It’s easy to love those we have a natural affinity for. It’s not hard at all to love our family and those close to us. Nor is it difficult to love those we’re naturally attracted to. But what about those who are like sandpaper against our soul? What about the unlovely of the world…the disagreeable, repugnant, and unpleasant people who God has called us to love regardless? For Jesus didn’t add any exceptions when He told us to, “Love one another.” But when we have the love of God…the unconditional, Agape, love within, we are able to look beyond the exterior and love the unlovely.
What does it take for the Lord to get your attention? Will the still small voice of the Holy Spirit be enough…or do you need something more dramatic and sensational (like a burning bush) for you to even take notice? Awareness of the Lord takes discipline…to be able to quicken our ears to His voice. But also know when the Lord calls, He’s very specific…He will call you by name, not by random.
What does denying self really look like? In this verse it means giving up our right to our-self…of becoming more like Jesus and less like ourselves. It’s refusing to allow our carnal nature to rule and reign on the throne of our life. But it’s even more basic than that. You can be saved, but not be a disciple. For discipleship means we have to first strip away pride and selfishness…rejecting our flesh to become more in the image of Christ. The Great Commission of Jesus is to, “Go make disciples…” But we can’t make disciples if we ourselves are not one first.
It’s our decision to be happy…for only we can decide how circumstances will impact us. In this verse, Paul is saying that during his Christian walk he had gained insight by study and experience to then be able to grasp the concept of contentment. To be content is not a usual human emotion…for we are most times anything but content with things! But we do spend millions of dollars a year looking for contentment…in the way of lavish vacations, or countless relationships. But Paul is telling us that true contentment comes from within and that only we have the determination whether we’ll be happy and satisfied…or not
There’s nothing like a fresh, hot loaf of homemade bread just out of the oven. The wonderful smell fills the kitchen and my husband is usually there waiting patiently…butter knife in hand. But what happens to that homemade bread in a few days? What satisfies our hunger for a few days suddenly becomes moldy and uneatable. And that’s the biggest difference between natural and spiritual bread. Natural bread has a short shelf-life…but spiritual bread is eternal. Natural bread will never totally fill you up…you’ll keep getting hungry, while spiritual bread lasts forever. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Later in this same Chapter, Jesus repeats these words again, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) In both verses Jesus is telling us that we have control over doubt, fear, and confusion…”Do not allow (or permit) your hearts (or minds) to be troubled. (confused and/or terrified) ” He wouldn’t be telling us to do something if it wasn’t possible for us to achieve it. Now stop and read that last sentence again please! Jesus is telling us that we all have the direct influence within us to rein in and exercise restraint over fear…but it’s contingent on our trust in Him. In other words, a troubled heart is an unbelieving heart. So our success over doubt and fear lies largely in how we build our faith in God. And this confidence in Him only comes by reading the Bible and praying daily…for you can never fully trust a stranger.
When Jesus shouted into that grave, He was taking divine authority over death. And this wasn’t the only time He did this. In Luke 7:14 He raised back to life the only son of a widow when He touched the coffin and said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” And when He ordered the dead daughter of Jairus to, “Get up!”… she did. (Luke 8:54) But His disciples were also witnesses to these miracles…and their faith grew with each one. For we find in Acts 9:40, Peter was called to pray for a lovely old woman by the name of Dorcas, a devote Follower, who had died. Under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit within, Peter repeated the same words of Jesus, “Get up!”…and Dorcas came back to life.