Promises are fragile things. They are ephemeral ties that bind us, encouraging us to do exactly as our words have dictated. Inevitably, whether by choice or situation, those promises are sometimes broken. How many times have we in our day to day lives forgotten to live up to our word? I know I have made promises to those I love that I have unintentionally broken. It happens. We are human. Our words have so much meaning, but often, it is the actions that prove to mean the most.
This time of year always makes me think about why our promises matter. The Easter story, which tells of Jesus’s death and resurrection, is both a story of sacrifice and promise. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross embodied God’s covenant as a man with all people. A promise of life after death. Of the opportunity for us to redeem ourselves. Who hasn’t needed that? A second chance, an opportunity for compassion. I can say, easily, that I require that almost every day.
When I think about my relationship with my faith at this time of year, I try to focus on how I can honor such a sacrifice. What can I do that would make such an act of love seem worthy? And this year my thoughts have turned to the people surrounding my life that need an equal measure of forgiveness and love. Because we try, as human beings, to give each other compassion and understanding, right? We need it so often ourselves, isn’t it fair to offer it in equal measure?
But so often we don’t always succeed.
That guy cut me off!
This person is totally weird, they are so different from me.
I don’t agree with that point of view at all, they are wrong!
They have such different political views, they must be crazy!
I have seen it in my life. I have seen it in my social media feeds. I have witnessed this as I have grown up. Contention and anger because we are different. And here at last I am finally beginning to understand why this time of year is so crucial to christianity.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you, always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20.)
It is a reminder that Jesus died for all people. For those who believe and those who do not. For every last soul on Earth. And if he can make such an all encompassing promise, how can we not offer one another the gift of compassion? Recognizing our strengths and our differences with tolerance and with love? To all nations and all peoples Jesus made this promise. So perhaps, with this reminder, we can make a promise to try to offer love instead of hate. Understanding, not anger. Forgiveness. And in doing so, perhaps become an embodiment of the Easter lesson that was taught to us with such sacrifice.
Written by Meredith
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
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Yes! These kids get it!
Remember what I said about the Greek words used in the original manuscripts that we translate as love today? Well, after Jesus responds to the question of which is the greatest of the commandments, He follows it up with, “The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”
One of the most common questions I get from people who either do not believe in Jesus or do believe but don’t know Him very well goes something like this:
“Do you follow everything Jesus says? Do you love everyone? What about ____________?”
Jesus isn’t telling us to love ____________ (pick the worst of the worst) like you love your mom, best friend, brother, wife, children – you get the picture. Jesus is instructing us to be selfless, to be ready to act on someone else’s behalf, and to sacrifice.
And let’s not forget prayer. Knowing what was going to come of Him, to His apostles and disciples Jesus says, “…pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
So can we pray for others? For those individuals and groups that we could never imagine extending a helpful hand to because of their extreme unbelief or evilness…should we pray for them? Is praying for them “agape” love? Is that what Jesus was talking about?
“…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16
And then of course there’s the tough one: when it’s revealed to us that parts of our life are sins against God, what do we do? Pray? Repent? So then, what should we do for our neighbor who’s in sin? This one is tough, but if we are to do for our neighbor as we would do for ourselves…the answer is clear.
(On a side note, if you have never considered (or studied out) prayer, give this a shot...visit www.knowing-jesus.com and click on the Bible heading, then the Topics subheading, then enter the word “prayer” into the search and spend some quality time there…powerful stuff.)
This post continues part 1 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
loving God (part 1); loving your neighbor (part 2); and loving yourself (part 3).
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Well, 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the father is not in them.” The heart is the most powerful asset that a person owns, and I’m not talking about the big red blob pumping away in your chest – although that is important too – I’m talking about the ability to pass out affection. If all of your affection is being pumped into the world, where everything is rooted in the same soil as the first sin, then there is no room for our God, who forgives sin but will not tolerate the affection of it. Now don’t get me wrong, you can still love your significant other, or your mom and dad, or sister and brother, or son and daughter, but God comes before all – for he is the salvation of mankind.
How about the soul? How can someone love with their soul? Well, imagine an apple. It has its outer fruit and its inner core. An apple can look to be perfectly fine on the outside but have a rotting core. Likewise an apple can be bruised and cut on the outside but have a perfect core. The core of the apple is like your soul: it is the “true you.”
The soul has to do with your real personality, so to love God with all your soul you must follow in His footsteps by making godly choices, sacrificing for others, and pursuing obedience to His word. More than that, it is how you carry yourself. Just being nice to people is not enough in God’s eyes. Throw away your pride and be humbled by His goodness.
Finally, the mind. The human brain is the most useful organ in terms of survival; however it is the most susceptible to corruption and change. Think about it: Have you ever been waiting in a long line at a restaurant? Maybe you made up your mind about that chicken sandwich, but now that you’re staring at the menu, that bowl of baked potato soup looks good. But wait, what about the gravy fries? Well, this is a prime example of the detrimental aspect of the mind. So many things in this world jump out at us from different corners of vision that distort our way of thinking away from what we originally wanted.
My advice to you: Guard your mind with knowledge of His word, learn for yourself what God is saying by reading the Bible so that you may be able to tell the falsehoods of the world apart from the truths.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
This post begins part 1 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
loving God (part 1); loving your neighbor (part 2); and loving yourself (part 3).
Which one of these things doesn’t look like the others?
Jesus teaches the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), which doesn’t seem to leave room for lots of other stuff. So love Him like a combo meal #2 with cheese and jalapeños? See the tragedy here? The Greeks got this one right. Back then, they had 6 words for what we translate today as “love,” and all 6 have different meanings.
For God so loved (agapao) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Well, not exactly. The Greek word translated as “love” here is “phileó,” not “agape.” “Phileo” is a sense of brotherhood and close friendship; it’s where the name Philadelphia comes from. In addition to showing our love for Him through action and sacrifice, He wants us to have an intimate friendship with Him. See what I mean when I say the Greeks had it right?
Still think “love” is enough to encompass these verses? Consider the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:5 for love: “aheb.” About “aheb” the Jewish Publication Society says, “the paradox of commanding a feeling is resolved with the recognition that covenantal ‘love’ does not refer to internal sentiment or to private emotion. The focus is instead upon loyalty of action toward both deity and neighbor.” Hhmmm…sounds just like “agapao.”
It seems as though the more we get to know Him the more we learn that He delights in obedience (1 Samuel 15:22-23)! Jesus says that if we love (“agapao”) Him, we would keep His commandments (John 14:15).
I would return from those doors as a new person, someone practically remade or reborn.
If you have ever had a medical procedure or episode, you may know exactly how I felt that day. However, I did not arrive at this realization until I was in my late twenties. Until that time, all things medical or surgical were merely parts of life, like renting an apartment or buying a car. This event was different.
When we think of it, each day that we are lucky enough to awaken, we are reborn. On Wednesday, we add an experience or just a day of life that makes us a slightly different person on the following Thursday.
The day we break our arm for the first time, we learn the consequences of careless bicycle riding.
Upon completion of our first day at work, we are full of ideas and questions which have never occurred to us.
After our tonsillectomy, we discover that we really don’t want the promised post-surgery ice cream.
Our first cognition of our belief in God brings us joy and strength we have yet to experience.
Every moment in time changes us, resurrects us, gives us a new opportunity. We must be ready. Whether the daily changes that face us are exhilarating or intimidating, we can face them best with God as our guide. Isaiah 41:10 says, …fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
On that icy February morning, so long ago, I was about to meet my son for the first time. As the gurney wheels rolled through the doors, I felt humbled by my prior ignorance of the experience of so many women before me.
I was afraid that I would not be the right kind of mother. I was a little terrified of the birth experience. I was SO EXCITED to find out the baby’s gender.
The difference in this medical experience and my prior experiences was that my husband and I were now the protectors of another human. It was our job to ensure that this child would grow up healthy in all ways. For that new role, we certainly needed God’s guidance.
In Matthew 28:19-20, Christ tells his doubting disciples to …make disciples of all nations…[because] I am with you always, to the close of the age. Surely, with His help, we can find strength for our daily resurrections.
“What’s for dinner?”
Three words I hate to hear. I hear it every day, many times a day. I wonder if God feels the same way. I sometimes just want to tell my family we are having nothing for dinner, I’m tired, and I just don’t have the energy to care. But God never tells us that. He provides for us, whether we thank Him or not, whether we worship Him or not, and whether we believe in Him or not. His love for us is unconditional.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
(I do feed my family, by the way!)
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
I had all my school work, my homework, 25 pages of textbook reading every night, labs, choir music, etc. On top of that, everyone would ask me where I wanted to go to college, what I wanted to major in, and what I wanted to do with my life after college, when I had no clue myself.
So I would just stand there with a smile on my face and politely tell them that I still wasn't sure. It’s stressful not knowing what you want to do for the next 50 years of your life at 16!
I didn't know it at the time, but all I did with my life was school. I went to church youth group maybe a total of 10 times the whole school year. I never went to parties or really hung out with my friends. I put school before my relationships with my friends, my relationships with my family, and even my relationship with Christ.
A higher GPA was more important to me than going to youth group. I would rather be comfortable and do my daily little routine than take the extra time to focus on my Bible verse of the day.
Deep in the middle of the summer I was at a church camp. We were singing in worship, so studying and doing school work was the LAST thing on my mind. I was just singing along with the words on the screen when “Jesus is Better” by Austin Stone came on and this verse came up:
I broke down into sobbing tears because that lyric really spoke to me. I realized I had put my own comfort before my association with Jesus and that the singer was right: Jesus IS better.
Better than getting an A on a test that you studied so hard for.
Better than being valedictorian in your class.
Better than getting into the college of your dreams.
He is better.
It just took me a while to realize that He has a plan for me and that I have to put my trust in Him. I know that everything happens to people for a reason because that’s just a small part of his plan for them.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring enough worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34//NRSV)
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.
Book Of Mark
Favorite Bible Verses
Fruits Of The Spirit
Gratitude & Generosity
Love In Action
Series On Matthew 22:36 40
Walking By Faith