Walk in Love

2 John

pb marriage

“And wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva… “ – The Princess Bride (Shout out to my fellow Princess Bride fans!)

 

Wouldn’t it be great if true love would just follow us forever, like the impressive clergyman said in The Princess Bride? I mean, love would be so pure and effortless. That’d be wonderful!

 

Relationships are a lot of work. It does not matter if it’s between you and a friend, a significant other, a parent, a sibling, or even someone you may not be too fond of. These relationships can feel like sunshine and roses. But in every relationship, there will be some conflicts that rise, fights that break out, and anger that ensues.

 

It happens.

 

When those moments occur, we need to be prepared. Love is a decision and a commitment. We need to decide to walk in love, rather than expecting love to follow us. Because most of the time, love won’t.

 

Let me explain.

 

Some say that love is just a passing emotion. Love is weak. Love is a cop out for conflict resolutions. Love is just a feeling that should be stuffed deep inside. Love is only for your significant other. Love cannot be given to people who hate you.

 

Those beliefs could not be more incorrect. Because, if you don’t walk in love, you walk out of love, out of relationships, and out of God’s plan for your life. That is a dangerous path to walk, my friends.


So walk in love. Make the commitment to love intentionally. Yes, relationships will be frustrating, and sometimes you will want to just throw some punches – physically and/or emotionally. Although it is hard work, walking in love is God’s command.

 

That’s easier said than done. Because to walk in love you must do the following things (and more!):

 

Forgive those who harm you. Encourage. Apologize. Express gratitude. Smile. Be Patient. Serve. Have compassion. Listen.

 

Walking in love is not just a feeling; it’s a decision, an action, and a major commitment. Are you up to the challenge?

 

– Madison Cisler

2 John 6a

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Make Better Investments

Matthew 25:14-30

Matt 25 21

Today we are talking about the New Year’s resolution of making better investments. This is a common resolution in the world whether people are people of faith or not. However I am going to talk about faith investments, more than monetary investments. Yes finances and being responsible are important in our lives and in our faith, however we need to be able to ask God for guidance in all areas of our lives including that one and we need to be flexible enough to listen to him.

At the start of the New Year one of my friends asked God, “Where and in whom should I invest my time, in 2018?” My thought was this, invest your time in the people who will give your time more meaning than just the time that they spend with you. Yes sometimes it is nice to have friends and family who will spend time with you, without there being a specific reason or purpose. However, you need to truly invest your time and energy in the people who will do something big with that time, not necessarily for you but maybe for them and their future. Today we are reading from Matthew 25:14-30. This passage is the parable of the talents. It is about the Master who gave 3 servants different number of talents, which were a type of coin. One was given 5, one was given 2, and one was given 1. The one with 5 invested them and doubled the money. The second servant did the same. The last servant buried the 1 talent in the ground, he did not even put it in the bank to at least collect interest. The first servant proved himself and so the master gave him even more, but to the last servant he gave him nothing, and he actually threw him out into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (That seems a little harsh to me, but the reality is life can be pretty difficult sometimes.)

I take a few things from this parable. 1.) Make smart choices and smart investments in your life, and take care of things that people entrust you with. The servants who made their master happy increased the master’s wealth, but they also did not lose the money that he gave them because they were proactive and took care of what they were entrusted with. The servant who did not make his master happy, did nothing with what he was given. This is what we should pay attention to. God gives us a lot of things. He gave us a life to live, and he has a plan for each of us. If you are not listening to him, how are you taking care of the gift that he has given you? If you are not taking care of the earth, and being conscious of how your actions affect other people and other creatures, how can you be taking care of a gift that was given to you? You are not. Think about this as you go about your daily life. How can you take care of the life you have been given? How can you listen to and follow God’s plan for your life?

2.) Invest in the people who are going to give you more than just time. Invest in the people who are going to give you wholesome friendships. Invest in the people that push you to be a better person, and those who hold you accountable to the things that you see. Invest in people who will push you in your relationship with God, and invest in those who will support you when you fall. We are imperfect beings and we will fall short sometimes. We will not always meet others’ expectations of us, God’s expectations or even our own expectations. Those will be difficult moments, but they will be easier to face if we have surrounded ourselves with people who will support us. It will also be easier if we have nurtured those relationships and given them the time that they deserve.

3.) Invest in God. This seems simple, and you’re probably going to guess what I am going to say. A relationship with God is not a one way street. You can not accept that Jesus is your savior and the son of God, and that God is one and only God, and not do anything else. You have to live a life with works. James 2:17 “Even so, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” This means investing in time in prayer, and in time in the word, and even in time with other believers in fellowship. Find little ways to do more of these in your daily life. Later in the week we will talk more about how to do more in the investment of your relationship with God, as we enter into this new year.

-Jana Swanson

Hearts of Flesh

Empathy

This week, we have explored the ways in which empathy informs and shapes our call as Christians to love one another.  We’ve learned how empathy is sitting with and understanding another’s perspective.  We’ve looked at how empathy allows us to love others in ways that uniquely speak to their circumstances.  We’ve even seen how we have a high priest in Christ who’s empathy has brought us salvation.

 

Today, I would like to end our time together by encouraging each one of us to live our lives more empathetically in light of our readings.  In a society that often seems more and more connected, we can increasingly find ourselves alone.  At its very root, empathy stands against such isolation by opening our own hearts to those around us.

 

This is hard.  This is dangerous.  It’s a path that has even led to the cross.  But when we refuse or close our eyes to the full humanity of those around us, we begin to break the very ties that make us human.  Because out of everything that God has made, only loneliness was not good.

 

To be human – the way that humanity is meant to be – is to be in community, relationship, and connection with all those around us.  Who is our neighbor? Everyone.  Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes.  Who should I love? Even my enemies.

 

The work of God, from the emancipation of the Israelites to the salvation of the resurrection, is a story of an ever widening circle of people that are called to love and care for one another in the glory of God.  That cause has not changed even today.

 

We are called to love and care and expand the boundaries of our own comfort so that the unlovable will be cared for and the lonely will no longer be alone.

 

Empathy is the tool that protects our hearts from becoming stone.

 

As we part ways today, my prayer for each of us is that we are transformed and empowered to carry hearts of flesh that can love beyond human comprehension.

-Graysen Pack

For Others

Tuesday

I Corinthians 10-24

1 Corinthians 10:24 Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.

One of the hardest parts of relationships for me is not trying to just fix things.  It’s a pretty stereotypical “guy” thing, but it’s something that I think everyone deals with at some point or another.


Yesterday, one of the things we said about empathy is that it isn’t about trying to fix things.  Putting a silver lining around something or just trying to get to a solution isn’t empathy at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg).

So, what’s the problem trying to be solved in this video? The title pretty much gives it away – it’s not about the nail (really!).  See, removing the nail might make her head feel better, but it does nothing to solve the deeper problem – her partner isn’t connecting with her experience.  He’s distant and disconnected from what’s going on in her life.  Together they may be able to address the nail, but that only comes after they’ve built an empathic connection for each other’s situation.

That moment towards the end where he says that her situation must be really hard.  That’s a bit of empathy shining through.  And what happens?  They strengthen their relationship and she feels understood and accepted.

There are some things in life that we can change (like pulling a nail out of our heads), but there are just as many that we have no control over whatsoever.  Empathy gives us a way to find healing and love even when our nails can’t be removed.

Just as Paul urged us yesterday, again he urges the Corinthians (and us) to act in love with empathy; seeking to do what is good for others.  Being able to step forward in empathy to share in another’s burdens allows us to address the deepest concerns of life by showing others that they are not alone.

Today, may you feel the presence of all those who bear your burdens with you, and may you extend that grace to others as well.

 -Graysen Pack
 

Union with Christ

Philippians 3

IMG-0279

The last few days we’ve been talking about unity in the body. Today I want to spend some time discussing unity (or union) with the head of the body. Our connection with Jesus affects every relationship in our lives. If we are to achieve unity in our local church, we must maintain union with our Lord.

 

Union with Christ has two important aspects. The first is knowing him. This does not mean to know who he is or to know some things about him. It is to understand what he went through and why he endured it. It is to realize that without him we are hopeless. It means communicating with him. It means recognizing that our own efforts count as nothing towards our salvation and that only through him can we be saved and that this is a good thing. Paul says that everything he could boast about in himself is garbage compared to the worth of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8), and in John 17:3 Jesus says that eternal life is to know the only true God and His son. Knowing Christ is essential for salvation and for being united with him.

 

The second aspect of our union with Christ is being like him. Earlier in Philippians, Paul tells readers to have the same mind as Christ (2:5).  Just as Jesus lived to serve the will of God, we should. Just as he was willing to give up his life for others, we should. He lived perfectly and we should strive to do the same. In Galatians 2:20 (ESV) Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Union with Christ is about emptying ourselves of the muck that comes from our sinful nature and replacing it with the holiness that comes from Christ—out with the old, in with the new.

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in [union] Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (1 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

 

In this life, we will never achieve perfect union with Jesus. We will not fully know him or be totally like him until we can be with him—without the presence of sin. Paul recognized this and writes that despite his shortcoming he would “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, NRSV). We, too, should press on towards the goal to have union with Jesus. It won’t be perfect, but it will go a long way in furthering our own spiritual development and the unity of the Church.

– Joel Fletcher

Answer the Call

Mark 3

Mark 3-13

About seven years ago, one of my very closest friends was pregnant. She and her husband already had one daughter who was birthed at home and they had decided that their second child would also be born at home. She asked if I would babysit the older daughter during the delivery. Of course, I said yes.

 

I got a call one morning from my friend and she explained that she was experiencing contractions and that I should be ready to come over in a few hours when the contractions got closer together. Ok, no big deal, I thought. I’ll run a few errands, take care of some other stuff and I’ll simply wait for the call. About four or five hours later, she calls and says, it’s time to come over. Sweet! I was excited!

 

I got to her home and her husband wasn’t there yet, he was still at work. The midwives weren’t there yet, they were stuck in traffic. Oh boy! What had I gotten myself into???

 

I helped her prepare the bed for the delivery and get some other things situated. Thankfully, her husband eventually arrived and the two of them went up the stairs while I stayed downstairs with their little girl. Finally, the midwives busted through the front door and I told them where to go. I decided to take the little girl outside to her playset and within 20 minutes, their second daughter was born.

 

After a bit of time, my friend’s husband, came down stairs and invited me upstairs to introduce me to the newest member of their family.

 

It was only after I had left to go to my own home that I realized what I could have ended up doing if the husband and midwives hadn’t shown up in time. And so, I was so incredibly honored that my friend had asked me to be part of her delivery day. But I never would have been asked to be there in the first place if I hadn’t developed the close relationship with my friend a few years before.

 

In Mark 3, we read about Jesus inviting his closest followers to become His apostles. Simon, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas had all first responded to Jesus’ call of becoming His disciples. They learned from Jesus. They witnessed miracles being performed. They left all that they had to be obedient.

 

Now Jesus was asking for more. He was getting ready to send them out and become fishers of men. A task that wasn’t asked of everyone. This was an important task, one that demanded, not just knowledge and readiness, but a dedication to persist through great trials and tribulations. These men probably had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they said “yes”. But to them, because of the relationship that they had developed with Jesus, the promotion He was offering was the natural thing to agree to.

 

Here’s the thing. Jesus wants our relationship with Him to be so close, so intimate, so natural, that when He asks us to do something, to go somewhere, to minister to some person, that we don’t have a second thought about it. In fact, when we realize His desire for us to do something, it’s an honor and privilege to serve Him in whatever task He’s given us.

 

I was not prepared to deliver a child into this world, but I would have been willing if the need arose. Likewise, I may not know exactly what Jesus is going to ask of me today, tomorrow or the next, but I am willing to do whatever He asks of me. Are you?

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

Social Media Warning: Stripping on a Winter’s Day

Proverbs 25 – Thursday

“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”   Proverbs 25:20

Prov 25-20

Any of us could be forgiven if, by looking at our latest social media feed, we were surrounded by people full of joy living their best life today.  It’s easy to see how perfect our friend’s lives appear when viewed one photo, tweet, or snap at a time.  It’s a perfect and tailored vision of what their lives are.

 

It isn’t uncommon for me to find myself not refreshed by spending a few (many) minutes on my latest Instagram feed, but actually more tired, weary, and heavy.  In fact, recent studies have shown that spending more time on social media platforms actually increases the likelihood of depression.  I know that I’m not the first one to say this, but holding our own lives – with all its boring, sad, weird bits – against the lives we see portrayed every day in these feeds is a pretty easy way to see yourself into a sadder state.  

 

The thing is, we have a hard time stopping.  We delete our Facebook, shut down our Twitter, and delete Snapchat from our phone.  But before long, it’s right back again.

 

I want to talk about this, because I think that this verb from Proverbs speaks as deeply to how we treat ourselves as to how we treat others.

 

The more obvious way to read this verse is to see it as a directive to treat others and their pain with the respect it deserves.  If someone’s in pain, don’t try to gloss over it.  If they’re hurting, quit trying to just make them laugh.  Quit telling me to smile.


And I can easily point out a ton of examples of how we see this same message echoed throughout scripture. The best thing that Job’s friends do isn’t to try to tell him how to fix it all, but to sit with him in the ashes and mourn with him.  Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  God sent Christ to meet us exactly where we are.  

 

The Christian message is one of meeting people in their pain and sharing its load with them.  Just like the song says, lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend.  I’ll help you carry on… (you’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head).  


But I want to focus on how we can each steal garments away from ourselves and pour vinegar on our own wounds.  Although we can and do find all sorts of crutches in our life, few of them have the alluring power that social media has inspired over the past decade.  Why?  Because unlike many addictions, social media – when misused – can give us the fleeting sensation of being connected with others without any of the benefits of actually engaging in relationship with them.  

 

Because social media also has the ability to be a transformative tool for actual social engagement.  It can help us find a community of friends who will help us bear that load (to help us carry on…get it???).  I don’t want you to mistake this as a tirade against social media usage, but rather as a call to reflect on how we should keep it in its proper orientation.  Where digital connections enhance and strengthen the bonds you’ve built IRL (in real life), it can provide a way to stay connected in meaningful ways like never before.  But if it has become an addiction that keeps us from engaging in the richness of the world around us, then we may find ourselves stripping off our own clothing on a winter’s day.

 

We need to not only treat others emotional trauma with the kind of respect and “sitting-with-ness” it deserves.  But, we need to be attentive to our own emotional needs so that we can feed ourselves with relationships and community that doesn’t just feel engaging, but actually is.  

 

-Graysen Pack