COMMANDED TO LOVE

 

Love is a hot topic in our world every day.  We speak of “falling in love” or “having lost my love” as if love is something that just happens, whether we want it to or not.  While the concept of marriage is under incredible attack in today’s world, love is still a hot topic.

 

We read in the tabloids of love between two people and then, one paragraph later, we read of the separation of two others.  We celebrate the many years of marriage of one couple while we are hurting for another couple going through separation and dissolution of their marriage

 

Then, too, as parents, we love our children.  And, as adults, we love our children and their children, and we love our parents, and miss them when they are gone.

Alice, Harold and Linda (C)
My Mother and Father reading my Golden Book, circa 1950

 

And, if we look carefully, there even are times when our children love each other!

USED Brother and Sister
Siblings showing affection, at least one is!
USED Brother and infant sister (C)
Brother giving baby sister some “love”.

 

While the children may not be as demonstrative as they get older, loving sibling relationships are precious.

 

We say that we love flowers.

USED Flower garden
Beautiful flower garden.

 

We love food.

Chocolate covered strawberries
Anyone for some chocolate covered strawberries!

 

We love to travel and take vacations, like a cruise going to faraway places in style.

USED Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Ship
The Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, seen from a distance.

 

And, it goes without saying, we love our pets.

USED Skipy hiding under the bed
Skippy, our Lhasa Poo, peeking out from under the bed, gave us 18 blessed years..

 

USED Goldie on sofa in rv
One of our retired racing greyhounds, Gold E Locks, otherwise known as Goldie, graced us with her presence for 11 years.  She loved riding on the sofa in the RV.

 

And now we have our two canine MinPin daughters, Snickers and Cuddles.

USED Snickers wishing camera flash would stop
Snickers in dreamland on her favorite blanket.

 

USED Cuddles and her boy (C)
Our grandson and Cuddles, sound asleep, with just a little doggie grin, next to him, because he is  “her boy!”

 

Our love for people, animals, objects and activities is a love that is conditioned on various factors.  We love those related to us in a different way than we do our generalized acquaintances.  We love some flowers and not others, and some like to eat lobster and others wouldn’t touch it!  In other words, there is self-motivated volition involved in our love of things and others.

 

In stark contrast, this is not how we are to love our God.  We are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time!

 

In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

 

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

 

That essentially covers everything!  It is repeated elsewhere in the Old Testament, for example:  Deuteronomy 11:1 and 13:3, and Joshua 22:5.

 

We cannot shrug our shoulders and mumble, “Yeah, but that was okay thousands of years ago, not for us 2016!”  Rather, Jesus reiterated that this was still a commandment for us in Matthew 22:37 when He repeated these exact words.  But Jesus didn’t stop there — not only are we to follow the command in Deuteronomy, Jesus expanded it in Mark 12:29-31 by commanding us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

 

Jesus takes love out of the mental/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world.   This turns love into action, not just thought or emotion.  We see our neighbor and we are to love him/her.

 

Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves means to serve others as Jesus Christ exampled for us, as He lived, and as He died in complete obedience to His Father.  We surely cannot live a sinless life and comply with God’s will in all things as He did, but we can keep His commands on a day to day basis as we are enabled by the Spirit.  We can love God; we can read His Word; we can meet with fellow believers and worship Him regularly; we can love others, if for no other reason than because He tells us to do so.

 

Note that our obligation to love our neighbor does not depend on whether the neighbor is either lovely or loveable – it is a command to Jesus’ followers that has no qualification as to the one being loved.  It is between us and the Lord.  “If you love me, keep my commands.”  John 14:15.

 

There is no wriggle room. It is an “if … then” statement.  If you love me, then you will keep my commands.  Or, stated another way, if you do not keep my commands, then you do not love me.

 

This is not optional – it is not a suggestion.  It is a direct command that indicates whether

  • I do or do not love my Lord and Savior,
  • I will or will not allow His Spirit to guide my steps through the day,
  • I will or will not follow His direction.

 

If I say that I am His, do my actions support my statement or do they undermine it?

 

What about you?  Prayerfully consider these questions and seek the Lord’s face as you look at your life, your speech, your actions, your thoughts, your motives, etc.

 

“If you love me, keep my commands.”   Am I one of His disciples or not?   Are you?

 

Everything depends on the answer to that question!

 

Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day.  I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You.  I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love You with my whole heart, soul and might.  Thank you for calling me to Yourself through the atoning work of your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

OF BILLBOARDS AND BANNERS!

Every fall, college football reigns supreme in Knoxville where the University of Tennessee football team, the Tennessee Volunteers, face off with the visiting team while over 100,000 people fill the stadium for a home game and they cheer, scream and watch every move made.  This does not only apply at the home game – such dedicated watching includes all televised away games as well, but then we don’t have the stadium cheerleaders, so we have to find our own!

Our own private cheerleader for U.T.
Our own private cheerleader for U.T.

In an earlier post, “I will give my all …”, I talked about seeing the billboard for the football program that challenges the players to give their “all” to the program.  The billboard has the shape of our state in the background and, in the University’s colors of orange and white, the words on the billboard say that we will give our “all for Tennessee today”.  The billboard not only has that slogan in print, it also has a giant hand coming up from the foliage under the sign as if to touch the sign as an imaginary player passes beneath, a subtle reference (for those who know the history) to the sign on the player’s locker room wall that says the same thing and which, according to tradition, each player touches as they run through the T into the football stadium.

Scripture tells us that God demands wholehearted devotion.  Deuteronomy 6:5 contains the following commandment from our Holy God:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

That pretty much sums up “our all” doesn’t it … heart, soul and might.

But in case we missed the message there, Deuteronomy 10:12-13 follows up on it and says:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?

Talk about our “all” … God is saying that we are to serve Him with our whole being, not to serve Him half-heartedly.   Of course, Jesus also reiterated this command as being the first and greatest commandment that we are to follow.

Even for us in 2015, this commandment clearly extends to us as believers of our Lord subsequent to his crucifixion and resurrection.  He gave His life for us; how can we even think of giving anything less than our “all” to Him?

Going back to the billboard about the team giving their “all” to Tennessee football, in the prior post I pondered if I would be willing to have a sign in the front yard saying that I would give my “all” for Jesus, and if that sign would make a difference in my life.

As I came down the stairs thinking about that post and the billboard, I looked up and … low and behold … we do have such a sign in our house.   Actually, it is a banner placed over the primary exit door of our home which reads:

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Banner of Joshua 24:15
Banner of Joshua 24:15

That, of course, is taken from Joshua 24:15.   I remember when we bought this banner many years ago; I have always loved that verse in Joshua and this was a beautiful representation of it.  And, it encapsulates the commandment in Deuteronomy and the thoughts about obedience and allegiance to God that runs throughout Scripture.

I mention this because our banner has been hanging there quite a while, and I am afraid that it has become part of the room décor – sort of a statement of “ambiance” rather than a statement of intent for any of us when we exit the residence.  I am not certain that we notice it at any time other than when we have to dust it before company comes over (okay, maybe not even then).

In fact, if I were to ask our grandchildren about what the banner across the door said, they probably would have to go to the living room to read it, even though it has been there for years and they pass under it each time they exit the house.

This realization raised some questions in my mind and heart:

    • I wonder if each of the Tennessee players think of what that sign says every time they touch it as they go through the passageway into the stadium, or if it is a gesture that gets lost in the excitement of the moment?
      • I wonder if our children and grandchildren think of the lessons learned in our home when they are outside of our reach?
    • I wonder if the coaches remind the team of the sign’s significant message before they run into the field for the sports conflict of the day?
      • I wonder what would happen if we reminded the children and grandchildren to remember our Lord as they face the world and its challenges when they left the security of our home each day?
    • I wonder if I reflect the message that banner has been expressing so eloquently all these years?
      • Do I serve the Lord?  Every day?  In all my activities? Whenever I leave the house?
      • Does my family serve Him?  Is Jesus Lord and Master of all those in my family?
    • I wonder if my cheerleading for the Lord is as driving and exuberant as the cheerleading for the football team?
      • Do my children and grandchildren know that I am on the Lord’s team?
      • Do the neighbors see an excited exuberance for my Lord or do they see someone who goes about “serving in the church” with a grumble and frown?

Father, forgive me when the cares of this world flood my mind and heart so that I am unable to even think about You or my Lord.  Forgive me when I am “too busy” to spend time with You in reading your Word.  Forgive me when I am so committed to my family, friends, work, entertainment, and even activities at the church, that I don’t take the time to pray or to listen to your Spirit.  Help me, today and for all the future todays that You give to me, to give You my “all”.  I pray this through the mighty name of Your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I WILL GIVE MY ALL ….!

Knoxville, Tennessee is the home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team.  In the fall of the year, the city falls under the spell of the Big Orange Volunteer Spirit, with over 100,000 fans cheering in the stadium at a home game.  During football season, it is not unusual to see stores, offices, homes, and restaurants of every type decked out in Big Orange colors of orange and white in support for the Tennessee Volunteers.

Support for Volunteer football team
Support for Volunteer football team

In fact, today is the first game of the 2015 season and it is out of town.  But the Volunteers don’t need to be in town to have dedicated fans.  Yesterday, I went to a restaurant for lunch with a friend, and well over 50% of the people in the building were wearing orange shirts, hats, jewelry, and the owner was even wearing orange pants.

Now, I, too, am a Big Orange Volunteer fan, make no mistake about that.  While none in my family are native to Knoxville, we long ago caught the fever of college SEC football, cheering for the Tennessee Volunteer football team, win, lose or draw!

Our dedication to the team even extended to the turf on which the game was played.  When the stadium was changed from artificial turf to grass a number of years ago, we purchased a square of the orange and white end zone for a souvenir of those days gone by!  It is hanging on the family room wall

Piece of the end zone turf, University of Tennessee
Piece of the end zone turf, University of Tennessee

We have our car flags, orange and white T-shirts, sweatshirts and blankets, as well as orange and white car decals, plastic plates, cups, spoons and forks, table cloths, … well you know what I am talking about.

Big Orange football game day table wear
Big Orange football game day table wear

And, of course we have the posters and caps on display, all of which are adorned with the beautiful orange and white of the Volunteers.

National Championship Poster for University of Tennessee
National Championship Poster for University of Tennessee

Finally, we can’t forget the spirit of the game … the cheerleaders, and in years gone past, we even had our own!

Cheerleading to willing fans.
Cheerleading to willing fans.

For the past several years there has been a sign along the interstate advertising the Tennessee Volunteer football program with the slogan that the team will “give our all to Tennessee today!”

It caused me to think about what that phrase meant. “Give our all to Tennessee today!”  I am certain it references the effort that the young players are to give to the game.  I am certain that it reflects the focus that the coaches have in training the team and guiding them during the big games.  I am certain that the team is reminded of this mantra throughout their training whether or not it is a game day.

But it made me think.  I certainly am NOT a football player, never have been and never will be! But I am a Christian.

Can I say that I will give my all to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, today?

Would I have a sign like this in the front yard telling the world that I will give my all to Jesus today?

  • If I had such a sign, would I actually pay attention to it or would it blend in with the scenery?
  • If I had such a sign, would I read it as I left the house each day or would I pass by it and ignore the admonition?
  • If I had such a sign, would I mean what it says, or would it be mere decoration?
  •  If I had such a sign, would I look at it and pray that I would fulfill that promise no matter what the cost, no matter what the consequence, no matter what ….?

Perhaps the first question I need to ask is:

“Do I really want to give my all to Jesus today? Am I that committed to Christ that I want this for my life, today?”

Scripture says this is exactly what we are to do.  In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

We cannot shrug our shoulders and mumble, yeah, but that was said thousands of years ago; it’s not for us 2015! Not so, my friend.  Jesus reiterated that this was still a commandment for us in Matthew 22:37 when He stated that this was the great commandment.

Note that it is an imperative statement — “You shall”.  It is not optional, and it is not a divine suggestion.  As Christians, this commandment expresses how much we should be committed to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Remember, our Lord gave His all for us — He deserves no less from us in response.

So, who will get your all today?

Father, forgive me when I have given my all to the world, to things that have no eternal significance, to idols that take time and attention away from You, my Creator-Sustainer-Sovereign God.  Give me the grace and mercy to give my all to You each day that You give to me. And, Father, I cannot do anything without your enabling through my Lord; so, please give me a heart that can be used by the Holy Spirit to do the work that you have ordained for me, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord, I pray.