I Timothy 4:4

God provides. We know that; we believe it. But I wonder how many of us realize exactly how fully and generously He provides–not just (or even necessarily) financially, but in terms of the natural world He created all around us for our benefit?

“For everything God created is good…” (I Timothy 4:4)

I’m a child of the late 20th Century; it was in my lifetime that processed foods came out–and we loved it because with all the added sugars and flavorings, our taste buds began to prefer them over the more simple tastes found in nature. Pharmaceutical companies concocted newer and more amazing drugs; the beauty industry produced an ever-increasing array of products to make us beautiful and keep us from aging.

None of this is necessarily bad, mind you, and there are cases it may be essential (if I’m having a heart attack, for example, I definitely want the benefit of the most potent life-saving medicines and procedures out there!). Yet as we embraced various products created in a lab, our collective consciousness seems to have forgotten the amazing benefits of what God has already provided for us naturally in the created world around us! Like what, you ask?

Well, like the idea that health is derived primarily, if not exclusively, from what we consume (or fail to consume in the case of things hurtful to our well-being). This includes eating raw organic veggies, fruit and herbs, whole grains, (some will disagree but in my opinion, raw) milk and milk products, pasture fed meats, free range eggs, apple cider vinegar, legumes, seeds, nuts, raw honey, chocolate nibs, garlic, etc.

But besides eating these foods, did you realize that God imbued many of them with healing and rejuvenating properties that can also be used topically externally? My mother taught me to never waste cucumber skin peels but rub them on my face as a beauty treatment, and there are so many other foods that can help our bodies heal and thrive in this way. Granted, they don’t have the heavy perfumes manufactured products do, and some of them can smell peculiar or even unpleasant (think of papaya or garlic), but they really truly do good things for us if we are not condescending towards using them!

A raw lemon, for example, can fade dark spots and lighten and brighten your complexion. Garlic has antibacterial properties, and because a bad complexion is frequently the result of inflammation, rubbing it on your face can actually tone your skin down and make you look prettier! Cod liver oil consumed internally is highly effective to moderate and lower blood pressure (work with your doctor)–I’ve used it for years and am still not on any other medication at fifty-seven; apple cider vinegar mixed with water can help alleviate ear infections.

There are countless other remedies that common foods around us provide, in terms of beauty, health, longevity, and even cure, but you have to do the research and try it yourself. There are things I’ve tried that haven’t done what I hoped they would, or not well enough. But there are others that I’ve been amazed about–about which I’ve really had a “who knew?!” moment!

My point is simply that even though God has given mankind the ability and knowledge to produce amazing products in a lab, He has also already given us many items naturally that do the same or better, for our skin especially–but we’ve lost the knowledge that they’re there, or don’t believe they’re as good if they’re not expensively scented, beautifully packaged and cost upwards of $100.

Remember that God is kind–and He provides for His own. Sometimes this comes in the form of a higher paycheck, but many times it’s Him giving us wisdom; opening our eyes to what’s already available or inexpensive to obtain–and we shouldn’t scorn His provision. If our goal is to feel wealthy and opulent, that lemon or raw honey or garlic rubbed on our face probably won’t do it. But if what we really want is the result, then consistent use, coupled with an improved wholesome diet, will actually give us benefits some pay significantly more for. God does love us, and He has provided!

Dear Lord God,

Thank You for Your provision. Open my eyes to see everything good that is readily available for my use, and help me benefit from it! Amen.

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Luke 11:9-10, 13

Do you give up too easily? Many remember the famous verse spoken by God when the Israelites were trapped between the approaching Egyptian army and Red Sea, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬), and extrapolate it to our own lives. But we need to be careful not to appropriate promises and commands given to one particular people and time to every single situation, including our own.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke‬ ‭11:9-10, 13‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Yes, there are times when God supernaturally intervenes and alters a situation completely on His own without any action on our part and on our behalf in response to prayer–I can attest to this in my own life countless times! Yet I also think we have a tendency to frequently interpret this to mean that we are to do nothing once we’ve “made our requests known to God” (which we are told to do and certainly should!). We forget the parable about the persistent widow–a person in great need who kept begging and begging an insensitive judge until he gave her what she asked, just so she would leave him alone. Jesus’ point was that if an insensitive human responds to persistent begging, how much more will our Father in heaven, who actually loves us–and He was teaching us to keep asking God, and not give up when the answer or solution is not instantaneous.

Far too often, when we pray and no door seem to open we wrongly assume it’s not God’s will, instead of seeing it as Him giving us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow. You see, God sometimes answers prayer–sometimes He solves our problem–by allowing us to become desperate enough to pry open a door, even figuratively make a door where none previously existed! Imagine–as an example most us may thankfully never go through–being so hungry that you don’t know where your next meal will literally come from; instead of debating whether you were trained for a particular job or did it before or even want to do it, wouldn’t you find something to peddle or a floor to sweep or simply beg for any available job, even if nothing was advertised? My point is that when the situation is dire enough, God helps us find a way!

Granted, we need to be careful when we do this. We need to stay close to Him in prayer and remain in His will, so we don’t end up “solving” our problem through sin; Abraham, for example, got get a child with Haggai, but it was not God’s will or timing, and caused much unnecessary grief in everyone’s life.

This, then, is the difference between people who trust in God and those who do not. Those who consider God irrelevant do “as seems right to them,” (as apostate Old Testament Israel did), regardless of whether it is a holy and righteous solution or not, but those belong to Jesus Christ do not. We will not “solve” our problem by disobeying God; this would only create new problems because this is what sin does. As a child of God, if I want something I do not have, I will not steal it; if I am unhappy in my marriage, I will not “solve” my problem by disobeying God and entering into a relationship with someone not mine.

Yet I will keep imploring God until a solution presents itself or I become aware of it; until He shows me a crack I can pry open; until a door I didn’t previously see materializes–because He is the God of miracles! He knows the solution to my problem and to every problem; the God who “…spoke, and [everything] came to be…” (Psalm‬ ‭33:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬) is fully capable of creating a solution out of nothing for me!

So–do you give up too easily? Do you assume because something doesn’t come easily, it’s not God’s will for you? Do you no longer pray, if it doesn’t happen right away? Do you stop applying yourself until you succeed, if you encounter obstacles? Are you not desperate enough to keep imploring your Father in heaven, until He shows you a way? Remember, “…keep on asking and you will receive…keep on seeking and you will find…” Don’t underestimate God’s love for you, and as long as you are in His will–never give up!

Dear God,

Help me be a “persistent widow” before Your throne; thank You that You promised “whatever…you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark‬ ‭11:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Give me creativity, ingenuity and perseverance to accomplish what You set before me! Amen.

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Psalm 8:4-6

Who are you? The Who released a song by this name on August 18, 1978, but human beings have been contemplating this question since the dawn of time. Really–who are we? Science officially categorizes us as animals; the older translations of the Bible refer to us as part of “all flesh–” and so we are, because we have skin and bones and muscle and blood, as do other primates and mammals. Yet there is nonetheless a distinction between us and them–God gifted us the ability to contemplate our existence, rather than simply function to survive.

“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” (Psalms‬ ‭8:4-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

I quoted the older and more archaic sounding New King James translation because it retains an important phrase, “that You visit Him.” Many newer translations merely rephrase the thought that God notices us, but it is significant that not only does God notice and pay attention to us, He actually cares about and thinks enough of us to come down to our level and visit us–to relate to, look for a relationship with; ultimately become a human being Himself in the person of Christ Jesus to let us experience genuine fellowship with Him! This is profound and highly significant, because as far as we can tell, it is not something He has given any other living being.

There is another difference between us and every other beautiful creature God has populated our world with–we have been designated their caretakers. The specific verse where He grants us this authority and privilege is:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis‬ ‭1:26‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Some bristle at the word “dominion,” imagining this gives license to be cruel overlords, but that is not at all God’s intent. He is kind and loving; as the highest of everything He made on Earth, of “all flesh,” we are commissioned to reflect that care and concern by being kind and loving managers of the remainder of His creation! But enough about them and our duty towards them–what about us? Who are we humans?

Forgive me, but as I get older I have actually been pulling back and contemplating my physical existence more–not unlike King David of old, who penned today’s verses, did. Think about it: my perspective–my consciousness–is from within my person, my physical body. My eyes see outward from this marvelous creation that houses my consciousness; I can operate my body–lift my hands, move my feet, blink my eyelids. I operate–my consciousness of self comes–from within this physical body, yet it is still “flesh;” ultimately my body is incredibly frail and will shut down at some point.

So here’s the question. If we are so frail, just another form of “flesh,” ultimately so seemingly insignificant in light of everything that exists, both on this planet and anywhere else–why does God care about me? Why would He even pay attention to us?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but the amazing part that even King David marveled about is that though we are ultimately nothing–God does care about us!

And this is why we should be yet more amazed and grateful; that though our lives are short and we, regardless of how accomplished we might personally feel, are really quite insignificant within the cosmos–God notices me! He loves me! He cares about me!! Not because of who I am, but because of who He is!

And because of that, I have purpose. My life has meaning speaking the gospel to everyone I can–this message that God cares about us mere humans. This message that even though we are so very much not right on our own–we know it if we’re honest with ourselves–when we finally give in to Him, He accepts us with open arms and forgives all wrongness and makes us right and loved, in and through Jesus Christ!

So, “what is man, that You are mindful of him?” The answer is that because of Jesus–His life, death and resurrection–in and through Him we are no longer specks in an uncaring universe; we are “…God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” (Colossians 3:12)

Dear God,

Thank You!!! Amen.

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2 Timothy 3:14

Can you trust the book we call the Bible? If you’ve trying to convince yourself God doesn’t exist, you might be tempted to try to marginalize it to make yourself feel better about ignoring it, but the truth is that rather than being unreliable, the Holy Scriptures are more worthy of our trust than any other information out there for us to accept or reject.

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Who first taught you about God? Who took you to church? Who said said the Bible is true? Was it your mother when you were little? Your father? A grandmother who cared for you? Was it a beloved friend? A caring neighbor or co-worker? A pastor who stepped outside of himself to help you? Paul penned these famous words to Timothy, his protégée–his son in Christ, as he called him. (In case you don’t know, Timothy was of mixed parentage–his mother was devout, but his father was not. Because of that, he hadn’t even been circumcised, as Jewish boys are supposed to be, according to God’s command to Abraham, and actually had to have this procedure done because his devout Jewish audience wouldn’t listen to his message otherwise). But look at what Paul said: “You know…[the things you have been taught] are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.”

That’s the key to accepting or rejecting any doctrine or philosophy–regardless of whether it is religious, secular, or any other label we slap on it–can you trust those who taught you? Whenever you decide whether to accept or reject a teaching, always look at the life of those who embrace it–at what following it wholeheartedly turns you into.

Elsewhere Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (I Corinthians‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) That’s a bold assertion many of us today would be reluctant to tell another, yet it’s a reflection of how holy our lives as Christians should be–how pure and right and good our conduct, as those who believe in and trust Jesus.

So if you’re trying to decide if a teaching is honest–look at everything else in the life of those who have wholeheartedly embraced it. Is their life honest? If you want to see if a teaching is good–is the life of those who follow that teaching good? What does believing something turn you into?

There are many ideas and philosophies out there, but most of them produce ugly results. Rather than producing good in the lives of those who embrace it, the high and mighty secular intellectual atheism of men and women like Steven Hawkins, for example, produces a self-centered lifestyle, moral ambivalence and confusion, depression–ultimately even despair.

The Bible identifies the kinds of behavior that can show up in the life of a person who rejects Christ as, “…sexual sin, being morally bad, doing all kinds of shameful things, worshiping false gods, taking part in witchcraft, hating people, causing trouble, being jealous, angry or selfish, causing people to argue and divide into separate groups, being filled with envy, getting drunk, having wild parties, and doing other things like this,” (Galatians 5:19-20) and warns that, “…people who do these things will not have a part in God’s kingdom.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:21‬ ‭ERV‬‬)

Genuine faith in God, on the other hand–and not just in any higher power, but in the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” of the Bible–produces beautiful results in those who submit to His authority in their lives:

“But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their sinful self. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭ERV‬‬)

These verses have been often quoted, but have you ever actually thought about what they’re saying? That sophisticated professor who waxes eloquent about mankind’s higher potential, but causes his wife and children grief by his shameful personal conduct, is merely reflecting the result of his belief system. God even warns us about religious hypocrites– “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

There have been far too many examples of leaders who have claimed to follow Jesus as a disguise for getting the trust of gullible people in order to exploit them in some way. That’s why God tells us presenting yourself as a Christian isn’t evidence of Christianity–a holy life is. Jesus warns us to, “Be careful of false prophets. They come to you looking gentle like sheep, but they are really dangerous like wolves. You will know these people by what they do. Grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In the same way, you will know these false prophets by what they do.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Or, as The Message paraphrase put it, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

So why can we trust the Bible? Obviously because of the many other evidences of its legitimacy, but also and especially because of the goodness it generates in the lives of those who genuinely love and trust Jesus! Because other than loving God more than anything else in life, trusting that He will ultimately make everything wrong right, and clinging whole-heartedly to Him, the goodness He produces in the lives of those who follow Him, the self-denial in favor of serving others–even going so far as giving up our own lives–makes absolutely no rational human sense! Even Paul acknowledged “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:19‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Dear Lord God,

Help me remain faithful to the things I have been taught, knowing they are true because I can trust those who taught me! Amen.

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Matthew 6:13

Why does God allow us to get into situations that make it easier for us to sin–that test our resolve to holiness? Jesus taught us to ask the Father, “lead us not into temptation,” yet there are times when people of faith seem especially placed in difficult spiritual spots. Why does God allow these situations?

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” (Matthew‬ ‭6:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

First of all, let’s clarify: God doesn’t try to get anyone to sin–that’s just not what He’s like. James clearly states this:

“Whenever you feel tempted to do something bad, you should not say, “God is tempting me.” Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone. You are tempted by the evil things you want. Your own desire leads you away and traps you. Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin. Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death.” (James‬ ‭1:13-15‬ ‭ERV‬‬)

Yet God does, indeed, sometimes place us into situations in which we can prove ourselves–just look to His command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac!

But if God’s heart is not to cause us to fall, why does He do this? Well, let’s look again at Abraham. Why did God ask him to sacrifice Isaac? Of course, we know God didn’t want the death of Isaac, and He certainly didn’t want Abraham to disobey. So why did God place Him in such a terrible place? Did He really want Abraham to disobey? Of course not!

I am convinced the reason God does allow us situations of testing is for OUR OWN sake–for US to see we can resist sin and come out stronger on the other side of it. Abraham was about to become the patriarch of the nation of Israel–much would be required of Him; I believe God wanted Abraham to understand the strength of his faith; the extent of his commitment and loyalty; the degree of his love for God.

It’s the same for us. Whenever God places us in situations that test our resolve; our faith, commitment, loyalty, love–it is not because He wants us to stumble, but because He wants us to come out stronger on the other side, having experienced temptation and responded correctly!

So why did Jesus teach us to ask God to not lead us into temptation, if getting through difficult situations strengthen our faith? Being human as well as divine, He felt our humanity and weakness; remember that He Himself had gone through an intense period of teasing in the wilderness just prior to His public ministry. I believe He commanded us to ask this because He understood how difficult it is for us to navigate these situations of testing well. Yet ultimately, we can rest assured, knowing that, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

Dear God,

Lead us not into temptation! Thank You that You don’t ask the impossible of me; that You don’t place me in any situation except what others have and are also going through; that You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape, so I can endure it and come out stronger on the other side! Amen.

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Psalm 90:12

What is wisdom? What does it mean to be wise? Scholars, theologians, academics and philosophers have debated this question and pondered its implications for millennia, yet even though there are various practical expressions of wisdom–at its heart, ultimate wisdom is simply valuing the eternal over the temporary.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

What do I mean by this? Well, what is eternal? What will pass through the life/death barrier? What will survive after “we” leave our bodies? Isn’t it what some have alternately called our spirit or soul? Contrary to cynical thought, this life isn’t all there is, and what happens to “us” after we die is what is truly significant because regardless of what we accomplish or acquire in these bodies, there is nothing we can take with us when we die–except one thing: Jesus. What do I mean? Simply what St. Paul said in his letter to the Roman Christians:

“But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

If we have Jesus Christ–His Spirit–in us, then even though our bodies are dying or will eventually be, then the One who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also raise me from the dead. That’s what God promises us!

Again–if Christ is in me, even though my body is subject to death because of the power and effect of sin, the Spirit gives me life because of Christ’s righteousness in me. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is living in me, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to my mortal–my dying–body because of His Spirit who lives in me. Amazing! This is nothing short of absolutely, totally, life-shatteringly amazing!!!

And wisdom is giving this fact the weight–the attention, the focus, the time, the consideration and thought–it deserves in my busy day-to-day physical existence. Why? Because it is the terminus of my physical existence! As Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark‬ ‭8:36-37‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

The answer, obviously, is nothing–nothing is worth losing my soul and no accomplishment or acquisition will offset its loss.

So how should I respond to this? By being wise; by not avoiding thinking about it but rather, by intentionally making myself right with the eternal Force that is God. Listen to context of Jesus’ comment above, because pieces of the Bible shouldn’t be taken out of context–we should always read the verses before and after:

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, He said, ‘If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.'” (Mark‬ ‭8:34-38‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

What’s the Good News? That God forgives and accepts us through Jesus when we repent of our sins!

So our response should be to think of–recognize, acknowledge–our sins, and repent of them–feel remorse for messing up, for not being everything God wants us to be–and commit our destiny into Jesus’ hands–believe what God says and trust in the forgiveness He gives us through Jesus. In other words, rather than avoiding and running away from it, we should deal with the issue of what comes after this life, because, ultimately, that’s real wisdom!

Dear God,

Help me number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. I trust You, Jesus! Amen.

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Matthew 10:37-39

What does it mean to love God? Is it like loving a human being–a father, mother, sister, brother, girlfriend, boyfriend? Is it an either/or situation–does God require us to chose between loving Him and others? Or is our love for God different than any of our other relationships?

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew‬ ‭10:37-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Jesus did clearly say that if I love anyone more than I love Him I am not worthy of Him, but what did He mean? Do I have to choose? Does loving God push out all other loves? What, indeed, is loving God, and how does it show itself?

Loving God is different than loving anyone else in one important aspect: the fact that I love God by loving others. I cannot say that about my other relationships; I do not love my brother by loving my father, or one boyfriend by loving another–with love for a human being I love that human being by loving that particular human being.

Because God is love; because Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.””

‭‭(John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NLT‬‬)–because of this, when we love human beings, especially when it’s difficult, we are actually evidencing our love for God.

God doesn’t compete for our love, He multiplies and expands it–exponentially! The converse is true, too. We have not personally experienced how much God loves, and forgives, and accepts us if we hate someone else: “We love because God first loved us. If people say, “I love God,” but hate their brothers or sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen. And God gave us this command: Those who love God must also love their brothers and sisters.” (1 John‬ ‭4:19-21‬ ‭NCV‬‬) But is there ever a moment when we have to choose between loving God and loving another? Why did Jesus say we are not worthy of Him if we love someone else more?

It helps to understand what He meant when we recognize the fullness of who God is. Yes, He is a real being–not a feeling or inanimate power–but He is also the embodiment, if you will, of everything good!

The fruit–the result–of the work of God in us through His Spirit is identified as, “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬) That’s because, along with other character attributes, this is what God is–loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled. So when someone is kind to you, or gentle, or patient, or loving–that’s the work of God in them towards you!

God hates hate because He is love; He hates lying because He is truth; He hates unwarranted heaviness of heart in us because He is joy; He hates discord because He is peace; He hates impatience and intolerance toward another’s inability because He is patient; He hates unkindness because He is kind; unfaithfulness because He is faithful; harshness because He is gentle; a lack of self-control because He is self-controlled. Ultimately, He hates all sin, because He recognizes it as us falling short of who we could otherwise be, and sees the grief and pain we cause ourselves and others–the life we cheat ourselves of!

Hate is a four letter word, but this kind of “hate” is not only okay; it’s how we should all feel towards that which keeps us from being everything we could otherwise be! We make the mistake of hating people while accepting sin, when we should, in fact, accept and love people but hate sin as God hates it, recognizing it, as He does, for the evil it is and the lives it wrecks. Which bring us to what Jesus meant about loving anyone else more than Him.

There may be times when someone close to us asks us to do something wrong. The wrong may be big or small–that aspect is irrelevant; the point is you know your doing it would be you falling short of who God wants you to be. That is the juncture at which we have to have our loyalties straight–the point at which we choose and cling to that which is right and good above pleasing someone else–regardless of how much we otherwise love them.

They may feel angered or betrayed, they certainly may not be happy; but by choosing right over wrong, good over evil, character over blindly following a friend or loved one, and ultimately by choosing Jesus over them–I haven’t rejected them; I’ve actually chosen Jesus and them! How?!

By showing them ultimate love; love that would rather risk their getting mad at me or not liking me, rather than lying to them about whatever they were doing or wanted me to do! Because when we back down and fail to stand up for what is right, we think we’re not causing waves but what we’re actually doing is hurting the other person, because even though they may feel happy with us at the moment, we’ve misrepresented the situation to them–by going along we’ve lied to them that it isn’t wrong, that it isn’t ultimately hurtful to their conscience and life, too. We’ve been cowardly and not loved them enough to risk having them reject us rather than make waves about wrong.

That’s what Jesus meant when He said we’re not worthy of Him if we don’t love Him most. He wasn’t saying we shouldn’t love the people in our life; He was saying we should love them so much that we should be willing to stand up to them! He was talking about character; about our ability to be the “this far and no further” point in another’s life; about loving and clinging to what is right and good and truthful and decent and kind and gentle and peaceable above anything else; about being so grounded in Christ that even if we’re rejected for it, we won’t sin. That’s what Jesus meant!

Dear God,

Help me recognize that You are everything that is good; help me always choose good in my life! Amen.

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