You have heard people say, "Love your neighbors and hate your enemies." But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. - Matthew 5:43-45
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7
I'm starting out with two scriptures this morning because it's apparent to me that God placed them in my consciousness with a purpose.
For me, there are several ways that scripture comes to mind:
- First is the simple fact that I read the Bible every morning - typically via the Upper Room daily devotional (linked via this image).
- The second way is via the ever increasing accumulation of Bible passages that have seeped into my subconscious mind over time - this is a continual process - then, sometimes, circumstance or related readings or the deliberate prompting of God's Spirit bring items from this repository to the surface.
- Another contributing factor is my concentration on God's word every Sunday. Messages from Rebekah and Tim from the pulpit, passages from my Sunday morning study group, insights with my friends on Sunday evening.
- My mid-week Men's Bible-study group always gives me a lot to chew on.
- Additionally, my privilege as a writer is to include Bible-references in much of my research and - like any good line of inquiry - one verse leads to other sources, leads to more reading, unwraps additional scripture, opens up more thinking etc. etc.
Quite often there are other factors at play, circumstances that set up my direction of study, or open my mind. This morning it was an ongoing conversation I've been having with several people about the public presentation of faith.
Typically, the loudest voices in any area (politics, religion, sports, art, literature...) tend to be from the people on the fringe. Either their extremity makes them bolder, or the media gives more attention because these folk are "colorful", or it's a mixture of both. Regardless, disproportionate attention is both required by and given to people who stake out positions that are harsh, bizarre, controversial and - largely - false.
Consequently - and this continues to "burn me up" - the growing non-Christian, un-churched and de-churched population is routinely exposed to false messages about Jesus - and often on a daily basis.
Bullhorns of the religiously oppressive:
The message that seems to be reaching "the ends of the Earth" - or at least the ends of North American culture - is not the real Gospel story. How can we respond to the mandate to make disciples when living as "Followers of The Way" is drowned out by the noise coming from the megaphones and bullhorns of the harsh, the judgmental and the religiously oppressive?
God's call for me - and this has been growing over the past few years - has been to "hold out the word of life" (Philippians 2) with more obvious passion; to live the Christ-Life out loud with more volume; to make sure that the truth about God's dramatically generous love is evident in everything that I do.
That's why these two Bible passages captured my attention this morning. The first stakes out Christ's position that the sun rises and the rain falls (and earthquakes rock and hurricanes strike and tsunamis roll....) without regard to faith or behavior or status as to "God's favor. Regardless, our opportunity (our responsibility) is to live love out loud and with powerful conviction.
Then the second passage reminded me that love need not be timid. In fact, the way we love can - and should - be a vehicle for God's power.
The Bible = good stuff. Read it every day. God's Word will change your life!