The Greatest Love

What is the greatest love? It is Jesus’ death on the cross and his willingness to give up his life so that we might live more abundantly. He didn’t want us to go on in the same life we’d been living.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. -Jesus John 13:34

Ephesians 5:25-33 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

If we follow his humble example… let’s think of how that scenario plays out. If we are to live like he lived and love like he loved, that’s a tall order! Think how he didn’t condemn sinners – (the woman at the well, the woman the people wanted to stone, and others) but he didn’t party with them or hang out, he was working, living set apart*, he was there to deliver, to minister, not to participate, much like a physician administers a cure, Jesus did the same.  He had the cure, the purest love, with no conditions, except that the person turn from sin. Even when they don’t, he still loves them and is there for them/us when they/we do. Yet he does condemn sin. Jesus doesn’t look down on the ‘scourge’ of the earth, as some might call the unfortunate or the lowliest people, he forgave their sins, and he healed them. He looked beyond their frailties and saw their potential. He looks beyond our faults and sees us as he created us, in his perfect image.

His image covers our faults, our sins, our shortcomings, our inabilities to do things the way others want, our inability to love deeply or to show love freely to others. He sees himself instead of us, because he sees us covered by his blood, not the way we look without his transformative power. That’s what his blood will do, it will wash away all our impurities. It’s good for us to remember that his blood washes our lives clean and makes us look as pure as he is. He loves all of us – the church. Have you thought of how unkempt the church is? Have you looked around and seen the mess many are in and how needy? They were during Jesus’ time also, just different people and different circumstances. So don’t think he has given us an impossible task, because with God all things are possible. He wouldn’t give us anything he couldn’t do. But in our human selves, apart from God, most of us fall short, and we must go back to his reminder, to love each other as he has loved us, with his greatest love. We must Allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, our words, and our actions towards others, then we may also show the greatest love. But it is only by submitting weekly, daily, and hourly to the Holy Spirt and let him be in in control of our thoughts and attitude to share the greatest life and love.

 

*set apart: He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. – Hebrews 7:26

Faith of a Child

Most children love to sing. Children are also natural worshippers. They worship animals, bugs, toys, those they love, and themselves, especially their own image in a mirror! Plus they are dramatic in their adoration. But have you thought that really, they’re admiring the image of God,  when they look in the mirror? Perhaps we lose sight of his image as we age and become jaded, or allow sin in our lives. God created us in His image! It’s no wonder Jesus instructed us to have faith as a child. He said we should accept the kingdom of God like a child. (Luke 17:18) We must simply believe and accept God without hesitation and be full of trust, in honesty, not hiding anything.

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John 4:23-24 “But the time is coming-indeed it’s here now-when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Why are children used as an example? Because children, who have not been abused or hurt, are very trusting in nature. They take things on face value. They haven’t been jilted by a boyfriend or girlfriend. They haven’t had a marriage crumble. They haven’t faced financial struggles. They haven’t raised children or had miscarriages or had their own children die. They haven’t seen the cruel side of life yet and they have an amazing capacity to love! They won’t lie, because they don’t know how. Their negative behaviors are only learned from adults. The word purity is the best way I can describe an innocent child. They’re in tune with the Spirit! Children take ownership of things and events. They have zeal.

Children sing in the same way they live life. As a child, I had a few songs I considered ‘my songs.’ So when the choir leader stood up and asked for everyone to turn in the hymnal to any of these songs, I didn’t understand why the whole church was singing ‘my words!’ I ‘owned’ these songs, didn’t they know?! 🙂 I would get vocal too. My poor mother trying to shush me as others sang ‘This is my story…’ and me saying to people nearby, “It’s not YOUR story! It’s MY story!” Mom and I had a long talk after church about how everyone has a story to tell. Imagine that! Or the song ‘Trust & Obey…’ I was a bit sassy as a preschooler, I thought the author wrote that song for me as a lesson! “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus…” The instructional portion of the song to me, had formulated from previous reprimands when I was a toddler. I used to plant my feet, at the top of the outside stairs, refusing to go into church. My very anemic mother had to get an usher to pick me up and carry me inside, sometimes to great protest. But the singing was my favorite part of church, and I quickly forgot my reason for not wanting to go in.

My five-year-old granddaughter sings with zeal! She loves to go into the ‘adult church’ because of the music! She sings loud enough, that you can pick her out of the crowd. Children sing with abandon, children trust God with abandon. That is why, their faith is so convincing and sound.

As a child, I loved and adored the missionaries who came to our church to tell about their experiences. I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up, because it sounded like a great adventure! At the ripe age of three, I was sobbing as I ran into the room where my mother was ironing. My mother asked why. In my childlike enunciation, I told her, “I can’t be a mi-un-ary!!” My mother again asked why? I stated, “Because I’m not even a Chis-tun!” Thankfully I had a wise mother who simply asked if I wanted to ask Jesus to come into my heart and had already explained the process of accepting Jesus, prior to that day. She said, “Then you need to ask him and confess your sins.” With childlike faith, I dutifully prayed for him to come into my heart and then I was elated. I danced all around, because my burden was lifted! I could be a missionary!

Matthew 18:3-5 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.

My prayer: Make my heart pure as a child Jesus. Help me keep the zeal and fervor for you and allow me to share it as boldly as a child would, without hesitation and not caring who may reject me, because we (you & I) are in this together forever!

Hey Jesus!

With Palm Sunday this week, let’s talk about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Remember, this happened just before Passover. Jesus had dinner with Mary and Martha. Lazarus was able to eat with them, because Jesus had raised him from the dead. As dinner was being prepared, Mary poured a fragrance from the Alabaster jar and anointed Jesus feet, wiping them with her hair. Judas took objection to this lavish gift and act of worship. Judas Iscariot, was the one who would soon betray Jesus and was the disciples’ treasurer and embezzler. We see where his heart was. The very next day was when Jesus was to enter Jerusalem. Many people had heard of the story of Lazarus and about the miracles Jesus performed. With this news, they were anxious to see them both. The priests, who were jealous of the attention being taken from them, were plotting to kill Jesus and Lazarus. We see where their hearts lie too. Both the priests and Judas were looking at monetary losses. 

My daughter was teaching her children the story of Palm Sunday and asked her three and a half year old son what the people said when Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding the donkey. He said, “Hey, Jesus!” While funny and cute, and not the answer she was looking for; I think he nailed it more than all the attendees at Palm Sunday then and today. When we truly know “Jesus” and what his name means and stands for, then it is sufficient. ‘At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow!’ (Philippians 2:10) Pray in the name of Jesus, ask anything and it will come to pass… (John 14:13-14 & 16:23-24) Call on the name of Jesus and you will be healed. (Mark 16:17-18) By the name of Jesus, we enter into salvation. (Acts 4:12) 

When my 3.5 year-old grandson said, ‘ Hey Jesus,’ he said a mouthful! Isn’t it just like a child to remind us what’s important? He encapsulated everything Jesus stood for by saying his name. The Hebrew meaning of the name Jesus comes from Yeshua, the first part meaning “God.” YWVH used over 6,800 times in the Hebrew Bible and translated, Lord. The second part of the name Yeshua means deliverer, to save, or rescue. Putting this together, Jesus means God delivers, saves, and rescues, through the Messiah, who bears God’s name. 

So what did they say to Jesus riding into Jerusalem? “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Hosanna was an appeal for deliverance, the rest is the meaning of his name. On Palm Sunday, some of those who were there shouting, were doing so because they caught the fervor of others. It’s okay to catch fervor, but it doesn’t take hold to take on another person’s fervor as it does to have your own, through a personal encounter. When you have a personal encounter with Jesus, you may be the one saying, “Hey Jesus!” and meaning it with as much zeal as “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

Jesus asked his disciples who they said he was. I ask myself who do I say Jesus is? Yes, I revere him, I do not take lightly his worthiness of revere, awe, wonder, or praise, but I also know that he is approachable. He is my ‘Hey Jesus!’ whenever I need him and he is My deliverer today and everyday. He doesn’t expect palm branches or alabaster jars, but I’ll gladly lay them down and pour them out for him. It’s more an attitude of what’s behind the words, than what the words are. Who do I say Jesus is? He is my all. 
Matthew 16:13-20  Let him be your ‘Hey Jesus,’ your all, and your salvation today.