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Living for the Great Things

But the Greatest of These

Every human being who has ever lived has had the same number of hours in each day.  From the most famous president or king to the least-known person of all time, each has had the same amount of time given for each day.  Our Lord Himself, as He entered time and walked upon the earth, had twenty-four hours in each day.  Do you know how our Lord spent His time?  Jesus said that He always did those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29).  What are the things that please the Father?  What are the things that He considers “great” things?  How should we spend each day that we have been given upon this earth?

When asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus answered: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Do you want to live for the greatest things?  The greatest things in this life will never be the grandiose, showy things admired by men.  The greatest things that one could ever hope to attain to are loving God and loving others with the love of God.  This love will require all of your heart, all of your life, and all of your time.

The Bible speaks of important and great things, yet none is greater than love.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

How great is faith?  Certainly, it is a great thing.  The Scriptures teach that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and that by grace are ye saved, through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  Most surely, faith is a great thing, but the greatest of these is love.

What a wonderful thing hope is!  Hope is that confident, sure expectation that God will do what He has said – and that confident assurance that He will come again.  Truly peace and rest come from hope, but the greatest of these is love.

Why is love the greatest of all things?  Perhaps it is because it brings much glory to our Lord, for it reflects Him as He is.  But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6).

Look closely:  it was because of His great love for us, even knowing how sinful that we were, that He died for us.  You see, He did what was for our true good, no matter the cost.  And indeed, the cost was great – it cost Him His only Son.  In this act, we see such demonstration of His love (Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9-11).

Did you know that on the very evening that Jesus was going to be taken and eventually be crucified, He called His disciples together to emphasize some things to them?  Listen to the words of Jesus:  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34).  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).  These things I command you, that ye love one another (John 15:17).  And the final words of the final prayer of Jesus to the Father:  And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it:  that the love wherewith Thou has loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).  Yes, the greatest of these is love!

Listen as the Apostle Paul teaches why love is the greatest of all things: … For he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.  For this, “Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet”; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbor:  therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10).  The Apostle Paul speaks this same truth as he writes to the Galatians:  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Galatians 5:14).  Yes, the greatest of these is love!

Do you want to live for the great things?  The greatest thing you can do for anyone is to love him or her as God has loved you.  No matter the depth of their sin, no matter the cost to you, no matter the response, you do what is for their truest good.  That is how God has loved you!

What is the greatest thing that you can do for your husband?  Love him, as God has loved you! What is the greatest thing that you can do for your children?  Love them, as God has loved you! What is the greatest thing that you can do for whoever comes to your mind?  Love them, as God has loved you! The Apostle John, who was taught by Jesus Himself in those final hours, declares:  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:8).  And speaking of the sacrificial love of the Father in sending His only Son to bear our sins for forgiveness, John says:  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another (1 John 4:11).

Yes, the greatest of these is love!  Die to yourself, and live for the great things.  You only have twenty-four hours in each day.  And living for the great things is the most fulfilling life that you can find!

On that fateful night before Jesus was bound and taken away, He said to His disciples:  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15:11).

Lord, renew our minds.  Remind us that we need not spend our lives consumed with ourselves.  You are a perfect Heavenly Father, and You care perfectly for Your children.  You will care for our needs.  Help us seek the great things – the truly great things.  And thank You, Lord,  for the great love wherewith You loved us. 

Wisdom of An Aged Grandmother

The Simplicity of ChristBut I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety,  so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3

A number of weeks had passed since her stroke.  The ninety-three-year-old grandmother lay bedridden in the nursing home.  No longer able to even turn herself in the bed and unable to see, the only means of communication that existed was failing hearing and impaired speech.  But that is the physical description.  Within this aged shell there yet remained soul and spirit and an active mind.

Occasional visitors came her way.  Many left discouraged over her condition, while others sensed the futility of life.  Not so as I visited the aged widow, for as I left that visit, the Lord spoke deeply to my heart, with a message that I pray stays with me for a lifetime.

On a prior visit, we had discussed the Lord and her favorite passages of the Bible.  I asked if she had her Bible there, with the thought that I might read to her.  Though she had much hearing loss, she could still hear and what’s more, understand those things which were being discussed.  Therefore, I told her that on my next visit, I would bring her Bible.  My intention was that I would read to her, and I would leave it on the bedside table where she could request of other family or friends that they, too, might read to her, if she so desired.  We completed our visit; I kissed that frail forehead and slowly and thoughtfully left the nursing home.

As I had intended, I got her Bible and brought it for our next visit.  We talked of family and friends for a while, of her younger life, of special memories that she had.  I rubbed her arms and shoulders with lotion as we talked of things that were special to her.  I asked if she remembered what I was going to bring her.  She knew well; “My Bible,” she said.  I was going to read to her, but no need.  She began to quote me Psalm after Psalm, without missing a word.  How foolish!  I thought I had something to offer her, but it was she who had something to offer to me.

It was then when she made an amazing statement.  She said, “I am making a list for you.  I’m going to write it down for you.”  Knowing the impossibility of the task of writing for her, I simply replied, “Why don’t you tell me your list, and I’ll write it down.”  In my naivety, I felt that she was going to tell me of a few more items that she would like for me to bring to the nursing home on my next visit.  To my surprise and delight, her list was far different from my thoughts.

The list began: “Remember the power of prayer.”  A little taken aback, I then knew that I was to be very attentive to this list and to the wisdom that this aged grandmother had to offer.  “OK,” I said, “I put that at the top of the list.”  Her reply came quickly, “Trust in the Lord at all times.”  Again, I was speechless, as I realized that she indeed had a message for me.  I asked if there was anything else that she wanted on the list.  “Not right now,”  she answered.  Realizing that she was tiring, I told her that I would keep the list and that we could add to her list later if she would like.

I continued with a few little matters in the room.  As I was preparing to leave, very faintly, I heard, “One more thing.”  “One more thing for the list?” I questioned.  “Yes, love one another.”  I paused, and she said “That’s all.”

There – the list was complete.  Remember the power of prayer.  Trust in the Lord at all times.  Love one another.  As I left the nursing home, I pondered these truths on the drive home.  I was utterly overwhelmed at the simplicity, yet the fullness, of these quivery words.  Over and over, within my spirit, I heard, “The simplicity of Christ.”  It really is that simple, isn’t it, Lord?

In Christianity, we complicate the Word of God and the truth of the gospel.  We get entirely too intellectual, too argumentative, too denominational.  No wonder the Apostle Paul feared that the believers at Corinth would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Perhaps you, too, are questioning:  “Is it really that simple?”  After a long life, with all that the world had to offer, the great King Solomon summed it up in this way:  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep His commandments:  for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  The prophet Micah explained it as such:  He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  (Micah 6:8).

The Apostle Paul, told the believers at Ephesus, as he did with many other churches:  Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints … (Ephesians 1:15).  And our Lord Himself taught:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

What a simple little list came from that feeble ninety-three-year-old grandmother.  But what profound truths!  And how her words resembled the words of the Lord, and of prophets, apostles, and kings!

I cherish that brief visit, and look forward to our next visit, should the Lord allow.  Will she have more marvelous nuggets of truth?  I wonder if she is lying in that bed making a list for me!

How precious is the simplicity that comes from Christ!

Who Is My Neighbor?

  But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

Luke 10:25-37 reveals the well-known account of the man commonly called “The Good Samaritan.”  In this passage, a lawyer temptingly questions Jesus, and as He frequently did, Jesus responds with another question.  The dialogue continues between the two, and the clever lawyer answers with wisdom:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.  Jesus, in turn, speaks:  Thou hast answered right:  this do, and thou shalt live.  Then the lawyer replies:  … and who is my neighbor?

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the teaching that follows this question.  A certain man, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves.  They robbed him, wounded him, and left him half dead.  A certain priest came along and saw him, but passed by on the other side.  Like the priest, a Levite came by, looked upon the injured man, and also passed by on the other side.  But then came the Samaritan.  He saw the wounded man, he had compassion on him, and he went to him.  He tended his wounds, brought him to those who could care for him, and provided for his needs.

Jesus interrupts the account abruptly to answer the lawyer’s previous question, again with a question: Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?  With insightful wisdom, he says:  He that showed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him:  Go, and do thou likewise.

As we recall, Love thy neighbor as thyself is the command from the Lord Himself.  And who is my neighbor?  Those needing compassion and mercy.

The word neighbor literally means:  those who are near.  It is those whom we meet as we walk along life’s path to whom we should extend God’s mercy.  God is a God of compassion – a God of mercy (Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 145:8-9, Lamentations 3:22-23), and He calls His children to be a people of compassion – a people of mercy.

It is important to understand that those to whom this compassion and mercy must flow will often not deserve mercy.  But be assured, we did not, and do not, deserve God’s mercy, yet freely it flows from the throne of grace.

Now, your human nature may resist this truth, but the Word of God is clear:  But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,  Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.  And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.  Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.  And as you would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.  For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?  For sinners also love those that love them.  And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye?  For sinners also do even the same.  And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?  For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest:  for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).

There we find the full teaching.  The reason that we are to be merciful is because our Father is merciful – even to the unthankful and to the evil.  So, as we go down life’s path, we should be kind and merciful to each person that we meet.  That is exactly what the Samaritan did, and we will find that as we do the same, we will be loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Remember, the question is not whether they deserve mercy.  The Father is kind even to the unthankful and the evil.

Who is your neighbor?  Those who are near you, at any given moment in time.

How do you love them?  By freely extending God’s mercy to them.

… and ye shall be the children of the Highest.

Luke 6:35

Now, let’s take this profound truth into your daily life.

Who is your neighbor?  … Those who are near you, at any given moment in time.

How do you love them? … By being merciful as your Father is also merciful.

First, always first, your husband is your neighbor.  He should be nearer to you than any other.  Therefore, be kind and merciful to him!

Your children are also your neighbors.  They are near you day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.  Be kind and merciful to them!

Others that you are around on a regular basis are also your neighbors, whomever they may be.  Be kind and merciful to them!

And, just as a personal challenge, as someone crosses your path this week, mentally identify them as your neighbor and see what happens.

As you go through the grocery line and look upon the cashier, think:  She is my neighbor!

As you are at dinner in a restaurant and your waiter approaches the table, think:  He is my neighbor!

As you step on the elevator with a total stranger, think:  She is my neighbor!

When the telephone rings, before you even answer, think:  This is my neighbor!

When you hear of someone facing serious or difficult circumstances, think: She is my neighbor!

Then, be merciful as your Father also is merciful.

Then Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10:37

Lord, as we live the life that you have set before us, help us truly bring glory to Your name.  Help us reflect You as You are.  Thank You that You are such a merciful God.  Thank You for the privilege of being called the children of the Highest.  Your Word declares that Your mercies are new every morning.  As we receive those mercies from You, help us daily extend Your mercy to those around us.  By Your strength and for Your glory!  Amen.

The above post was first printed in Dawning Light © 2003.

A Willing Heart

… She worketh willingly with her hands.

Proverbs 31:13

Isn’t it amazing the powerful impact that one word in the Scriptures can have?  As the virtuous woman is described in Proverbs 31, Scripture could have simply said that she works with her hands.  But there is a very important word inserted in this passage – and that word is willingly.  She worketh willingly with her hands.

We instantly get the picture of the virtuous woman’s heart.  The work that she does is not just an external action.  It initiates and results from a willing heart.  How different any work is when it is done willingly, rather than out of duty or obligation.  The end result may appear the same when the work is accomplished, but the journey along the way will be, oh, so very different.  The willing heart joys in the journey.  The obligated heart loses the joy.

A similar Scripture is found in 1 Peter 4:9:  Use hospitality one to another without grudging. There is to be a love and outreaching to others, seeking to serve their needs, but look at the remainder of the verse – without grudging.  You see, right actions could be taken to minister to others, but what was the condition of the heart?  Was this a willing service – or was it done with grudging? The Greek word for grudging is gongusmos and is described as a private complaining.  Perhaps the most private place of all that we complain is in our own heart.  It is that murmuring that we do – perhaps to others, perhaps to our own selves – that directly affects the way that we serve.

A full reading of the Proverbs 31 woman reveals no murmuring and no complaining, but rather a willing heart.  She worketh willingly with her hands.

But let’s look more closely at the word willingly.  This word is far more than just saying, “OK, I’ll do that and I won’t complain!”  The most common translation of this word is to take pleasure in; to delight in.  In fact, a full study of the word will show that Proverbs 31 is the only place that the word is translated as willingly.  It is most frequently translated as desire, delight, and pleasure.  So it is very appropriate to say that the virtuous woman desires her work, delights in her work, and takes pleasure in her work.  Isn’t that an interesting view of  her heart!

And in what kind of work was she delighting?  She was delighting in caring for her family.  She was taking pleasure in doing good to her husband.  She was delighting in looking well into the ways of her household.  She was taking pleasure in seeing that they were fed well and clothed well.  She was delighting in reaching out to those in need.  No wonder she is described as such a strong woman!  Her life is not about herself.  It is about her Lord, and it is about others.  And she delights in it!

Lord, we humbly ask that you renew our hearts, that they may be willing hearts – hearts that take pleasure in You and hearts that delight in serving You – hearts that work willingly – hearts that delight in serving our families and hearts that take pleasure in serving those in need.

 

A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

The above post was first printed in Dawning Light © 2003.