Scripture for Today: Revelation 2:3-4 “You have persevered and have endured hardship for My name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you; You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
In preparing for my Mother-in-Law’s memorial I have been immersed in old photos. This one from 1932 is especially precious, showing Minnie in the middle of four of her siblings, two on each side of her. But it is such a shame to see the damage done by UV rays, bright light, heat and humidity. Thankfully, it is possible to restore old photos to their original look using a number of different computer programs. My sister is the family “historian” bringing back to life old photos.
Today’s verse is a reprimand from the Lord to the Church at Ephesus. He is so gracious to start with a commendation. This church had gone through suffering for their faith. They did not renounce the Lord and continued strong. But there was something missing. They allowed obligation to replace the faithfulness that comes from a heartfelt love. The Lord sees the heart and knows from where our service springs. Somehow, their love had cooled from its original fervor. The brightness of that first love had faded.
If I am honest with myself, I admit to sometimes being in that same condition. I am committed and convinced of my faith. As far as I can know myself, I am willing to suffer and die for His name’s sake if He should ask it of me. But there are times when I feel far away from Him. The emotional connection can fade like images on an old photograph. He is there and always faithful, but routine and obligation can quickly take the place of the intimacy I have had in the past.
Lord, do not let me become satisfied with anything less than the vibrant clarity of our shared love.
Scripture for Today: James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
I love that my Mother-in-Law is nicknamed, “Panda.” I am not sure how this name originated for this petite 95-year-old Chinese woman. But there is one glaring similarity! Pandas eat all the time! They eat 30-45 pounds of bamboo per day. Because the bamboo is low in nutrition and pandas digest a very low percentage of what they eat, they must consume huge quantities. They are constantly eating. And at Panda’s end of life stage, she cannot digest too much at once. So she too seems to constantly nibble!
Today’s verse talks about two ways one can feed on God’s Word. One can merely listen to it and be deceived into thinking that is sufficient. Or one can not only listen to God’s Word but actually apply it and put it into practice. In obeying God’s Word, there is change, growth and good spiritual health. However, merely listening is much easier to do. There can be momentary feel-good reactions to a poetic passage or a challenging story of faith. But it is when we respond to His commands with submission and obedience that we truly grow.
What I have “eaten” of God’s Word over the years is now being put to the test of obedience. Large quantities of head knowledge do not go far enough. The Lord wants me to put into practice what I know He wants of me. And what He wants now is unselfish servanthood for Panda. Listening, reading, memorizing, meditating and communicating God’s truth is important. But He wants more. He calls me to obedience. It may be a hot tea rather than that cup of cold water. But serving Panda is serving Him!
Scripture for Today: Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
What a shock to find yourself 49 billion dollars in debt! But that was the nasty surprise that awaited a young woman recently on returning home after a night out. I can just imagine the chaotic scene that followed after checking her bank balance on her phone at 2 am. Of course it could be nothing but a technical glitch by the bank. And in fact, the whole matter was cleared up in the morning. At least, it made for a good story!
There is a much more important debt in today’s verse. It can never be completely paid and it is the debt of love. It is a continuing debt as no one can say they have paid it in full. Perfectly loving others completely fulfills the Law. This is because all of the Law is summed up in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self (verse 9). Adultery, murder, theft or covetousness would never be a part of showing love as love will never do harm to a neighbor (verse 10). There is only One who has been able to fulfill the Law with a perfect love; Jesus.
Perfect love would not describe me. It is not so much what I do not do to my neighbor as in these obvious sins. It is rather the good I fail to do for my neighbor. Being selfish and self-centered keeps me from loving and serving like Christ did. Thankfully, Jesus has made His love available to me in the person of His Spirit. His filling and control can change my heart from self-centered to others-centered..
Scripture for Today: I John 2:7 “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old commandment is the message you have heard.”
I love a good flea market where someone’s castoffs become someone else’s treasure. The biggest flea market in Europe takes place in Lille, France every September. And it dates back to the 12th century! It is comprised of 10,000 sellers who man 62 miles of roadside stalls. It runs continuously for thirty six hours and welcomes two and a half million visitors! Everyone is sure to find something old that pleases!
Today’s verse is a reminder that what is old can very well hold its value. John is repeating an old commandment that continues to be valid: to love one another. From the beginning we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deut.6:5) and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). Jesus teaches that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matt.22:40). But what was old became new when Jesus added, “as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
What was impossible to obey is now possible through Christ’s Spirit and His fruit in me. And anytime I am confused about what that love looks like, I can examine the life of Jesus, as “its truth is seen in Him” (I John 2:8). My problem is that I do not always choose to obey it. Loving others has a way of disrupting my day! I know I am incredibly selfish, and unlike the Lord, prefer to be served rather than serve. But loving one another is a concrete and measurable way I can love my Lord. More than anything, this thought spurs me to action!
Scripture for Today: Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
How unfortunate to have to remind people to be decent! The National Decency Day was established to encourage a basic standard of civility. It is meant to be non partisan, a grassroots movement to inspire decency in everyday life. Decency was certainly the theme in this scene as an elderly gentlemen had trouble getting to his bus stop. He was kindly helped by this couple while a passerby smiles. He was then helped up the steps to that bus and I am sure the decency of strangers made his day!
Today’s verse would be the perfect verse for showing decency. Many who are not familiar with the Bible are aware of this verse, calling it, “The Golden Rule.” Its logical simplicity can lull one into thinking it is an easy principle to practice. But in fact, this verse is especially difficult when one realizes that this behavior is to be shown to enemies! We are to do good not just to strangers but to those who hate us (verse 27)! We are to bless those who curse us and pray for those that mistreat us (verse 28)! Common decency and basic civility seem like a slam dunk compared to this standard!
As with all commandments, precepts and statutes of God, my obedience is not what I would like. I feel as if I fail Him often. Thankfully, His forgiveness is consistent and faithful (I John 1:9). When with the help of His Spirit I can treat enemies the way He wants, He is glorified! Loving my enemies is not natural for me and when I can do it, I know it is another evidence of His work in me.
Thank you Lord, for Your Spirit who enables me to treat others well!