The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Love your Neighbors"

The Holy Spirit in me, in you, in each one of God's children, isn't quiet.  We just have to listen, be quiet, hear what he says.

"...even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you."  John 14:7

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."  John 14:26

And lately I see Him working in brothers and sisters, teaching us, helping us remember what Jesus said about neighbors.

"And he answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27

       —At church a few weeks ago, a sermon, "Faith You Can See" by Brian on I Thessalonians 1 was powerful.

       —And then Sunday School, Del Tackett and the Truth Encounter which is all about reaching out to neighbors—the ones that live next door.

       —And now, Proverbs, our Women's Bible Study,........and my next lecture, in four weeks,  to cover the chapter "Words about Neighbors."

 I see a pattern here, something planned ages ago and now the Holy Spirit reminding a lot of people what Jesus said over and over and over, a work that God is doing in a lot of people—it must have something to do with my neighbors...... Did you notice I said MY neighbors, even the ones with no names........

When I look in Scripture there are 119 references to neighbor..
 and most say, "....love your neighbor...."

And I remember.....

Years ago, back in South Dakota, when Larry was teaching and Greg and Renee were toddlers, a new family moved into a rental, just across the alley—neighbors.  I'm a friendly person but when the Spirit said, "Take them some bread......and invite them to church," I rebelled. "Couldn't do that" I whispered, "I mean, they could be..........Muslim............or Catholic.............or Canadian.........or Independents."

But that Voice wouldn't stop for 3 days and my disobedience continued........and my excuses.  Finally in desperation I screamed, "OKAY, ALL RIGHT!!!  I will make the bread and I will go but You will see, I'm right!"

So I made the bread, kneaded it hard,  and I walked, slowly, very slowly, pushing Renee in the stroller with Greg lagging behind, around the block.  I knocked on the door and to my dismay.....it opened.  
"Here's some bread I baked......welcome to the neighborhood." I quietly said, with a smile, expecting rejection.

We talked, she wasn't Muslim, or didn't sound that way, whatever that is.  She was nice, friendly, and also had two toddlers.......we could be friends, good friends. 

Finally, I said it, "Have you found a church yet?"
"No, we haven't.  We've visited several, but there are no Baptist churches and that's what we have always gone to."

The air went out of me.  I thought, "So YOU knew all along.  YOU knew why I was to come and talk to her.  Okay, YOU win. Sorry."

Then when I could breathe again,  I told her about our church which was a mile away, not Baptist, but like Baptist and they would like it.  They came.

Older now, much older, I wonder what my real fear was.......I think I know.  If she were any of those "different than me" brands or others I knew nothing about, I wouldn't be able to answer questions if she had them.  I was afraid of the unknown....and I didn't want to fail.

"...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," I Peter 3:15 ESV

Now I hear over and over about loving my neighbors.  Not to love them because of what I want to happen or how I want to change them, but just to love.  It means taking bread, or soup, or time, or words to encourage......it means maybe getting involved in messy lives, or being rejected, or even taken advantage of.  It also means being open and honest, vulnerable and real.  It means letting the steadfast love God has showered on me, filled me with, forgiven me with, letting that same love go out from me to love others.  Instead of saying "But!" I will need to say, "I'll go."

And I will prepare by knowing my God well, and trying to understand the world so I do have an answer....and I will, in my God's strength, pray for my neighbor's asking for opportunities to love well no matter who or what they appear to be.  Love, real love, love come down for you and me to share with gentleness and respect. 

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14


    1. These are wonderful reminders to do what the Holy Spirit says to do. I have good Muslim next door neighbors and they know what I believe as a Christian. They seem to love me and I can not give them as much as they give to me. But God is at work.

      1. Isn't God good to lead the way....to put us in places where He can use us to love others. Then He works in hearts that He is drawing to Himself. Thanks Marietta for your comments.