I John 4:12-13 (NLT) No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.
The besties and I set out on the “Black Friday” adventure on Thursday afternoon. With no real plan or intent other than just to hangout and have some fun, we gathered at command central (one friend’s house) to plan our outing. Pouring over sales papers, finding great deals, and enticing offers – off we went to fight the crowds, laugh and start off the festivities of Christmas together. Now before anyone pulls out the old soapbox to declare consumerism is communism of Christmas, let me assure you my friends and I love Jesus. We are considerate of those who had to work on Thanksgiving as well. If the stores had been closed, I would have been just as happy at home with family and friends. I believe in contentment. If your choice was to stay home, I pray it was with the heartfelt intent to enjoy one another and share the love. There is a point to my story and it has nothing to do with politics or opinions, but rather proof of purchase. It is my conviction that human beings compare and find conflict quite easily. We divide and demand our own way readily. Just ask the person who zoomed up behind the car pulling out at one store, and honked profusely when I pulled into the spot that I had waited patiently for. They waved letting me know that I was number one or at least that’s how I took it. This is about proving who I am in Jesus Christ.
Driving home on Friday after Thanksgiving, there was a man on the street corner yelling at the passing cars about God’s Judgment. He was hollering at people that Jesus is the reason for the season and I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly except the Jesus I know whispers in a still small voice and speaks to my heart. He doesn’t berate me when I fail Him. I let Him down enough to know that the Lord should have left me a long time ago, but He loves me and will never leave me or forsake me. Is the gentleman who gave up his time to “preach” on a street corner really getting God’s Point across or is he only reinforcing what the world already thinks about Christians? It doesn’t have to be the guy on the corner it could be those of us congregating in the lobby of any church. When the person walks in who is not walking the right way in the world or at least according to our self-righteous opinion? Do they feel welcome? How about the one who has not been there for a long time? Do they feel love and warmth? See I think that as believers – we need to reconsider our approach to this thing called Christianity. As followers of Christ – we must be like our Savior and Lord rather than redefining the guidelines with new doctrine. Let’s just do it His Way for a change.
One of the stores was offering small appliances at a major discount. Waffle irons like the fancy hotel kind that make my kids giggle with glee and crockpots were less than ten dollars. I was sold at that sign. I love kitchen goods and gadgets. Once at the register, they rang up more than double the cost. When I asked the cashier, if the price was correct. She said, “Yes, there is a rebate on these items.” Ahh…rebates. Rebates are a commitment that many shoppers are not willing to make. They are safety nets for the stores because many consumers never get around to turning them in. With a bit of hesitation, I went ahead and bought the items I couldn’t resist. There were more purchases that required the same process to claim the discount. I have spent some time gather the information, filling out the form, sorting through receipts and providing proof of purchase barcodes. Each one sits before me in a carefully marked envelope with proper postage. I will mail these in today and wait for the refund for each item. Waiting is not my favorite but always seems to be a requirement.
I have asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior. Many people will agree that they are saved simply because they asked Jesus to save them. This is the only requirement. It is the process of redemption that we declare Jesus to be Lord of our life and live like it. Many will make this process more comfortable by bending the rules which is compromise or making this a legalistic venture requiring staunch adherence to ridiculous rules and regulations never outlined by Christ at all in His Commandments. He only gave us two – to love the Lord God with our body, mind and spirit and to love everyone else the same. Well, now you know why everyone makes Christianity about something else. Love is my proof of purchase. We struggle to love selflessly. Many honest people will admit that it is tough to love themselves some days. How do we know that redemption is at work in us? After all, I cannot see God, yet I know He lives in me. But how? God’s Existence in my life is exemplified by my ability to love other people.
I John 4:15-16 (NLT) All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
About halfway through our shopping adventure, our group decided that food was absolutely necessary to carry on and came across an old burger mainstay that remained open to serve the tired and weary shoppers. Sitting around the table after inhaling our food, I looked at the faces of three ladies I love and admire very much. They are people who I cannot live without in my life. One face represented the younger me. One represents the transformation process I have gone through. One is the person I am becoming. Each one is necessary in my life not just because I love them with all of my heart but they reflect God’s Hand at work in me. I believe that God positions people in our life everyday meant to draw something more from us. Those we love and respect teach us, sharpen us and encourage us. There are those that challenge us causing our iron to be sharpened. There are those that break us and reveal the contents of our heart exposing anything not worthy of His Spirit that inhabits us. God loves all people. All people have a purpose. Redemption is achieved by our ability to love each other. Say what?
To demonstrate our commitment to Christ, is one’s ability to love and be loved. We cannot earn or achieve salvation any way other than to surrender our life to Jesus Christ – body, mind and spirit that encompasses the whole person. With this in mind, the two commandments are to surrender our entire life to our love for Him AND to give that love to everyone else as well. I have accepted God’s Unfailing and Unconditional Love as my own and now I am mandated to give that same love and grace to others. This is how the world knows I belong to Him. This is the characteristic that tells others I belong to Christ. Can I do it?
Philippians 2:12-16 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.
In order to receive the refund, I had to follow the instructions on the rebate form. We must continue in the Word of God daily and do what it says not what we want it to say or decide what bits and pieces relate to us. It is all about us. When eating and digesting God’s Word each day – it will feed and nourish our soul, it will strengthen our mind, and it will cause us to lose taste for the lesser things in life. To taste and see that the Lord is good quickly will make us see that the Bread of Life is all that is needed to live a healthy and prosperous life.
To redeem my rebate, I also had to provide everything that was required in the instructions. I couldn’t just give what I wanted to give. I had to follow the redemption requirements. I am speaking this softly and in love, if you try to preach the Gospel and share the Good News without copious amounts of unfailing and unconditional love – you are not preaching at all. The point of the entire Bible is that God is love. If your message is not working, lives are not changing, people are not listening – it is time to evaluate the content of our heart to be sure our message is purely that of God’s Love.
I had to consider the cost. When I purchased the products, I had to pay the full price up front. To mail off the rebate information required postage. Are you willing to pay it forward today? To love when you feel unloved. To give when you are not receiving. To exchange hatefulness and ugliness for love and peace. See the world is not bent on giving but getting. Love has grown cold. Sin is rampant. You are not like that anymore but a Child of God. You live in light that others hide from because they have not experienced the Light of His Love but that of condemnation and mostly by church people. We have work to do to save the face of organized worship that long has invited sinners to slap that them with doctrine and beat them with rules. God is love. Christians should express the same thing to others that the Lord has given them even if it means paying it forward. Self-preservation is not part of the saving process, friend. You cannot give your life away and keep things tucked away and hidden safely inside. Faith is based on unseen things not what is right before you. We must be willing to lay our life down in the Name of Love holding nothing back and considering the cost before attempting to build relationships with others (all others) on anything less.
Finally, my favorite part (not so much), waiting on the return or reward. Ugh! Are you willing to wait for love to find you? Will you love until He comes? Will you provide proof of purchase and wit on your reward?
Matthew 10:16-22 (NLT) “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”
Believers are sent out as sheep in a world full of wolves. Early disciples were beaten within an inch of their life and when released continued to share the message of God’s Love. Most Christians cannot endure a good tongue lashing from another without giving up on loving that person altogether. Everyone who endures to the end will be saved. The world will hate you because you follow Jesus. It is not our job to change the world’s mind. The ruler of the world hates God and therefore hates His Children. Stop trying to change the world and devote your time, energy and prayer life to loving others completely. Unconditional love is mandated as the only thing that true believers are obligated to. God is God over it all. He has everything under control. What if we spent as much time trying to win souls with love as we did with arguments? God didn’t sent you to win a debate but to be His Disciple. He is Sovereign. It doesn’t matter what people think. What matters is have they experienced God’s Love and had a one-on-one encounter with His Son, Jesus? I cannot make proper introductions when He is a stranger to me or casual acquaintance. I cannot be a Child of God or disciple of Christ unless I am learning, striving and devoted to loving others all others. It is part of the redemption process that cannot be overlooked and avoided. It will require me giving my all to love. (Period)
Psalm 103:1-4 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
Lord do not let me forget the benefits of your love today. I am saved by Your Grace alone and nothing I do. Let me remember each day that I am redeemed and crowned with love and tender mercy. It is from this position that I rule and reign over the enemy each day. To live in Your Love and share it with the world is my process. I am only effective when I give my life away like You did for me. Lord, teach me to love like you do so I will endure to the end and be saved.
John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”