Who is my neighbor?

As we walked beside–and chatted with–a national park attendant, last weekend, my toddler exclaimed, “He’s our neighbor, mommy!” And as I started to correct her, I paused and realized, she’s right! (From the mouth of babes, right?) Instead, I agreed with her, “You’re right, baby, he is our neighbor!”

I had to take a step away from social media for a few days. After the slaying of George Floyd, my heart ached. It ached for his family, and community. Then my heart ached because of the things people were saying about each other on Social Media. Judgmental things. Hurtful things. Divisive things.

Everyone reacts differently during the best of times, and it’s no different during the worst. What might make one person angry, might make another sad, simply because everyone sees the world differently, and expresses emotion differently. And it’s NOT okay to tell someone how they should feel or react, because everybody is different.

That Saturday night, my daughter’s words about our “neighbor” brought to mind the story of the Good Samaritan.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ~ Luke 10:25-37, ESV

Did you catch that? “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?'”

In response, I would question…does it matter? God calls us to love the people around us whether or not we look like them, think like them, believe the same things as them. We’re to love them whether or not they treat us kindly, whether they’re rich or poor, whether or not we agree with them. We’re to grieve with them, rejoice with them, acknowledge their feelings–whatever they may be–and treat them with respect.

The Samaritan in the parable above, was looked down upon by the Hebrews. Despised and avoided by them. But it was he, not the priest or the Levite, who was moved to compassion for this broken man. This human, created in the image of God. El imago Dei.

I’m going to leave you with some more Scripture regarding how we should love others, below, to meditate upon. If this seems impossible, it’s because in our own flesh, it is! But we’re people of the Spirit, and we have a love and power within us that surpasses anything this world could dish out.

  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:43-48, ESV
  • “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ~ Luke 6:27-36, ESV
  • “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:12-13, ESV
  • “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” ~ Romans 12:9-21, ESV

Love, grace and peace to you. God bless!

Justice

The violence of the wicked shall sweep them away, because they refuse to do justice. ~ Proverbs 21:7

As I read the above verse, back in October of 2019, I paused and reflected on it’s meaning. “Who would be swept away?” I asked myself. At first glance, the violently wicked; but upon further inspection, I noticed that those who refuse to do justice, are included.

We hear a lot about “justice” in the news; it’s one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, actually, and I don’t think many actually understand its meaning. Often it’s mistaken for revenge, rather than the fair and impartial judgement that it actually means. However, if we’re all being honest, we’d recognize that our U.S. justice system has its flaws; and while we like to state that “justice is blind,” we know that it isn’t. Some are judged more harshly, or conversely, shown favor, because of their skin color, background, or socioeconomic status. The Bible states that we should show no partiality and bare no false testimonies, but because we live in a fallen world, these are two things that plague the current justice system and prevent it from working as it should. And sadly, it will never be perfect because we’re imperfect.

Nonetheless, as believers, we should speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves, we should proclaim truth wherever we go, and we should show no partiality. Listed below are some of the scripture regarding justice found throughout the Word.

  • He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. ~ Deuteronomy 10:18, ESV
  • You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. ~ Deuteronomy 16:19, ESV
  • “The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He. ~ Deuteronomy 32:4, ESV
  • Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. ~ Psalm 82:3, ESV
  • I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. ~ Psalm 140:12, ESV
  • Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin. ~ Psalm 146:5-9, ESV
  • To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. ~ Proverbs 21:3, ESV
  • Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. ~ Proverbs 29:26, ESV
  • Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. ~ Isaiah 1:16-17, ESV

Over and over again, God tells us He desires for us to seek and execute justice, because He is JUST. He is just and He shows no partiality and that’s what He desires from us! He doesn’t care what the color of our skin is, what language we speak, where we were raised, whether we’re rich or poor, what our political affiliation is…if we call ourselves followers of Christ, we should care about what HE CARES ABOUT, period.

I love ya’ll and I’m not trying to make anybody upset. I’m just sharing the Word, and I’m praying. I’m praying for peace in the hearts and minds of people across the nation and around the world, because God knows everything that’s going on right now. I’ve also been praying for discernment, because there’s a lot of junk being spread around and I want to recognize the truth from the lies. However, God repeatedly tells me not to worry about any of it and just focus on His Truth, so that’s what I’m trying to do. 😉

Peace, love, and grace!

Angelica

For the Good of My Neighbor

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:24, ESV

“‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:31b, ESV

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~ Philippians 2:4, ESV

I’ve been studying the first book of Corinthians through the First 5 app, and the first verse above got me thinking about other times the bible pretty much states the same thing. We talk a lot about what love is and isn’t, in fact we talked about 1 Corinthians 13 a couple posts back. But there’s a reason we talk about it so much…because God is love personified, and we are called to follow His lead. His Word actually says that the world will recognize us by our love (John 13:35)!

But how do we do this? According to the Word, by putting the needs of others before our own. Now, during this global viral outbreak, I’ve never seen so clearly, an example of what that might look like. In our country there are those at higher risk/danger when exposed to a virus like this; there are those who are afraid, and those who aren’t; and there are those who are struggling to get by, because they’ve lost an income (or two) and really need/want to get back to work. Seeking the good of others means that we have to come to some sort of agreement that works for all our neighbors, not just me and my household, and not just a favored few.

We need to stop and think about how we can help our neighbors during this time. Perhaps it means picking up groceries for someone at higher risk. Maybe it means wearing a mask to protect the people we come into contact with–even when we don’t feel like wearing one, or feel like we need one (I’m talking to myself, here). Or maybe it means helping someone who’s lost their job, pay utilities, or their housing bill until they can get back to work. And for those who do need help and are scared, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Many are willing and able to help, but we don’t always know where the need is.

Oddly enough, my girls and I heard this Veggie Tales’ song, “Love Your Neighbor,” which I felt, fit in nicely with this topic, so I’m going to end this post with it. I love the lines that say: God made us special and now I can see. If you’re special to Him, then you’re special to me. The song reminds me that God loves each and every one of us; He made us all unique; and He wants us to show love towards one another by taking action…and lending a hand. I love you all! And God bless.

Mercy

King David has always been someone I’ve admired. I know, he was far from perfect; he lied, he coveted and committed adultery, he murdered, and he failed to act when it came to disciplining his children. Yet, he’s remembered for being a man after God’s own heart. Why? Because he was a repentant man, who sought God’s glory and hated wickedness.

But in all honesty, he wasn’t much different from us. As I continue to read through the Psalms, I take note of how David repeatedly prayed regarding his enemies. Like so many of us, he often prayed in a way that Jesus Himself spoke against in the New Testament. I get it. David’s heart was hurting. People were talking badly about him, he was being physically, mentally and spiritually attacked; and he wanted justice. He wanted to see his enemies suffer and he wanted them shown no mercy.

David believed, as we often do, that God should show up on his side, and destroy all his enemies. As though God had something to prove to them. But God is God. He moves in His own will and time, and He does things in His own way. He shows mercy to whom He desires to show mercy (Exodus 33:19) and His justice may not be seen in this world, but the next. Lastly, don’t miss the irony here, David, whom God had poured mercy upon repeatedly, was asking that God not grant mercy towards others!

In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. To pray like David did so often in the Old Testament, that our enemies would suffer for their wickedness, is not exactly what God had in mind. Perhaps, instead, we should pray that their eyes be opened to the error of their ways. Perhaps, we should pray that they come into the saving knowledge of Christ. Perhaps, we should pray that our own hearts would be softened and filled with love for them.

We often expect that God will show us mercy, but don’t always want that same mercy poured out on those who’ve hurt/wronged us, or have done some other immoral thing. I mean, look back at Jonah. He didn’t want God to show mercy towards the Ninevites, so he became disobedient, and refused to preach salvation to them. When he finally went to Nineveh and God poured out His mercy upon them, Jonah was angry. He acted along the same lines as the Pharisees did when Jesus chose to preach, teach, and eat with “sinners” and tax collectors (I had to put “sinners” in quotes because we’re all sinners, according to Romans 3:21-25). So often, those claiming to be followers of Christ find themselves in the same boat, and it’s sad. I get it; it’s not easy to forgive those who’ve hurt us, but that’s why God gives us supernatural power–the Holy Spirit–to help us in impossible situations. (For more examples you can read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and the unforgiving servant, in Matthew 18:21-35 & Luke 15.)

San Diego, Ca. Beach 1God calls us to behave in ways that are completely contrary to the ways of this world; and I think we’ve walked with the world for far too long. Christ died so that we ALL could have an opportunity to have relationship with God, not just a few of us; and He asks that we show others the mercy He’s shown us. When the world sees our love and respect for each other–even for our enemies (and those we don’t see eye-to-eye with)–they’ll recognize something different, something real in us. 

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ~ Matthew 5:7

P.S. This post is somewhat similar to a post shared back in 2015, titled R-E-S-P-E-C-T, if you’re interested in checking that out.

Wednesday’s Worship – Even Louder

I woke up Sunday in a mood; one of those moods where I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep through church. The hubby went in to church early, because he was playing percussion for the worship team, so I forced myself to get up and get ready before Cookie Girl woke up. I was trying not to let my downcast mood get to me and started listening to worship as I got breakfast ready for the both of us, and “Even Louder” performed by ISAAC began playing. And my mood began to change as I sung…even when my eyes can’t see it/I’ll sing ’til I believe it/Even Louder/Even Louder.

Sometimes we have a hard time facing the day, because of the things that are going on in our lives, or the enemy is playing games with our emotions, or whatever reason, and we have to remember that we praise God because of who He is; and the only thing to do is praise Him right on through the storms and struggles. I love the lyrics of this song because they talk about God’s faithfulness, holiness, & love; how He’s worthy of praise; and how even when it’s difficult we’ll choose to worship Him.

Faithful in the sanctuary/Faithful in the storm/Worthy in the empty spaces/Worthy in my song

Pre-Chorus: A thousand years of endless praise/Will never be enough/Through it all my heart will cling/To Your unfailing love

Chorus: Even if the drums stop beating/My soul will keep on singing/Even louder/Even louder/Even when my eyes can’t see it/I’ll sing ’til I believe it/Even louder/Even louder

You are holy in the highest places/Holy in the flood/Even in a world that’s changing/I will lift You up

Bridge: I will sing Your promise in the dark of the valley/’Til I see your goodness in the land of the living

This is a pretty simple song for a congregation to sing, has an upbeat tempo, and would be a great addition to a worship set list.

The Gift of Life

Good morning, my beautiful readers! Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I have a really good excuse this time! I’m pregnant! Currently, 13 weeks and 2 days.

I was working two jobs when my husband and I discovered we’d be expecting–the day after Thanksgiving, lol–but I quit my part-time position in December, after the holidays had subsided, and the only thing preventing me from sharing with y’all has been the fatigue and nausea associated with the first trimester. I have been feeling a little better the last few days, so hopefully, I can continue where we left off.

This morning, on my way in to work, God and I were having this really long conversation. I was talking to Him about my pregnancy and the baby; my marriage and relationship with my husband; my friends and family who are also expecting; and my friends who’ve recently given birth, and their marriages. Then I started thanking Him for the life He’s given me and here’s where I started to break down a little.

If you’ve read my testimony, you understand why I began getting so emotional. There was once a time in my life where I didn’t see a baby as a precious gift, but as an inconvenience. I’ve since then recognized my flawed thinking and repented of my sins and failures, but to be in the position that I am now…is overwhelming, to say the least. God’s not only given me new life through His Son Jesus Christ, but now He’s giving me new life in the form of a baby; and that just goes to show how forgiving, loving, and merciful and generous He is.

This Friday, January 27th, is the March for Life in D.C. Last year I got snowed out, and this year I won’t be able to make it just due to the fact that that’s a lot of walking and I’m not prepared for it in my current state (my body has been so achy, lately, since everything is shifting inside). However, if you can make it, I encourage you to do so. I’ll be praying for your safety and that God speaks clearly through you. Don’t forget that there are people on both sides of this issue and we all need to see God’s love and truth through you; we need our talk to be seasoned with grace at all times.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV

Lastly, I just want to say…we serve a great GREAT God and I don’t know where I would be without Him. If you are, or ever have been, where I once was, or you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, and you want to know more, submit a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond with love and grace. I love you all, because God loves us all, and gave up His one and only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him…all of us.

Take care and God bless!

JOY

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!
~ Psalm 30:11-12, NLT

I recently had a birthday; and, as usual, I began taking stock of where I am in life. Feeling overwhelmed at work, cramped at home, and just overall exhausted, I was in a real funk for about two weeks.

Then, yesterday on my way home, it hit me like a warm ray of sunshine…JOY.

Where did it come from? I’m not sure, but suddenly I was giddy about some of the changes to come…a new two bedroom apartment, a new pet, a possible part-time job for some extra income. It was in that moment that I remembered: happiness is fleeting but joy is everlasting.

How can that be so? Because joy comes from a separate place that’s unrelated to my circumstances; and it allows me to be thankful in any situation. It’s funny, because I’m always reminding myself that my hope is in Christ, but I seem to easily forget that so is my joy! The prophet Nehemiah (8:10) actually says that the joy of the Lord is our strength! That means the joy we have in Christ Jesus is what carries us through when we’re feeling weak or unable to continue; just as I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.FontCandy (9)

And what joy can be found in Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the Savior of the world, the One who suffered and died for us because He loves us and cares for us! (Yes, He does care for us. He had to remind me of that this week, too.)

As believers, we know that one day we’ll get to worship before His throne! One day we’ll get to see His glory in all its fullness! We know that this world is temporary, and that one day we’ll see the earth in all its original splendor and perfection, and live eternally with Him. But until then, we need to let the joy found in Him sustain and empower us to reach our broken world, and reach out to those without hope, without joy, and without the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Lastly, as Paul said to the Philippians (4:4), “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”

But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew
on your people in the place of the dead!

~ Isaiah 26:19, NLT

Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.

Actions are Louder than Words

IMG_3454January 22, 2016 was the March for Life event in Washington, D.C. A group of friends and I planned to participate, however, due to the expected amount of snowfall in the area we decided not to risk traveling in the snow and getting stuck anywhere.

In a previous post I mentioned that this would be the year for action. This is the year where I stop talking about doing things and actually step outside my comfort zone and DO them. March for Life was meant to be the first of this year’s actions and I was prepared to share that with you, however, it appears it will have to wait another year.

If you’ve read my testimony you would understand why March for Life was something I really wanted to be a part of. Every year I say I want to go, but only this year did I mark it on my calendar, take the day off from work, put money on my Metro pass, and gather a group of like-minded friends who were willing to make the trip up north with me. We even waited until the very last minute to cancel because we were so committed to participating in this event.

But honestly, our passion shouldn’t end here.

Not only should we be ready for whatever else is occurring this year, we should be ready to reach out to the people we come into contact with every day! Our local pregnancy center hosts events practically every month (ex. April 21st is their Empowering Life Gala) and I’m sure we all know someone in our lives—a single mom, an unwed mother, a pregnant teen, etc.—who could benefit from just having someone walk with them through life.

During our Monday night Bible study we were discussing Mark 9, when Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him to the mountain top and is transfigured before them. When they came down from the mountain they found the remaining disciples arguing with a crowd over their inability to cast out a demon from a man’s son. In reference to this, the author of our study, Michael Catt, made the statement: “Disciples aren’t made to live on mountaintops. We are made for valleys.” Which, in turn, reminded me of saying that goes, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.”

How often we forget that when we talk about things such as abortion, orphans, or adoption, we’re talking about real people with real struggles. It’s great to talk about change and to take action regarding the big picture, but what the smaller picture; what about the actual people? We can’t stay high on the mountain top with our beliefs and opinions, and not reach out to the people in the valley. As it is now, if a woman becomes pregnant and decides to abort, people become angry because she’s taking a life. If a woman becomes pregnant and decides to give the child up for adoption, people become angry because she’s not keeping her child. And if a woman becomes pregnant and decides to keep the child, people shun her for having a child out of wedlock. This isn’t how we’re meant to show Christ’s love!

We must remember that we all make mistakes and we can encourage right choices, but most importantly, we can be there for that woman in her pain, her fear, her shame, and confusion (because believe me, these are often emotions she’ll struggle with). She may think it’s impossible to bring a child into this world, and we’re meant to show her that it’s not; it may be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

God has called us to action, to live in the valleys, to walk side-by-side with the lost, hurting, and broken, and to direct them to the Mountain of Christ. In every situation may our actions speak louder than words.

Unrealistic Expectations

A day hasn’t gone by this week that I haven’t heard or read something about how people hurt each other, are untrustworthy, or are undeserving of something or other. The reality is…it’s true. Humanity is imperfect. We often do or say things to one another that we may or may not realize hurts the other person. However, not everybody is out to get us. Sometimes we just take things the wrong way. More often than not the other person doesn’t even know that they hurt us!

Most importantly, whether or not the other person meant to hurt us, doesn’t really matter, because as children of the most High, we’re called to love other people…period. It doesn’t matter how badly they treat us, God has called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). He also tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14); that means to treat others as we want to be treated, regardless of how they treat us. (We’ve already talked a lot about this in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post back in July.)

Now, I understand full well that this isn’t always easy. When people hurt us a common desire is to hurt them back, to treat them the way they treated us, or to play the victim and tell the world how we’ve been mistreated. Sometimes we’re spiteful, vindictive, judgmental or cruel; and the world tells us we have a “right” to be. But as believers, we’ve lost our so-called “rights.” When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to give the Holy Spirit full access to every part or our lives, to change us from the inside out (John 3:30). Our behavior and thoughts shouldn’t be the same as the worlds!

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)

An example of unrealistic expectations.

What does changing the way you think entail? I know for me, I now recognize the brokenness of humanity. I recognize that people are lost, broken, hurting, and don’t know the truth. Therefore, how can they make good choices, or treat people with love and respect, when they don’t understand or haven’t accepted the love of the Creator? When it comes to people and relationships, our expectations often exceed reality. Meaning, we expect them to be up to par with our personal standards, but that’s unrealistic. While the world may believe that people should “just know” these things, the truth is, humans are selfish at heart, and like I wrote in a previous blog, due to our relativistic culture, we do what seems right in our own eyes. That’s why when Jesus called people to follow Him, He told them to turn away from their selfish ways, deny themselves, and pick up their cross (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

This is the world we live in; one in which none of us is perfect and we all fall short (Romans 3:10, 23). But let that not be an excuse to give in to sin and treat others poorly, to complain, or to give up on people altogether, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us; and through Him we can do all things! Furthermore, we’re made to be in relationship with others, why else would God say loving our neighbors is as equally as important as loving Him? (By the way, you can’t do one without the other.) So, remember, the next time that person cuts you off in traffic, talks about you behind your back, or gives you an attitude, to treat them as you would want to be treated: with grace, mercy, and kindness. And remember to pray for them, in love.