“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 ESV
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 ESV
My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. 1 John 3:18
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18 ESV
When Christians get together and discuss the state of the world and how it relates to them, the conversation often turns to the general decline in standards of conduct and the increase of sinful behavior. We can probably agree that it’s easier than ever to step across the line when the other side is just a click away, but anyone questioning the growing absence of a moral compass may be judged as being unfairly restrictive of freedom of expression. Consider the way today’s world views and interacts with Christians. While many locations around the globe range from being restrictive to downright dangerous for Christ-followers, even countries with a Christian tradition are finding ways to marginalize them. So it’s no surprise that the church finds itself trying to choose someplace between adopting a foxhole mentality of drawing away from the world to the point we risk losing touch with our communities to becoming just another political group vying for its own special interests. Just how are we to be the salt of the earth? I’m convinced we must love each other desperately, sacrificing for each other while at the same time standing out as a beacon of light for our communities, and not just the parts of our communities easiest to love.
Love isn’t easy, not as Jesus commanded. And it wasn’t just the Pharisees our Lord reprimanded.
In our age love ranges from dear to trivial, from life-giving to simply convivial.
But to impact our world nearly enough, beyond our judgement, they must know us by our love.
“The moment someone chooses to trust in Jesus Christ, his sins are wiped away, and he is adopted into God’s family. That individual is set apart as a child of God, with a sacred purpose.” Charles Stanley
“What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and work flow.” Martin Luther
“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life … One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Sacred is an anagram for the word, scared. This, I believe, is a hint to the attitudes we choose from in pursuing the lives our God has entrusted us with. We each have the choice to live our lives in a fear based manner that views each day as a series of attacks and challenges on our well being, or we may choose to see our lives as sacred gifts we can dedicate to service and transformation of ourselves and others through Jesus Christ. Which theme will you choose… scared or sacred?
Our lives are not our own, they are sacred. Invaluable gifts, to never be squandered. There should be no mystery at the end of our days how we were used by God when it’s pondered.
A pen should only be lifted if God’s invited to write. A speaker should only read if he’s prayed for God’s sight. Silence is sacred and listening king when the suffering are heard and given love’s wings.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 ESV
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 ESV
“Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” From an essay titled, “Social Aims” by Ralph Waldo Emerson published in 1875.
Communication. It’s not so easy, is it? And we live in a time when communication is seemingly effortless. Unless the person we wish to speak with is located somewhere one of the many technologies dedicated to communication is not available, we are often able to connect almost instantly. Any time we want. Not that long ago, within the perspective of human history, one had to wait weeks or even months for a letter to find its recipient. I’m guessing letter writers were pretty careful with their words. Now, we live in a sea of words. Print media has virtually ceded power and influence to television and the internet. Vigilance over what we read and what we listen to is more important than ever. Who we listen to and believe and our responsibility to do our own due diligence is more critical than ever.
The two scriptures shown here at the top reveal aspects of God talking to us. One of the primary ways we are able to hear God is through scripture. The Bible we rely on to hear God remains remarkably unchanged. It is truly a miracle that it has stayed intact over the centuries. It’s clear God has kept a hedge of protection around his word. However, contrast those scriptures with the quote from Emerson. A Google search will reveal multiple versions of the original words, some differing so as to seem like the results of a game of telephone. Some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, there are a few that can’t be accurately sourced to the famed British leader, though they are repeated often.
So, we rely on scripture to hear God. Also, we rely on prayer. And part of prayer is listening. Being quiet. Finding a gentle river apart from the thundering sea of words and other sounds we are bombarded with every day. If sleep is a way for our body and mind to repair itself, surely prayer is a way to repair our spirit and hear God. Finally, we come to fellowship. God has designed us to be social beings, even for those of us who prefer solitude over crowds, there is a need to speak and be spoken to. God made us for community, where there is learning, sharing, and yes, healing, to be found.
I search for the hearing of you, with every sense with which I was born. I cry for the knowing of you, and pray for the knowing to never be torn. Teach me to gather every way I can be with you. Help me collect them, as gifts beyond value. Though the world may thunder away, let me yet hear your whisper today, the precious treasure, the hearing of you.
The first funeral I remember is one I didn’t go to. I don’t know if my parents decided I was too young or if I was given the choice of going and decided to opt out. I do remember what I spent the service’s time doing while I was waiting at my aunt’s house: I read a book called, “Rascal,” by Sterling North. Wonderful book, but I digress. For as long as we have records to tell us what humans have been up to on earth, we’ve had rituals associated with death. Christians believe a person’s afterlife experience has everything to do with whether the man or woman asked for forgiveness of their sins and committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ. But even within the Christian faith, funerals and memorial services vary greatly in style and tone. What’s true of an Irish Catholic service is not for an Irish Protestant. What’s true of Greek Orthodox is not for the Southern Baptist, and so on and so on. Any way you slice it, these celebrations of life can be tricky affairs for our emotions to handle. The grieving process involves pain, even when the person we’re saying goodbye to left a long and fulfilling life. If we’re not ready for them to go, or if the hole left in our life seems impossible to fill, the trauma can take a lifetime to resolve, if it’s ever resolved at all. It may sound trite, but I’m convinced how we handle death has a lot to do with how we handle life. What I mean by that is, if you had told your loved one all the ways they had contributed to and enriched your life, if you had told them not just that you loved them, but why, would it make dealing with their passing much, much better? Beyond that, and beyond whether it would be a good thing to do, isn’t it absolutely the essential thing to do? I believe it is.
If I didn’t say, loved one, how much I love you, if I didn’t say how much and all the whys, if I put it off till all of our todays ran out, would there be too much pain to say goodbye?
If I didn’t lift you up when you were discouraged, feed you when you were too weak, If I didn’t give you the words Jesus said were most important, when the time came to say goodbye, how could I speak?
Sometimes in life we see death coming, but too often it comes and we didn’t know. Since we might not see tomorrow the people we care for today, let’s not put off the loving words that we owe.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7 ESV