Week 17 – Brotherly Love

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Let brotherly love continue. Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. Hebrews 13:1-2

This year’s scripture study is proving fun, interesting and eye-opening for me. Even though I’m picking each scripture out randomly each week, I’m certainly noticing a theme God is weaving together. If you look back over the past several weeks of this scripture study, they have all been focused on love (brotherly love). I adore how God works in the details to teach, love and open our eyes to new things when we are seeking Him. He will always honor hearts that seek Him and “tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

So, let’s dig into these verses from Hebrews and see what He has in store for us today. Although the author of this book was writing to the Hebrew people, as usual, we can glean a lot for ourselves. Just like in these verses from Hebrews, we see the term “brotherly love” throughout the Bible. What exactly is it? What does it really mean? Should we love each other like brothers do? Some brothers don’t even like one another.  This phrase “brotherly love” is explaining that we should love one another because we ARE brothers (and sisters). You know that saying “you get to pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”?  Sometimes, it’s only because we are a family that we can find the reconciliation, peace, forgiveness and love to offer those who hurt us, take a wayward path or cause destruction in our hearts. Brotherly love means we should look at everyone who is a believer as a family member and love them in such a way. Learning to extend our idea of family offers us the opportunity to love the body of Christ the way He desires for us to love one another. Think about it. I know it’s easier for me to give my close family the benefit of the doubt, another chance to do the right thing and to extend forgiveness when they have done something hurtful. The grace and love we offer our immediate family is the same grace and love we are called to give those in the body of Christ, no matter how different we look. Consider an adopted family. They don’t all look the same, but the amazing love of a family is there and holds them together. As it should be with all of us who have been adopted into a family of believers under Christ Jesus.

Hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts. There is nothing more fun than filling up my house with friends and feeding them. It feeds my soul. Many of us are like that, but hospitality to strangers can be a different thing. Extending love or a helping hand to someone we have never met and may never cross paths with again may seem strange or make us uncomfortable. Years ago, I also struggled with this and didn’t make the time to reach out when given an opportunity. However, as I’ve grown in my faith, I now see these opportunities to be an answer to prayer for one of God’s children. Looking at it through His eyes changes my perspective and my desire to be a part of His great plan grows deeper and deeper.

These angels that are mentioned in Hebrews could be referring to human messengers from God or Godly beings sent from Heaven, either way, it’s amazing to consider. In the Old Testament Abraham, Joshua and Jacob all encountered “ angels as guests without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) I urge you to take some time and look back on some of those stories this week. 

When we begin to practice brotherly love and show hospitality to everyone we meet, God will show up and show off in incredibly amazing ways. After experiencing the amazing responses of so many over the years, my eyes and heart are always looking for another opportunity. Most of the time, kindness is received with such surprise and gratitude it’s overwhelming, but other times, it’s met with resistance and anger. That’s ok too. Don’t give up if you don’t get the response you were expecting. It’s not about that. It’s about obedience in showing love. You never know what a bit of kindness will do to a broken and weary heart over time. Our love and kindness is always planting, nourishing or growing a seed planted in the heart of God’s children.

 

 

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Week 16 – Every Good Thing

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I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ. For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother. Philemon 1:6-7

I recently sat down with a new friend for lunch. She is a successful business woman. In the midst of our conversation, she expressed how nice it was to sit and talk with another Christian woman. We shared stories of how God has worked in our lives and how He is continuing to guide and direct our paths, not only professionally, but personally. It was nourishment for my soul. As a Christian, it can be lonely out there. So often, in the office, neighborhood or school, it can feel as if we are the only Christian around. Sometimes it can feel like our faith, love and joy are being questioned and scrutinized from every angle. Have you ever felt like your prayers for others are seen as condescending, your joy as suspicious, your peace as naive and your generosity as frivolous?

Paul didn’t have the luxury of sitting down with Philemon to have lunch, so he sent a letter. The book of Philemon is the personal letter that Paul sent to Philemon expressing his love, faith experiences, and appreciation. Verses 6 and 7 from Philemon show how grateful Paul was for the great love and faithfulness Philemon and other believers shared with him in Christ Jesus. It brought him comfort and joy to consider all of the good things they were doing through their faith and love of Jesus.

Read the verses again in The Message translation.

Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, “Oh, thank you, God!” I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers. Philemon 1:6-7 (MSG)

As believers, we need to lift each other up, share our stories, pray for one another and continue to encourage one another in the faith. If we can’t sit down over lunch and share with one another, sit down and go old school with pen and paper. Write a letter to someone you know and tell them how much their prayers mean to you, how thinking of them encourages you and pray for them.

Your love, actions, faith, prayers and life can be a great encouragement to other believers. When we join together and share how Christ is working in our lives, it makes our faith, joy, and love shine so brightly it can lift the hearts of other believers. Believers who feel as if they are all alone in a world that conspires to hinder the light of God in every way. In fact, it reminds me of another wonderful verse from Matthew that describes the light within us as Christ followers. 

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

Don’t hide your light. Share it, but share it with as many believers as you do non-believers.

 

 

Week 15 – A Chosen Race

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But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

 

Race. Race can be a tricky topic and word these days. Simply put, a “race” is a group of people sharing the same culture, history, language, etc., a population within a species that is distinct in some way, and a group of people descended from a common ancestor.

So, no matter what your skin color, no matter what the state of your heart, the stack of sins you have committed or the internal demons you fight. If you are a Christ follower, we are from the same race. That’s right! You. You and me. Even if I have a head of blond curly hair and you have dark straight hair. Even if I’m pasty white and you are beautifully tan. We are one race. When we decide to follow Christ Jesus, He is there waiting to open the door and give us access to all His love, blessings and forgiveness. He desires to make us part of His holy and royal family. No questions asked. We are daughters and sons of a King. We are family. Family with the greatest King who has ever been and will be.

It’s only in Christ we can stand in this holy, chosen and royal position. He is calling us out of the darkness that roams in this world so that we may bask in His glorious light. His loving, healing, eternal light. He will never force you to choose His way, His path or His light, but He will always be there waiting if you decide to become a part of His royal family.

So today, put on your crown and wear it with honor and love – not pride and condemnation. Live your life through Christ’s ways so that His light shines so brightly in you that you become one of His many faces in this dark place until we are all called home to be together as one. Embrace the

Embrace the sacrifice He made for you on the cross as we look forward to celebrating Easter this weekend.

Many hugs, Allison

 

 

 

Week 14 – Deep Roots

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“For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? What can a man give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:36-38

Yikes! What a statement from Jesus. The Message Translation puts it this way.

“If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.” Mark 8:36-38

Do you have any of those “fickle and unfocused” friends? Do you feel like you might fall into this category sometimes? This makes me ask myself a few tough questions. First, what kind of Christian example am I setting for my family and those around me? Is it a life of trying to fit in with the world and follow its lead or I am taking the narrow road that few take? Am I keeping my eyes on the latest cultural fads or the cross? Am I surrounding myself with enough deeply committed Christians to hold me accountable and build me up? Finally, am I living a life that glorifies God or myself?

I know that following Christ with wild abandon can come with persecution, judgment, and loneliness. And let’s be honest! It can be difficult to stick with Jesus when everyone and everything around us is moving in the opposite direction. So how do we ensure we stand firm and not falter? As Jesus explains in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4), it is those who hear the word of God, but don’t nurture it in their hearts and continue to grow their relationship with God that will stumble “when pressure or persecution comes because of the word.” We need deep roots!

Just like plants with deep, healthy roots are more likely to survive severe heat, frost, and drought – as Christians, the deeper we are rooted in Christ and His Word the stronger and more prepared we will be to face challenges, disappointments, desert times, persecution and trials.

Another important point to consider is that what you see above ground (in your actions) is really determined by what’s hidden underground (in your heart)?  The fruit we produce is much more desirable to God and others when our hearts are firmly rooted in Christ.

Through prayer and studying scripture, our roots grow deep and strong. Those deep roots provide the anchor needed to keep us firmly grounded.

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

They provide us with a lifeline to God and give us wisdom and strength beyond our comprehension.

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

They also give us a deep faith and understanding of God’s truth and great love for us.

 Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. 1 John 3:1

May we all cultivate, nurture, fertilize and tend our hearts with the truth of God’s glorious Word. May we strive to grow deep roots of faith, hope, trust, and love so we never become fickle or unfocused in our walk with God. Amen