New blossoms on the apricot trees at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What has God done for you today?

What has God done for you today? Are you paying attention? I don’t know why it’s so easy to overlook all the awesome things God has done and is doing for us. Maybe it’s because we’re foolish, silly, little people. Maybe it’s just me. But I can tell you that God has done amazing things in my life, and I never want to take that for granted.

New blossoms on the apricot trees at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

New blossoms on the apricot trees at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 52:8-9.

But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.
    I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
I will praise you forever, O God,
    for what you have done.
I will trust in your good name
    in the presence of your faithful people.

The thing is, God deserves our worship and our praise without any of the personal interaction we experience from Him. He created the world. He created the universe. He created us. That’s enough to recognize Him and praise Him, but He doesn’t stop there.

He sent His Son to die for us, to pay for our sins so that we could have an eternal relationship with Him. Figure that in, and He’s worthy of our love and adoration ten times over. But He doesn’t stop there.

He takes a personal interested in our lives. He cares about what choices we make, what struggles we face, what challenges we overcome. He wants to play an active role in our lives, and all we have to do is let Him.

That goes beyond deserving our worship and our praise an d adoration. We don’t deserve any of that. We don’t deserve a love like that, but He invites us to accept it anyway.

God had does great things for me, and I’ll never stop thanking Him. What about you? What has He done for you? What ways has God made Himself known to you? What ways has God shown you how much He cares?

If you’re not paying attention or if you’re too focused on yourself, you might miss it. Trust me, the signs are there. Open your eyes and start looking today.

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Stop sign at the end of the road at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Love God, love people

What matters to God? When we look at our life and our choices, what matters most to Him? What does He want from us? Because He’s not just some distant figurehead floating in the sky somewhere who knows everything that’s going on and doesn’t care. He’s present and involved in our lives at the most basic level. He cares about what happens to us. He cares about the choices we make. He wants to be a part of our lives.

I’m so distracted by all the busyness of life that I need to remind myself of what really matters. And when I think about what really matters I think instantly about the rules. I’m a performance-driven perfectionist, so I actually like rules. I’m not a big fan of breaking them either. So even though I know that the rules don’t make me righteous (only Christ can do that), I still want to follow them because if God hadn’t given them they wouldn’t be important.

But while I don’t know all there is to know about the Bible, I do understand that there are a lot of rules. There’s a ridiculous number of commandments, not just the ten we’re familiar with from the Charlton Heston movie. And I love the commandments. I love God’s laws. But that’s a lot of rules to keep track of, and it would be really great if there were a summary somewhere.

Cue Christ, the storyteller. One of the marks of the greatest storytellers is to be able to cut to the heart of the matter and tell you what the point of the story is, and Jesus was great at that.

Stop sign at the end of the road at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Stop sign at the end of the road at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Love God. Love people. That’s a summary of the Law.

Want to know what matters to God? Love Him first. Then, love people around you.

Want to know how to live? Love God. Love people.

Want to know how to make decisions? Love God. Love people.

Don’t know how to handle a situation at work? Or at home? Or at church? Or at school? Love God. Love people.

It’s basic, but it’s real. And it’s true. If you love God and love people, the decisions you make and the choices you make will begin to change your focus. Actually, your focus will change. When you’re serious about loving God and loving people, your entire outlook on life will change.

God wants us to love Him. But not just love like a passing fancy. He wants to be the most important relationship in your life. And that can be difficult sometimes because it’s hard to relate to someone you can’t see. At least, we can’t see Him like we see each other. But there are other ways to know Who God is and where He is and what He thinks. And most of the time, I don’t find it hard to love Him. I mean, He’s God. And personally, He’s everything to me. But then, I don’t have a spouse. Or children. So I can’t speak to the difficulty of balancing those aspects of life with my relationship with God.

And then there are the days when He doesn’t do what I want Him to do. But even then, I don’t stop loving Him. But I can tell you that many times He’s not the priority in my head. I want Him to be, but my attention wanders.

But the one I really struggle with is Most Important Command Number Two: Love People.

People make me mad. They frustrate me to no end, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed this bad habit of speaking my mind. And my mind isn’t always a good thing to let loose on the public. It’s got some snark and sarcasm in there that can be hurtful if not tamed, and though I hate to admit this, as someone who loves words, I know just how to use them to manipulate. So for me it’s a constant battle of knowing when to open my mouth and when to seal it shut because I don’t want something I say to be damaging.

God loves people. He loves me. And I’m a person. He loves the world, and the world is full of people. The trouble with people is that they usually only think about themselves. And I’m lumping myself into that people category too. But what this commandment tells us to do is to go against what is natural to us; we are commanded to love each other rather than ourselves. That’s not normal. And that’s dang difficult. But that’s what matters to God. Love Him. Love people.

Does He deserve it? Absolutely.

Do they deserve it? Absolutely not. But because He loves them and He loves us, we need to do it anyway.

Granted, I’m not saying love people at the expense of your health or your sanity, but at the very least, change your mind about them. People are people. They do stupid things. Guess what? So do you.

Everybody needs grace.

So today, make your choices and decisions remembering that the most important commandments are to love God and love people. If you can live by that, I’m willing to be you’ll see a difference not only in your relationships but in yourself as well.

 

How does love get smarter?

I love Philippians. It’s such a happy book. I read it as often as I read the Psalms on days that are hard. Today’s verses are Philippians 1:9-10.

 9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

I love the fact that Paul states he prays that their love will overflow more and more. To me, that says they already love people. Similarly, the fact that he states that he prays that their knowledge and understanding will keep growing insinuates that they already had it. And that is encouraging, especially when so many of the epistles aren’t exactly congratulating churches on a job well done.

But the part of this passage that really caught my eye this morning was that Paul wanted the people of the church of Philippi to understand what really matters so that they could live a pure life. To me, in English, that sounds kind of vague. I mean, obviously, Paul wanted them to grow in love and understanding and wisdom, but are those the things that really matter? Is that what that means?

So, the best I can do (since I don’t speak Greek) is to read the Amplified Version. Usually there isn’t a whole lot of difference between verses, but in this case, there’s a lot more written to explain the concepts of what Paul is saying:

Philippians 1:9-10 (AMP)

9And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment],

    10So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble].

Read like this, it’s more of a process. You have to grow in love before you can understand what really matters. Paul is praying for the church of Philippi that their love will grow but not just grow stronger but that as a result of their love, their knowledge and wisdom will deepen.  He wants them to have that because he wants them to learn what really matters.

The way the Amplified Bible defines what really matters is what is “vital” and “excellent and of real value.” It further expands on that by saying “recognizing the highest and best and distinguishing the moral differences.”

Wow.

Okay. What I get from this passage this morning is that to truly comprehend the things that really matter in life, first your love needs to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

Okay. So how does love get smarter? I mean, I’ve always known that love can be wise. Wise love looks past the outside and focuses on the heart. Wise love is humble. Wise love is steady, unerring and unshakable. . . . But smart love? Knowledgeable love? What is that? What does that look like?

Wisdom and understanding are two of those concepts that sound like they would be the same, but they’re completely different. To me, wisdom has always been more like the mature, biblical application of knowledge. That may not be right, but that’s the best way I know how to describe it.

I guess, what I’m seeing this morning is that while we are commanded to love everyone, we aren’t commanded to love everyone the same way. That sounds bad. Let me try to explain. I was up late doing laundry last night, and my coffee isn’t kicking in.

There are different kinds of love, and the same kind of love isn’t good for everyone. It’s not good to love a complete stranger with the same love you love your best friend with. It’s not good to love your best friend with the same love you love a stranger with. Does that make sense? And even between best friends, there are different kinds of love.

Love is the same in that it should always be unconditional, sacrificing, and unselfish. But it manifests in different ways depending on the person you’re talking about. Some people need flowers. Some people need hugs. Some people need to talk. Some people need to be left alone. And even between best friends or lovers or spouses, love has to look different even though the motivation behind it is the same.

To me, that’s smart love. That’s learning how to love people the way they need to be loved. That’s learning how to love God. That’s learning how to love your family and your friends and your spouse and your significant others the way that is most beneficial for them.

Because the more you learn about other people, the less you focus on yourself. And then you can realize that life isn’t about you; it’s about loving God and loving people. But until you get to that point where your love grows in wisdom and knowledge, that’s not going to make sense. But I believe that is what really matters.