Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Being Still, Finding God's Love

I love it when God leads me through the Bible - even if the path gets a little crazy!

I've been receiving messages through Scripture and prayer and music that I need to spend time being still, being quiet, listening. I'm working on making that happen.

I recently decided to take a verse that spoke to me and do something called "verse chaining." The idea is tha tyou pick a word that stands out to you in the verse. Do a keyword search on a Bible website or app. See what other verses come up that might have that word in them. Do any of those verses speak to you?

I sat down with Exodus 14: 13-15.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again.14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”

This leads directly into Moses parting the Red Sea.

Don't be afraid. Stand still. Stay calm. God will fight for me.

So I looked up the words "be still." And it led me to Matthew 14. Jesus has learned that John was killed. He wants to be alone but a crowd follows him, he has compassion and stays among them and heals people. Then comes the feeding of the 5000 - the miracle of the loaves and fish feeding the large crowd. The crowd disperses and Jesus goes on top of a mountain to be alone and pray. The Disciples head out on the fishing boat.

Then Jesus joins them. By walking on the water to the boat. And the Disciples freak out, thinking it's a ghost. And Jesus says to them:

"Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear."

Following Jesus, having faith, means abandoning fear.

Normally I would then pick out a word that spoke to me in what I'd just read. But I wanted to just move on to Matthew 15. This time, verses 16-20 stood out to me. Those tricky Pharisees and religious teachers are trying to corner Jesus and get him in trouble about following old laws. But Jesus tells them that following those old rituals isn't what matters. It's what's in your heart that matters.

"16 Do you still not see? 17 Don’t you understand that whatever you take in through your mouth makes its way to your stomach and eventually out of the bowels of your body? 18 But the things that come out of your mouth—your curses, your fears, your denunciations—these come from your heart, and it is the stirrings of your heart that can make you unclean. 19 For your heart harbors evil thoughts—fantasies of murder, adultery, and whoring; fantasies of stealing, lying, and slandering. 20 These make you unclean—not eating with a hand you’ve not ritually purified with a splash of water and a prayer."

This reminded me of Matthew 22:36-40. The Pharisees are again trying to corner Jesus and make him look bad. But he, of course, turns the tables. And he gives a new law - one that covers everything. One that, when followed, makes all the Commandments fall into place.

"Pharisees: 36 Teacher, of all the laws, which commandment is the greatest?
Jesus (quoting Scripture): 37 “Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.”[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is nearly as important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 40 The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations on these themes."
This is also stated in Mark 12:30-31

"30 You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”[f] 31 The second great commandmentis this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.”[g] There are no commandments more important than these."

So what is in your heart will come out of your mouth. If your heart is filled with God's love, love will come from your mouth. Love will come from you. But what exactly is love? Because it seems like there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas on how to love someone. We love by being affectionate. We love by taking care of others. We love by feeding the poor. We love by being kind. We love with "tough love." We love but it's clouded by judgement. We love everyone but we make rules about how someone receives God's grace or finds salvation.

1 Corinthians 13 makes it very clear.


Love Is the Greatest

13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.[c] All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love."
My actions may look like I love others. Maybe I feed the poor, take care of the single mom or the widow, maybe I save orphans and clean up from hurricanes, maybe I take in foster kids, maybe I'm doing the things God calls me to do... but if I don't have love in my heart, those actions are meaningless.

How do we know if we are loving someone? This is often used at weddings as a "between husband and wife" type of Scripture reading. But it's more than that. This is how love should look to anyone. This is how we should love our friends and family, how we should love the people next door, how we should love murderers and adulterers, how we should love people who look different than us or believe different than us.

Someone should know I love them because they experience patience, kindness, humility, compromise, forgiveness, joy, and perseverence. Which sounds a lot like the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.

I started out needing to be still, knowing that God will fight for me, knowing I can then move on. Realizing that God gave that message in the Old Testament to Moses and Jesus gave it again to the Disciples.  When I am still and I am faithfully following Christ, I take time to dive further into His word, to hear His calling for me. And that led me to studying what God says about love. About the condition of the heart. About how another person should experience Christ's love from my heart and out of my mouth.

There are time that I am overwhelmed by God's love and I can't help but share it. Those are the easy times. And there are times when my daughter is being a snot and my response to her is definitely lacking patience and kindness - lacking love. I think that anyone who gets really honest with themselves can see where they've pushed God away from their heart - where they need to do a better job of loving. You can just feel it on the inside. You can put on an act, you can convince yourself and others that your choices are for the sake of improving this or building that. But on the inside, I know when I'm lacking love. I know when my choices feel wrong. I know where I need to love better.

It starts with being still. It ends with loving better.

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg

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