“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs”—Proverbs 10:12 (NIV).
In a recent morning devotional, the writer shared about the loss of his 17-year-old grandson, the fatal victim of a robbery. Commenting on his grandson, the grandfather said, “We had recently attended his high school graduation, and he planned to enter college in the fall. He was a handsome, loving and talented young man. Now, suddenly, he was gone.”
As the writer continued to share his story, my heart went out to him and his family. I can’t imagine the pain they’ve experienced. The writer said, “The senseless murder of our grandson was not part of God’s plan. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘led the killers to tear a hole in the glory of God’s world?’ The only answer that came to me was that evil had taken root in their lives because love was not there to crowd it out.”
As I pondered this thought, I had to agree. If someone never experiences the love of a parent, a kind neighbor, a compassionate school teacher, a loving church family or even the kindness of a stranger, how do they understand the love of Christ? As the writer above said in his devotional, “Many people who commit crimes against their neighbors have not experienced God’s love through their interactions with others. Much of the violence in life can be prevented if we Christians extend love to all people.”
If God can love us, surely we can love those around us.
All people—even the ones whom we’d rather avoid? The ones that rub us the wrong way or slyly insult us…do we have to love them too? Yes, according to Jesus, even the ones who annoy us, step on our toes, invade our personal space or whose personal habits cause us to turn up our nose in disgust.
“If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”—Proverbs 11:27 (NLT).
We can read the Bible cover-to-cover many times but never recall every scripture. However, the Holy Spirit brings the perfect one to mind in His timing. That’s what happened to me when I recently attended LifeChurch.TV with a friend on a Saturday evening.
The first scripture Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel cited in his sermon was Proverbs 11:27: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”
Using a real-life example, Pastor Groeschel used birds to demonstrate his message. A buzzard, he said, searches for dead things, like road kill, to feast on. However, the tiny hummingbird flits around looking for sweet things—the sweet nectar of a flower or that provided by a human in a feeder. “Both,” he said, “find what they’re looking for.”
As I thought about the scripture and the pastor’s example, I realized how true it is. If we don’t look for the good, then we will certainly see the evil in everything. I’m not saying we should look at the world through rose-colored glasses but neither should we be a “Negative Nancy” or a “Debbie Downer.” (Note: If your name is Nancy or Debbie, please do not be offended.)
How often we take offense, choosing not to seek the good in another person or a situation we cannot change. Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
Clinging to what is good should be the choice each Christian makes.
Through the renewal of our mind, which can only happen through a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ, we can begin to see the good in the world. Some believe it’s difficult to see the good when we are blasted constantly with negative news, courtesy of the media. Maybe that’s because bad news travels faster than the good. There is a common saying in the journalism business which is, “If it bleeds it reads.”
“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me”—Matthew 25:34-36 (MSG).
If you were asked to describe true love, how would you answer? Look up the synonyms for love in a thesaurus and you’ll find the following words close in meaning: affection, appreciation, devotion, emotion, fondness and friendship, along with several others. But these are man’s words.
I like the definition for love found in God’s Holy Word: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
If we don’t love, how can we, as Christians, be the light He calls us to be in the world?
From a secular viewpoint, love is often associated with the physical aspects of a relationship and the expression of that love through gifts such as candy, flowers and cards as seen on Valentine’s Day. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, from a Biblical perspective, true love is found in the spiritual. True love is not just between a man and a woman but is found in all of our relationships when we seek a higher calling.
“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”— Proverbs 16:9 (RSV).
Have you ever wondered why you’re at a specific job, living in a particular place, how you ended up married to a certain person or even why on Earth you’re here? If you’ve ever had questions like these and didn’t have the answer, maybe it’s because the Lord was directing your steps.
Sometimes, it’s only by looking back years later that the answer is revealed to us. Other times, we experience an “AHA” moment.
In 1971, when I enrolled in college, my plans were to pursue a degree in elementary education. When I sat down to discuss classes with my assigned advisor, he said, “You’re going to have a difficult time finding a job after graduation because there are too many elementary education majors.”
His statement led me to change my major to secondary education with an emphasis in English, my favorite high school class. While I’d never taken a journalism class, I decided to enroll in one the first semester as an elective. I loved it and eventually changed my major to journalism education with a minor in English. After teaching for several years at the high school level, I came to realize it was God’s plan all along. Although I’ve been retired from education for 10 years, I still stay in touch with, and am able to minister to, many of my former students.
If Jesus understood God’s plan for His life, shouldn’t it be your goal to let the Lord direct your steps also?
Recently, a friend shared with me about her sister’s “AHA” moment when God revealed to her why she was at a particular job. Webster’s dictionary defines an “AHA” moment as a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension. My friend’s sister had been questioning why she was there until she was led to minister to a fellow employee who was distressed about a family member’s pending incarceration. My friend’s sister could relate because she, too, has a family member who is incarcerated.
“But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord”—Joshua 24:15(TLB).
When I received an email several weeks ago via my website, I wondered if the person asking to subscribe to my weekly column was a former student. When I replied to his request, I asked. Yes, he was indeed a former student of mine, one whom I had not talked to in over 10 years.
It was exciting to catch up on this young man’s life and even more thrilling to know he is seeking the Lord. My former student had drifted away from God. After losing an infant son a decade ago, this young man had lost his faith. He still believed in God but had asked a million times, “Why?” Why had the Almighty chosen to take his young son?
As we continued to correspond, he had other questions about God, religion and church. Although he had returned to church, when he walked in, he immediately felt he was being instantly judged because of his attire. He wrote, “Isn’t it supposed to be a house of worship, a house of God? Why does it matter what you wear as long as it’s tasteful and not derogatory?”
He added, “Then, I have this issue with hypocrites. Do as you preach and not bash what you condemn.”
After answering some of this young man’s questions, I began to consider my own past reactions to those who did not fit my mold and my own excuses for leaving the church when I was younger. One excuse included those who did not do as they preached—the hypocrites. It’s easy to judge others, especially when we’re not sitting in their pew.
Some of Jesus’ harshest words were directed at hypocrites—at people who claimed to follow God but denied it by the way they lived.
“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”— 1 Chronicles 16:11 (ESV).
As I get older, my brain seems to be on overload. I’m going to blame it on the wisdom I’ve gained over the years, as well as the constant chatter in our lives.
I’m betting some of you can relate to the following: trying to find your sunglasses when they’re on top of your head; scrambling to locate your cell phone and panicking when you can’t find it; losing an important piece of paper or your grocery list and trying to recall what was on the list. I confess I’ve even had the list in my hand and still walked out of the grocery store without purchasing everything on it. Now, I carry an ink pen and mark off each item as it goes in my cart. Am I the only one who’s ever done these things or the only one who is willing to admit it?
As a Christian, it’s sometimes hard to admit we’ve lost touch with God. We can become so busy—even serving Him—we don’t take time to just be with Him. In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
What does it mean to abide in Jesus? The dictionary defines “abiding” as continuing without change; enduring; steadfast. What does that look like in our relationship with Him? First, the definitions all describe Him. He never changes. His love endures forever. He is steadfast, always faithful, even when we are not.
“There really is hope for you tomorrow. So your hope will not be cut off”—Proverbs 23:18 (NIRV).
How often do you hear the term “the good ole’ days?” What does that expression mean to you? For me, born in 1953, it refers to the following: the front doors of our homes—and many times the back door—left unlocked. There was no need for expensive alarm systems. We didn’t worry about burglaries. Instead, our greatest concern was a neighborhood child who might walk in without knocking and discover someone in a state of undress.
I long for “the good ole’ days” when children could leave the house after breakfast, play all day with neighborhood kids and return home just in time for supper. Parents didn’t worry that we’d be kidnapped. In those days, schoolyard arguments ended with “double dog dares,” instead of automatic weapons. A sense of peace and security prevailed. For me, those indeed were “the good ole’ days.”
While those “good ole’ days” weren’t perfect, I don’t think our world was in the current state of brokenness it’s in now. How can we find hope in this broken world?
While some constantly complain about the brokenness in our world, I’ve learned it does no good. We can’t change it but we can change our outlook on life when we place our hope in the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite verses. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”