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A Second Look at Love {DWITW 365}
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As we have added children, we have also added baby gates. We now have one baby gate per child in our home. If you lost count, that’s four. We don’t even notice their presence anymore, as we have become so used to them. Yet they keep our children safe, from falling down the stairs, from going into areas that are not “baby proof.” Not to mention, they keep my kids from the stash of birthday and Christmas presents I have hiding in those sections of the house! 

Recently, my nine-month-old snuck through a gate that was left open at the bottom of our stairs and crawled all the way to the top without us noticing. I know it was quick, but at that time he could have been seriously hurt if he fell. My husband found him and quickly returned him to the safety of the lower level and shut the gate behind him. The thought occurred to me that gates are only helpful if you actually use them. They do no one any good if they aren’t put into action.

Upon reading Matthew 22:41-46 and Mark 12:38-34, I came across a gate of our Christian faith. In both of these chapters, Jesus quotes the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 to the Pharisees who were questioning him:

 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

 

Faithful Jews would have known this passage well, as they quoted it twice each day. It was a landmark passage for their faith. What strikes me as so radical is that the people that knew this phrase intimately would not know, indeed, not even recognize, when the God they were supposed to love with everything in them was standing right in front of them! Much like my open baby gates, the Law that was meant to point them to Christ was leading them to danger.

As I observe modern Christianity, I see this passage as a landmark passage for our faith as well. We do not necessarily ritually repeat this verse as the Jews did, but we do summarize Jesus’ teaching on the greatest and second greatest commandment. We put it simply into four words: “Love God. Love others.” I’ve encountered this phrase in multiple church mission statements and painted on church walls, labeled on Christian mugs and t-shirts, and tattooed on the arms of brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, I’m afraid that we are opening a gate to the life of a Pharisee. It may be so commonplace to us that it has become useless. Claiming to be mature with our catchphrase, we actually become more prone to folly. We are the babies. We climb the stairs only to fall.

Sisters, it is worth your time to pause and meditate upon Jesus’ words here. These words from Jesus should be familiar to you, but never useless, never ho-hum, never tired to your convictions or to your prayers. May the challenge to love God and love others never become so cliche that it is just our cultural background noise.

God is calling us to an all-encompassing love, and this love is a response to His all-encompassing love for us.

To truly love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind means to love him with your everything. When God says “all” in Scripture He means ALL, no part left out or forgotten. That means our total and complete love is to go to Him.

To love Him with your heart, kardia in Greek, means to love him with all your passions, desires, intelligence, will, character, and from the innermost secret places of who you are. To love Him with all your soul, psyche, means to love Him with all your breath and life, your very essence. To love Him with all your mind, dianoia, means to love Him with all your thoughts, understanding, imagination, and feelings.

Simply put, God is calling us to an all-encompassing love, and this love is a response to His all-encompassing love for us. We must realize it. We must receive it! He would not call us to this kind of love without first giving us bucketloads of it Himself. And He would not call us to this kind of love if we were not created to live it out! Yet, how in the world do we do that? We look to Christ! God gives us the most beautiful example of this love in Jesus Himself, who loved the Father and enacted this command from His own human words and deeds. And that love extended to others as well, as Jesus not only told but showed us how to ‘love thy neighbor.’

We must remember that the greatest commandment - to love - comes from a great God! He does not just challenge our lackluster love for Him but He also gave us Love Himself to redeem and restore our ability to love once again. One day, I will love the Lord my God with ALL my life and breath. Today, I see that I love Him more than the hour I first believed, but oh for grace may I love Him more! I’m praying God would help me repent of the “some” that should be “all” - that He’d help me receive His love in full and respond to it by how I love others. Help me not to fall through the gate, Lord. Teach me how to love you, great God!

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Jillian Vincent loves Jesus. She's a wife, mother of two boys and a Dayton enthusiast. Jillian currently is a stay at home mama and spends nap times jotting on her blog and discipling other women. She would (almost) die for an avocado, a cup of coffee made by her husband, a novel that makes her cry, and a bouquet of sunflowers.

What We Crave {DWITW 365}
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A man, blind from birth.
A woman, lame for years.
A child, sick with a fever that the parents knew would take his life.

The towns in Jesus time were filled with people like this. The lame, the blind, the sick. It’s safe to say that there was a lot of hopelessness, wondering if there will ever be relief from this oppression. Wondering if there is a cure, a way to find healing and hope.

The gospels are filled with stories of people facing brokenness in their lives. There are many instances of brokenness due to sin or lifestyle choices, but the brokenness that stands out in these stories is the physical brokenness that many were facing. Some of them had lived their entire lives stricken with physical illness, while some had contracted diseases that had no cure. Many were hopeless...beggars sitting at the edges of pools, marketplaces and wealthy homes, hoping that today would be the day that brings a reprieve from their symptoms and pains.

And then along comes Jesus. Walking from town to town, bringing with him a strange group of people, filled with parables and preaching. Most likely, his reputation preceded him and as the townspeople heard he was coming, they waited for him to walk into their towns. Were the rumors really true? Did he really say such strange things? Did he really talk back to Pharisees and Sadducees and religious leaders? Did he really do all those things he said he did? What is this Jesus guy really all about? And, really, when it all comes down to it- is there anything in his message for me? What can he provide me with?

it’s not just about us and the solutions we crave. Instead, it’s about gOD and using our testimony to bring glory to Him.

So, from town to town Jesus and his strange band of men stroll. Jesus brings messages that the people haven’t heard before, he stands up to the religious leaders and often makes spectacles of them. He reprimands the rich young man and tax collectors. I imagine most of the “commoners” standing in the crowd, enjoying the scene. At the same time, the words coming from Jesus’ mouth probably made many uncomfortable. How could it be possible to choose to stay married when divorce was an option? How could one worker be paid the same amount as another worker who did half the work? And really, Jesus, those words are so nice and entertaining, but- what is in it for me?

Throughout the gospels, there is a division of people after Jesus has finished preaching and teaching. There are those who scoff and walk away, there are those who listen and believe, and there are those who listen, believe and obey. Each group seems to answer “What is in it for me?” in a different way. The first group decides that there is nothing in it for them- and walks away. The second group decides that it could be rather beneficial for them to follow this man with the strange words of wisdom. And the third group? They also decide that there is nothing in it for them- that instead of it being about them, it is all about HIM.

Let’s take a closer look at Luke 17:11-19. As Jesus entered a village, ten men with leprosy approached him (vs. 12). They raised their voices, asking Jesus to bring healing to them (vs. 13). They knew who Jesus was and they knew that his reputation- he brought healing to those who were stricken with sickness and disease. They knew that there was a chance that just asking could bring relief from years of pain and living like social outcasts. Jesus’ response to them was simple- “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (vs. 14). All ten men heard what Jesus said and decided that it would be beneficial for them to go and do what Jesus said. All ten men were healed on their way to see the priests! But only one man fully understood the weight of what had happened. Only one of the ten understood that it wasn’t all about him or what was in it for him. He understood that it was about Jesus and giving glory to God (vs. 15-16). He fell face down before Jesus and thanked him, giving glory to God.

Let us also remember this lesson: that when we ask God, we can expect him to bring healing and answers to our problems. But it’s not just about us and the solutions we crave. Instead, it’s about HIM and using our testimony to bring glory to Him. How can we do that today?

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Suzanne Hines wants to live in a world where sunflowers bloom in eternal summer, where her children play instead of argue and where her family has an endless budget for travel. When she's not loving her husband, training and teaching her three children, and spreading education on the foster care system, you can find her writing, reading or running outside!

Her favorite Scripture is Romans 12:12 "...be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer..." (NIV)