a priority in our lives, our feelings of love for Him will go away. God desires quality time with each of us, not just a nod to heaven every now and then. He wants to talk with us and to be our first thought, not our last.

Jesus intentionally lead off the greatest commandment with “Love The Lord your God with all your heart.” He knew that if we could learn to love Him with all of our heart, then the rest would be easier to do. He knew that the heart is the seat of emotion in our lives. It’s what gets us to try when defeat is certain. It’s what gets us to believe when all hope is lost. It’s what makes us pick ourselves up off the floor after we’ve been knocked down and convinces us to get back up again. Loving Him with that kind of heart is what will keep the relationship strong even in the dark times.

If you’re in that place where the feelings of euphoria are gone in your relationship with God and He feels distant, I want to encourage you today to rekindle that fire. The easiest way to do it, is to make time for Him today. Make your relationship with Him a priority. Show Him you mean it by giving up what you want for what He wants. Refocus your attention on what matters for eternity versus what’s temporary. If what you’re doing today has no bearing on eternity, then you’ve lost focus on what really matters. Find a way today to show God you love Him with all your heart.

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Religious Roadblocks

Last night a tree fell across the road to our house. It had snapped about 15 feet up and part of it was still attached so it wasn’t an easy removal. We called for the county to send out a crew to remove it. About 30 minutes later, a truck pulled up and a man got out. I thought, “How is one person going to move this?” He walked all the way around the debris looking at it, thought about the best way, grabbed a chain, wrapped it around the fallen trunk, tied the other end to his bumper and tried pulling it off the road and from its connected trunk.

It did not easily separate from the base. It took several attempts of squealing wheels on the pavement to finally break it free. He kept driving once he had momentum and drug it off the road. He took a chainsaw and cut off any branches that were sticking out towards the road. We cleaned up the debris that was on the road and then took a look at the bare trunk that was still standing. It was clear that it was hollowed out. From the outside, it looked healthy and vibrant, but on the inside it was hollow and rotten.

It reminded me of the religious Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They blocked the roads of others with unrealistic rules in the name on religion. They appeared to be the only ones who could uphold these rules so they looked down on others. There was no real way anyone could fully live according to all the rules they had subjected the people too. They took what God intended as a way to communicate with people and put up road blocks separating them further from Him.

Jesus saw them for what they were and it made Him angry. In Matthew 23:27 He said, “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside, but filled with dead people’s bones.” They appeared to be healthy, but like that tree, they were hollow and dead inside. Nothing made Jesus more angry than people who traded a relationship with God for religion. Relationship with God is empowering because it creates communication with Him. Religion separates you from Him through shame and failure because there are rules you can’t follow.

Jesus came to restore the relationship that the rules of religion had severed. He was the one person God sent with the power and ability to remove the tree that was blocking our ability to get to Him. His desire was not to condemn through rules and regulations, but to save us through relationship. He was about empowering us to live godly lives not to shame us because we couldn’t live up to the standards of religion. The religious leaders hated Him for it. He took their power grabbing scheme and exposed it for what it was. They ended up killing Him because of it not realizing that when they did, they had cleared the path for relationship.

Have you viewed Christianity as a list of rules that you could never follow? Have you seen God as the king of thou shalt not’s? That’s not who He is. Man took what God intended to create relationship and put in rules that separate. If you’ve been separated from a relationship with God because you thought Christianity was about a bunch of rules, I encourage you to leave the religion behind and build a relationship with God through Jesus. It has been His intention to have a relationship with us since He created us. Get rid of the roadblocks of religion and embrace a relationship with Him today.

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