A Call to Love

If there was ever a time when we are called to show an extraordinary display of love for God and each other, it is now. I’ve been questioning what we as Christians are doing to show love during these hectic times.

Reading the following scripture, I tried to put a filter in place to determine whether modern-day Christianity actually survives the test of Jesus’ definition of love. Let’s read this together and ask the Holy Spirit to help us answer that question.

The Great Commandment

 Matthew 22 (English Standard Version)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 

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

 37 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. 

This is the great and first commandment. 

39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Along with these scriptures, we would be remiss not to read and understand God’s further definition of love.

1 John 4:20 (English Standard Version)

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

So, let’s ask ourselves:

  1. Do we treat everyone with this kind of love? Does it matter whether they have the same color of skin as ours, speak with the same language that we use?

2. Are we prejudiced in any way?

3. Do we encourage hate of any person?

4. Do we support bullying?

5. Do we reach out and pick up the peaceful person that was just beaten down–by fists or guns–or words? Or do we join in?

6. Do we judge a person by whether they are poor, or not?

7. Do we act out, in any way, with disdain, judgmental thoughts or actions, or do we try to understand a person who is different from us? who may have a different religious affiliation? a different way in describing their belief system? Or do we think that we are the only people who have all the answers?

8. Do we agree that requiring servitude by anyone is ok? is loving? is the way Jesus would treat people?

I think this is a somber time in all of our lives when we should quietly sit and reflect on these questions. If we fall short of the definition of love as Jesus describes it, we have an imperative to go to Him and ask forgiveness, turn away from that wrongful attitude, and humble ourselves as we seek God’s guidance in remedying our actions. That way He will be glorified rather than being ashamed of us.

Are we really Christians?

If we don’t display the love and light from our Lord, then we should stop using His name–in vain!

Your sister in Christ,

Sharon

To one Jewish professor, Martin Luther King Jr. was a mensch

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marches with other civil rights leaders — from left, John Lewis, an unidentified nun, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Heschel and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth — from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965. Credit: Courtesy of Susannah Heschel

January 16, 2017 · 10:00 PM EST
By Lidia Jean Kott

Susannah Heschel was just a child in the spring of 1965, when her father left for Selma, Alabama, to march with those demanding that everyone be allowed to vote regardless of their skin color.

“He kissed me goodbye,” says Heschel. “And I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again.’”

Just a few weeks earlier, many demonstrators had been brutally attacked by police officers on a day known as Bloody Sunday.

Heschel’s father returned safely. But the experience left an impression.

“My father came home feeling like it was a religious event,” says Heschel. “He said, ‘I felt my legs were praying.’”

To Heschel, and her family, the religious aspect of the Civil Rights Movement is an important part of the story, even if it’s not talked about as much.

That’s because Heschel is a professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.

And her father, Abraham Joshua Heschel, was a rabbi.

Heschel’s father was born in Poland and lost several members of his family to the Holocaust. He was able to escape and come to the US, where he became an activist.

A calling, according to Heschel, with a lot of historical precedent.

“Jews came to the United States at the turn of the century from Russia, and there were Yiddish newspapers that would report in screaming headlines that there were Pogroms here in the United States. And what did they mean? Lynchings,” says Heschel. “Jews were outraged by that. How could that be? Russia is one thing but in the United States? So there is a long tradition of rabbi’s speaking out against segregation.’’

Heschel believes that, in part, the Civil Rights Movement became so powerful because everyone felt included, regardless of their religion.

“If you look at Dr. King’s major speeches, he doesn’t talk about Jesus, he doesn’t make this an exclusively Christian event,” says Heschel. “That openness, that embrace of Jews meant so much to my father.”

The night before he joined the march, Heschel’s father stayed in the same house as King and a few others. This house, which belonged to Sullivan and Richie Jean Sharrod Jackson, became an informal headquarters for activists.

Heschel later spoke to Richie Jean Sharrod Jackson about the night her father stayed there.

“Mrs. Jackson told me she got up in the morning and went into the living room, and there was Dr. King standing in one corner of the room saying his prayers, and my father was in another corner of the room saying his morning prayers, and there were a few others in the dining room praying,” says Heschel. “That to me is such a central concept of the Civil Rights Movement, coming together in that way, each one praying in their own faith tradition, in a different part of the house.”

Even as a kid, Heschel says that she felt herself to be surrounded by heroes. Heroes like her father, other friends and activisits, and King.

“He was always so gentle and kind and friendly to me,” says Heschel. “There were times at the end of lectures when I’m sure he was tired and just wanted to relax, and yet he was so generous and sweet.”

Now, says Heschel, she often goes back and listens to King’s speeches. Speeches that made her cry when she was younger.

She credits King with teaching her about “how to be a human being, how to be a mensch in the world,” and helping set her on her life’s path.

“I became a professor of religion because of him,” she says.

Note: “mensch” means “a person of integrity”.

Six reasons why we shouldn’t worry

1. It’s fruitless.
2. It’s disobedience.
3. It’s taking what is not yet given.
4. It’s refusing the given.
5. It is the antithesis of trust. If you trust, you can’t worry.
If you worry, you can’t trust.
6. It is a wicked squandering of time and energy.

~ Elizabeth Elliott Quotes

DON’T STROLL THROUGH THE SWAMP

“You’re gonna regret it!” I waved away the warning without turning around. What was to regret? I took the shortcut.

I was on my way to a picnic. The tables sat on the other side of a marsh. The parks department had kindly constructed a bridge over the marsh. But who needed a bridge? I ventured in. The mud swallowed my feet. Squiggly things swam past me. I think I saw a set of eyeballs peering in my direction. I backpedaled—flip-flops sucked into the abyss. I exited, mud covered, mosquito bitten, and red faced.

I walked over and took my seat at the picnic table. It made for a miserable picnic, but it makes for an apt proverb. Life comes with voices. Voices lead to choices, and choices have consequences!

~ Max Lucado

From God’s With You Every Day

Are you ready to march?

Think about the Christian you want to be. What qualities do you want to have: more compassion…more conviction…more courage? What attitudes do you want to discontinue: greed…guilt…endless negativity? With God’s help you can! You can close the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. Indeed, the person God made you to be. You can live “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To inherit your inheritance is God’s vision for your life! Imagine the thought. You as you were intended. It’s a life that is yours for the taking. You can expect to be challenged. The enemy won’t go down without a fight. But God’s promises outweigh personal problems. Victory becomes, dare we imagine, a way of life. Isn’t it time for you to change your mailing address from the wilderness to the promised land? Are you ready to march?

~ Max Lucado

We are the World! Happy New Year!

Praying for blessings to all of you around the world. May we all come together to find what is best in each of us. Love surely is better than hate. Working together, standing together, loving together will make the difference. If you are upset about something, find your voice. Go on Twitter, Facebook, start a Website, care and share positive ideas and progressive thinking instead of crying in a corner. We can all light the place where we stand and that light will shine enough to change things.

Be blessed with much love, joy, and happiness!

Sharon & Erick

We are the world!

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of Gods great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving

Why I love Christmas

When Christ was born, so was our hope! This is why I love Christmas. The event invites us to believe the wildest of promises! He did away with every barrier, fence, sin, bent, debt, and grave. Anything that might keep us from him was demolished.

He only awaits our word to walk through the door. Invite him in. Escort him to the seat of honor, and pull out his chair. Clear the table; clear the calendar. Call the kids and neighbors. Christmas is here. Christ is here. One request from you, and God will do again what he did then. He’ll scatter the night with everlasting light. He’ll be born in you.

Let “Silent Night” be sung! Every heart can be a manger. Every day can be a Christmas.  The Christmas miracle—a yearlong celebration! ~Max Lucado

The Heart of the Human Problem

The sinful nature is the stubborn, self-centered attitude that says, “My way or the highway.” The sinful nature is all about self: pleasing self, promoting self, preserving self. I have a sin nature! So do you. Under the right circumstances you will do the wrong thing. You’ll try not to, but you will. You have a sin nature. You were born with it. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart!

Christmas commemorates the day and the way God saved us from ourselves. The angel speaking to Mary in Matthew 1:21 says, “. . .you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Each of us entered the world with a sin nature. God entered the world to take it away!

~ Max Lucado

Worried Enough to Pray?

by Max Lucado
Last week’s blog struck a nerve. I wrote a piece entitled “Decency for President.” The premise was a simple one. Shouldn’t a presidential candidate who claims to be Christian talk like one? When a candidate waves a Bible in one speech and calls a reporter “bimbo” in the next, isn’t something awry? Specifically, when Donald Trump insists that he is a Christian (“a good Christian” to use his descriptor) and then blasts, belittles, and denigrates everyone from Barbara Bush to John McCain to Megyn Kelly, shouldn’t we speak up?

If the candidate is not a Christian, then I have no right to speak. But if the candidate does what Trump has done, wave a Bible and attempt to quote from it, then we, his fellow Christians need to call him to at least a modicum of Christian behavior, right?

Again, I struck a nerve. More than three million of you read the article in the first 36 hours! Thousands of you weighed in with your comments. They were fascinating to read. (Not all of them pleasant to read, mind you. The dozens of you who told me to stick to the pulpit and stop meddling in politics– I get it. By the way, I’d like to invite you to attend our services. My upcoming message is “Kindness”.) Detractors notwithstanding, your comments were heartfelt and passionate.

I detected a few themes.

You have a deep sense of love for our country. Patriotism oozed through your words. You cherish the uniqueness and wonder of the USA. You have varying opinions regarding leadership style, role of government, and political strategy. But when it comes to loving the country, you are unanimously off the charts.

You have an allergy to “convenient” Christians. You resist people who don the Christian title at convenient opportunities (i.e., presidential campaigns). You would prefer the candidate make no mention of faith rather than leave the appearance of a borrowed faith that will be returned to the lender after the election.

You are concerned, profoundly concerned, about the future of our country. The debt. Immorality. National security. The role of the Supreme Court. Immigration. Religious liberty. The list is as long as the worries are deep.

So where does this leave us? When a person treasures the country, but has trepidation about its future, what is the best course of action?

Elijah can weigh in on this question.

He lived during one of the darkest days in the history of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had 19 kings, each one of whom was evil. Hope had boarded the last train and optimism the final flight. The leaders were corrupt and the hearts of the people were cold. But comets are most visible against the black sky. And in the midst of the darkness, a fiery comet by the name of Elijah appeared.

The name Elijah means, “My God is Jehovah.” And he lived up to his name. He appeared in the throne room of evil King Ahab with a weather report. “‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1).

Elijah’s attack was calibrated. Baal was the fertility god of the pagans, the god to whom they looked for rain and fertile fields. Elijah called for a showdown: the true God of Israel against the false god of the pagans. How could Elijah be so confident of the impending drought? Because he had prayed.

Eight centuries later the prayers of Elijah were used as a model.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:16-18).

James was impressed that a prayer of such power came from a person so common. Elijah was “a human being” but his prayers were heard because he prayed earnestly. This was no casual prayer, comfortable prayer, but a radical prayer. “Do whatever it takes, Lord,” Elijah begged, “even if that means no water.”

What happened next is one of the greatest stories in the Bible. Elijah told the 450 prophets of Baal: You get a bull, I’ll get a bull. You build an altar, I’ll build an altar. You ask your god to send fire; I’ll ask my God to send fire. The God who answers by fire is the true God.

The prophets of Baal agreed and went first.

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’

“So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:27-29).

(Elijah would have flunked a course in diplomacy.) Though the prophets cut themselves and raved all afternoon, nothing happened. Finally Elijah asked for his turn.

“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel’” (1 Kings 18:30-31).

Elijah poured four jugs of water (remember, this was a time of drought) over the altar three times. Then Elijah prayed.

“LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.   Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36-37).

Note how quickly and dramatically God answered.

“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:38-39).

“Pow!” the altar was ablaze. God delighted in and answered Elijah’s prayer. God delights in and answers our prayers as well.

Let’s start a fire, shall we?

If your responses to my blog are any indication, you are anxious. You love this country, yet you are troubled about the future. You wonder what the future holds and what we can do. Elijah’s story provides the answer. We can pray. We can offer earnest, passionate prayers.

It’s time to turn our concerns into a unified prayer. Let’s join our hearts and invite God to do again what he did then; demonstrate His power. Super Tuesday, March 1, is the perfect day for us to step into the presence of God.

Dear Lord,

You outrank any leader. You hold sway over every office. Greater is the occupant of Heaven’s throne than the occupant of the White House.

You have been good to this country. You have blessed us in spite of our sin and guarded us in spite of our rebellion.

We unite our hearts in one prayer. Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done. Please, speak through the electoral process to reveal your leader.

This we pray in the name of Jesus,

Amen

© Max Lucado
February 29, 2016

God’s Agape Love

Paul reminded the church at Corinth the kind of love Christ offers to us– Agape love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” Don’t we need the same prescription today? Don’t groups still fight with each other? Don’t we flirt with those we shouldn’t? Aren’t we sometimes quiet when we should speak?

Someday there will be a community where everyone behaves and no one complains. But it won’t be this side of heaven. So till then we reason, we confront, and we teach. But most of all we love. Such love isn’t easy. Not even for Jesus. Listen to his frustration in Mark 9:19: “You people have no faith. How long must I stay with you? How long must I put up with you? How long? Until it kills me!  Jesus bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things! Even the cross.

From A Love Worth Giving
A-Love-Worth-Giving

Loving Like God Loves

 

Need more patience? Is generosity an elusive virtue? Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same.

Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” Can’t we love like this? Not without God’s help we can’t. Our relationships need more than a social gesture. Some of our friends need a flood of tears. Our children need to be covered in the oil of our love.

But if we haven’t received these things ourselves, how can we give them to others? Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that apart from God, “the heart is deceitful about all things.” We need help from an outside source. A transfusion. Would we love as God loves? Then we start by receiving God’s love!

~ Max Lucado

From A Love Worth Giving
A-Love-Worth-Giving

The Lost Art of Listening

Incourage.Me

I was listening to a podcast recently by two of my favorite human beings — Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at the Sky and Myquillyn Smith of The Nesting Place (this podcast is called, Hope*Ologie and I recommend it as a sort of Vitamin D for the soul). Anyway, they were each taking a turn answering listener questions but soon discovered that while one was sharing their answer the other was inevitably not listening because they were too busy trying to think up their own answer.

It made me laugh.

It made them laugh.

Listening to friends laughing while you’re folding laundry is a great way to start a week.

But it got me thinking.

Because some days I think friendship feels like that — one person sharing and another person thinking about what they’re going to say. Instead of listening to what’s being said.

Some days a friend is trying to share and instead of laying down all the things we’re mentally fiddling around with and focusing our heads, hearts, eyes, and mouths at our friend, we’re actually preoccupied with a sort of mental gymnastics planning what WE want to say next.

Sometimes I imagine those conversations like this:

Friend: Gah, I’m so sad today. I feel stupid and dumb at my job, and there’s this weird nagging loneliness I can’t seem to shake.

Me: (internally thinking: Oh man, I know EXACTLY how that feels — this week has been the WORST. Just wait till I tell her about how I blew that deadline and how I’m sure my boss thinks I’m stupid and why won’t my kids go to bed on time anymore.)

Friend takes a breath: —-

Me: Oh man, I know EXACTLY how that feels — this week has been the WORST. Just wait till I tell you about how I blew that deadline and how I’m sure my boss thinks I’m stupid and why won’t my kids go to bed on time anymore.

Friend: (stranded and without a way to steer the conversation back to the encouragement they so desperately need just feels even lonelier instead).

The thing is, sometimes it’s not our turn to talk.

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” {James 1: 19-21, MSG}

Sometimes, listening is the most powerful gift we can give a friend. Especially when they’re trying to share something that feels vulnerable to them or that feels vulnerable to us — for example, when they feel misunderstood and they’re trying to tell us about it.

Because sometimes our determination to speak before we’re properly done listening is an act of self-defense. We load our responses, our arguments, and our words up in front of us to block out what’s being said and lob our own point of view out into the conversation instead.

Nothing will shut down true communication faster.

But nothing will disarm a friend more than the grace you grant them when you listen with palms up and walls down — inviting their hurt or their joy, their exhaustion or their delight, their fear or their fun, into your own self so you can understand it from the inside out.

Nothing is more powerful than giving someone the gift of truly hearing them without tagging on your own conditions, explanations, or justifications.

Here are three easy ways to put this into practice:

1. Listen to the whole story before you start formulating a response.

2. Ask follow-up questions.

3. Repeat the key parts of what you heard, empathizing with them.

Question for you: What makes you feel truly heard? Let’s crowd-source some of the best ways we can revive the lost art of listening well.