“Love for my neighbor starts by getting to know my neighbor, so I can love them in a manner they feel loved.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – April 18, 2021
Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring. Hosea 6:1-3, NLT
Our global crisis has been a clear call from God to return to God. Every generation experiences some degree of “spiritual distancing” from their Divine Creator, a natural drift from dependence on Divinity. For Christians our ground zero for faith is Jesus Christ, the son of God—He became man to show us God. Our God consciousness through Jesus expressed in humble prayer, grateful worship, loving deeds and generous giving can become inauthentic, even non-existent in the life of Jesus followers and the church. Just as an out of control health crisis increases our social distancing, so it can decrease our spiritual distancing. Pray this pandemic brings us back to God.
Like many of you, I have extra time to ponder “why” and “how” we got to this paralyzing place in our world. I don’t know for sure, and my theological construct is definitely limited. I spent several hours this morning rereading the Old Testament plagues, Pharaoh’s hardening of his heart, and God’s hardening of his heart. Bottom line: God was in control—not the government! As I reflect on my hard heart, here are some areas of my life I need altered in my return to God:
My deeds done in love have been replaced by acts of service that insist on acceptance and approval from those who are the object of my distorted love. My need to be needed has made me want to make others depend on me, almost as if they owed me something; a quid pro quo of a favor—instead of laying down my life in a way that serves without expecting anything in return. My returning to God means I help others in gratitude for what my loving Father has done for me: securing my eternal salvation and providing for my temporal needs. I aspire to a motivation of secret service outlined by Jesus in Matthew 6:1-3, NLT:
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Loving deeds motivated by love for the Lord have no expectations. Like Jesus, love seeks and serves those who are worried sick or wondering if anyone really cares. I am returning to God, when, like the prodigal son comes to his senses in the pigpen of shame, I remember to be grateful for my Father’s love. My thanksgiving to Jesus spurs me on to spur others on to love and good deeds. I am returning to God when love leads me to selflessly love others without needing recognition. My reward in heaven can begin to be enjoyed on earth when love fuels my deeds!
I feel like God is giving me a faith test. Will I trust Him with my giving? Will I choose patient waiting and isolation for the sake of another vulnerable one who needs me to self-quarantine? Giving for the good of the whole tempers my trite concerns, since God’s economy is based on generosity, not greed. Generous giving frees a society from its selfish self for the greater good of everyone. My love for neighbor starts with me getting to know my neighbor so I can love them in a manner that makes them feel loved. Love lifts all lives to enjoy the Lord and one another.
“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed”
(Proverbs 11:25, NLT).
Our stock is up for those saved by the grace of God. The more I am able to consistently and boldly give of my time and money for the kingdom of heaven, the more I am able to make the biggest difference on earth. When the needs are the greatest is when my generosity needs to be its greatest. Faith gives in the face of financial uncertainty knowing security in the Lord is what keeps me focused on what matters most—generously loving people. Everyone is refreshed when I double down on refreshing others in moments of fearful, financial distress. Love eagerly gives!
“Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal” (2 Corinthians 8:11-14, NLT).
Almighty God, by the power of your Spirit, give us the strength to turn from sin and return to your forgiveness and love, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Who needs me to give generously my time and money toward her hard situation?
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