VIDEO Loving Like God Loves

And the second [commandment] is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

Every organization has a way of identifying itself. Political parties, sports teams, fraternal organizations, religious groups, corporations—all develop ways of identifying themselves. And members or adherents adopt those means and make them universally known.

Jesus gave His disciples just such a “brand,” or identifying mark: love. In John 13:35, we have His words: “By this [sign] all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” But can’t love be found as a trait in many different groups in society? Yes, but perhaps not the kind of love Jesus’ disciples are to be marked by. In verse 34, Jesus made the love of which He spoke specific: “As I have loved you, that you also love one another.” In other words, it’s not just generic love—it’s a God kind of love: sacrificial, enduring, generous, and unconditional. When we love those around us as Christ instructed, we are manifesting God’s love in the world. As God has loved us, so we are to love one another (John 15:12).

Being a witness for Christ ultimately involves a retelling of the Gospel. But even before that opportunity, demonstrating God’s love can be a first step.

The world does not understand theology or dogma, but it understands love and sympathy. D. L. Moody


Matthew 22:34-40, The King’s Greatest Command

Flourish Again

The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread. Exodus 1:12

Given enough sunlight and water, vibrant wildflowers carpet areas of California such as Antelope Valley and Figueroa Mountain. But what happens when drought strikes? Scientists have discovered that certain wildflowers store large quantities of their seeds underground instead of allowing them to push through the soil and bloom. After the drought, the plants use the seeds they’ve saved to begin to flourish again.

The ancient Israelites thrived in the land of Egypt, despite harsh conditions. Slave masters forced them to work in fields and make bricks. Ruthless overseers required them to build entire cities for Pharaoh. The king of Egypt even tried to use infanticide to reduce their numbers. However, because God sustained them, “the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread” (Exodus 1:12). Many Bible scholars estimate that the population of Israelite men, women, and children grew to two million (or more) during their time in Egypt.

God, who preserved His people then, is upholding us today as well. He can help us in any environment. We may worry about enduring through another season. But the Bible assures us that God, who “cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and [are gone] tomorrow,” can provide for our needs (Matthew 6:30 nlt).

By:  Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Reflect & Pray

Why is it so hard to trust God during life’s “dry” seasons? How has God provided for you in the past, and how might the story of His faithfulness encourage someone you know?

Father, sometimes it’s so hard to keep going. Please meet my needs today, and help me to persevere through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Read Why Doesn’t God Answer Me? Trusting in Times of Doubt and Trial at DiscoverySeries.org/HP112

When Your World Is Turned Upside Down

John 14

We don’t often receive a warning before our world crashes down around us. Catastrophic events in our life usually come suddenly, leaving us at a loss about how to cope. A spouse walks out, an accident or heart attack takes a loved one, a fire destroys our house—the possible calamities that could befall us are endless. But as believers, we don’t have to live in fear.

Today’s chapter contains some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples before He was crucified. He was warning them that their world was about to be turned upside down. As they struggled to grasp the reality that Jesus was going to die and leave them, they must have thought His instructions sounded impossible: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). But just moments later, Christ gave them the amazing promise that the Holy Spirit would come to indwell, enlighten, and empower them (John 16:5-15).

An untroubled heart begins with salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Then it develops further as the Holy Spirit guides us in truth. Therefore, let’s dive into God’s Word and have it imprinted on our heart for the inevitable day when trouble comes.

Never Too Late

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

One of the two thieves on the cross continued in unbelief right up until the time he died (Luke 23:39), but the second repented and believed unto salvation. The one assures us that no one need despair, since it is always possible to accept Christ at any time before death. The other warns us, on the other hand, that no one should presume. Long-continued rebellion against God is likely to become so fixed in one’s character that sincere repentance may become impossible.

The repentant thief, beholding Christ and hearing the first of the seven so-called “words from the cross” (Luke 23:34), came to believe that Jesus truly was Lord and that He could, indeed, grant forgiveness and salvation.

The penitent thief had no opportunity to be baptized, to change his lifestyle, or to do anything whatever except repent, believe on Christ, and confess his faith (Romans 10:9-10). And that was sufficient!

Both thieves would die that day, and the soul of the unrepentant thief would soon descend into Hades, there to await condemnation at the future judgment day. The other, because of his trust in Christ, would go with Him to paradise.

The tragedy is that far too many people, assuring themselves that it is never too late, keep waiting until it becomes forever too late! “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). The overwhelming majority of people who come to trust in Christ for salvation do so when they are young. Very few come to the Lord when they are old or about to die. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). HMM

Faith and Spiritual Stupidity

Matthew 16:7

SOME critics have argued that the disciples could not possibly have been as stupid as they appear in Matthew 16:7. It was just after the feeding of the four thousand; Jesus had been interviewed by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they were on His mind. The disciples had forgotten to take bread on the boat by which He had left His enemies, and that was on their minds. So, when our Lord said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” one can understand how the disciples, with bread on their minds, could say, “It is because we have taken no bread.”

Still it was stupid of them, and our Lord says to them, “O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” Gentile leaven was regarded as unclean, and since Jesus had pronounced Pharisees and Sadducees even lower than Gentiles, the disciples thought He might be advising them to beware even of their bread. But our Lord reminds them of His miraculous feeding of the multitudes, as if to say, “If I could do that, would I be bothered now about the lack of bread?” Then He tells them that He has in mind the false doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

But how like many of us today were these weak disciples! They had seen the Lord feed multitudes miraculously, but now against a practical difficulty they forgot all that and saw only the immediate circumstance. So Christians today theoretically believe that Christ can work miracles, believe that God can supply all our needs, but when an actual problem looms they lapse back into fear and doubt and faithlessness. We have no bread today in more ways than one: like the man in Luke 11, our friends come to us on their journey and we have nothing to set before them, and we grow panicky. Preachers have no bread to feed the congregation, teachers to feed students, parents to feed children. But we need not grow worried like these disciples. We know the way to the Father’s house where there is abundant bread, loaves for every need.

How stupid we are, slow to believe our God! The mistake of these disciples went deep. They totally misunderstood what our Lord was speaking about. We reason among ourselves too much today. Because of our lack of faith we debate Scripture and miss its meaning by a mile, because we try to unravel it among ourselves. Faith unlocks the Word. It steps out upon what it does understand, and the rest clears up. Scholarship never understands the Bible unless it goes in by the door of faith.

So everywhere we see Christians reasoning among themselves and worried over shortage of bread, physical as well as spiritual. How often our Lord must say to us, “O ye of little faith, do ye not yet understand?” He is still able to prepare tables in the wilderness, but we fall back upon our own devices in fear and trembling. We believe the promises in a way, but when an actual crisis looms, we grieve Him by our stupidity.

Churches huddle today in conference after conference, reasoning over depleted resources and worried for the lack of bread. But God’s storehouse is as full as ever. It is our faith that has failed. We are not feeding the souls of men because we are grinding our own grist, and men starve on husks. Yet He who fed the multitudes has still His ancient power.

Why Many Slip and Fail

If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.—Psalm 66:18

A Christian woman begged God to deliver her from an unforgiving spirit, yet deep down in her heart, she held onto it because of the way in which it served her unconscious purposes.

I want to suggest that you read the next sentence carefully, for in it lies the secret of the failure of many Christians to walk with “hinds’ feet” to the high places which God has prepared for them.

If you harbor resentment or hatred toward just one individual in the world, by that much you are separated from God Himself.

By just that much do your rear feet fail to track with your front feet and, in the pursuit of God, you are in danger of slipping over the edge to spiritual failure. Let me put it even more clearly—if anyone has sinned against you and you have not forgiven them from the depths of your heart, then your attitude of unwillingness is a sin against God.

Listen to what the Apostle John says about this: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen” (1Jn 4:20).

The very first thing we must do if we are to climb higher with God is make sure there is no bitterness or resentment lingering in our hearts. If you have not done so before, turn now in thought to all those who have trespassed against you, and forgive them—fully and completely.

Prayer

God, once again I plead for the insight and courage to see myself truly, for I may be cloaking my resentments with garments of piety. I would harbor no dangerous Trojan horses within me. Help me to be free of all resentment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

1Jn 4; 3:14-24; Jn 15:12

What was Christ’s commandment?

Try memorizing 1 John 3:16 today.

Never Despair

Hebrews 12:1

Never despair,” says the natural world. A little drama was played out in my garden. Two birds made five attempts to rear a family. The first nest was forsaken when a cat attacked the sitting bird. When the next two nests were built, the hen was again set upon, was blinded in one eye, and had a wing damaged. In the fourth, again tragedy came, for two babies were found dead on the grass. For a few days the parent birds flew about in obvious distress, and then began building their fifth nest. Nature is like that! It does not admit defeat. Only man loses heart and despairs.

Who can tell how the history of Scotland might have been altered but for the perseverance of the little spider associated with the thirteenth-century story of Robert the Bruce, the greatest and best known of the Scottish kings. In a hut in a dark forest lay a young man in despair. He had tried his utmost to free Scotland from its English enemies, and had failed again and again. Almost ready to abandon the struggle, he caught sight of a spider above his head trying to swing by its slender thread from one beam to another. The tiny creature missed its goal six times, the exact number of Bruce’s lost battles. “If it can try again,” he said to himself, “then surely so can I.” He watched the spider swing once more—and win! Robert the Bruce rose to fight again, and became the hero of his people.

The hopefulness of nature is seen in all her ways. Disturb an ant colony and, as though trained in military discipline, each ant will accept its responsibility and carry an egg to safety, so that within a couple of minutes not one of the precious things is left in sight.

Part of man’s trouble is the wrong use of his imagination. He observes the dark clouds and forgets that they have a silver lining. Like Christian in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, he sees the lions in the way and does not notice that they are chained.

No one would guess from the writings of the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson that most of them were produced while he was fighting a desperate battle with ill health. When he started to write his delightful and beloved Child’s Garden of Verses, which has in it the words, “I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings,” one of his lungs as well as his eyes became badly affected. What kept him going? Courage, and faith in God.

God will show us the way if we seek His guidance. A situation is desperate only when all hope is abandoned.

James Morgan, Nature Speaks