REFLECTION | ‘Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself’

YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD AND NEIGHBOR

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, you God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
—Matthew 22:34-40

The question of what is the greatest for the Lord is a question that everyone can ask. People question what to do to gain everlasting life and what to do to please the Lord. The question may really be a sincere question coming from innocent people but in our gospel, it was with malice. The intention of the query was only to test Jesus how knowledgeable he is about the Scriptures.

In our gospel reading, one of the scholars of the law dared to test Jesus; he asked him what he thinks is the greatest commandment of all.

Jesus gave him a clear answer: the greatest among many things that man could do is to love. To love God wholly and totally (with one’s heart soul, and mind) and to love one’s neighbor are the greatest commandments of all. These two are inseparable. One cannot say “I love God” but hates his/ her neighbor or has nothing to do with his/ her neighbor. Because God is love and that is why we are able to love. What pleases the Lord and what makes one worthy of the Lord’s saving grace. From God’s love, mercy and compassion follow.

But loving God and loving one’s neighbor are vague concepts unless concretized, let us then make our love real so we may share real love with those who need it.

To love is to serve. To serve lovingly our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need in our midst. By serving others one expresses his/ her authentic love to God. There are a lot of ways of showing our love for God and others, we don’t need to go out and look outside us.

In our family, how do we show our love and share the joy of love? How do we show our care and concern to our parents, siblings, partners (wives and husbands), and friends? How do we relate with strangers? And do you treat your household help humanely and justly? Do we respect them, too? Do we understand them well? Loving them is serving them.

When we make everyone happy and content with who they are and what they have and what they can—that is love. Loving is accepting who you are and who other people are. Loving is serving our family with full dedication and joy, without complaints and regrets.

Loving God is abstract unless it leads us to serve our community and others. Our community may mean our neighborhood community or our parish community, or our group or club community. Are we good neighbors? How do we share our time, talents, and treasures with our community? How are we involved in building our community? Are we active members in our community or just a spectator on what is going on?

Loving is also a call to fidelity, becoming faithful to your one true love who is God. You can only love the “One” who is love. And because of the love of God to us which is actually the first one to love us, that is why we are able to love.

Fidelity to God means being faithful to His will, doing His holy will in love. When someone does he/ she thinks good without the right motivation, he/ she will not endure. But if someone does things out of love, then he/ she will glow and last. The main enemy of love is narcissism. When someone is so engrossed with himself/ herself, his/ her ego becomes the center of his/ her life. Then he/ she can no longer see others and God.

Narcissism is the love of self, and that destroys the concept of love. For the love of self traps and cages the person by himself/ herself. He/ she is not willing to let go as he/ she likes to control people and even God. Self-centered and self-righteous people need God and others. One has to love God and others (neighbors), only then that he/ she can love himself/ herself.

Without love, there is no reason for us to live. Without love, there is no purpose for us to go on.

Our love of God and love of neighbor are the greatest of all, no other.

Let us pray, reflect and ask ourselves:

Do I love the Lord above all things?

How do I manifest and express my love of God?

Have I shown the love of God with my neighbor?

How do I concretize my love of neighbor?

Prayer
Almighty and Loving God, we thank you for loving us so dearly and you allow us and make us love. We learn to enjoy the love given us and realize that in everything we do, we must do it with love and in love. May we become living flames of your divine love so we may share that holy love with the people we meet day by day and to the people who need love in their lives. May our loving you be concretely manifested in our loving of our brothers and sisters. This we ask through Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Intention
Let us pray for those who are unloved, those who have not experienced love at home and in the community, those who refused to love—that may realize God’s love be their hope and salvation.

 

(https://interaksyon.philstar.com/lifestyle/2017/10/29/106148/reflection-love-the-lord-and-your-neighbor/#:~:text=Jesus%20gave%20him%20a%20clear,the%20greatest%20commandments%20of%20all.&text=Because%20God%20is%20love%20and,we%20are%20able%20to%20love.)

 

Why God?

Reflections on Ruth

We have a mental checklist for life. Happy marriage: check. Healthy kids: check. Good reputation: check. Great job: check. Enough money: check. All the pieces are lining up. But then tragedy strikes: The bottom falls out on your finances; you get breast cancer; your spouse dies; or, in my case, you learn that your son was born with a brain injury.

It’s in these times that we can relate with Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, whose life was also hit with tragedy: because of a famine she was forced to move to a foreign land, her husband dies, and then both of her sons die (Ruth 1:3–5). It’s easy to see why Naomi felt bitter toward God (Ruth 1:20–21).

I heartily proclaim “God is good” when circumstances are good. When I think God is producing the outcome I desire, I am pleased. But how should I react when my prayers seem to go unanswered? When I, like Naomi, feel as though God has turned his back on me? Is he still good? Does he hear my prayers for my son? Where can I find comfort?

There are times I am tempted to blame God for the condition of my son. I feel wronged. (What possible good could this serve?) And then he reproves me: “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts ” (Isa 55:8–9 NIV).

I’ve struggled and wrestled with this. I’ve even been angry and brokenhearted. One hand pushes away from God while the other hand reaches for him. Like Paul, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do” (Rom 7:15). I am torn. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom 7:18).

But then, God’s Word comes with power and pierces through my emotions. I realize that God is “my refuge and my shield.” I echo what the Psalmist proclaimed: “I have put my hope in your word” (Psa 119:114).

Maintaining that hope is difficult. I am tempted to despair. My son may never walk or talk, and he is likely nearly blind. The mountains that loom ahead overwhelm me. I feel like I cannot climb them. Then, I’m reminded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

I still ask, though, is this how God rewards those who follow Him? Where is his loving-kindness? He returns with, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

When I am tired of the battle, Christ comforts me with his presence. “Never will I leave you,” he says, “never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5). As Paul persists, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:16–17).

Every time we wrestle with God, we can find solace in his Word. For this reason, I say with David, “My soul melts away for sorrow.” I press on, knowing that he will “strengthen me according to (His) word” (Psa 119:28).

KARA DEDERT
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE SEPT–OCT’10
BIBLICAL REFERENCES FROM NIV

 

God’s Perfect Alignment and Goodness

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The Lord has been speaking to me for a while now about the perfect alignment that He is doing within the body of Christ.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:6, MEV).

The word “alignment” has, as of late, been overused, understated, and, at times, given very wrong context. I will not move from the position of Him being the best thing that I have ever known, and because of what Jesus has done, I have no need to fear anything; His goodness and mercy will overtake me in my life. Thus, it is important to note that the goodness of God and the mercy of God are the foundation from which I speak of “alignment.”

Heavenly Alignment

In 2017, my husband and I were living in South Carolina, in the USA, and happened to be in the exact line of totality for the solar eclipse that year. I have never experienced anything like it in the natural.

In the 5-10 minutes leading up to totality, the bugs were marching in circles in the grass at our feet. Birds were dive-bombing trees in excitement. Dogs were barking and leaping around in the park where we watched. As darkness began to close in just before the perfect totality, cicadas began to sing a stunning melody and birds were in tune with even the cicadas.

In the seconds just before totality, it felt as if everyone held their breath until that wonderful moment. Then, as the moon covered the sun, I felt the earth and time itself standstill. There was an eerie stillness on the earth as everything got quiet; then, literally, every person around us took a giant, collective gasp at its beauty. I was in tears and overwhelmed at the goodness of Father God in that moment. Complete, perfect alignment… it was magnificent.

Yet to see this glorious sight, we had to be looking up. In fact, it was SO glorious that we needed special glasses to see it so that we weren’t burned by the power of the alignment.

Being on Facebook after the eclipse, I saw how even my atheist friends made comments about believing in a higher power after seeing the eclipse. They saw the awe, wonder, and beauty of this perfect alignment in the sky, which caused them to truly SEE God. It was as if something inside of them was awakened to burning for His wild love for themselves.

I believe that this is exactly what is happening with the church right now. Perfect alignment to His goodness, mercy and love will cause many to look up, in awe and wonder, and see the beautiful Father… to truly see our wonderful Jesus.

Just as we needed glasses to be able to safely watch the solar eclipse, we need the Holy Spirit’s help to receive the glory and love that He wants us to carry after He has lavished it upon us, His beloved. We must lean into the Holy Spirit like never before, and we must allow Him to bring our hearts and minds into perfect alignment with His so that we can accept this love and carry what He needs us to carry into 2022. We must look up and lean into His alignment and into His love. We must surrender to the alignment, even if it hurts.

Leaning into Alignment

I recently have had ongoing visions where I am free-falling backward into the fire. In every vision, I find myself on a high cliff and cannot find a way down myself so I HAVE to jump. I have to trust. I have to just jump in, regardless of how painful it may seem to be. And in every vision, every time I lean into that free fall, I am filled with so much power, love, and satisfaction that I come out of the vision longing for more of Him… more love, more connection, more encounter, more Jesus. In fact, in one of these visions, I actually saw that my act of obedience of leaning into this fire caused many sinners to run to the altar in repentance. I believe that this will happen in the coming days as more people lean in.

The safest place is IN the fire. We have the ability to choose to not be “feeble in heart” ever again (Song 3:4, TPT). We are able to stand in the fire, courageously, and fully surrender to His lordship in our lives. And we are radiant and strengthened when we come out of the fire, if we have continued to surrender and lookup. We will shine and glow with a wild love that will be unquenchable!

“Fasten me upon your heart as a seal of fire forevermore. This living, consuming flame will seal you as my prisoner of love. My passion is stronger than the chains of death and the grave, all-consuming as the very flashes of fire from the burning heart of God. Place this fierce, unrelenting fire over your entire being. Rivers of pain and persecution will never extinguish this flame. Endless floods will be unable to quench this raging fire that burns within you. Everything will be consumed. It will stop at nothing as you yield everything to this furious fire until it won’t even seem to you like a sacrifice anymore” (Song 8:6-7 [italics mine]).

The alignment of fire means that we are refined as gold, walking and talking representatives of the glory of God. Much like the alignment of the sun and moon during the 2017 solar eclipse, people will look at you with awe and wonder and be reminded of the Creator.

We definitely need special help from the Holy Spirit to comprehend His great, wild love. He is desiring to pour it out on us. It will be so weighty and other-worldly that we will not be able to handle it! Thus, we must lean back and do a free fall into the fire of alignment so that we can stand when He pours out the magnitude of goodness that He is longing to flood us with.

“But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years” (Mal. 3:2-4).

Awakened and Aligned

This is an important time in history in which many things are shaking the church awake. I believe there will be a time when, like the solar eclipse, humanity will gasp in awe at the beauty of the church, as (by faith) she becomes fully aware of who she is, and that she is in full and perfect alignment to the Father’s heartbeat. We will be so aligned to His heart that we will operate from the position of accepting the invite to be overtaken by the goodness of God and therefore desiring to dwell in His presence more than anything else (Ps. 23:6).

People will be in awe of the church as she rises up into her place. She will be so glorious in these coming days that even those who do not know our God will be drawn to Him. She will be the very thing of beauty that makes man rethink where he stands with God. They will hunger and thirst for the wild love that they see in the church. She will not bring condemnation but salvation and transformation, because as she rises up, carrying the Spirit of the Living God within her, Jesus will be lifted up and He promises He will draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32). She will be so perfectly aligned to Him that she will burn for intimacy with her Jesus and, like a mirror, she will shine the glory of God to the nations.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18, NKJV).

Oh Father, so be it! Align us with Your heartbeat. Give us the strength to lean into the fire. Help us to stand under the weight of Your love. Give us the grace to take Your invitation—to allow You to OVERCOME us with Your goodness and mercy!

Mandy Woodhouse is a wife, a published author, a speaker, an evangelist, and a teacher. Originally from Louisiana, she and her Australian husband are the heads of Evangelism and Discipleship at Glory City Church in Brisbane, Australia, and they both sit on the Queensland Prophetic Council. Mandy has a strong gift of exhortation and a love for the Word of God. She lives to use her prophetic voice, creative teaching style and her writing skills to impart hope and to awaken true, righteous identity in the body of Christ, across the globe, while always pointing to Jesus.

Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.

UnStress for Success: An Inspirational Story

Their new coach, a fit, muscular, and confident young man, stood before his new class—a group of mothers who were excited to shed some excess weight and flab that had come with having children. Ladies, you all want to be able to one day look in the mirror and be excited about what you see. It’s my job to help you get there and the good news is, I know how to do that. But, if there is anything that will make this effort more difficult, it’s this… He bent over and picked a small light dumbbell.
 
Would anyone like to guess how much this weighs? he said to this excited and engaged group. A few of them shouted out their answers ranging from 1 to 5 lbs. The correct answer is 5 lbs., and you’ll all find this easily manageable. But, the weight doesn’t really matter because the feel of the weight changes depending on how long you hold it, and with that, he held it out straight in front of him. He didn’t say a word but kept holding it straight out in front of him while engaging with their eyes back and forth across the room.
 
After a minute of silence, he finally spoke. The weight of this dumbbell won’t change, but it would get heavier! It would get heavier to me, the longer I held it. It may seem easy to hold it out straight in front of me for a minute. But, if I held it out for an hour, this 5 lb. weight would seem heavier. And the longer I had to hold it, the heavier it would get. That is exactly what happens to the cares, anxieties, and burdens you carry around each day.  
 
Mothers, you know how many things you have to think about and take care of, hour-by-hour, each and every day. Just the obligations that come with being a mother seem endless. But add to that, worrying about things you cannot change, and you’ve just unhealthily overloaded yourself! God did not design and create you to carry all of that. If you don’t get rid of what may seem like small manageable burdens or problems, they will become heavier and heavier. They will distract you and interrupt the success of the goals you have in mind. You can’t afford to hold onto or carry them. 
 
With a big smile on his face and with a softness in how his words were spoken, he continued… And you weren’t meant to carry them! The Lord tells us that carrying the weight of these burdens is His job! Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. ” And to make His point even stronger, He says again in 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”
 
So ladies, when you wake up each morning, just before you begin to engage with your day, pause first and lay your cares at the feet of the Lord, knowing He cares for you. Thank Him for allowing you to lay them at His feet. And, just before you put your head on the pillow and turn out the light each night, again lift your heart to the Lord and give them to Him! Do this, and you’ll be able to focus on the goals we have here without getting distracted! Do this and I’ll get you before your mirror with a smile in no time at all. Shall we begin? 

Philippians 4:6 (TLB) “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.”
 
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt

 

God’s Purpose Behind Your Problems

My troubles turned out all for the best. They forced me to learn from your textbook. Truth from your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine. Psalm 119:71-72(Msg)

Life is a series of problem-solving opportunities. The problems you face will either defeat you or develop you – depending on how you respond to them.

Unfortunately, most people fail to see how God wants to use problems for good in their lives. They react foolishly and resent their problems rather than pausing to consider what benefit they might bring.

Here are five ways God wants to use the problems in your life:

1. God uses problems to DIRECT you – Sometimes God must light a fire under you to get you moving. Problems often point us in a new direction and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention? “Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.”Pr. 20:30(GN)

2. God uses problems to INSPECT you – People are like teabags if you want to know what’s inside them, just drop them into hot water! Has God ever tested your faith with a problem? What do problems reveal about you?

When you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. (James 1:2-3, NCV)

3. God uses problems to CORRECT you – Some lessons we learn only through pain and failure. It’s likely that as a child your parents told you not to touch a hot stove. But you probably learned by being burned. Sometimes we only learn the value of something – health, money, a relationship – by losing it.

It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws. (Ps. 119:71-72, LB)

4. God uses problems to PROTECT you – A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it prevents you from being harmed by something more serious. Last year a friend of mine was fired for refusing to do something unethical that his boss asked him to do. His unemployment was a problem – but it saved him from being convicted and sent to prison a year later when his boss actions were uncovered.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. (Gen. 50:20, NIV)

5. God uses problems to PERFECT you. – Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. Your relationship with God and your character are the only two things you’re going to take with you into eternity.

We can rejoice when we run into problems they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. (Rom. 5:3-4, LB)

Here’s the point: God is at work in your life – even when you do not recognize it or understand it. But it’s much easier and profitable when you cooperate with Him!

CBN