This was the message that God gave to Moses to give to the children of Israel. Time and again, God would give them this message. Time and again, God changed the hearts of His people. They would disobey and go astray. Being a just God, He was required to discipline them. They would repent and turn back to Him and He would soften their hearts and accept their offerings again. That was the Old Testament. Then Jesus died on the cross for our sins and established a new and better covenant. Now, Jesus says the whole law hinged on two commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Two commandments that are certainly not hard to understand, but God knew we would fail, so He sent us a Helper, His Holy Spirit. Now, He is closer to us than He has ever been. We don’t need to look for Him anywhere because He abides in us and is all around us. Or as St. Patrick said: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left.”. There is no need for us to go anywhere or search anywhere because He abides in us and leads us into all truth. Two commandments, easy to understand, but not so easy to follow on a daily basis.
34 Joshua then read to them all the blessings and curses Moses had written in the Book of Instruction.35 Every word of every command that Moses had ever given was read to the entire assembly of Israel, including the women and children and the foreigners who lived among them. — Joshua 8:34-35 NLT
After God had given Jericho and Ai into Joshua’s hands, Joshua built an altar of uncut stones on Mount Ebal. There, they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar just as Moses had commanded them to do. Then Joshua read every word of every command that Moses had ever given to them. This was done in the presence of the entire assembly of Israel including all of the foreigners. Moses had written five books that contained approximately 124,910 words (depending on the version you use). At an average of 200 words per minute, this was almost an eleven hour reading. The building of the altar, the offering of the sacrifices and the reading of the scrolls was quite a lengthy service. This kind of devotion to God is what prepared the people for the southern military campaign. Perhaps, it is time for our country to take a break and worship God in this manner. To be successful in the battles of this world, both natural and spiritual, we need the strength that only comes from the Lord. If each of us committed to spending a day in prayer, worship and thanking God for our country, then perhaps God would take those sparks and start a wildfire of praise that would envelop the whole country.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. — James 5:16 NIV
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.– Galatians 5:13-15 NLT
Those who choose Jesus are “free indeed”. Jesus died to set us free from the bondage of sin. But, we must never take that liberty as a license to live a lifestyle of sin and indulgence in sinful pleasures. Whereas, before our repentance, we were bound to do those things that the flesh desires, we are now free to do the things that the Spirit desires. True repentance means turning from one way of life to a new way of life. In our old lifestyle, there was no compulsion to forgive anyone for anything or to love any one. Now, with the love of God and His Holy Spirit living in us, we are compelled to forgive and love. It is impossible for man to do that without the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If we truly love Jesus, we keep His commandments. Those commandments require us to love and forgive. Loving and forgiveness are not products of our emotions, they are willful decisions that we make. If “loving your neighbor as yourself” takes you to the cross, are you willing to go? Jesus was!
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
We all know the old hymn, “Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow”. We sing it quite often in worship services across the nation regardless of the denomination. It is a great invitational song for getting people to commit to the mission fields. But I wonder if we really hear the words that we are singing or if we are just making noise. I think we need to change the song for a while and sing “Where He leads me, will I follow?”. Will I go on a mission trip? Oh no, can’t spare the time for that. Will I visit those in prisons? Nope, not my calling. Will I visit the sick in the hospitals and pray for their healing? Again, I just don’t feel the call. Will I feed the hungry? Well, you know I give to charities to do that. Will I walk across the street to witness to my neighbor? You know, they might be offended, really need to be careful there. Will I ask a lost family member if we could pray together? Well. they are not going to listen, they know I’m not perfect. Don’t I need a calling to do those things? Well, here is our calling,
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matt. 28:18-20
HEAR IT! HEED IT! NOW!
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
Before we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we were ruled by our own fleshly desires. Flesh does not want to love others or help them in any way. Flesh is a “selfie”, it is all about me, me, me. After we accepted Jesus, God’s Spirit came to abide in us. Now, we are walking after the Spirit and not the flesh. God’s Spirit teaches us to love one another. As we mature in our walk with God, we should be learning to love more and more. As we love others more, we learn to first look at our faults and the areas we need to improve. If we do this in light of the Scriptures, we find that we have less time to meddle and gossip. This leads to a more peaceful life. We need to stay focused on Jesus and what He has called us to do, so that outsiders see the love we display and they will be drawn to Jesus.
We have no strength of our own to accomplish the work God has called us to do. Just as God instructed Joshua to obey all the instructions Moses had given to him and to not deviate from them, so we must follow the instructions God gives us through the guidance of His Holy Spirit. This guidance comes to us after we have studied the Bible and while we are meditating on it. Meditation is more than having a passing thought, it is deeper and requires us to focus on what God’s Spirit is saying. It is concentrating so totally that our bodies are almost groaning and moaning. Not with complaint or pain but with intensity. The Bible is the only book that we can read and the author will speak to us. With God, all the things that He has ordained are possible, so be strong and courageous. Speak with love, wisdom and boldness. We are never alone, God is with us wherever we go.
Jesus gave His disciples (that includes us) a direct command: Love one another. If we look at our attitudes and lifestyles, it sometimes appears that we think we have a choice in the matter, we don’t! We can’t choose to show love for just one season each year, it is a 24/7/365 proposition. Jesus tells us that, as Christians, we are no longer slaves to our fleshly desires. We are free to make a choice. Jesus chose us and if we respond to that call and choose Him, then we are His friends. If we are His friends then we follow His commands out of our love for Him, not because we are commanded. That love requires us to go and produce fruit with the same power and authority that Jesus used. We have access to that power when we speak the name of Jesus. The question we need to ask ourselves and other Christians is not “How are you doing?”. The question that Jesus would ask and the question we should be asking is this: “Am I being fruitful?”.
This verse is a prayer that I need to pray every day. When I find myself getting irritated, I need to pray this verse so that I do not hurt others with unkind words. When I find myself judging others, I need to pray this verse. When I find myself criticizing, I need to pray this verse. When I see someone in need and I don’t take the time to help them, I need to pray this verse. When I feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit to speak to someone about Jesus and I refuse to do it, I need to pray this verse. When I spend money for things that I don’t need, I need to pray this verse. When God says “no’ or “wait” and I run ahead of Him, I need to pray this verse. Most of all, I need to pray this verse when I think that Jesus has done something or allowed something to happen in my life that is not for my benefit. Because that thought violates the highest command to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart”. You get the idea, I need to pray this verse a lot. Hopefully, the rest of you are better at allowing the Holy Spirit to control your thoughts and words than I am, if not, then just join in and pray this with me, “Now give me the sense to follow your commands”.
19 God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? 20 Listen, I received a command to bless;God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it! — Numbers 23:19, 20 NLT
God is the Creator, we are the created. We are bought and paid for with the blood of His Son, Jesus. He has every right, legal and anywise, to do with us as He pleases. He can, and does pour out blessings on those He chooses to bless and curses on those He chooses to curse. However, being a just God, He does not make random decsions out of anger or fits of jealousy. His decisions were made before the foundations of the earth were laid and they are based on HIs foreknowledge of our actions. He is never taken by surprise by any thoughts that we have or any actions that we commit. He can only reveal those decisions to us after the fact, so they often seem to be made in haste, but nothing could be further from the truth. Because of His great love for all of His creation, He has and still does warn us over and over about the consequences of unbelief and disobedience. The fact that He has complete foreknowledge of how we will respond has never and will never keep Him from warning us over and over and weeping over our disobedience. Recall what Jesus said about Jerusalem, how God had sent all the prophets to warn them and yet, they refused to be obedient and even murdered the prophets. Jesus wept bitter tears over Jerusalem saying “how often I have wanted to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not” (Matt. 23:37). He still gives us those warnings about greiving, bringing sorrow or rejecting the Holy Spirit.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own,guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
. — Ephesians 4:30 NLT
So, let each of us today, make a new commitment to listening to and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit so that God will be pleased with us.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor,so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. — 2 Cor. 8:8-11 NIV
God is not impressed by the amount of money that we give. He is impressed by the attitude that we have toward giving into His work. We see this from the story of the widow who gave her mite. A mite is thought to be equal to about one half of one of our pennies. Regardless of what the world thought about it’s worth, because of the attitude and the sacrifice the woman made, Jesus thought it was much more valuable than the gifts of those who gave out of their abundance. God doesn’t need us to return a portion of the money He has allowed us to be stewards over. He wants us to give out of love and a grateful heart. He wants us to give with joy and hilarity because of our relationship with Him. Just as we give gifts of time and money to those around us that we love, we should offer up the best of both to Him. Would we invite a special guest to dinner and give him/her leftovers? We have the most special guest that lives with us all the time. Why do think that He is happy with our leftovers? He gave His life, we must make every effort to give Him the best of what we have simply because we love Him.
12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. — 2 Cor. 8:12