The Mind of Christ

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Phil. 2:5

From Guest Blogger Jim Wiebel:

Now we come to what is one of the most breath-taking passages in all of Scripture. You might say this is the Mt. Everest among the mountain peaks of revelation concerning the person of Christ — the amazing story of how the eternal Son of God stepped out of eternity into time and became a man, as God always intended man to be. These few short verses capture some of the most amazing truths that have ever been written.

Lest we be tempted to remove this passage from its context, however, we must never forget that it’s set against the background of two quarreling ladies in the church at Philippi. That quarrel was threatening to destroy the unity of the whole church. The apostle has made it clear that the secret of maintaining unity is humility. Wherever there is contentiousness, it’s a sure sign that pride is at work. Pride — whether in a person’s life, or a family, a church, a government, or a whole nation — always divides, destroys, and perpetuates conflict of every sort.

Paul’s antidote to quarreling — the only path to peace, in fact — is to seek the path of humility. When tempers are hot, passions are aroused, and patience is strained, how can you get people to calm down and start thinking about a humble attitude? How do you stop the urge to defend yourself, and the stubborn insistence of what we call our “rights”? The answer is in this marvelous passage concerning Christ.

Unlike cult heroes of every age, whose success stories follow a pattern from “rags to riches,” Jesus’ “success story” was just the opposite: “riches to rags.” And in that story of “downward mobility,” Paul is challenging us to rethink our whole picture of God around Jesus. This is a God who is known most clearly when he abandons his rights for the sake of the world. Yes, says Paul; and that’s “the mind of Christ” — that pattern of thinking that belongs to you because you belong to him! And if you are truly living “in him” and by his kind of life, the exhortations of verses 1-4 (yesterday’s post) suddenly make a lot more sense!

Prayer: Forgive me, Father, for insisting on “my way” and “my rights” so much of the time. Give me the mind of Christ, so that I might live to serve others in his name and so fulfill my calling as your dear child, just like Jesus. Amen.


#Uncommon

Unity in Everything

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ...then make my joy complete by being like-minded...  Phil. 2:1-2

From Guest Blogger Jim Wiebel:

We sat in our seats listening to the orchestra tuning before the performance was about to begin. Musical notes in several different keys filled the air from the strings, wind instruments, brass, and percussion. It was the musical equivalent of running your fingers down an old chalkboard, though only slightly less ear-piercing!

After a minute or so, the lead violinist stood and offered a single note. Within a few seconds, all the other musicians began playing that same, simple “A” on their instruments…harmony at last! What followed was an outstanding performance of “Carmen” by the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, with all instrumentalists doing their part to beautifully accompany the huge community chorus standing behind them. A wonderful musical experience, indeed, for all of us who filled the PAC that evening! It was like watching a highly complex piece of machinery with all its cogs and wheels working together in perfect harmony.

That’s a bit like what Paul is urging on the little church in Philippi. On stage, the musicians were not out for their own individual glory at each other’s expense. If one single musician had tried to steal the limelight from the others, the whole thing would have fallen apart. It only worked because everyone was working together with the same object in mind: to present the very best performance for their audience. That’s how Christ intends his church to act, as well: Unity in Everything!

Then Paul tells us how to do it. “Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix your minds on the same object. Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead, regard everybody else as your superior. Look after each other’s best interests, not your own” (Phil. 2:2-4).

In other words, everyone must be focused on something other than themselves; and that something is Jesus Christ himself — the King and Lord — under whom “all things in heaven and earth are going to one day be united!” (Eph. 1:10) In the next few verses (5-11), Paul will spell this out gloriously in a beautiful poem about Christ himself. You can read about it in tomorrow’s post.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for the encouragement you offer us thru the example of your own sacrificial love. May your Spirit help us to look out for each other’s best interests, and not just our own. Amen.


#Uncommon

Faithful God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:2

From Guest Blogger Colin Proft:

Take a few minutes to read the entire first chapter of Philippians, reflecting on all that we’ve covered this week:

Joyful in Hope. Paul and Timothy were writing to family. They had great joy because of their fellowship — koin┼Źnia — with their Christian brothers and sisters. They also had the joy of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. They had an unshakeable joy because of the hope of eternal life with God.

“It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart” (Phil. 1:7). “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26).

Patient in Affliction. Paul was writing to the Philippians from prison. He was an incredible model of patient endurance. What was the secret to his patience and joy? Paul kept his eyes fixed on heavenly, not on earthly, things.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. 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. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Faithful in Prayer. Paul constantly remembered the Philippians (and all the other churches) in prayer. As he prayed for them, so too, they were praying for him. Paul confidently asserted that, through the Philippians prayers and God’s provision, his imprisonment would turn out for his deliverance. It was through their prayers that he was strengthened! “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:18-19).

God is Faithful. Lastly, God is faithful. He will not abandon us or leave us as orphans. He is faithful to us even when we are faithless. It is true that the Lord rebukes those who go astray, but “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Rev. 3:19). God disciplines us for our good — that we may share in His holiness (Heb. 12:10). “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

Prayer: Father, You continue to sustain us in every need. Help me turn my eyes toward You and live a life worthy of the Gospel. Amen.

Partners in the Gospel

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this: that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:4-6

From Guest Blogger Colin Proft:

The Joy of Partnership. The word “partnership” comes from the Greek word, koinonia. It is an intimate fellowship. It is the bond of a family. Our relationship with other Christians is not a business partnership or social club. To the contrary, we are to be completely united as one body under Jesus Christ, the Head of His Church.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul made it clear: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).

Notice two things that lead to experiencing the full riches of understanding. We are to be encouraged in heart and united in love. The body of Christ is one body but made up of many parts. We do not function properly when we refuse to work in harmony. Paul is simply praying the same thing that Jesus prayed for just hours before his trial and crucifixion: “That they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23).

Carried to Completion. We are sojourners and strangers on the earth; we are looking for a better country — a heavenly country. The world is not our home. Heaven is our home. As we journey through this life, we will experience all sorts of difficulties, setbacks and struggles. Sometimes this life can feel like a battleground. There will be blood, sweat and tears. We will experience brokenness, pain and loss.

Matt Redman, a worship leader and song writer based out of the UK, penned the following:

Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say,
yes our hearts can say: Never once did we ever walk alone.
Never once did You leave us on our own. You are faithful. God, You are faithful.

Matt Redman singing "Never Once"


Prayer: God, You have called me by name and promised to bring me safely home. Help me live in the security of Your promise that You will never leave me. Amen.


#Uncommon 

Stand Firm

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.  Philippians 1:29

From Guest Blogger Colin Proft:

The Philippians were undergoing the same things that Paul and Silas had experienced in Acts 16:16-24. They were being intimidated. Some of them were put in prison. Others may have experienced physical punishment such as being beaten with rods or the confiscation of property. They were suffering.

Not many of us have experienced physical violence because of our faith, but there will come a time when we need to stand firm on what we believe. We live in an age where some treat corporate policy as the basis for morality. You may face pressure from your boss to do something that is immoral or illegal. Others of us may be scorned for believing in God.

For some of us, that persecution will come from our own families or close friends. We will be excluded or ostracized from our own families because of our faith. Believing in Jesus can come at a great personal cost. Yet let us remember what Jesus said to His disciples. “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:25).

Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

If you are persecuted for your faith, then the Spirit of God rests on you. And this (not the persecution) causes us to rejoice! We are to bear the image of God to the world, being His ambassadors — His representatives. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Paul calls us to stand firm for the Gospel. He reminded the Philippians that it is the Lord of Hosts, the God of the angelic host, who fights by our side. And He will be victorious. It is God who will deliver us. And if God is for us, who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31)

Therefore stand firm and rejoice. The Lord is on our side.

Prayer: God of angel armies, give me strength to stand firm in the face of every trial and persecution. Amen.




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To Live is Christ

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  Philippians 1:21

From Guest Blogger Colin Proft:

Paul had a victorious vision for his life. He didn’t fear death and he saw each day as a blessing from God. To live was to be with Christ on earth and to share in the encouragement, love, and joy of his fellow brothers and sisters. To die was to receive the crown of glory which Jesus had won on Calvary. In short, Paul couldn’t lose. Neither can we.

Paul didn’t draw his joy from his circumstances. If that were true, he would have had a rotten life. He wrote to the Church in Corinth:  “Five times I have received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor.11:24-27)

No, Paul’s source of joy was found in Jesus. He fully understood that this world was fleeting and that he had everything he could possibly want or need in Jesus Christ. That is the true meaning of Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.” Paul considered everything else as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ. He bought the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46).

Rather than complaining about the circumstances he found himself in, Paul continued to rejoice and worship God. Through his obedience, God used Paul to reach the entire palace guard where he was imprisoned. It’s incredible.

As you go through your day today, look for how God is moving in your life. Place your fears and frets in His hands; trust Him to deliver you from each snare and difficulty. Wait patiently for the Lord. And live this day through His power and love.

Prayer: Father God, I will fix my eyes on You. With you by my side, I will not be shaken. You are my portion and my cup. You are my strength. You lift me up when I am discouraged. You are my ever-present help in time of need. As I go throughout this day, I pray that You would strengthen me by Your power and fill me with Your love. Come, transform my faith and life. I love You. Amen.


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Christ in Me

Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:11

From Guest Blogger Colin Proft:

For much of my Christian walk I have struggled with feeling like I’m supposed to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit through my own strength. Shouldn’t I be ever-increasing in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Galatians 5:22)? Yes. Absolutely! But the reason for such a change is not due to my own effort! It’s because of Who lives inside me.

In Colossians 2:9-10, we read: “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Earlier, Paul simply stated, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).

Stop trying to produce fruit in and of yourself. Just abide in the Vine. Abide in Christ. Be rooted and built up in Him. He is the Cornerstone of the spiritual temple, the Head of the Christian body, and the Spiritual Rock from which we drink from in the desert (1 Peter 2:4-6, Colossians 2:19, 1 Corinthians 10:4).

Worship leader and song writer Tim Timmons frequently talks about when he was a “Varsity Squad” Christian — he read the Bible faithfully, prayed, tithed and led worship for many years; in short, he was doing everything he was “supposed” to do. Yet, when these truths of Scripture began to dawn on him, it completely changed his perspective on what it meant to follow Jesus.

I pray we all discover the incredible meaning of, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God, lives in us. What would happen if we really lived that way?

“Christ in Me”
by Tim Timmons

The same great light that broke the dark
The same great peace that calmed the seas, hallelujah, is living in me
The same great love that gives us breath
The same great power that conquered death, hallelujah, is flowing through me
And what, what if I believed in Your power and I really lived it?
What, what if I believed Christ in me, what if I believed?
I would lay my worries down, see these hills as level ground.
What if I believed, Christ in me?

Tim Timmons singing "Christ in Me"

Prayer: Lord, help me abide in You and know that Your power is at work in my weakness. Amen.


#Uncommon

Joyful, Patient, Faithful

Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12

From Guest Blogger Colin Proft:

The first time the Gospel was shared in the city of Philippi was when Paul and Silas visited there on their first missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). Later, Paul and Timothy wrote a letter of encouragement and exhortation to the Christians in that region — what is now in our Bibles as “Philippians.” Read through Philippians 1, keeping the words of Romans 12:12 in mind.

Joyful in Hope. Paul was continually rejoicing before God. He knew what God had in store for him and the Philippians — he has his heart and mind fixed on heaven. Paul knew that God had given them both a new life in Jesus Christ while on earth and the promise of eternal life with Him in paradise.

Paul had treasure in heaven. He knew that, no matter what happened, He had eternal life because of Jesus Christ. And he had Jesus! Whether he continued to live on the earth or was taken to heaven, he had joy. And that joy was rooted in his relationship with God and in the fellowship of other Christians. “I thank my God … for all of you … because of your partnership in the Gospel” (Philippians 1:3-5).

Patient in Affliction. Paul wrote this letter from prison. If anyone had a reason to complain, it was Paul! Yet he fully believed God would rescue him. Whether his imprisonment ended in life or death, Paul chose to worship God. His confidence came from this astounding truth: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). It was because of his imprisonment that Paul was to share the Gospel with the whole palace guard.

Faithful in Prayer. Paul constantly prayed for his fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus. He knew them on a personal level and loved them deeply. Again, they weren’t simply acquaintances to him; they were his family and friends. He longed for them with the affection of Jesus Christ! (Philippians 1:8).

Paul’s prayer was simple: he prayed that their love would overflow and that their knowledge of Christ would increase (1:9). And the source of this love and knowledge is abiding in Jesus. We do not produce the fruit of righteousness from our own strength; the nourishment comes from Christ. As He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, I ask not simply that You be with me today but that You lead me also to join You in the work You are already doing—in me and through me for the sake of others. Amen.

You Are What You Wear

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ …  Romans 13:14

From Guest Blogger Dan Thews:

Having daughters in my house, I often hear, “Dad, you’re not really going to wear that are you???” My answer is always the same, “Yeah, why not?” (I mean, where does it say that your sock color should match your belt? Or that black and blue do not go well together? Or that my gym shorts must come down to my knees?) What I’ve learned is that to be comfortable is much more important to me than being fashionable. I don’t care if what I wear is ugly or embarrassing — I like it!

Did you know that the Bible calls us to an undressing-dressing routine? St. Paul says in Ephesians 4, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires and be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We are called to “put off” our old comfortable ways of living — put off living to self, put off letting our own inner whims, desires, and appetites control us. Instead we are called to “put on” Christ’s way of life — to speak, think and act as He did, or as we hear in Romans 13, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The problem is, this creates a conflict. The “old clothes,” the old comfortable way of life, does not want to be taken off! We prefer them. We feel more at home in them. Luther points out that the “old nature” within us needs to be dealt with severely. Each day it must be drowned in the waters of baptism. The old self must die each day so that Christ may live in us anew each day.

Do you feel that struggle? The tug of the comfortable, easy way verses denial and self-sacrifice? I hope so! The struggle within us need not cause us doubt or distress. Its presence is a source of assurance. It indicates that we are taking Christ seriously. Our faith is alive! The Spirit of Christ in us is fighting against our sinful, selfish nature.

So I’m thankful for my daughters, who make me take off my nasty clothes and put on something more appropriate. I’m even more thankful for my Lord who, through baptism, takes up residence in me and clothes me in His righteousness.

Prayer: Lord, thank you clothing me in Christ! Help me put away the desires of my flesh and become more fully devoted to living Your way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Character

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime…  Romans 13:13

From Guest Blogger Dan Thews:

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, once said:

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

I wonder if Coach Wooden had St. Paul’s words from Romans 13:13 in mind, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime” when he penned that statement. It’s easy to do the right things when others are watching, but what about when we think “no one will know”? What about when “no one is watching”?

I’ve been home alone on my computer when that random link or popup appears and along comes that moment … one stroke on the keyboard and I’ll be somewhere I know I shouldn’t be. Invariably this battle begins in my mind, “Should I or shouldn’t I? Nobody will ever know!” What’s crazy is that I would never, ever even have this thought if my wife were home! Or if my friends at church were watching! Why is it that it’s easier to do things that are right in the “daytime,” when others can see, and hard to do things that are right in the “darkness,” when we think we are alone? The answer: character.

Character is doing what’s right, not because of what others will see but because it is just the right thing to do. Dwight Moody said, “Character is what you think in the dark.” You see, the idea that “nobody is watching” is really not true. You are always watching. You know exactly what your thoughts and actions are. If we’re honest about that, we’ll echo Paul, who cried out in Romans 7: 24, “What a wretched man I am!”

Not only do we know our true character, but so does the Lord. The good news here is from Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus is watching. He knows our true character. He knows, not only what has gone on in the dark when we thought we were alone, He also knows the thoughts that are hidden in the darkness of our minds. Yet he loves us anyway! This is the motivation that enables us to grow in our character, no matter who is watching!

Prayer: Father, through Your love for us in Christ, enable us to be consistent in our thoughts and deeds, whether it is day or night. Amen.

Clothed with Christ

So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime … clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  Romans 13:12b-14

From Guest Blogger Dan Thews:

St. Paul’s letter to the Romans holds a special place in the life of the Christian church. Commentator F.F. Bruce wrote, “Time and again in the course of Christian history it has liberated the minds of men, brought them back to an understanding of the essential Gospel of Christ, and started spiritual revolutions.”

One of those liberated minds belonged to St. Augustine, who is universally acknowledged as one of the world’s most influential Christians — in spite of his less than savory youth. One day as Augustine wept under a fig tree, in deep distress in his struggles with sin and living the Christian life, he turned to a copy of Romans and read from chapter 13, “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” He believed and obeyed, and the great mind was liberated for the glory of God and the good of all mankind.

St. Paul teaches Augustine, and all of us, that we are to be concerned with two things: “putting off” and “putting on”. Because of what Christ has done for us we are determined to throw off those things in our lives that will have no place in eternity, with the same distaste that we would throw off filthy clothes when preparing for a formal occasion. Then with equal enthusiasm we are to clothe ourselves with those things that belong to the realm of light and glory, and are suitable (get it, suitable…) to our new life in Christ.

But just how do we do this? Paul gives some good advice. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ(Romans 13:14) is a similar expression to “put on the armor of light(Romans 13:12).  This conveys the idea that we are to arm ourselves with the resources of Christ Himself. These include His example, His teaching, His expectations, but primarily His divine power.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I cannot stand against sin alone. I feel the deeds of darkness rising in me; clothe me in Your righteousness. Amen.


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Eye on Eternity

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.  Romans 13:11-12a

From Guest Blogger Dan Thews:

St. Paul is referring, of course, to the climactic event to which all Christians eagerly look forward — the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus. To Paul this event was going to be as dramatic as the daily coming of dawn and the resultant banishment of darkness. When Christ returns, as He promised He would, the night will give way to day and darkness will be lost in the light of His presence. It is to this overwhelming event that all believers look forward. It is to the dawn of the new day that we are orientated.

The return of Jesus will signal the finalization of our salvation. That is what St. Paul means when he says, “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). At the moment of justification, we are introduced to salvation that is far from complete — it is initial. At that same moment we also become an heir to salvation that is potential, but we must wait until we meet Christ face-to-face to experience salvation that in the fullest sense is actual.

Our initial salvation delivers us from the penalty of sin; we are heirs to the salvation that gives us the promise of ultimate freedom from sin’s power and presence. And one day when Christ takes us to glory, our salvation from sin’s penalty, power, and presence, which were potentially ours from the moment of justification, will be ours in actuality! To this great day we look forward with great joy!

The problem with living on earth is that the things of earth, which clamor for so much attention, can become totally absorbing.  The believer can begin to think like everyone else in the world, believe the world’s philosophies, adopt its attitudes and even emulate the lifestyle we see all around. We must remember that our reality is not “down here” — it is “up there.” We are citizens of heaven and merely resident aliens here on earth. As Paul tells us, it is the reminder of Christ’s return and the resultant consummation of earth’s history that is the stimulus to us with regard to our lifestyle on earth.  It is our eternal orientation.

Prayer: Lord, keep our eternal orientation on You and You alone, until you come again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Love is a Verb

The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  Romans 13:9-10

From Guest Blogger Dan Thews:

A few years back I thought I’d have some fun with a couple I was performing the wedding ceremony for. During the homily I pulled out a microphone and asked the groom, “What is love?” He just stared at me with this panicked look on his face totally befuddled and suddenly unable to speak! Getting nothing from the Groom, I asked the Bride the same question, “What is love? Her answer was priceless, “Being willing to marry him even though he couldn’t answer that question!”

How would you answer? What is love???

One of my favorite songs is by D.C. Talk, called Love is a Verb. The song reminds us that Biblical love is not something that just happens to you but it is something you do. This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 13:9-10. There is no doubt that love has its romantic and its sentimental aspects, but the love of which St. Paul speaks is a choice to act in a certain way, not necessarily because of romantic, sentimental feelings, but simply because it is the right and God-pleasing thing to do.

Then Paul gives some specific examples. To love, he says, means to refuse acts of adultery because they are unloving by nature. They show total lack of concern for the marriage partner, no respect for the sexual partner, and complete lack of restraint and discipline. He goes on to say the same for murder, stealing, coveting or whatever other laws there may be. Love is a verb. It is active, not just a feeling. Love is evidenced, not in what you feel or in what you say, but in what you do or don’t do.

In fact, Paul says that all the moral laws are satisfied when we act and love our neighbors. He reminds us that love is to be shown, first to God and then to the neighbor; and when that happens there is no need for the law.

How might you show love today — in your family, your workplace, your school, or your neighborhood? Imagine a world where we all remember that love is a verb!

Prayer: Father, thank you for not just saying that You love us, but showing it in your Son Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Help us make love an active verb in our lives too, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


#Uncommon

Debt

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…  Romans 13:8

From Guest Blogger Dan Thews:

Two men are walking down a dark alley. Suddenly, robbers jump out from a corner and demand money. Nowhere to go, the two men take out their wallets; one of them says to the other, “Wally, remember that debt I owe you of 200 dollars? Now I give it back to you before these here witnesses. My debt is paid!”

Debt!  Who likes debt??! In the beginning of Romans 13, the apostle Paul speaks of the obligation we have to pay our taxes — like it or not. Now, in verse 8, Paul turns his attention to our private financial concerns and says, “Let no debt remain outstanding.” That probably doesn’t surprise us. We know that as Christians we should meet our commitments as a matter of spiritual and moral obligation. But then, St. Paul does surprise us by adding an instruction concerning the obligation to love, calling it “the continuing debt to love one another.”

Love is a continuing debt for the Christian? Love is a debt that needs to be paid? How does that make any sense? In the world, love is the theme of countless movies, songs and poems. Love is a warm and fuzzy feeling that everyone hopes will somehow come their way — but there is no guarantee. Love seems to reside in people’s minds as something between a noble ideal and a pleasant optional extra. The apostle insists, however, that love is an obligation as real as taxation and personal debt repayment!

In 1 John 4:19 we hear, “We love, because He first loved us.” Think about how much God loves us! Enough to send Jesus to die for our sins. How could we ever repay that debt? We can’t. But we acknowledge that continuing debt by loving one another. If someone wrongs you or hurts you, “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (Colossians 3:12-13). In doing so, you reflect the love of God and say “thank you” to our amazing God!

Biblical love is a continuing debt we can never repay. But unlike worldly debt, it is a joy to try!

Prayer: Lord, help us acknowledge the debt of love we owe and use us to love like You love, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


#Uncommon

Antidote for Evil

Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If possible, as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21

From Guest Blogger Kathleen Lane:

God’s people don’t fight fire with fire. This is the theme as we come to the end of this week’s Bible selections in Romans 12. “Do not repay evil for evil.” “Overcome evil with good.”

I don’t know about you, but I find these instructions challenging. My natural reaction — whether with my spouse, children, coworkers, or neighbors — when I feel offended, wronged, or attacked, I want to attack back. When I get hurt, I want to hurt that person back. Yet God clearly calls us to a different standard:  “Love your enemies,” Jesus said (Matthew 5:44). “Overcome evil with good.”

These concepts aren’t just hard; they are flat out impossible — at least in our human nature! Putting up a fight and getting even seem to fit better with our human pride and our sense of justice. An eye for an eye. Fight fire with fire. Revenge. That is our common response to evil.

So where are we to draw the strength necessary for the uncommon response of overcoming evil with good? We have the example and the enabling power of Christ. Even as He was being nailed to the cross, He prayed for His executioners, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Then, too, we know that our just and holy God is in charge even when evil people do evil things. God does not call us to set everything right with the world. Instead He tells us that all will eventually work out according to His justice. God will judge after His mercies have had opportunity to do their work.

God uses us to put His mercy and love to work in our evil world. His antidote for evil is love. He calls and empowers us for dispensing His antidote in our world.

Think of a conflict you have with someone.  How can you bring peace to the situation?  Where might God be calling you to share His antidote for evil?

Prayer: Father, instead of trampling evil doers with revenge, help me to lift them into Your presence by showing love. Amen.


#Uncommon